Zach Howard says to follow your passions instead of the expectations of others. Good advice from the Denver area professional illustrator who did just that. With over 17 years of experience, Howard has worked for Marvel, Disney, DC, Warner Bros., Image, IDW, Boom, Simon & Schuster, and Steve Jackson Games. Zach’s most popular projects are Wild Blue Yonder, Shaun of the Dead, Spiderman, X-Men, GI Joe, The Cape, and Batman. He has been nominated for an Eisner award, multiple Indie awards, and received an Amazon Book of the Month selection for Wild Blue Yonder. In addition to his professional work, Zach is passionate about supporting young artists and has dedicated much of his time to help nurture the next generation of creators.
Howard was a favorite at the recent DINK, the Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo Apr. 8-9, 2017. The second annual art expo had three floors at the beautifully restored McNichols Civic Center Building that brought together impressive and inspiring comic creators and graphic novelists.
Colleen Bement: What inspires you to be a comic book artist/illustrator?
Zach Howard: I’m a comic book artists or illustrator; I don’t really care about the label. I invent stories and I draw them and either co-write or help develop with fellow writers. I create comic books, and nowadays I transfer them to other media. Movies, TV, video games, phone apps; things like that.
CB: So you’ve been doing this for 17 years. Have you done graphic novels or zines?
ZH: I started out doing gaming manuals because I couldn’t get hired in comic books. I just drew everything under the sun for gaming manuals for Steve Jackson Games. They got the rights, this is very early on in Hellboy before it got super popular, and they were looking to expand the IP, and Mignola chose me out of the artists under their stable to draw the comic book that went in the game resource manual (let me add that there were many to choose from), then after that, I did two image series and then I did Batman and then back to indie, so it was a weird way in, but most people have a weird way in this industry.
CB: What was that like?
ZH: Serendipity happens. However, you gotta be prepared for serendipity, otherwise, there’s nothing to be had, because you can’t perform when it comes around.
CB: Great quote!
ZH: A little wordy: It wouldn’t fit on a shirt!
People seem to enjoy thinking “I deserve this. I deserve that.” I get it – humans need to pad their egos so they can keep on keeping on. However, no one deserves anything. You have work. These same knuckleheads will then tell me, “You did an X-Men cover; you’re so lucky.” What luck? I spent years in an isolated life while working more than full-time to “make it.” I’ve spent countless hours working on my skill set to be able to perform at whatever level I’m at. Hard work is 95% of it – to capitalize on serendipity you have to earn it. But for the sake of their egos and apathy, people like to rely on luck; that’s like buying a lottery ticket for your retirement. You got to perform and opportunities happen. It doesn’t matter what field.
CB: Do you have one of your pieces of work that really stands out as a favorite?
ZH: Wild Blue Yonder. My most popular book is The Cape by Joe Hill, but Shaun of the Dead is where I really got on people’s radar. That was right after quitting Batman when everybody said I was ruining my career, so they can all eat dicks!
CB: Do you have a favorite superhero?
ZH: Yeah, The Hulk. When I was a child, I can identify with the small puny little turd that wishes he could turn into a monster and fight. That was my childhood, so I always have identified with The Hulk. It turns out that superheroes just work my shtick. They left me so unhappy and unfulfilled to produce. I worked so hard to get to a Batman title, I finally got to draw Batman, and when I got there, and I was like “So now what?” I was unhappy, and I didn’t like most people was working with, or respect them, so that’s was tough to swallow. However, it’s moments like that that tests the mettle of person. Put that mirror to your face and figure out who you really are. What really makes you happy. Following your passions instead of the expectations of others. Putting in the work to succeed rather than looking for fortune in the footsteps of others.