Known for creating darkly humorous, semi-autobiographical fiction that features troubled writer characters with shady pasts, Brooklyn-based Jonathan Ames is a true modern-day renaissance man -- author of six published books, retired boxer and screenwriter of HBO's "Bored to Death” (which will star Jason Schwartzman) as well as several other currently in-development projects.
With DC/Vertigo's "The Alcoholic," Ames branches into new literary territory -- a 136-page original graphic novel, illustrated by good friend and fellow Brooklynite Dean Haspiel. The book hits stores on Sept. 24, and the writer sums up the tale – which revolves around a writer named “Jonathan A.” -- as “a life-story as one big bender, and so there are plenty of girls and fights and madness and heartbreak.”
After the jump, check out our exclusive 6-page preview and more from our interview, where the writer discusses learning a new form of storytelling, working with his pal Haspiel, and also his upcoming HBO comedy, which features a very familiar character.
“Dean gave me a bunch of issues of “Y: The Last Man” and I really got into it,” explained the writer about the genesis of “The Alcoholic.” “I suddenly had this idea for a six-part comic about an alcoholic on a bender – after a young girl breaks his heart – and that each issue would end with a cliffhanger, like in ‘Y.’ One issue we’d see ‘the alcoholic’ hanging from a fire escape and so people would have to wait a month to see what happens, and the next issue it would end with him running down a street naked, and so on.”
Inevitably, the idea of a monthly comic series morphed into a self-contained graphic novel, which Ames then took six months to write before turning it over to Haspiel -- a veteran of the underground and indie comic scene whose previous Vertigo OGN credit, Harvey Pekar’s “The Quitter,” gained critical praise from the New York Times and numerous other mainstream media.
“[Dean] would interpret my descriptions and perform his magic, recreating unerringly what I had seen in my mind's eye,’ Ames recalled. “A lot of writing is a form of seeing -- putting down what you see in terms of action and landscape. So in my directions to Dean, I made explicit what I 'saw,’ and could do it simply, whereas in prose, I might make the sentences more elaborate to please and entertain the reader.”
Although there aren’t any current plans for a follow up to "The Alcoholic" (“I'm still a bit hung over from producing this one,” Ames explained), there could be a future for it on the big screen. “It would probably center on Jonathan A.'s return to drinking and not be as dependent on flash-backs as it is in the graphic novel. Robert Downey Jr. would be great to have, and since he's the star of one comic-book adaptation maybe this could be appealing to him...but that's just super-wishful thinking on my part.”
So while we may have to wait a bit longer before we can watch one of Ames’ characters come to life in movie theaters, HBO subscribers can check out the pilot next year for his upcoming comedy, “Bored to Death,” starring the aforementioned Schwartzman as a 30-something struggling and boozing writer in Brooklyn (also named Jonathan). “Bored to Death” follows Jonathan, who after a failed relationship, decides to reinvent himself by taking out an ad and pretending to be a private detective. Ted Danson co-stars and shooting will begin for “Bored to Death” in October.
Are you excited about "The Alcoholic?" What other writers do you enjoy who create semi autobiographical work? Leave a comment and tell us!