GU Comics Day: Shining a spotlight on: Der-shing Helmer

Manga Math #4 The Kung Fu Puzzle: A Mystery with Time and Temperature by Erin Finnegan, NY editorial intern

This week I chatted with Der-shing Helmer, the artist behind Manga Math #4, The Kung Fu Puzzle: A Mystery with Time and Temperature. Der-shing has also done several Avatar the Last Airbender comics for Nickelodeon Magazine. Check out some sample pages here.

What computer programs and/or what kind of pens, pencils and brushes do you use?

I use Photoshop CS2 to do my rough work and my finished linework. I also use Photoshop to do my colors if I am doing colors for a comic. I like that I can achieve nice results with the program, and since I am not a precise inker, it is good to have the “undo” button!

What music (if any) do you listen to while drawing?

I actually can’t listen to music while I’m working… Listening to music makes me imagine things and go off task, which is not great for when you’re making art. I save music for when I’m doing less creative things, like grading papers.

I read in your bio that you’re studying to become a biology teacher. How old are your students?

Students in the science classes I teach are in 9th to 12th grade.

I was wondering, do you ever take your pet snake in to class?

Ha ha, sadly I haven’t had a teachable opportunity to take my snake to class. But I do get to share stories with my classes about my biology work in Yosemite, like how we caught live rattlesnakes(!) along with other endangered mammals, reptiles and amphibians in order to do population studies with them.

What comics did you read growing up?

Growing up I really enjoyed comics like Tintin and the comics in the (now out of print) Disney Adventures. Those comics made me excited about doing my own sequential art.

Did you go to college for art and/or comics, or something else? Which college?

I attended college at the University of California at Berkeley and majored in Integrated Biology. Having a background in biology is extremely useful for creating art that makes sense, and of course nature is an ultimate inspiration.

What is your favorite comics convention?

My favorite convention is APE con in San Francisco. I enjoy seeing my friends and the work of all the other growing comic artists who attend.