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Saturday, March 26, 2022 

How an artist from Cornwall got into his profession

Cornwall Live interviewed a UK artist named Rory Donald, who told how he was encouraged to try out his career and illustrate a comic called Griff Gristle:
Rory Donald looks up from his digital white board and computer screen where the latest adventures of Griff Gristle, an old salty sea dog adventurer and monster hunter, are taking shape.

His studio is not just any old man cave. It is a temple dedicated to all things comic books. There are collectable toys from Star Wars and various superhero franchises unopened in their plastic blister packs, jostling for space on floor-to-ceiling sagging shelves, heavy with comic books. For Rory, this is not just a lifelong passion he fell into like Obelix did with the cauldron of magic potion, it is a labour of love.

“I started like people my age in this country by reading the Beano or the Dandy,” Rory said. “Then it was every American comic that came out I could get my hands on. I’d buy whatever the newsagent could get onto his shelves. I got out of it when I hit my teens and I discovered girls and football. But by my late teens I stumbled across an English translation of this French comic Valerian and I was hooked again. I read it in one go and I thought that’s me back on board.”
He also reveals something very telling, not just about the majors, but also about a certain assumed indie publisher:
Rory’s been on the cusp of big studio greatness a few times after his art caught the attention of execs looking for new projects to launch. While not yet at the stage of adapting his own work for TV or a film, he’s content collaborating on indie projects that come his way, putting into a visual reality the words of a writer, and increasingly, his own ideas too.

“I love Griff Gristle. He’s getting a name for himself and his fans love him,” Rory added as he leafs through the second issue of the comic funded through Kickstarter. It’s so hard to get published through the traditional studios,” he commented. “The big names like Marvel or Dark Horse don’t even look at what newcomer artists send in. Unless you’re already known or you know someone in the business it’s almost impossible to break through that way.

“Social media and funding platforms like Kickstarter are what’s been keeping the indie scene going. It’s created an opportunity for people like myself who don’t know where to go to get their books and art out without having to put the money up front. It’s a natural progression for the indie comic industry. It’s like pre-order in a sense but it’s also a huge scene where so many writers and artists can keep producing their work and get it into readers’ hands.”
Yes, he's right about how crowdfunding can be great for indie productions. But what a surprise to learn Dark Horse, which I'd thought was an indie publisher, must no longer be willing to accept such projects. Is that the result of specializing in so much licensed merchandise, recalling DH was known in the past for adapting the Aliens franchise, along with Conan, to name but some prominent examples? The article also notes how Donald's one of many people into the art form who's had to cope with those who despise it:
Like many comic book lovers, Rory has had to endure the sniggers and raised eyebrows from those who think ‘comics are just for kids’. Yet, away from the cape and mask wearing of vigilante superheroes, spandex costumes and pants-on-the outside outfits of supervillains, themes explored in many a graphic novel, album or anime, touch on everything from sex and violence, drugs and guns, religion, politics and the occult, to war, love, race, greed, horror and everything in between. And those same themes, while part of life, are rarely seen as being suitable for children by the same people who think comics are just for kids.

Comic books are big business. Yet avid streaming consumers forget that most of their favourite shows, from Batman to X-men, Umbrella Academy to The Boys, Constantine and Preacher, to Locke and Key or Sweet Tooth on Netflix, have all started out as comic books. Rory works on his own projects under the One Pot Comics label but under Rory Draws when collaborating with other artists and writers.

In France, comics are revered as an art form. It's the same in Japan. It is seen as a serious career and they look after their artists. But in this country, there is still this stigma attached to the industry and we have to get past the sniggering. I think the British comics industry needs new eyes on it for we can’t just keep buying each other’s comics to keep each other afloat.”
One point of contention here is the exact definition of comics as big business. Because what's brought up suggests they're alluding more to the Hollywood adaptations in live action, when the actual comics industry is anything but big. Yet a valid point's made about the belittling attitude towards the art form still existing in this day and age, firm proof comics aren't genuinely accepted as illustrated medium, no matter the topics in focus. Which could explain why I sometimes think of live action movies as something aimed at people who have no love for illustration. If you gave them an adult-themed book up front and asked them to consider, it'd surely make no difference to them, period. They already made up their minds; animation/illustration is something they don't accept in any capacity. Don't be shocked if they don't even like the Mona Lisa or Rene Magritte's art based along the same thought patterns.

And the guy does cite another vital point: as an audience proper, we shouldn't have to rely on each other back and forth for buying and reading each other's indie comics. We have to convince more people why it's worth it.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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