Creator Spotlight: PAUL FRIEDRICH
It’s time for Comic Con again! Alternating Crimes won’t be there but are super excited to cast our media support towards Paul Friedrich as he takes his annual mecca to the grand event. We’ve got a few things prepared in celebration of everything Paul, including a candid bio with a whole bunch of great art found here: https://alternatingcrimes.com/paul-friedrich/
Let’s dive into a brief Q&A
You’ve done quite a thing by gaining a sort of celebrity status as an artist in our region. What things would you attribute to your success?
Good, entertaining fun combined with a relatable dark sarcasm that is offset by absurdity. And bright colors.
As far as I know you’ve always supported yourself as an artist doing all sorts of projects. I know your paintings have played a strong role in keeping the doors open, but you’ve done everything from merchandising to commercial art. Could you talk about some projects that worked out well? Flopped? Crazy stories?
You never know what’s going to be a hit and what won’t. I’ve spoken to many artists and musicians and they all have similar stories. The one piece that you believe is your masterpiece gets no attention and the one that you came close to throwing away becomes your Freebird. A key to success is to recognize when this is happening and pivot on accepting it. Make every idea you have and be open to giving the people what they want even in the times they’re wrong.
I’ve known you since elementary school, and first encountered your work in our 5th grade class with the now classic Zimmy strips. What ever happened to Zimmy and will you ever bring him and his cast back?
Zimmy’s still one of my favorites. He still shows up in the background of Onion Head Monster stories. I look at the characters as bands. Zimmy was my first band in middle school. Hubie the Dead Cow was my alt music college band. Onion Head Monster became my mainstream successful band and Sloppy Joe is a new side project. Sometimes it’s fun to get the band back together and other times it’s good to try experimental ideas that don’t fit in with the other projects.
I lost track of you for a while going to different high schools and then caught up at ECU. How did art school at East Carolina University evolve your work?
College was essential to being exposed to new styles and ways of doing things, both from teachers and students. The internet has been even more helpful. Instead of trying to track down an obscure book and can find an artist’s, culture’s or style’s complete collection in seconds and trace it forward, backward or any offshoots applying it to my education.
What did you do after art school that led you to the path of the independent artist vs other possible directions?
Moved to LA to be an animator. Met a lot of animators for Disney, Warner Brothers and TV shows and realized it was only a job for them and they all wanted to do their own projects. That’s what I wanted too. I moved back to North Carolina to focus on my work.
When we caught with each other again, that led to the Hell Car comix collaboration, you had a whole new cast of characters centered around the Onion Head Monster, and before that the whole Hubie cast. You are a bit of a world builder. Do you base some of your characters on specific people or are there other things that inform the creation of your characters?
When you base characters on specific people that you know, or know you, you run the risk of creating unnecessary controversy when the character does something original but the person takes as a personal comment on them. It’s much better to let the character’s personality develop as the stories develop. Or, to base characters on movie or literary heroes. A good exercise when developing characters is to create a situation and see the different ways each character responds to the problem.
We started partnering on Hell Car comics, first with editorial, then co-ownership on the Hell Car Comix title. After a few issues you found the Record Exchange network that served as advertisers in exchange for using the Hell Car brand to offer a CD compilation of bands they wanted feature. After we parted how many more issues did you all do together? Who were some of your favorite artists to feature?
After a couple dozen issues, the comic book became a DVD featuring comics, music, games and trailers. It ran for 30 issues before the coalition of record stores moved on and began Record Store Day which has become a worldwide success. At the time of publication entertaining comic stories were rare. First person autobiographical stories with tragic outlooks was the trend. When we worked together, and after, we tried to find a balance of female cartoonists which was rare. Today there are multiple extremely talented women cartoonists in the field. I tried to use a diverse group of cartoonists from around the country. I was honored to be able to publish work by Smell of Steve, Inc by Brian Sendelbach (Seattle) and Bwana Spoons (Portland, OR).
Knowing how volatile the music industry was during that time period (and since), what were some of the other factors that finally deciding to stop doing HellCar?
The concept of the giveaway was to thank record store customers for their continued loyalty by giving them something extra when they shopped. The accompanying CD sampler was a way to showcase new releases. Record stores were/are being hit hard by big chain stores selling albums and especially the internet. Record Store Day was a bigger way to bring attention to how special record stores can be and has the bonus of rock star star power.
I’d love to see these issues in digital format at the least. Any plans for that in the future?
A lot of other exciting new projects to make first!
While we are at it you’ve been such a work horse, that I can’t imagine you don’t have quite a collection of strips, etc. piled up by now. Isn’t it time for a PF complete works or omnibus of some kind? Fans want to know.
A lot of them are available online. See the links at the bottom of this article.
You wrote a Hubie novel that was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed plucking excerpts from it and adapting them to comics. Have you done much long form writing like that since?
All of my stories for graphic novels are written out, but not converted into novels. The Hubie novel was exceptionally fun. It was based on previous comic strips but in it I was able to go beyond the comic page format.
With your world building skills and direct line to fame have you tried your hand at script writing or shopped of your cartoon creations and their stories to the Hollywood elites?
I’ve come as close as you can to having a show without having a show with Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Disney. Especially considering that I’m not in Hollywood playing the game everyday. The right people know my work and are kept up to date. When the right idea at the right time happens it will happen.
Speaking of something that must have felt very much like that, I understand you and writing partner Neil Hinson optioned your Man V. Liver as a cartoon series. Could you talk about what is coming out? Timeframe?
It began as an animated series pitch and is now a live action pitch. It has been optioned and continues to develop. We’re working with producers with shows on ABC and CBS and a writer from Upright Citizens Brigade to fit our concepts for television.
I’m enjoying your new direction of juvenile and sports characters you are posting. It seems like this is leading somewhere. Is this more of a commercial venture or are you planning on bringing these ideas back into comics or some other narrative form?
The most important thing is to use every idea. You don’t know where they’ll go. Sometimes they’re good for a t-shirt or sticker and other times they become hit book titles that become TV shows!