If you’ve been reading the Vertigo series Air, you’ll notice two new faces to comics. Both writer G. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker are new to American comics, but that hasn’t stopped them from quickly making a name for themselves—including a recent nomination for best new series by the Eisner Awards. Although Perker is new to most comic stores in the United States, he has a long history back in his home country of Turkey as an illustrator and a cartoonist. Turkish born M.K. Perker parlayed his talents to transition from being one of the most prominent illustrators of his native Turkey to the world of comics, working with writer G. Willow Wilson on the graphic novel Cairo and the current Vertigo series Air.
But in the forthcoming graphic novel Insomnia Café, Perker writes and draws the story of a rare book expert named Peter Kolinsky, who is drawn into trouble surrounding a secret library housing rare and unseen books going back centuries. As this professional bookworm seeks to find it out for his own, black marketers are on the trial as well – even it if means killing him in the process.
For more, we talked with Perker by email from his home in New York.
Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, M.K. What can you tell us about Insomnia Café?
M.K. Perker: Insomnia Café is a very strange graphic novel in approach to the story line but with realistic characters with real emotions, ideas, failures and fears. The story evolves around Peter Kolinsky, a former hand written books expert, and a café called Insomnia Café and the girl who runs the place. One day, an old client of Kolinsky, a very dangerous one, shows up with an old book and the story takes off. Kolinsky, with no sleep starts escaping from things, but also chasing things in a hallucination-like life. You know how it happens in dreams: “It’s you, but it’s not you,” same thing happens to Kolinsky while he’s awake. It’s his life but it’s not.
Nrama: And just who is Peter Kolinsky in this book?
Perker: -Peter Kolinsky is a complex character. He’s smart, has a certain talent and an insomniac with a really dark mind. He’s someone whose life is constantly getting more complicated and who is constantly running out of luck and I think a man in this kind of a mind set would easily fall in love with someone who is a little bit quirky. So he falls in love with Angela, the girl who runs the coffee shop.
Actually Peter Kolinsky has appeared first time in a short story called ‘”Mr. Kolinsky” which was published in an issue of Heavy Metal. He was not the same Kolinsky as in Insomnia Café but there are similarities like they both work at an office that they hate, both wear eyeglasses. But the early Kolinsky was committing suicide every night and he was waking up every morning when the alarm clock goes off at where he hung himself the day before and jumping down and shutting the alarm off and getting ready for work instead of suffering from insomnia every night. Which actually is very similar on a second thought.
Nrama: This is your first solo graphic novel published in the United States, but you’ve done extensive work back in your home country of Turkey. Do you plan on re-releasing any of that material such as the Gothic Comics Theatre series?
Perker: Gothic Comics Theater is a series of short stories and was published in a monthly comics magazine in Turkey. Insomnia Café also first appeared in that magazine. One of those stories called “Milton” was published in Heavy Metal in USA and worldwide. Milton was also honored by The Society of Illustrators as one of the best work of 2005 in sequential art category and exhibited in The Museum of American illustration. Until working on Cairo and Air with Willow Wilson, I always wrote and illustrated my own work. But I also feel like I’m an artist first. So the quality of art in my old works comes first for me. Insomnia Cafésatisfies me with its art, so does the G.C.T., but any of my old works that has a good story but looks weak; I wouldn’t want to re-release them.
Nrama: In talking to you leading up to this interview, I noticed you live in New York. Why did you decide to move from Turkey to the United States?
Perker: It was not like an immigration of an Eastern European artist to the new world during the 30s or 40s. My wife and I are based in New York but we spend 3-4 months in Turkey every summer and every year we also spend some time in Paris. I feel like we didn’t move to the US but we moved to New York because we love NY. With today’s technology you don’t have to be in a certain place to exist in a certain market.