RICH INTERVIEWS: Nyco Rudolph Artist “When Big Bears Invade”
First Comics News: How did “When Big Bears Invade” come to be created?
Nyco Rudolph: “Big Bears” is a concept that Alexander Finbow, writer and publisher, came up with. Whether or not he was inspired by my retro “Bears Invade” print series, Alexander and I wanted to work with each other for awhile. I’d already been writing a rough script for the “Bears Invade” graphic novel when he approached me about my interest in providing for the artwork for a different book about bears. This time, giant ones the size of mountains. Basically, Canada’s answer to Godzilla or King Kong.
1st: Why use bears and big ones for this comic?
Nyco: Alexander can tell you a little more about his decision to go with bears and why they’re so big. I know we both loved the idea of these giant page spreads populated by these larger-than-life bears the size of cities. For me personally, I know that the reason I started drawing bears years ago was because of how personable they are and how easy they are to anthropomorphize. Not to mention the part they play in natural history as well as their role in Indigenous folklore. To me, bears have always represented nature fighting back. Which is a huge theme in both “Big Bears” and my upcoming bear book.
1st: “When Big Bears Invade” takes place in Canada are your illustrations accurate?
Nyco: A ton of research went into depicting all the real Canadian cities as realistically as possible. While there obviously many artistic liberties that had to be taken to allow for as many city landmarks as possible to be jammed into a space 20 inches across, I googled hundreds upon hundreds of images and google map street views to get as many actual buildings and streets into different cities as possible.
1st: How do your drawings of bears portray them?
Nyco: Even though the Big Bears in our book are laying waste to the country we call home, we wanted to make them as lovable as possible. As an artist, that meant splitting the difference between scary, ferocious killing machines and these dopey, cuddly animals.
1st: Could the Big Bears hold their own against King Kong or Godzilla in a fight?
Nyco: The Big Bears could definitely hold their own against Kong or Godzilla. While those two have brute force on their side, I think the Big Bears are much more adept at using their surroundings as weapons. Plus as you see in the book, they have a pretty killer sense of humour, which can be a weapon on its own.
1st: How would you describe your art style?
Nyco: I would say my art style is heavily influenced by mid 20th century illustration. I love using ink and brush to create lush, powerful lines on the page. Will Eisner was a huge influence on me, as well as Bill Watterson and almost any of the artists who worked on the original Mad! Magazine. But I also have a soft spot for hardboiled film noir movies, with their striking chiaroscuro cinematography. So my art style is something that incorporates all of these elements and inspirations.
1st: What other comics have you recently worked on or will be working on?
Nyco: I’m currently working on a few new projects. The biggest one will be my full length graphic novel, “Bears Invade”, which takes place in post WW2 Canada, where Canada’s disenfranchised bear population learns to use human weaponry, and takes over the country.
I’m also tinkering with a couple crime thriller graphic novels, a sci-fi/horror story, and of course my first ever issue of the Ghost Dick comic book.
Ghost Dick is an absurdly stupid character some friends and I came up with years and years ago. There’s a little more to the story of how he came to be, but you’ll have to ask me that if you see me in person at a convention or book signing. One of my friends “commissioned” me to draw Ghost Dick as a Christmas gift for our other friend, and he quickly became one of my favourite things to do. He’s completely absurd and his adventures are the perfect format and style for me to work out all the ridiculous ideas that exist in my head as a result of reading things like Mad Magazine or Calvin and Hobbes at such a formative age.
1st: You use a lightbox for your art, what exactly is a lightbox?
Nyco: The main downside to creating art by hand on paper is editing. Once you lay down a line in ink, it’s very difficult to correct it. I use a lightbox to help cut down on my rough sketching, so that once I have a sketch that I love, I can use that sketch as a framework to build a fuller, more detailed drawing upon. A lightbox is a thin metal frame with a giant rectangular light held inside. So I put my sketch down, and then a fresh piece of bristol board overtop of the sketch, and the sketch will shine through to the blank bristol board, which I can then trace it out onto and add more detail and shading.
1st: What is the most absurd thing you have seen?
Nyco: Most absurd thing I’ve seen? I’ll have to get back to you on that. There’s lots.
1st: Tell us something about you no one or almost no one knows?
Nyco: One thing about me that almost no one knows is that when I was a little kid, I wanted to be a tap dancer.
1st: Who are Janelle and Morgan and do they help your comics career?
Nyco: Janelle and Morgan are my wife and our dog, respectively. Janelle and I just got married July 1st, although we’ve known each other for a decade now. The first five years as friends, and the last five years in a relationship. As friends, we discovered that both of us were very passionate, creative people. Although our creativity has both pulled us in very different directions. While I found a niche drawing and illustrating in my early 20’s, Janelle’s talents pulled her more in the direction of branding and web design. One of my favourite memories of her before we started dating was sharing a table at the Winnipeg comicon. She created “DesignGirl”, a costumed alter-ego for her to promote herself and her business at the comicon. After the show, we went out for nachos and talked about how much we loved getting to do creative work for a living, how lucky we were to get to do it, and how awesome it would feel to be in a relationship with another creative, passionate person. There was no way at that moment that either of us could have known we were talking about each other, but here we are. I’m so thankful to have found someone who not only inspires and supports me, but that I can inspire and support in turn.
Morgan is our dog that we love to pieces, even though she’s a bit of a handful. It’s true what they say though: everything you do, you do it for your kids. Janelle and I both work hard to make sure Morgan will always have a bowl full of kibbles and a yard to pee in, because that’s what being a good parent is all about, right?
On a final note, both Janelle and Morgan have made cameo appearances in some of my illustrations.
1st: Any words for those who enjoy your artwork?
Nyco: For those who enjoy my artwork, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support. As a kid growing up, art was my main way of entertaining myself. I knew I loved drawing, but I was never quite sure how I was going to do it as a career when I grew up. I feel like as soon as I graduated high school and had to figure out what I wanted to do, I have always had a network of supporters who have constantly pushed me in the right direction and reminded me to keep pursuing this career. Whether it’s sharing my work with their friends or buying it from me at art shows or comicons, thank you so much for continuing to push me.