Hard-Boiled (Egg) Fiction:
An Interview with Frank Cammuso
years ago, while walking through the independent comics alley
at Comic-Con, my attention was caught by a guy selling Little
Golden Books. On closer examination, it turned out to be an
original comic book series disguised as the beloved, or at
least ubiquitous, cheap format for little kids' stories. That
guy was Frank Cammuso, and that book was Max Hamm, Fairy Tale
animal book (in the best sense) that also neatly satirizes
film noir conventions, Max Hamm stands out for reasons other
than format. The art harkens to fine Looney Tunes, but the
fairy tale princesses Cammuso draws also owe a debt to Tex
up a copy, but by the time I read it, the convention was
over so I couldn't tell Cammuso how much I liked it. Luckily,
last year, he was back with another issue. And we took the
time to talk.
why are you seeing the interview now, on the eve of Comic-Con
2004? Because I got back to the Bay Area and lost the tape.
I found it today, transcribed it, and discovered that Cammuso
will be back at the Con, in booth #2304, with his imprint,
Comix. He will likely also have all four issues (so
far) of Max Hamm for sale, so stop by and check him out
after reading this interview.
Planet: You started out as a political cartoonist?
Cammuso: I still am. In Syracuse, New York, for the
Planet: What inspired you to turn to independent
Cammuso: I always loved comic books. It was just one
of those things where I said, dammit, I'm going to do comics.
I went to Angouleme (the French international comics
fair, held in Angouleme, France -- Cammuso explained it
to me) about three years ago, I was looking around and
saw that there were funny animal comic books and they were
doing well. So I said to myself, if they can do well in
France, then I'll give it a shot. If I do it well, I think
it will sell.
Planet: So then why Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective?
first issue -- a stand-alone story.
Cammuso: I had the character of Max for a long time.
And it came to me. I knew he was a detective, but I didn't
know what kind. It just hit me one day. I was in a book
store, and I thought, "fairy tale detective."
all clicked at that point.
Planet: What inspired you to do the Little Golden Book
Cammuso: As an independent publisher, you need your
book to stand out somehow, other than the regular pamphlet
size. I needed to have some kind of different look.
I wanted to make it a different size, and I had a couple
of Golden Books laying around. "Wait a minute! What if I
did this?" I
had my format, and it all clicked as I was writing. As (Max)
tells the story, it turns into a storybook. So why not just
make it a storybook?
Planet: This appeared at about the same time
as Fables takes off for Vertigo. Do you feel competition?
Cammuso: Not really. If they're going to do well, I'm
going to do well. It's not really a copy. We use similar
characters in that we both use the public domain fairy tale
characters, but other than that, they're just completely
different versions of them.
they don't see on T.V...sort of...
takes place in modern day; mine takes place in the forties.
Mine's all film noir, and his (Bill Willingham)
is everything. It's somewhat similar but not really.
Planet: What kind of feedback have you gotten?
Cammuso: Very positive.
Planet: A customer just walked by and asked
if he could read Max Hamm to his kids. You said "sure."
Do you really think that?
Cammuso: Yeah, I think you can.
Planet: It's a way to introduce small children
to film noir?
Cammuso: Yeah, I don't think that there's anything too
violent. It's nothing that they don't see already on T.V.
At least, daytime T.V.
worst thing, I think about for kids, is that Max does smoke.
There's a little bit of gunplay. Other than that…kids come
up all the time and read it. Kids under 6, I think, probably
don't understand it. That's the thing. I think there's a
little bit more there in terms of references than they can
Planet: But the pictures will hold their attention.
Now, because I'm a fan of the format, I have to get it on
the record that you're thinking about doing a Big Little
Cammuso: Definitely. My plan is to definitely do a Big
Little Book, or rather, a Big Little Book-esque Max Hamm.
Planet: Yeah, I don't know if you can actually
call it a Big Little Book.
Cammuso: Exactly. I think it might be a trademark.
Planet: For someone who has not seen it,
why should they read your comic?
Cammuso: I think it's a funny and original take on storybooks
and fairy tales. It's Pulp Fiction meets fairy tales.
with that, we wandered the earth, or at least the convention
floor. Once again, be sure to check out Frank Cammuso's
booth at Comic-Con 2004, #2304 in the Independent Press