Comic Inspiration And Larval Termite Gods With Illustrator Danny Hellman

We're sure that there must be more than just a few Dallas folks out there that are asking themselves, "What kind of person would defile American artist Grant Wood's iconic Gothic *couple?" in the style of what adorns our cover this week. Well, to be accurate, the notion came from within, but it took someone with a certain penchant for deviancy to push it out of his brain hole and onto the page. That man would be none other than illustrator Danny Hellman.

After the jump, check out what Mr. Hellman has to say regarding chasing Spider-Man, his idols, and other alternative religions. Speaking of alternative, after you're done here, make sure you read the cover story regarding the recent woes of Dallas' leather scene here.

*That couple is oft unwittingly mistaken for a husband and wife. It's actually father and daughter ... Yeah, takes the cover to a whole new level, huh? Gross.

Tell us a little about yourself; when/how did you begin doing what you do today and where do you reign from? I live in Brooklyn, NY with my wife and daughter. I grew up in Queens and Brooklyn, and attended the High School of Art and Design and the Art Students' League in Manhattan. I came out of school hoping to get a job drawing Spider-Man. When that didn't pan out, I stumbled into editorial illustration, which I've been doing happily since 1988.

Within your body of work, what would you consider to be your specialty? What are some things as an artist you wish to do more of? I'm a humorous illustrator. Some folks tell me I'm good at capturing likenesses. I love doing political stuff, and it would be great to get more of those assignments.

In the time you've been illustrating, have there been any major obstacles to overcome in the evolution of your work? Have there been challenges that were NOT anticipated? I'm always challenging myself to get better at what I do. I think I've made some headway in this area, since I find it painful to look at the stuff I drew years ago.

Who can you credit as a major artistic influence(s) to your style/kind of work? As a kid, my comics idols were Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and Wally Wood, and my illustration idols were Kay Nielsen, Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley. I still love those guys.

What are some "non-artistic" sources of inspiration for you, if any? My primary source of inspiration is the vast larval termite god I call "Baal." When I get an illustration assignment, I go into a kind of trance, and Baal commands the movements of my hand. Until the glorious day comes when I am finally and utterly consumed by my cosmic worm-master, my life's mission will be to glorify Him. I also like listening to classic rock on my iPod.

Are there any new/exciting big projects on the horizon for yourself? I'm working on a long graphic novel.  I expect to be working on it for years to come, but I'll post completed chapters to the web as a work in progress beginning next year.

Lastly, is there a "dream" client/project that you wish to get your hands on someday? I've had a lot of dream jobs. Drawing the cast of Mad Men for Kristen Goodfriend at the Boston Phoenix in 2009 was a blast, as was drawing the stars of Breaking Bad for Josh Modell at The Onion last month. I don't really have any dream clients. At this point, I've worked for just about every publication I can think of, except for Cat Fancy, Guns & Ammo and The New Yorker. I enjoy working with smart art directors who aren't snotty douchebags, and I'm not too concerned about who their employers are.

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