Feb 25 2016
Terrence Sage sits down with black comic creator Darry Ayo to discuss creating his comic Little Garden, giving advice to those wanting to make comics, zines and so much more.
Terrence Sage: Thank you for sitting down me sir, now to start for the unknowingly unaware citizens of the Internet….who is Darryl Ayo? What’s your origin story?
Darryl Ayo: Who I am and how I came to be: I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes and early 1990’s X-Men comics and as such, I am part of one of the last generations of American kids for whom comics were an unremarkable and seamless aspect of childhood. One day, I came across an X-Men story that I didn’t like and instead of putting comic books aside as a normal person may have done, I swore revenge and vowed to grow up to make my own comics when I grew up. After that, I grew up and then made my own comics.
TS: How’s creating your own comics been thus far? It has to be liberating to only have yourself as part of the process.
Ayo: Making my own comics suits my personality. Working solo allows me to pursue my ideas without the need for compromise. While I like the ideas and works of other creators, I usually prefer to direct my energies toward my own creations. It’s good to have something that truly belongs to you.
TS: As far as the mainstream comics go, are you reading anything in the Marvel and DC spectrum?
Ayo: Not really, not currently. I like mainstream USA comic books but I make it a point not to put all of my energy into them. I like the structure and format of these comics: 20-24 pages, monthly or “monthlyish”, vertical-rectangular. The regularity and consistency of that format is relaxing for me. I also like the people who make those kinds of comics. Liking the people spurs me toward empathizing with their interests.
TS: As of late how have you fared in creating your own comics like Little Garden?
Ayo: Lately I have been able to achieve a level of productivity in my own comics that the younger me of ten years ago would have absolutely envied. I’ve sort of figured out a method for producing my comics that is efficient in general and also fits smoothly into my lifestyle. I have taught myself how to turn out a greater number of pages while also doing less work. It’s been about managing my time better and maintaining my focus throughout the periods of the day where I am drawing. Just an hour or so of drawing each day is all that it really takes. It has been a matter of being consistent and insisting upon the importance of these one-hour work periods.
TS: What would you tell to aspiring artists and writers out there trying to break into the comic industry?
Ayo: I’d tell them that the only way to do it, is to do it. There is no shortcut and no side door. You sit down and make a comic, then you make another comic, and then another one. You keep making comics and eventually people begin to take your efforts seriously. And you still keep making comics.
You will never “make it,” because there is no comfortable plateau. Instead, your ongoing career in comics will consist of continual striving: for the next career achievement, for the next creative breakthrough, for the next deadline, for the next project. You will continually produce work and fight to succeed as though you are a hungry underdog who has to scrape for food.
That is the way of things. Every step of your path is “make comics.” There is no rest, there are no exceptions.
TS:How do you think the landscape of both the comic writer and artist is changing? It’s a lot more avenues for people to get their own ideas out there like never before.
Ayo: Difficult to say. The biggest thing about comics in the world these days is that we have the technology and infrastructure to completely sidestep and disregard the institutions which acted as cultural gatekeepers. We can all publish what we want to, whenever we want to. Not only publishing webcomics but we also have easy access to photocopying, print-on-demand and we have access to many local zine fairs and indie comics festivals. Nobody needs the permission of a large publisher in order to be seen.
TS: Are there any indie zines or webcomics that have your attention?
Ayo: Yes, there’s a fantastic number of small comics that I am enamored with. Chiefly, I’m enthralled by my friend and Comix Cube blogmate Kevin Czap’s 2015 self-published book Fütchi Perf. Amazing, fantastic comic. I also have to put a strong recommendation for Whit Taylor’s 2015 book Ghost. Rounding things out, I adore Aatmaja Pandya’s comic Travelogue. One of the finest new comics out there.
TS: Where do you see the industry as a whole in 5 years or so?
Ayo: There’s so much industry.
One thing that I’ve been experimenting with is referring to the North American comics business as the “comics industries,” plural. While the different branches of comics are interconnected, there is a fair bit of autonomy as well as mutual disengagement between these branches. The direct market periodical system is intertwined with, yet apart from, the bookstore-driven graphic novel system. Both are intertwined with and apart from the web comics system. All of the above also interact with, yet remain firmly distinct from the art comics sector.
I am most interested in the latter most segment: the art comics field, an umbrella which I am using in this context to include a variety of formats including minicomics, comics zines, certain kinds of magazine or book formatted comics. There’s a lot of overlap with formats here but there’s also several simultaneously corresponding aesthetic modes and ideals which seem to make this sort of work appear to exist together as a semi-coherent system.
Anyway, regarding THAT kind of comics: I find it exciting. There have been many small press festivals and zine fairs developing over the last few years and as these continue to develop, expand and multiply, the roots of the art comics culture continue to deepen and strengthen. As the network of festivals grows and as the artists involved continue to create work with an increasing assurance of a stable, receptive audience, the next few years will reveal more cartoonists than ever whose work has developed outside of the older and more rigid systems (i.e., the aforementioned traditional literary bookstore marketplace and the comic book store direct market).
The next five years should be an exciting time. Keep your eyes on the zine scene.