Making Charcoal - or- There's A Trick With A Knife I'm Learning To Do. 
Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 10:05PM
Ian Daffern

There's a funny thing that happens when you live with a story for a long time.

You forget what is at the core of it.

Like scenes that require the phrase 'trigger warning', which didn't even exist back when this story was first thought up.

This isn't just an artistic collaboration, no this presents actual graphic images of self-harm. 

It's there. 

So let's talk about that.

Charcoal is a comic book published by the American sci-fi publisher Tor.

It's based on a true story.

When I was in high school there really was a girl who had her house broken into.

Then the kids who did it switched schools and were now sharing a classroom with her.

They were bad kids. Smirks and grins. 

So she made a painting to get her revenge on them. I don't know if they ever saw it. But it hung up in one of those student art alcoves.

There was another girl I knew. One day after school I took a long cut, heading around the outside of the building instead of through the hallways to get to my locker.

And lying on the concrete round the side, that's where I found her. Pale white. With an orange and an X-acto knife lying by her side 

I didn't stay with her. I ran to get help. Emergency vehicles arrived.

A few days later her whole gang were gathered round at her house, as she smiled, played with a puppy. Still freshly bandaged.

And I walked around wondering--could no one else see what was wrong?

That there was a profound split between the sort of shared experience we all agree to, the day to day, and this other thing. The wilful negation.

There was no reconciling it.

Except here. In the pages of a short story. Decades later.

There is always going to be a leap that you have to make when you come into contact with that terminal edge. The howling why. There's always that first time.

And it comes with no warning.


I'm really grateful that I got to tell this story with the people I told it with.

It really started as a simple hinge, give and take horror, a = b revenge. There's something else here now. 

A little haunted. A little fucked up.

A large part of that was Ho's knack for the uncanny, a real ability to pull deep from the subconscious. I left Stella's sketchbook up to his design, with just the guidance to find what would be monsters and demons for her.

Kalman gave the story shape, and the clock-ticking percussion in those opening images. And Liz Gorinsky was hard on the language, on the beats to make it ring true. Not to mention lighting its spark in the first place.

More to come people.

Thanks for waiting.




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