Hogan’s Alley is a yearly magazine dedicated to printing articles about the cartoon arts. Content ranges from historical to current day comic strips, including articles about the cartoon artists themselves. It also covers information about comic art, comic books, cartoons, and animation.
We are interviewing Tom Heintjes who is the editor and co-founder of this delightful publication. The magazine was founded in 1994 with love and the sale of his personal comic book collections to fund it.
TH: I’ve been publishing Hogan’s Alley since 1994. www.hoganmag.com
BU: Publishing is a tough job. It’s also a labor of love. You obviously feel something about it; can you explain that a little bit?
TH: Yes. Publishing a print magazine is a tough road these days, but I really believe that comics are meant to be read on paper, and thus a magazine about comics should be on paper. I love the tactile experience; it’s so immediate.
BU: Indeed, and you are not the first (and certainly won’t be the last) to say that. It is a tactile experience. It’s old school and deliciously full of memories from childhood when a lot of people began to read comics. In fact, many people admit to learning how to read via comic books! So, Tom, I have been watching your posts for quite some time and we do chat on occasion. I know that you have a gift for sifting out the “good stuff”. I would love for you to tell us the full range of what you cover at Hogan’s Alley.
TH: In Hogan’s Alley, we cast a wide net: comic strip (vintage and contemporary), comic books, animation, editorial cartooning, etc. I think that all cartooning disciplines are connected, so I want to break down the silos that too often segregate interests.
BU: THANK YOU! That’s very helpful! And informative. So, you have a full venue operation then.
TH: I grew up loving comic books, graduating from funny animal comics to a full-blown case of Marvelmania. But in the ensuing years, I’ve discovered that every aspect of cartooning has a unique pleasure to offer.
BU: I would agree…some say it’s the content, some say it’s the art, some the era. I could on, but hearing it from you means so much more to us. But I DO have a question….do you go to comic conventions?
TH: I only attend two shows a year, both in the Southeast because I don’t like to travel, and I hate flying. But I DO love meeting our readers.
BU: I couldn’t agree more. Do you have a website?
TH: Yes. We’re at www.hoganmag.com. Our website is largely content from the print edition, just to allow people to understand how we approach the comics form. But we also present material that we couldn’t fit into the print edition simply due to page constraints, so it’s nice to have that synergy between the print vehicle and our website.
BU: OK, I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that comics run in your veins. Any favorite(s)?
TH: As far as my favorite comics, it’s so hard to answer! I started out a funny animal fan,
but I became a hard-core Marvel Comics fan.
BU: WHAT???? Are you serious? I would never have figured you to be a Marvel fan~
TH: Oh, but all along, I read Archie, Richie Rich, MAD, Cracked and everything I could get my hands on!
BU: That was me, too. Couldn’t get enough Archie…ever!, and MAD, of course……I mean, I think liking MAD and Archie are the litmus test for whether or not you really do read comics.
TH: And I read the newspaper comics all along.
BU: Oh. My gosh, the Sunday Comic page was a highly sought-after treasure in our house! I liked Blondie for some reason. I really didn’t care for Mr. Dithers OR Dagwood, but I loved the strip.
What was your favorite?
TH: Peanuts was a favorite but I loved all the humor strips. Blondie, Henry, Hi and Lois, just everything. My tastes are still all over the place!
BU: OK I have to ask: What about Prince Valiant and Brenda Star? I couldn’t stand the small print in Prince Valiant, so I skipped it, and I didn’t read Brenda Star unless the pics looked intriguing to me in that particular strip. And what about Dick Tracy?
TH: To be honest, I got into comic strips past the heyday of the continuity strip. (A comic strip that continues a story in the next publication). I didn’t grow up with them and only really discovered them as reprinted series. I think many of them are great, and beautifully drawn, but I don’t have the deep emotional attachment to them that some people have. The paper we got in our house growing up didn’t have Brenda or Val, and it wasn’t easy to read other strips like it is now with the internet.
BU: Fair enough, so can get down and dirty here and ask: If you had to narrow it down to the nucleus, what specifically stood out for you and made you want to go back and back and back to comics? AND, what is your gold standard comic…the one you always go back to as your LOVE?
TH: As for my favorite, I’d have to say that the character I fell in love with, and still have a profound emotional attachment to, is Spider-Man. My comic book collection is not quite complete, but it’s pretty solid. And I still have the first years of his newspaper strip clipped out and pasted into spiral notebooks. He was the perfect character to speak to outcast nerds…and that was definitely me!
BU: Really? I think Spiderman is logical for as much as I know you. He is kind, empathic, a regular Joe, but has these amazing powers to use for good. Yeah, I get that! Now what about Publishing? What drove you to it? And why the particular format?
TH: Well, decided I would publish Hogan’s Alley with my prototypical reader in mind. I also strike a balance or try to, between feeling familiar to the longtime reader yet having unexpected surprises and approaches in each issue.
BU: WOW, that’s not easy to do, and also very thoughtful! To keep a broad spectrum in mind with continuity is a task I wouldn’t want to take on.
TH: It definitely makes my job harder, but I think it makes for a satisfying reading experience. I realize I’m not answering your question! I guess I edited the magazine with a yardstick of whether it interests or enlightens me. And I have always assumed that readers will feel similarly! But we have to be a viable periodical, which is tough for a print magazine in today’s media environment. So, if I’m being completely honest, we also need to feature some material of broad interest alongside the fascinating but obscure material that I really love. It’s all about striking a balance.
BU: I would say you have answered my question very well!
You are a true comic lover yet also an ingenious business person. Even so, many people would say “to heck with what others really want, this is MY publication” but that is not what you did……you found the way to keep the balance…….to do what you love and to see the need for what others love …..and that itself is ….well, admirable.
BU: We wish you many years of rewarding experiences in your work. It’s apparent that you are doing what most people die trying to do…..”do what you love” and make a living at it. And you do it so very well.