When I stumbled upon Alex D. Araiza’s work last year, I was instantly struck by his point of view. His cartoons were both surreal and completely ordinary, created with deceptively simple line work. In his nonfiction comic “I’m Going to Die Young,” Araiza examines his brother’s dangerous lifestyle and his mother’s coping skills, causing him to question is own relationship to mortality and fear. He’s a master of the closing panel, and this comic is no exception.
THE BELIEVER: How did this comic start?
ALEX ARAIZA: Well, I have a huge habit of bringing up my brother a lot. If I’m making a string of journal comics I’m bound to bring up my brother. He’s on my mind a lot, and so when an opportunity arises, I tend to share my thoughts on him.
BLVR: What’s your process like?
AA: It’s a lot of false starts. Even though I enjoy writing, my brainstorming seems to come about in sketching out pages first and then developing a script. I tend to fill sketchbooks with thumbnails and dialogue scribbled to the side. There’s also a lot of walking and music listening involved. Walking leaves a lot of time for ideation.
BLVR: Was any aspect of making this work particularly challenging?
AA: Yes. Though I can turn a project around pretty fast, sometimes when I’m working on something heavy like this comic it can be pretty easy for me to second guess myself enough to slow down my process. I found myself wanting for a day or two to pause so I could reconcile some of the problems I was having to face by bringing up my brother.
BLVR: What drives you to create new work?
AA: I actually have a hard time not creating new work. If I’m not drawing or working on a project I get antsy. On a basic level, I know it’s tied to my fear of death. I have to create. I have to make a mark. I have to leave something for the people I love. Maybe it’s really basic. I do wonder if I would draw or write less if I had enough money to secure the comfort of my family and friends. I don’t know if it is really only fear that drives me.
BLVR: Without naming any comics artists, what influences you most?
AA: A lot of film directors and book writers have fed into who I am today, but I would also say Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury played a major role. They gave me a lot to ponder when it comes to humanity, getting older, and what humans are to each other and everything. Why I tend to go into horror though, may come from my family. I’m unsure if it’s just my Latino roots are just my family, but ghost stories and urban legends were a huge thing for my grandma and that whole paternal side of the family.
BLVR: Which comic should we drop everything and read right now?
AA: Please look into Harrow County. The art in that comic is phenomenal. It’s use of watercolor and relaxed inked lines is beautiful and fitting for the horror driven plot. If you like witches and being unnerved, I recommend it a ton.
BLVR: What are you working on next?
AA: I’m painting a lot, but also working on a short, about hundred-page comic. The comic is about a formless being waking up in a hellscape without any clue who they are, nor where they are. I was drawing during lunch thinking about what would be the scariest situation to actually be part of our afterlife, and started drawing. Though it sounds like a big downer, I’ve found moments in it that have been pretty funny. I hope. I like a bit of humor in my moments of fear.