A sad reality of life in Alaska is that suicide is prevalent. It doesn't discriminate based on age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender and the hard truth is that for every 10,000 people in Alaska, 23 die by suicide. But what becomes of those who are left behind and those who are lost?
In 2015, Matthew Terry lost his younger brother to suicide.
“He was out of sorts and he committed suicide kind of out of nowhere. For about six months afterwards, I was just in this dark place where things just didn't make any sense,” explained Terry. “Then I started to have this feeling like maybe there is another place where they still exist – another timeline where they didn't die.”
Still trying to come to terms with his loss, Terry began researching the theory of quantum immortality. The complex theory, which borrows from Schrodinger's cat, suggests that there are multiple timelines and worlds running concurrently with our own. Therefore, death is not final but in fact the beginning of another timeline. An illustrative example of the theory can be seen in the X-Men franchise which frequently kills characters, only to bring them back in an alternate reality.
From Terry's research and profound loss came a glimmer of hope in the form of a graphic novel which he has been carefully crafting alongside four other local artists – Andrew Sims, Justin Ferguson, JCost and Levi Werner.
“We had a concept for a kind of graphic novel that we wanted to tell,” explained Terry. “Our story, 'Dirge', takes place in a couple of different places – one of them being in an alternate Anchorage where they built the Knik Arm Bridge. The other is in a space we call the Post Humous Resources which is a case management organization for the dead where they get shuffled into their other timelines where they are still alive.”
Sims, a longtime comic book fan and University of Alaska Anchorage English Department grad, was quick to jump on the project and together the duo wrote a 23 page script that would make up the first two editions of their anticipated 16 issue graphic novel.
Once the foundation for their novel was laid, Terry and Sims reached out to mutual friend JCost whom they refer to as their “go-to art extraordinaire”. From there, graphic designer Levi Werner and layout guru Justin Ferguson were brought on board to round out the posse.
“The first time when we were all in one room it was pretty incredible,” recalled Terry. “When we started to see the images actually take shape around the writing and the direction of it all – it was just this kind of magical process because you have these thoughts and these words and to see them translated into imagery was just incredible to see.”
Stylistically, Werner describes 'Dirge' as a mash-up between Sin City and sci-fi world of French comic book artist Jean “Moebius” Giraurd.
While 'Dirge' may have a darker overtone to its story line and art, Sims and Terry didn't want to pigeonhole their novel into particular genre.
“I think one thing that we want to do with 'Dirge' is mix things up – like little funny here, more poetic there and then something really serious over there before delivering a gut punch that will make everybody sad,” explained Sims.
“We also really want to inspire other local artists to come out with their own projects surrounding comics,” added JCost. “That's one of the biggest compliments you can get as an artist, when someone tells you that your work inspired them to make something.”
In an effort to continue to collaborate with local artists, the 'Dirge' crew is hosting a release party on Saturday, May 19 at Crossroads Lounge (1402 Gambell Street) at 8pm. The event will feature the musical stylings of Aural Imago, Gamma Radio and Sundog. Additional artwork from Will Dowd, Ryan Chernikoff, Sydney Daniels and Bryce Fredrick will be on view. Admission is $5 at the door.
You can listen to the full-version podcast of reporter O'Hara Shipe's interview with the novel's creators at AnchoragePress.com.