The following is an interview with comic book writer Tom Pinchuk, who is the creator of Hybrid Bastards and Unimaginable. In this interview, Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon talks with Pinchuk about his work on the upcoming anthology New Breeds, his recommendations for breaking into the comic book industry, and how he became Long Beach Comic-Con’s champion of all things Street Fighter.
This interview was conducted on July 24, 2012.
Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: How did you become a comic book writer and what would you recommend for those who want to get into the profession?
Tom Pinchuk: It’s really not that exciting of a story. I went to a publisher’s booth at Wizard World Chicago ’05 with a submission packet, asked if I could talk to somebody in editorial, talked with that editor for a little while, and then dropped the packet off. There were plenty of false starts and aborted projects after that, certainly, but the circumstances never got any more complex.
As for recommendations? Get out of your comfort zone early and get out of it often. If you’re serious about writing comics, then stop reading the comics you’ve always been reading and start reading the stuff that’s totally unlike what you’re used to. Read manga, read French albums, read British anthology digests, read Italian fumetti, read non-genre novels, read non-fiction books . . . and so on, and so on.
A broad base of experience and exposure is the sturdiest foundation to build your writing on. Yeah, that’ll fit nicely on your fortune cookie.
BD: What has been the most difficult aspect of working as a professional writer? Were there any major hurdles that you had to overcome?
TP: I don’t know if it’s the most difficult, necessarily, but setting your own hours and managing your own schedule can be a boon or a bane depending on how disciplined you are. Yeah, you’re given the deadlines, but there’s no supervisor there to pat you on the back for making progress or tap the clock to remind you to stay on track. For better or worse, it’s entirely on you.
In respect to hurdles that I needed to overcome, myself . . . well, it was tough to, uh, “certify” myself to the professional community and to the fan community whilst having to wait on those early publishing delays. You can have an awesome book completed and printed by a respectable publisher, but it’s hard to convince people of that when all the copies you could show them as proof are still waiting on a freight boat somewhere in the Pacific.
BD: Do you have any specific inspirations that influenced your current writing style?
TP: I used to have a much more involved answer for this, but I feel like I’ve internalized so many of those influences that I’m not even self-conscious about a lot of them anymore.
Here are some that pop to mind immediately . . .
Alejandro Jodorosky (of Metabarons, the Incal, and so on) continues to inspire me for how he bridges the gap between high-minded artful esotery and kicka–, red-blooded pop entertainment. I was a little late to the Katushiro Otomo party, but getting to read all of Akira, unabridged, was a really mesmerizing lesson in how to can get quantum-sized ideas across through visceral, minimalistic plotting. 2000 AD Magazine is very much a textbook for how to give your readers precisely what they’re looking for without even a panel of excess storytelling fat – – and John Wagner and Brian Bolland’s work on Dredd vs. Death is definitely the best example of that.
I revisited some of Jim Starlin’s work recently, as well, and realized that it had much more profound impact on my work than I was ever aware of. The Infinity Gauntlet and its assorted sequels, the Adam Warlock sagas of the ’70s, the Death of Captain Marvel – reprints of those all shaped my young creative mind rather significantly.
BD: Your book, Hybrid Bastards, deals with the repercussions of a spell placed on the Greek god Zeus by his wife Hera that causes her husband to fall in lust with every inanimate object in sight. Zeus doesn’t remember the night, but it results in some illegitimate children with the aforementioned inanimate objects, who eventually come home to “daddy.” Where does an idea like this come from and was it fun to play with the gods of Greek mythology?
TP: An idea like that comes from many bored hours in high school Latin class, ruminating on how gut-busting, batsh– ridiculous the sexuality of the uncensored Greco-Roman myths is.
Kate and I just had oodles of fun playing around with all that stuff, and it was doubly fun because we weren’t actually taking too much license with the source material. It was kind of like getting to misbehave in class – artfully playing within the rules so we didn’t get in trouble like a couple of class smarta–es would.
BD: You have a few stories featured in the upcoming anthology, New Breed, by Zero One Publishing, including one titled, Advanced, which deals with a group of modern-day video game trash talkers using sniper rifles and automatic weapons to take out a Roman legion in the year 413 B.C. Did Advanced start as a Halo-inspired fantasy of yours or do you just really, really dislike legionaries?
TP: Another story cooked up years ago while bored in Latin.
Every red blooded kid who’s ever taken any sort of history class has played out time travel fantasy death matches in his head. Advanced has some satirical jabs about the real nature of technological progress and what not, but I’m not going to act like it didn’t start with that very basic and puerile question. “Dude, do you think a black ops squad could take out a whole Roman legion?!”
BD: ComicVine.com lists you as a grand prize winner of the Long Beach Comic-Con Street Fighter tournament! That’s quite an accomplishment! Are you an “old training partner” of Ryu and Ken’s?
TP: Ah yes. Another one of my very dubious accomplishments that keeps showing up on Google searches. Haha.
I invested way too much time playing basically every Capcom fighter in my misspent youth – from Darkstalkers to all the Marvel games, and every iteration and spin-off of Street Fighter. Since there’s been a big resurgence in the genre after SFIV, all that seemingly wasted time has now come back to prove somewhat useful again – if only for winning tourneys at comics conventions and for ruining casual gaming parties.
I’m only a Brown Belt, though. I’m just on that cusp where I couldn’t get any better unless I started studying strategy guides, and that crosses the line of time investment for me. So, I’ll get rocked by pro gamers after giving them a little bit of a fight in a match – but I’m at peace with that. Totally at peace.
BD: Speaking of accomplishments, you also toured the Marvel offices at the age of eleven! What was that like and from where do you get your absurd amount of luck? Leprechaun farms?
TP: Marvel used to offer free tours of their Bullpen that you could just send in a request for. I got the idea to try it after Wizard Magazine ran this pictorial feature about the tours in one issue. I called in, asked about a tour, and then got a confirmation notice with a Spider-Man letterhead in the mail soon after. The tour was scheduled six months in advance, of course, and that felt like an eternity to me at the time.
Sure enough, six months later I took a day off of school, and hopped on the train with my Mom to visit New York City for the first time. I’ll always remember that day – it was one of the best I ever had as a kid.
As I understand, Marvel stopped doing those tours not too long after that because too many kids were nabbing stuff out of the office. Of course, you should also keep in mind that this was in ’98, so it was right before casual internet really took off and people could post pictures or videos up in front of the world in a matter of seconds. Considering how we got to see a lot books ahead of press date and other sensitive editorial materials, I’m sure secrecy had a lot to do with why they discontinued. You couldn’t just let some snot-nosed kid in and let him blow the lid off several months of storylines on his blog, right?
Anyway, thinking about it now, I don’t know getting into that tour it was a matter of absurd luck or just having an awesome Mom.
BD: What are your feelings regarding the recent addition of digital comics to the comic book market? Do you see digital comics as a benefit to creators or another obstacle?
TP: I’ll always prefer to hold a comic in my hands, personally, but it’s not about what I want. It’s about what the readers want, and this is clearly the way the wind is blowing. Any creator who tries to resist it because they view it as an obstacle has much bigger obstacles of short-sighted business sense they’ll need to overcome first.
BD: Great creators usually have great taste! Once our readers finish reading Hybrid Bastards, Unimaginable, or any of your other work, are there any favorite comic books or graphic novels that you would recommend?
TP: Ahhhhh . . . I’ll reiterate my praise for Metabarons, Akira, and Dredd vs. Death. Anybody enjoying the cosmic direction that Marvel’s movies are taking would do well to dig up Starlin’s classic Warlock and Thanos stories, as well.
Past those, I’d recommend Elektra: Assassin, From Hell, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Scud the Disposable Assassin, Ronin, Joe Kelly’s Deadpool run, Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run, the Moore/Bissette Saga of the Swamp Thing run and the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol run.
BD: What can we expect next from Tom Pinchuk? Are there any upcoming projects or announcements with which you would like to tease us?
TP: A lot of stuff I can’t talk about yet, actually – which is both slightly unfortunate and quite exciting at the same time. I’m writing on an animated series that’s coming to a major cable network sometime next year and will also be writing some licensed, kids-oriented title for a major comics publisher.
Aside from that, you can expect to see a couple of my shorts in 01’s New Breed anthology whenever it comes out. Keep your eyes on my Twitter (@tompinchuk) or my website (www.tompinchuk.com) for all the highly important, up-to-the-minute developments.