A debut graphic novel, over 600 pages long. Work on it lasted more than 10 years. It tells the story of a boy who, because of an accident at the steelworks, begins to shine like a light bulb. A surrealistic tale on autobiographical themes about searching for one’s own place in the world, in the shadow of the disease of both parents. A personal story about overcoming fear. The book was originally published in Poland by Kultura Gniewu in 2018.
In 2022 “Mr. Lightbulb” was translated by Antonia Lloys-Jones and published by the prestigious American publishing house Fantagraphics. This is the first Polish comic ever published by Fantagraphics!
Fantagraphics Promo Clip
Draft version 2006-2009
I wrote the first version of the story outline in 2006. I completed the first draft version of the novel in March 2009.
The script was never written in detail and it kept evolving during the process of drawing. I was working scene by scene. First, I created miniatures of a dozen or so pages, and only after drawing them clean, I went to the next scene. I also created a map of emotional dependencies between the characters.
Drawing "Mr. LightBulb" 2010-2017
After editing the draft version in April 2010 I began to redraw the entire novel in its final shape. I had a chance to do it occasionally, mainly in the evenings, after coming back from work. I reached the end in June 2017.
Apply color or not?
Since this is the story of a road from darkness to light I had this idea of a gradual change (from black to white) of the background color on each page. Tomek Lesniak helped me color a few pages as a test. Ultimately, however, I left the comic book in its original black and white.
Original Polish Cover Design 2017
I made about 15 designs of the book cover and finally chose a black cover with a gold wire print. I was helped with the design (and the overall editing of the novel) by Maciej Kukurba.
SUN > EARTH > MOON > LIGHTBULB
My first animated films, made during my studies, followed a certain pattern. Each subsequent movie starts with an object that emits or reflects light; each subsequent object is smaller than the previous one.
The first shot of my first short movie “One Often Feels…” is the sun that pops up from the bottom of the frame. My second movie “Sorry” begins with the planet Earth. Third – “Headless” – starts with Moon centered in frame. Finally, my graduation film “Mouse” opens with a light emitted from a lamp post light bulb.
Many years later I drew the same beginning in “Mr. LightBulb” – a novel about a man who becomes a lamp post.
Since the beginning of “Mr. LightBulb” refers to my first short films, the first pages of the novel are in a way “animated”. If you played them, you’d watch a short animation.
The Polish premiere 2018
The premiere of the original Polish edition (released by the Kultura Gniewu publishing house) of the book took place on April 18th, 2018 in Warsaw’s popular Regeneracja club. Photos by Mariusz Dmowski.
first Polish Edition 2018
It was quite a challenge for the Kultura Gniewu publishing house but it ended with a success – the first edition of the book looks exactly as I dreamed it: a black brick with shiny golden wires and the title on it. Light in darkness.
“Mr. LightBulb” was present in the largest Polish newspapers and magazines, as well as on television.
“A marvelous debut. … This masterful and darkly comic epic finds the all-too-human reality in its fantastical inventions.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Wawszczyk’s phenomenally dynamic pages turn swiftly, revealing an Everyperson’s struggle to live life fully despite persistent obstacles and setbacks. Narratively and artistically, Wawszczyk shines.”
Booklist (Starred Review)
“It touches on issues that are important for the entire generation to which I belong.”
Tomasz Bagiński: Rzeczpospolita Plus Minus
“Comic biographies are not new, but none of them was that good on the Polish scene.”
“Not only a sad but also a wise and beautiful book.”
“A thrilling bildungsroman, thoughtful and precisely composed, in which surrealism mixes with the prose of life, great drama with humor.”
Kamień z serca
“An outstanding comic book. At times, choking sad, affecting the feelings of total loneliness and helplessness (…). At times so warm and joyful that it literally shines in his hands. Bravo!”
“I read Mr. LightBulb in one breath. It would seem that you need an unlimited power in your lungs on this over 600-page brick, but no, with Mr. LightBulb you just stop breathing.”
Agata Napiórska: Zwykłe życie
“Hidden under a stern line, Mr. LightBulb is a sensitive story proving that there is no darkness that cannot be illuminated.”
Paulina Frąckiewicz: Magazyn literacki Książki
“The genre eclecticism of this comic book is well balanced.Wawszczyk skillfully jumps between stylistics.”
Łukasz Chmielewski: PRZEKRÓJ
“It’s a manifesto of the generation that can fortunately say:”That’s it! I am enough!”.A manifesto that I’ve been waiting for a long time, though I did not realize it. ”
“A subtle story about otherness, disability, illness. It is extremely difficult to talk about hard things, especially when they affect our loved ones. (…) One of the most beautiful and important comics.”
Nominations and Awards
Polish Comics Association: BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL award.
Polish Comics Association: BEST DEBUT nomination.
Pop culture awards MISIE 2018: win in the BEST HERO category.
Pop culture awards MISIE 2018: nomination in the MOST TOUCHING category.
Festival of comics in Łódź 2018: COMIC BOOK OF THE YEAR nomination.
Środek Komiksu 2018: THE BEST COMIC BOOK WRITER distinction.
The only Polish comic book among the top 10 published in 2018, according to the PRZEKRÓJ magazine.
The only Polish comic book among the 20 best published in 2018, according to ESENSJA magazine.
It’s a dream come true for me to have my comic book published in the US by a publishing house which I admire and which has shaped my taste – Fantagraphics. It’s the first Polish comic ever published there, in the over 40-year history of the publishing house.
The author of the translation is Antonia Lloyd-Jones, translator of Stanisław Lem and Olga Tokarczuk, among others.
For the American edition I revised the original material and redrew about 60 pages.
AMERICAN COVER 2022
In April 2022, “Mr. Lightbulb” made its debut in the United States. The American cover was designed by Keeli McCarthy.
Written and illustrated by
- Wojtek Wawszczyk
- Kultura Gniewu 2018 (Polish edition)
- Fantagraphics 2022 (US edition)