The following is an interview with Jonathan Lang, writer of the upcoming original graphic novel, Meyer, which will feature artwork by Andrea Mutti and will be published by Humanoids. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Lang about the inspiration behind the graphic novel, his creative process in working with acclaimed artist Andrea Mutti, what he hopes that readers will take away from the book, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your original graphic novel, Meyer, through Humanoids later this month! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this graphic novel?
Jonathan Lang: Thank you so much! It’s been gestating for 20 years, so to have the story come to life is genuinely a dream come true. Meyer is an imaginary biography about famed Jewish mobster, Meyer Lansky. Towards the end of his life, in the early 1980s, he is hiding out in a retirement home in Miami Beach. Like most in their twilight years, he is looking back towards his life and thinking about his legacy. For him, that means passage to Israel. A plane has gone down in the Florida Keys, and he must recover documentation before the plane is seized by Cocaine Cowboys trying to recover their shipment. It’s a race to the Florida Keys filled with murder, mayhem, and friendship.
BD: What was the inspiration behind this story?
JL: Meyer Lansky was a figure that always held sway in my house. I had family members back in Brooklyn in the 1940s who used to work with Murders Inc., very low level, running numbers and such. My father, a neurosurgeon, also saw him once in a hospital around 1982 and was blown away by his aura. Physically, he was a smaller man, and every nurse and doctor in the place hopped to attention. Meyer was basically a tough Jew, the kind of man who simply defied Jewish stereotypes of being bookish mama’s boys. He was a great American success who used his mind to get ahead, but he didn’t take any guff from anyone. And man, did he have style.
I also used to volunteer at a nursing home in Waltham, Massachusetts, while at Brandeis University. I used to visit a man named Fred Flagg, who was 101 years old and had graduated from Tufts first medical school class. He told me a story once about when he was a boy; he saw the headstone of an infant in a Boston cemetery. The inscription said, “If I was so soon to be done for, why on Earth was I begun for?” As a scientist, he had been trying to find an answer to that question all of his life. Somehow, that sense of existential curiosity, as well as the nursing home, connected in my mind. What if I was visiting a man in a nursing home who was actually Meyer Lansky in hiding? And then just my love of Miami and Islamorada specifically. I’ve been trying to tell a Florida Keys story for years.