Five Questions with… Joshua Williamson the Creator of Nailbiter
Five Questions with…
Recently I attended Rose City Comic Con in Portland, where I had a chance to sit down with Nailbiter and Ghosted writer Joshua Williamson. It seemed only appropriate to harangue Joshua with my “Five Questions” while in Oregon, which is where his now-popular serial killer serial takes place. We talked about Nailbiter (click the link to see early reviews), serial killers, and cinnamon toast crunch.
Here we go!
WPR: If you were a serial killer, what would you want to be known for?
JW: Nothing. I would not want to be caught (laughs). That’s the thing – with Jeffrey Dahmer, once he was caught he never lied and was very forthcoming. He had been hiding this dark secret for so long and was able to finally share this with people. I think for me, I’d want to be so good at it that I’d be known for being the “guy that never got caught.” Also, it’s funny that all of the serial killers in Nailbiter have these vindictive motives (eliminating people talking in movie theaters, cat callers, etc). I would never kill women or kids, so I’d want to kill douchebags. I think that would be my M.O. No one would WANT to catch me.
WPR: In your opinion, what makes a person “crazy”?
JW: It always comes down to nature vs. nurture. Over time, I have started to lean toward nature. I don’t think there is any code to what can happen to somebody. You could have the same situation that happens to two people and one person comes out better because of it. While the other… becomes a killer. I think it’s just in the wiring of some people. A lot of people want it to be nurture because they want there to be a code– they want there to be a thing they can avoid, or a thing they can answer. The nature side of things is so much more random. It was one of the harder parts of working on Nailbiter. You find yourself NOT trying to solve the puzzle of Buckaroo but trying to solve the puzzle of “why in life?” And, that is a path of madness. There is no pattern.
WPR: What’s a comic book you didn’t write that you wish you had?
JW: There are so many books that I like. I love Sex Criminals (Matt Fraction, Image) a lot. It reminds me of Kill Your Boyfriend, which is a Grant Morrison book from the 90’s. The main protagonist talks to you (the reader). There’s that timeout, Saved By the Bell thing. I wish I had something like that, but I know I couldn’t do it the way Matt does it. So much of that is so…..Matt (smiles). I don’t know, I guess there’s nothing I wish I had written, just stuff I like. I’m really happy with the stuff I’ve created. There’s never an idea I hear and think “oh, damn.” I just don’t have that drive.
WPR: What inspired you to write specifically about serial killers?
JW: I sort of have a weird history of encountering actual serial killers. With Nailbiter in particular, the thing that really set it off was when I was a designer in San Diego I worked with a woman who came in one day and was upset because she’d broken up with her boyfriend. You know, you become friends and talk about that stuff at work, so I asked her what happened. She said that his uncle got arrested for being a serial killer. He was strangling people. He and his uncle were really close and she just couldn’t be with someone who was close to something that evil. It really stuck with me. I started thinking a lot about how when killers are caught it affects their family and the people around them. We talk a lot about the victims but not about the families of the killers. They’re victims, too. If you look at Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, his high school friend wrote a comic (writer Derf Backderf of My Friend Dahmer). The day he left for college was the day Dahmer killed his first victim. There’s a weird symmetry there that makes you wonder “could I have done something to stop this?” That is what it came down to. The Zodiac Killer was also suspected of being from my hometown, and I thought it was weird to have all of these serial killers in one area. It was both the converging of those things and my interest in serial killers. I’ve read a lot of books and done a lot of research.
WPR: Because you write a serial about serial killers, what is your favorite breakfast cereal?
JW: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. This is a weird question (laughs). I’ve always been in a debate with cereal. I’m not a super cereal fan. I like the idea of candy in my cereal, but I don’t like the taste. I think “candy for breakfast!” Then I would eat it and realize “this is disgusting.” Cinnamon Toast Crunch was the one I settled on. But I usually just have a hardboiled egg and pineapple.