Tim Stiles is an Australian musician, actor, writer, artist and the owner of comic company ‘Big Tim’s Funny Books’; which Tim launched in 2016 with the publication of his comic book, Gorilla My Dreams – starring Knockaround Guy, a gorilla who thinks he’s a superhero. It is written by Tim and features art from UK based Egyptian artist Ahmed Raafat.
Aside from Gorilla My Dreams Tim has also used ‘Big Tim’s Funny Books’ to publish a slew of other comics such as the Cthulhu Williams series – which takes place in a world suffering through a monster uprising; The Flame – where Tim takes a half-forgotten Golden Age superhero from the 1940s, and re-imagines it as a marijuana themed, stoner comedy; and his Cool Kids Punch Nazis series – which Tim uses to collect disparate stories from his universe into single, Nazi fighting one-offs.
Growing up in the city of Queanbeyan, near the Australian capital of Canberra, Tim had the usual childhood of adventure, family and fun. Discovering the world of comic books, thanks to a pivotal trip to the newsagent with his younger brother. An experience that would forever change his life.
With Tim elaborating,
“I was 13 when I bought my first comic book. My grandparents lived in Wollongong and we’d spend school holidays up there.
One time my younger brother and I walked to the corner shop to spend our pocket money on candy. When we got there we saw a huge rack of comic books.
I walked away with Captain America #365 and Silver Surfer #36 instead of sugary goodness.
My thirteen year old mind was blown.“
Following his life changing experience with comics, Tim spent the remainder of his teens and his 20s playing music, acting, partying and working. A calm, joyous and peaceful life that changed dramatically in Tim’s early 30’s as a result of a serious motorcycle accident which left him with serious physical and emotional scars.
However, like classic heroes of myth Tim was positively transformed by his tragedy – coming out of it with a new outlook which Tim draws upon to fuel his lust for life and creative drive.
With Tim stating,
“And this is why I create. I create to keep sane.
I create as a coping mechanism.”
With Tim riding high on the success of ‘Big Tim’s Funny Books’ we thought now was the perfect time to ask him some questions about life, art, overcoming tragedy, comics and a whole lot more.
It’s a great insight into one of the current icons of the Australian independent comics scene, and a reminder of the amazing ability human’s possess to rise from tragedy positively changed!
… and just like life, it’s sad, insightful and at times damn funny.
Read it all, in the interview below…
Name + D.O.B?
Tim Stiles (Big Tim)
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia.
So close to Canberra it might as well be IN Canberra. But nope.
City, State and Country you’re from?
2620 represent. Queanbeyan boy born and bred.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, comic books, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
Around this age I remember getting out of the bath, laying my towel out on the floor, and reenacting the Sarlac Pit scene from Return of the Jedi.
I put on one helluva one-boy show, playing every single role all by myself.
* Age 10 – continuations:
I was 13 when I bought my first comic book. My grandparents lived in Wollongong and we’d spend school holidays up there.
One time my younger brother and I walked to the corner shop to spend our pocket money on candy. When we got there we saw a huge rack of comic books.
I walked away with Captain America #365 and Silver Surfer #36 instead of sugary goodness. My thirteen year old mind was blown and I’ve been a Cap and Thanos fan ever since.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
Look… girls I think.
I do remember my 15th birthday my mum asked me what I wanted. I said G.I.Joe. Mum looked at me confused. I don’t think she thought a 15 year old would still be interested in toys. But she delivered.
For my birthday I got a G.I.Joe tank with a driver, and a Cobra plane with a pilot.
It was a good birthday.
* Age 20 – young adult:
I think like most guys, I was a complete idiot at this point in my life. Thought I had it all figured out and thought I was invincible.
It’s only now that I look back and can see what a moron that guy was. Apart from that, nothing of note comes to mind.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
I gotta say, kinda continuing on from 20, this is all a blur. Driving trucks, reading comics, dreaming about being an actor, living life like I don’t care.
Because I really didn’t.
I was just doing whatever people told me to.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
It was in my thirties when I had a motorbike accident that would change my life…
I was riding my motorbike on a Sunday afternoon. The sump-plug came out of my bike and I slid on my own bike’s oil. I remember trying to correct the slide and then rolling on the road.
I leapt to my feet and got off the road as fast as possible. I knew there were cars around. That’s when I realised I was missing a shoe.
I was confused and couldn’t think straight. I tried to take my helmet off but it was too hard with only my left hand. Only my left hand? Why was I trying to unstrap my helmet with only my left hand?
A man came running over to me. He’d seen the accident. I asked him to unstrap my helmet. He said something I can’t remember and I yelled “TAKE OFF MY HELMET!” He did. I looked down to my right arm, wondering why it wouldn’t do what my brain was telling it. It didn’t make sense. Maybe while I was rolling on the road my jacket slipped a bit? Maybe I was looking at an empty sleeve? But the gloved fingers were wriggling at the end of the “empty” sleeve. How was the glove moving… if the sleeve… was empty? And if it wasn’t… empty, why… wasn’t my… right… arm… doi–
I woke up on the side of the road. I had passed out. There was a woman looking down on me. She said she was a nurse and asked if she could ring someone. I told her my phone was in my pocket and to ring Kelda, the director of the play I’d been working on. It’s supposed to open in three weeks and I don’t want to let her down.
I woke up again and now a man was standing over me. He was dressed in blue and I could see an ambulance nearby. He says he wants to cut off my t-shirt to get my jacket off. I tell him no. It’s my favourite t-shirt.
I woke up again in the ambulance. This is the first time I remember the pain. The same man says he’s going to give me something I can’t pronounce or remember.
I woke up again going through an X-Ray machine.
I kept passing out over the next few days. Apparently I’d hit my head pretty hard. My right humerus was shattered (and yes, I’ve had six thousand people tell me “That’s not very humorous”. It doesn’t get old). After surgery (and a kilogram of stainless steel and screws in my bones) the surgeon told me I’d be in pain for the rest of my life.
Hello chronic pain, my old friend.
Every minute of every day.
That’s also when the depression crept in. But I pretty much didn’t notice it under the constant static that is the chronic pain.
* Age 35 – meanderings:
And then, just a few years ago, the chronic pain and depression took it’s toll and I tried to kill myself. I drank a stack of beers and took a drive out bush with a Stanley knife.
I cut my wrist.
Again, I remember the pain. Through the drunken cloud it just hurt so much. I don’t know why but I never thought it would hurt that bad.
I found a spare t-shirt in my car and tied it around my arm. Then I drove to hospital.
The rest is all about drugs and counselling.
* Age 40 – middle age creeping:
And here we are.
Now, I’m suffering from Chronic Pain, Clinical Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
One thing people don’t think about is that attempted suicide is an incredibly violent act against yourself. It’s not something you just “get over”. I run my fingers over my scars every day and I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep.
And this is why I create. I create to keep sane. I create as a coping mechanism.
“It’s alright to be scared.
Remember, there is no courage without fear.“
When and why did you first start to make art?
… and any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
What is art? I guess that’s the question.
I played bass guitar and sang since I was in high school. Was in my first amateur musical at 17 years old. First paying acting gig at 32. Self-published my first comic in 2016.
So, what is art? It’s always been in my bones. I’ve always had my head in the clouds. I’m a dreamer. A storyteller. I don’t know when it started or why? As wanky as it sounds, it’s just me.
What do you do for a day job at the moment?
… and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?
I’m a public service data entry monkey. It’s not very exciting, the people aren’t great.
Working in that kind of situation makes you understand how important being creative is to me. This was always just supposed to support me until I got famous. But I passed the ten year mark a couple months ago. So, it’s probably time to accept that this place is also a part of my life whether I like it or not.
But I think if I didn’t have my art (again, what is art?) this place would kill my soul.
‘Big Tim’s Funny Books’ Questions
For those reading at home who may be unaware – please explain the who, what, and why of ‘Big Tim’s Funny Books’?
Big Tim’s Funny Books is where I self-publish my comic books.
It’s basically me writing and paying people to draw for me. This is where I do whatever the hell I want, and no one can stop me. And what I want is to write about a gorilla who thinks he’s a superhero.
What is your current role within ‘Big Tim’s’?
I think I’m the writer. But then, as in the entire self-publishing world, I’m also the producer, the marketing team, the accountant, and everything else that needs to be done.
But it all boils down to me wanting to tell my stories.
Who else is involved in ‘Big Tim’s’ and what do they each bring to the table?
Primarily I work with artist Ahmed Raafat. He takes my stories and brings them to life. It’s mostly a two man show.
Please describe the usual process involved with producing your comics?
It’s very repetitive. It looks like this:
- I stare at the empty page.
- Anxiety rises in my heart and head.
- I write garbage.
- I panic.
- I delete garbage while swearing at myself.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 about a dozen times.
- Send my script off to be proof read by my editor, S. Greenleaf.
- Work on suggestions.
- Send to Ahmed Raafat to draw.
- Marvel at Ahmed’s awesome art.
- Bribe my brother to put the PDFs together.
- Run Kickstarter to cover printing costs.
- Get comics printed.
- Send comics to Kickstarter backers.
- Take comics to shows.
- Rinse and repeat.
Worst aspect(s) of the comic book hustle?
It’s real and it’s alive and well in me.
Best aspect(s) of the comic book hustle?
Getting the art from artists. I make up stuff, but they’re the ones that bring my stories alive. I’ll never get over that thrill.
Favorite other artist(s) / comic book makers?
In the local Australian scene if your not reading everything by Matt Kyme, Shane W. Smith, and Ryan K. Lindsay, you don’t love great comics. I just suggest everyone reading this get into more indy comics in general. Killeroo, In Purgatory, Job Dun: Fat Assassin, and so much more.
If you were trying to sell your comic series ‘Gorilla My Dreams’ to some recently crash-landed aliens. What would your sales pitch be?
Do aliens know what gorillas are? I mean how alien are these aliens? Are they like the aliens from that Amy Addams movie? Because if I have to create a language to explain it to them, I’m just not that smart.
If they’re stupid aliens like Howard the Duck or Rocket Raccoon, I’d just kick them (because they’re very small), take their wallets and leave them with a copy. But if they’re smart aliens? And bigger than me? This is my pitch:
“PLEASE DON’T KILL ME!! PLEASE!! OH GOD NO!
Okay… Gorilla my Dreams is a comic book about a talking gorilla investigating the murder of a street mime who was found suffocated inside an invisible box. Gorilla my Dreams can best be described as; Batman: The Animated Series mashed into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if Saturday morning cartoons came on after 10pm.
If all of those concepts are too much for your smart alien brains, I guess explaining that the protagonist is me, suffering depression and scared he’ll never measure up, and that the first issue MIME OF MY LIFE is a metaphor for my failed acting career.
…Should I take you to my leader now?”
Any projects you want to hype?
Just that you can pre-order the second issue of GORILLA MY DREAMS titled GORILLA TAILS right now on my webstore:
If people wanted to work with you, have a chat or buy something – how should they get in touch?
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be? …and why would you choose that time and place?
I’ve always been fascinated by my Viking heritage. I think when I was a young man, young, dumb, and full of cum, I woulda thrived in those days.
Now that I’m a broken old man, I dread the thought of having to live in any time where I’d have to be a manly man. WW2? Nope. Middle Ages? Nope. Caveman days? No sir!
I think I’m too soft and broken an old man to live in any time but right now, where I don’t have to take my life in my own hands every day.
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
I didn’t come from a well-to-do family. We weren’t poor but we weren’t far from that. But we grew up in the era of G.I.Joe, and Transformers, and Ninja Turtles, and Bravestarr, and He-Man cartoons.
Soooooo… my brother and I shoplifted a lot of toys.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
I truly believe they’re the gateway to the universe. But still not to be taken lightly.
I don’t do then (often) because I know I’m a broken person and if I hit up something like ayahuasca, I might never come back.
What do you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?
To be completely honest, I don’t know what that means. But my uneducated comment here is: Go to the movies (Dendy in your capital city) and watch the new horror movie The Furies. My friend wrote and directed it. My other friend won DEATH OF THE YEAR at some European horror film festival. And I’m in it for a total of 2.76 seconds.
Check it out. It’s Australian without being bogan and the bush is almost a character in its own right. The Furies is an independent film that I wish all horror buffs would see.
And read Killeroo, everyone. This comic is unapologetically Australian and deserves to be Australia’s Judge Dredd. There should be merch and movies made of this one.
Who was your 1st crush?
My earliest crush was Wilma Flintstone.
That Fred was a fucking jerk to her. I never knew what she saw in that fat stupid fuck. She was beautiful and smart. And since then, I’ve always been a sucker for a redhead.
Does sex change everything?
I’m gonna say yes… and no… and that’s all…
What are the top 3 items you own?
My prize possession is X-MEN 2099 #1 signed by Ron Lim and Adam Kubert.
I also have a framed and autographed pin up of The Goon by Eric Powell.
And finally I have The Exorcist on DVD autographed by Linda Blair, the little possessed girl herself!
In a battle between your two creations: Knockaround Guy Vs. The Flame – who would win in a fight?
I have to think about this (I’m thinking as I’m typing).
I feel like Knockaround-Guy is stronger and a better fighter, but the Flame is just too over-powered. Even though he’s a stoner and a moron, if he could get past his Nachos craving, he would incinerate KG.
Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy?
Bring on a Gorilla my Dreams dildo! I’d market that bad-boy in a second.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
My last dream was that I dreamed Anna Kendrick and Adam DeVine were at my place. They were standing in my kitchen drinking my beer. But my subconscious knew they weren’t in my actual kitchen.
I kept saying to them both “You’re not real, are you?” and they kept responding with “Sure we are. We’re your friends! We’re standing in your kitchen! We’re drinking your beer!”
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for?
I just want to be remembered as a good man.
If my comics go off and they make a TV show or movie that lasts forever, if I go on to do great things with the rest of my life? That’s all bonus.
I just want to be remembered as a good man who tried his best to leave the world a little better than how he found it.