TSS caught up with Matt Herms, colourist and artist for Archie Comic’s Sonic the Hedgehog series, to chat a little about comics, conventions and of course, beards…
So Matt, how did you get started with the whole comic book drawing thing? Were there any comics that, as a child, you particularly enjoyed reading, or that inspired you into drawing comics and cartoons yourself?
Dude, I think I’ve always read comics – for as long as I can remember, for sure. My first comics were stuff based on cartoons I liked, like Transformers or Real Ghostbusters; or stuff based on video games. Valiant published a series of Nintendo and Super Mario-based books way back when… And then I got into my first and true comic book obsession: Sonic the Hedgehog.
I know, I know – how convenient ‘n’ coincidental, right? Seriously though, I’m very honored, humbled, and blessed that my first major comic book work stateside happens to be on the very book I adored and collected with such a passion growing up. (I even drew my own Sonic comics as a kid!) It’s the comic that really got me into comics, in every single way.
Growing up with Sonic, do you have any favourite Sonical moments from your childhood? Did you have a favourite Sonic game you liked to play as a kid, or any favourites from the recent flurry of games?
Oh man, I hate to break the news to you guys, but I have a confession to make: I’ve always been a Super Mario man [Sacrilege! – T]. I know, I know… We can stop the interview right here, if you want. But I dug the Super Mario Bros. =P My only real Sonic gaming experience early on was Sonic the Hedgehog 2, for Genesis. It was the first and only game I actually had for the system – and I played the hell out of it! It was challenging, and pretty, and I logged months on-end into that game. (I never beat it, either.)
I think what really drew me into the Sonic fandom was what DiC Animation did with the license – Sonic “SatAM.” It was such a different beast of a show from what I’d previously known. Continuity-driven, even maturely-themed. Through that and the comics, my investment in the characters grew. Then Sonic Adventure happened and I knew I was hooked: I once again shelled out for an entire gaming system just to play one Sonic game.
Now that you are an artist for Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog series, how do you go about drawing a character to reflect their attitudes and demeanours? Do you have any favourite characters, or characters you get particular pleasure out of drawing?
These days I do mostly colorist work, but I got to tackle almost all of my favorite characters during my drawing tenure. I’d lost track of StH while in high school, and when I came back to it years later Sonic had an all new romantic interest: Mina Mongoose. And I recall thinking “Holy crap is that ballsy… Way to go, Archie!” I mean, I come from the Internet fandom, and know that we can be rather outspoken sometimes… The idea of Sonic dating anyone whose name isn’t “Sally” or “Amy” is practically sacrilege. I got back into the comic big-time because of it, and was thrilled when my very first ish as penciler was re-introducing Mina into continuity after a long, long absence.
Sonic himself is by far the most fun to draw – he’s so pose-able and action-tastic! And even characters I thought I’d severely dislike drawing (Mammoth Mogul) turned into new favorites. I even got to draw Fiona Fox, who I have wa-a-ay too much of a comic-book-crush on. XD The only thing I’d missed was a Scourge brawl – I friggin’ love Scourge. Much to my excitement, I got to finally draw a Sonic/Scourge smackdown in the recent StH#197.
I gotta’ say, I’m not fond at all of drawing Amy, though. =/ And I had a whole issue with her in the spotlight! XP
We all know you are a master of the beard…something to which I relate, and salute. Do you have a name for your “beard style?”
Hah! Alas, I do not. I’ve been bearded since ’05, and ran the gamut from goatee to scruffy lumberjack, to my favorite Gendo Ikari (from Evangelion) beard… Which my future mother-in-law says makes me look Amish. I’ve done Amish-beard with blue-dyed hair, too. (Not intentionally Sonic-inspired… Seriously, it didn’t even occur to me until I was out promoting the comics!)
You’re also involved in other web comics such as Sticky Floors on Snafu; tell us a little about that.
…Haha! Oh man, Sticky Floors... XP
So, when I was just starting out, I’d noticed that web comics seemed to be a booming kinda’ business: A great way to get your name, your style, your work out there and a great way of building a readership and fan-base. Web comics were also getting a great deal of perks at conventions, and I wanted in on that gravy train.
Sticky Floors was a li’l high school comic strip based largely on the personalities of me and my pervy, juvenile, sex-obsessed friends. David Stanworth, owner of the mega web comic-collective Snafu-Comics.com, offered me a free-ride with hosting and promotion and a built-in readership of thousands from the get-go, and the rest was history.
The comedy of authoring a horribly explicit, potty-mouthed raunch-fest like Sticky Floors while simultaneously being employed by the most wholesome, family-friendly comic book publisher in America isn’t lost on me. (I’m actually very tickled by it. Just don’t go spreadin’ that around! ;P) It’s partly been why the strip has fallen by the wayside in the last year: While I’m out-and-about promoting the Sonic books and my work in them, I have to shelf SF and censor its shenanigans. I miss it from time-to-time – I love the format! But it accomplished everything I wanted it to and I’m very proud of that.
We love our music here at TSS – particularly our Sonic music! Visiting your Deviantart account we see you’re a Coheed and Cambria fan (rock on!) – What genres of music particularly inspire you, and do you have any favourite pieces of Sonic-related music from games or TV shows?
Okay, so I’m totally a geek. And I’m proud of that and think I’m in excellent company. =P I have absolutely every single vocal track from Sonic Adventure and (especially) Adventure 2. I love them hard! In addition to video game soundtrack (preferably instrumental stuff from RPGs), I have very varied tastes. I love Reel Big Fish, All American Rejects, and definitely Coheed & Cambria. Anything 80s music, and a lotta’ techno and trance and dance music, too.
Also, musicals. Serious face, I love the hell outta’ them. And, yes, I sing along. And have done so publicly and unapologetically, while sober in fact!
What does a World-class comic artist do in their spare time?
These days, planning a wedding! =D
I’m actually very blessed that my career happens to be doing something that I’d just be doing anytime, anyway, as a hobby or such. So in the time I may not be drawing or Photoshopping, I usually just poke around the Inter-webs. (Wikipedia is awesome, and awesomely time-consuming.)
You’ve just been to the IKKiCon 2009 convention in Austin, Texas – how did that go? We know you’re a Power Rangers fan (aren’t we all?)…did you manage to bump into Jason David Frank?
Haha! Well, since you’ve given me the opportunity, I’d like to properly shout-out to Mike Loredo and his con-staff over at Ikki – they really put on the most amazing show every year and they invite me out and treat us so well and I absolutely love Austin. IkkiCon is one of the best shows I do all year, and this last weekend lived up to the hype.
As for Jason David Frank… Ya’ see, Loredo is as much a Power Rangers fanboy as I am. We grew up with that show – hell, I still have quite a few of the action figures from Mighty Morphin’ on display in my office! So one morning, Loredo drops by my table in Artist Alley, all cool and calm and crap. And he’s like, “So Jason Frank just got here. About to do a signing. Wanna’ meet him?” And I’m thinking: Dude, I just got here. I can’t go stand in a line right now. And he’s all, “No, like, meet him. Before the signing.” Hell yes!
So we get introduced, I give him a big poster of a Power Ranger illustration I’d done especially for the con, and I got my picture taken with him. He’s a totally nice guy! I had such a hardcore fan moment, it was morphinominal! (Yes, I said it. =P) I found out later in the con he wanted some postcard prints of individual Rangers I’d drawn. For his daughter. How friggin’ cool is that?
The convention scene is something you are quite keen on; what do you enjoy about doing conventions? Are you attending any up-and-coming conventions that your fans should put the dates in their diaries for?
Man, I adore conventions. I starting doing ‘em in 2005 – I was a kid, fresh out of high school, no work to my name. There’s a lot I love about the shows – the travel, meeting new and interesting people, seeing old friends I only get to see every couple months. I especially love the interaction with fans and readers! When somebody comes up and is like “Oh man, you do Sonic!” or Sticky Floors. It’s such a high, and I love chatting about how the book is made or my favorite characters or games and stuff. (In case you haven’t noticed, I can ramble on-and-on about this stuff.) When I’m at a con, my goal is to make everyone that stops by the table feel like it was absolutely worth it. I’m there as part of your convention experience, and I take that job very seriously.
Nothing is set in-stone yet about my upcoming calendar, but I will definitely be doing Free Comic Book Day the first Saturday of May. This is an amazing event – we’ll have a special retrospective issue of Sonic up for grabs (It’s free!) as well as free copies of some of the issues my work’s appeared in… And I’ll be doing free sketches! =D All from Laughing Ogre Comics and Toys in Lansdowne, Virginia. (My fellow Sonic creatives will be doing likewise at other stores, too.)
Trying to avoid the generic question…but what are your aims and aspirations for the future?
Keep doing what I’m doing, working with great teams to produce some truly great comic book experiences! I like to work – I’m a full-on work-a-holic – so I’m hoping to see a lot of material produced this year.
Thanks for letting me talk your ears off, guys! =D It was a pleasure.
Big shout out to Matt for the interview! Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for your chance to win yourself a copy of Matt Herm’s Sketch book, complete with a hand-drawn sketch of Sonic by Matt himself!