Monday, October 6, 2014

Nothing Happened Today: An Interview w/ Illustrator Ed Harrington

Illustrator Ed Harrington is my hero. His snarky, single panel comics lampoon pop culture in a way that would make even The Far Side's Gary Larson green with envy. More importantly, they pretty much never fail to make me laugh. And, I am not the only one. Aside from his numerous national awards, Ed Harrington's work is being featured by the likes of Rachel Maddow, Buzzfeed, The Nerdist, and more. Check out The Onion's AV Club feature on his Ikea Instructions series, in which he shows you the tools needed to assemble your own horror movie monsters.

I looked and looked for any kind of bio info on Ed online. When I found none, I emailed him asking what gives. This was his reply:
Yeah -- I actually don't have much of an online presence. I'm not on Facebook and never had a MySpace! I live in Richmond, Va and am the Art Director for the local alt-weekly paper, Style Weekly, in which my comic strip appears. BTW -- It's called "The HR Department." I moved to Richmond in 1993 to go to art school (Virginia Commonwealth University), where I majored in Illustration and Graphic Design. Basically, I've been drawing comics my entire life.  I have binders full of all the rejection letters that I received from comic-strip syndicates. I loved getting them in the mail! There was a definite scale to them - from the standard form letter saying "no" all the way up to a hand-written note from the president of the company giving me advice on what to tweak. Once the internet became a thing, I switched over to web-comics and stopped submitting to syndicates. As far as my comics now, I think having that commercial-art design/illustration background has shaped my style. I try to draw things the way a robot would draw them -- simple, clear, concise, and use as few words (if any) to get an idea across. Plus, i spend way too much time watching TV and movies (Or as I call it, "Monitoring the Culture), so of course pop-culture is going to be my main subject matter. 
Aside from The HR Department, Ed and his girlfriend adopted a stray kitten a couple of years ago. They began to notice that he was an exceptionally animated dreamer. So, they stared a Tumblr called Milo Dreams of Adventure in which a sleeping, stretched out Milo battles Godzilla, poses for Jack on the couch aboard the Titanic, fights Agent Smith in The Matrix, and is superimposed in pretty much every other fantastical dream scenario one could imagine.

Ed Harrington was kind enough to put his drawing pad down long enough to grant me an interview! You will see he has an alarming love of 80s culture! After reading below, if you would like to delve even deeper into the world of Ed Harrington, check out his Tumblr, Instagram, and Website!

Q: I have spent hours going through your Tumblr, mostly because I was laughing uncontrollably. I am in awe of your ability to utilize pop culture icons from virtually every decade. What is the most obscure reference you have drawn that just completely went over people’s heads?
Ed: Not an obscure pop-culture reference, but a basic math one. I drew a comic where Optimus Prime couldn't figure out the next non-prime number in a sequence. That comic flopped. Learned my lesson - no more math comics. Or that idea just wasn't funny. My old web-comic, "Nothing Happened Today," had the characters on the show "Mantracker." This gameshow was about this Canadian Cowboy/tracker who would hunt down contestants in the woods of Canada. Basically, you had 36 hours to get to a certain pick-up point before Mantracker caught you. It was the best show ever. He would look at a broken blade of grass and could tell which direction you were going and how far along you were. Plus, nobody used his real name -- they would say things like "Shhhh! There's Mantracker!" Apparently, I'm the only person who watched the show.

Q: You frequently bring up 80s bands. IE: Twisted Sister, Joy Division, A-Ha, Misfits, The Residents. Are you trying to tell us something?
Ed: Ahhhh -- I love the 80's and 90's. I'm 39, so basically the music nodes in my brain were formed during those decades. I honestly don't think that I own an album by anyone younger than me. Plus, who's more fun to draw -- Dee Snider or Chris Daughtry?

Q: Just out of curiosity, what did poor little Susie Derkins ever do to you to deserve being turned into a psychopathic killer ala American Mary?
Ed: Ha! First -- American Mary is a sympathetic character and the hero of that film. Also, I'm a huge fan of the horror/thriller genre, and "American Mary" was the first actually good thriller that I had seen in a long time. Just wanted to draw a fun fan art in the Bill Watterson style. Gotta say, his drawing style is tougher than it looks! Every line has to be bold and confident -- done in one stroke without fussing around. The man is a master!

Q: Have you received a Cease and Desist or any type of invoice from Milo’s attorney about using his likeness in all of these fictitious so called "adventures?"
Ed: Fictitious? I spent hours training that cat to hold up that boombox like Lloyd Dobler!

Q: Roller skates. Gift wrap. Tacky decals. Is there anything you won’t do to an AT-AT?
Ed: I've even stripped an AT-ST off all it's "meat" so we could see it's bones. If it's funny, I'll torture an AT-AT. They're on the wrong side of the rebellion, no sympathy from me.

Q: When stalking you online, I ran across this YouTube video. Did you even know this existed?!
Ed: That is AMAZING! My girlfriend is going to be mad at you -- this is going to be playing constantly.

Here's a fun video of me lighting the Viking-funeral pyre of Oderus Urungus with a flaming arrow at the Gwar memorial this summer. Several thousand people watching, no pressure, right?

Q: You draw a lot of superhero stuff. What comics/graphic novels stick with you from when you were a teen?
Ed: I was a huge X-Men and Batman fan as a teen (Jim Lee and Frank Miller were my idols). Plus, I really enjoyed what Dark Horse Comics was putting out back then -- Sin City was visually groundbreaking! Plus, their foreign imprint "Cheval Noir" gave me a glimpse into drawing/storytelling styles from around the world. "The Dark Knight Returns" is still the best graphic novel ever written in my opinion and is the reason why I stopped collecting comics. Everything I read after that just seemed "Blah."

April, 1940: Dick Grayson’s first day on the job as Robin.

Q: What comics/graphic novels/artists are you currently following?
Ed: I'm not actively reading comics anymore, but i'm still following comic-book artists for their art. Frank Cho, Chris Samnee, Phil Noto, Adam Hughes, JH Williams III are a few of my many favorites.

Q: Who do you think you have drawn more? Jason Vorhees or Alien(s)?
Ed: Definitely the Xenomorphs. That world is so much fun to draw. And of course, have always been a huge HR Giger fan.

Q: Who would win in a fight? Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything or that bully Johnny from The Karate Kid?
Ed: Johnny. Cobra Kai all the way!

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