Comics as we know it is wide and fractured. There’s Direct Market comics, bookstore comics, webcomics, indie comics, manga, Eurocomics, and several more subcultures. I’m curious about what working under the broad umbrella of “comics” is like for creators, publishers, critics, academics, and more. Over the course of this month, I’m going to interview several people whose work, position, or goals I find interesting and attempt to paint a picture of what “comics” means today.
For the month of February, I’m taking over the Inkstuds podcast in order to introduce Inkstuds Spotlight, a focused look at what it means to be in comics. A comprehensive look isn’t my goal. My goal is to show you several different slices of life in comics, as the people I’m interviewing this month play a wide variety of roles in comics.
A bit of context before we begin: Inkstuds is a comics podcast founded and hosted by Robin McConnell. It’s focused largely on indie and underground cartoonists, and now that it’s 500 episodes deep, exists as a great resource for finding out not just more about comics, but about the lives of cartoonists. ComicsAlliance is one of the most important news outlets in comics. I’m biased, having written for CA for a few years, but the staff has a voice and variety of interests that still can’t be matched. With both sites broadcasting Inkstuds Spotlight, I’m hoping we can reach a wide slice of the comics readership.
Today, I’m talking to Darryl Ayo, cartoonist and critic. He creates the comic Little Garden, has a deep interest in the comic strip format, is a prolific Twitterer, and provides comics criticism as well. Cartoonist/critics face an interesting dilemma, in that they risk alienating peers while offering evaluations of work, and I thought talking to Ayo about that, in addition to the nitty-gritty of creating comics, would make for a good conversation. Ayo more than rose to the occasion. Pardon the slightly muddy audio quality—the conversation is worth bearing with it, I think.
0:00: Ayo discusses how he got started in comics, creating characters as a young child, examining those ideas as an adult, being into adjectiveless X-Men and X-Force, how making comics can feel pointless, how drawing comics is calming, how drawing compares to the other parts of making comics, the pacing of newspaper comics versus the pacing of the comic book, and the muddiness of critiquing comics while working in comics himself.
10:00: Being a creator/critic changes both roles and makes them hard to distinguish, why he was never not discussing comics, the inextricable link between comics and talking really excitedly about them, hanging out with other cartoonists, not having the Who Would Win In A Fight conversations, attending art school, shifting from formal criticism to informal writing on Tumblr, choosing his battles when it comes to reviews, and seeing people he’s reviewed at cons.
20:00: Comics is small and high school is large and easy in comparison, getting familiar with different types of comics, absorbing enthusiasm from others, reading and figuring out where Inaki Miranda & Caitlin Kittredge’s Coffin Hill sits in his personal taste, the indie and minicomics he focuses on, and why it would feel treacherous to misrepresent his interests.
30:00: Not hiding his love of the X-Men or anything at all, why talking about diversity in comics is more or less down to pure self-interest, the necessity of being race conscious, letting things slide because he knows he needs a home run, being interested in being right versus making a difference, not wanting to become the race guy, not wanting to seem like a nitpicker because it wears down everyone involved, and introducing new ideas to people.
40:00: Change coming from within and being inspired from without, discussing things in the abstract, and where to find him online: littlegardencomics.com, HoneyBeeRevengeParty.tumblr.com, and darrylayo.tumblr.com.