Twice a month, we talk to a different Philly comic artist or writer about how they got here, what they love and hate about the Philly comics scene, and what it's like to work in comics!
Today, we're talking to Asher Humm:
From what I understand, for a lot of people, Philly is a stop on the way to New York, or Atlanta, or wherever. And you have stayed in the area. Is there a particular reason why?
Well initially, it was cause my parents were here and I was young. They moved to South Carolina, where we came from. I came back to Pennsylvania because of family. Family brought me back and keeps me here.
Are you working on comics as your main source of income? If so or if not, do you feel like Philadelphia has provided you with a good base for doing that?
Initially no, Philly did not support me. I had to find a job. Growing up in the area, my love of comics began here. Two friends that I met at church introduced me to comics. It’s funny, too - these two kids, they studied more than other people would study a comic at that age. They would look at the credits page of a comic book and go, “Oh, that’s the letterist. That’s the colorist. Look at the editor.” They paid attention to every bit of info. I was like, “Oh, it wasn’t just an artist. I guess I should pay more attention to those things.” I give them credit for giving me the love [for comics] and the eye to look for more. One became a painter and the other is a poet and illustrator. They moved away from comics eventually.
My parents are very artistic. My dad’s a musician. My mom can draw, and my dad does photography. My sister became a musician, and she’s incredibly talented. But they didn’t really see my focus. It wasn’t the plan. I met those two twins who got me into comics, and they [my parents] would go, “Oh, that’s a fad.” All through high school, and after high school, I was working with jobs, trying to make my own comics. Until finally, I was like, “I don’t want to go to college unless I can go for comics. Somewhere around here teaches comics, or I’m not gonna go to college.” My dad found a school in Georgia, so I moved down there. I got a degree in comics. And now I have a lot of huge bills to pay, haha. But it was experience that I’d never change, and I grew as an artist because of it, and kept on growing because of it.
The great thing was, when I left for Georgia, it was what - Wizard World? And that was it. There wasn’t anything at the time. And when I came back, Shawn started Xion, and there's the Black Artists Convention, and all these things started popping up all over the place. All these things started sparking in Philadelphia. JG Jones now lives in Philly. You heard of Mighty Writers? I taught for them. I love them. Philadelphia is becoming a mecca for comics. But, you know…Portland, Seattle, LA, New York - those are the big comic book spots. You have a better chance of getting a job if you move out there.
Because of the college I went to, I have been able to meet other artists. I get a connection there. Sometimes the industry can be depressing, because the ones that have been in it for a while, they get embittered. But I’ll never give it up. I’m more focused than I was in high school. In high school I didn’t know how well I should make an effort. Now, I do. At the time, I was, “Oh, I have to work with a writer, I have to work with somebody else, I can’t do it.” You get to the point where nobody’s doing it for you. I had a bunch of a ideas, and I just started working on my own. So now, my current situation is working on a graphic novel.
It’s a collection of a bunch of short stories that I came up with over the years. Some are from 10th grade, 11th grade, that I wrote in class. But I’ve kept them around. It’s one of those things I had on the computer, that should’ve been lost, but every time I’d get a new computer and transfer the files, that stayed around for some reason.
It wants to stick around!
Yea, I mean I like the stories!
Well congrats on almost being done.
Yea, it’s gettin’ there! Would I do better in another city? Possibly…but it’s also, like…people who go to New York, go to LA to get seriously into an acting business. You just put yourself into groups of people doing exactly the same thing, so how are you gonna stand out? Here in Philadelphia, it’s a growing industry. It’s not a growing mainstream.
It’s all indie.
Right. This is the city of Robert Crumb. You know? I was doing research, and that Philadelphia art college, up by Rittenhouse…way before Jack Kirby, one graduate of that college got a job in comics. This guy invented Black Knight. Still referenced in Marvel Comics today. He said he could’ve surpassed Jack Kirby in quality of work. He tragically died, trying to catch his portfolio that flew out the subway window.
I feel like that’s how I would die.
Married, just had a kid, and got hit by a train.
But - Philadelphia native. His creation still lives on. We have roots here, not just in New York. I think Philadelphia’s doing a great job. I love what I see around here.
It seems like you have a feeling that the comics community here is pretty solid. Did you join any comic makers groups, or did you feel things out and somebody introduced to you to someone else, and you found people that way?
I kind of felt things out. I connect myself with a lot of people. Knowing people that draw, and Shawn - through going to Xion - that sort of thing. There are a lot of groups, and they’re all kind of niche. One thing that Locust Moon tried to help out with, was the connections group. But then they started looking into bigger names, and now they’re into more publishing. There’s so many groups.
A lot of the vibe that I get from a good amount Philly creatives is that it’s a competition. You’re trying to beat people out for jobs or gigs or whatever, instead of looking at it as a really big community that can help each other out.
Any kind of entertainment industry, you’re fighting for the position with your friends, but I think with comics more than anything else, your work is teamwork. You can’t do it by yourself. You can, but it’s incredibly stressful, it’s time consuming, it’s hard, and you might not get as good of a book to sell. It’s a buddy system. If [someone] turns down a job - we all have to look and go, “My tight schedule is this. I can’t manage that.” So we have to know somebody. Cause that’s how a lot of us get jobs. If you pass a job on to somebody else, they might just keep you on their rolodex to pass you along to the next person if they can’t work. Or, “I have a book and need someone to help me out. Do you want to help me out with my book?” This is the one industry where that is the biggest. More than anything else. Music industry, you have bands. Movie industry is all over the place. Comics is, like, it’s friends passing on work. Figuring out how to do jobs. I would love the comics people to show the rest of the world how it’s done.
Do you have any projects you want to people to check out?
I’m hoping to have the graphic novel done next year (2018). I do need colorists, so if people are talented colorists, that want to help out with my book…I pay, but low. I don’t have good money, but I am picky, too. It’s the worst combination of low budget/high standards, haha. But variety of style! I’m not just looking for normal coloring. I mean, I have a colorist at my job - look her up. Jessica Trevino, she goes by @StirvinoLady on Twitter. Great work! Great color work. So if someone wants to offer, I have a bunch of stories that need color. The book is called “Lethophobia” - it’s the fear of oblivion.
It’s 113-or-so page book. I’m doing everything else - lettering…I even created my own font. The only thing I’m not doing is colors. I don’t want to see my work on something I’m not going to be proud of. So I’d rather have someone who’s better at it, faster at it. You know. I’m trying to get this book out in the next year, trying to get a Kickstarter to pay for it. I want to try to get a publisher interested in it. I don’t wanna do a publisher without a few pages. I want each colorist to do a page or a few pages, and then submit it to a publisher, like, “This is my team. This is what I’m doing,” so they know what they’re getting themselves into. I feel great about the project. I feel it’s really well done, and I’m hoping to get a publisher to feel the same.
I’m also writing another series. That’s in early stages, but it’s based off a character from the graphic novel.
That’s a lot of work.
Yea, that’s the creative life, ya know?
Well thank you for talking to me about your comics life in Philly.
After being attacked by a billy goat at a young age, Jaz decided that leaving her Detroit, MI home was for the best. She moved to Philadelphia, PA, where she received her BFA in Animation from The University of The Arts. She currently works in the tri-state area as a sequential artist, occasional animator, and tea enthusiast. She has yet to be attacked by another goat.