A Slice Of Life From A Lifestyle Comic

A Slice Of Life From A Lifestyle Comic

How Hmong-American artist Duachaka Her is striving for relatable characters.
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With an art practice built on an unwavering work ethic, Duachaka Her has combined inspiration and personal experience to create characters that anyone can look upon a page and see themselves within.

“Growing up as a Hmong-­American kid, I never really saw any characters that I was able to personally relate to. Some of the stories I write today include characters of diverse backgrounds who go through similar experiences as I did growing up. I want readers to be able to pick up my books and see themselves in the characters.”

Though she’s creating consistently now, Her didn’t always like to draw because “it took too long.” In fact, it was her family who pushed her towards an interest in art so she could join them in it. Looking up to them, she felt they were better at drawing, driving her to improve to keep up.

“It wasn’t until my older sister and cousin forced me to draw with them that I eventually started to take an interest in art.”

As she grew up, she watched the Saturday morning cartoons and anime on the television and read manga from bookstores and libraries. Inspired by others creations, she decided she wanted to create her own characters and stories.

As she grew up, she began a series of developing projects. In 2006, originally titled Dorobo, the story featured a girl falling into an unknown world and adventuring within it. As her earliest major project, the story’s main function was its story.

“To this day, I look back at this project and am just amazed by how much I didn’t care about the art or layout of the book, but rather just getting the story out of my head!”

In 2008, "Dorobo" was re-told in a group of Her with her cousins and siblings. Across the span of three summers they wrote, storyboarded, animated, colored, voice dubbing, editing and final retouching the entire film. While the piece had the flaws of an early project, it was an important part in developing the ethic to stick to art as a career.

“Working on this project at a young age definitely contributed to my work habit today. I don’t know if I would’ve been this dedicated to making art had it not been for this project.”

Over time, those early projects led her current works. A comic book, "The Collection", featured the stories about growing up Hmong-American and how it felt with a culture different from the norm, being different, and learning to accept yourself a concept inspired by "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie.

“I was always embarrassed to talk about my culture, especially at school, because I feared I would be different and that other students would think of me weird. I wanted my story to convey to readers that it is okay to be different and that you would eventually learn to accept yourself.”

Today she is still creating, working on art that draws from multiple aspects of her own life: family, heritage, and day-to-day stories. Inspired by the lack of relatable characters and the content she strives to see in the world, Her keeps working to have characters with diverse backgrounds so readers back find themselves within the pages of a book.

“I think what keeps me creating is the fact that I don’t see enough work being created about what I want to see out in the world… Growing up as Hmong-American kid, I never really saw any characters that I was able to personally relate to.”

With Her creating, perhaps there’ll be less people able to say such a thing as they search for relatable and diverse stories in the future.

To see more of Her’s work, she’s online on her website and Facebook.



This profile feature is inspired by my recent experience with a plethora of artists from the Minnesota Comic Book Association's Spring Convention as ComiCon was such a vibrant place with so much talent in one space, the only way to fully capture a glimpse into it was to go more in depth with each artist personally because each one is skilled in their own way and their own origin. This is in a series hoping to bring more attention to artists and to expose the range of unique talent and backstories that led them to art. ComiCon was such a vibrant place with so much talent in one space, the only way to fully capture a glimpse into it was to go more in depth with each artist because each one is skilled in their own way and their own origin.
Cover Image Credit: Duachaka Her

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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