Those of you who have been following me for a while will have heard me talking about UNGENRED for years. I have never given any real details about the book, but it has been on my schedule since 2009–and now it’s here, thanks to Black House Comics.
UNGENRED is a collection of my ‘non genre’ short comics, starting with “One More Bullet”, which J. Marc Schmidt and I produced in 2003 (which in turn was based on an unpublished prose story that I wrote in 2000) and including work that has appeared in various TANGO volumes, HARD WORDS, KAGEMONO ROBOTS ARE PEOPLE, TOO! and a variety of other places.
The stories are not all reprints. Some, like “Get Behind the Mule” (with heartbreakingly-beautiful painted art by Nic Hunter) are pieces that were executed for anthologies or magazines that fell over before they got . Some other pieces that I simply never found a place for because of the format (who prints full colour autobio shorts, anyway?). Some of these stories I have been actually been saving up for this book.
This book is one of the reasons that I have become fast friends with Bruce Mutard. When I first met him, back in 2008, I showed him some of the pieces that appear in this book and to my surprise he said “I’d consider drawing some of this kind of material for you. Maybe in six months time when my schedule clears.” I wasn’t going to refuse! I waited the six months and then I got in touch to see if he was still up for it. “Well, I did say I would consider it, didn’t I?” he said. I went off and wrote the story “At Own Risk”, about my 2008 trip to South Africa. I sweated bullets over that script, because I knew that it needed to be exceptional if Bruce was going to agree to draw it. But I also knew that I could ask Bruce to do things that I wouldn’t be able to feasibly ask of anyone else, so I set the difficulty bar high for both of us. “At Own Risk” was the key to me deciding to put together this collection.
So what’s the big fucking deal, anyway? Mr Horror Writer wrote a bunch of ‘non genre’ stories? Drama, comedy, travel, biography and autobiography, historical fiction, philosophy… does this mean Franks is giving up the genres?
Nope. My approach has always been to write it first, classify it second. And here’s why:
The ‘Literary Mainstream’ is itself a collection of genres. Drama, comedy, travel, biography and autobiography, historical fiction, philosophy… what are they, if not genres? Every story can be classified alongside similar stories by other writers owing to common themes, character types, structures or tropes. It infuriates me that some genres are critically privileged and others are reviled. There are good and bad stories in every genre.
I’ll write whatever damn stories I feel like, and you should do the same.
PS I am fully aware of that in comics, the ‘mainstream’ is taken to mean Marvel and DC superheroes. Ungenred works are considered ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’ or both, depending on who is writing about them.