"Emre Altındağ's purest visual storytelling looks highly impressive and atmospheric in the pages of Fishes May Come Back"

"Fishes May Come Back is an exploration of loss, and of what it means to have both a body and a soul.

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."

Podcast of WIP Comics: Episode 17
Podcast of WIP Comics: Episode 17

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.''