Friday, February 29, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Dan Olson

Okay, folks.

I intended my next entry to be an introduction to my teaching partner-in-crime but my buddy, Dan Olson finally got his interview in to me so I wanna make sure he gets his time in the... erm... Cream City limelight. Dan is one of those crazy internet "slice-o-life" comics people. I love what they do... it's daring... there are so many different takes on the genre. Dan has also graced the pages of Muscles & Fights. I respect him a great deal.

CCC: For those who don't know, Name and location?

Daniel J. Olson. St. Paul, Minnesota.

CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?

I can recall three points in time where my interest in comics began. My father was always a big fan of the "funnies pages," which led to myself becoming a big fan of Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. In elementary school years I started reading The New Mutants comic. Also, during elementary school I was hooked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which I later found out was a comic itself! I don't know when I decided "that I wanted to make comics". But I know that these are three of the catalysts for my interest in the medium.

CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?

The first time I ever self-published was while I was attending The Art Institutes International of the Twin Cities. I rehashed a story I had done in eighth grade with a buddy of mine. I printed a total of ten copies, which I look back at now and have discovered what a horrible job I did putting it together. Later, that same story would again be reinvented to be included in the Muscles and Fights 2 (MF2) anthology.

CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?

Would web comics be considered self-publishing? If so, I create a weekly web-comic for my blog I've learned how important it is to meet my Thursday deadline. I've also gained an outlet to vent various frustrations and I can allow my characters to assume different feelings and roles that I play within my own life. I also just released the first of hopefully many editions of a quarterly mini-comic anthology entitled Super Fantastica Comix (SFC).

I learned through that experience to let somebody else handle the printing side of things if you don't know how to do it yourself.

CCC: If you've been published by other publishers, compare the experience to self-publishing.

Well, I've been published once in the Muscles and Fights 2 (MF2) anthology and once in the Winter 2008 edition of Super Fantastica Comix (SFC). Since I had only created web comics up until being published in MF2, I had to take into account that everything I was creating for MF2 was going to be composed and printed by somebody else, so I needed it to be perfect before I sent it to the editor.

After the MF2 story, I was able to determine what I needed from others for the Super Fantastica Comix anthology. It was difficult to create SFC, since this time I had to rely on others to get the dimensions and specifications correct. Both publishing experiences have opened my eyes to a new way (at least to me) to distribute my work. I also learned that I need a new scanner.

CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise)?

* bewilderedkid comix at
* a comic posted on the City Pages website for the "Tales of the Twin Cities"
* Alley Cats: Cats on Bikes (With Ninjas!) Tribute Anthology for Eric Lappegaard
* "Tale of the Cursed Coin" - Muscles and Fights 2
* "The Mess-adventures of Super Maxi-Pad Girl - Muscles and Fights 3
* "Catalyst: Toast" - Super Fantastica Comix! Winter 2008

CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.

The art scene here is better than any other I have been involved in. Besides the Twin Cities, I have also lived in both Madison, WI and Phoenix, AZ. There seems to be more of an art-friendly community here in the Twin Cities than in Madison and Phoenix. Both the artists and the consumers of art are very accepting and active. There are so many great institutions in the Twin Cities that you can always find some art happening, showing, or exposition to attend on any night of the week.

CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe what that/those group/s benefit you.

I belong to the International Cartoonist Conspiracy Minneapolis and St. Paul cells. Everyone is so damned friendly and supportive at the monthly jam sessions. I just see some of the work that these people create and it just blows me away. Being in contact with so many talented people motivates me to produce better and more creative work.

CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics?

My ultimate goal is to create a particular graphic novel that I have been researching about for the past year. It has to deal with a few issues that are very close to my heart. When I finally get this project completed, which I am guessing will still take a few years, it will be a complete departure from the type of work I am currently creating.

CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene? If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?

This is a tricky question. I would say money, but you can't pour a TON of money into the underground art scene. Here's why I believe you shouldn't flood a ton of money into this scene. Creativity is generally sparked by a hunger or a wanting to express oneself. If you throw a whole bunch of money at somebody it can dictate what they create and how they create it.

For example, I create my web-comics for free. I don't get any money out of it. Instead I get the satisfaction that I created something. If I did get paid a TON of money for creating my web-comic I would be more susceptible to changing my art and what I want to express so as not to step on the toes of whoever is cutting the checks. However, with that being said, I do think that there should be more capital spent on the arts in general, because artists also have to eat.

Maybe my answer is more convoluted than I intended it to be.

CCC: Do you blog? MySpace? ComicSpace? If so, what kinds of things do you communicate through it and what is your ultimate goal in using that site?

I do blog. I host my web-comics at my blog. I have a MySpace account. I use it for three purposes, staying in touch with friends, meeting new creative types, and promoting my website. I also have a ComicSpace account, but ComicSpace kind of lost a bit of steam after their server crashed in the summer of 2007.

CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?

Absolutely! I read many other blogs. I check out Ryan Dow's Introspective Comics ( on a weekly basis, he is in the midst of creating his own online graphic novel.

I read this blog, Cream City Comics, because it is such a damn good idea!

The Big Time Attic blog ( is most helpful with their cartooning tips and tricks.

Steven Stwalley's is a great repository for cartooning, comic, and comix news.

I read Jim Mahfood's blog ( on a daily basis, his stuff just blows me away.

Jennifer Young of Diary of an Apprentice ( always inspires me to keep my eyes open everyday for new material.

I enjoy Kevin McCarthy's blog ( as well, he has a unique style to his art and storytelling that I admire - I just wish I could see more of his series Fantasy Fighter!

I enjoy Matthew Kriske's blog (, he is a very talented kid that is going to go places.

I also enjoy Remrand Le Compte's blog (, he has a very unique style that I enjoy, although he keeps saying that he hasn't found his style yet. I am certain I am forgetting some blogs and I'm sure they will let me know.

CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy reading satire, historical non-fiction, comics and graphic novels of any sort. As is the case with most of the people that I know, I have a large stack of books and comics that are sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read. Also, I do like the Harry Potter books.

CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?

I won't buy something if it looks like somebody just slapped it together for the sake of making a comic. I would rather wait months for a comic to come out and have someone actually care about it's composition and the storytelling than wait for the newest monthly issue of "Big Time Super Hero Movie Character" to come out where the creative team changes with every fourth issue. Although I can't blame people for trying to make a living on their characters and projects, you have to make certain you don't destroy the integrity of the final product. That is what turns me off from most of my comic purchases.

CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?

I have a few. Top Shelf, Oni Press, Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Adhouse Books and MF Press.

CCC: What is it about that publisher you find unique?

Really? I have enjoyed everything I've read that Top Shelf has put out. I am a big fan of Oni Press for about ten years... I have been a fan of their catalog since I read the Clerks comic, which features art by Jim Mahfood. Fantagraphics puts out some great stuff... I'm currently plowing through the Complete Peanuts. Drawn and Quarterly is good stuff too... I have Jason Lutes' Berlin and Joe Sacco's War's End that I have on that endless pile of books I've yet to read. I also like AdHouse Books... they've done some interesting work. And of course, I'd have to include MF Press... without whom I'd not be able to have my first published work!

CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?

Of all time, hands down, Charles Schulz.

CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?

Craig Thompson, Hope Larson, Jeffrey Brown, Jim Mahfood, Anders Nilsen, and Nicholas Gurewitch.

CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?

I would change the distribution. Diamond Comics Distribution has made it nearly impossible for new publishers to be successful. A few years ago or so they decided to not fill orders that didn't exceed a minimum dollar amount. Of course, some hailed this as a step toward greater professionalism, but others, such as myself grieved and feared for the smaller, independent publishers, who would likely get swallowed up by this brave new market.

I understand business. I understand that Diamond doesn't want a bunch of product sitting in their warehouses that they will end up losing money on due to depreciation. HOWEVER, I also believe there has to be another way than just cutting off these small publishers. I have some ideas, but it would make this interview longer than it probably needs to be.

CCC: Give a shout out to any site and/or underground comic you think people ought to be checking into.

Okay here goes: Amado Rodriguez (Heavee Underground)
Bud Burgy (Co-publisher Muscles and Fights franchise, Meatfist and Gronk):
Danno Klonowski (Manly Tales of Cowardice, Supermarket Vigilante):
Jennifer Young (The Apprentice Diaries):
Kevin Cannon (Big Time Attic, Far Arden): McCarthy (The Seekers, Fantasy Fighter):
Matthew Kriske (His sketchbook that he will get around to publishing one of these days):
Muscles and Fights:
Rembrand Le Compte (Make it Count!):
Ryan Dow (Introspective Comics, Plunger Man):
Steven Stwalley (Soapy the Chicken): (Also, check out
Super Fantastica Comix:
Zander Cannon (Big Time Attic, The Replacement God):

Thanks Dan!

Have a great weekend.



Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cream City Comics: Promotionalize

Hello everyone!

Let me fill you in on what I've [already] got going on for 2008.

1) I've joined an organization called Artists Working in Education. For my part, I'll be teaching graphic storytelling to a 7th grade art class. I'm really excited about this gig 'cos I suggested we compile the stories the students create into an anthology and publish it. And they said "yes"! I'm so stoked about it.

Can you imagine what these students will gain from being part of such a detailed process? Nevermind those actually interested in comics... I'm thinking about any student suffering any sort of self-image problems. I mean, think back to the time when you were a pre-teen *shudders*

Well, for me, it wasn't too bad 'cos I had the guidance of Carl Evans... my 7th and 8th grade art teacher. But I can easily recall just how awkward that time in my life, apart from art, was.

I'll have a teaching partner for the "sessions". He'll be handling the illustration side while I cover the writing. We're planning some spill over and all so it'll be a very complete experience for everyone involved. We're even planning a 'research' trip to the art museum and they've got some great [relevant] exhibits going on now!

2) Muscles & Fights 3 will be released to coincide with the one year anniversary of volume 1. I can't wait to see this thing put together. Which reminds me... I need to get my backside to the Twin Cities soon.

3) I'm putting together my thoughts for a Cream City Comics: Heavee Underground release party. I've already spoken to an artist, my A.W.E. partner-in-crime, about throwing up some killer live art. I plan to hang original pages from the graphic novel and hope to have a DJ and live B-Boy crew performing.

4) Muscles & Frights, the first book published under our MF Press banner should make its way to bookshelves near Halloween 2008.

5) I'm putting together my plan for a solo release I'd like to have out prior to November.

Inbetween time, I'll be keeping you up-to-date with news from Cream City and the underground [in general].

Up next week, I'll be introducing you to my aforementioned partner-in-crime.

Stay warm and positive.



Monday, February 18, 2008

Cream City Coverage: Anthologize

Hello everyone!

This week I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my favorite anthologies. I don't know about you but I love those fine collections of talented storytellers.

Why do I love anthologies so much? There are a few very good reasons...

1) More bang for your buck. Anthologies [typically] have a much larger page count than your average graphic novel.

2) Originality... anthologies have nothing to compete with save other anthologies. How do they handle the competition? Themed collections, and packaging/general dress.

3) Varied storytelling techniques/approach and style while dealing with the same subject matter.

4) Marketing... athologies can't be marketed and hyped like other books. If an anthology doesn't have the goods, it's more difficult to get consumers to spend their cold, hard cash. This is why the first 3 items on my list really matter most.

My love for anthologies varies... based on the publisher. The quality of the art/story is not what varies as much as the quality of the overall package. And this will be my jumping off point for this weeks entry.

Publisher: AdHouse Books

Title: Project Telstar

Theme: Futuristic/Sci-fi/Fantasy

Packaging: Embossed and die-cut over

Cool factor: Metallic blue ink for color

Publisher: AdHouse Books

Title: Project Superior

Theme: Superheroes

Packaging: Old, tattered, pulp-look cover

Cool factor: Truly new approaches to the superhero genre

Publisher: AdHouse Books

Title: Project Romantic

Theme: Love/Romance

Packaging: Strong, simple, romantic design cover

Cool factor: Completes the "Project" trilogy

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Title: Happy Endings

Theme: Strong focus on story endings

Packaging: Frank Miller cover

Cool factor: Features a black & white Sam Kieth story

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Title: Autobiographix

Theme: Authors tell true personal tales

Packaging: Inkwash artwork, grade a stock and cover design

Cool factor: Will Eisner's tale of the day he first felt like a true artist

Publisher: Image Comics

Title: Afterworks

Theme: Animator collective takes on comics

Packaging: Strong graphic design

Cool factor: The anthology animation/comics fans have been waiting for

Publisher: Image Comics

Title: Four Letter Worlds

Theme: Authors tell tales inspired by a four letter word

Packaging: Pastel-colored graphic design

Cool factor: Scott Morses' tale about his passion for and drive in art

Publisher: Bud Burgy/Cream City Comics

Title: Muscles & Fights

Theme: "I like it when there's muscles... and they fight".

Packaging: Neon-colored coffee table look

Cool factor: United Midwestern comics front

Publisher: Pulpo Press

Title: Pulpo

Theme: EnterVoid warriors attack paper with ink

Packaging: Slick and explosive artwork colored by Galvo

Cool factor: The raw energy of EnterVoid sans a computer screen

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Title: Best American Comics

Theme: Established underground creators select short stories created by other underground artists

Packaging: Hardcover

Cool factor: It's the inaugural comics volume of the "Best American" series

There are certainly lots more out there I've missed or haven't yet read. But theses babies really get it right.

What? That's not enough?

Check out a book published by Ait/Planet Lar called Monster Attack Network:

Happy reading.



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cream City Coverage: Project Freedom

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed those last two 'conversations' as well as the review of Heavee Underground on the AICN website.

Early on, I stated this blog would be a place I'd use to promote and inform on my work as well as the work of other creators. So far, I've been focusing on creators I [personally] know. What I'd like to do... for a spell... is write about creators I've read little about and became familiar with only by happenstance.

Over the years I've seen several trends come and go.

In the late '90s it seemed everyone and his brother was aping Art Adams, Jim Lee and/or Joe Madureira. In the case of Jim Lee, it seemed he was recruiting artists heavily influenced by Neal Adams... as he had been before them. In the case of Art Adams, it seemed he was having none of it. It had gotten to the point he was drawing parodies of artists he felt were 'ripping him off'. Joe Madureira went so far as to make sure he included in-comic jabs and uppercuts to one particular artist he felt was borrowing too much. I never understood that last one 'cos Madureira was mixing Art Adams with Masami Obari's Fatal Fury to achieve his style.

And, if you weren't seeing that stuff, there was no shortage of people influenced by Japanese comics.

In the earlier part of this decade there was a major surge of mainstream creators influenced by the likes of Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mike Mignola. And who could forget all the people continuing to completely rip off Frazetta?

In the second part of this decade there has risen a keen interest on animation styles of the '40s-'50s, which I think is really cool. I just don't want those styles to take over the market as the styles before them have.

All this trend stuff is great. In fact, most great artists pick up new techniques where they can. It becomes a problem when the trend becomes the 'new rule of craft'. There is no magic formula to creating great comics... apart from freeing yourself up enough to create... great comics.

... which brings me back to writing about artists/creators I've recently come across through happenstance...


Let's face it, the people responsible for creating this artform rarely, if ever, had to contend with trends 'cos... well... they were busy creating this artform. One great trend I've seen in comics, a trend I feel is long overdue, is looking to the past in search of the future.

This search is not creating new George Herrimans, E C Segars, Frank Kings, Charles Schulzs, Will Eisners and/or Harvey Kurtzmans. Nah... to claim that would make no sense at all. This search is uncovering the freedom to create first time cats like...

Jordan Crane
The Clouds Above; a book which appears to be a children's novel but is anything but. The dialogue in Clouds is nothing short of magical. Crane writes the way people talk and that's no easy task. It's very easy, with dialogue, to take it too far... to go over-the-top. This book is pretty. I mean, the character design and overall style of the book is one thing. But Crane didn't stop there, he decided to use a color palette you don't usually see in a graphic novel.
The Last Lonely Saturday; a short graphic novel... gentle-looking enough for a child. But this book is filled with a story that is more likely to touch people over 30. And Crane accomplishes this without any dialogue and a completely different treatment of color and tone.

Jacob Chabot
The Mighty Skullboy Army; a book starring a boy with a skull for a head dressed in what appears to be a Brooks Bros suit - hellbent on corporate takeover. This is a task he believes he can exact from his classroom. Skullboy is aided by a robot (Unit 1) and a monkey (Unit 2). His adversary? Mod Dog... is by all accounts... just a dog doing whatever it is dogs do.

This is the kind of stuff I can imagine being created in the early days of comics, yet, they feel altogether modern... 'cos they are. The point isn't to copy an idea, crystalize a hypothesis or dump all you've done before to follow a trend that is happening now.

The point is to regain the freedom the early days of comics afforded its creators. And, if that be case, it isn't a trend at all... it's a paradigm shift.

Who's up for some comics gumbo?!



Friday, February 8, 2008

Cream City Conversations with AREX

Well, it's been a while. These 'conversations' have been great. I'm still waiting for others which may not even make it back to me. In the meantime, I thought I'd do something I was holding off on until I was ready to move on to next stage of 'conversations'. I'm gonna put myself in the hot seat.

Take it away, freakboy...

CCC: For those who don't know, Name and location?

Amado 'AREX' Rodriguez, Cream City WI... I'm known to change my pen name a lot, though.

CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?

The earliest memory I have is my mother buying me a Marvel Annual with this cool Hulk versus Spider-man story in it. I'm not claiming it was then I knew I wanted to create comics but it certainly got me ultra-interested in them.

I became interested in creating comics in a roundabout sorta way, actually. I had this crummy job... but I worked with some pretty cool people. A lot of them were absolutely hilarious and I'd goof around... draw comic strips starring the lot. I guess that was in... oh... 1995 or 1996.

I can recall the time clearly 'cos Nirvana was still the biggest band in the world... even after Cobain passed away and Oasis was claiming to be the next in line. It was a great time to be into music. People say the '90s were like the '60s but they were like... the '90s. The underground was getting it's second or third wind.

I remember, at about the same time, there was a comic that'd been out for a little while called The Maxx. It blew me away... I'd taken a long hiatus from comic book reading. I probably thought I'd grown out of them. But there was no "too old" for reading The Maxx.

From the moment I read... I guess it was... erm... issue 5 or 6, I dreamt of being able to create something that impactful. No painting I'd ever put on canvas even came close to the power one panel of The Maxx held. I wanted to be a part of whatever creative movement was responsible for that level of vigor.

Thinking back, I need to give partial credit to my 7th and 8th grade art teacher, Carl Evans. He made me reproduce Frazetta paintings and encouraged me to look to illustration as the future of fine art. Hat off to you, Mister Evans. You had it pegged.

CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?

Actually, my first published work was in the fan pages of The Maxx. Sam Kieth was kind enough to print the doodles I'd included in the fan mail I sent him. I just couldn't contain myself. I feel like a total geek repeating this story but that's the power of comics. The artform is so damn free the creator can imbue the books with that much force. I felt compelled to write those letters!

CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?

I love self-publishing. I love the freedom it offers. No one to advise you to write/draw more marketable... that reminds me... check out Tom Hart's Unmarketable ogns. They're great. Anyway... yeah... it's about the freedom, for me. If the book is a success, it's due to what you chose to do with that freedom.

By the way... I've been meaning to drop out of the comics game for years now. Yeah... I've wanted to jump back into painting really bad. But something about these funnybooks won't let me go. Every once in a while I set time aside to complete a few paintings... some as commissions and others as gifts.

CCC: If you've been published by other publishers, compare the experience to self-publishing.

I've had my work published by Image (just those doodles in The Maxx and a pin-up in Mahfood's Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks) and Radio Comix. The Radio Comix gig was called Mangaphile. I think I made 2 issues of that. In every case, there was no Editor telling me what to do. If I impressed, they published. End of story. Not much different than how I judge my artwork for my self-publishing. I've also done work for a Young American Comics anthology.

CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise)?

*The Maxx. Thanks, Sam. I appreciate you digging those doodles. 1995.

*Stratejo (with Jerod Luening). I also inked for another artist (at the time) but that's work I'd rather not mention. 1998-1999.

*Psyberverse which was a mini-comic anthology I did (solo) with three different stories... one of which was the second version of The Goon Squad. 1999.

*Host which was a book I did with a couple Milwaukee cats... one of which being the talented and funny Jerod Luening. The theme of that one was angels. I didn't come up with the concept but I thought it was a cool collection of pin-ups. 1999-2000.

*Radio Comix: Mangaphile. I believe that was issues 14 and 15. 1999.

*Cream City Comics: Inkblot anthology. 2002-2003.

*Cream City Comics: Corrupted Data anthology. 2002-2003.

*Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks. Yep... the 40 oz joint. 2003.

*One Wizard Place. I provided the illustrations for this download-only novel. I also co-wrote and illustrated a Super Depressed Girl novel which I never released. Thanks to Gabe for coloring those images. 2003

*Pulpo. This is an awesome anthology published by two brilliant cats out of Chitown, known as Galvo & Toast. 2004.

*I also co-wrote and illustrated an as-of-yet unpublished graphic novel called Super Depressed Girl during this time but I became blah on the book when people started hitting me up with money talk. I can't create under that kinda pressure. I like to create for the joy of creating. "Do what you love and the money will follow." The only reason I'm mentioning this sucker is 'cos some of the pages were used in Muscles & Fights volume 1. 2004.

*Element X Studios: Atomic. This is a really cool artbook with some of, in my opinion, the best artists you've never heard or read about... unless you follow Ain't It Cool News' Indie Jones section. 2005.

*Diary Of An Apprentice. Jennifer Young was kind enough to ask me to produce a pin-up and afterword for, I think, volume 4 or 5 of her amazing illustrated diaries. She's such a cool and talented person. 2007.

*Muscles & Fights volumes 1-3. This is a cool anthology I publish with Bud Burgy. We've a spin-off, Muscles & Frights, already in the works. 2007-2008.

*Young American Comics: small town/BIG CITY. They still haven't sent me my copies of this anthology. It's a great looking book, though. And YAC are some cool people. 2007.

*Alleycat: Cats On Bikes With Ninjas. This anthology has been mentioned several times but I'd like to add it's a testament to the spiritual nature of this artform. I came to know just how inspirational the subject, Eric, of the book is by what was done to make sure it held up to his level of exellence. 2007.

*Cream City Comics: Heavee Underground. "Consider Yourselves Warned!" 2007.

*Of course, I've created loads of mini-comics and whatnot. I've inked for a few artists but I can't be arsed to list all that stuff. I think that about does it. Whatever I've been foolhardy enough to omit can be lumped into this last listing. Each of those projects is just as important to me, though. At the time I gave it what I had.

*There's a book... an anthology... I saw recently which had some old work I'd inked credited to another artist. The same publisher reprinted a story I'd inked AND published years ago and credited it to AREX. AREX did not create that work. AR... or ARJR... or ROD... or whatever name I was using back then did. AREX hadn't been born when that work was produced. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear that up... for the record.

CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.

I'm from Milwau... Cream City. The scene is scattered here. I mean, you have all these cool groups of artists but they're segregated into gallery and art collectives... which aren't really collective at all. It's like a bunch of small cliques... which is too band 'cos if they'd all organize they could exact more change in the local scene. I give credit to everybody gutsy enough to tread the harsh terrain of the Midwest with art... it's a lonely journey, indeed. Too many people concerned with being cool... or trendy... or punk... or whatever is keeping them from getting together with other pockets of artists. It frustrates the tar outta me.

I'm really envious of what the Twin Cities have going on.

But... there are newer groups like MARN and AWE getting it together in Cream City. It's looking good for the future. Check out the links for MARN and AWE to see just how brilliant they are.

CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe what that/those group/s benefit you.

'Real World'? The International Cartoonists Conspiracy which other 'conversations' have mentioned. They're awesome and I can hardly wait for Kevin McCarthy to move here so we can get the Cream City cell going.

There's also Artists Working in Education. I've just signed on with them to teach students how to create superheroes. I'll chalk Muscles & Fights up as being the training ground for this. I'd like to go into that more but I'll save it for another time.

CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics?

I'm gonna come off as a pretentious idiot here but I'm also interviewing myself so... WHO CARES?

I hope I touch people through the comics I create.... even if what they feel is the urge to break my hands... just take me out. Have that!

CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene? If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?

Two things, actually. Self-belief and organization. The underground art scene's been around since, pretty much, the dawn of comics and it's still scattered. When are we gonna pull our heads out of our... erm... anyway... get it together so we can all benefit equally based on what we invest? And I'm not simply talking currency. Y'know?

CCC: Do you blog? MySpace? ComicSpace? If so, what kinds of things do you communicate through it and what is your ultimate goal in using that site?

This is my blog. I set it up to do rather than wish. I hope it's inspiring other people to take similar action. Cats like Danno and Stwalley are amazing. They continue to fill me with pride in the artform.

I don't MySpace... that monster can easily suck your time. I only learned of ComicSpace recently. I haven't heard anything about it positive enough to interest me in signing on. I guess it's another hit on a search engine, though. And that's not a bad thing... at all.

I'm not the big 'techie' type. So, If I'm gonna use the internet for art... it's gonna be to... I dunno... further my personal mission in regards to what I'd like to see done. This blog is a perfect example of what I've just stated.

CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?

I don't keep up with blogs religiously but I read them. I like a lot of the illustrated diary-type stuff. I think the people responsible for those things are some of the bravest artists ever. It takes a lotta guts to put yourself out there like that.

CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

Y'know... I love history and philosophy... especially, the Far East variety. I don't read enough of it but I love it. I also love reading about artists I admire from, pretty much, every discipline. I also love slice-of-life comics... some of that stuff is something to aspire to.

CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?

Knock my socks off, baby! Don't regurgitate something I've seen a million times before. I wanna see something I put down and wish I'd come up with. In fact, the best stuff fills me with the urge to break the hands of the creator... just take him or her out. Ring familiar?

CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?

There are a couple and if you check out my publisher links you'll find them all there. Fantagraphics, AdHouse, Top Shelf, AiT/Planet Lar and FirstSecond have me the most stoked about the future of the industry, though. They're treatment of the artform is topnotch. You'd never see a Marvel or a DC give relative no-name creators the fine treatment these indie houses offer as a standard mode of operation. I also think Muscles & Fights Press rocks!

CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?

They're in my heroes links.

CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?

This list is always gonna be different depending on who's putting it together... another testament to the breadth of the artform. But what I really think is, every creator putting work together and making an actual honest effort to have that work seen by others is shaping the furture of comics. If you're trying something different or doing the same old crap someone else did before you... you're shaping the future of comics.

If you're a creator and you're reading this and you still don't feel an obligation to yourself...

CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?

Romance, monsters, crime, etc comics came first. The indies are the DIRECT and LEGITIMATE offspring of the original comics. If anything, the superheroes are the bastard offspring. If the indies can get together as a COMMUNITY there's no end to the audiences they can reach.

CCC: Give a shout out to any site and/or underground comic you think people ought to be checking into.

Check out my links... seriously. Take the time out to explore every one of them. And put aside the time to explore the links on the sites my links take you to. You'll be amazed at what you find.

Before I log-off, I wanna share a couple quotes with you...

"The future of comics is in the past." - Art Spiegelman

"Knowing is not enough... We must apply.
Willing is not enough... We must do." - Bruce Lee

That's it. I'm signing off for the weekend. Take care of yourselves and love one another.



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Heavee Underground: Review!

I just thought I'd pop in and let people know Heavee Underground received its first review today.

I particularly enjoyed the distance the review placed between wannabe Hollywood versions of Hip-Hop flicks and this book.

Big thanks fo Ain't It Cool News for taking the time to break the book down for what it is... especially seeing beyond the muscial subject matter.

Alberto, Bernie, Tim, Jim, Gabe, Dave and Bud... thanks for helping me get this thing together and my backside in gear.



You may now return to enjoying Ryan's brilliant interview.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Ryan Dow

I'm back! So much great art, so many cool creators and, seemingly, so little time to share them all.

At some point, I'd like to begin the process of reviewing the comics I'm reading for the readers of this blog. I often find not many people shopping at my local comic shop are reading the comics I am. My first clue suggesting the fact are the comics I read are typically sold in increments of one... and rarely, if ever, ordered again.

Anyway, this situation got me to thinking there may be other people out there looking for something new with less time to shop around than I have at my disposal... so why not help them out by promoting books they may find worth their precious time and money. Right?

Well, if you agree with what you've just read, I hope you've looked into EVERY creator I've interviewed and/or mentioned in this blog. That would be a good starting place as some of them share their work... FREE.

On the subject of FREE work. My next 'conversation' is with Ryan Dow. I've gotta admit, I gave up on comics a long time ago... then came Sam Kieth's The Maxx. When web-comics hit the scene the I was also skeptical. I mean, not only was I anti-computers but there was rumor web-comics would take over the market. I wasn't having any of that. I like my comics and art, in general, original or in-print. Then came James Kochalka, Jennifer Young and people like...

Ryan Dow...

CCC: For those who don't know, Name and location?

My name is Ryan Dow and I live in St Louis Park, MN.

CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?

I think a big inspiration for me was seeing a televised biography of Charles Schulz called You Don't Look 40 Charlie Brown... when I was very young. It covered his youthful artistic inclinations, his struggles with syndication and the development of the Peanuts franchise. It also feature a lot of popular cartoonists at the time saying how hey felt about Shultz. It was the first real glipse at how comics were created and I was fascinated.

CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?

The day after seeing You Don't Look 40 Charlie Brown, I drew a trippy 2-page comic about my favorite Pound Puppy, Brownie. My dad showed this to the local newspaper editor who thought it was cute and ran it in the paper. This was in a town of about 700 people, mind you. Getting in the local paper wasn't that much of an accomplishment.

*Note: You were one of 700 people to have your artwork published in a newspaper, Ryan. What in Sam Hill are you on about, man?

CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?

The nice thing about self-publishing is that you make the rules. You decide what format the comic is going to take and what your goals are. You make the deadlines. You decide how much you want to invest. You can walk away at any time (or so I keep telling myself).

*Note: Tell me about it, brother. You ain't just whistling Dixie.

CCC: If you've been published by other publishers, compare the experience to self-publishing.

When you're making something for a publisher you're playing by someone else's rules. Someone else decides on the page sizes, document resolution and, ultimately, what they're going to print. It takes more discipline, but it can be a great learning experience. I didn't give much thought to things like page size and resolution until after making comics for anthologies like Muscles and Fights.

CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise)?

I used to draw gag cartoons for my college newspaper, the Wartburg Trumpet. I had a strip published on the City Pages website. I have a one-page comic in the Eric Lappegard tribute anthology Cats on Bikes with Ninjas. I have a ten-page story in Muscles and Fights 2 and in the soon-to-be-published Muscles and Fights 3.I have three mini-comics that I hand out as promotional items. And last -but not least- I run a weekly webcomic called Introspective Comics, which can be found at

CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.

I don't think I would have started making comics again if it wasn't for the art scene here. You see, I've spent most of my life living in small towns. There my obsession with comics would often make me feel like an outcast, like something was wrong with me. Here there's enough outcasts that we can form our own little clubs and validate our sad little lives.

*Note: Sad? Little? And "lives" in the same sentence?! We're definitely going to need a dose of 'Act Right' at little Ryan's place.

CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe what that/those group/s benefit you.

I've made so many friends through the International Cartoonist Conspiracy. There's a lot of talent and goodwill in that group, which is weird considering how we meet once or twice a month to draw crude and socially reprehensible jam comics.

*Note: Ryan... you're really pushing your luck with me, pal. You're about two bad answers away from a serious pummeling.

CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics? Are there other mediums you enjoy working in? If so, what? How do you display this other work?

I don't know why I create comics. I know that I'm not trying to be a superstar or make a living of it. I think I would go crazy if I tried to do that. I do want people to read my comics and, hopefully, enjoy them. But why am I making comics instead of writing poetry or tooling around with flash animation? I don't know. There's something about comics that fascinates me. It's not just the writing. It's not just the art. It's that phenomenon in between, the interaction of words and sequential images. Something about it just clicks with me and I don't know why.

*Note: Okay, okay... that answer just wiped your slate clean. Why aren't you writing poetry? That was poetry, my man.

CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene? If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?

ComicSpace, currently, has a marketplace set up where you can sell original art. What I think would be great is if you could order mini-comics through ComicSpace. That way, if someone from North Carolina friends me, I could easily order their minis if I wanted to. In other words, I think it would be cool to have a single mass marketplace like Amazon or iTunes for mini-comics.

*Note: Ain't nuttin to it but to do it. There was a time I wished there was a site or magazine solely focused on promoting other creators. A site specializing on interviewing unknown to little known talent. Dig?

CCC: Do you blog? MySpace? ComicSpace? If so, what kinds of things do you communicate through it and what is your ultimate goal in using that site?

I am currently on MySpace, ComicSpace, and Facebook. I also have a blog at, but its not as cool as your blog. I guess I use it for self-promotion, but to be honest, I don't like blogging that much.

CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?

Here are the blogs I read on a regular basis: – A weekly webcomic by Daniel Olson. He's created his own little universe filled with iconic characters that symbolize various aspects of his life. – These guys are pros. - Another pro, very talented. *Note: He's also been kind enough not to send me an e-mail about how the Packers lost face to the Giants. Of course, he's a native New Yorker... there's still time. – We meet once or twice a month to draw crude and socially reprehensible jam comics. - This man will not let go of the past. – Not a comics creator, but she does moderate the Powers letter page. Ask her a New Avengers continuity question at your peril.
And Danno needs to get his own damn blog already!
I also listen to the following podcast: – Webcomics Weekly, a podcast about making webcomics from some seasoned pros.

CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

Most of the comics I read come from libraries. I'm a lot more willing to try something out if I can get it for free and reading comics from libraries has definitely changed my buying habits. I would have never given series like Concrete , Powers, Invincible, DMZ, Promethea or Scott Pilgrim a chance if I had not read them in a library first. I also read of lot of local stuff like Uptown Girl, Manly Tales of Cowardice, Sa-Bom-Jim and Brain Food.

CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?

I tend to be more forgiving on self-published comics, especially if it's from someone I've met in real life. Making comics is hard work and, if you're pushing yourself and setting your own deadlines, you're bound to make mistakes.

Tom Brazelton makes a webcomic called Theater Hopper and he once said, "Everything looks right at 1:00 in the morning". I can't sum it up any better than that. I'm a lot less forgiving on published comics because people are paid to make them and, more importantly, people are paid to EDIT them. Writers and artists make mistakes. That's why there are editors.

CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?

I don't really think I have a favorite. I've been reading a lot from Oni lately.

CCC: What is it about that publisher you find unique?

I don't know. I just like Scott Pilgrim and Local.

CCC: What are some the local venues for showing your work? Is/are that/those venue/s open to artists from other communities showing there?

There's a Lutefisk Sushi show coming up. As long as you make 160 copies of a minicomic, I don't think they'll turn anyone away.

CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?

Oh, I don't know. The first thing that popped into my head was Paul Chadwick. Go dig up some of his Concrete anthologies! Alex Robinson is cool too. I got to meet him at a comic shop the other day. He signed my Lower Regions. I like saying that more than I should. Also, Box Office Poison and Tricked are classics that every fan of the medium should read.

CCC: Is there an artist working in another medium you follow?

None that I can think of.

*Note: I hope you've at least given thought to checking out some of the non-comics links on this site, Ryan. And that goes for you, kind reader, as well.

CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?

I think that Scott Kurtz and his cohorts at Webcomics Weekly -- have the influence to inspire a new generation of web cartoonists.

I also think that Scott McCloud, despite his often unrealistic idealism, will have a huge influence on the next generation of cartoonists.

CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?

I think the biggest problems in comics right now is distribution. I've heard people say, “Well, people don't read comics anymore because they've got DVDs and video games". But the thing is, DVDs and video games are readily available in every department store and bookstore in America. If you could only get video games at specialty shops, their popularity would plummet. It's great that comics are now available at Target. I would love to see them at other mass distributors as well... even, shudder, Wal-Mart.

CCC: Share a bit of advice for other creators.

I think the hardest thing about making comics as an adult is being comfortable with failure. Because, if you make comics, on some level you will fail. Maybe the comic doesn't live up to your expectations... maybe it doesn't connect with your audience as much as you would like... maybe everyone avoids your table at a convention or addresses you with mild disinterest. On some level, things aren't going to live up to your expectations. Then, you have to suck it up and try to make your next comic better. It's all rather quixotic.

Wow. That's some great advice. I can't think of anything to add to this interview.

Thanks, Ryan!