Interview with Rick Schindler, author of FANDEMONIUM

RR: How long did it take to write “Fandemonium”?
RS: The book evolved in fits and starts over 15 years. At various points I put it aside for years, rewrote it from start to finish, and even gave up on it altogether, only to keep returning to it like an addiction or a former lover you can’t quite let go of.

RR: How would you describe Ray Sirico?
RS: Ray is what happens when guys grow older without growing up.

RR: Some of the characters you created in “Fandemonium” are absolutely hysterical. Where did you draw the inspiration for those individuals?
RS: One or two sprang forth on the page fully formed, but most began as assemblies of various parts of real people, like Frankenstein’s monster. Yet however they began, they all took on lives of their own.

RR: Have you always been fascinated by the world of comics?
RS: Yes, I was always fascinated by comics; they always seemed like windows onto other worlds.

RR: What was the first comic you read as a child?
RS: I touched on that in a blog post last year: There’s a particular Superman-Batman comic I remember looking at before I could read. The goings-on were so weird that I became determined to figure them out, and my mother maintains that I proceeded to teach myself to read from comic books.

A few years ago I found a copy of that very comic at a con not unlike the one I portray in “Fandemonium.” And when I read it, it still didn’t make any sense.

RR: How long have you been collecting?
RS: Since I was a child, except that when I got to my teens, I became embarrassed about loving comic books and stopped buying them. But when I started back up again 10 years later, it was with a vengeance. By the time I finally sold my collection last summer, it was up to around 12,000 issues.

RR: What are some of your favorite comic characters?
RS: I liked most of the major superheroes like Superman and Spider-Man, but I always had a soft spot for the second-stringers, the guys without quite so many powers. Kind of the comic book equivalent of being a Met fan instead of a Yankee fan.

And I was always into superhero teams: the Justice League, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes. In “Fandemonium” Ray Sirico argues that superheroes are the modern-day equivalent of Greco-Roman mythology. But they also remind me of the Hindu pantheon – hordes of colorful supernatural beings embodying various characteristics, many with animal attributes and multiple avatars. Or the patron saints of the traditional Roman Catholicism I was raised in: specialized saints for any emergency, from losing your keys to choking on food.

I tried to convey some of that complexity and diversity in the imaginary superheroes and sci-fi characters I made up for “Fandemonium,” and they proliferated so much that I created an online supplement to the novel to catalog them all and tell a little more about them. Their back stories wound up interconnecting in ways I never anticipated when I wrote the book itself.

RR: Do you feel the genre of comics and graphic novels is being taken more seriously?
RS: I’ve met and interviewed a number of comics professionals. It used to be they’d always say, “Well, comics are taken far more seriously in Europe than they are here.” You don’t hear that much anymore.

In America it’s taken generations for the medium to shake the stigma of the 1950s, when comics were widely considered cheap trash that fostered juvenile delinquency. Now it’s mandatory for sci-fi and fantasy stars to attend San Diego Comic-Con, and even smaller cons pack in fans and get front-page coverage from the local media.

RR: What do you think of comic book film adaptations?
Another things comics professionals always used to say is: “Comics have an unlimited special-effects budget.” But now CGI has advanced to the degree that Hollywood can deliver a reasonable facsimile of the extravagant imagery of superhero comics. At the same time, physical training and stunt technology have become sophisticated enough to convey superheroics pretty convincingly. Henry Cavill was almost too buff as Superman in “Man of Steel.”

The result is that superhero movies are now Hollywood’s dominant commercial genre. And American TV isn’t far behind: This fall “Arrow” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” will return and be joined by “Flash,” “Constantine” and “Gotham” — all prime-time live-action shows based on comic books.

RR: Have you ever considered creating your own comic book?
RS: I made comics all the time when I was a kid. Then I grew up and wrote a comic novel instead.


Fandemonium by Rick Schindler is available now for download and in paperback:

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