With the release of today's Image Comics' Green Wake, I interview artist Riley Rossmo!
Greg: Welcome to Face To Greg, Riley! How are you today?
Riley: I'm ok. Done drawing for the day.
Greg: Riley, for those unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us about yourself?
Riley: I've been making comics for 4 years or so now. I have work published with AIT/Planet Lar, Image comics, and IDW. I went to art school, did some advertising and editorial work before doing comics.
Greg: What's inspired you to start drawing? And what are influences? I must say your art is rather distinct from a lot of the other types of works out there.
Riley: I was inspired by G.I. Joe and Spider-man. I'm not sure I ever had a reason to start drawing or made a decision. We didn't have a ton of stuff growing up, so my brother and I would draw a lot. Stretching sprocket computer paper out across the kitchen, we'd draw long sequential stories. My earliest influences were G.I. Joe as I mentioned, Spider-man, Tons of Sci-Fi and fantasy books. Later: New Mutants and X-men. I don't really mean to draw distinctly it's just something I do. While in art school I had to do a fair amount of technical drawing and painting, it took me forever to draw super representational and I wasn't particularly good at it, but I discovered I really liked the impressionists and expressionists and I could produce something special in my mark making.
Greg: I personally feel that's why your style's so appealing. Who are your inspirations? From art to other types of medium? Which aspects would you say have inspired your style?
Riley: In comics: Bill Sienkiewicz has been my biggest. Paul Pope, Mignola, Bernie Wrightson, John Buscema, and Edwardo Risso. Sienkiewicz's interiors have always blown my mind. It's all so rough and elegant at once. Mignola and Wrightson's mastery of shadow is only something I can aspire to replicate. I read a fair amount, mostly hard boiled stuff lately, but also fantasy, literature, and classic authors. I like turn of the century books a lot. I love film, and some television, mostly HBO, AMC, Showtime stuff. I think M (Fritz Lang) and Up (Pixar) are my favorite films right now.
Some fine art works for me: Gustave Klimt, Egon Schiele, Henry Toulous-autrec are my favorites. Schiele and Toulous-Lautrec have such incredible gesture in there figures. Of modern work, there is a fair amount of illustrators/painters I like such as Justin Sweet, Dave Cooper, David Choe, Ashley Wood, Tomer Hanuka.
Greg: What was your first comic work?
Riley: Seven Sons fro AIT/Planet Lar with Alex Grecian
Greg: When did you hook up with Alex Grecian?
Riley: In San Diego 2004, I think. It's been a while.
Greg: And since Seven Sons, you've produced Proof with Alex, which has been a rather surprisingly big fan favorite for the past few years. How has it been working on this book for the past few years, especially given how hard it is to keep a new indie going past a year?
Riley: It's been a roller coaster ride. We've had our ups and downs, our fans have been great at supporting us and helping us stay excited about the book in the hard times. I think looking forward to and working on the Julia arc really kept Proof going for us.
Greg: What's your favorite thing about the book thus far?
Riley: The Julia arc was the hardest and the most rewarding. There are bits of it I wish I could remaster, redraw some backgrounds and stuff. Besides that, I've really had fun on Endangered. I'm usually happiest with whatever I'm working on presently.
Greg: What is Proof about, for those who have yet to pick it up?
Riley: Well it's about a Sasquatch orphan who works for the government as an ecologist/agent investigating cryptozoological creatures.
Greg: What about the production of the book? How do you and Alex work exactly?
Riley: Alex gets me scripts in chunks which I read over, maybe offer small changes as I lay it out in thumbnail format. Then I go to pencils which are pretty rough, then ink, acrylic scan the page, do some tonal stuff and half tones (which I used to do by hand but took a awhile and was hard to find zipitone).
Alex is pretty cool about narrative input too. If ask or mention something I 'm interested in drawing like the dinosaur hunters in the second arc, Alex will try to work it in.
Greg: That sounds really cool. Based on the output, you two make a fantastic team! Now you're also involved in a book called Cowboy Ninja Viking. Can you tell me about that?
Riley: CNV was the story of a reluctant schizophrenic hero with the abilities and personalities of a Cowboy, Ninja and Viking. Duncan (CNV) goes to a globe spanning adventure to catch other triplets (people with multiple personalities) that are working for a criminal master mind.
Greg: How did you get involved in that book?
Riley: AJ [Lieberman] and I had known each other for a while and wanted to do something together. Initially we talked about a near future dystopian world as a setting but as the concept evolved it seemed like CNV was crazy enough without the additional complications.
Greg: Nice. There was news a few months back that there may be a CNV movie. What can you tell us about that?
Riley: Well, there was a CNV press release. Disney likes it, that's about all I can say. The Zombieland writers are writing it.
Greg: I'm sure that'll get a buncha folks ecstatic. How do you differentiate your work when you're working with Proof and when you're working with CNV?
Riley: I think about Proof in a more methodical way than CNV. CNV just kind of happens when I do it. I had the opportunity to try different techniques I couldn't in Proof, or that wouldn't be appropriate. The colors for CNV # 6 - # 10 started to resonate with me. I have a hard time with color. Having a two color palette was a really good way for me to work. It forced me to think more about organizing pages. I've been toning Proof: Endangered before sending the pages to Frank, so I can separate some of the forms. My work is hard to color, I imagine sometimes. Anything I can do to clarify my intent helps.
Greg: Now, tell us about the new love in your life, Green Wake. This book has released today and I'm very excited for it. What's it about and how did this whole thing get started?
Riley: I've known Kurtis [J. Wiebe] for a while. I wanted to try something totally different from Proof and CNV for my next project. Kurtis and I both like Lovecraftian imagery and lore. Green Wake kind grew out of that and some of the films we both are inspired by. It's a horror/mystery book thematically about guilt and regret. I like to think of it as the love child of Dark City, Twin Peaks, and Alice in Wonderland.
Greg: I'm a big fan of Twin Peaks! What's the plot of the book? Can you tell us about the characters and the dangers going on?
Riley: Green Wake is a murder mystery at its core. It's set in a place where you go if you've done something unforgivable. Morley is our main character. He's the custodian/peace keeper of Green Wake. He helps new comers get acclimated to their existence in Green Wake. Morley and his partner/deputy, Kreiger, are on the trail of a serial killer. Green Wake is a dangerous place; every one there is so filled with guilt. They've been drawn to this place, the inhabitants all have baggage, there are entities that control and patrol Green Wake. The world is strongly influenced by City of Lost Children, Pan's Labyrinth, and Spirited Away among other things.
Greg: And just how are the inspirations of this series being used, story-wise and/or tonally/mood-wise?
Riley: Thematically Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz are pretty relevant as well as perhaps some references to Purgatory. The themes of guilt, forgiveness and repentance are fairly prominent. As for tone and some story structure, Twin Peaks is central as well as Naked Lunch and City of Lost Children. The Colors are really Alien 3 and Naked Lunch inspired.
Greg: How the heck do you find time to draw all these different projects and stay on top of things?
Riley: I get a lot of creative energy thinking about stuff in my spare time. I draw Proof all day then doodle a bit, maybe do a painting but nothing with a time line on it. It keeps me focused on Proof or whatever I'm working on that's coming out currently. I like designing characters, thinking about environments. I really like to draw even if it's just for fun, gesture drawings or making marks to see what effects I can get.
Greg: What is your routine?
Riley: I get up pretty early 6:30-7:30, read for an hour or so, and then draw till 1. Go for a run then ink for a while. I do creative stuff early then do inking, coloring and scanning after 10:30-2:00. I'm pretty regimented. As well, I try to exercise in the afternoon. It gives me second wind.
Greg: Exercising is a must! Now Proof has been a bit of a fan favorite for the past few years now. Did you expect the acclaim the book has been getting when you and Alex were pitching ideas back and forth?
Riley: I'm not sure we thought about it too much we just wanted it to do ok, so we could tell our story. It's my first book, I didn't really know what to expect. It was just fantastic.
Greg: What's been the most fun you've had working on each book, from Proof, CNV, and now Green Wake?
Riley: For Proof, my favorite thing I've made were the covers to issues 18 and 19. And the opening to Proof Endangered was pretty fun. For CNV was a train scene in issue7 or 8 with horses. I don't mind drawing horses, I wish had more experience with them though. Green Wake, it all kinda of gelled for me with page 4, once I've roughed on the colors I felt like I was doing something right.
Greg: And what else are you looking forward to work on?
Riley: Well a couple horror ideas and a science fiction one. Eventually I'd like to do a Tales from the Crypt kind of story I've been thinking about for a while. As well as a graphic novel about a man who has an aneurysm and coma.
Greg: And finally, what makes Riley happy?
Riley: Shit, that's tough. Reading, drinking coffee early in the morning, skateboarding to the movie theater with my wife, drawing, sushi, pizza, spaghetti, fishing, and looking at all the comics I get on Wednesday spread out on the floor.
Written or Contributed by: Greg DAE