So there’s a sad story behind this one. I conceived of Lit all of a sitting one day at a bar near Washington Square Park called Pinch. At the time it seemed kind of weird to have all these people discovering the conspiracy at once, so I wanted to flip it from the other side, include a supervillain, somebody who was aware of what was happening behind the scenes for some time.
It’s very rare to sit down and have a fully loaded character all at once, but that was Lit. I knew he was a stranger in a strange land, though how he came to be German I can’t remember. I think I just wanted to base a character on actor Til Schweiger, but again, why that is the case, I couldn’t say. I had seen SLC Punk! a year or two prior, and I think this would have been around 2005. I was dating a gal up in Washington Heights and the poster for Driven was up in that subway station forever, locked behind a grate to some sealed-off corner of 181st st.
I kicked around the idea of a vampire for a second because I wanted a character who quite literally as well as symbolically couldn’t go into the light. But it seemed like a bad idea. What quickly came to me as a very good fit, though, was that with this storyline’s journalism theme, having somebody with photographic powers, stuck in proof mode. Exposure to direct sunlight could dissolve him, though Kaos has managed to stabilize him somewhat for Fox’s purposes. Fits the theme, gives him the name Lit, itself an anagram of Til, hey…lucky coincidence. And the powers fit the theme and then-title of the book, about the many ways of remaining invisible. The dominoes fall in place. Including the only-glimpsed-till-this-issue Domino Bones, who has quite a history himself.
So here’s a guy, alone among thieves and murderers, not fully included in what’s going on, but able to see enough. And he gets free about the same time that Vera and Ben have their own encounters with The Tumor. Except he’s not free at all. He’s too powerful for someone not to put their foot on his neck. It all came rushing out of my pen and onto the notebook.
I always knew Kaos would be part of Fox’s team. He isn’t just German because of some mad scientist trope (although that played well into what happens a few pages from now) but because of who he really is. Anyway, I knew these two would probably recognize each other and have a private conversation…maybe give Lit a bit of solace that he’s not actually alone. He has a friend who can help him.
For the translations I turned to my friend and collaborator Jens Altmann, whose story Scoop, I drew (badly) my senior year of college. Life wasn’t so great for me that second semester, and with my educational career all but completed, I threw a lot of myself at those pages. Jens was, like a lot of comics writers, frustrated by the industry bottleneck (webcomics were barely a thing but distribution was collapsing), by artists’ inability to deliver, by all the stories blazing in his mind that weren’t in paper yet. He railed against these things in one of Warren Ellis’s forums, probably the original WEF, since it was 2002. I offered to draw his comic before he apoplected himself into a heart attack. It was a good story, we had fun, and despite my lack of ability, he was satisfied with the work. We stayed in touch.
Jens derived a lot of his income from translations, but I know money was very ebb and flow for him. Yet for me he said no more payment was necessary than a Robert Howard novel that had been on his Amazon wishlist for some time. Easily done. He was good to his friends that way. He once emailed me the subject: “Artist Musings” and the body:
Just a thought about artists: in all the comics projects I attempted, you were the only one who drew my stuff who didn’t let me down.
And no, I’m not depressive right now. Just musing (and irritated at another artist).
I’m currently getting into Buddhism as a way to conquer my “destructive emotions” as they call it. They have 2500 years of experience in that regard. The idea came because the Dalai Lama is going to speak in Hamburg next year, and we decided to go. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (especially considering his age). From that, we discovered that the local temple is only a few minutes’ bicycle ride away. And they happened to have an open-door-day that weekend. And they start a (free, donations are welcome) meditation class today.
Almost too much for coincidence. :)
Ultimately some bad kicks from life and those destructive emotions tag-teamed him. I guess this will be Jens’s last printed work. I miss our transatlantic tirades. He was mercurial, but he loved the things that impassioned him with all of his being. We should all have that kind of enthusiasm for our creations and inspirations.
Here’s the start of his contributions to the book. The printed version of this issue will be dedicated to him.