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Being a comics creator is not unlike being a musician: You start out on your own, working out of your garage, and you meet up with other liked-minded souls and try to make a go of it with projects. Some ascend to being the comics equivalent of U2, while other flow in and out of the independent and mainstream scene as their wills, and their fans, take them. Some mainstream creators wish they were considered more “indie,” while some independent creators might want to try some of that mainstream Top 40 hit genre they grew up on, while not forsaking their indie roots.
Artist Ryan Kelly wants to do a little bit of everything. Kelly broke into comics as a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Peter Gross’ inker/assistant/finisher on books like Lucifer and Books of Magic. After doing his first major work with the graphic novel Giant Robot Warriors, he came into his own beside Brian Wood on the epic 12-issue travelogue/memoir Local. Since then the two have re-teamed for stints on DMZ and Northlanders and on New York Four and its sequel New York Five. Earlier this year Kelly partnered with Paul Cornell for the Vertigo ongoing series Saucer Country, Kelly’s first as a lead artist. But Kelly’s not content to just do one thing — he also balances a weekly foodie webcomic called Cocotte with writer Kat Vapid and his own self-published comic Funrama, as well as several other projects in the works.
And if that wasn’t enough, he wants to draw superheroes. You hear that, Marvel and DC?
What follows is an expansive conversation between Kelly and myself where I ask him questions I’ve been wondering about for years and ones springing out of his most recent endeavors.
As part of the Wait, What? podcast I do for the Savage Critics – You do listen, right? If not, shame on you – someone asked the other week what I thought of Oni Press, and I admitted that I am a fan of pretty much everything Oni puts out. It was a thought that reappeared in my head this weekend, re-reading Sarah Oleksyk’s spectacular Ivy and thinking, “Man, Oni owns the YA comic market, doesn’t it?” – even though Oni themselves call the book for Older Readers, for obvious reasons if you’ve read it… but as a YA book, it’s just so, so good. So, this week: Five Oni Press books you should really make a point of reading, if you haven’t already.