Interview with Tim Heiderich of Misunderstanding Comics

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Misunderstanding Comics is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of Comics as well as their place in the realm of art. Writer Tim Heiderich took time out from his Convention visits to offer some insight into why he and artist Mike Rosen chose to put together Misunderstanding Comics and his view on the comic world today.

FBN: What was the final straw that led you to create Misunderstanding Comics

Tim Heiderich: For those who don’t know, in 1993, there was a landmark book by Scott McCloud called Understanding Comics that was a thoughtful meditation on the language of comics and their viability as a legitimate art form.  But at that same time, comics were going through a mania where publishers were gouging fans with holofoil gatefold embossed covers, the stories were adolescent power-fantasies of heroes who were ‘roided out walls of muscle wielding giant square guns, and rushed, sloppy artwork was all riding a wave of hype.  Misunderstanding Comics sarcastically addresses that schism between what comics could be versus what they are — if Understanding Comics were for the actual kind of comics being created at that time.

That was the initial idea, and people I’d shared the pitch with were skeptical, like “How many pages can you wring out of Rob Liefeld not being able to draw feet?”  But the more we looked, the more we found to make fun of, and it grew into a satirical guide to everything wrong with comics: not just bad art and flimsy, one-dimensional characters, but how continuity actually prevents stories from having too great an impact and inevitably leads to resurrections, reboots and retcons; manga’s fixation on weird Japanese culture, Fanboys and how to exploit them, the vast wasteland of web comics and even the vain search for validation in intellectual comics.  We covered so many topics and, in a joking way, managed to hit on some insights into the cliches that have been plaguing comics, that when the book was finished, we’d won over our critics who thought we’d just be ripping on Todd McFarlane for 22 pages.

FBN: What do you feel is the greatest challenge to the creativity of comics today?

Tim Heiderich: It’s really a matter of choice: it’s easy to stick to recognizable franchises and pander to fans, but the only way to advance comics as an art form is to start taking more risks, in story, content, subject matter, and so on.  Giving fans just what they want sells comics, I’m not going to argue against that, but if it’s just a retread of the same things, then comics are going to remain small time and not be taken seriously as an art form.  More than TV or movies, comics can afford to take risks, so that’s where the innovation should be happening.

But if you walk up and down artist alley or the small press table, what is selling the most?  Fan art based on recognizable properties, or exhibitors chasing trends rather than setting them, and that’s the thing that is most disappointing.  Comic creators who are taking the safe bet.  So in our book, we kind of poke fun at that, like, “If you’re just in comics to make money, here’s how.”

This is why we have con bingo — you attend enough conventions, and you start to see the same things over and over:

Con Bingo2a

FBN: How long have you been reading comics? Do you have any other passions?

Tim Heiderich: I started reading GI Joe, Transformers, and Robotech comics as a kid, then stopped during the ’90s — which was a good time to stop.  When I came back to comics it was with a copy of Understanding Comics and Watchmen, and I learned that comics could be more than just adaptations for cartoon shows, that they could be more than just second-tier art.

My other passion is animation; I created a web series called Emergency 411 that was in a similar vein that I’d like to get back to soon.

FBN: In Misunderstanding Comics one of your characters, Sketch McLoudmouth, is having a hard time drawing feet. Is this a dig at artist Robert Liefled?

Tim Heiderich: I saw Liefeld’s banner at WonderCon of Deadpool leaping through the air, and clearly Liefeld has no problem drawing feet, but judging from the pose, he seems to think that the only way heroes get anywhere is through jumping.  He may know how to draw feet, but still doesn’t know how they work.

FBN: What is your partnership like working with artist Mike Rosen? How did you two begin working together?

Tim Heiderich: We have a mutual friend, and he and I have a similar sense of humor, so creatively we got along well.  I had read Mike’s previous book, Malleus Maleficarum, and thought that it and his web comics, like Guttersnipe (www.guttersnipecomic.com), were hilarious and had the art style I was looking for, so we turned out to be a good fit.

FBN: Can you share with us what you’re currently working on? What is one project you’ve always wanted to work on?

Tim Heiderich: Besides comics, I also write and direct web series; I’ve done two in the horror/comedy genre, Normal Activity and Assignment Unexplained.  I’m currently re-writing an earlier short story I’d written and shelved because of this book.  Also, I’ve always wanted to work on a Twilight Zone-style anthology, so one of those may come up, too.  I gravitate toward stories with an ironic twist, which you’ll even see at the end of Misunderstanding Comics.

FBN: How much of your time do you spend creating?

Tim Heiderich: Like every other independent comic author I know, I still need a day job, so how much of my time do I spend creating? Not enough!  This means I usually work mostly late at night night; that’s when I feel most creative, and there are the fewest distractions.

FBN: Where is the best place for our readers to find your work?

Tim Heiderich: We’re on ComiXology, Amazon, Kindle, and Pulp-Free Press, but prefer selling books and digital copies directly from our website here:http://www.misunderstandingcomics.com/store
We’ve in also on the shelves of several fine LA comic shops: Golden Apple, House of Secrets, Secret Headquarters, Meltdown Comics, and others.

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