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An Open Love Letter to Matthew Erman (Bonding)

I am a massive fan of Matthew Erman, and I about pooped my pants when I got to interview him in 2021 about Power Rangers (Boom!), Terminal Punks (Mad Cave), and ,one of my personal favorites, Long Lost (Scout) which he co-created with his wife. There is something about not just the way he writes, tells stories whenever he's on a live stream (like Mad Cave's all-day announcement streams). I am intoxicated by his "chaotic good" style energy.

It's that energy (and knowing that Lisa, his wife, hasn't snuffed him with a pillow yet) which makes me thoroughly excited to know that he's going to be a dad soon (I want to be a fly on that wall!). What really draws me to Erman, is that he's not afraid to put his heart on his sleeve and tell it like it is/should be in any instance, and I find that quite respectable. Which is why, instead of summarizing what I've learned about his upcoming hardcover release Bonding, I'm going to share part of a letter he sent in a Vault email, as well as his reading of the first chapter!

Bonding (Vault Comics)

By: Matthew Erman, Emily Pearson, Kaylee Davis, Justin Birch

Releases: February 2, 2023

FOC: December 19, 2022

Again, all of the italicized is part of a larger note from Erman sent in a Vault email.

"... I have an upcoming graphic novel coming out in February with Emily Pearson on art and Kay Davis on colors called BONDING. It's about a lot of things, mainly love and relationships and mental health and a few other things, we'll get into that -- but right now I wanted to tell everyone that I'm writing this from the delivery room as Lisa is going through the labor of...uhh-- labor.

Now, BONDING is not about giving birth, or childbirth or having a baby (not particularly a plot point but it does come up) but what Vault asked me to do was to write about how the book explores mental health for their newsletter. It's very strange to be writing this now, as I watch the person I love more in the world go through excruciating pain to bring in a new human person into this world -- something we made. We've made a lot of things in our lives so far and I'd be lying if I said our child didn't rank above the upcoming book I'm supposed to be talking about, this moment -- this thing that's happening is the most important thing and unlike other things, it has come with a quick and certain truth and reality that is impossible to deny. I can't wait to meet this fucking thing and by the time you're reading this, I already will have. So, now on to the main part of the email, why I was asked to do, so yeah here's some things about Bonding.

I started writing BONDING in the autumn of 2018. It was my first graphic novel and the strangest story I’ve ever written. It was created by an incredibly passionate team at Vault. Adrian Wassel has never wavered on his support for this book. Emily Pearson, the artist and co-creator on the book took something so bizarre, in which every person had to be drawn with an alien slug on the front of their body and ran with it. While Kay saw the color in this world, and made it feel singular and nostalgic. Like it was part of our reality, part of our future and part of our shared something.

To this day, four years later — it remains a singular source of pride and anxiety. Was this autobiographical? I don’t quite know. There are obvious parallels to my life, and one of the few things I completely regret about this book is naming the main character Marc Lanterman (for… clear reasons). Maybe subconsciously, I couldn’t escape having this story being about me and my struggles with myself -- and it manifests in the characters of Marcus, Laura, and Ira. That is how it started, but as time went on and things in our lives changed, it became less about me, and more about something so ephemeral and vague that at times it felt more like a treatise on what it means to exist in a world that so clearly wants you obliterated. I use obliterated in the astral sense as well, and while we are all going through our own personal struggles, it is the universal struggle of figuring out what it means to survive.

Over the last four years, I’ve come into my own as a writer, bought a house, lost a friend to cancer, felt helpless as loved ones struggled with illness and disease — drifted and reconciled with family and felt wonder as friends gave birth to their children. For two years we all (literally, the world) huddled inside so as not to die from a worldwide infectious disease. Does this book, about alien parasite slugs sucking plasma from a fistulation in one’s body, have anything to do with those aforementioned things? No, not literally. I wrote this book about two years before COVID-19 was even uttered, but still in the days of mass American gun violence. Could this be seen as some kind of “artistic prescience”? Sure, but in reality everything horrible that happens to us, happens to us collectively, or it should be felt that way and that has always been the case. The worldwide trauma of such a thing will be felt for the rest of our lives, and likely into the unpredictable future.

Senseless, unknowable “violence” is ever present whether it is in the form of a debilitating illness or acts of mass murder or quiet, inward moments of self-doubt in the face of anxiety surrounding death itself, or something inside us (or outside) that drains us from the joys and wonders of our daily lives."

Erman's letter continues for another 3-4 paragraphs relating things back to how we fight our parasites/inner demons, but I believe where he really sticks the landing is in his analysis/reading of Chapter 1 on Vault's Youtube channel. Enjoy!

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