MOME Interview 1: Paul Hornschemeier

the following interview was conducted on april 24th, 2005.

gary groth: It seems to me that you had a pretty early preoccupation with formal aspects of comics.

paul hornschemeier: Yeah, definitely.

gg: Did your studying philosophy have anything to do with that, do you think?

{mosimage}ph: I don’t know, I’m not really sure, I think from a very early age, I had this tendency to want to tear things apart, and mainly just do things that completely made sense as a whole, and I’ve known people who said, oh I’m some kind of formalist or something, and to me, it’s just, “Well, no, I just try to do cartoons where everything in it makes sense as a conceptual whole.”

gg: Sequential appeared between ’99 and 2001; who were the cartoonists you were looking at…

ph: Really, initially, it was just Dan Clowes, he was the only person that I had much exposure to because there was one record store that carried Eightball, and that was one reason I was able to get a hold of his stuff. I think…

gg: It certainly seems like Chris Ware might have had an influence at some point.

ph: You know, that’s the funny thing, I’ve been compared to Chris a million times over, and I think the first time I saw him… I read about the existence of Chris Ware in this book that I bought because it has an interview with Dan Clowes in it; I found out about Chris, and I think that was probably, oh God, I don’t know, I know I was on at least Sequential #4 or #5 or something like that. So I think that the really weird experimental stuff that I did I’d already done before I saw one of his books. I did special order one of his books while I was still living in Columbus and that was the first one I got, I think the next few I got I actually got here in Chicago.

{mosimage}I came up here for a trip just to visit Quimby’s [bookstore], because I was like “Oh, this guy designed his store,” which is what I thought at the time. So I came up here and checked that out, and I remember giving copies of the first few Sequentials to Quimby’s, which, when Forlorn Funnies came out, I went and bought those copies, because they were still there [laughs]. So I think it was Dan Clowes and, I mean, Robert Crumb was certainly an influence, but it was just whatever I could get my hands on, certainly eventually Chris Ware was influential — I don’t think you can be paying attention to comics these days and not owe something to Chris’ innovations — who else? Dave Cooper, Charles Burns, Kaz, just whoever leaped in through the cracks of a pathetic setup in my comics shop. Actually, there’s another store in Columbus that I started going to, Monkey’s Retreat, they’re sort of these old guys you would expect to see working in a head shop or something like that, in fact, the place smells like a head shop. But they had a lot of really great stuff, like all the older Zap comics and all this kind of stuff so that was the point that I was able to pick up some decent stuff. I think I started reading Chester Brown and stuff like that.

gg: In terms of the content of your stories, your major preoccupation seems to be with familial relationships.

ph: It was only pretty recently that I realized that [laughs].

gg: Is that right?

ph: Yeah. I don’t know, I don’t know what that’s about [laughs]. But it’s definitely true. I think essentially that when I was growing up, that was really the group that I hung out with, I mean I hung out with my two sisters and my parents most of the time, I didn’t really have as many friends, because, there was a lot of reasons, I was a total dork, but we just really didn’t fit into to Georgetown all that well, because where I came from a lot of people had the hick accent, [in hick accent] “talked like that,” you know. [Laughter.]

gg: There’s an interior quality to your best and most recent work.

ph: Right, and I think what has always been the most interesting to me is that there’s this exterior reality and then the interior reality of what’s going on inside people’s houses and inside their minds…