Riley Rossmo graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2004. He began his career in editorial and advertising illustration. Riley”s works have appeared in publications such as Scratch, Avenue, Up, Calgary Inc. and Swerve (Calgary Herald). As well, his illustrations have been featured in Applied Arts and CMYK. He has produced work for Star Choice, ESPN, and Jump Studios.
Since 2006 Riley has been involved in narrative illustration. His first graphic novel, Seven Sons, was published by AIT/Planet Lar, and was followed by Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking and Green Wake, all published through Image Comics. In addition to his creator-owned projects, Riley has also worked for IDW Publishing and Marvel Comics.
Zouch Magazine’s Jeff Campagna caught up with the fellow Canuck recently and asked well… a little bit of everything:
Jeff – Did you read comic books as a kid?
Riley – I did. I read any I could get my hands on. The first one I bought was a Voltron comic from a hotel lobby in Kamloops. That was the beginning of my love affair with the medium. I think shortly after I my grandma bought me G.I. Joe Tales #2 – I always remember those ones. After that I would get them at corner stores, garage sales, libraries or from neighbors. We didn’t have a ton of money growing up but there was a used book store by my house that you could get six old comics for a dollar. My parents where divorced and we didn’t have much stuff at my dad’s apartment so he’d take my brother and I to this used book store to get comics while he got groceries or something. I’d get a dollar and have to look through thousands of comics for just the right six every week. Sometimes I could get my brother to give me his dollar too. I’d sit in the window-sill of my dad’s one-bedroom basement apartment and read comics all weekend. It meant a lot to me that we did that every second weekend.
Jeff – What comic could you not live without back then?
Riley – I loved G.I. Joe and the X-men. Either of those. I think I had a complete run of G.I. Joe. I wasn’t a collector though and never have been really, I just needed all the stories regardless of the comic’s condition. X-men: I bought what I could at garage sales and second-hand stored. I liked the older X-men comics better than what was coming out at the time. I also really liked Hot Stuff comics.
Jeff – Cowboy Ninja Viking has a surreal, almost sketch-like aesthetic. What influenced this?
Riley – Cowboy Ninja Viking was the fisrt book I colored and drew. All my work up until then had been colored by someone else. I wanted CNV to be totally different – a whole other style. Coloring my work, I felt a lot more free to have open shapes and take chances with more abstract forms. As well, I wanted the book to be a bit manic, lots of whites offset by intense blasts of color. Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants was pretty inspirational to CNV. It came out in the early to mid-eighties and was unlike anything else. It was a great inspiration to CNV in its use of white space. Also Tomer Hanuka’s use of color.
Jeff – What is it like working with a large publisher like Image?
Riley – It’s pretty good. Most of their books are creator-owned. It’s nice to have control over the rights. Image is really hands-off and their creators are pretty free to make what they want. It’s a nice change after working in editorial and advertising illustration where art directors have a lot of say in your creative process.
Jeff – What is your take on the comic-film adaptation trend in Hollywood?
Riley – Well I think it’s a mixed blessing. I like that it’s brought some people to a medium they wouldn’t normally experience. When Hellboy, Watchmen, Walking Dead and Sin City came out, it gave those books a real boost in sales and exposed a shit ton of people to mature comics that would never have come to them on their own. And the money for comic creators from Hollywood for options helps a lot. The down side as I see it is some people want to use comics as a way to pitch stories to Hollywood, I feel some people want to make films and see comics a vehicle for that. I’d love to see one of my projects get made into a film but my primary passion is sequential art.
Jeff – What about the landscape of the Canadian comic book industry?
Riley – Canada is home to some pretty amazing comic creators. I think the only negative is due to population density. We’re pretty spread out. In the states, it’s a bit easier to get a chance to see meet with your peers.
Jeff – What is your dream comic project?
Riley – Well, I’m kinda lucky like that – I’ve been able to make what I’m interested in at any give time. I think, if I could do anything, I’d like to co-write something with Joe Hill or Warren Ellis and take a year to draw five issues so I could really do some experimental stuff and not worry about the deadlines. In terms of Marvel, Daredevil or Wolverine, at DC probably Batman or Hellblazer. I also have an idea for a more personal graphic novel I want to do someday about a good friend of mine who experienced an aneurism and his recovery.
Jeff – If you could not draw, what would you do for a living?
Riley – I’m interested in cooking. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants and didn’t mind it. I wouldn’t mind working in a small butcher shop – I like meat but I wouldn’t want to work in a meat processing factory. I think being a projectionist or owning a small movie theatre would be fun. I do teach a little at the Alberta College of Art and Design which I enjoy.