The last thing Louis Pecsi thought he would be doing after a debilitating car accident was writing comics.
At the time, he could barely think at all. “I couldn’t remember anything,” Pecsi said, recalling the moment four years ago when he awoke in an ambulance after another driver slammed into his car. He was just happy to have survived.
Then Pecsi discovered his head injuries had stripped him of something many people take for granted: the ability to read. Suffering from alexia and short-term memory loss, Pecsi said the words would “kind of move” and “smush together.” Four years later, he has made a partial recovery with the help of an unlikely friend: the vampire Nosferatu.
Pecsi was introduced to Nosferatu as a child, when he watched the 1922 film of the same name and was drawn to the character’s haunting appearance. After the accident, Pecsi began looking for books about the gaunt, pallid creature as a way to practice his reading skills, but came up short. He could not find any books he thought properly told Nosferatu’s story.
So Pecsi began to fill in the gaps himself, encouraged by his friends.
What started as a few loosely related drawings soon became a three-year, full-time endeavor to both cope with his injuries and explore Nosferatu’s character. The graphic novel Nosferatu: The Untold Origin is the result of these efforts, and what brought Pecsi, a Deptford, N.J., resident, to Manayunk on a rainy afternoon.
“I like to support local authors like Lou,” Ann Tetreault, owner of The Spiral Bookcase on Cotton St., said. When Pecsi contacted her this winter to promote his comic book, she was all for it.
Tetreault had held book signings before, but never for a comic book. “This is a little bit different, which I like because I want diversity,” Tetreault said.
A copy of the graphic novel sat in the store window, the ghastly appearance of its titular character contrasting sharply with that Saturday’s “Get Married in Manayunk” theme the local business association was promoting. Pecsi himself, dressed head to toe in black, sat beneath soft white drapes. Live music drifted into the store from outside before the rain drove the performers away.
Tetreault laughed at the clashing imagery and noted that her copy of the book was
different than those Pecsi brought. It was evidence that Pecsi was both new to the comic business and determined to succeed.
“It took six printings to get the book to where we were happy with it,” Pecsi says. Pages had to be re-colored, images had to be re-drawn. At one point, two publishers were interested in printing his book. Then both went bankrupt. So he set about publishing it himself in 2010.
Speaking with Pecsi, it was easy to see why he chose the comic book medium and why he’s retooled his work six times. He was steeped in comic knowledge. A shy, introverted child, Pecsi remembered reading comic books like The Incredible Hulk as an emotional release. “The Hulk is an angry kid, so he’s able to get away with throwing these massive temper tantrums,” Pecsi said. Ask him which comics he read, and he’ll start citing ones that have unconventional artistic styles. Ask him if he liked the movie Superman Returns and he’ll talk about the subtle changes to the Man of Steel’s costume in a long series of adaptations.
Pesci has worked for most of his life in visual storytelling, from photography to special effects for independent films. He said he hopes to return to the film business eventually, maybe with a big-screen adaptation of his book. “It’s all about the visuals with a film like this,” he said. For now, Pecsi has focused on writing with the support of his girlfriend, Mary Beth Kosich. “We’re just really trying to inspire each other as much as possible,” said Kosich, who is collaborating with him on several books.
Despite the substantial progress Pecsi has made, he has not yet fully recovered. Reading is still at times problematic, and he has occasional lapses in memory. But he is resolute. His love for visual storytelling is slowly making the words clearer.