I first noticed Seth Damoose’s work in Xenoholics, published by Shadowline/Image Comics in 2011. I was surprised not to see him pop up on other titles that were on my radar, and ended up seeking out his quality work on titles from smaller publishers. On social media he would use the hashtag #toocartoony, referencing the common complaint heard by creators like Darwyn Cooke, Cameron Stewart, and more beloved artists before they broke into the industry. I wanted to learn what made Damoose use it as a slogan, his thoughts on the industry, and how his own career has played out. I received the answers to all those questions and more in our discussion.
You’ve made “Too Cartoony” your calling card. Is that a comment you’ve received from editors or readers about your art?
I heard it years ago now from a publisher, yes. The readers who. I’ve spoken to, seem to really enjoy it. The publisher that said it, did so in some additional context. So they weren’t being nasty or anything. The comment was that my style for a particular project (which has yet to come out) was “too cartoony”. Initially, I took the comment a little too hard. Now I use it as more of a joke than anything else. Of course, it’s too cartoony, I am drawing comic books!
What made you decide to embrace the “Too Cartoony” description?
I didn’t want to have to change who I was in order to fit some mold. I didn’t want to have to change how I see things, or how I want to tell stories. I’ve seen cartoony-er art out there on some major titles, and figured, why not mine too?
I feel like, even at the Big 2, unique and outside-the-box styles have become more prevalent in recent years. Would you agree with that?
There have been quite a lot of different styles being more accepted, yes. I love that we are getting to see more unique voices come out in this genre. Everything from Joe Madureira, Humberto Ramos, Dan Warren, James Harren, Erica Henderson, and so many more.
Still, many publishers continue to have a “house style.” Do you see that as a problem in the industry?
I don’t see that as a problem. I get it. There’s is certainly an appeal to the uniformity it brings.
I first discovered your art in the Xenoholics miniseries written by Joshua Williamson. What was your experience like working with Williamson and on an Image comic?
Josh is great! Working with Josh was a blast. We started talking about that series in a pub in Chicago. Josh had written some other things, and I had done the Image book I Hate Gallant Girl, as well as the webcomic Brat-Halla previously. So we were unknown, relatively, but had some work under use belts already.
Recently you worked on the second volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee, a horror series. How did you ensure your “cartoony” art style suited the subject matter?
Initially, I was not sure that I should be the one working on Rhee. I didn’t think that my style fits the genre. Now, as a kid, I loved horror, and still do despite my artistic style. But then I decided that if I told the story well enough through the art of storytelling, then the “style” wouldn’t even be noticed. And that’s when I decided that the style doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t take away from the story. The story is the most important part of the equation. Not the writer, or the artists.
Your sketches of characters Marvel, DC, and other properties are great. Is working on licensed comics a goal of yours?
I would love to draw professionally for Marvel or DC. I grew up falling in love with the medium and those characters. It would be a dream come true to play in either one of those sandboxes.
I see a lot of convention sketches for fans on your social media. Does it become a grind traveling to a lot of shows?
I attend 5-6 conventions per year, and I stay relatively close to home. This makes the grind less of an impact. I like working the shows. Meeting and making fans is one of the best perks of the gig! But I don’t know that I could juggle more shows than I already do. Which again, is far less than some folks I know!
You mentioned you have a day job. Do you think a big roadblock preventing you from working full time in the industry is people’s continued unwillingness to fully embrace “cartoony” artwork in comics?
I don’t know that’s it’s been a roadblock per se, but perhaps it’s true that there has been a bit of a slow go of things. I joke around with friends that I’ll be a 20-year overnight success story someday soon!
Have you ever been tempted to try to change your style to appease more readers, editors, etc.?
I certainly thought about it, yes. I never really acted on it though. Art is one thing that we as people can use to differentiate ourselves from one another. The variety of all of us is what makes this life interesting. Again, I would come back to making the focus the story over the the art, or the writing for that matter. Think of it like a movie with terrible dialogue, but great visual effects. You’ll still watch it and probably enjoy it (at least a little bit), but the ones with the great story…man, that’s a whole new game. The visual effects could be crap, but if the story is there, you’ll have frenzied fans forever!
Other than embracing the “Too Cartoony” mantra, how do you convince them your art will sell comics and make them compelling reads?
Being able to tell the story well enough that the art style isn’t even a factor is my goal. I want the reader to be so involved in what is going on with the characters and the story that the art isn’t even noticed. I don’t want it to get in the way. I don’t think it should. Great art is great, but if there is nothing else going on, you’re not reading a comic book, but simply looking at pin-ups.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.