In his role as a film producer,
director and screenwriter, Robert Tinnell
has worked with the likes of Burt Reynolds,
Malcolm McDowell, and a pre-24 Elisha
Cuthbert. In recent years, though, the
man who brought us the wonderfully-titled
SURF NAZIS MUST DIE! has turned his attention
to the world of comics and graphic novels.
The result? A solid lineup of tales that
tap into Tinnell's love of horror films
including the old Universal monster mashes
(celebrated in THE BLACK FOREST and its
recent sequel) as well as the swinging
heyday of Hammer horror (captured in the
pages of the phenomenally fun TERRY SHARP).
So it came as a bit of a
surprise when Tinnell told me he was working
on a more personal comic strip that was
more food memoir than anything else. The
finished work, FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (see review), is a funny and warm tale
of one Christmas Eve in the early 1980s.
In between promoting the book which
includes recipes from his family's
archives courtesy of wife Shannon
Tinnell answered a few questions about
how FEAST came to be and what we can expect
along these lines in the future.
You've been behind
the camera in various capacities for several
decades. What prompted you to pick up
pen and paper on the comic/graphic novel
You have to blame that on good friend
Neil Vokes. As much as a comics fan as
I am and I'm someone who actually
studies the history of comics it
never occurred to me I'd be so lucky as
to write one. Neil had done a marvelous
book with Mike Oeming called PARLIAMENT
OF JUSTICE and I think the experience
of doing creator-owned work got him inspired
to do more. He loved a project Todd Livingston
and I had THE BLACK FOREST. The
rest, as they say, is history...
FEAST is a departure
from the two-fisted, cult-fighting directors,
vampire-battling gunslingers, and monster
mashes you've been writing. What inspired
you to tackle such a personal and non-genre
Pragmatism really. I originally envisioned
it as a romantic comedy a spec
screenplay, that is. But manager nuked
the idea. My comic career was taking off,
however, and he supported the notion of
trying the idea out as a comic strip
though it sure wasn't any less work than
I love the characters,
especially the side characters and family
members, in the strip. How much of them
and the strip is drawn from your own background
Quite a bit. I was never the sensitive,
thoughtful guy the lead character, Tony,
is. But the great-grandmother, the grandfather
and his brothers all are based
on real people. Often the dialogue is
verbatim from a documentary I made of
them a few years ago. So it is my family
but it isn't. We didn't own a grocery
story, for example...
You worked with two
artists who have different styles, yet
the strip has a seamless feel to it. Do
you agree and how do you explain that?
They both got the material, for one thing.
Second, once Alex replaced Ed he slowly
worked the material into his own style
and by doing it thus it just sort
of shifts. However, the tone they both
employed never falters. Ed brought a sense
of reality to it. Even with just a few
lines he lets you know where you are
who you are with. Now Alex, who is real
veteran of the craft did the same, but
he also amped up the storytelling and
atmosphere. What can I say? I'm blessed...
I'm always leery of
how family members will respond to work
that they see themselves in, whether it's
intentional or not. How did your family
blood and extended respond
to the book?
It was a concern, I must admit. A lot
of them were dead so that was not so bad!
But there are a lot of Italian folks out
there who may see themselves in this too
and that gave me pause. So far,
however, the response has been one-hundred-percent
positive. My family is crazy about it.
The book transforms them to a time and
place filled with people they love. So
You've mentioned that
you plan to tell other Christmas Eve tales
at various points in this family's timeline.
What made you decide to start in the 80s?
Pivotal era for me. 1983 was the last
year everyone was alive. My last Christmas
with my great-grandmother. Really evocative
for music and fashion though I
did not get to explore that nearly enough.
At this point they don't even realize
they are on the verge of losing their
ethnicity. Something I want to explore
in upcoming books. I think it would be
really cool, ultimately, to tell their
epic story in a series of stand-alone
books that read together weave one giant
Will those additional
tales be told in a similar fashion
as an on-line strip followed by a compilation
or will they go right to the graphic
I'm not sure. Honestly, I'd prefer to
just do the books from now on. Nothing
against the online strip thing
I'm doing two more. But with FEAST
I think we have the traction to just do
the books but we'll see...
The recipe part of
the book has lots of info and input from
Shannon, but what kind of cook is director/author
One who drinks heavily. I only cook omelettes
and the Feast. Maybe something while camping...
However, I really do cook the Feast
although I have my crew working
Last question... I'm
coming to the Tinnell house for dinner
this Christmas Eve. What's on the menu?
This year's menu subject to change:
Whiting (new recipe that Shannon picked
up in Philly - don't know the details
Baccala (new recipe)
Pasta with anchovy sauce
Stuffed Calamari with Sauces
Stuffed Calamari without sauce
Fried calamari (not breaded)
Marinated calamari (served cold)
Zuppa di mare
Some sort of octopus dish
And of course - oyster shooters!
Try to get here before noon...