Kickstart From The Heart – Misunderstanding Comics With Tim Heiderich

Bleeding Cool's Kickstarter Correspondent, Shawn Demumbrum has lead three Kickstarter campaigns to launch comic books, two successfully funded and one that wasn't. Each week he will point out some of the unique Kickstarter projects that wouldn't normally be published by the big comic book companies, but deserve your attention. Shawn's current project Break the Walls: Stories Inspired by the Songs of the Pixies is also being funded through Kickstarter.

Kickstart From The Heart – Misunderstanding Comics With Tim HeiderichToday, we interview Tim Heiderich, who along with writer and artist Mike Rosen, has written an 88 page parody of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. We ask Tim why he set his sights on Understanding Comics and how Scott might react to their parody in our interview.

Comic book readers are no different than any other minority group. They don't like being made fun of unless they know you are one of their own. When did you start reading comics? Who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk?

As a kid, I grew up reading comics right up until the mid-'90s, which from what I've seen was a good time to stop. It wasn't until a friend lent me a stack including V for Vendetta, The Invisibles, Transmetropolitan, and Batman: Year One did I learn what I had been missing. Diving back in, it seemed only natural that I also pick up Understanding Comics to better appreciate what I was reading. It changes your perspective on the art form.

Mike, my co-writer and artist, lived overseas so it was all Tintin, Asterix and Onkel Dagobert. More recently, He went totally indie and moved on to Evan Dorkin, Jhonen Vasquez, Joann Sfar, Aaron Alexovich and Drew Rausch, Jason Shiga and Marjane Satrapi. Now he gets his literary comedic fix from Hark! A Vagrant.

As for Superman vs. the Hulk, the best answer I've heard is from Greg Rucka: if it's done well, the winner is the reader. But if you want to sell comics, there's nothing more controversial in a Superman story than having him lose a fistfight.

How did Misunderstanding Comics come about? Why did you choose to parody Understanding Comics rather than parodies like Rich Johnston's own Watchmensch or Civil Wardrobe?

Understanding Comics was such a brilliant encapsulation of comics theory and history that it's a great framework for poking fun at comics conventions (stylistic ones, not the kind you go to… although we do cover those). The book is really about highlighting strange little tropes and stylistic things that you see in so many comics but you never really thought about why they evolved that way.

After reading Understanding Comics, you're floored by the idea that comics and cartoons are art. It's a great book and you really have to respect what McCloud did, he really brought the idea that comics could be taken seriously to a mass audience. But in some ways, it's very much a book of its time and there are a few things about it that seem a little goofy in retrospect — it's all just so breathlessly excited about the bright shining Future and all. That's why it's always a good idea to spoof a book 20 years later, when you can mock authors for not being able to forecast the future with 100% accuracy. Haha, what fools!

Antarctic Press got sued by Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, over their parody Diary of a Zombie Kid (now called Zombie Kid Diaries). Have you approached Scott McCloud about your parody? What was his response?

Parody is a hard thing to get right. We weren't sure how he'd react, so we didn't approach Scott McCloud. But he eventually found out about our Kickstarter through Twitter, and was gracious enough to tweet about it. There was a moment of panic when Mike and I saw his tweet, and we were like, "Well… now he knows!"

I take that we haven't heard from any lawyers yet as a good sign. Otherwise, this is going to be a very, very limited edition book (so buy now).

I really enjoyed your video. Had you considered just doing this as video instead of a comic?

Glad you enjoyed the video! I love animating, and working on this promo was no different. Maybe we'll adapt it to a motion comic if this whole publishing thing doesn't work out?

Scott McCloud wrote two "sequels" to his book. Do you feel that there is enough material for a sequel to your book if it's successfully or do you consider this a one shot?

Yes, definitely! Originally, this started as an assignment in a comic writing class, and at first, there was a lot of resistance, a lot of, "stop making fun of my medium in my medium!" It seemed like a thin premise, like we could maybe squeeze out 48 pages snickering about Liefeld drawing tiny feet. But as the script took form, I eventually won them over. When they saw that I didn't come to bury comics, comic readers started saying, "You know what you should add…" So yes, I think there's lots more to poke fun at!

Since we are talking about Misunderstanding Comics, which comic do you think is misunderstood or gets an unjustified bad rap? Writer? Artist?

Jack Chick. It's fashionable to slag on him because he's pushing some really horrible offensive ideas in his comics, but his actual cartooning is just brilliant. He draws the most evocative, iconic expressions — just great bulging eyeballs and flapping mouths and sweat drops flinging all over the place. Every panel is so chock full of detail it's like a MAD magazine chicken fat, with great big stubbly faced pot-bellied demons lurking everywhere in the background. I know so many people who insist that the art is bad because they don't like the message, but he's really a talented, meticulous craftsman.

Do you consider floppy a pejorative term for comic book? Could you ever see strip covering a comic book as an acceptable interrogation technique according to the Geneva Conventions?

People call comics floppies? That sounds terrible. They should stop doing that. We'll leave the enhanced interrogation techniques to Frank Miller and his war on terror.

Paul Jenkins and Chris Moreno offered some odd incentives for reaching their Kickstarter goals including Youtubing themselves lip-synching George Michael's "Careless Whisper", Paul filmed running through Atlanta's Olympic Centennial Park dressed only in an old style bathing suit, or Chris dressing as a Klingon for Dragon Con and getting his ass kicked by a bunch of angry Star Wars fans. You have 12 days to reach your goal of $2800. How far would you go to get it funded and can Bleeding Cool have the exclusive it? Depending on what it is, the forum trolls alone might get you the funding.

Those are all awesome ideas! We think we have some pretty fun prize ideas, including a collectible variant-cover PDF. Think about that for a second. We were also considering including a copy of Spawn #1 or Death of Superman signed by us for some reason. Or a documentary of a special copy with your personal message delivered to Jim Lee or Dan DiDio. But think we can do better. There's still time, so keep checking for new and exciting prizes!

Misunderstanding Comics needs $1,718 pledged in 17 days in order to make its Kickstarter goal. You can find the Kickstarter campaign for Misunderstanding here and get your digital variant cover copy for just $10 and is just as likely to retain its value as the Walking Dead 100 variant covers.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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