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!