Pornsak Pichetshote may seem like a new face to comic book fans but he's been around longer than you may think. He was a rising star editor at Vertigo' from 2004 to 2010. Many of the most acclaimed Vertigo books during that time were edited by Pornsak Pichetshote.
He's worked on legendary characters such as The Sandman and Swamp Thing. He also worked on cult favorites such as SEAGUY and WE3 from Grant Morrison, to Vertigo's hottest books in 2010 like SWEET TOOTH and UNWRITTEN. Many of those books have been nominated for dozens of Eisner awards and been on the New York Times best sellers list.
This past year he launched INFIDEL at Image Comics with artist Aaron Campbell. It was one of the most critically acclaimed books to come out from Image last year. For his first major comic book as a writer, he came out swinging hard. Not only have people loved the book, but it's already been optioned for a film. While he's got more projects in the works, they haven't been announced yet so we're gonna have to wait to see what he's got in store for us next. He's already blown us away with INFIDEL, so I can only imagine what he's cooking up next.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
PORNSAK PICHETSHOTE: I’m always jealous of people who can answer that concretely. I honestly don’t know. I do remember being in college and really enjoying this “writing phase” I was going through. Then, during a break home, I found a high school journal where I had been writing about how much I liked this “writing phase” I was going through, and I realized for the first time, hey, this wasn’t a phase, and maybe I needed to make it a part of my life. I groan thinking a high school journal had that much influence over my life…
COMIC LOUNGE: What creators or books first sparked your love of comics?
PICHETSHOTE: I had 3 mini-digests collecting the first 20 issues of Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s SPIDER-MAN that I Iiterally re-read until the spines fell apart. I also think an issue of Paul Levitz’s SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES was one of my first comics (the one where they fight the League of Assassins). But as I got older, my favorite writers / cartoonists became Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Chester Brown, and Joe Sacco.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did you first break into comics?
PICHETSHOTE: I answered an email looking for an assistant editor to Karen Berger, editor-in-chief of DC COMICS’ VERTIGO imprint, which I was an enormous fan of. I kind of wanted to be a freelance writer at the time and was specifically not looking for a 9-to-5, but I was such a fan of Karen’s, I took the interview just so I could say I met her. From there, Karen and the comics community treated me so well, I took the job as her assistant editor and ended up staying at DC for 12 more years.
COMIC LOUNGE: Your book INFIDEL was hit amongst fans and critics. Where did the inspiration for that story come from?
PICHETSHOTE: INFIDEL is a horror comic about an American Muslim woman and her multi-racial neighbors who all live in a building haunted by creatures that seemingly feed off xenophobia. I came up with the idea years ago, back when Barack Obama was still president, and it was something I slowly developed on my off-hours. Back then, the initial spark came from how people were talking about this post-racial society we’ve become because we had a black president while seemingly having no problem with the rampant Islamophobia on the increasing rise. That dovetailed with my love of horror movies, and suddenly I found I had one of those ideas that was so simple but provocative I couldn’t believe anyone hadn’t done it sooner. As the years passed, and the themes of the book became more and more relevant to the world, I felt like I needed to put this book out there.
COMIC LOUNGE: What was your reaction when you found out it was being optioned for a film?
PICHETSHOTE: It’s always nice knowing that your work might get a bigger audience – especially considering how many intimidatingly talented people are involved – but I’m embarrassed to admit I think people expect me to have a bigger response than I actually did. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled, but I’m just as thrilled when I read a review from a reader who clearly took the time to dig into the book’s themes or acknowledge it might influence even the tiniest bit of how they look at the world. Or even listening to people argue about why the book may or may not be all that. I just love the passion that comics brings out in people. That said, I’m an enormous fan of PARADISE NOW, a film Hany Abu-Assad co-wrote and directed and very, very excited and intrigued to see what he does.
COMIC LOUNGE: Do you have any other projects in the works?
PICHETSHOTE: I do, but I’m at that annoying stage of things where I can’t talk about it because of NDA’s or because it’s too early for announcements. Which probably means I’m going to make a bunch of announcements all at once and people will quickly get sick of me. Ah,
this business we call show…
COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any characters you would like a chance to work on?
PICHETSHOTE: Tons. I love what Al Ewing is doing on IMMORTAL HULK. I wrote an issue of GREEN ARROW back in the day and would love to revisit him now that I know what I’m doing. Like every comics fan, your brain gets incepted with random ideas for all kinds of characters… Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Nightwing, Justice League Dark… That said, my favorite part about comics is how aggressively we (especially at this point in time in our industry) introduce new ideas into the world and all the other media rush to keep up. As much fun it would be playing with other people’s toys, I’m way more excited to be working on new things / introducing new ideas to the world, and that’s the focus of my next few projects.
COMIC LOUNGE: What is the best advice you would give to new writers?
PICHETSHOTE: Picasso said good artists borrow, great artists steal, so with that in mind, I’m stealing a Harlan Ellison quote that inspired me when I was starting out and still inspires me now:
“Don’t be afraid. That simple; don’t let them scare you. There’s nothing they can do to yu. If they kick you out of films, do TV. If they kick you out of TV, write novels. If they won’t buy your novels, sell short stories. Can’t do that, then take a job as a bricklayer. A writer always writes. That’s what he’s for. And if they won’t let you write one kind of thing, if they chop you off at the pockets in the marketplace, then go to another marketplace. And if they close off all the bazaars, then by God go and work with your hands till you can write, because the talent is always there. But the first time you say, “Oh, Christ, they’ll kill me!” then you’re done. Because the chief commodity a writer has to sell is his courage. And if he has none, he is more than a coward. He is a sellout and a fink and a heretic, because writing is a holy chore.”
–Harlan Ellison, Dangerous Visions 2
I can’t tell you the number of professional writers I’ve met who’ve forgotten this, and it’s all to the detrimental to their careers and work.