There are numerous ways that we can communicate, and two of the most prominent ways are the text and visual image. Put
the two together and you have a comic, one of the most powerful and accessible modes of communication there is. Today we present
insights from a personal interview with local comics creator Tim Corrigan, who has lived in Houghton’s own Allegany
County for the last 25 years.
Citing “the Sunday funnies, and a lot of children’s books…Dr. Seuss, for instance” as early influences, Tim notes that he was creating comics before he even knew what they were. Tim values the unique abilities of the comics medium, where text and image pull equal weight. An influential figure in the small-press comics movement, Tim has been self-publishing his own comic books for 40 years, and was honored for his life’s work at the 2006 Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus, Ohio. In 2008, local-to-Houghton paper The Olean Times-Herald began publishing a new Sunday comic strip called Allegheny Man, which Tim writes and draws.
The idea of a character like Allegheny Man sprang from the perennial trope of superheroes living in cities. Since there was a hole in the market for a superhero who represented rural areas, Tim decided to create one. His character Jason Hunter, a schoolteacher, was given superpowers by an ancient, mystic Native American—powers which are only available to him within the boundaries of the Allegheny plateau and mountain range. Thus Allegheny Man, “Rural America’s green hero”, was born.
Allegheny Man finds himself battling villains with all sorts of ties to humanity’s environmental follies. There’s Mad Cow, the chemically-enhanced bovine that gained human consciousness as a result of his science-driven hormonal exposure, and Lumber John (arrested for “recklessly endangering…everything!”), a greedy forest-ravaging businessman who creates eco-destroying rampage-bots. Although Allegheny Man has worked for the police on occasion, his heart is in his work as a free agent, fighting polluters like the junkman who fed hazardous chemicals directly into a nearby water source. The ecological theme of Tim’s comic strip springs from his convictions that we must maintain the natural resources we are all given, and he seeks to raise awareness of the ways in which we jeopardize these gifts. (Tim promises to tackle the problems associated with coal, the biggest environmental threat, in a future storyline.)
While he’s certainly trying to spread a message, Tim says it’s important to tell an entertaining story and
keep the audience in mind. After all, a newspaper is exposed to a wide range of age groups, working classes, and religious
adherents, so Tim works hard to make a strip that will be interesting, but non-offensive and appealing to all.
According to Tim, an important factor in getting picked up by the Times-Herald was making a professional presentation in person. When you do that, he says, you run the risk of being shoved out the door, but you also give the editor the opportunity to access both you and your work—a more effective method than simply sending something that will merely clutter up the editor’s electronic or physical inbox and subsequently be discarded.
In Tim’s original pitch, the strip was to run in color. However, his editor felt that Allegheny Man would stand out more among the other comics on the page if it ran in the black and white that Tim draws it in, and Tim eventually felt the same way.
Tim says that he plans to eventually collect the Allegheny Man strips into a graphic novel or two, and is prepared to carry the strip on for several years, although at five years it will have run its course. In the meantime, Tim enjoys running into folks who will tell him how much they enjoy his strip. He says he’s amazed at the level that some have connected with Alleghany Man, noting that fans might quote for him lines from a strip that ran months ago—lines that even Tim had forgotten about. It’s that opportunity to engage the material that makes Allegheny Man so much fun to read.
Allegheny Man can be read each Sunday in the Olean Times-Herald.