Calgary has no shortage of talented artists, that’s a given. More and more, there are those who are making names for themselves internationally and bringing attention to the multitude of talent here at home.
One such artist is author Ryan Ferrier, who is launching his newest book, Criminy, an all-ages graphic novel collaboration with artist Roger Langridge, which explores issues of immigration, racism and belonging with both humour and a sense of adventure. Lucky for us, Ferrier was able to answer a few questions about his latest effort for readers of theYYSCENE.
Q: What was your inspiration for Criminy, how did it come about?
A: I had been wanting to write a story inspired by animation of the 1930s and ’40s, specifically the Fleischer Studios productions. From a very early age I was captivated by Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman; to this day these cartoons remain, for me, at the height of imagination and creative ingenuity. This informed me visually as well as creatively, and when Roger and I joined together to collaborate, we built the story with an urgency to make something really big, in a really big world, but with a ton of heart. At the time, the Syrian refugee crisis was very much at top of mind, and that lit the spark in what would inform the story of Criminy: a family forcefully removed from their home and now traversing a wild, wonderful, and often dangerous world in search of safety.
Once Roger and I developed a pitch for the series, we shopped it around to various publishers and partnered with Dark Horse Comics to publish it as a graphic novel, which, 13 months after its very inception, you can now hold in your hands.
Q: Criminy addresses both social and political issues — is it important to you to not only tell a story but to make a statement, especially considering what’s going on in the world these days?
A: Thematically, there’s some heavy subjects being explored in Criminy — the pitfalls of various forms of government, class systems, the refugee crisis, etc. — but I’m really proud of how Roger and I have incorporated these elements into the narrative very organically; we’re certainly not shoving anything down any throats, nor are we lecturing or doing anything without considering the entertainment factor of the story. That being said, I absolutely think it is important to tell honest stories and to create honest work. Comics, as with most creative mediums, (are and have) always been political to some degree, and I simply have no interest in shying away from my own personal standings in my work. One thing I’m proud about with Criminy, however, is the fact that despite its themes and content, I truly believe it to be a reprieve in these grim times in the world right now; Criminy is still escapism, and dare I say a whole lot of hopeful fun.
Q: How easy or difficult is it as a Calgary author to compete on an international stage?
A: I can really only talk to the comics industry specifically, of which Canada — and Calgary in particular — has quite a presence. The wonderful thing about comics is that there isn’t one real hub or centralized point that gives an advantage over somewhere else. More often than not every member of a creative team lives somewhere else in the world. I’ve collaborated on published stories with people from Los Angeles, London, Brazil, Spain, even India. As long as you have an internet connection and the drive and talent, location doesn’t really hurt you. Appearing at comic conventions are a good idea, and while most of the desirable ones for industry connections are in the States, Calgary is surely close enough. Having been born and raised here, and being part of the local comics community, I quite like Calgary.
Q: Who influenced you and inspired you to create graphic novels?
A: My love for comics actually came from my mom, who gave me my first comic book when I was very young. I was captivated instantly, and have been interested in the medium ever since. I wrote my first comic book in 2009, inspired by my friend and artist Trevor Jameus. That was really my first taste and exposure to creating comics, and since then it’s become my entire passion, and now my career. There have certainly been too many people to list that have inspired and influenced me, and given me opportunities, over the last nine years.
Q: Your favourite graphic novel is …
A: It is a wildly difficult to pick just one. But a book that will always remain as one that had a profound reaction and importance to me is Hey, Wait… by Norwegian cartoonist Jason. It’s an anthropomorphic drama following the life of a man significantly affected by an event in his childhood. It’s at times utterly heartbreaking, and at others very sweet and funny, while every page is beautiful in Jason’s very simple, charming style. To me, it’s the most emotionally-driven comic I’ve ever read, and it struck me quite viscerally.
(Image: Taken from Criminy, courtesy Ryan Ferrier.)
Criminy will launch at Shelf Life Books on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 7-9 p.m.
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 email@example.com.