The work of Anders Nilsen can be cryptic, daunting. But his comics are as raw and primal as they are poetic, and their philosophical scope and artistic magnitude have never been clearer than in the Big Questions anthology. I have to admit that I was afraid to pick up the brick of a collection. Then I attended the Epic Literary Adventures panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, where the Chicago artist admitted to Drawn and Quarterly’s creative director Tom Devlin that even he had to draw a map so that the sprawling volumes wouldn’t contradict each other. It turns out he’s a regular guy who just happened to write and draw an ambitious, inspiring, and thought-provoking 600-page comic book about birds, snakes, and a plane crash.
MW: You’re in the midst of a reading tour to promote the Big Questions anthology. How’s that going? How do you structure your events?
AN: I just finished the first leg, going up the West Coast. I leave again in a week for Toronto and Minneapolis. It’s been great so far. People are coming out and I’m having great conversations. Most of the stops were basically just me signing books for a while, doing a slide show, talking about the book, and doing some readings from it, a bit of Q&A, signing a few more books… and then going out for a beer.
MW: The book is massive. Did you prefer long, epic comic book stories as a kid? The Kree-Skrull War? The introduction of the Inhumans?
AN: Yeah, totally. The X-Men battling the Brood, Elfquest, The Dark Knight–all that stuff.