So there’s this guy named Todd Harris who draws all the pretty pictures for the Hero’s Guide books (and the ones you see plastered all over the wallpaper of this site). Since I wrote those books (and used his artwork all over my site), I figured I should talk to him. Here’s the conversation. (Read to the end for a peek at some awesome unused art from Storming the Castle!)
ME: So, Todd, let me start off with a thank you for creating such awesome depictions of my characters for the Hero’s Guide trilogy. More often than not, you’ve nailed the images I’ve had in my head as I wrote. I’ve always been curious as to how much you use the text when creating your character designs. What kind of specific cues you take from the text?
TODD: I rely on the text completely in the initial phases, all in an effort of trying to understand the personality. Once I feel like I understand that, I’ll try to add little things that bring the character to life and compliment the story. Everything I draw flows from the personality of the character and the situation he’s in. I’ll even draw sad or happy hair depending on the scene! With good stories (like Hero’s), there are unique characters and each character gets a unique shape language. For instance, Frederick is kind of a wimp (at least at the beginning of the series), and his waist is smaller than Gustav’s wrist!
ME: Quite true! You throw in plenty of artistic elements that are completely the products of your own imagination—nothing in the text about them whatsoever. And some are just so darn perfect that I’ve added them into the text afterwards, like Duncan’s neck ruff. Tell me about some more of those little Todd Harris additions (whether they were incorporated into the text or not).
TODD: I always want to give the characters something visual that will make them instantly recognizable and visually iconic. A well-written character will always have some room to add to his personality in a visual way. I like to think about what each character would be wearing, why they’d be wearing it. It is fun to explore the personality of the characters and come up with some of their backstories that aren’t told in the stories. I do worry sometimes that I’ve gone too far and that some of my ideas will get the ax. I’m flattered that most of them were approved. It’s so fun working with a team that will allow me to just get really creative. It’s why the project has been such a treat for me!
ME: Besides the books themselves, what else have you used as inspiration while creating these illustrations? I know that the cover image for Storming the Castle had both rock album cover art and classic French oil painting among its inspirations.
TODD: These books fit very comfortably into my interests and range of imagination. I actually didn’t have to do much research, but when I did, it was just to make sure things like clothing, the pirate ship, etc were correct for the time period. I did tour some old sailing ships in the San Diego harbor for book three. It’s things like this that really make me really love my job!
ME: I toured some old sailing ships before writing book three, too! Though the ones I scouted were in Mystic, Connecticut. Mystic is a very cool name for a place, isn’t it? I like boats. Anyway, moving on, who are your favorite Hero’s Guide characters to draw and why? And are there any characters you grew to like more as the series went along?
TODD: Of course the four princes and Ella. Lila was fun because she went from a skinny little pampered princess to a dangerous ninja chick! I felt like I had a personal connection with all of Duncan’s family; it was almost like visiting my own family reunion! In case anyone missed it, there is always a goofy animal in any scene with Duncan. He’s also almost always distracted while the story is happening to everyone else (according to my wife, I am this way too). The Stumpy Boarhound patrons were a blast. You have a great way of creating unique people and creatures. It was fun to create the visuals for your imaginative ideas!
ME: Aw, shucks. You’re too kind. Surely I must have goofed up somewhere. Having read all three books, are there any characters that appeared in the stories that you never got a chance to draw, but wish you had? Who did I make a big mistake with by not depicting for the readers?
TODD: The scorpiogre! Besides the scorpiogre helmet that Rundark wears, there was never a chance to show this awesome creature. I had to sketch the full creature out to figure out what the helmet would look like, so I have the drawing. Is it too late to throw it in?!!
ME: Too late to get it into the book, maybe. But not too late to show it to the readers right here. So, without further ado, let me introduce you all to… The Scorpiogre!