gg: I like the last panel in “Testosterone,” where you just see the girl’s legs in the background.
th: Yeah, I guess she’s overdosed on pills there, I gave her a little pill bottle.
gg: That’s almost a Will Elder-esque touch.
th: Will Elder is the king of the sight gag that’s in the corner. I definitely would try to aspire to something like that, because his work is really great.
gg: Do you allow yourself some room while you’re drawing it to incorporate new ideas?
th: Not much. It’s just that I have to try to do something to keep it interesting while I’m working on it, and luckily things will happen intuitively or spontaneously. Besides the conversation the two characters are having in that story, I thought, “OK, he’s going to be eating something. What would he eat? Oh, it would be a hot dog with caviar.” He eats that, but there’s still a bit left, so he squeezes it in frustration, and now he has caviar on his hands. Then he eats the can of caviar. Then he shakes her hand. Little things like that.
gg: The whole idea that she would know 150 national anthems and that this would impress Walter is… [laughs].
th: That whole national anthem thing comes from this guy I went to high school with who collected national anthems. He was a really big sports fan, and he would write to baseball stadiums and request copies of performances. He would get all this stuff in the mail, actual 45 singles, some promotional copy of the organist at the stadium. I think as a result of that, I really learned the Canadian national anthem better than I might have, because he was always singing it. He would also tape them off the TV on a little handheld recorder.
gg: Do you feel very much a part of what’s going on in contemporary cartooning?
th: Well, right now I’m trying to finish up a story for the next Kramers Ergot. And I love all the work that’s in there, but it’s funny for me to contribute, because I’m thinking, if you’re familiar with the EC story “Kamen’s Kalamity,” where Jack Kamen, this romance cartoonist, is assigned this horror thing, and he actually has to kill people in order to learn to be able to draw horror comics. I sort of feel like that with this, like somehow that I need to change the way I draw, because I see all these qualities I admire in all that work, and yet I don’t feel that’s the work that I do. [Laughs.]
gg: What qualities would those be, for example?
th: Well, I think a lot of the people are not coming from a comics background, they’re more interested in art in general, and the way that they approach drawing is a lot less belabored. Not to say that there isn’t a lot of thought or work being put into it, it’s just that you feel like it’s more immediate when you look at it I think. The things that I do are constructed, done bit by bit, and put together. I feel like the drawing is much more important in the contemporary work I’m seeing, more than the writing. Not that that’s a bad thing.
gg: I always thought, in a way, you couldn’t separate the writing from the drawing. Even in a way, the drawing is part of the writing, part of the narrative.
th: Yeah, yeah.
gg: But I think I know what you mean, that the emphasis is more on the images.
th: In a sense, it makes it more pure. The way that I approach things, I don’t doodle stuff. When I do thumbnails, a little bit of that comes into play, but the fact that I work from the language first and the try to make a comic out of it, makes it not as pure as it could be [laughs].
More books featuring Tim Hensley (click covers for complete product details)