Illustrator Roly Wood recently moved to Waterloo from Calgary and brought the Sunday comics with him. Roly has been the illustrator of the long-running, syndicated comic strip Herman since 2010, which appears in newspapers across Canada and the USA.
The Herman comic, created by Jim Unger, was a massive hit in the 1980s, generating numerous book collections, commonly received for Christmas gifts. Roly started to illustrate the comic before Unger died, working with him to carry on his humorous legacy. “There is something universal about the comic that appeals to audiences,” says Roly. “It’s updated to reflect contemporary sensibilities – struggles with smart phones and information overload, for example – but something at its core still resonates for our readers after all this time.”
Roly works on the comic with writer David Waisglass, who lives in Ottawa. Interestingly, he never met Jim Unger nor has he met the comic writer – just email and phone calls have connected them. Illustration is clearly a profession that can be done from anywhere.
When Roly picked up the Herman gig, he was quickly able to replicate the character design and distinctive line work of Herman, with high praise from Unger, who said Roly might even draw Herman better than he did. The trickiest part for Roly was the composition – how to have the panels flow into each other smoothly. “Something simple like where to place the speech balloon to make sure the images don’t interfere with the joke took a lot of time to get right,” he says.
He believes that comic illustration is most successful when the little details are given careful attention. “To communicate an idea effectively, I have to zone in on the details,” Roly says. “Something as simple as a character holding an object in his or her hand has to be done very well to draw the reader in, so they can bring their experiences into the comic, to make the whole thing work.”
In addition to Herman, Roly also does freelance design and was recently involved in the Mary Allen Studio Tour, which he thought was a terrific introduction to the arts community in his new city. Welcome to Waterloo, Roly.
P.S. Roly’s favourite topic of conversation: The Simpsons.