Dave Howlett is a local writer/comic artist and manages Strange Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s been a member of the E3C since its early-days, and agreed to meet with me to chat about the stuff he’s into.
Hey Dave! Thanks for agreeing to be part of our E3C Interviews. I’d like to ask you a few questions so that people can get to know the kind of folk who turn up at our events and what they work on. With that said, let’s get this one out there: Looking at your more recent body of work, you appear to enjoy bold black inks and heavy line-shading. Your style blends well with the comics medium – which you obviously enjoy! Has this style grown strictly from your love of comics, or have other artists in other mediums inspired you?
Mostly comics, yeah, but I’m also pretty into movie poster illustration–anything from about the 1960s to the late 1980s is my jam. Drew Struzan, Bob Peak, John Alvin, Richard Amsel–those guys, man. They had such a great sense of layout and design that can really be studied and applied to any illustrated medium. I consciously tried to apply Struzan’s approach to the layouts of a few of the covers I did for SLAM-A-RAMA, which was my classic WWF homage series (I wouldn’t say I succeeded exactly, but it was good to have Struzan in the mix). I tend to be pretty generally a movie nut, and I think the mediums of comics & movies have a lot in common, which is why they feed into each other so often. Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, Sergio Leone…I’m always studying those guys and how they did what they did, hoping to somehow replicate it (on the comics page, most likely). Steven Spielberg is a pretty obvious touchstone, too, but with good reason. How many of us can say we directed JAWS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, after all? I sure know I can’t!
Mostly I just looked for weird patterns in the way I draw or lay out certain things, which seems morbidly self-curious, but it’s also a good exercise to help you shake things up a bit.
Relating to comics, RULE OF THUMB, your latest drawing project, is a three-page comic about your time as a hitchhiker. It seemed to come together fairly quickly for you, what got you excited about this story?
My girlfriend Hillary proposed an event called “Creative Action Weekend”, where if you had an itch to make a thing but hadn’t found time to do it yet, you (ideally) start and finish it that weekend. I cheated a bit–I did the layouts on Tuesday, a bit of the first page on Thursday, but the bulk of it was a Friday-to-Sunday deal. Mostly I was under the gun to crank something out so I could say I took part, and a couple of strung-together anecdotes about hitchhiking seemed like a fun idea. Which is not an endorsement of hitchhiking by the way–I survived, obviously, but I still wouldn’t really advise it. May I recommend public transit instead?
Did you learn anything interesting about your own process while working on RULE OF THUMB? Or do you feel like it came naturally enough?
Mostly I just looked for weird patterns in the way I draw or lay out certain things, which seems morbidly self-curious, but it’s also a good exercise to help you shake things up a bit. I find it healthy to try and identify stuff I repeat habitually, and resolve to try and weed it out or at least try to do things differently. When the process gets TOO natural, that’s when I start to worry that I’m not trying enough new things. For instance, I realized all three pages had almost the exact same panel layout, but I was under the gun time-wise and I didn’t have much time to rethink it. But I want to make sure I break that pattern in future, you know?
You’ve mentioned in the past that you prefer digitally lettering your comics, as opposed to by hand. What made you take on the challenge of hand-lettering this one, and do you feel any better or worse about it?
I used to be such a purist about that stuff–I always thought hand-lettering looked so much better, and digital lettering was so cold and heartless. But honestly, hand-lettering this one reminded me why I gave it up–it’s harder on the hands, you go through way more pens, and it’s a pain in the ass to fix it if you make a mistake. Digital gives you so many more options to choose from. But, every once in awhile it’s good to go back to basics: after all, if we rely on the machines too much, then Skynet wins.
We’ve seen your stuff pop up at the Creative Pub before, you do a lot of drawing! What got you coming to E3C events, and what keeps you coming back?
I think it was probably James White that told me about it first? I was pretty into the idea of hanging around with a bunch of creative types, and the fact that booze was involved helped seal the deal. I keep coming back because a) I have a lot of friends who are regulars, but more importantly, b) it’s important to surround yourself with creative folks, because they hopefully will challenge and inspire you. Plus, any excuse to hang out at the Foggy Goggle, right?
Is there an event you like the most?
Mostly the monthly meet-ups I think, just because I like to catch up with everyone and hear what they’re working on. I’d like to be a more regular presence at the Drink N’ Draw [Creative Pub] though, but I often feel like I’m not spontaneously creative enough to get much out of it. Which is exactly why I SHOULD be going!
Lastly – what’s your next project? Anything you’d like to tell us about, or that you’d like to bring and show us?
I’m doing the art for a comic that a couple of buddies of mine, Sean Jordan and Alex Kennedy, have written, called THE LAST PAPER-ROUTE–sort of a semiautobiographical humour comic about their days as paper carriers. We’re hoping to have the first issue out for this summer. I’m also toying with the idea of either doing more autobio comics like RULE OF THUMB, as well as a fairly ambitious action/horror story that’s basically a big homage to the slasher movies I grew up with–all those guys who kept coming back for sequel after sequel. I have a weird idea that grows out of that, but I don’t know how to end it yet. But maybe that’s a good reason to just get started–I’ll find out the same way everyone else does, I guess!