This is one of the most overdue interviews I have. I found Andy’s work and Staple! back in Wizard World Austin 2010 and he continues to impress year after year. As a storyteller, Andy is a magician in the tradition that runs from Jack Cole to Jeff Smith. He makes fast-paced motion and action (occasionally even physics-defying action) seem seamless. He tells stories that have strong hooks and distinctive characters. Do yourself a favor and swing by his table at Staple tomorrow.
MH: What are you bringing to Staple, and are you bringing your folio, debuting any new books, and/or prints?
AH: My big debut for this year's show is a new entry in what I've started calling my Constructed Comics series. Previous ones have used side-scrolling frames, transparency effects, and fold-out 3D forms. 4-Way Stop is a road trip story told in conflicting parallels, kind of a "Road Rashomon". I'll also have a bunch of dog stuff -- pennants! pins! -- in advance of Science Comics: Dogs, my graphic novel out in October.
MH: One the things that stuck me about your work is how well you tackle a page a physical object. How do traditional page layouts influence your Constructed Comics and what things have you taken from Constructed Comics back to traditional page layouts?
AH: None of the Constructed Comics so far have used the typical panel/page format. They're more about exploring ways to physically present a sequence. Like, if I reveal moments in this way, does that change the reader's role? Can it heighten a mood or make a joke land? Making them is my vacation from traditional comics, and I don't know that I've found anything that I can take back and forth between them. There are some things I can do with hand assembly that just aren't feasible at scale. We'll see what #5 brings!
MH: What do you think are strengths of comics as an educational medium?
AH: Their biggest strength is that students want to read them. It sounds too basic to mention, but it's so much easier to teach something if students want to engage with it. Beyond that, they're more visually interesting than a textbook, you can control your own pace unlike a video, and they've got better jokes than your teacher. I think the Science Comics line in particular is great because they're contained, digestible amounts of material of which no two are the same. Have you read Science Comics: Volcanoes? It's a sci-fi dystopia, for crying out loud! Dinosaurs is as much a history of science itself. In Dogs, you come for the adorable host and stay for the surprisingly robust introduction to genetics. To my knowledge, the line is an utterly unique undertaking in educational literature.
MH: As a Dog owner, what was the most useful thing you learned working on the upcoming Science Comics: Dogs?
AH: Body language! Communication is key to any good relationship, right? Learning the meanings behind how dogs hold each part of their body has really helped me understand what my dog is trying to say to me, and I'm a lot more conscious of what I might inadvertently be saying with my own posture and movements. We can communicate on the same level now! Making a play bow at a dog and having it be immediately, enthusiastically answered is just the best.
MH: Baker Street Peculiars, The Royal Historian of Oz, and Varmints all have very large casts of visual distinct and expressive original characters. What are you secrets of character design?
AH: I was taught that the best way to differentiate characters is through silhouette. If their silhouettes are distinct, your characters will read no matter what size they are on a page. I also try to pay extra attention to characters' posture. For example, the Peculiars all hold themselves in different ways, and that tells you a lot about their personalities -- authoritative, shy, laid back, or whatever that may be. Personally, when I start a project I want to get right to drawing pages, but I'm continuing to learn that extra time and effort put in during the design phase really pays off.
MH: What tips do you have for finding and maintaining an all ages audience?
AH: Get hired to draw Garfield? So much of my work has been on existing properties or, now, as part of a bigger series. It's much, much tougher with an original project. I hope by doing good work when I'm invited to those projects that already have an audience that some of them will follow me when I go off to do my original stuff. Building a relationship with publishers who know how to connect to these audiences helps, of course, but it's no sure thing.
Are there any other Guests or Exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with at Staple?
AH: I mean, everyone, right? Staple is home to so many of my favorite people. I'm particularly excited to be tabling back-to-back with the Skweegie Island guys - Austin Bedell, Chris Sweet, and Zach Taylor. Usual neighbor and super crafter Amanda Michael is going to have loads of cute new toys. Also, my good, good pal Kyle Starks is coming to Texas for the very first time, and he's gonna charm the socks off of everyone. He's a real special boy, Kyle.
Find More of Andy's Work Here...