Ross Campbell, Comics and an Interview!

After attending NYCC almost two weeks ago tomorrow (!!) I’m significantly more interested in getting to know more comic creators and their experience in the business. I’ve been chatting back and forth with the wonderful Ross Campbell for-EVER, and even though we somehow magically missed each other at the Con, I DO have an interview he did for me.

Background in: Campbell is both the artist and writer for his own series ShadowEyes and Wet Moon – which is published by Oni Press —> the series that initially drew me to speak with him about doing an interview for me! He’s also currently the artist for GLORY, while Joe Keatinge is the writer (who I got to meet with at the Con and is so very awesome!).

Here’s the interview below; enjoy!

What inspired the story for Wet Moon?
I wanted to do a sprawling teen/20-something drama romance comedy kind of thing with horror undertones, which wasn’t inspired by anything in particular but was naturally what I was interested in, but a few big inspirations I can cite were the city of Savannah, Georgia and the art college there, and just real life and real people I’d met over the years, all thrown together into a plotless soap opera type set-up. I guess the college aspect was probably the biggest inspiration, I liked how kids from all over, kids who might not have ever met or associated with each other, were thrust together in an environment with no parents to tell them what to do. And I’m into horror and scary stuff in general so I wanted to mix that with lurking weirdness and ambiguous supernatural elements, like Twin Peaks or something.

What initially drew you to creating comics?
I think Calvin & Hobbes and old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were what got me into comics initially, and I used to draw little strip comics for fun when I was a kid but for most of my childhood and adolescence I actually wanted to be a prose writer/novelist. And I almost majored in fashion at college (that would’ve been a mistake, haha). I ended up going into comics in college but more out of not really knowing what I wanted to do, I actually didn’t get really interested in drawing comics and taking it seriously until junior or senior year of college. I don’t know why it took me so long to come around to actively wanting to do comics, but I eventually realized that I could tell the types of stories I wanted to tell and write the types of characters I wanted to write much better in comics than I could in prose.

Do you have a background in art (college degree, etc).
I guess I incidentally already answered this question but yes! I went to the Savannah College Of Art & Design and majored in Sequential Art, which is a pretty much useless degree. I never really paid attention while in college, I was too wrapped up in my own world, so I did most of my artistic learning after I graduated on my own when I realized I sucked and had to bust my ass to catch up.

How do you come up with designs for your characters? Why did you choose a more alternative look for your characters?
My designs are mostly inspired by real people, people I know, people I’ve met, strangers I see, photos of people, etc. I don’t copy an entire outfit or translate a single person into a character, I always mix and match, that sort of thing, whatever fits the character I’m looking for. I also make up things from scratch, like making up my own outfits and hairstyles or fashion ideas, particularly in Shadoweyes where the fashion trends aren’t quite real-world and I can make up stuff nobody in the real world is wearing. Sometimes I try to come up with designs I’m not totally fond of, like designing an outfit I don’t personally find visually appealing but that I think is something the character would wear, so that’s kinda fun sometimes, trying to think outside of the aesthetics I personally like.

For body types and facial features it’s pretty much the same process, I’m really inspired by real people. I like figuring out ways of stylizing real features into shapes to make each character distinct (resulting in various levels of success, I suppose). My character designs also depend a lot on how a character moves and holds themselves physically, which again is inspired a lot by real life people, and even though my stuff is static images I think a lot about this when drawing the characters and when trying to decide on body type or how a character’s limbs (or lack thereof) are.

There’s nothing really behind why my characters are almost always kind of alternative-styled or punky or whatever you want to call it, I just like drawing those sorts of looks, even though in real life I actually like simple, more conservative, even preppy sorts of styles but for whatever reason I don’t enjoy drawing those as much so they don’t usually end up in my comics.

What made you choose female main leads versus male ones?
It feels natural, I guess. I feel like I identify with and relate to women more than men so when writing female characters I feel like I “get” them more than I do guy characters. A lot of time I even feel confused when writing guys, like I’m not quite sure what to have them do or say, that sort of thing. I like drawing girls more than guys, but it’s mostly a writing preference. Plus women usually get better outfits. 😄

Are there certain things you’d like to see more in the comic industry that isn’t already there? (Many people have complained about the depiction of female superheroes, for example).

Yeah, the sexism is obviously a big thing, most superhero comics suck in that regard, it would be great to get more women and other less-represented folks into comics, but the biggest thing I’d like to see a broader range of genres. I’ve been thinking over the past year or so that despite the diverse types of comics being done the medium is still pretty narrow compared to prose and film, at least in my experience. Or maybe comics need LESS genre confines, since many of them seem to almost box themselves into a genre/subgenre on purpose. The thing that really got me thinking about this is when I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Wintergirls” and Alice Sebold’s book “Lucky,” one of which is fiction and one a memoir and both awesome and powerful. And I started thinking how come there isn’t really anything like that stuff in comics, and obviously I’m not aware of every single comic being made but as far as I’ve seen how come nobody is attempting anything like this? Is it because comics are usually cartoony or illustrative and tackling serious topics like rape and eating disorders would seem tacky or inappropriate when drawn in visual styles like that? Even genre fare in comics seems narrow to me, like take horror for example, there isn’t really anyone in comics doing anything like David Cronenberg’s body horror stuff or Vincenzo Natali’s weird sci-fi horror thriller movies. Everyone seems to either stick with imitating George Romero (myself included, heh) or generic pulpy vampire/werewolf/monster horror mash-ups. Maybe I just don’t read enough, maybe if I searched more I’d eat my words.

It seems like you use a lot of social media to promote your brand. Have you found it useful for getting people aware of your graphic novels?

I’m not sure, actually, I think this is probably more quantifiable for some artists out there but I’m not sure how much the various websites I’m on actually translate into readership. Deviantart has been by far the best, setting up a gallery there was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my work, and I came along on the site when it wasn’t booming yet so I got a lot of attention in the earlier days. But as far as purely social sites like Facebook or Twitter go, I’m not sure if they’ve actually helped that much. They sure can’t hurt, though.

Have you been able to get in contact with other industry professionals since you’ve started?

Definitely, I think it’s unavoidable. Once I put out a couple books people started to know who I was, both other creators and also editors. I’m not a huge name or anything, I’m pretty small-time and relatively obscure, but it’s enough that I’ve met a large group of colleagues over the years.

Do you have any plans or hopes to move to a bigger press to get your comics out to a wider audience?

I have in the past, I’ve done work for DC Comics/Vertigo but I can’t really quantify if that stuff got me any significant numbers of new readers or not. It would be cool to do something for Marvel, or a traditional book publisher like Simon & Schuster but I can’t see that happening. I don’t think my work is really their type of material.

Do you draw heavily from real life for your comics? What exactly inspires you?

I guess I kind of already answered this in question #4, d’oh! But yes, real life is the best! Real people, places, cultures, animals, science, the occult, weather, outer space. Music is also a big inspiration for me. Probably the most inspiring works that other people have created are the movie Alien, which has also been a big influence since childhood, just thinking about it makes me want to do comics. Hayao Miyazaki is also really inspiring. Some artists that get my creativity going are Frank Quitely, Amy Reeder, Jillian Tamaki, Lamar Abrams, Becky Cloonan, Kevin Eastman, Gerda Beuchel, among others.

Where do you see yourself and your work in the next 5 years?

I have no idea! Freelance comics is a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type job, things change so fast, one day I’ll think my career is about to collapse and then the next day I’ll get some great gig out of nowhere. Never can tell. Hopefully in 5 years Wet Moon will be completed or almost completed, and Shadoweyes will probably be finished, too. Maybe in 5 years I’ll finally have time to get back to Mountain Girl!


The images are from Campbell’s DeviantArt, it has loads of amazing images!