Wikipedia can be a dubious source. With local writer Igor Goldkind, it's easy to be suspicious of the myriad accomplishments listed. But after reading his Wiki page, it's hard to believe you haven't heard of him before. Back in the '70s, he was an early champion of a little event called Comic-Con (perhaps you've heard of it). According to the page, he's written for dozens of comic books over the years, including Judge Dredd and the revered British sci-fi serial, 2000 AD. He was a pioneer in digital media back in the early '90s, having started one of the first web-based publishing companies in the UK.
But of all the facts presented on Goldkind's Wikipedia page, none stands out more than this one: In the '90s, he helped coin the term "graphic novel." At the time, he was working as a marketing consultant for Egmont/Fleetway Publications. The company was looking for a way to market collected, book editions of popular comic books so that mainstream book stores—the ones otherwise averse to selling anything related to comic books—would fill them on their shelves. Could it really be that a writer from San Diego, one who admits that he "can't even draw a straight line," could have coined such a popular term in the cultural zeitgeist? To hear him tell it, yes. Yes, he did.
"The trade was reluctant to stock comic books in book stores. So I suggested what was needed was a change of vocabulary and a genre brand," Goldkind says. "I spent some weeks weighing up phrases and I settled on 'graphic novel.' The new comics like Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Maus needed a distinct branding and 'graphic novel' was what the trade could swallow."
Still, Goldkind is modest about the whole thing and believes in giving credit where itís due.
"The term had only previously appeared on an obscure Will Eisner paperback, so I credited him with the invention of the name, so as to lend the term clout."
Even with such a notable resume, all those accomplishments were all leading up to Is She Available?, Goldkind's bold and multifaceted new book that he says was 15 years in the making. To call it a graphic novel would be selling it short. Put simply, it's a 160-page collection of Goldkind's poetry and prose accompanied by art from dozens of notable fine art and comic book illustrators. While the poems could be read as stand-alone pieces, there is a distinct cohesiveness to the book and the themes presented in it.
"The themes I explore the most are death and loss, sex and love, and also political metaphysics. These were themes that were reoccurring throughout my life," says Goldkind, who became casual friends with a publisher on Facebook. After seeing some of his posts, she suggested he put out a book of his poetry.
"When I got the opportunity to publish a book, I really wanted to go against the grain," he says.
That he did. Instead of putting out a standard, words-on-paper book, Goldkind started reaching out to local artists, as well as ones he'd met throughout his travels and while living in Britain, to commission visual pieces to accompany his poetry.
The resulting pieces range in style and medium. Some are drawings, some are paintings. Some are comic books, some are abstract visual art. Still not satisfied, Goldkind also commissioned jazz musician Gilad Atzmon and a band to record a companion soundtrack that would be included in the eBook version of Is She Available?. The eBook also includes animated sequences and spoken-word elements.
"I wanted to ultimately reach more people. If I was going to make it a point and take a risk with publishing poetry, I needed to make it work for today's audience," Goldkind says. "That's why I suggested a book that was more like a computer game and a graphic novel as opposed to just a pamphlet of words on pages."
Local artist Mario Torero's piece, "State of our Nation," is included in Is She Available? next to a poem addressing racial injustice. "I'm a poet myself and I'm working on my own book, so watching Igor do this was very inspirational to me," he says.
The book is dedicated to the three most important women in Goldkind's life: his mother, Margarita (an accomplished visual artist who passed away in January), as well as his daughter, Olivia, and his sister, Natasha. The poem "And Then You Passed Me By" is a eulogy for Natasha, who died after giving birth to a daughter. The accompanying art, by Italian artist Mario Cavalli, was inspired by a story that Goldkind told to him about Natasha's young daughter doing cartwheels on the grave of the mother she never knew.
There are also tributes to his mother and his own daughter, but Goldkind feels the keystone to the book is "The Dark Cloud," where he writes from the perspective of a personified depression, as if the emotion itself was an entity. The last lines of the poem are:
Out of oblivion,
Out of the Meaning of Meaning,
Out of the darkness,
Into your light
The reader turns the page and sees Bill Sienkiewicz's vivid drawing of a person appearing to climb or perhaps floating toward the light as the dark clouds surround him. Or is he just hanging on for dear life? On the bottom right-hand corner of the page, the poem ends with a simple line:
And come home.
"The book is filled with my own tears, my own suffering, and it's a bit of uber-narcissism that I chose my own emotions to be central, but I knew that what my experiences taught me was something that I felt other people needed to know too," Goldkind says. "That by manifesting these experiences, that I could hopefully reach someone who is too timid or too cut off to reach out for help."