by Jarrod Jones. “Writing and creating have always been the way I’ve learned about myself,” Sean Lewis tells me. “They’ve been how I got things in my mind to settle.”
Ah, to still our minds, to settle down. Peace! It’s something we’re all struggling for these days. Grappling for purchase, not always succeeding—but always staying in the fight. Sean Lewis finds catharsis in his work, which is why we often find ourselves gravitating towards it. Lewis’ writing, tales such as The Few and Thumbs with Hayden Sherman, and Coyotes with Caitlin Yarsky, have been among some of the standout offerings from Image Comics over the past decade, largely because the brouhahas contained within are unmistakably human—stripped down, raw, personal.
Bliss is personal. Told from the perspective of a man who grew up and finds himself watching his son grow up. It’s heartening, it’s scary, it’s the entire world, staring right back at you. So what do you do with those feelings? If you’re Sean Lewis, you sit down and write some damn comics.
Lewis is teamed up with Yarsky once more, and the creative payload has been substantial. 8 issues of their latest collaboration is what we can look forward to this summer, released in the fine Image tradition. As to the details of Bliss—what it is and how it came to be—I’ll let Sean do the talking. Great interview, found below. (Plus a trailer for your enjoyment.)
Bliss #1 is slated for a July 22 release, and since Sean Lewis and I had some time before then, I wanted to chase after some answers concerning Lewis’ latest that I had bombing around in my mind. Luckily enough, Sean was happy to oblige.
1. If you would, please share with our readers a quick description of ‘Bliss’.
Sean Lewis: It’s being described as American Gods meets Breaking Bad. It’s very fantastical in a Neil Gaiman way. Cait and I are both big Sandman fans. But we wanted to explore a deep set of personal issues in the book as well. At its most basic, a city has become addicted to a drug that let’s them forget the bad things they’ve done. But as the drug gets swept off the street, the Gods behind it need a hitman to enforce their business. They find Benton, a broke man with a sick son and a desperate need to keep the boy safe.
2. When I look at ‘Bliss’ I get the impression that this might be the most intimate project you’ve worked on yet. Would this be an accurate assumption to make?
All the books are personal in one way or another. Not that you’re wrong, it’s just always interesting to think about. Why did I write this? Why now?
I have a son. I’d do anything for him and that’s frightening. I don’t know if I’ve ever had another relationship I would do anything for. Like, would I kill for my son? People throw that around like it’s a weird given. “Well, obviously, I would.” And I don’t disagree with them, I feel that. But it’s terrifying.
Bliss has a man whose son is gonna die if he can’t figure out how to help him. And the offer is gonna be his soul. It’s personal to me that I would make that deal.
I also, hmm… what’s a nice way to say this… I didn’t have a great dad. He kind of abandoned us and when I went to his funeral all these people stood up to eulogize him and they talked about this amazing man he was to them. It was so weird, like a stranger they were describing.
I was hurt, but it also made me realize—maybe he was both. Maybe he was an amazing person to these people and just not great to me. And so there is a son in this book, Perry, who is trying to understand who his dad really was.
There’s also badass ravens, fist fights, guns and giant turtle gods for people who are more interested in that. [Laughs]
3. The tagline to ‘Bliss’ is “A tale of Dads, Addiction, and Forgiveness.” And in the press items for the series, you include a bit of insight into what kind of personal demons you might have been confronting during its production. How has the creative process helped you with coping?
Writing and creating have always been the way I’ve learned about myself. They’ve been how I got things in my mind to settle.
You asked about me. What haven’t I worshipped at some point? Attention. Validation. Alcohol. Food. Success. I’ve worshipped succeeding in ridiculous ways. Ways that made my life less fulfilling. It made me look at the future and not the present. It made me discontent. It made me self-hating.
Yet, that worship has provided me a career, security and opportunity. But still it was such a shameful secret. I’d like to be successful… ssshhh. Which became debilitating.
And I think most people struggle with this. I mean, have we ever had a more anxiety-riddled moment in time? Everyone I know is anxious. On edge. Paranoid.
I always want to explore new things in my books, content- and structure-wise. But I also want to make some people feel less alone.
Like, “Dude, you anxious and being dragged down by the expectations you put on yourself? Yeah. Me too!” [Laughs]
You know, so we can all have a barbeque together, someday.
4. ‘Bliss’ brings literal deities into the fray, who use the book’s eponymous drug to swipe memories away from all who have the misfortune to use it. What aspects of addiction are you looking to explore in this series by utilizing this particularly fantastic angle?
Gods. Drugs. Parents. Just a few things we worship. A few things we want to lift us up on high… if we can survive them. Ha!
I’ve known a lot of people who’ve battled addiction. I’m not just talking drugs. I’ve lived throughout post-industrial NY and Pennsylvania, with time in Iowa. All places that wrestle with opiate addiction. I’ve seen a lot of that.
But I also think most of us have our own “addictions.” Our little Gods that whisper in our ears. Things we worship. Things we chase the good graces of. Some of us worship success. Some of us worship sex. Some of us worship being noticed. Some of us worship the possibility of a different us.
It’s so funny. Because most of the things we worship in private we have some level of shame in regards to it. Because we’re powerless to it. When talking about a Higher Power, that kind of surrender is a virtue. But what if you worship a good time? Surrendering to drinking, less admirable. They are these secret Gods we have.
And they kill us.
5. How did you end up reuniting with Caitlin Yarsky? Was ‘Bliss’ always meant to be an opportunity to get the band back together?
Yeah. We started talking about it the moment Coyotes ended. We became really good friends driving across the country doing signings at comic shops—if you have a shop let us know, maybe we can get back in the van Black Flag style.
We just trust each other. Honestly, I’ve been really lucky. All the artists I’ve worked with have become real collaborators. Hayden Sherman, who I did The Few and Thumbs with, are still collaborating. Ben Mackey, who I worked with on Saints, we are still working together.
I just think when you find someone whose work excites you and they seem to like your work it is great to see what you can keep making. That body of work. I think I get excited by that. Wht kind of book will Cait and I make in a decade? Hayden and I?
6. So here we are, months into a pandemic, kept at home, exploring the spaces of our lives and our minds. How have you put this strange new normal to use in your creative work?
Ha. I don’t know just yet. I’m juggling online teaching, with full-time childcare for a toddler with all the comics. It has led to many typo-laden emails, forgotten phone calls and utter insanity.
I think it’s made me try and be even more empathetic. Some days are great and some days are hard but I also know I am lucky to have a lot of the safety I have in place. So I hope to extend more understanding forward.
Be good to yourself, folks.
‘Bliss’ is presently slated for a July 22 release. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: APR200047)
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