Junot Díaz Geeks Out Over Comics With Vol. 1

In addition to being a Pulitzer-winning, chart-topping novelist and short story writer, Junot Díaz is more than a little nerdy. Okay, very nerdy. His work — including his latest story collection, This is How You Lose Her — is filled with references to geek-culture touchstones that blend seamlessly with historical analysis and intimate struggle. And towering above all else, his fiction is filled with references to comic books. But no one had ever interviewed him just about those comics. That’s why filmmaker Abraham Riesman went for a trip to St. Mark’s Comics in Manhattan — a longtime haunt for Díaz — to talk comics. To Riesman’s surprise, Díaz’s comics knowledge was even deeper and broader than he had expected.

In this short documentary, the author talks about the growing literary significance of comics, the small-press titles he’s following today, and how his wildly successful work wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the comics creators that he grew up reading. Even if you’re not a comics aficionado, there’s a lot to chew on here.

(Editor’s note: we’ve also posted some comics-related comments that didn’t make it into the final version.)

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebookGoogle + and our Tumblr.


  1. damn, Junot Diaz is dating Marjorie
    Liu?! All the stupendous chicas he could snag and he’s with a writer of shitty
    romances with boiler plate fantasy plots and purple prose?

  2. Yeah, Diaz keeps talking about genre writing in general deserving more respect and money, which is problematic when his girlfriend is that kind of writer. Maybe $500,000 is not enough for him. Although I suspect he’s maybe not talking about her cuz I’ve read a few of her books and the writing is incontrovertibly bad, and the storytelling is at best mediocre. She should stick to comics cuz she ain’t a fo’real writer.

  3. So I know, silly reader, that I shouldn’t be concerning myself with this question, but the other posts have inspired me to go ahead because clearly we, the fans, can’t stop asking it, so I’ll just put it out there. What to make of his romance with paranormal romance writer Marjorie Liu? How can Díaz be committed to real transformative art and be in a relationship with someone who writes books on a schedule, and at that books that reinforce every romantic cliche and status quo idea about men and women out there? Has he read her romances? How can someone of his genius and ingenuity date a woman that writes such facile smut? For all the ways Díaz’s writing expands our notion of the human and complicates masculinity, Liu’s just regurgitates damaging status quo ideas and clichés about love, gender, and humanity. While Díaz takes us deeper into the complexity of human experience, Liu evades complexity entirely, writes trite romances between white-washed mermen and fawning women (ad nauseum). She writes comics too, but her romance voice is equally evident there; there is virtually nothing left of Whedon’s brilliance in AXM. Is it just me that thought Díaz, like Yunior, would have a thing for activist alternativa sisters? I think of powerhouse literary couples like Zadie Smith and Nick Flynn or Victor LaValle and Emily Raboteau, and I’m baffled how someone with Díaz’s talent can admire Liu, who seems (according to her five social media outlets) to spend more time “meowing” on twitter, blogging platitudes about writing and her dreams, gushing over the likes of Vin Diesel and Fabio on Facebook, dressing her poodle in pink sweaters, literally playing princess while donning a tiara!, and effusing about unicorn tights (http://MmL.com/blog/unicorns-really-do-exist/) than she does on improving her writing or society. I know there’s no accounting for taste, but how is this what one of the best most radically-minded writers in America is attracted to? A friend suggests that maybe Díaz is so complex that he needs to be with someone saccharine and simple and inculcated by the conservatism and mythologies of Christianity, or that some übersmart men have a hard time loving women who are intellectual counterparts, but I have a lot to learn about love if this couple works out.

  4. So, here are some surprising things we have noticed about Junot Díaz’s current girlfriend, Marjorie Liu. She is an upper middle class midwestern girl, not a girl from the Heights, not of course some pobrecita! She is an only child, and until moving in with Mr. Díaz she still lived part-time with her parents! She writes formulaic serialized romance novels with, for example, a woman whose tattoos peel off to form a demonic army (huh?) and with covers depicting many glorified white men! Her romances are pretty typical romance fare and she’s written 19 of them in a little more than 5 years! We went so far as to read several of her books and they are not the kind of work that will be called up for the Pulitzer or National Book Award any time EVER not because they’re genre but because the writing is passable at best! Her X-23 run was rad, but her AXM gay wedding issue presented a tepid hetero scene! She was not an avid comic book reader before writing for Marvel, and still isn’t! She is almost always wearing a cross necklace, implying she is quite Christian! She is fond of poodles, the puppet Lamb Chops, unicorns, baking, Dolly Parton, knitting, and Hello Kitty! She has a proclivity to write proverbial inspirational advice about writing on her blog, often invoking the universal we: “writers have to fill the well (as we like to say)”! In public forums and interviews, she apes both what Mr. Díaz says and how he says it! In a recent post on sexism in comics she uses Díaz’s curse-peppered lingo, his comparison to Voldemort, his desire for feminism to be a “social goal,” and his rhetoric of deformity through oppression! Until the past year, her social media output was primarily self-oriented and largely apolitical! This month her website instantly transformed from cheesy to professional (designed by none other than Lisa Brink, designer of Díaz’s website)! She is now showing up on all the literary festival rosters and such that Mr. Díaz is (even teaching at VONA!which seems sort of wrong given the more qualified writers that could be invited! You can certainly see what she’s getting out of the relationship! She announced on Twitter that she spent $168 on a hat! Go Capitalism! You’d expect someone who is half Chinese to know better than to dress up like a parody of someone else’s culture for Halloween, but her latest costumes were an Arabian princess gypsy and a Zorro-like bandit! Not exactly the kind of sister we imagined Díaz would fall for! Maybe what’s most disappointing is how typical and unsurprising (read: uninspiring) the relationship appears, how it mirrors the usual gender trade. She gets to feel like a much better writer than she is and tag along to uber events and he gets to have prettiness accompany him. Her looks, his genius: we’ve seen this before. Not sure why we’re surprised except we pegged Mr. Díaz as different or hoped so. Yours in observation, Damas Gratis