On Taskmaster, Video Game Art And Posting During Twitter’s Decline
Kim Hu's Taskmaster is a daily social media highlight
3:58 PM EST on December 27, 2023
If you follow some games artists on Twitter, or simply have and occasionally check in on a Bluesky account, you may well have come across the work of Kim Hu.
Kim, an artist who works in video games and comics, loves the kinda-obscure Marvel character Taskmaster, and so draws pictures of him. A lot of pictures. Then posts them on social media. So many that some days they completely clog my feeds, so I thought recently, damn, if I'm going to be running a new art feature here on Aftermath, I really need to talk to Kim and find out more about this obsession.
Partly because, as someone with a sports jersey collection comprised primarily of shirts/jerseys of a team's third-best player, I find any obsession with a universe's lesser stars to be incredibly endearing. It's also because Kim's work is fantastic (I featured a ton of it last year on The Old Site). But the way in which I'm bombarded with Taskmaster art every day, and the sites I see it on, also left me with some questions to ask about the nature of social media use in the age of Twitter's decline, especially when it comes to those trying to make a living using the platform.
Luke Plunkett: Hi Kim! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What you do when you're not drawing Taskmaster, and what's some stuff you've worked on?
Kim Hu: I work as a freelance concept artist and illustrator, mostly in games, and occasionally in comics. A lot of the stuff I have done has been locked away in vaults and archives, that’s just the way it is when a project sadly never makes it.
RecommendedMost Video Game Artwork Will Never Be Seen
But a game that did see release was 2022's Rollerdrome, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I was one of the concept artists and created all of the characters. We even won a BAFTA for it, so that was pretty cool, and I am especially glad because it was one of the best teams I ever had the pleasure to be a part of.
At the moment I am mostly freelancing for various projects, and slipping back into comics; I am doing some work for Killtopia right now.
LP: OK. So. Why Taskmaster? Of all the characters. Why Taskmaster, and why do you go so hard on Taskmaster?
KH: Hah, why not the amazing, handsome, hot skull-man in the white underpants outside his pants!
Ok but seriously.
The story of Taskmaster and I starts about 12 years ago, when I was living in Tokyo, being a little bored and going out one night for an evening snack. On the way from my apartment to the konbini store was a game store, and I randomly fished a copy of Marvel vs Capcom 3 out of the bargain bin.
That was the first time I ever saw the character and my first thought was ‘Wow, he looks so dumb’. Still, something about him was intriguing enough that I would pick up some of his comics, and then it kind of grew from there.
Just how it is with favourite characters, they speak to you in some ways, and I remember I could relate to him in that comic that I read of his. So I thought, he’s cool. I like this one. And then he just continued to stick around in the periphery; I read the comics and did the occasional piece of fan art.
Fast forward to 2020, he got teased for the MCU, and I thought I’d post about him leading up to that, just to hype people up a little for my favourite character.
Then the pandemic hit, the movie got postponed for several years and we all went a little crazy in lockdown. So I just...kept posting. I was also working exclusively on Rollerdrome at the time and under NDA, so there was very little else to post besides Taskmaster.
And then, when the movie eventually released, he wasn’t in it. They had redesigned his character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not surprising, not unique, it happens. But also, here I was, with this character I had shoved into people’s faces for years and no movie. So I…just kept posting.
The ball was rolling now and he had become the source of in-jokes, memes and community building for my online followers.
I am a person who doesn’t like sharing much personal information about me and my life online, so Taskmaster has become a welcome tool to give me something to connect with my audience and chat and meme about, especially during times when I am too busy to produce a lot of new art. And I genuinely do love the character, even after all these years. So it simply brings me a lot of joy.
LP: You're now very active on Bluesky, a platform that's still in some ways finding its feet. Has shifting a lot of your posting there changed the way you post share art? What do you like about the community there vs the Old Site?
KH: I definitely have been posting more freely and engage with my audience more. Bluesky not having an algorithm means not every post needs to be a high-engagement banger. So I get to guilt-free post replies and memes and doodles again.
Over the last couple years I have suffered under increasing social media burnout. Yet I still kept using it, especially Twitter, as that was just the place me and my art did best. But it was like a ‘boiling frog’ situation, where they make little enshittification changes to how the site works, but it happens so gradually you never notice it.
However, starting to use a service with no algorithm, no demands as to what and how often to post, and a generally very pleasant and adult audience, has shown me what is going wrong in other places and how much I had already twisted myself and my output to appease the mysterious algorithms. That sucked. Besides, the things I got in return had drastically diminished after the change of ownership. So I decided it wasn’t really worth it for me anymore.
LP: What does this mean for your work from a professional standpoint? As an artist you're not just posting on social media, you're also selling yourself and your work.
KH: How feasible this will be in the long term, I’ll have to see. But for now, I have retreated to Bluesky almost exclusively. Like I said, I don’t know if this is a smart choice in regards to audience growth and job chances; probably not, so I might return to other places once the dust has settled on the current shift in the social media landscape. But for now I really do enjoy the slower pace and lower pressure.
The community also seems to be more well adjusted and balanced, probably also thanks to the structure of Bluesky, which makes dogpiling harder and does not encourage drama and outrage by putting it prominently on everyone’s feeds every day.
LP: Working artists seem to be under attack from all sides at the moment. There are layoffs at game studios, the looming threat of AI, social media platforms collapsing...what do you think the immediate future looks like for artists like yourself, especially in the video game business?
KH: I want to be honest, it all feels a little grim to me, which is why at the moment I am thankful I have more fields than just games to fall back on, even though I would love to stay in video games.
But as we all know, 2023 has been a dark year in terms of layoffs and there are hundreds of people looking for jobs, so for me, as a Europe-based remote freelancer, it can feel almost a little hopeless to compete right now. I want to remain optimistic and see this as a drought period, for however long it will last.
I also want to believe that there are people out there who want good, genuine content, be it games or comics or illustrative art. However I am not sure if the future of that lies with the big studios, at least not if they really get the means some of them seem to dream of, where you get to replace all human workers to make all the content cheap and fast.
Maybe we are looking at an indie, creator-owned, self-employed revolution of some sorts. A return to lowbrow. Making my own IP would definitely be a dream of mine, and I think for many other creatives as well. What you guys are doing with Aftermath right now is also along these lines. It will depend on if the general audience is willing to support us in that.
For the internet, classic services are already filling up with AI slurry really fast. So eventually we might need a return to something more reminiscent of the internet 1.0, where people have their own sites, their own blogs and webrings and such [laughs]. Where you actively have to seek out the good stuff and connect, not have an algorithm do it for you. The ‘more content fast’ situation we have right now on social media is tailor-made for AI, which is why it does so well on most of the platforms. We will see if people at large are willing to go to new places for the genuine stuff, or if they are happy to settle for the generic things. But yeah, I have no illusions, times are shitty, but I want to remain hopeful in spite of it.
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