Review Fix chats with Bliss creator Sean Lewis, who discusses the influences and inspirations that created his newest work from Image Comics.
Review Fix: What inspired this comic?
Sean Lewis: I think Cait and I started off talking about shame and guilt. How do people do bad things? How are they able to live with that? Even forget it. (Like John Lennon sang “How do you sleep at night?”). We started thinking, what if there was a street drug you could take that erased the bad things you did from your memory. Would you take it?
From there, it all started to spiral. Cait is one of the most best fantasy artists (and artist, in general) that I have met. So, it made sense to have this otherworldly feel to it. The drug coming from Gods who need your bad memories. Who feed on them.
And so, we got to developing the story and I couldn’t stop thinking about my memories. Parts of my youth that are hazy. A dad who wasn’t always a good guy. I’m always wary of bad dad narratives, you know it can fall into trope (I always think of an Onion article that was “Solo Perfomer Again Does Show About Alcoholic Dad”). What was interesting to me, was I wished i had more memories of my dad. That I could make an argument that he wasn’t all bad. I have a son now and it’s like I want to be able to say more about him when he asks about his grandfather than “he wasn’t around much before he died and that might be the good thing.”
So, it became this story of love. Addiction. Shame. Memory.
They are some of the things that I think are most important in our world. And sometimes, most crippling.
Review Fix: Has COVID affected its creation at all?
Lewis: We got delayed. We were supposed to come out in June but were pushed back to July. There was a lot of excitement for the book when it first got announced. It’s been hard keeping that for many good reasons: the world being on fire and huge important matters at hand.
Review Fix: How is it different from your previous work?
Lewis: I don’t know if it’s different, per se. It might be the lapsed Catholic in me. But most of my work has to do with guilt, forgiveness, redemption. I want my son to grow up in a world that forgives. But what does that mean?
I do credit Cait in this book for encouraging me to slow some scenes down. Let people talk more. My background is as a playwright. And she was really great about letting me explore that more. Sometimes in a comic if people are talking you start to go- man I’m getting worried about people’s attention maybe someone’s face should melt right now. Cait was good at saying- NO FACE MELTING.
Review Fix: What makes this comic special?
Lewis: I think Cait’s art is unreal in this book. I think if you never read any of the text you could have it on your table as an art book. SHe really is doing things in the layouts and design that are incredible.
I’m proud at what we are doing in terms of content as well. I think Cait and I are really good at giving each other permission to be fearless on our ends of the work.
Review Fix: What creators do you think have influenced you and the book the most?
Lewis: I’m a film addict. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind influences some of the structure. As does the Social Network. A little Charlie Kaufman and a little David Fincher. I was just blown away when I saw the Social Network because it’s a super compelling and propulsive movie with the worst possible pitch I could be suggested:
“I want to make a movie where you listen to a bunch of different depositions about a website.”
Are you insane? And yet, I love it. It’s really bold. So, I wanted to challenge myself. Can you have fantasy next to realism? Can you talk about addiction and Gods? Can you have a courtroom and shifts in time?
The challenges make it exciting for me.
Otherwise, I think Gaiman and Moore are always an influence. Lemire’s Essex County. The graphic novel “Spinning.”
Review Fix: How do you want it to be remembered?
Lewis: Oh, I hope people take a chance on it. I think it will be a thoughtful and surprising book. I’d like people to remember it for the big ideas but more so for the genuine love at the center of it. More love sounds good right now.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Lewis: I have some books coming up at your favorite publishers. None I can talk about yet. But also doing a host of work over at a new literary journal called www.storybrink.com
Cait just did an amazing story in BOOM’S BUFFY anthology. She’s doing a host of new writing as well as art and will be setting the world on fire I am sure.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Lewis: Thanks for the time. And if you like things please share. Comics is such a small ecosystem. We really need each other. Every book I have done has been successful because of fans telling other fans. Shopkeepers hand selling it. Basically, it’s been the community floating it and for that I am very grateful.