Zinester Spotlight: Brian Herrick

How did you get in to zines and self-publishing?

Comics led me to the zine world. I think Cerebus by Dave Sim and the original TMNT by Eastman and Laird were the first comics that I saw which seemed to be published and handled by the artists.  I loved that they were black and white and written and drawn by the artists.  It wasn't until recently though, in the past five years that I decided that I really needed to just buckle down and make a comic.

When I started Ebb and Flood I decided that I would just make it and find my way as I went. So self publishing just made sense.  I didn't even know about SF Zine Fest and it was my wife who saw a poster advertising it and said "that seems like something you would like." I was so excited to find a venue where people were making exactly what they wanted to make and had a direct line to their audience. It has been very inspiring to meet other folks at Zine Fest who are talented and creative and following their passion.

You reference a lot of monsters, myths, and old wives tales in your work. Do you come up with those or are they ones you've heard over time?

I've always been fascinated by myths and fairy tales. Growing up in Alaska, I had a friend who was an Aleut and his family had these amazingly scary and creepy myths and ghost stories. Everyone is afraid of monsters, and everyone has a monster that is specifically frightening to them. My childhood monsters don't scare me the way they used to, but they will always be there. 

I learned that myths are hardwired into our psyches when I was in my early twenties. At that time I was teaching 10 year old boys a myth writing unit and they just ate it up. Even though these little boys had no background of having read myths, myth seemed fascinating and even familiar to them. As I started Ebb and Flood, the ghosts drifted into the stories so that they are just as important as the living members of the town. So to answer your question I guess those are myths that I've invented but I've been influenced by many stories I've read and heard over the years.  

Ebb & Flood reminds me a lot of Twin Peaks in there being a dichotomy of subtle, supernatural events that keep happening in a small sleepy town (Beacham Bay). What inspired you to tell an ongoing set of stories in the "Beacham Bay Universe?"

What a huge compliment to compare Beacham Bay to Twin Peaks.  Twin Peaks came out when I was a  in High School and I was instantly taken with it. I loved how weird and dark it was and the more that we as viewers learned, the more confusing and twisted the story seemed to get. I've definitely tried to incorporate that sense of layering into Ebb and Flood. I want readers to dig into the town's history and every time they think they have a finger on its past they find something new.  Beacham Bay isn't as wicked or dangerous as Twin Peaks, but it does have a darker, complex background which lends to its present state. 

When I started writing stories about Beacham Bay I was looking for a vehicle that would provide many story lines and personalities and it made sense to have the town be the main character and build that character by getting to know the people. It's just so much fun now to dig into the town and uncover it's background and convoluted history. The more I do it, the more I find out.

I noticed that water seems to be an ever-present element throughout your work. Is there a particular reason for that?

Swimming has always been a medative, restorative activity for me. I grew up swimming and swam competitively in high school and college. After I moved to San Francisco I discovered the Dolphin Club and started swimming in the bay. Finding cold water swimming changed everything for me though, and suddenly swimming became more challenging and rewarding.  Getting into the Bay when the temperature is in the low 50s is so exhilarating and instantly brings you into a state of awareness unlike any other sport that I've experienced. You have to be aware and careful and pay attention to what you are doing and what the tides and currents are doing. Every swim turns into a little adventure.

When I started writing, open-water swimming became a part of the culture of Beacham Bay, and that came from seeing everyone at the Dolphin Club doing their thing every day. People that jump into 50 degree water are a unique bunch. So when I created Beacham Bay it seemed to make sense that this would be a town where everyone swam and it was just a part of what they did.   

There are a lot of different storytelling styles in your comics. Which dictates the direction you take -- the story you want to tell or the style you want to tell it in?

Starting with genre seems to help me get my ideas down on paper and there are so many genres I would like to explore.  I have some science fiction stories I'm working on and it would be fun to do a Western some day as well. I usually start with genre and the story comes out of that. Occasionally a story idea will come to me and then it's a matter of figuring out what the genre or style will be, where it fits best.  Often it doesn't feel as if I'm creating a story as much as discovering it, which I know is not a new idea, but one that feels familiar to me. When I try too hard to make a story go a certain way, it seems to fall flat or feel forced.

When I started Ebb and Flood I wanted a subject matter that would allow me the opportunity to tell different kinds of stories. Beacham Bay allows me to cover a lot of ground. Ebb and Flood then becomes limitless for me as a vehicle of storytelling and I'm free to explore different themes in each little vignette.  

What can people expect from you coming up? Any new work coming out?

I have two new issues of The Business of Monkeys, which are sketch book compilations coming out at SF Zine Fest. I'm just finishing the pencils for Ebb and Flood #3 and I'm hoping to have it printed this fall. 

I'm also writing Ebb and Flood #4 which is a bit of format change and it's been so much fun to write; I'm really looking forward to getting that going as well.   I'm also working on a mini comic which is a collection of the ghosts of Beacham Bay. I would love to get a third issue of The Milk and Carrots Anthology together and am always on the lookout for more contributors.  That's all for now, but I'm hooked on this art form so I'm curious to see what I'll be making in a few years.

Finally, from your perspective what makes the Bay Area a special place for writers, artists, and DIY creators?

The Bay Area is such a beautiful place to live and it's a perfect mix of urban life and nature. It's so fantastic that I can live in such a dense city surrounded by so many people and then I can just plop into the bay and go for a swim and be completely immersed in nature, or get over to Mt. Tam in 30 minutes and be in the woods. I love having both those worlds at my fingertips.  I'm also amazed at the creativity that people in the Bay Area have.  It's a place full of people who actively follow their interests and passions.  People don't just punch the clock, they all have diverse abilities and viewpoints.  My workplace is a good example of that. I teach art at an elementary school and my colleagues are so active and creative. The Bay Area is a unique and fantastic place, I'm fortunate to call it home.

For updates on new comics and zines, head to brianherrick.com