Toronto is home to many misfits, but perhaps none are as celebrated as The Human Lizard. Just over a year ago, Toronto comic book artist Jason Loo independently launched The Pitiful Human Lizard thanks to the positive support of fans on KickStarter. Recently I had a chance to hear Loo speak about his motivation to keep his comic independent, his history with the Human Lizard himself, and the notion of Toronto as its own character in the story.
Loo himself is no amateur in the comic book industry. After graduating from Sheridan College, the visual artist worked a handful of freelance jobs for the likes of The National Post and The Globe and Mail, as well as contributing to a Canadian G.I. Joe comic series. But when it came time to debut The Human Lizard, Loo decided that rather than seek a publisher to get his series off the ground, he would opt to self-publish and maintain full creative control over his story.
“I wanted to create something and immediately get it out there,” Loo explains. “Instead of trying to find a publisher, wait around, go through the whole editorial process…I just wanted self control over this baby of mine.” As both the comic’s writer and artist, Jason has certainly taken advantage of his unique instance of full creative control. “With writing and drawing my own story I can work at my own pace and method compared to a conventional comic where writers are expected to type out the scripts and make it legible for the artist.”
Developing The Human Lizard
Although The Pitiful Human Lizard #1 only launched last year, Lucas Barrett, The Human Lizard himself, has been a part of Loo’s life for quite some time. The character first started appearing in mini comics Jason would draw and sell in his high school cafeteria. In these early iterations, The Lizard lacked a few of his now iconic qualities: most notably, he wasn’t Canadian.
As time went on, Loo began toying with the idea of making his character a Canadian superhero, but didn’t want to rely on visual tropes like dressing his hero in the colours of the flag or as a moose, for instance. On making The Human Lizard Canadian, Jason wanted “to explore another spectrum of Canadian heroes in the same fashion of the Marvel comics where you look at Hulk or Iron Man – they’re American but they’re not [visibly] patriotic.”
Lucas Barrett instead sports a green body suit, a shoddy bulletproof vest, and a belt covered in pouches, “to hold his TTC fare and also some snacks.” Instead of being visually patriotic, Loo hoped to make the Lizard Canadian in his character traits; apologetic, modest, perhaps too trusting of others. Loo also cites the Marvel comics of the ’60s and ’70s as his prime inspirations behind his own series. He admires the human flaws of many of the Marvel characters, as well as their reliance on real life locations for storytelling and immersion.
Toronto As A Character
On the topic of real life locations, anyone who’s seen an image from The Pitiful Human Lizard should be well aware of its setting within the city of Toronto, Canada. A native of the Greater Toronto Area, Loo hoped to accurately depict every element of the city just right. Loo put a lot of effort into making sure the sequences of events make geographical sense within the city; in drawing an escape scene within issue #1, Jason relied on photos from the top of Scotia Bank Theatre to plot out The Human Lizard’s rooftop escape as accurately as possible.
Expressing the artist’s love for the city doesn’t end with geography, however. From the sense of multiculturalism present in the cast of characters to the frustration citizens fall victim to while relying on public transit, The Pitiful Human Lizard tells it how it is (well, perhaps with the exception of the giant monsters).
A lot of The Human Lizard’s interactions with Torontonians in the comic book are also inspired by Jason Loo’s own experience with cosplaying. Loo, who used to dress as Multiple Man as part of an X-Men charity cosplay group, certainly remembers some of the reactions people on the street would have to seeing someone dressed in a costume casually walking around downtown. “Some of those comments I would overhear I would incorporate into the book.”
Given our love for gaming here at Button Masher, I couldn’t let Jason go without asking if he was a gamer himself. He’s been a bit preoccupied as of late – what with launching his own comic book and all – and confesses to not having a chance to play a game in about two or three years. “But I still do use my PS3 for Netflix,” he adds. That’s good enough for us, Jason.
The Pitiful Human Lizard #4 will be available in just a few weeks, launching May 9th at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). In the meantime, you’ve got a few weeks to catch up on Lucas’ pitiful misadventures from issues #1-3.