MOME Interview 1: Paul Hornschemeier

This interview is reprinted in its entirety from MOME Vol. 1.

My first exposure to Paul Hornschemeier‘s work was Mother, Come Home, which I read sometime in late 2003. It impressed me enough to start the gears churning, and I remember thinking that the three-issue comics series would make a good graphic novel; I made a mental note to contact this Hornschemeier fellow and inquire about the possibility of collecting it. I didn’t know that copies of the collected graphic novel were en route to America from an Asian printer and would be in stores within weeks. But at least I was right: it did make a good graphic novel.


Mother, Come Home is Hornschemeier’s most mature, complete work to date. It is the story of father and son coping with the mother’s death; the mother’s presence — or absence — hovers over the book like a shroud. Hornschemeier’s line work is economical, the compositions spartan, the pace deliberate and unhurried. The story is essentially told from the point of view of the 7-year-old child, Thomas; his narration is unsentimental and unadorned, his perspective that of an adult putting the pieces together, fragmentary but revealing. The father is taciturn, defined more by his actions.

Paul Hornschemeier was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977. At the age of four he and his older sister moved to Georgetown, Ohio, a small, rural community, where his parents practiced law. According to Hornschemeier, his parents are “the most selfless, nicest people you could ever hope to meet,” in other words, insufficiently lawyerly. They should probably be grateful that the only consequences of their decency was a low income; I’m surprised the American Bar Association didn’t have them publicly flogged or banished to whatever gulag is reserved for lawyers who aren’t greedy enough to pass muster.

As a comic book aficionado, Hornschemeier was a late bloomer. He saw his first comic at age 5 or 6 when his dentist rewarded him for sitting still with a promotional give-away comic reprinting early Steve Ditko Spider- Man stories. Which is pretty weird when you think about it. But, stuck in the middle of nowhere, barn sales did not yield many comics and his exposure was limited until his early teen years when he was able to get “downtown” more often and start visiting a comics shop. Nonetheless, he loved drawing from an early age and always wanted to combine drawing with storytelling. He would read his mother’s Edward Gorey books and collections of New Yorker cartoons lay around the house. Later, when he started reading comic books in earnest, he read shitty mainstream comics; he was woefully ignorant of independent or alternative comics, which is apparently easy to be in rural Ohio. But, oddly enough, the kinds of comics he was drawing in high school were closer to an alternative comics sensibility — “a story with some guy sitting in his bedroom being depressed,” as he describes his typical comic, and you can’t get much more alternative than that.

At age 18, he attended Ohio State University (where he eventually became the only cartoonist of his generation to acquire a philosophy degree) when he had a revelation: Dan Clowes’ Ghost World. “Wow, I can’t even believe this exists” is how he described his epiphany. He discovered other cartoonists with which he felt an affinity and started drawing a comic strip for the University student newspaper in his junior year. Titled Squares, “It was Seinfeld except horribly written and very boring — with lots of crosshatching.” In 1999, he started self-publishing his own comic, Sequential, which ran seven issues (ending in 2001), each issue more sophisticated and ambitious than the previous one, the seventh “issue” being a one hundred and twenty eight page square-bound book. His next major project was Mother, Come Home, which he published in his next comic, Forlorn Funnies [subsequently collected in Let Us Be Perfectly Clear – ed.]. He’s appeared in a variety of anthologies, including AutobioGraphix from Dark Horse and The Comics Journal Special Edition. He is currently working on The Three Paradoxes (due out July 2005) and his new serial in MOME. — Gary Groth