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Shut Your Mouth! An Interview with Dave Ryan

I can't remember now how I stumbled across Dave Ryan's  Badass Muthas! but the title alone grabbed me and then I found I really liked how the art contrasted with the jokes and story.  It's a kind of rough, angular style but with a very soft, tranquil color palette. What else can I say - you should go check it out!  I got a chance to interview Dave about it - read on for the gory details.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm Dave Ryan. I'm 6'3" and my favorite beverages are milk and Natural Light.

 

What's a typical day for you like recently?

I wake up around 7 am and go to my job until about 4. I then do some push-ups followed by dinner. If I'm good, I work on my comic after that. But most days I play Rockband and watch TV. About once a week I go to a bar straight after work and drink beer.

 

Where are you located these days?

Conshohocken, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA.

 

Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.

Badass Muthas! is a conglomeration of everything I ever thought was cool at any point in my life. Robots, ninjas, vampires, dragons, demons, tanks, super-powers, aliens, violence, adventure, swords, cursing, humor, intrigue, dismemberment, plot-twists, drinking, the list goes on and on. It's probably simpler to list what you won't find in BAM!: forced romantic subplots, impermanent deaths, angst, unnatural over-explanatory dialog for the benefit of the reader, clobbering readers over the head with corny themes (friendship is important!).

I think sex and nudity are very cool but you won't find much of that in BAM! either.

Maybe I can talk Banana Fran into some full-frontal.

 

How has the strip evolved over time?

I don't think most fans would notice, but I change art techniques almost weekly. Sometimes it's as minor as modifying the speech balloons and sometimes it's as major as going black and white instead of color. This changes are inspired by a number of things: other comic, boredom, a need for speed. Sometimes I even go back to an old method that I'm having second thoughts about.

 

Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic?  Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?

I really like page 68 --  I just like that second to last panel.

I wouldn't say fans like it the most, but I get the most feedback on the chapter, "Conference Call". Some like all the new characters and the insight into the Robo political machine. But others found the lack of action and overabundance of chit-chat BORING. I agree with both sides.

 

Do you read other comics?  What are you reading online or in print?

A friend just lent me the first few issues of The Ultimates, Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spiderman. They're the first super hero comics I've read in a while. The Ultimates was ok. X-Men and Spiderman were somewhat better than ok.

My favorite print series of all time is probably Hunter X Hunter which I fear may never be finished.

I actually don't read too many online comics regularly.  The only one I keep a weekly watch on is Order of the Stick. I check in with Penny Arcade about once every two weeks.

 

Did you read comics as a kid?  Which ones?  What are your influences from comics today?

I would read anything with Spiderman in it ANYTHING (Super Pro anyone?) But that's it.  I didn't really follow comics too much in high school, I was more into animation. But it picked it back up in college when Shonen Jump came out over here. I was all manga for a little while, but the graphic novel section of Barnes and Nobles reintroduced me to some good stuff from the good ol' US of A.

Influences today? Hellboy, Hunter X Hunter, Naruto, Sin City, Akira, Watchmen, One Piece, Eyesheild 21, Spiderman, Dragon Ball, X Men and all kinds of other stuff I'm forgetting.

Although I don't read many online comics regularly, I'm very influenced by some of the art techniques I'll come across. I love the art on Banished right now.

 

Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?

Huge. Cartoons, anime, videogames, modern drama. As the convention pitch said, my comics are mix of all the different crap I've been into in my life.

 

When you create a comic, how do you appproach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?

I start by writing a script for a chapter. I then break the script into pages. Sometimes I try to thumbnail the entire script but usually I just create each page from start to finish as I work through the weeks.

The page-level process is: Script some rough dialog, lay-out the page in 6 - 9 panels, sketch in the drawings, rework the dialog, clean up the lines, color, save for web, post on the internet.

 

What tools do you use to make comics?  Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?

First, I sketch simple thumbnails in a notebook. Currently, everything after that is created in Photoshop CS3 using a Wacom Stylus pad (Intuos 2 - pretty old). I used to use Adobe Flash for the line.

 

Did you do your own website?  What software are you using on it?

Yes.  Wordpress is tied into the news and knowledge sections. The comic section is based on a .PHP app I got from http://www.simonstenhouse.net/ (which may now be defunct).

 

What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?

It's one of the quickest and dirtiest ways to get shit out there. I've always been more of an animation person myself. But it's way too time consuming. With comics I can do everything myself and still get it done in a timely fashion. Also, I'd say my skills in both writing and illustration are average at best. Those two skills couldn't stand on their own merits coming from me, but combined, they make a decent package.