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Cam Hayden shows upcoming comic creators how it’s done at this year’s Panel One festival

Into its third year, the Panel One Comic Creator Festival continues to showcase local illustrators and writers who comprise Calgary’s surprisingly vibrant and talented comic creator community. This one-day festival focusses on local, Canadian comic creators and allows the public to see what these artists are creating, and for the artists themselves, provides a great platform to promote their work and build their following.

TheYYSCENE caught up with our favourite local comic creator Cam Hayden (via email, let’s be honest – Cam’s a busy guy and hard to pin down) to “chat” about his comic Futility, and how Panel One has helped boost his profile in the graphic world.

Q: How long have you been a comics creator and how did you get into it?

A: I’ve always dabbled in comics, but officially it’s been about five years – at least that’s when we started tabling at comic expos. Rick Overwater (co-creator) and I had been playing together in bands for years that had recently gotten a bit sidelined by the usual life stuff, kids, jobs, no fans … We found ourselves still wanting to create something that fit our garage rock aesthetic, but didn’t really require the commitment of trying to organize weekly band practices, grubbing for gigs and hauling amplifiers through blizzards at 2 a.m. (but I should note that we still do this occasionally because we’re suckers for punishment). At some point we realized that we were both into comics and I had an idea for one that I wanted to draw, but didn’t really want to write. Rick is a writer, and figured he could run with the story idea, so he started scripting out the first issue of our weird hillbilly sci-fi series called Futility. We roped in another friend of ours, Nate Millar, to colour it and then we got a bunch printed and started signing up for conventions and have been doing it ever since. At this point we’ve just been picked up by Coffin Hop Press to put out the fifth super-sized instalment of Futility that’ll hopefully be out this fall. I’ve drawn close to a dozen various comics at this point, Rick has made inroads into prose writing and Nate has been cranking out his own comics as well, but that first issue of Futility is what got us on the map.

Q: What role has Panel One played in your comics career? How long have you been a member?

A: Panel One has been going for a couple of years now and was initially the brainchild of Erin Millar (comic writer/sister of Nate) in an attempt to consolidate all of the cellar-dwelling comic creators lurking in the shadows in and around Calgary. We tend to be a solitary bunch, hunched over our drawing tables working on our books like trolls until conventions roll around and then we creep out all blinky and awkward with no social skills or alcohol tolerance. Panel One connected everybody so that we could discover each other, hobnob, socialize, work together and share whatever little nuggets of information we might have rooted up for everyone’s benefit, all year round. It’s also a great portal for fans to find out what’s going on in their local indie comics world if they’re interested. Membership has expanded beyond Calgary and now encompasses comic people from all over Alberta including various types of creators and also media types, like podcasters, anyone who is part of the local comic food-chain.

Q: You attend many conventions and expos and get some great exposure that way – how’s that working for you?

A: Since we first got rolling this whole undertaking has actually been a lot like the band stuff, we’re still hauling boxes of merch all over the damn place, staying out too late with the other artists and coming back for more the next day with a hangover. It’s been a ton of work but also a ton of fun – we’ve done the Calgary and Edmonton Expos many times, Saskatoon and Vancouver as well. We’ve gotten to meet and hang out with some of our heroes, (and) we’ve gotten jobs out of this stuff somehow: I just did an illustration for a new book by Danko Jones called I’ve Got Something to Say. I’m in there with Duff from GnR, Eerie Von from Danzig, Away from Voivod, Richard Comely of Captain Canuck fame — it blows my mind. There’s also some great smaller shows we table at every year like the Calgary Horror Con and the Red and White Club shows. We’ve been to Lethbridge and Drumheller, and we’re always looking for more interesting places to go and people to horrify with our comics. But, up next is one of our favourites, and the only one that is indie comic specific, the Panel One festival. That’s the one where you can go to find all your local comic book makers in one place. One of the best parts is seeing aspiring comic makers wander in and realize how much stuff is going on right in their own city, and that they can be a part of it, Panel One can be their hook up.

Q: Where do you see Panel One headed in the next few years?

A: Panel One is still relatively new but it’s feeling its way forward and finding people who are helping to develop it into something more. I think it’s going to solidify our local comics posse and become a strong resource for anyone wanting to get into this crazy biz while also continuing to give back to the community though the charitable donation side of things that are a part of the comic festival. It’s good people doing good things via weird books.

(Cam looks very approachable in a photo courtesy of Panel One.)

Head down to the Panel One Comic Creators Festival at Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association on May 26 to harass Cam and see what else our local comic artists are up to. For more information on Panel One, check them out at panelone.ca.

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at kari@theyyscene.com.

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