Creative

Apr. 6, 2009 12:00 pm

Technically Not Tech: Graphic novelist Duane Swierczynski

Crazed graphic novelist and Philadelphia-native Duane Swierczynski isn’t the first comic-author using social media. Last month, we spoke to the South Philly minds behind the Black Cherry Bombshells. But Swierczynski, 37, who has blogged since October 2004 and tweeted since last summer, recalls when fan chasing was a real game. “I remember writing a fan […]

Crazed graphic novelist and Philadelphia-native Duane Swierczynski isn’t the first comic-author using social media.

Last month, we spoke to the South Philly minds behind the Black Cherry Bombshells. But Swierczynski, 37, who has blogged since October 2004 and tweeted since last summer, recalls when fan chasing was a real game.

“I remember writing a fan letter to Clive Barker back in 1988, and I went through a lot of trouble trying to figure out the address, typing the letter, retyping the letter when I realized that I made a few bone-headed mistakes, and finally, waiting many, many weeks for a response,” Swierczynski said. “I still have the letter framed.”

“Now it’s extremely easy to reach out and say “yo” to your favorite writer. This is great, but perhaps some of the magic has been lost, too.”

That’s because fans of the man behind the newest editions of The Punisher for Marvel Comics can just get online and come find Duane Swierczynski in an instant.

“To me, stuff like Blogger, Facebook and Twitter is one big bar. I hang out on a regular basis, so people know where to find me. There are also other people who hang out at this same bar, and I like to say hi to them, too — share a joke or a bit of news or gossip or whatever,” Swierczynski said. “The beauty is I can pop in and out of this bar at will, and sometimes only for a minute or two. No pressure, no hangovers.”

Fourteen months ago, Duane left his post as editor of  alternative-weekly newspaper Philadelphia CityPaper, after more than three years at the helm. It wasn’t for a lack of love, the man’s career as graphic novelist has just gone viral.

“I miss the energy and fun of a dozen creative minds trapped in the same room, trying to come up with a cool story idea, or headline, or cover concept, or dumb joke. There’s nothing like it,” he said. “I stay in touch a little, but I don’t want to be a nuisance. “Oh crap, here comes Old Man Swierczynski again”

He now lives in the Rhawnhurst neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia with his wife, 7-year-old-son and 5-year-old daughter, but in 2005, while still editor at City Paper, he wrote a seminal profile on his native Frankford, a confused Philly community that interestingly bridges the dilemmas of the Northeast and the city’s river wards.

Going from Frankford to bullet-riddled graphic novels might not be such a big leap, but he likely has a lot more fans now.

He has written five graphic novels, been anthologized in a half-dozen published collections, and has movie producers nipping at his heels (See his library of critically-acclaimed works on Google Books, or, you know, support the man and buy something, for goodness sakes).

Oh, and he is the hottest comic writer on the planet right now. He’s gotten some attention for absurdly delightful plot twists, like the Philly cop mutual masturbation club. He’s big enough that Philadelphia Weekly reached across Broad Street and featured the former editor of their arch rival CityPaper in a recent cover story. If none of that impresses, you know he’s legitimate because he has a Wikipedia page, and it isn’t even flagged for removal.

But dude keeps it real and still calls Philly home – within city limits.

Below see Duane handle a nervous, squirrel-ly-looking interviewer at last April’s New York Comicon, just around news broke that one of his stories would be optioned for a possible movie in the future.

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Maybe that’s why he seems a bit cooler than some of his fans and the stereotypes that surround comic books. Still he says he loves technology – “I do love me my gizmos” – so his use of social media is no surprise.

“My motivation was to stay in touch with like-minded writers and readers, and that’s still pretty much the case. I don’t blog or Tweet as a “marketing platform,” or some such crap. I do it because it’s fun,” he said. “The moment it’s not, I’ll stop.”

You know, or if he somehow gets too busy.

At the moment, he’s working on two more monthly series for Marvel – X-Men title Cable and Immortal Iron Fist, which is, of course, focusing on the adventures of a Kung Fu billionare. He’s aso adapting his novel Severance Package for Lionsgate, who optioned the film rights last summer. Then in his free time, he’s working on two more novels, a collaboration with another writer and a solo piece he calls his “most Philly-centric novel yet.”

“It’s been a crazy busy year, and I’m grateful for it,” he said. It hasn’t kept him from being available for readers. “I do think it helps for a writer to be reachable. And I love the chance to talk to people who like the same kinds of books, comics, etc. that I do. I learn something every time I check Twitter.”

As for whether Philly’s tech scene is booming, well, Swierczynski can’t be sure.

“I’m more plugged into the nerdy pulp, hard-boiled noir scene here in Philly. And all three of its members.”

Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly’s tech scene, but aren’t necessarily technology focused. See others here.

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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

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