The Big Comic Page was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview recently with Canadian comic book illustrator and writer Riley Rossmo, whose impressive resume includes such titles as Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake, Rebel Blood and Bedlam. Here’s what went down;
Big Comic Page: First off, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us. Now, it’s safe to you say you have a very distinct artistic style. Is this something that came to you naturally or did you base it on any specific influences?
Riley Rossmo: I struggled for a long time against the way I naturally draw. I started submitting stuff to Marvel when I was 17 or 18 at the time Ramos, Campbell, Madureira, and Bachalo where popular, and even though I’d grown up loving Sienkiewicz, Andru and Buscema I felt I need to do something slick and cartoony. So for 4-5 years I tried to do that. Once I started art school though I got back to the kind of things that inspired me in the first place. Plus I started learning about illustrators and artists from the 19th and early 20th century, such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Aubrey Beardsley. By my second year of art school I really started pursuing expressive mark making. It’s taken a while to let go of how I think I should draw and to draw in a way that best tells the story I’m working on.
BCP: Your work on Bedlam – a personal favourite of mine – has been absolutely stunning to this point, and really sets the title apart from the other crime thrillers out there right now. How did you go about developing the unique look of the book?
RR: I put a lot into designing Madder, Press, the First and Black Berry Belle. I did 40-50 versions of Madder’s mask before settling on the one we went with. The First was a little tougher. I wanted a more military looking helmet but in end we went with the featureless.
BCP: I know for a lot of artists, picking favourites is like choosing between their children, but if you had to decide on piece of artwork – either an entire comic or just a single panel – that you were most proud of, what would it be?
RR: The Covers to Dia De Los Muertos, hands down. It’s a total labor of love. Maybe the 6th page of the Superman short I’m doing. The first 5 pages of Bedlam are pretty cool. Whatever the newest thing I’m doing is usually my favourite.
BCP: You’ve also been responsible for some recurring artwork on Daken: Dark Wolverine. Were there any differences working under the Marvel banner compared to your more familiar Image work?
RR: Not really. The only big difference working at Marvel and DC for me is I need to show them more process. I was really happy that both Marvel and DC let me pencil, ink and color.
BCP: You recently made the jump to writing with Rebel Blood alongside Alex Link. It’s a really interesting story, but with the large amount of ‘zombie’ and ‘horror’ movies on the shelves right now, was it a tough sell to get Image-Shadowline on board with the idea?
RR: I like Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Masters of Horror. Rebel Blood is an extension of that, or maybe a homage. Jim [Valentino, Shadowline founder] looked at the art and first couple lines of the pitch, but once he finished reading the ending he green lit it. I read a lot of horror books, comics and watch a fair amount of horror movies and TV shows. Rebel Blood was my first go at Rural horror. My next book has rural horror elements in it.
BCP: How do you find writing compared to illustrating? Is it something you’d like to do more of in the future?
RR: I like plotting a lot. I get a lot of ideas for concepts, and scenes. I’m pretty interested in collaborative writing in comics. Having someone to go back and forth with on plot works well for me. I also like finding ways to incorporate particular scenes into plots.
BCP: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask this. Any plans for any more Cowboy Ninja Viking in the future? We’re huge fans of the series here at the BCP.
RR: AJ and I talk, and maybe someday we’ll do a two-issue mini or something.
BCP: And finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?
RR: I have another issue of Dia [De Los Muertos] to finish up, a Superman story and then something new I’m co-writing this fall at Shadowline called Strangeways (working title at least for now).
BCP: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Riley, and we can’t wait to see more from you in the future.
You can follow Riley and check out more of his work at the following places;