On a slow night in 2011, Neil Hinson and Paul Friedrich nursed drinks at The Raleigh Times bar. Hinson, an adman, blurted, "I'm bored, which makes my liver shudder." Something about the phrase struck Friedrich, a comics artist. He sketched a man uttering the inanity on a napkin. A waitress asked if she could have it. Sure, Hinson replied, in exchange for a round of drinks. She showed the cartoon to fellow employees, who asked for their own. Hinson and Friedrich realized they were on to something.
Their Man v. Liver concept has evolved into a multiplatform brand licensed for about 10 products, including a book, T-shirts, coasters and bar towels. They also hope for Hollywood fame, having written two episodes for a potential television show with Cherry/Wind Productions, owned by Marc Cherry, creator of Desperate Housewives, and Sabrina Wind, who was the series' executive producer.
One reason for Man v. Liver's success is that it apparently appeals to millennials, the 95 million Americans born between 1981 and 2000. According to a Goldman Sachs & Co. report earlier this year, they will replace Generation X as the largest bloc of consumer spenders over the next five years. Each one-panel strip has the drawing of a man with a block head, a rectangular body and wearing a suit--and he's always holding a drink. The caption varies, such as "Quiet Please. Hangover in Progress" or "When it Rains, Pour." Christine Hassler, a Los Angeles-based consultant to companies that want to reach this age group, says, "Millennials are raised on reality TV, so their expectations of life is often skewed. And a lot of reality TV life is one big party, and everybody is having fun."
The two men, who won't provide specifics on Man v. Liver's finances, are keeping their day jobs for now. Hinson, 45, is founder of OddFellows Marketing & Design in Raleigh, a boutique agency with about 20 clients, including Moline, Ill-based Deere and Co. and the city of Raleigh. Friedrich, 47, writes and illustrates such works as Hubie the Dead Cow and HellCar Comics. His graphic novel Onion Head Monster Attacks was nominated for the comic industry's prestigious Eisner Awards in 2007. His freelance work includes animation for the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team used on the Jumbotron at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Man v. Liver was validated the...