Elephant Eater Comics are the creation of Ryan Claytor, an illustrator and writer making his way through college. His fuzzy coverd comic books are very well thought out and fun to read. Ryan’s “And Then One Day” series is an autobiography of his life in the form of comic strips. This is probably the coolest way to keep a diary I’ve ever seen. Recently I had a chance to ask Ryan a few questions about his comics.
Matt: What was it that got you interested in creating comics?
Ryan: Hm. I think when I was younger, maybe 10, 11, 12 or so, I was excited by a new form of entertainment. My interest kind of waned when I got to high school, but then I got interested in the medium again in my early twenties and I was intrigued by this blossoming form of self-expression. People were really telling some thoughtful stories with comics and it made for such an exciting time to be involved. I think it was that, coupled with wanting to add to that creative synergy, which made creating comics really enticing for me.
Matt: Who are some of your favorite comic book illustrators?
Ryan: Actually, most of my favorite comic book illustrators are also their own writers. I really enjoy work by by Andi Watson (Slow News Day, Love Fights), Craig Thompson (Blankets, Carnet de Voyage), Seth (“Clyde Fans”, “Bannock, Beans, and Black Tea”), Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, Polly and the Pirates), Tom Beland (True Story Swear to God), and I think Sergio Aragones (Groo the Wanderer, Mad Magazine) is brilliant too.
Matt: What inspired you to create an autobiographical comic strip?
Ryan: Well, I’ve always been interested in people. You know, what makes them tick, the differences in all of us, how we interact with one another, and ultimately what brings us together. I’m most attracted to comics that have a realistic narrative quality and create authentic relationships between characters. When you see a story moved along by interaction between interesting individuals and spot-on dialogue, that excites me. With all that said, I think our own life experiences are RIPE with storytelling material of just that nature. I’ve found myself thinking about and replaying scenarios with family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers as I go about my daily routines. I try to think about how they happened and what made them interesting. I think autobiography is a great way to continually question, admire, and objectively analyze one’s life.
Matt: What were some of your favorite comics growing up?
Ryan: I am a big Sergio Aragones fan. I was introduced to comics through an issue of Groo the Wanderer back when it was still being published under Marvel’s Epic line in the eighties. I have every single issue and I still break them out now
and again to remind me of what comics are supposed to be. I think the writer/artist team of Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones is pure magic. The stories were so enjoyable to me as a kid and still strike a chord with me today. That’s rare. I’m finding (now edging out of my mid-twenties) that some of the stuff I thought was absolutely the bling-tiggity-yo as a kid, just falls flat today. I struggle to find what I was drawn to in this cartoon show or that book. But not with Groo. It’s just as magical today as it was for me 15+ years ago. Geez, that answer made me sound really old, didn’t it. Sorry, Matt.
Matt: Do you have plans for any more books?
Ryan: Oh sure. I have tons of ideas, and I hate it when artists say this, but I don’t really want to say much about any of them. Not so much because I’m afraid of people stealing ideas, but more because I’m not sure when I’ll get to them. I’m putting myself through grad school right now, which makes for precious little time to create comics. Let me tell you about a couple projects though. I’m working on a comic book quilt right now. It’s a 19 panel narrative about my grandmother and I growing up together and her progression through old age. I’m hoping it will be finished by ComicCon in July (2006). I’m also hoping to EVENTUALLY produce a biographical account of my dad growing up in rural Arizona. He lived in boxcars and on dirt floors and lived such a radically different life than most of us can even imagine. I think it’s a fascinating story, and I’m hoping a couple of other folks will too. But that won’t come out for quite some time.