Haunt of Horror Comics: First off tell us a little bit about yourself: Where you from? What other projects have you worked on? All that cool stuff that you would put in the “About” section of your website to prove that you are who you say you are.
PH: First off, thanks for having me! Well, I’m a Colorado native, born in Boulder and grew up in Longmont. Went to school at Colorado State University in Ft Collins, majoring in Fine Art, concentration in drawing (not the most financially lucrative move). I moved to Texas once for about six months, but after I saw the size of the roaches, I came right back! I’m currently living in Northglenn with my wife and son. I’ve got a day job…gotta pay the bills…so I pretty much have to draw in my spare time, which is after my son goes to bed, late into the night!
Over the years, I wasn’t always about drawing comic books, though, and used to do commissioned fine art pieces for awhile. One day, back in 2005, I made a decision to draw a comic book with a good friend of mine (he wrote the story), and that just sparked it in me. Since then, I’m mostly worked on The Outdoorman, first as a webcomic and now in it’s digital comic form. Recently, I just launched another title on my website blazeorangestudio.comentitled Son of Ymir; it’s a viking/fantasy book. In addition to my own comic work, I’m part of a draw blog of local comic artists; it’s called the Timberline Draw Blog, and we pick a weekly topic for everyone the blog to draw. It’s a lot of fun!
HHC: What are some of the influences on your art?
PH: My influences are pretty diverse. From back in my college and fine art days, I was always attracted to artists with loose lines with lots of kinetic energy; artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Goya, and Klimt played a big part in my style and works. I was always more into drawing (chalk, charcoal, pen/ink, pastel) then I was into painting. Definitely drawn to the black & white. Interestingly enough, when it came to my illustration and comic book influences, it was completely the opposite. My biggest comic influence would have to be Mike Mignola; his use of line and large black shapes to create depth…amazing. I even aped his style initially; glad I stopped doing that! Other influences would be Sergio Aragones and Stan Sakai…Groo was the first comic I had as a kid, and once I found Usagi Yojimbo, I was sold. Amazing cartoonists. And all three of these guys are huge with black & white. There is one influence who I think ties both my illustration and fine art tendencies together, and I would say he’s probably more of an influence for me currently then anyone else, and that would be Guy Davis. I first saw his stuff on BPRD, and then later on his own original series The Marquis. An amazing illustrator…his fast and kinetic style seem to bring what I love in fine art together with what I love in comics!
HHC: What about writing style?
PH: Writing style? Heh, I don’t know that I have one. Writing is sort of second fiddle to me in my process, honestly. I’m jealous for those guys who can whip up a description of a scene and wonderful dialogue…I really don’t think that’s me. I most think of my stories in the visual; like scenes from a movie. I do write a script, but it’s more to remind me of the visual that I thought up. But I will say that I’m working on it. I want to be a better writer. I’ve got plans for a pretty large, ambitious Outdoorsman story, as well as one for my other comic series, Son of Ymir. I’m taking my time, working on outlines and research, trying to remember all those lessons from English class back in high school and college! Time will tell if I can pull it off.
HHC: Ok so “The Outdoorsman: Bon Appetit: was one of the best dollars I ever spent. What was the inspiration behind the Outdoorsman?
PH: Thanks for that! Well, The Outdoorsman ultimately started as a desire to draw a monster comic. I wanted to draw monsters, and was loving Hellboy at the time (still do), but I definitely wanted to take my creation in a different direction. Didn’t want it to look like a Hellboy ripoff. So I thought about the different angles, and a thought popped into my head…what if instead of super powers, or big muscles, it was a regular guy fighting monsters. Hunting them. And then I thought of my dad.
My dad is a big hunter and fisherman; an outdoorsman. I grew up hunting with him, and have always looked up to him…and it just made sense. A completely different angle! The Outdoorsman is basically my dad hunting monsters, just like he would a deer or antelope. I bring some of his personality to the character, and some of my own. The character also looks like my dad. The fact that he’s an older guy also brings a little something extra…not necessarily the normal hero archetype.
HHC: Does he have a name? Back story?
PH: He does share my dad’s name…at least first name. That’s revealed in the next story I’m working on, entitled “Boxenwolves”. I’m slowly revealing things about the character, but only as they’re needed for the story. I’m not a big fan of just coming out with an “origin story”; I prefer to get to know characters through their adventures, and get more information as I go. Just like meeting someone in real life. Part of the enjoyment for me is the exploration…if you know everything about the guy right up front, how fun is it to follow him along? So basically, I’m slowly revealing pieces of this character. One day, maybe I’ll get to an origin story…but maybe not.
HHC: What is with the spike jacket? Why does it kill the vampire who clearly just wanted to give the Ourdoorsman a hug?
PH: One of the things I wanted to bring to my monster hunting story is fun ways to dispose of the beasties. Not only does it let me introduce fun pieces of mythology, like the vampires counting rice, but it gives this hunter the edge in his fight. He doesn’t have super powers, he’s not the youngest guy around, so it’s his smarts and experience that give him the edge. Gadgets!
With the jacket, I was just thinking practically about the scene…what if a vampire snuck up behind him? Thought of it like diver’s swimming with sharks wearing chain mail. Vampire wants to snuggle? Impaled on spikes! Gotta make this more than just high-powered firearms blowing up monsters, right?
HHC: In your bio it talks about Angry Commuter Comics and how they have the adventures of The Outdoorsman in there, where would I go to find those? Because I couldn’t and I really want to read them!
PH: So Angry Commuter Comics was the label I started the Outdoorsman on…ultimately it was the name a few small print runs of the Bon Appetit story, as well as a trade paperback of the collected stories at the time. It was also the website where I featured the Outdoorsman stories in webcomic form. Up until late 2011, early 2012, you could read all the stories I had draw up to that point…5 of them…on the web. However, it was at that time I was taking a serious look at my art, and doing webcomics in general. The weekly page posting was becoming a grind, and I found myself rushing through pages just to get them up. Add to that fact that I was ultimately seeing zero revenue from the whole thing, I really felt a change was needed. I’d really like to draw comics full time, for a living, and what I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere in that direction. Plus I felt burnout, and my art wasn’t really up to snuff…or at least to my own standards.
So I decided to go ahead change my model. Get away from weekly webcomic postings, and give myself some time to really draw things out, and rework stories. To start my new direction, I felt that digital comics was a good start, with small print runs to follow. I also really wanted to go back and fix all the things I didn’t like about the early stories; I was just learning how to draw comics…how to write a story even. With The Outdoorsman: Bon Appetit, I went back, and redrew the story, and fixed a few points, made it flow better. Now I’m on to the second story, entitled Boxenwolves, doing the same thing. My goal is to redraw each of the first five Outdoorsman stories, publish as digital first, and then print. Then I’ll move onto the next group of brand new stories…already have two written! Of course all this is happening under my new brand, Blaze Orange Studio (blazeorangestudio.com).
Long story short, all of those stories originally on the web under Angry Commuter Comics are now locked away…but being redrawn and rewritten, much better than before!
HHC: If he is a monster hunter what monster are you the most looking forward to having him hunt?
PH: I wish I had an answer to this question…so far, in the webcomic stories, he’s hunted vampires, werewolves, chupacabras, a kappa, and Krampus (the anti-Santa Claus…google it!). I’ve got a few other beasties that I have planned out (don’t want to mention just yet). So I honestly don’t know. All of them? Is that a good answer?
Really, I don’t know that there’s one I look forward to most, I just look forward to the creation of the story…so the hunt is more important then the prey I guess!
HHC: I love black and white horror comics. Was there a specific reason that you went with B&W for The Outdoorsman?
PH: I’m with you there! Love those old Eerie and Creepy comics. My reasons were two-fold: skill, and aesthetic. By skill, I mean I’m really better at B&W then color. I’m always working on my coloring, but at the end of the day, I feel my black and white is just superior. And since I’m doing this all myself, I want to bring the best visual I can. By aesthetics I basically mean the underground feel of black & white, and touching back to those old horror comics. Black and white almost feels like it’s something that isn’t main stream, something you shouldn’t be reading. That’s how I feel about it, at least.
HHC: Have you thought of The Outdoorsman in color ever? Or would you prefer to keep it B&W?
PH: I’ve definitely thought about it being in color! If the right colorist came along, (and I had the money to pay him/her) or if my skills were up to the task, I could see it happening. Maybe in a big fancy collected edition. But I still like it in B&W…kinda feels right.
HHC: A fat vampire? Where did that idea come from? Is he fat because the people he eats are fat? Is it a vague commentary on the American obesity problem?
PH: I wish it was as deep as a social commentary statement! Really, the idea came from one of the actual scientific reasons that is currently believed to be the origin of the vampire myth. During decomposition, back before the practice of embalming, the corpse would swell and the skin would turn a ruddy color, looking almost flush. People believed that this was due to the fact that the deceased had risen during the night and fed on the blood of the living…now of course we know better. So Bon Appetit’s size was mainly do to that bit of fact behind the myth. I also liked the idea of him being like a tick…drinking, consuming, until he bursts!
And of course, I wanted a vampire to look and act as much to the opposite of those emo teenage sparkly “vampires”! Vampires aren’t supposed to be romantic…they’re undead. So maybe it was a social commentary of sorts after all? 😉
HHC: What is next on The Outdoorsman’s radar? I have seen some sketches of what look like werewolves.
PH: You’re right, werewolves it is! I’ve already started working on the redrawing of the second Outdoorsman adventure: Boxenwolves! All I can say at this point is that it’s a werewolf hunting trip in the Black Forest of Germany; those that have followed the Outdoorsman as a webstrip know this adventure already, but i’m taking it from the original 18 pages to a full 24. I’m also doing this book completely digital; using Manga Studio and Photoshop exclusively. Something I haven’t done before, and the results are looking pretty good!
HHC: I read that The Outdoorsman is based on your father, and that you will be making your mom the “head of operations” for what I assume is his job. Is it fun to use them as characters, and do they kind of get a kick out of it too?
PH: It is fun! Honestly, it’s kind of appropriate as well. I inherited my drawing ability from my dad, and our time hunting as I grew up obviously was a huge part of the character I created. My mom on the other hand, introduced me to pretty much everything I love. She bought me my first comic (Groo I believe), we watched Dr. Who and Star Trek together, and she got me reading classic literature by the likes of Homer, Bram Stoker, and Alexander Dumas. So alot of what I do creatively comes from them.
I do have plans to introduce a character based on my mom later on, when it’s appropriate. She’s a college professor, so I thought the character could be the researcher, the monster expert, feeding info to The Outdoorsman in the field. But that’s a ways off for now.
HHC: When can we expect a new issue? Because I want to read that real bad.
PH: That’s great to hear! I’m hoping to have it done by the fall, and released in digital format on blazeorangestudio.com just like Bon Appetit is now. I’ll keep everyone interested up on my blog, or the Outdoorsman facebook page.
HHC: Though not a horror comic, tell us a little more about Son of Yamir:
PH: Son of Ymir is something that started as my attempt at 24 Hour Comic Day; that’s the day when artists all over try and draw a full 24 page comic book in 24 hours. Let me tell you, it was pretty brutal! I didn’t quite make it….had 24 pages written and pencilled, and 13 (i think) inked by about 4 in the morning when I called it quits. But I liked the story so much, I went ahead and finished the inks, did some monochrome color, and made it a digital comic!
When I came up with the idea, it was as simple as ‘I want to draw a viking comic!’ I just tapped into all the Norse mythology I read growing up, and made 24 pages of hammer-wielding action!
People have really enjoyed it, so I’ve already started writing a much larger epic for the character, playing around with everything I love in Norse myth. If you like vikings or a good action romp, I’d recommend checking it out.
HHC: Anything else in the works that will amaze us?
PH: Right now, I’m just focusing on reworking the original Outdoorsman stories, and writing my Son of Ymir epic. And since I have a full time job in addition to trying and draw all these comics, that’s plenty. 🙂 I do, however, participate in a draw blog called the Timberline Draw Blog (timberlinedraw.blogspot.com), where each week a group of us local Colorado artist pick a new topic and do sketches. It’s pretty fun, and totally free to check out!
HHC: Any last words?
PH: to say thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and I’m glad you liked The Outdoorsman: Bon Appetit! And if anyone wants to stop by and see me for a sketch or hard copy of my books, I’ll be at ComicFest (part of StarFest) in Denver April 19 – 20, and Denver Comic Con May 31 – June 2.