We all sat at our desks and doodled, back in the day, to kill the endless beast that was time in grade school — but not many of us managed to turn those daydream drawings into a career.
Saskatoon comic artist Riley Rossmo, on the other hand, definitely has. He’s worked for the big companies like Marvel, as well as on several of his own indie titles, like Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking, and his latest, Green Wake.
“Proofwas my first ongoing book,” he says. “It received critical acclaim, but not many sales, [whereas] Cowboy Ninja Viking sold like crazy but didn’t have as much of a cult following as Proof. My newest book though, Green Wake, seems to be a nice mix of the two in terms of fan base and popularity.”
He got his start with a graphic novel called Seven Sons with writer Alex Grecian, who he met at the San Diego Comic-Con. They put together the 100-page effort on spec, and it was picked up and published by a small San Francisco-based company called AiT/Planet Lar. After finding a bit of success, the team put a few more pitches together, and eventually Image Comics picked one up.
The fit between writer and artist is crucial in the comic world, says Rossmo.
“[With] all the writers I’ve worked with on creator-owned projects, we’ve talked about what I’d like to draw, [what] genre we like, cool scenes. If someone tells me an idea I’m not into, I usually just say I’m not into it, or I recommend someone more appropriate. Green Wake was developed from the ground up, so I got to put more into the narrative structure and concept than the other titles I’ve worked on.”
Thanks to the power of the Internet, Rossmo can easily work with companies based out of the United States. It’s an amazing arrangement, but one that comes with its own set of challenges, he says.
“I have to be super disciplined — I don’t really have an immediate boss, so if I don’t work nothing gets done, and I don’t get paid. I work every day [except] Sunday, [from about] 7 am to 4 pm or so, then email the day’s work to the writer [or] editor. With the little bit I’ve done for Marvel, I send thumbnails before doing the final pages just to be sure they know what they’re getting.”
And what does Rossmo think of Hollywood’s recent co-opting of comic book properties? (He’s definitely been following the trend — and there have even been Internet rumours of the Zombieland team adapting Cowboy Ninja Viking for Disney.)
“I think it’s good for comics,” he says, “and for the public to be exposed to comics. There are going to be poor uses of the source material, but I’m not sure that can be helped. I do know that whenever a non-superhero movie is released, it sells a ton of graphic novels. Filmgoers will buy the comics or graphic novel the movies were based on.”
Head: FANTASTIC FRANCAIS
Francophone songstress Veronique Poulin definitely hit the scene with a resounding splash when she released her first EP,The Silo of Memories: she collaborated with the Canada Arts Council and the Saskatchewan Arts Board to light up her hometown grain elevator with live streaming video and historical footage projected on the walls, performing with a full band and dancers for roughly 800 people. For Poulin, it was like “an Imax experience in the middle of the prairie.”
She’s back with a new EP called Les Cordes de Mon Coeur(which, en anglais, means “my heartstrings”). It’s a bilingual folk-pop effort, showcasing the 22-year-old’s beautiful voice. The EP was written after a bout of soul-searching while serving a nine-month stretch at a faith formation school in Bruno.
“It gave me so much perspective and insight,” she says. “Some songs were born there. Needless to say, I see life as a gift and I treat music with respect and try to bring it the quality it deserves.”
Poulin got her start around the age of seven, when she was trained in classical piano and violin. In university, she majored in violin, but picked up the guitar for fun. She says never thought of herself as a singer, until she was discovered by the francophone community when she was about 19.
Speaking of bilingualism, how does Poulin decide when to sing in French and when to sing in English?
“The French language is such a poetic and complex form of communication,” she explains. “It requires a bit more work for me, even though it’s my first language. English also has its own demands and beautiful attributes, but I just go with the flow of emotion that feels right. If I live the emotion in French, words are more likely to come out as nostalgic. If I live the emotion in English, it’s more intense, more brazen. I try not to divide them into categories though. Some of my songs include both languages at once.”
“I think there is more of an awareness of the Francophone music scene than there’s ever been. Karkwa, an all-French, Montréal-based band, won the Polaris [Music] Prize in 2010, which is huge for music in Canada. I get surprised at how many people actually speak French everywhere I go. It’s awesome when someone comes up to me after a show and tells me how excited they were to understand my lyrics. If all I do is share my art with others who will reciprocate it with enthusiasm and elation, that’s really all that matters to me.”