Dianna: Hello Thomas.
THOMAS J. HUGHES: Hello Dianna.
Dianna: I must say, I am so happy that I picked up that copy of Ideas Illustrated in Colette and therefore came across you! I am so fond of picking up magazines I haven’t heard of, particularly when I am abroad. And due to the almighty, powerful internet, here we are, I guess I should say somewhat strangers, (I say somewhat because we have indeed exchanged a few emails now) and we are talking to each other. Isn’t that strange??
THOMAS J. HUGHES: It absolutely is!
Dianna: OK. After the initial introduction by your piece “My Week With Woody,” which I loved, and we will get to….I gravitated towards “From Genesis To Kevin Bacon: The Sixty-Six Degrees of Separation” (both one and two) and your drawing of Mario Poffo a.k.a “Macho Man.” The first, because I am endlessly fascinated by the “Kevin Bacon game” and the second, because anything wrestling/WWF reminds me of my bestie Ashley, and her childhood/adult love of all things wrestling. However, my interest goes far beyond, because your work is fantastic.
What draws you to create? What drew you to these particular works?
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I suppose I rarely dedicate much time to writing or drawing something that I don’t already have a keen interest in. The first project you mentioned, “From Genesis To Kevin Bacon: The Sixty-Six Degrees of Separation” (I apologise, I seem to be incapable of thinking up succinct titles for things) is probably one of the most self-indulgent projects I have ever worked on. I have always been fascinated by popular culture, and often get excited when figures from some of the more niche corners of it creep into the mainstream. So “FGTKB: TSSDOS” (that’s still ridiculously long, isn’t it?) is my way of paying tribute to those strange and sometimes dubious relationships. Very little research was involved in that project – I just seem to have a HUGE inherent knowledge of such trivia. So I guess I also made these films as a way of putting this otherwise useless knowledge to some use.
I too love the game The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and I have always wanted to see if how far the idea can be expanded. If I had the stamina, I would totally attempt to make a version with six-hundred-and-sixty-six degrees of separation in it!
The portrait of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage you mentioned was created shortly after his death last year for a friend of mine. Like your friend Ashley, my love of professional wrestling has been consistent through pretty much most of my life, and some of my earliest memories of watching the sport involve Randy Savage. He’s definitely one of my all-time favourites, and unfortunately, just one in a long list of compelling competitors who are no longer with us.
I still watch pro-wrestling every week, and now I edit and publish a fanzine on the subject called The Shooting Star Press. It’s basically a publication written by wrestling fans for wrestling fans. It’s all contributor-led, so I get to meet and work with a whole bunch of terrific people who are really into their wrestling. I’m currently working on putting a new issue of it together, so that should be out hopefully in the next couple of months.
Dianna: My Week with Woody. How did it come to you? Which one was your “favorite day?”
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I have been a fan of Woody Allen for years, and I always felt something of a kinship with the man. I guess you could say I’m a little neurotic, so I always saw shades of myself in a lot of the characters he plays. I initially thought that if we ever met, we would get along famously. But then I thought about it more, and decided that we absolutely wouldn’t. In fact, I think if we spent any amount of time together, we would end up positively loathing each other! In my estimation, there is nothing worse than a difficult house guest, and as much as I do like the guy, I think Woody Allen has the potential to be the most difficult house guest in the universe!
So I imagined a week in Woody’s company, and thought about exactly what I would do with him if he did come to stay. I decided that all of my efforts to keep him occupied would just result in him becoming increasingly fed up with me, and inevitably, we would fall out with each other. My favourite day is Saturday, when I try and convince Woody Allen to pose for a photo with some mannequins in the window of H&M.
As you mentioned earlier, the story got published in the most recent issue of Ideas Illustrated, which is the magazine I work for. Luckily for me, it was illustrated for that publication by the brilliant Mat Williams, who did a wonderful job of capturing Woody’s increasing frustration with my futile attempts to keep him entertained.
Dianna: Did you dress up for Halloween as a child? You’re from the UK (right?, where specifically??) and I know it isn’t always the “thing” over there. If you did, what was your favorite costume and did you ever repeat it? I feel like this says a lot about a person…..however, no judgements.
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I grew up right smack bang in the middle of the United Kingdom, and you’re right, Halloween was never a big deal when I was younger. I have seen it become more and more popular in the last few years, but as a kid, I was never really encouraged to dress up for it. But if I was, I almost certainly would have gone as Hawk or Animal from The Legion Of Doom.
Dianna: Were you worried about what questions I would ask? =)
THOMAS J. HUGHES: Worried? Never!
Dianna: What is your favorite Sunday activity? My friends in the UK dedicated Sundays to DIY which I find very sweet, particularly because they say Deeeee-I-why in the most charming British accent.
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I would love to do more DIY. I would like nothing more than to spend my spare time building things. But the truth is I’m not really up to the challenge. The closest I get to DIY is when I assemble something from IKEA, and that’s only ever difficult if you happen to lose the alan key. I guess I like to read on my Sundays.
Dianna: Do you have a charming British accent?
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I sound like a bit of a caveman sometimes, but I’m sure some people would find that endearing.
Dianna: Who are your artistic inspirations? If you could comprise a list of ten artistic inspirations (not artists…for example, characters, places, things) what would they be?
THOMAS J. HUGHES:
1. Comic books (any of them, all of them, the way they’re written, they way they’re drawn, they way they feel, they way they smell)
2. My collection of fanzines and comix which I have obtained from all manner of small publishing and alternative press events over the last few years
3. Being sent things in the mail
4. Heavy, hairy and loud music
5. Any horror film in which the protagonist spends a good deal of time wearing a turtleneck sweater
6. Any science fiction film in which the protagonist spends a good deal of time wearing a turtleneck sweater
7. Doctor Who
8. The graphics found on old trading cards
9. Any example of typography or advertising designed during the 1970s
Dianna: Can you share a piece of work with YM&C that is not yet on the internet and say something about it? Or draw a little sketch for us?? =)
THOMAS J. HUGHES: I live in London, a city which is currently in the throes of Olympic fever. So it only seemed appropriate that I share with YM&C something inspired by the Games. This is a portrait of one of my all-time favourite Olympians, Ken Patera, who represented the United States in the Weightlifting event at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He then went on to compete in a number of strongman contests before turning his hand to professional wrestling, and ultimately competing in the WWF.
Dianna: Lastly, what is something you would like to be remembered for? Could be complex or basic.
THOMAS J. HUGHES: As someone who told good stories.