Chris W. Kim‘s Herman by Trade delivers a barrage of questions and comments on how creativity can be perceived by its audience. In fact, the comic covers so much ground, with every other page feeling as though it’s offering some profound statement on the good, the bad and the ugly on how we should accept creativity, that it makes little room for an overall statement.
This endless stream of ideas being tackled is at odds with the comic’s appearance. Illustrated in monochrome and accompanied by lengthily passage where characters don’t speak, Herman by Trade‘s compelling ideas on the value of creativity is embodied in its protagonist – street cleaner Herman. He lives and works in a world where it seems all its inhabitants posses some insatiable desire to express themselves. Herman himself boasts his own talent of metamorphosis, but prefers to keep such abilities private. The seeds of Herman by Trade are sown in Herman’s debut of his powers. As the townspeople blend together into an indistinguishable blur of uninteresting talents, Herman’s understated ability to transform into anyone he wishes shows that he’s the only truly talented person in this story.
As the story progresses, Herman’s capabilities prove to be his downfall. An open casting call by acclaimed director Mio sends the town into a state of anarchic creativity, once again highlighting the near-comical sight of everyone trying to be different in order to impress her, but visually, Kim exploits the fact that the townspeople shared ambitions only makes them stand out less. This is where Herman by Trade is at its most enjoyable. The juxtaposition of Herman’s natural talents versus the townspeople clamouring for attention is visually comical but offers up this comic’s strongest comment on being able to stand out from the crowd.
However, another idea creeps into Herman by Trade unexpectedly. Kim takes Herman as a springboard for launching the apparent idea of artificial creativity versus natural creativity. Such is Herman’s talents that Mio dispenses with the townspeople, claiming that Herman’s ability to transform makes him the only party necessary for her latest cinematic endeavour. Bookending the comic are two sights of the townspeople in the local cinema, applauding Mio’s previous movie, but later on in that same cinema, reacting with disgust and scorn at the movie she has filmed in their town. It’s as if the sight of Herman’s metamorphic ability is a wake-up call for the town, as if the scales fall from there eyes as they witness artificial characters emerge from Herman.
These two striking messages make the comic resonate, but if there’s an overall message to be taken from Herman by Trade, it’s unclear. When placed side by side, the two comments feel as though they could amount to something of a warning, a danger on the steps one may take to achieving self-expression. Despite this seeming lack of clarity, Herman by Trade‘s two comments stand on their own with cohesion and engrossment.
What are your thoughts on Herman by Trade? Does the comic stir any creative juices in you? You can discover more about the comic here. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!