May 2018

J.H. & Wendy Williams

Acclaimed Comic Book Creators

J.H. & Wendy Williams

By Jason Harris

Less than a week after the Route 91 massacre, acclaimed comic book artist J.H. Williams III went on a twitter burst late at night. As he says, “I was talking to the ether.” He said he wanted to put together a comic benefit for the survivors. By morning, enough people had reached out that the project became a reality.

For the next seven months, curating the book and filling in any holes that needed to be filled became a 24/7 operation for J.H. and his wife, Wendy.

With the release of Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas finally upon us, I caught up with J.H. and Wendy to discuss the process of making this thing real.

How did you come up with the title of the book?

We were talking to our friend who works at a high-end restaurant and she had to go to work the next day. The next day, all the press was in there. All these people from CNN and MSNBC. She had to serve them. And the way they talked about our city and the incident it was like, it doesn’t even clue into them that this person lives here that’s serving them and this is the way they’re talking about the incident. It wouldn’t even occur to them that it might affect her. That’s kind of where I came up with the name for the book. It’s like, “This is where we live. You’re talking about where we live.” Every time something like this happens it’s very personal to the people that it happens to and it’s very personal to the community it happens to.

How did you go about structuring the book?

J.H. Because we have such a wide variety of contributors, all the stories have their own way of thinking to them. The visual presentation is unique. It’s a real mix-tape kind of quality to it. The styles, some are really realistic while others might have more of a cartoony feel to the drawings. We made sure that whatever the story is that the writer turned in, the artist we paired with him or her, seems likes a natural fit. There’s also a lot of content where the creator wanted to do it all - they wrote it, drew it, colored it, lettered it.

What’s so different about this book as opposed to other charity comic books?

W We decided early on, because the subject was so heavy, and we were getting all these statistics about the shooting and it was becoming dehumanizing, we decided we’re not doing a pinup book. We couldn’t trivialize what happened which is what happens if you’re not really getting at it.

J.H. A lot of times charity books will try to have an overall uplifting theme to it. But with this particular’s impossible to talk about it with a sense of…by the end of the book, it’s happy-go-lucky, cheery. That’s impossible. That’s one huge difference with this book. It’s a really heavy read. Hopefully, it adds to the conversation and at least readers come out of it thinking, “We gotta figure this out.”

Was there anything that inspired you outside of comics?

J.H. One of the things that we tried to get into in the book in some capacity was how journalists, how the media covers the subject. You don’t normally get to see that point of view. Not them saying they are journalists and telling you what they are covering, but them telling you what they felt and their experience covering it. How does this affect journalists?

W We wanted to cover but didn’t get to, the fact that big media dehumanizes these things. They tend to focus on the statistics. How’d this guy get all these guns? We need to come back to who it’s affected and how are these people gonna live the rest of their lives? Hopefully, it demonstrates that journalism is important and that these people are important, too.

What will people learn about Las Vegas by reading the book?

W The news cycle has passed us, but these people are still dealing with it. Our community is forever affected. We don’t get to move on.

J.H. We chose the cover we chose - even though The Strip is the center of everything around here - everything around it is communities and families and people who were raised here and grew up here and live and die here. That’s why we chose a house for the cover and The Strip is in the distance. We want people to understand we live here. We hear all the time, “You’re from Las Vegas. What’s that like?”

This is a city about hospitality. We’re about wanting to show visitors a good time. What’s greater than that when you talk about community? This is such a community-oriented city that we want strangers to have a good time. That says something about the quality of people here.

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