Interview with Paul Hornschemeier pt II
– by Shawn Conner
In the second part of our interview with the Chicago cartoonist, Paul Hornschemeier chats about his three-city Pacific Northwest tour, his “Nighcrawler Meets Molecule Man” story for Marvel, and exposing his girlfriend to the sordid underworld of comics fandom. Click here for part one.
Shawn Conner: So what kind of things are you going to be doing on this tour?
Paul Hornschemeier: I try to mix things up a little. This tour is short enough that it’s going to be different in every city. This’ll be the first time I’ve done this, but basically I’ve taken an excerpt of Mother, Come Home, sliced up the panels and removed the text, and I’ll be reading the dialogue. That’s about the only good way to read comics to people. For The Three Paradoxes, we did a puppet show. I’ve seen people do things like a slide show with comics, and using different voices, but that wouldn’t feel appropriate for Mother, Come Home.
SC: You were the colourist on Omega the Unknown, which I thought was a great book, especially coming from a mainstream company like Marvel.
PH: It got a little pocket of attention, but I think it flew under the radar. It’s funny, I go into [comic] stores, they see my name on a credit card, and they always say, “We really like that Omega book. It’s one of our best sellers, we’re always telling people ‘Read this, you’ll like it.'” It’s a weird sell, because people wouldn’t necessarily know about Jonathan Lethem if they didn’t read novels. Mainly the reason I worked on it is I’m friends with Farel, and a fan of Jonathan [Lethem]’s writing. And I got to work on Gary Panter‘s stuff too. [Panter did the cover and some interior art for an issue.] I just had to colour it the way I thought he would colour it. After, I was basically checking my email inbox waiting for the rejection, for them [Marvel] to tell me that no way they’re going to go with this, that it’s off-register and psychedelic. But I think by that point in the series they’d thrown up their hands.
SC: Now, what’s this story you’ve done for Marvel, “Nightcrawler Meets Molecule Man”?
PH: I liked the Bizarro books that DC did, I thought hat [letting alternative comics artists tackle the DC universe] was a really good idea. I don’t know what they’re going to call the book, but my story is basically a philosophy and physics rant, with Nightcrawler and Molecule Man having this intense conversation about free will for four pages, which is what we were given to work with. I had two different Spider-Man stories completely written and scripted, but they were too long to fit into four pages. I kind of doubt those’ll ever see the light of day.
PH: I will say I’m not into the superhero world, though I loved that Batman manga book. That, and the Fletcher Hanks book [I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets]; both kind of showed where superheros could have gone, where they were going for awhile. It’s like you take Nirvana, and three generations down the road you get Creed. They’ve chucked all the good stuff, and now everything’s gritty Frank Miller type of stuff.
SC: This of course leads to the movie version of Watchmen…
PH: I thought Eric Reynolds kind of nailed it on the Fantagraphics blog: it’s like seeing somebody who really loves a song doing that most faithful rendition of that song and still just fucking it up. It was very faithful to the aesthetics and look of the book. I think the major thing was, I didn’t care. While I was reading the book I cared, and I think it moves really well. I’m glad they took all that pirate crap out of the movie. It does help the book as a pacing device. Otherwise the book would move a little too quickly. I think the main thing too was that I was watching the movie with my girlfriend, who had no experience with the book, and I was thinking about what she was making of these characters, and what this must be like for the average person coming in who hasn’t read the book.
SC: Your girlfriend is joining you on tour?
PH: She actually hasn’t been to any comics events, ever. She works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, so when we kiss each other goodbye in the morning, she goes off to the museum, and I go upstairs and work on comics. On this tour, she’s going to get every single kind of experience, the art gallery [Charles A. Hartman] in Portland, the convention [Emerald City ComiCon] and after-party in Seattle, the comics store [Lucky’s] in Vancouver.
SC: Hopefully some people will be in costume in Seattle to really give her the full effect.
PH: I was looking at the people attending, who the guests are, and there are too many big name guests for there to not at least be someone in costume. In 2001, in the wake of 9/11, I was at a convention in Baltimore, the least populated convention ever, and the most fun I’ve ever had at a convention, there were even people dressed up at that. There are four people there, and half of them are dressed as Thor.
SC: You’ll have to take her to the San Diego Comics Convention.
PH: Yeah, it’s one of those things. I tell people you have to go at least once. The major mistake I think people make, and that I made the first time, is going every day for long periods of time. You’re in San Diego, so there are other things to do. But it’s everything about pop culture happening at once. My first year I went I was at a table the whole time, every single day, and the problem with the convention is, it’s everything possible in the emotional spectrum turned up to 11. A little kid is in the most beautiful innocent state when he sees someone dressed up as Batman, and then you’ve go the guy dressed as Batman trying to push everyone out of his way, and some 40-year-old guy trying to realize part of his youth by buying this gun that goes with that action figure, and the guy selling it to him for three times what he knows it’s worth, and that’s like within a three-foot radius. But like I said, if you’re going to go, just pop in for an hour or two, and then get out.