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Writing Comics And Writing About Comics: A NYCC Interview With Tini Howard

Written by Tim Midura on Sunday, October 22 2017 and posted in News with Benefits

Writing Comics And Writing About Comics: A NYCC Interview With Tini Howard

On Rick & Morty, Black Crown, and Finn Balor.

Source: New York Comic Con

Tini Howard is an American comic book writer currently working on titles including Assassinistas, Hack/Slash, Magdalena, and Rick & Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It.


Tim: You wrote about comics before writing comics. Is that a route you recommend to wannabe writers?

Tini: I was kind of writing about comics simultaneously while writing comics. I found I had a lot to say about comics because I love them very much. But journalism by design requires a layer of removal, I think. Like kind of an anthropological removal, where you're able to observe things. For me, I stopped writing about comics because at one point, I was writing for Paste. When it came to recommend books, there were like four publishers I couldn't recommend books from because I was working for them. It's obviously a conflict of interest. I knew it. My editor knew it.

If you have a lot of love in your heart, there's nothing to stop you from writing about them and writing them. Gail Simone famously did that. Kelly Thompson was a journalist. A lot of awesome comics writers were journalists either before or simultaneously. I don't know if I recommend, but if you have a lot of love in your heart for comics, it's certainly something you can do. I still write about comics from time to time, just not in a journalistic fashion. I wrote essays for the Black Crown Quarterly. I wrote an essay about costuming because that was another thing I did before writing comics. I cosplayed and was really into costumes. I still write essays from time to time. But I'm not anthropological enough to be a journalist. I'm too mired in it.

Tim: Early into your professional career, you've worked with a ton of publishers: Oni, BOOM!, Black Mask, Young Animal. Is that a conscious effort to branch out?

Tini: I don't think it was conscious, but that I was very lucky. I had a lot of people who were willing and eager to work with me, pretty early into my career. I'm a freelancer for a reason. I like shopping my lance around. I enjoy that aspect of freelance life. I was a freelance writer before I wrote comics and I came to it the same way. "Well, a diversity of clientele is good for my own work." It's good for me in a really boring business sense, to take all the romance out of being a professional writer, for a minute. In a business sense, it was really good for me to shake a lot of hands, kiss a lot of babies, and stick my fingers in as many pies as I could. In a completely metaphorical and non-dirty sense.

I ended up meeting a lot of people and I genuinely love this medium, so I was very eager to accept a lot of work. I've been lucky to get a lot of really great work. I haven't had to take a lot of gigs that I didn't genuinely love. I mean, I've gotten to write Power Rangers. I've gotten to write Rick & Morty. I work with Shelly Bond on a creator-owned book now. Gilbert Hernandez. I've been very lucky in that. It was conscious in that it was good business sense left over from my freelance writing days. But I also love people who love comics. That was exciting to me.

Tim: How do you balance creator-owned and work-for-hire?

Tini: I'm very lucky right now. I don't have to take work-for-hire gigs that I don't really love. I've been really open that in my teenage years I loved writing fan-fiction. So playing in other people's worlds is really exciting. I genuinely love work-for-hire. I don't know if I'll ever be the person who eschews work-for-hire and work solely on her own stuff. But I love working on my own stuff too though. I find that I can't really work on more than one creator-owned book at a time. I can work on them, but I can't really write them. Those are like my own little worlds that I try to keep straight. I have other things that I'm taking notes on and trying to keep straight. But I'm really only writing, creator-owned wise, Assassinistas. That's what I'm really focused on now.

But I have the next idea after Assassinistas. I know what I'm going to write. For me, I like to have my one big creator-owned baby at a time. I'll take other gigs. I love writing little backups. I got to write the WWE backups. I got to write some Young Animal backups. For me, part of the balance is to throw myself into one of my projects. I'm also getting to write Hack/Slash right now. Tim [Seeley] has done so much great work building up that character and that world that I get to have fun with it. They're both different and creatively fulfilling. I deliberately pick work-for-hire that I find creatively fulfilling. Writing Rick & Morty is really fulfilling. Writing Hack/Slash is really fulfilling because those are things I love and I get to contribute to them.

Tim: Assassinistas is coming out from Black Crown in December. How has it been launching a new universe?

Tini: It's really great. So much of why I even read comics is because of Shelly Bond and Gilbert Hernandez. Without the work they did, I don't know if I'd be here. Working with them is incredible. Getting to be in the same cool kid club as Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler is cool. It's amazing.

I was in a place about a year ago where I was really unsure of where I wanted to go next in comics. Shelly Bond called me out of the blue. Which is a really good thing to happen when you're not sure what you wanna do in comics and one of the legendary editors in the medium decides to call you up and says she likes your work. It's been a dream come true. It's really, really cool. I love editors. I think a good editor makes my work better. Shelly takes the work I write to the next level. Gilbert takes it into the stratosphere. I love working with them. They're dreamboats.

Tim: How familiar with Rick & Morty were you before getting the book?

Tini: Incredibly. When I was first started talking to Ari Yarwood, the editor, we were talking about me doing some work. Maybe a creator-owned. I pitched a couple things. We were chitchatting trying to find some things. When you work in comics, you often know an editor and share the same sensibilities, but you haven't found the right project yet. That's kind of where Ari and I were. We were having breakfast to try to find a project we could do together. I had just binge-watched Rick & Morty. Then I went and got the trades. There were only like two volumes then. I was like "Ari. I'm obsessed with Rick & Morty. Can I give it a shot?" She was like "We have a Pocket Morty mini-series. You can pitch for it." So I did. It was one of the first times I was a fan of something that I got the cajones to say I want this. They said you can try.

Tim: You touched on it earlier. But how does it feel getting to play in that sandbox?

Tini: It's really, really fun. It's harder than a lot of people think. The thing about Rick & Morty is yes, you can have everyone teleport in alternate dimensions and get increasingly big weapons to beat each other over the head with. But it's not Looney Toons. That's not what the show is about. That's not what the comic is about. Part of what makes the show successful, I think, is that it's able to build these crazy stories around an overly intimate core feeling. When that show hits, it hits really hard. It hits out of nowhere like during someone turning themselves into a pickle. It's great playing in that sandbox. If you're a writer like I am, you view a story as this like character-driven thing and everything else is just window dressing. It's like the most perfect sandbox.

Tim: Is Finn Balor the raddest person in wrestling right now?

Tini: Oh my goodness. You're talking about Finn. I love him so much. Every time I talk about him I hope that he sees it and tells me he likes the story I wrote. That's all I want. Finn, if you're reading this, I hope you like my story.


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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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