INTERVIEW: Tom Pappalardo: The Face Behind Broken Lines (

Broken Lines: Book One of Four, Maybe is simply about good and evil. You have evil firemen vs. a Cowboy complete with six shooters, a Spaceman who feeds red licorice through his suit, and Maggie the waitress. These characters come together to form Standard Design’s delightful self-published illustrated novel.

What is Standard Design?

Standard Design is me, Tom Pappalardo. It’s the name I do design work under. In the context of Broken Lines, Standard Design is also the publisher, I guess, since it’s self-published. By me. Tom Pappalardo. And I’m Standard Design. See?

Would you mind telling us what Broken Lines is about?

Broken Lines is about a good and evil, death, redemption, and boredom. And lousy coffee. Lots of lousy coffee. You’ve got a grumpy cowboy and a goofy spaceman on a road trip in a stolen moving van. They save a waitress from her rather uninteresting life and boom! – she’s tagging along on their cross-country mission. Naturally, they are being pursued by Bad Guys.

What made you decide to do an illustrated novel?

Well, I’m always sitting on a backlog of story ideas – some comic, some prose, some just scribbled outlines that could go either way. But my actual output has historically been pretty low, because, you know, I work for a living and stuff.

So it occurred to me that maybe I should just combine a bunch of unrelated ideas into one big story. I knew it would be a major undertaking, take forever to do, and require a lot of discipline that I don’t by nature have, so I had to create a set of rules for myself that would let me complete the damned thing without giving up a third of the way through it, you know? That meant allowing myself the freedom to switch from drawing to writing to whatever I needed in order to get the story down on the page.

So the book’s “illustrated novel” format is sort of the result of my short attention span, my impatience, and ultimately my desire to force the story out of my head and onto paper. I have found it to be a very enjoyable way to tell a story. It works. I like it.

Where did the idea for Broken Lines come from?

Broken Lines is a reaction against a lot of junk I see in movies, TV, and books that just drives me nuts – dialogue that makes me cringe, contrived plot twists, characters with no history or personality. So even though the story itself is a bit outlandish, I wanted Broken Lines to be grounded with characters that talked like real people and responded to weird situations like normal people would. I wanted everyday settings, and I wanted an extremely unromanticized, uncool, un-“comic booky” take on a hero story. I mean, why doesn’t Batman drive a 1999 Ford Econoline moving van? They’re very spacious.

I have to ask you about The Firemen because I laughed so hard while reading about them. Why did you decide to make firemen evil?

Well, the pragmatic answer is that I needed an army of bad guys that all looked alike so I wouldn’t have to sit down and design a new character every time I needed a new bad guy on-scene. So, you know, they’re my lazy equivalent of storm troopers, I guess. Other than that, the choice was pretty random. Just a bunch of dumb dudes wearing full-face oxygen masks. I had a serious doubt about making them firemen after 9/11 because real firefighters were being so revered for awhile. But fortunately, America has a short memory and we’ve gone back to ignoring their important contributions to society. So thank God for that.

What do you think is most appealing about your work?

It’s got moxie.

Do you have a favorite character from Broken Lines? Why?

Currently, it’s me, the omniscient narrator. I hog a lot of the funny lines, because I want everyone to think I’m clever and witty. My second favorite character doesn’t appear until Book Three, so hold your breath til like, 2010.

Would you mind sharing a little bit of what the future holds for your heroes?

Their future is everyone’s future: Lots of sitting around, a few laughs, then death. Then maybe a few more laughs.

Katie McNeill