Todd Herman thinks storytelling is as essential to comics as artwork-and as an artist at Dark Horse comics, he should know. “…Frank Miller’s [Sin City] is a good example of this. I mean, the guy’s a really bad artist. He’s a really talented storyteller and his stuff is really good, but the guy just can’t draw.”
The art in storytelling
Todd Herman thinks storytelling is as essential to comics as artwork-and as an artist at Dark Horse comics, he should know.
“…Frank Miller’s [Sin City] is a good example of this. I mean, the guy’s a really bad artist. He’s a really talented storyteller and his stuff is really good, but the guy just can’t draw.”
Herman said that when he first started working with comics in 1994, he was so focused on perfecting his art that he was a “really terrible” storyteller.
Now, at 35, Herman works for Milwaukie, Oregon’s coolest export: Dark Horse. A horror fan in a major way, you might say he’s been one of the lucky ones.
He was able to jump straight into the horror genre with Dark Horse without having to get his start drawing superhero comics–the de facto starting point for all comic book illustrators.
Last year, Herman released Cut, a somewhat-mainstream horror graphic novel about a girl who is abducted and trapped in a small room by something less-than-human. Currently, he just finished a work called On the Surf Tortured Shore, a short-form comic about Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft walking down a beach–very apropos to Herman’s taste and artistic style.
“I like to draw oddities,” he said. “I like to draw monsters. I like to draw people with funny-looking bodies and faces.”
Seemingly influenced by both older American pulp comics as well as newer artists such as Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Herman’s artwork seems both familiar and refreshing. His tall, lanky characters are distinct, and a healthy use of shading works well for Herman’s preferred genre of horror.
Herman is also working on a long-term project now, what he calls a “serial Western,” starring a gothic cowboy character modeled after Keith Richards, as well as Marlon Brando, and Gene Simmons as “the wandering Jew.” Not much else is known about the comic right now, but it certainly looks like Herman is using his imagination.
“I feel like my storytelling skill is pretty strong now,” said Herman, crediting that skill to his time spent working with animation.
After his initial start, Herman quit doing comics and started working for the animation company Will Vinton (later renamed Laika), which in years past was responsible for stop-motion projects such as The California Raisins, The Noid and the Tim Burton film The Corpse Bride. Herman worked as a storyboarding artist.
“That was where I really learned how to draw,” Herman said. “I worked on a television show called The PJs, and I learned how to tell a joke. You intrinsically know if a joke doesn’t work, because the audience doesn’t laugh.”
Herman said the animatics that storyboard artists would work on were shown to everyone in the building once a week, and it was “really humiliating” if no one laughed.
Herman stayed in animation for about seven years before Dark Horse came calling.
“Dark Horse sent out feelers for a couple of projects that I was interested in,” he said.
Now, he’s a regular employee of the company.
Herman said he still dabbles in animation from time to time. He is currently working on an animated film called Space Fence.
Overall, though, Herman said he is glad he can still branch out and do his own thing–something that’s happening more and more in the comic industry these days.
“It’s not that unusual to do an indie comic and then get asked to write Batman,” Herman said. “It exposes them to an audience. I’ve always done horror comics–it’s nice to know I can retain the approach I’ve used.”
See Todd Herman at the Stumptown Comics Fest
April 26-27 at the Lloyd Center Doubletree
$6 per day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.