The Hensley Interview

Tim Hensley photographed at ALTERNATIVE PRESS EXPO by Chris Anthony Diaz, color and desaturation by Graham Willcox


Tim Hensley’s SIR ALFRED NO. 3 is a tour de force in cartooning and storytelling, paying tribute to past cartoonists and comics, while also taking what came before him and yet creating a comic that is post-modern and unique. It is finally available through FANTAGRAPHICS and John Porcellino’s SPIT AND A HALF. Tim and Alvin Buenaventura did a work for the ages and added to the lore of Alfred Hitchcock and his films as well as the lore of Hensley, Buenaventura and PIGEON PRESS! as Tim stated on his TUMBLR, “They told me I could be anything I wanted… so I became a god.” This is very true that Tim became a “god”… a god of cartooning and comics storytelling that is! This short interview was conducted between March 2014 to May 2014. so, Tim beat me to the punch, completing SIR ALFRED NO. 3 and getting it out to the public, despite Alvin Buenaventura’s passing and the distribution very much in doubt, way before I finally posted this interview!

This is no. 5 in a series of short interviews with writer-cartoonists that I have conducted, which began on my TUMBLR page THE SHED but now continues on COMICS WORKBOOK at THE DIAZ ARCHIVE. Tim has a TUMBLR page, which is an archive of his music and songs and writes comics articles on BLOG FLUME.

Question 1: In your work, is the absurdness premeditated through the associations of your non sequitors, or do you just follow where a feeling takes you and then end up with the absurd tone in your stories?

That’s sort of a chicken-egg dilemma, do I start at absurdity or arrive at absurdity, but maybe more the latter?

Your use of the word “absurdness” reminds me of buying a copy of “The Theatre of the Absurd” by Martin Esslin in 1984 in a gift shop in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. I was tagging along with one of my father’s music tours, and we ended up there on a side trip. That book was probably my first encounter with academic absurdity. From reading that, I tracked down stuff like Artaud’s “Jet of Blood” and the Andre Massin typographic version of Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano,” which might be my favorite graphic novel of all time although it is essentially fumetti.

I guess that sounds pretentious, but I’m just trying to say I had been exposed to the idea of absurdity as a literary device fairly early on.

But I am more interested in the feelings, whether pedestrian or not, than just a kind of Tourette’s assault.


Question No. 2:

Where do you get the basis creating situations for your strips on well-known figures, like Alfred Hitchcock? There’s enough truth in your situations that the fiction is very believable!

From the public library. I’ve been drawing anecdotes about Alfred Hitchcock rather than a more esoteric director because there are so many easy to find books available about him. More than there are on Andre de Toth, who you were talking about at the L.A. Zine Fest, though it might be fun to do a series on famous directors with eye patches. (de Toth, John Ford, Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang…) It is true that the more situations I draw the more they seem to conflict and become fictional.


Question No. 3:

What’s on tap next? Can you share any details on your latest comics project?

I try to create some kind of onerous “five year plan” to follow with my comics rather than improvise, because I work full-time and am getting older and less indestructible. But I’m loathe to get into the details because someone who works at a normal pace could easily scoop me a few times over, not that I’m really doing anything that unusual.

This week a bird built a nest in a crossbeam of our landing and was incessantly tapping on the window above the front door from dawn till dusk. My wife said the bird sees its reflection in the glass and taps at it because it thinks it’s an enemy.

I was thinking, “Oh, that must be where ‘bird brain’ comes from,” but then realized it isn’t so different with my comics. I’m probably compulsively attacking myself to protect some transitory whorl of twigs. Or maybe I’m just trying to break the glass to see what’s inside.


Question no. 4:

How has music influenced your comics and vice versa?

Well, comics don’t influence my music since I stopped making records 20 years ago…

Both my parents are musicians so the topic’s bound to come up in my comics. Also the topic of silence or both at once.

In general, I like to listen to music on headphones and in my car. Two products I’ve enjoyed recently are the Sly and the Family Stone box set Higher! and a compilation put out by Soul Jazz records called Country Soul Sisters.


Question No. 5:

Which past cartoonists inspire your retro-looking style? (Although I somewhat get a Chris Ware-vibe from the SIR ALFRED strips, especially the tiny four panel ones.)

Currently I’m trying to combine Irving Tripp’s Tubby with Owen Fitzgerald’s Bob Hope.


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