Onion Head Monster’s motivations are uncomplicated. In the tradition of Rodan and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, he simply wishes to crush the city underfoot. It’s not a lot to ask. The scientists of the Ant People have other ideas and send their weapons against him.
“What?,” calls Onion Head Monster. “Why can I not destroy in peace?”
The comics are the brainchild of artist and writer, Paul Friedrich. The monster’s incredulous query is representative of the plotlines dreamt up by Friedrich, an unassuming and deadpan Raleigh native. Many of his creations derive from left field notions followed on the heels by a quite logical set of dilemmas. In the case of Onion Head Monster, he pondered Godzilla’s point of view. “Onion Head Monster is just doing what he’s doing,” explains Friedrich. “To him it’s just a game and he can’t understand why these people are trying to ruin his day as he demolishes their homes.”
Onion Head Monster, while the most successful property to date, is only one of a pantheon of characters and projects from Paul’s prolific pen. Hubie the Dead Cow and Sleepwalking Batman explore further absurdities along with Awesome McAwesome (the world’s greatest stuntwoman) and Sloppy Joe (a kid who takes the simplest tasks and makes them impossible). He pitches a recent endeavor. “’Sloth on the Run’ is the slowest chase ever. So what’s slower than a sloth? It’s a sloth pursued by a snail being chased by a turtle being chased by zombies being followed by a glacier…”
The work emanating from Paul’s slipstream of consciousness is the product of a lifetime’s worth of artistic exertion. “I was always drawing. I would fill spiral notebooks with these ideas. And I grew up on comics. I remember looking at Peanuts and at Popeye. I wanted to tell those stories.”
Just as Paul was ready to begin telling those stories, print publication withered, replaced by the burgeoning of online and social media outlets. At the same time graphic novels enjoyed a surge of pop culture veneration, offering a vehicle for Friedrich’s early successes, Hubie the Dead Cow and Onion Head Monster. Those self-published titles garnered attention from commercial publishers and an accelerated opportunity to create. “Each project inspires new concepts,” Paul says. “I probably write too much. It’s a great problem to have – to have too many projects.” He still transcribes his ideas into a spiral notebook, jotting and sketching for later inspiration.
He’ll need that inspiration. Friedrich is experiencing a degree of success few artists enjoy. His books receive critical acclaim. His characters grace merchandise ranging from cocktail napkins to tee shirts to pint glasses. And then there’s ‘Man vs. Liver,’ the short-form comics penned with his partner and collaborator, Neil Hinson. As the creator of the pet rock can attest, some of the best ideas have emerged from hours spent on a bar stool. Man vs. Liver is no exception. Paul pitches the concept. “Everyone has a tequila story. Everyone has a wine story. They’re one liners. It’s the stuff we say at the bar after 5:00 and before 11:00. Neil and I try to one-up each other. We practice ‘the five minute rule.’ Whatever we say, we write down. No editing. I sketch it, scan it, load it and done in five minutes.”
Neil and Paul’s five minute rule seems to be working. At present, they’re negotiating a Man vs. Liver web series. Paul has anticipated taking his characters to the small screen. “We’re coming up with fifty ideas. The studio will edit that down to ten excellent episodes for the first season. I can see the comic strips move and I can’t wait to storyboard them.”
If, for Friedrich, each new project does indeed inspire a fresh concept, his recent circumstances will yield a creative geyser. Life is good for Paul Friedrich these days and, as Man vs. Liver reminds us, “Life is a rat race. As with any race, stay hydrated.”