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Strange Tales

Strange Tales Spotlight: Paul Hornschemeier

The Eisner Award-nominated colorist of OMEGA THE UNKNOWN takes the reins for a grudge match between...Nightcrawler & Molecule

By Sean T. Collins

Paul Hornschemeier is one indie-comics star who's already made his Marvel mark. He's handled the coloring duties-and the occasional guest-art spot-on Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple's acclaimed OMEGA THE UNKNOWN. But in the alternative comics world he's best known for making unusual connections in his comics, from linking a story of ancient Greek philosophers to the memory of getting beat up by schoolyard bullies in his graphic novel The Three Paradoxes to dividing his collection Let Us Be Perfectly Clear into two halves-funny and forlorn-that you need to flip the book over to read. Maybe it's this knack for mash-ups that led him to select a pair of unlikely enemies for his contribution to STRANGE TALES.

With a brand new comics collection from Fantagraphics, All and Sundry, in stores now, Paul took the time to give us the scoop on his story, explain why he prefers Ditko to JRSR when it comes to Spider-Man, and reveal why as far as he's concerned, good guys finish first...

Marvel.com: What characters are you taking on for your Marvel Underground story?

Paul Hornschemeier: Nightcrawler and Molecule Man.

Marvel.com: Hmmm. Why those two in particular?

Paul Hornschemeier: Nightcrawler I've just always loved, as he's sort of this more bizarre version of a Spider-Man type: darting around, stringy, a lot of fun to write and draw. And I've always been interested in his teleportation, there being this entire world that only he escapes to, but of which he has essentially no knowledge, never staying there long enough to learn its properties. Molecule Man I came across after being approached to work on this project, and I thought he was perfect because he is essentially God in his omnipotence, but without the omnibenvloence. And he's relatively unpopular and therefore more easily molded into a pure metaphor, versus a better-known character where you're battling against reader's preconceptions.

Marvel.com: Putting them together is definitely a unique combination. I don't know if they've ever crossed paths before...

Paul Hornschemeier: Let's hope not. I can't see why any rational human being would have put them together. I have never claimed to be a human being.

Marvel.com: What's the scoop on your story?

Paul Hornschemeier:
Nightcrawler is going to the store, begrudgingly, to buy Wolverine some lip balm. He doesn't have time to walk, so he starts to teleport, but is frozen in time and space just as he is about to cross the lip from our world to his teleportation world. Molecule Man, able to control reality at the atomic level, reveals that he is the cause, that he has slowed down time and space all around them to an imperceptible crawl. He explains to Nightcrawler that he wants to enter the teleportation world in the hopes that it will provide a new set of unknowns. Molecule Man has grown tired or control, and wants to re-enter the stream of chaos that is life. Nightcrawler protests, but he is helpless to stop Molecule Man's plans from coming to fruition.

Preview art by Paul Hornschemeier
Marvel.com: This actually sounds like it could be some lost Marvel classic-it combines the superpowers with that kind of operatic level of philosophical angst. Are you playing it more or less straight?

Paul Hornschemeier:
With the exception of buying Wolverine lip balm, there's really nothing jokey or too over-the-top-any more than, you know, a guy who can control the fabric of space-time and a teleporting elf is over-the-top. So, yeah, pretty much straight.

Marvel.com: What do you bring to the table as a writer and artist that's different from the norm?

Paul Hornschemeier:
I think this story is far more cerebral than the typical mainstream comics, for better or worse. But it will be brightly colored, so hopefully that will get everyone though the awful philosophical ranting I'm about to unleash. Get ready for more shots from my boredom gun. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: What's the first Marvel comic you remember reading? And what Marvel books are you into these days?

Paul Hornschemeier:
My first Marvel comic, my first comic ever, was an ALL Detergent give-away that I received from my dentist for a having a good check-up. It was filled with great Steve Ditko Spider-Man stories, all reprints of course. As far as more recent Marvel comics, I could say that I like Jonathan Lethem's OMEGA THE UNKNOWN, because I genuinely do, but I realize that sounds biased because I'm coloring the series. But it is really excellently written and my favorite thing that happened in super hero comics recently.

Marvel.com: What's your all-time favorite Marvel title?

Paul Hornschemeier: My favorite Marvel comic of all time is still probably Steve Ditko's run on SPIDER-MAN. It just has the perfect, melting reality to it.

Marvel.com: Do you tap out after Ditko's departure, or do you also enjoy the Romita Sr. era?

Paul Hornschemeier:
Nobody beats Ditko. He just got that dripping, slithery quality to Spider-Man, but simultaneously had this sadness to it, along with being a sort of wisecracking prankster. I don't know. Romita was great-and let me take this opportunity to say I also really like Romita Jr.'s art, he's one of the only mainstream guys I feel is really cartooning anymore-but his SPIDER-MAN is just a little more staid: beautiful but still.

Marvel.com: Any other Marvel heroes or villains you'd like to tackle someday?

Paul Hornschemeier:
Just like almost everyone, I'd love to work on Spider-Man. I think the Inhumans are also really wrought with great metaphors and mythology. Thor, X-Men and Iron Man would all be
Preview art by Paul Hornschemeier
runner-ups. The villains I don't know as much about, though Doctor Doom always seemed like a great nut case to work with.

Marvel.com: It's funny-a lot of people I've interviewed gun right for the bad guys, but you seem to be much more attracted to the heroes. Why is that?

Paul Hornschemeier:
Because I am a good person. Heh heh. I don't know. Because I was reared Catholic? Because I'm boring? Because my mother and I watched a lot of musical theatre and British mysteries together? God, what's wrong with me? [Laughs]

Marvel.com: For those fans out there who don't know your stuff, what do you recommend if they're looking for more of your work?

Paul Hornschemeier:
I think my new book that just came out, All and Sundry from Fantagraphics, is a good mix of everything I do: illustrated prose, drawings, serious comics, gag strips and sketchbook work. But if they want a more sustained narrative, probably Mother, Come Home and The Three Paradoxes are better bets.

Marvel.com: What else are you working on these days?

Paul Hornschemeier: All and Sundry just came out and I'll be on the road on the east and west coast in November and December with my friend, poster artist Jay Ryan, promoting that. People can go to my blog (http://newsandheadlice.blogspot.com/) for all the dates. I've finally wrapped up Life with Mr. Dangerous, the last chapter of which will be published in Fantagraphics' Mome, issue 17, and that will come out around June of next year from Random House. Other than that I'm working on some prose novels and starting to pull together material for the relaunch of the Forlorn Funnies series. Occasionally I go outside or eat some cheese.


Check out Nightcrawler take on Molecule Man in Paul Hornschemeier's contribution to STRANGE TALES #3, on sale November 4!

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