Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 05/12/2004
"Once upon a time in the big, bad city ..."
Frank Cammuso on Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective
I first discovered the work of Frank Cammuso at the fine Pittsburgh Comicon a few years back, courtesy of Chris Yambar. See, Chris and I have developed a pretty good relationship, and I've grown to trust his instincts over the years, so when Yambar walks up to me smiling like a cat that's done something wonderfully wicked and utters a line like, "Bill, you've got to see this new book by Frank Cammuso!" I tend to listen. And for very good reason, as the first issue of Cammuso's sly and wonderfully silly Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective proved more than worthy of all that Yambar and others have heaped upon it.
Bill Baker: So what's the story behind this series? Who is Max Hamm, and why would anyone in a fairy tale need the services of a detective, porcine or otherwise?
Frank Cammuso: In fairy tales as in life there are two sides to every story. We all know the good side of the story, the happy ending. But not many know the other side that is never talked about.
Storybook land is a place where everyone is looking for a happy ending and some people would do anything to get it.
Max Hamm is one of the three pigs so he knows first hand about all the dangers of this two bit town. So who better than him can deal with the seedier side of fairy tales.
BB: So where'd this crazy mix of genres come from ... and how much did it change from your initial conception and the actual execution in published form?
FC: I had the character of Max Hamm for quite some time. I knew he was a detective, I just didn't know what kind. I wanted there to be a logical setting for him to be in.
Then one day it just came to me, "Fairy Tale Detective". After that I was shocked at how many similarities there are between Storybook land and 40's -- 50's Hollywood. Both are places were people looked to make their dreams come true.
BB: How do you create a typical installment of the title? Do you begin by writing and then working from a full script or detailed plot, or do you just sit down and start slinging lead and ink at the art boards and see where it takes you?
FC: I write the story first. A full script with notes about what is happening. When I get to the pencil stage the book begins to change. That's where I tweak the pacing or even sometimes rewrite whole chunks just to make it visually flow. Sometimes I'll write a scene and when I go to draw it I realize how boring it is. I'll say to myself this is awful I need to make this more interesting for me and the reader.
BB: One of the interesting things about these volumes is that you mix sequential pages with spot illustrations accompanied by text, essentially mixing the approaches and methods of classic children's and comic books. How do you decide which narrative approach to use to portray any given moment of a story; do you just go with a gut feeling about what will serve the story best, or your choice more thoughtful than impulsive?
FC: Usually if something happens in the past or someone is telling a story it is in the form of a children's book. If it's happening in the present, it's comic book. I'll probably play around with this more in future installments. I'd like to play around with the idea of non-linear story telling.
BB: Another interesting aspect of these books is their format. When I sit down and read them, or even when I'm just holding the actual books in my hand, I'm reminded of older kids books -- and specifically the beloved Golden Books series of titles which so many of us read when we were so much, much younger. Is this pure coincidence, or perhaps wish fulfillment on my part, or is this effect intentional?
FC: It's completely intentional.
I needed the books to stand out on the shelves. I wanted Max Hamm to be different. It just made sense, in regards to it's subject matter (i.e. fairy tales), to format it like a golden book. It's the bastard child of pulps and kids picture books.
BB: You've just solicited the fourth issue of the series in this month's Previews catalogue. What plans do you have for your fairy tale gumshoe in the near term?
FC: The forth book will be out in July. It's the conclusion to the storyline, "The Long Ever After". It should wrap everything up nicely. I'm really excited about this one.
BB: Well, what about the long term? Is this a project you could do for years on end and still have fun with it?
FC: I've still got quite a few Max Hamm stories I want to tell. I've got a Christmas story that I can't wait to do.
BB: I think it's kind of obvious that this book is ripe for animated treatment. Is that something you'd be happy, or even eager, to pursue ... And why or why not?
FC: I'd love to do it if the right offer came around.
Hello, Pixar, are you listening?
BB: Are there any other projects or books, be they your own creations or company owned, that you're dying to do someday?
FC: I guess the fanboy in me would like to do some superhero work someday. I've got a few Fantastic Four stories knocking around my head. I'm a big fan of the Thing. There's probably a Green Lantern tale in there too. I'd also love to do Plastic man or Shazam (i.e. Capt. Marvel) sometime.
BB: What do you get from doing this kind of work, and these particular books?
FC: I love telling stories. And when I'm working on these books I'm in my own world. There's something really comforting about that.
BB: What do you hope readers get from the Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective series?
FC: I would just like them to be entertained. Maybe feel like they have escaped to another world for a while. We all need that in this day and age.
BB: Anything you'd like to add?
FC: The first three books are still available through my website -- www.cammuso.com -- or via Diamond Comics:
Max Hamm #1 STAR17083
Max Hamm #2 STAR19428
Max Hamm #3 JAN04 2608
The forth book is due out in July and is currently in the May, 2004 Previews -- the order number for that issue is # May04 2844.
Remember, if you're being shadowed by some shadowy character, or being ganged up upon by some gangsters, there's only one way to handle all that and more ...
Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective
Dirty Deeds Undone Cheap
Don't leave reality without it.
And don't forget to check out www.cammuso.com for more news and updates on Frank's activities.
<< 05/05/2004 | 05/12/2004 | 05/19/2004 >>
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