For the past year Team Hellions has been excited to see the creation and upcoming release of The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro. Over recent months we’ve been following Howard in his journey and we’re excited to see the book’s impending debut. If you would like to get your hands on this title as well, check out the Amazon page:
Howard was nice enough to sit down for an interview with me and its one of the best this site has ever run. Hopefully his charm, wit and creativity comes through with such force each and every one of you open up your wallets and buy this book at the link above. Sit down, enjoy the interview, and celebrate this long journey with us.
Kevin: The day is almost here. The book is about to be on shelves. Now that you have seen this from concept to release what is the first thing you would do differently now to ease this process?
Howard: That’s a great question because doing this book has been vastly, actually incredibly, different from my other books. I think the main thing would be my mindset… meaning that for the sequel and any other graphic novels that I do my expectation level and overall mindset will be geared toward knowing that it is a long, long process and to approach the project that way. I think just being prepared and knowing that it takes time and that the process has to unfold slowly will help going forward. I read this quote from Tim Burton when someone asked him during the production of “Frankenweenie”, the question was what is a good day for you and he said (and I’m paraphrasing) “a good day is when we get one or two seconds done.” And to some extent on the sequel to “Freaks” I will be thinking, on a good day the illustrator will get three or four panels done… a good week will be two or three pages.
The inspiration for this story obviously affected you (or else you wouldn’t have written this book) but how does it continue to affect you? I know parts of the book hit me emotionally, and continue to do so. Are there pages that you have now seen 100 times that still carry that same emotional weight?
Most definitely, Kevin! There are two specific pages that hit me emotionally and I have literally seen them 500 times from when Joe Pekar sketched them out all the way through to today! I think that is a testament to his work in that he is able to imbue his drawings with an incredible amount of emotion and feeling. One of the best compliments I have ever got was when I met the father of the late John Challis who is the real life inspiration for the Jacoby character. He told me he and his wife were stunned by the way one of the pages looked and how much it reminded them of the way John looked and that really meant a lot to me. And we’ve got a lot of pre-release reviews in which the reviewer mentions that they cried (me included when I first saw the two pages that I allude to above) and that makes me smile because that is what we were going for from the start… I wrote and wanted Joe to draw the story to bring out an emotional jolt in the reader and hopefully have on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 50th reading of the book… I wanted them to still feel that emotional jolt and I think we were able to do that!
Speaking of emotional times in life, how are you holding up duriing this NHL strike?
Well, its been tough and I’ll definitely come back when they resume but it certainly has hurt the league and will continue to hurt them for years to come. The lost season in 2004-2005 was needed because the league was out of control in that the salaries were way too high based on where the league was at financially. They were paying NBA/NFL/MLB type salaries while they are basically a gate league… their TV money then and now is a pittance compared to what the other three sports get from the TV networks. So, they were becoming like baseball in that there were four or five wealthy teams who could take on big contracts and the other teams in the league were becoming a feeder system to them like MLB is still in some ways is whereby the small market teams draft and develop a player and as soon as they get to free agency the small market team can’t afford to keep them and they end up on the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies etc. Anyway, this lock out is different because the league is prospering and it becomes a question of dividing up billions of dollars as opposed to team and league survival. So, hopefully they can get it worked out soon and have a 60 or so game schedule and have an eight to ten year deal in place so we aren’t going through this nonsense in another five years or so.
Do your sons think its cool that Dad made a comic book or do they see it as “Dad’s job”?
My sons are really indifferent to the whole thing! They’ve never been into comic books or graphic novels as of yet.. both to my incredible dismay! Neither has read the book as of yet either because they are so busy with their nightly homework but hopefully over the holidays they will. Its kind of funny in that they have no interest in a lot of things that I love such as hockey, comic books, and superhero movies. And my amazing sports card and action figure collection is kind of a joke to them too! So, in our case the apple falls very far away from the tree!
Music is at the core of The Stereotypical Freaks. How important is music to life? Whether getting through difficult times, or celebrating the good ones.
Music to me is incredibly important in all facets of everyday life. I really get most of my writing inspiration from music and I would listen to a bunch of songs while writing to get me into the flow of it and that is why I had the recommended listening songs attached to each chapter front in the book. I wish in some ways I could recapture the love I had in finding new bands and discovering new music… with the decline of the music business and rock and roll specifically these last ten to fifteen years that has coincided with my decline in discovering new bands and seeking out new music. Maybe there will be a band come along like Nirvana in the early 90’s and help give music a swift kick in the ass but I don’t know if we’ll ever see that happen again.
Finally, what has been your favorite experience to come from creating Stereotypical Freaks?
Wow, there have been so many and we’re really not out of the starting gates yet as far as the book being out. In creating it, even though it took a long time (almost three years from writing it till it comes out) I’d have to say working with Joe and seeing the story come to life on the pages was a huge thrill. The collaboration part is something I really love and I’ve had very good working relationships with the illustrators I worked with on my kids picture books and it was especially great working with Joe. We had a nice pattern of working on the pages and if he was stuck on something I’d email him a pic of what I was looking for and then he would nail it and move on. I actually sent him a folder of about thirty in concert pics of Springsteen, Rush, Green Day, The Who, The Clash and so on to help him kind of see their on stage moves. I did an interview this past week and the interviewer asked me about the collaborative effort it takes to make a GN and I mentioned how Joe had never illustrated instruments or anyone playing an instrument. I told him how I sent him a page worth of what drum sets looked like and then told him to put the bands name on the bass drum. Well, he came back and told me the name is too long to fit on the bass drum so I suggested he put “Pekar” on there so it looks like that is the manufacturer.. as opposed to Pearl, Sonor, UDrum etc. So, he did that and I thought it was really cool! Anyway, my favorite experience has been the very positive reviews and feedback that I’ve gotten from everybody who has read the book and I hope that bodes well going forward!
Thanks for taking the time Howard. Hope all is well in this exciting time.
Thanks a million, Kevin! I truly appreciate the questions and the amazing support you have given me and the book!
Previous articles on the Stereotypical Freaks:
Don’t Forget to Pre Order The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro! Coming November 14th.
The Stereotypical Freaks Advanced Review.
New Stereotypical Freaks Video! Coming in August from Sea Lion Books!
Stereotypical Freaks Preview Review.
Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro, Joe Pekar and Sea Lion Books Preview (shirt).
Stereotypical Freaks from Howard Shapiro Joe Pekar and Sea Lion Books (poster)