In a world fraught with chaos and hardship, it is comforting to know that there are some folks out there fighting the good fight: Man v. Liver is a book by Asheville native and illustrator Neil Hinson and author Paul Friedrich that centers around a simply drawn figure called “man” and his Dean Martin-esque one liners. Hinson describes the book as “a 100-page collection of sayings that we wish we remembered saying at the bar.”
Friedrich has been working as an animator with nationally recognized companies including the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes. Hinson left Asheville for college and drifted into Raleigh to open his own advertising agency, Oddfellows, where he has worked with such companies as IMAX Theaters and John Deer Tractors, so Man v. Liver represents quite a change from their usual work routine. “We just stumbled into this purely creative experiment and its been a blast,” Hinson says.
One day last year, while sitting on the patio of the Raleigh Times, a bar in downtown Raleigh, the duo struck gold. “Neil said a funny quip and I wrote it down and did a quick sketch to go along with it of a man drinking,” explains Friedrich. “The waitress laughed and asked if she could have the drawing. ‘Sure,’ said Paul, ‘if you buy us the next round!’ Which she did. A few minutes later, another server came out with another round of drinks and demanded another drawing.” Not long after that, the bartender approached them and said “I’ll give you guys a couple shots of whatever you want if you make one for me!”
After that evening of small successes and excessive consumption of booze, Friedrich wrote some more quips and Hinson illustrated them. They uploaded the comics to Facebook and “in a few days there was a huge response and the next thing we knew, we had done over a hundred drawings” Friedrich says. They compiled the single panel comics into a print-on-demand book, and took 25 copies with them to Comic Con, the world’s largest comic book convention in California.
Friedrich says that when he got to Comic Con, “as soon as I put them on the table, people were attracted to them like a moth to light.” He sold out of those copies the first day of the convention. “I called up Neil and said ‘Unpack the cloths from your suitcase and just bring the other 75 books we had printed!’ And we ended up selling out of all of them by the end of that weekend.”
As fortune would have it, two publishers happened to buy those books. Chronicle Books and Andrew McNeil, both of whom made offers on Man v. Liver. They ended up going with Andrew McNeil, a publisher you might recognize from such classic comics as Calvin & Hobbs, The Oatmeal, The Farside and Garfield. “That was the first year we’d ever gone [to Comic Con],” marvels Hinson, “and we sold out all of our books, and left with two publishing offers and a tan!”
And the attention didn’t stop there. Now Serendipity, a film production company, is looking into producing a series based on the comics. Hinson and Friedrich seem both befuddled and elated at their virtual overnight success, Friedrich says, “In less than a year of creating this, we had a book deal and producers that were interested in developing it into a TV show.” And it doesn’t stop there — soon their merchandising will include a line of T-shirts and bar wear.
They are currently on the last leg of their East Coast book tour, and will appear at Malaprops Bookstore, 55 Haywood St. at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 8.