Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ray Friesen, The Interview

Yesterday I reviewed “Another Dirt Sandwich” by Ray Friesen. Today, I conducted an interview with him. Well, actually, it was in email over the last week of so but who’s counting. Anyway, on with the questions... and don't forget to click the pictures for readable pages:

1. I can’t believe that anyone produces comics these days without having been influenced by them as a child. What comics were you reading as a kid? Do you remember your first comic?
Well, for starters, I have a huge inner child, so a comic book I read today could decide to become a huge influence of mine, but in my formative years, I tried to watch as many cartoons and read as many cool books as humanely possible. My parents both like comics, so we had lots of 'calvin and hobbes' and 'far side' collections round the house, but we also had older retro stuff not too many people of my generation get to be exposed to, like classic peanuts, EC's Segars Popeye, and Pogo.

Gosh how I love pogo! It's one of my main influences, with tons of characters, no real plot or punchlines, and as much sillyness and talking animals as will fit. Once I started waltzing into bookstores and picking up my own comics, I always preferred collections to single issues, so I read alot of Asterix, Tintin, and discovered Disney Comics (Uncle Scrooge! You can't beat anthropomorphic animals having adventures in my book), Simpsons Comics (I in fact realized I wanted to draw cartoons full time forever when 'Futurama Comics' printed one of my cartoons in their letters column) Usagi Yojimbo, and of course Mad Magazine (and anything else Sergio Aragones is does, groo and whanot.) and that's just comic books! Don't get me started on book books, cartoons or old movies (Monty Python and Marx Brothers anyone?)

2. Why comics?
Well, as a raving egomaniac, I like to control absolutely everything about my project, AND have the instant gratification of having a finished project at the end of the day. That doesn't happen much in animation, which requires patience, a virtue I do not possess.

3. As a creator, What’s harder, writing or drawing?
That's like comparing apples and octopi. Drawing takes more time, but requires less thinking. You just sit and hold a pencil and several hours later pictures have occurred. Writing means waiting for inspiration, but when you do manage to get the creative juices flowing, it's the most satisfying feeling in the world. I've spent the past several months drawing all the ideas I wrote on a single wonderful afternoon in September. I prefer writing to drawing, and vice versa.

4. While it’s always possible, I’m pretty sure you don’t encounter talking penguins and ostriches every day. So what inspires you? Where do all the zany ideas come from?
I have no idea. I'm certainly of the opinion people SHOULD encounter talking penguins and ostriches every day. I have sort of an internal list of zany ideas I'm intending to explore, and add to it all the time. Some great ideas simply occur by putting two incongruous yet cool ideas together (penguins and pirates! together at last!) It gets easier once you have characters developed, and can just put them in a situation and see how they react.

5. So what are you writing influences? The word play reminds me of fine mix between Monty Python and Bugs Bunny.
Ha! I answered the first 'influences' related question before I had read this one! Yes, very much Monty Python and Bugs Bunny, they are two of my absolute favorites. I wanted to join Monty Python for the longest time, untill I realized they were only accepting applications via time travel 40 years ago. Have you ever heard the expression 'everything you see is the fertilizer from which you own ideas grow?" I've heard it attributed to several people but think it's very apt. My influences are just a big mixing bowl of everything I like.

Since I write and draw pretty much at the same time, it's hard to extract writing influences from drawing influence. My main creative heroes are the people who wrote and drew at the same time (although a bunch of writers only and artists only are in there too, I just like people who are multitalented)

6. Your style is considerable different from traditional comic book artists, how did it develop? Who was been the biggest influence on your art style?
I've always been driven to find a unique angle for myself, not entirely sure why. Probably one of my biggest influences is my mother, she's a creative dynamo, and let me draw all over the place whenever I wanted too. (you can see her sculpture at I have a big wad of reference files, and anytime I come across a particular technique or nuance from an artist I like, I try to save it. I have pages of photocopies of interesting hands I've run across. I was talking with an animator friend of mine, and he pointed out a few of the things he thought was unique about my style, and how they would be harder to bring across in animation. 'That's exactly why we need to keep them in" i quipped. I've only recently noticed I have an obsession with the pink finger, I always have it doing something weird, sticking straight out when the rest of the hand is a fist, or curled up when the other fingers are sticking out.

I try not to just draw inspiration from cartoons, that would be like a tv writer never watching movies or going to plays (maybe thats where some of the trouble comes from!) but looking at paintings and puppet shows and things as well. I've been rambling these last 2 paragraphs, trying to come up with some specific influences, but I really can't come up with a good answer besides 'All of them'

7. How do you work? Do you still use pen-ink or are you all digital these days?
A mixture. When I started, I didn't own a computer or anything high tech, and drew my comics the way creators have since the 20's, big sheets of bristleboard, rulers and pencils and dipping pen in the ink. I've since gotten a spiffy little mac, I've tried using a wacom tablet, but can't work out the hand eye coordination. I have an attaché full of art junk I drag around, so I can draw at a moments notice. Paper and non photo pencil, inks with a cool fountain pen I like, scanned in, colors and lettering added. I've stopped drawing full pages full of original art, and now draw every character separately, and play with the layout on the computer. This helps me fit all the drawing and words together (I have sooooooo many words to fit it! Brevity is the soul of wit apparently, but it isn't really my strong suit.)

8. When I think of typical humor comics like Richie Rich, Archie, etc. they always seem have to have the same 6 or 9 panel grid layout. I don’t think there are two pages with the same layout any page in “Another Dirt Sandwich”. How much time and effort do you spend on layout out pages?
I don't think about the layout overly much, just try and figure out what would look best on that particular page. Again, I want each thing to look unique. And since I fudge with all the characters on the computer, I don't have to follow any sort of grid and can get as wild and fanciful as I want. Usually a grid works just fine though, even if it isn't a standard one. I don't want anything to be distracting from whatever my main point is (I feel the same way about coloring too, I'm always annoyed when too many bright colors are used, and distract me from the main point. "Those doors are bright red! Those aren't important doors! Why are you making me pay attention to them? I try and use a more sophisticated, cinematicky pallete, using color to enhance the mood. Not too mood, I still want things bright and happy, but I don't need every color of the rainbow on every page.)

I think because I'm writing and drawing and coloring all myself, I don't have to simplify things to explain them to someone else involved in the creative process. I've written the words, I can adapt and change them even after I've finished drawing all the pictures, which is a luxury not everyone gets. I can be a bit more flexible, and try to let it show.

Or something, I dunno. : )

9. Humor is obviously a big influence on your style. What’s your favorite humorous book/movie?
Good Question! I don't know if I have A favorite, so how bout I give you a top ten? In no particular order:
Everything Monty Python
Most Everything Marx Brothers
Jay Ward, Rocky & Bullwinkle and friends
The Jungle Book (animated Version)
Everything Pixar's come up with
Everything Terry Pratchett's written, especially 'Going Postal'
Gilligans Island
Wallace & Gromit
PG Wodehouse
Douglas Adams
Simpsons and Futurama, everything Matt Groening puts his name on
and of course Bugs Bunny
Plus 6 other things.

10. What projects do you have coming up?
Too many things to count! I've just put the finishing touches on 'Cupcakes of DOOM' which should be out in a few weeks, it's a pseudo-sequel to my book YARG! (it features the piratey bad guys, who have miraculously become the good guys!)

I've got at least one more book in mind for all my various characters, so that's 5 or 6 books right there, but they'll ahve to wait, as have a bunch of new ideas I want to do first. "The Vampire Dinosaurs on Motorcycles" is one, "Wizards of the Carribbean" is another. Also "The Space Penguins Do Stuff", and epic length thingy, filled with the most logical reason for an alien invasion ever (earth is the only planet with chocolate!)

I've got several pitches out where I want to adapt other people's books into graphic novels, fingers crossed on those, several other pitches out where I want to draw for an ongoing comic magazines and things (They're doing Muppet comics! Can't you just see me writing and drawing some of it?)

My girlfriend and I (she's an animator) want to do a GN adaptation of 'The Importance of Being Earnest' at some point, I've got two other original ideas I'm collaborating with her on, and another mystery collaboration with someone else fun I haven't worked out all the details with.

I'm planning on launching a Daily strip for my website (the futher rambunctious ramblings of Tbyrd Fearlessness!) as well as whatever other comics I want to do for it (cupcakes bonus comics were alluded to) as well as about 6 other ideas in the distant future I haven't thought about enough yet to figure out what they're going to be, except for the fact that they're going to be awesome.

The trouble is picking which one to focus all my attention on, I pick one and all the others yell at me to pick them instead. Ah well, as far as problems go, that's one of the best ones to have ever (besides "My mansion's not big enough for all this pirate gold dangit!")

Well! That's all I have to say for now, thanks for having me! I hoped this peek inside my mind was illumating, and not too terrifying. Only one of the above answers was a complete lie, try and guess which one!

I want to say "thanks" to Ray for taking the time to answer my questions. He's a great guy and producing some great work. Go buy it! You won't be disappointed.

In the meantime, visit Ray's official comic site , and see all of his strips here or visit his blog here . Don't be shy about sending him email either! He loves to talk... in case you couldn't guess from the interview.

1 comment:

  1. Great Interview. My favorite answer "You just sit and hold a pencil and several hours later pictures have occurred." Very funny.