"Emre Altındağ's purest visual storytelling looks highly impressive and atmospheric in the pages of Fishes May Come Back"
This story is a journey portraying the two aspects which exist in humans. Mind and soul, outward and inward, material and spiritual states - belongs to the form of the human. The fluctuation of these two while they are compromised with each other in a tangible body is an archaic debate. While the mind tries to understand, articulate, the soul attempts to contemplate, perceive them. This is a great struggle. Considering them as two separated things, their estrangement continues without ending. Thus, in this story the habit or problem of perceiving the "outward" and "inwardness" as separately almost in each field of life, analysed. They are formed in the body of a child and a grown man, establish a relationship, communicate with each other in a very sincere, touching and silent way."
How does it feel to have Fishes out in the world?
It's been almost three years to the day since I completed the work that became Fishes May Come Back, in 2018, and people are still contacting me from all over the world to share their feelings about it. Definitely, this is a wonderful and also unexpected feeling.
How have you found the feedback/reflections on Fishes?
When I see the feedbacks of Fishes May Come Back, it suddenly comes into my mind that I have around 150 pages currently in my storage, which are the next chapters of this story. What I'm saying is, I need to keep on going with this story, and the others should be seen as well. Because when they are seen, I recognise myself and my work even more, I can discern my flaws more, and the things that I need to focus on to carry it further become clear to me. It's exactly like looking at a mirror.
Besides, this is an endless story, as I have come to realise. I still draw and ink the new pages of this story and I can see that maybe it sounds like an exaggeration, but this is a lifetime project for me, that will not have an ending. I'll always be transforming, renewing, and freshening up with new perceptions and contemplations, and my work will also become diversified with the help of different artistic techniques. So, with the help of the reflections of the audience, I will continue to internalise this journey and take the next steps on it.
You've jumped straight back to work with a new project, The Obelisk, currently running on Kickstarter. How did this collaboration happen?
The Obelisk is another silent graphic novel series that I am commissioned to work on by USA-based musician Dustin Carpenter. It is his long-term open-ended story, which is also closely related to my current artistic production in terms of its subject and storytelling method. When we first met and shared our visions, it was really out of the blue - we took a ride...
There will be an album and a series of silent comics to accompany it. When I first read the story, I said to myself that this is a kind of science fiction version of my stories! And we start to work on it together. Currently, we are in the last days of its first Kickstarter fundraiser, and also, we earned the 'Project We Love' badge for it, which was absolutely amazing. We were really surprised to see The Obelisk be liked by the audience at first sight. It was 30% funded within the first 48 hours, which is great. We hope to make it happen and I really hope I can work more on this series with Dustin in the future.
You're also part of a new publishing initiative called Light and Memory, which looks great. Can you tell us a little more about that?
It is a project which I deeply care about. I call this a project maybe because I consider all of the artistic works as a lifetime project - even without an end after us. It may sound epic, however this is the thing that would make it better as time goes by and conserve its exciting synergy.
It is a community project, and we are planning to publish magazines two times a year on the subject of storytelling. The storytelling word opens up the possibilities to work with any artistic disciplines, so we can form a collaborative output in the community in great depth. In fact, this can be considered also as a group of artists working together to arrange both academic and non-academic events such as exhibitions, conferences, workshops which will be formed by various artistic disciplines such as illustration, graphic novels, architecture, photography and music which all focus on the subject of storytelling. It is a networking community actually, but the term of affinity would be more accurate for it.
At the 'every end', each creative individual should fulfil their plate and help to create this 'affinity' and create something good at the 'each ending point'. Moreover, magazine issues will help the community to be more organised and to see the renewal and growth more efficiently. Magazines will be kind of reports which indicate where we're at... and it is also so nice to have something to reach to a wider audience without any boundaries of race, belief or nation. It is not like we are excluding these terms by any means... in fact, the things yielded by each one's own unique background are precious and valuable. We are aiming to create a living artistic community that forms through them.
How has the last year changed your approach to creativity?
To see my work be published and be reachable pushed me forward to create more, with much more sensitivity, and to put more ingenuity into my work and grow myself each day. Besides, in the current strange pandemic condition, I believe it is also so important to contemplate the preciosity of the moment even more. While this helps me to focus more on my work, it also leads me to approach and try to understand the inward state of others.
What are you most looking forward to about things going back to (sort of) normal in the future?
I guess it is better to focus on the current conditions, which I can do in my area and make something really good so that when it comes to tomorrow I won't have regrets.
I can only guess, but I believe there are so many people out there with terrible living conditions. I think I should be grateful for the time and to this moment in which I live, and make it something that creates value to the point which I would be pleased in the future when I look back at today. I know it can be hard mostly, but I believe that is the inspiration for the moments that we chase.
Paddy: Fishes May Come Back by Emre Altındağ, he's Turkish and he just goes in touch with us, completely be out of the blue...
He actually submitted a much longer book, but it's part of and we looked at it and wow -when I had opened it up, just thought wow. This is incredible, amazing, poetic artwork. This is the most beautiful work I have ever seen, and I want to publish this. It's a silent comic. It was this amazing silent book, and we all thought quite a long time to back to him because we all wanted to look over it and digest it, there was so much to do and so deep.
Because it is silent, you feel like, you're really need to more adjust it by looking at it longer than it if they were words to provide you with that kind of narrative. You just feel so deep and intricate, and when we're already really impressed by it, and that we had quite a lot of editorial input. He was really brilliant to work with, and we sort of said what we really like the first chapter of it and maybe that could just be a good comic on its own.
Emre involved in everything. I'm really proud of the way of cutting edge outside of the comic. It's something that it's not necessarily like a popular sub-genre. It might be perceived as more difficult work compared to some of the other stuff that we put out (...)
I just I really love it. I feel like it's already poetic and I want other people to see that too. I wanted people to read it and just let it wash over them.
It's essentially about a man and a boy looking for fish and going for a journey through the woods and stuff. It doesn't necessarily really need to be about more than that for it just to be a lovely beautiful book, and I really love comics that are just beautiful. I feel very passionate about this one. Emre has been really a joy to work on (...)
Sam: This is the thing that we really wanted to print it in a larger format, because the work deserves it. The other thing I was going to say is that Emre comes from an academic background. He is also a painter but the fact the silent comic is a very specific choice on his part. It is actually part of his wider studies and related to his thesis. It is a very well-considered thing, as well as being beautiful and very intricate. Emre has his own ideas, dashes are gone surrealism and abstract artwork which makes it really special but I think the fact there is a lot of thought going and I think we will be including some information his writing about the idea of silent comics as well.
Paddy: His paintings are beautiful as well.
Rozi: He is a really beautiful painter and artist like his stocks in amazingly in coming from a painting, fine art background. It's just giving him a completely different way of looking at comics and it's really interesting. He was kind of like the hidden gem. (...)
You're a painter and have completed degrees in fine art, and your background is in painting. What made you decide to start making comics?
Well, I have always been into stories. In my childhood years I remember the times that I was writing and drawing some small comics. Storytelling has been a constant desire to me. I also love to arrange puppet shows for the children of our neighbours. So, I may say that during the years of my art education and after my graduation I have tried to keep my stories safe in the background of my paintings. One day I realised that as I was painting the panels of my graphic novels, I felt like I was unaware that I was painting graphic novel-like stories. And then I started to arrange them as juxtaposed, side by side, top to bottom on purpose as exactly like graphic novels. After that I also discovered with the help of other comic artists the expanding universe and the possibilities of its structure, especially in terms of composition.
Could you tell us a little bit about your process drawing for Fishes May Come Back? Does your work as a painter inform your drawing process and technique, and how you tell a story?
This answer maybe will be like a continuation of your previous question... I was kind of in a situation of being stuck in the medium of painting. I was repeating my compositions, forms, moves... I had spent some stressful times at that period, I had an aspiration to new and fresh exploration... and one day I did a painting which had 4 or 5 panels in it that depicts the atmosphere of a figure from different angles. When I comprehend all of these panels on the one surface, I got the impulse and I started drew the first page of Fishes May Come Back. All of the panels formed immediately in my vision -there will be the first panel which begins from the stem of a tree, and then there will be a ship which sails... to... the land... the island... and there will be a sailor... He reaches to the island... and that is the classic way of begin a story which is heavy with a baby. And to mention about my technique in there; I guess in 2011, which is the first years of my academic study, I drew some illustrations to Ginsberg's Howl poem just for my bookshelf. While I was doing that, I used only an ink pen and its impression to me was always beautiful, beautiful such as a gravure, etching print. I really love the charming effect of the line craftsmanship.
You're due to be starting a PhD soon. Can you tell us about your research, and how your practice in art and comics informs your academic work (and vice-versa)?
Studying, contemplating of the academic background of painting and comics is a great pleasure to me most often. While I was drawing Fishes May Come Back, simultaneously I was studying on the draft of my research as well which will be about silent comics, their semiotics and language... While I was drawing this story, at the same time I was learning, contemplating, perceiving more and more of the -I guess I may scientific here... Scientific formula of comics and especially the silent language. This silence issue is a very deep ocean... I would not like to dive into that for now, so I don't take up too much of your time. Also, I would like to mention the outstanding books which really inspired me both in academic and practical way of the comics: Groensteen's The System of Comics was a great boost to back my practical and academic works.
What are some of your favourite comics, and ones that you think have influenced Fishes May Come Back? It's always really interesting to see what inspires people who make silent comics.
Shaun Tan's The Arrival was my first reference to define silence in graphic novels. And then almost all of the works of Chris Ware were really supported me to realise, aware of what I am doing. Eleanor Davis' works, for both storytelling and for medium and material techniques are the ones which I really admire.
Fishes May Come Back is part of a larger story. Can you share a bit more detail about where the story will go next and the bigger project that it's part of?
In fact, it is not exactly... however kind of... the first part of a series which I call all of them as a Stories of a few Outsiders. For now, it has around 150 pages more or less which has similar characters, and their similar stories. To be honest, I am not sure where they will take me or where I am taking them. When I look at the other chapters, I always notice my flaws both in terms of storytelling and artistic. That gives me real discomfort, and until they will get published, I guess this situation will keep on going. However, I also like that, this makes me, actually pushes me to develop them further, to renew them with fresh and new tendencies.
Many of our readers probably won't be aware of a lot of comics artists from your native Turkey. Can you recommend some Turkish comics that people should check out? And what's the comics scene like in Turkey?
I believe Turkey has great potential of comics, or to call that as more broader term, storytelling. I am saying that because of the reason of very vast collection of Anatolian Folk Illustrations are here... I may jump to extreme recommendations but there is prosperous collection of I am sure I can call them as comics from the early years of 12th century in Anatolia and before that especially in upper Mesopotamia it can be easily find nicely done illustration works which depicts the stories. But I am not talking about miniatures, many of them were drawn by anonymous artists as well... The most famous ones are the love stories of a young man to a girl and then that love transforms into divinity... and some heroic choices of a human... And this culture belonged to the country folk. The storytelling with drawing also was an essential communication method between people in these lands since the long years. Malik Aksel's researches are the most critical ones to realise their value to the ones who would love to discover. Sorry to not mention any contemporary names, but if anyone is interested in this, they should check it out the works of them. I mean, for me it was a great influence...
Do you think you'll always make silent comics, or would you like to make something with words one day?
I really love to make stories with the help of silent visuals for now... I think, they will get more limitless and powerful frequencies when they are getting away from the obstacles of words. Yes, I believe the words are obstacles... I mean most of the time :)
If you could sum up Fishes May Come Back in one sentence, what would it be?
Very intriguing, great and ancient struggle of the body and soul of a human.
What are you most looking forward to in having Fishes May Come Back published?
I should say that, I am very glad to meet and work with the team of Good Comics on this book. The all of the process has been totally fun and joyful. And truly productive to develop, to take this story to further to another level. Surely, I hope this book reach wider audience day by day... However, to keep safe its indie-like synergy also is an important matter to me. I believe they -I mean the fishes, they all may come back again as always with another fresh pulse and charming wave...
"In relation to our Kickstarter, we've put together a lineup that we're really proud of, with books that we're so excited to share.
My personal highlight is Fishes May Come Back, which is a silent comic from a debut artist, Emre Altındağ.
It probably sounds highfalutin to say that there's poetry in his linework, but that's how it seemed to me when I first read it, and those are the kinds of books I want to publish."
Fishes May Come Back by Emre Altındağ sounds truly unique, even among other silent comics, and the pages I've seen are stunning. What sort of story does Altındağ tell in Fishes May Come Back, and why tell it this way?
Dr. Paddy Johnston:
''Unique is definitely the right word for it. I still have a vivid memory of the first time I read it, after he'd submitted it to us, and thinking how unlike anything else I'd ever read it was, let alone anything we had published.
It's essentially a story about a boy and an old man working together and reflecting on the passage of time, but I like to say that it's a story about the body and the soul. I'm sure it could be told with words, but it would be a very different narrative and wouldn't offer the same space for reflection and it wouldn't have the same poetic quality.
I think you can lose yourself in the pages of a silent comic like this in a way that you can't when there's a textual narrative pulling you through the pages. It's a comic that wants you to look at it really deeply and to get philosophical about it, and about life. I think it's a work that's really open to interpretation, and I expect a lot of different reactions and responses to it from our readers.
It's a challenging work, but it's so different to everything else we've done and to the other books in the Kickstarter, and I'm really proud of it.''
Wordless comics are a challenge for both creator and reader alike - especially when they weigh in at close to 50 pages like Emre Altindag's dream like story of a fisherman and his young blind son.
While a wordless book is not always our preferred choice, this is clearly a book which has been carefully constructed and deliberately told without words to gain maximum effect.
It's a difficult process to create, and one which has to be matched by the reader, as the lazy shortcuts of dialogue and sound effects are gone and you have to really study and take in the story in a different way to usual.
As a result this is not the easiest book to get into, and the plot does not help, as it is quite conceptual and does not have a conventional narrative.
It's story is lilting and dream like, as the fisherman goes off on a spiritual journey leaving his son at home, and while this creates some lovely visuals it is not easy to understand exactly what is happening. However, because the artwork is really beautiful you persevere and are ultimately rewarded with a comic which is not what you are used to reading.
The pencil artwork has a real rawness and fragility to it and matches the subtlety of the story telling. Because you have to study each panel you take in the information in a different way. As such you notice the difference between the moments featuring the father and son, and the loose more simple nature of the dream like forest scenes.
While not the most immediate of reads you can see why Good Comics have added it to their slate, as it is an interesting and thought provoking read, which will challenge you as much as it will entertain you. And sometimes that's what reading comics that are out of the mainstream is all about.