Interview - Tom Pinchuk

To be able to describe the truly deprave nature of something is one thing. To be able to do it within the context of an entire deist belief system is something else entirely. Tom Pinchuk is such a person. His work in Hybrid Bastards! was, in a word, perverse, but in an almost charming way. His latest work continues the trend of oddities in Unimaginable, a story that gets at the heart of being creative. Pinchuk was gracious enough to take some time and answer some questions about both works, film degrees and his take on the direction of comics.

Omnicomic: What did you study at Boston University?
Tom Pinchuk: I majored in Film and minored in History.

Omnicomic: Did that have an impact on your desire to do comics? Or were comics a way to rebel against your area of study?

Pinchuk: Film degrees might as well be the all-purpose "storytelling" degree these days. I'd wanted to write for comics since middle school, so that was a good area as any to focus my studies on in college. As for any kind of rebellion, my experience has been that fantastical fiction and traditional academia are fundamentally antithetical. That goes back to my 8th grade English teacher telling me I "just wasn't creative" enough for her to recommend me for the creative writing class, and my 9th grade creative writing teacher subsequently being at a loss as to how to advise me on my short sci-fi stories (even though he was still very supportive of my interest.)

While sci-fi and fantasy movies are routinely the highest grossers every year and a lot of my film school classmates had MATRIX or LORD OF THE RINGS posters on their dorm walls, I was one of maybe three students I knew in the program who had any interest in actually writing those kind of stories. The single issues of HYBRID BASTARDS! were published while I was still in school but, if I'd made it into a short film, I really doubt it would've been selected for any class screenings. The faculty was generally looking for flicks that could play in Sundance or something. I can enjoy a well-done, down-to-Earth family drama, sure, but making one has just never been my wheelhouse, so I suppose these comics were rebelling against something that's usually seen as rebellious in its own right.

Omnicomic: Hybrid Bastards! was, in a word, insane. How did you make the leap from "Zeus is a lech" to "Zeus is a lech with objects around him"?

Pinchuk: There's a lot of ridiculous sexuality in Greco-Roman mythology. Monsters born from bestiality. Heroes conceived through bizarre means. I was just tickled with the guises Zeus would take on sometime to hide his affairs with mortal maidens. He'd turn into a swan or a golden shower or something equally ridiculous in the original myths, so I really don't think we made that big a leap from those stories to HB! It just... seemed like the most fitting way for Hera to get revenge on her unfaithful husband.

Omnicomic: How did you get paired up with Kate Glasheen for that?

Pinchuk: She's actually my Godparents' daughter, so this has all been a family affair. Oddly enough, because I've moved around a lot, we never actually met until we were in our 20s. One day, my Mom said, "Tom, you might want to talk to Kate, Mrs. Glasheen's daughter. She's trying to get into comics, too." And here we are, today. It must've been providence.

Omnicomic: Unimaginable is a fairly crazy book as well. Where did you come up with the original concept for it?

Pinchuk: 7th grade English class, actually. The assignment was about us having to spin a story out of this incomplete sentence... "The blue fongdu sleeps in the jungles of Sri Lanka..." or something. Somehow a short about a werewolf detective in city of monsters grew out of that. The idea morphed a lot over the years to incorporate scenarios from dreams of mine as well as this kind-of ridiculous experience I had "facing down my demons" at a scary wax museum that had haunted me as a kid.

Omnicomic: Do you feel your work on Hybrid Bastards! made working on Unimaginable any easier? Harder?

Pinchuk: UNIMAGINABLE was the hardest time I've had writing a comic. It was really difficult to maintain a mood of dreamy surrealism while still keeping the plot focussed. I would say, though, that the positive response to HB! emboldened me to go as far with the wackiness as I thought it could go.

Omnicomic: Unimaginable, to me, has a sort of moral at the heart of it that people should be more imaginative. Did you mean that as an observation for anything in particular as a whole?

Pinchuk: More so, the idea is that imagination's a tool that can be used incorrectly or even abused. My thinking is that most fears in your life, the big ones and the little ones alike, are often blown out of proportion in your mind. "I can't do this, because this or that might happen. I can't talk to this person, because he or she might say this
or that." If you actually sit down and think about rationally, though, you'll realize that most of what you're afraid are actually creations of an over-active imagination.

Let's bring this back to my aforementioned wax dummy confrontation. Here were these things that'd scared the shit out of me as a boy, that had grown and festered in my memory because I hadn't gone back in so many years, and they looked utterly laughable to me as a grown-up. I didn't have a mannequin phobia by any means, but the experience got me thinking that fears, from the top the bottom, look pretty stupid from another perspective. If you're afraid to ask your boss for a raise, then you're afraid to talk to a girl at a party, then you're afraid to color outside the lines.... and so on and so on until it becomes some kind of systemic curse.

Conversely (and Stump's "out of the box" methods speak to this) I think boldness and any subsequent success from it needs imagination. You have to picture yourself pulling something off before you can do it. And, again, reason can get in the way of that. "You can't do that, X number of people have tried before and failed." How many success stories have you heard that fly right in the face of that kind of reason, you know?

Anyway, somehow, all of that rant's woven in the fabric of UNIMAGINABLE.

Omnicomic: Both Hybrid Bastards! and Unimaginable are departures from the "typical" comic books. Are you excited to see the medium grow into new subjects like this?

Pinchuk: Certainly, although I'd be remiss not to point out that both of these books are inspired by comics that are 15 to 100 years old. SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN, LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND and the Morrison/Case run on DOOM PATROL are undoubtably some of my all-time favorite comics precisely because they don't follow a lot of the rules that typical comics seem so often bound by.

Omnicomic: With the proliferation of digital comics, do you see more and more indies getting a chance to make it?

Pinchuk: I suppose. UNIMAGINABLE's available right now on Wowio and the instantaneousness of pay-per-download might get casual buyers to try it who might not have otherwise. But I don't claim to be a great prognosticator for this kind of stuff. I just think good work will always get noticed, regardless of the delivery method.

Omnicomic: Do you have anything in the pipeline that readers should be looking for this year?

Pinchuk: I've got plenty of irons in the fire, but I don't like to talk about a comic until it's coming out for sure. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that, and I've learned some lessons about speaking about a project
that can bottom out because of a flaky collaborator or get delayed for an interminable time past the release date. I can say that Kate and I are working on a new project that we're really excited about.

Omnicomic: What shows (if any) do you plan on attending this year?

Pinchuk: C2E2, SDCC and the Long Beach Comic Con, for sure. I'll probably make it out for Wonder Con and NYCC too. I went to all them last year and it was a hell of fun tour!

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

Pinchuk: I plug my stuff every day on my Twitter account - - simply
@tompinchuk. Go on there and you'll see the all-purpose plug for everything I'm doing.