‘Invincible’ comic book artist talks cons and his long tenure
Interview » Ryan Ottley’s rare commitment to the comic engenders a strong empathy for its characters.
By MICHAEL McFALL
| The Salt Lake Tribune
Before Ryan Ottley was the long-running artist of the superhero comic "Invincible," he was downtown, painting Ben Franklin.
"My first job in life was working at my step-grandparents’ shop in downtown [Salt Lake City] when I was a teen," said Ottley, who now lives in Midvale. "They made lots of statues and things, and I was hired to paint Benjamin Franklin busts to be used as some kind of graduation award over at Franklin Covey. So if you have one of those on your shelves, I probably painted it."
At a glance
Convention InfoRyan Ottley is scheduled to be at Salt Lake Comic Con all three days, Sept. 4-6 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Seesaltlakecomiccon.com for details.
Now those busts might be worth all the more as Ottley originals. Since the Utah artist jumped into comics, he’s put in more than a decade drawing "Invincible," written by Robert Kirkman (the creator and writer of "The Walking Dead" comic). In an industry where artists and writers often spend only a matter of months with any particular comic, Ottley’s tenure stands out.
And while he may not stand out at Nobrow Coffee’s artist nights, where he’s been known to sketch, it will be hard to miss him at his personal booth at this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con, which starts Sept. 4.
You’ve stuck with "Invincible" a lot longer than most creators do on books. What was that commitment like for you as an artist, and what do you think that’s meant for readers?
Growing up reading comics, it was always a bummer when you pick up a new issue of your favorite series and there is a new artist and all the characters look so different that it just feels off, and it actually takes you right out of the story. So I always appreciated when an artist stayed on a story for a good amount of time. So it’s been nice to stay with "Invincible" for over 10 years and really get connected with the characters to the point where I care about them. It’s an odd thing, feeling bad for a character when I have to draw them in a certain predicament, facing an unbearable act.
How would you say your art has evolved and changed since you started in comics?
I am always trying to one up my past self. I try not to compare myself to others, since that’s what makes one give up. I’d rather be inspired by others and only compare myself to my past self and strive to be a better artist today than I was yesterday. So looking at my comic work as a whole, you will notice a gradual change; hopefully you’ll notice a change for the better, because that’s what I was going for! Just trying to be a better artist. That’s the plan!
Tell me a little about your convention experience. Is there a touching or crazy experience you’ve had with a fan that jumps out at you?