Saturday, 14 March 2009

! Part Two


(part one)

The other week, I realized that I had no idea who I was going to interview. Actually, it went a little something like this:

Heather! Anne!: I am going to interview Joe for The Collective.
Me: Oh, eff, interviews are next week!

Joe, kindly enough, offered to be my interviewee as well, and then said that ALL OF US could interview him and it could be Joe Week here at The Collective. I told him I'd run it by everyone (lies) and then silently freaked out about not knowing who to interview. Because I have to be silently freaking out about something at all times, otherwise the world might end. It's a heavy weight to carry on one's shoulders, but I do it all for you, Universe.

Anyway, so I shot down Joe Week and then Joe was all, "Why don't you interview Andy Runton?" and I was all, "Um, sure, why don't YOU interview Andy Runton," because that is how I answer every question I'm asked. Really, I didn't want to bother Andy Runton because he's far too busy to answer my questions about time travel. It turns out that he's far too nice to refuse to answer my questions about time travel. And so, it is with great pleasure that I present my interview with Andy Runton:

1. Did you grow up reading comic books? What were/are some of your favorites?

I remember my Mom reading me the Sunday comics... that was probably my first exposure. As far as stand-alone comic books, I remember my older brother having old Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica comics. But I first walked into a real comic store in the early 80's searching for Transformers and G.I. Joe comics. I can still remember looking around in amazement for the first time at the walls of comics. But I mostly bought comics from my local convenience store. The first comic that really got me was G.I. Joe #21, "Silent Interlude," which didn't have any words. It's still one of my favorite comics. The issues that followed, with Snake Eye's origin story, completely captivated me. I was hooked. Pretty soon I found the X-Men and X-Factor, who I stuck with for a while but then I discovered the Turtles and that's where I stayed for years.

After a while I stopped going to the comic shop and things got kinda crazy as my school work got harder. The big turning point for me was really seeing Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. It had been around for a while but it took me a while to notice it. Once I really saw his comics, I was older and realized I had so much to learn. But, I didn't even know where to start. His artwork blew me away and I continued to see it every day in the newspaper. That kept my cartooning spark alive. Years later when I got back into comics, it was because of that and Hellboy by Mike Mignola and the work of Indie cartoonists like Jim Mahfood and Scott Morse. Their heavy use of black and bold sense of design was one of the main things that drew me in for good and really excited me.

2. Who are some of your favorite artists? What is it about their work that draws you to them?

I can't really name my favorites because I see things so differently now that I do it for a living. Nowadays, I'm drawn to anybody who has a lot to say emotionally with his or her work. That's what really inspires me: emotion. I also really admire my friends who draw because you can see their personality come through and that's always special. When I was growing up, I always admired my friends' work and nothing has changed. My friends include the likes of J. Chris Campbell, Tariq Hassan, James Mason, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Christian Slade, Alex Robinson, Tony Consiglio and so many more artists I've met on the road. It's great to see what they're up to and to watch them draw. There's still nothing better than sitting down and drawing with people... it's like a shared experience in a special club.

3. What is your favorite thing about drawing?

The best part is watching the characters in my imagination coming to life.

4. On your website, you say that your artwork portrays your affection for wildlife, especially birds. What's your favorite bird to draw (besides Owly, of course)?

Hmmm... I suppose it would be any little song bird. If I had to pick one, I'd probably say the one I draw the most is a chickadee, so I guess I like drawing them best.

5. What kind of music are you into? What bands are you listening to right now?

Introspective, personal story songs are my favorite kinds of songs. I was raised on Neil Diamond and Rush and I love singer/songwriters and songs that have something to say. I tend to prefer songs with a bit of melancholy while I'm drawing. It helps me slow down and take my time. I love the Weepies, Jackson Browne, Morrissey, The Frames, The Smiths, Alanis, Josh Ritter, and I still love Neil, Journey, Boston, Rush, and more. I'm pretty open if the songs have something to say.

6. If you found a time machine, and the time machine only had enough power to go to one time (past or future) and back, where would you go and why?

I suppose right now I'd really want to go back to the Mayans and ask them about their calendar and December 21st, 2012 so we could all stop worrying about it.

7. How would Owly solve the current economic crisis?

Since he's always trying to make things right, I'm sure he'd come up with some way to try to help in any way a little owl could. I bet he and Wormy would come up with a plan to use the land in a more environmentally safe way to help the world to achieve agricultural sustainability. For example, he'd suggest we all grow our own food in vegetable gardens and use rain barrels for water conservation, things like that. In the end everyone would be working together to make it through these hard times.

8. Owly has recently been recruited for a READ poster for the American Library Association. Did you go to the public library a lot as a child? If so, how much do you think that influenced your career?

It's an incredible honor to have a READ poster because I went to the library a lot! I think it was a huge influence for me. There was no internet and very few video games. No DVDs and VCRs were very expensive as they were just coming on the scene. TV and cartoons were fun, but in books I saw pictures that I could try to draw. My visual mind took it all in and filed it away for good. My mom always read a ton to me and the library was full of books and stories. Without it, I wouldn't be here.

9. What book would you jump into the middle of if you could? Would you want to be invisible and covertly watch the characters or would you want to interact with them?

Well, I can't think of a book at the moment, but I'd really want to jump into Wall-e so I could give him a big hug.

10. We take sandwiches very seriously here at The Collective. What's your favorite kind of sandwich?

Normally, I would say avocado/tomato and provolone cheese and, but since I've been taking them on the road a lot, I'm a little down on those lately... so my favorite at the moment is a vegetarian bacon (Morningstar Farms), lettuce, and tomato (VBLT).

11. As a former slave to corporate America, what words of advice or encouragement would you offer to someone who is still living life as a cubicle monkey and is looking to escape?

Well, it's honestly the hardest thing I've ever done. There are a lot of things working against you that you have to fight and you need to be a bit angry about them to make it through. For me, I did everything I was supposed to do and I was stuck in a cubicle. The money and all the things it bought and the security didn't make me happy. I wanted out and luckily I got downsized and post-9/11, the market for designers was terrible, so I took a chance and tried doing what I love for a living. It was very scary to leave that world behind. There were no more bosses telling me what to do and no more clients to please, just me. It was wonderfully liberating and incredibly scary. I had no idea at the time that very few cartoonists do what they do full-time. It's only a handful of people. Luckily I didn't know that. So... go for it, don't look back, believe in yourself, follow your heart and, as I wise man once said, "never tell [yourself] the odds."

12. What's next for Owly?

Well, I just finished drawing the cover and inking the Owly story for the 2009 Free Comic Book day book that will come out May 2nd, and right now I'm working on two Owly childrens' books for Simon and Schuster. Those won't come out for a while (2011) so I'm also working on more merchandise and I'm always thinking of more story ideas for my favorite little owl and his friends.

That's all for this weekend edition of The Collective. Thank you, Andy Runton, for taking the time to be interviewed, and thank you all for reading. Happy Saturday!

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