Welcome back, dear readers! Welcome to another edition of the Comic Book Daily Creator Profiles where we interview the artists and writers of our favourite medium! With us today happens to be Ramon Perez. We talk about breaking into the industry, his upcoming Green River Killer project, porn studios, the start of Transmission-X and more! This interview was a horrific one to transcribe so I hope you guys will choose to listen and read along! Click the link below the audio portion.
As some of you may know, I have a terrible disease called Actuallyitis; where I use the word “actually” far too often. But! I may be beaten by Ramon in this regard, so listen on and we’ll take a final tally at the end!
CBD: Hello again, this is David Diep of ComicBookDaily with Ramon Perez; artist and writer of the webcomics: Kukuburi and ButterNutSquash and the artist of an upcoming graphic novel from Dark Horse based on the Green River Killings. It’s great to have you here with us today, Ramon.
Ramon: Oh, it’s great to be here man, thanks Dave.
CBD: Alright so, how’d you make your break into the comic book industry?
Ramon: Oh, that was a long climb actually [laughs]. I’ve been a freelance artist for about… oh must be 10 years now- 13 years and I’ve always been trying to edge my way into comics, it’s my first love. But you know- being- I always say being in the right place in the right time and I always seem to be getting positive feedback from the people I talk to. Various editors and other artists are always you know, looking at my portfolio and go; “Hey, you should be working” and I’ll be like “Great! When does that happen?” So my career took a tangent in the beginning; I went to role-playing game work and children’s books, magazine work, editorial stuff for newspapers. So I kind of really just got a chance to fine tune my abilities a lot before I actually made it into comics and that kind of happened as a fluke. My first connection came when I worked on the inking for The Incredibles for Dark Horse Comics; the movie adaptation. Basically, I was called by the artist; who was also a story boarder on the movie and I went to school with his wife.
CBD: Oh, so you met him that way? (David: Wow, that truly was a pointless interruption by yours truly, Pete must be rubbing off on me)
Ramon: Yeah, he always liked my inking work and they were having trouble finding an inker he was satisfied with to go over his pencils. So he suggested me and I made contact with-they- Dark Horse contacted me and that just kind of evolved into a relationship there. Having that under my belt, going to conventions, meeting people, networking and you know. That’s when I began to learn it’s your portfolio but also the social networking you do. Like at the shows, going to the bar and having a round of drinks with a few editors, hanging out with other artists and other writers. I began to slowly develop a relationship over the years and it’s like work began to funnel towards me. And you know, it’s a slow climb, but I’m kind of happy that way. All my bad art is kind of hidden in my past [laughs] my abilities were more fine tuned when I entered the scene and I’m pretty happy with most of the stuff I worked on, so in that respect.
CBD: That’s right (David: That’s right? Yeesh, I gotta work on my topic transition skills), so you’ve done some work for Marvel and DC now. You did the JSA classified issues, the War of King one, a few issues here and there.
Ramon: Yeah, I did that. That was a quick- it was an online thing, I guess they published it recently. I also did some inking on NYX over Kalman Andrasofszky and-
CBD: Are there any titles over there that you would like to work on? As kind of the regular run artist? (David: Yes, I did indeed accidentally and quite rudely interrupt Ramon, but it’s kind of hard to backpedal after doing that!)
Ramon: I dunno, I’ve never really thought about that. I’ve always had a fascination with obscure characters, old quirky characters. With Marvel for example, I would love to work on Mr. Miracle and Big Barda of all characters. Everyone would be clamoring for Spider-Man, I would be happy with Mr. Miracle. At DC, I think there’s a little part of me that wants to work on Batman. I grew up with the character and you know…more so the TV Batman [laughs]
CBD: With the old Adam West? (David: My apologies to Mr. West, the word “old” slipped out of my mouth)
Ramon: [laughs] Yeah, which is a far cry from the current comic book version of Batman.
CBD: Are you sure you just don’t want to draw Batman doing the Bat-Tutsi?
Ramon: That would be pretty awesome, actually. I was actually-I’m going to be attending a con in France later this fall and their request; from the convention was to illustrate a piece of Batman; a Batman piece they could sell as a print. Part of me just wants to draw Adam West sitting in a lounge chair with the Bat-costume hanging on a coat hanger-
CBD: While smoking a pipe kind of thing?
Ramon: Yeah [laughs] I don’t know if they would go for that.
CBD: Is this one you are going to in addition to the one in Poland, I believe? (CBD Fact: The convention is called KOMIKS FESTIWAL)
Ramon: Yes, I’m going to be doing about…I haven’t really counted yet, but probably 8 or 10 shows.
CBD: All in Europe?
Ramon: Yeah, all in Europe. Well, there will be 2 in the U.K; one in London and one in Leeds. Thoughtbubble is one and the other one is…I can’t remember offhand..it’s..it’s more of an expo that lasts a few weeks. I think it’s called Comica.
CBD: Right, just for future reference, just in case you ever have to answer this question again, Mr.Mar- Mr. Miracle and Big Barda are DC characters actually; not Marvel ones.
Ramon: Oh! Geez yeah that’s- sorry. I’m- been a long week of late nights but yeah so.
CBD: Hitting those deadlines?
Ramon: Yeah, too many deadlines my brain is not working right. I think for Marvel it would just be X-Men really. I love team dynamics.
CBD: The big teams, the biggest team of guys that got the mutants? (Dave: Yeesh, I have no clue what I meant to say there. I am sure it was an awesome statement that didn’t come out right)
Ramon: Yeah, them or I think Alpha Flight would be another. The Canadian side of me wanted a go at it.
CBD: Alpha Flight!? The underdogs!
Ramon: I’d want to go in there and do it right, because I mean Alpha Flight has gotten the shaft for so many years on their book. It’s just like; come on!
CBD: They showed up in the Avengers just to be killed.
Ramon: Yeah, exactly! During the big crossover wasn’t it? And I’m like; come on! These guys have gotten the short end of the stick for so long. Let’s give them some love for a change.
CBD: I guess you know, except for Wolverine, we’ve got nothing good to come out of Canada in Marvel.
Ramon: [laughs] yeah, exactly.
CBD: I’m sure they see us as nothing but pine trees up here.
Ramon: Yeah, it’s a big forest up here; we’ve got nothing much else. Polar bears roaming all over the streets of Toronto.
CBD: And Maple Syrup vendors all over the place. (CBD Fact: Maple Syrup is delicious)
Ramon: Pretty much, yeah. It’s just funny. So yeah , that’s right. Mr. Miracle is DC, he would be my first go. Pretty much any of the Fourth World characters; Forever People or-
CBD: The Kirby Stuff pretty much.
Ramon: Yeah, New Gods, I would love to do that kind of stuff. His character designs were phenomenal and just kind of quirky you know and the fact that Death is a guy on skis; really that’s kind of peculiar.
CBD: The Black Racer.
Ramon: Yeah, if you can make it work. I mean come on, that’s brilliant.
CBD: As mentioned on your website, one of your webcomics; ButterNutSquash which actually returned from a hiatus, has joined Kukuburi as part of the Transmission X project stuff. How’d you get involved with those guys?
Ramon: To be honest, I’ve been involved since the beginning. I was one of the, if you want to call it “founding” members. I just came in late because I was busy designing all of the web interfaces, so my time was taken up building the site and helping with the behind the scenes work. My own project was falling behind, so I ended up being launched with their second wave.
CBD: Ah, so that explains why they actually consider you the second wave on their site.
Ramon: Yeah, so it’s- but I’ve actually been there since day one. It’s interesting too, one of the guys who just joined T-X; Eric Kim who came in with Streta which premiered on September 9th, he was actually a founding member too, but due to obligation and work, he had to kind of-
CBD: Step back?
Ramon: Step back. So it’s kind of funny. The core launch of people; maybe two, I think Andy Belanger and Arthur Dela Cruz were part of the original crew and guys like Karl Kerschl and Cameron Stewart came in afterwards, but they were there from the beginning. So it’s an interesting little kind of backstory.
CBD: How’d you guys actually start the crew?
Ramon: It was just one day kind of sitting down with- it was actually myself and Eric Kim and Kalman Andrasofszky who hasn’t done anything with T-X yet but hopes to one day. We were sitting around coffee and just kind of bantering about doing something for- having an avenue to showcase our stories and the actual original inception was the idea of doing a magazine (David: I am going to cheat and count the word “actual” as an “actually”). Like an anthology magazine, bringing back the old school Creepy and Eeries. That kind of format where you have short stories and stuff like that. As we did research, we were like “whoa, there’s a lot of overheard there” you know; marketing and advertising and then slowly the gears began to turn and Eric Kim actually decided to take it as a web initiative and so then he collected myself and Kalman again and Belanger and Arthur De La Cruz and then Scott Hepburn joined up. We’re- a lot of us share a studio in Toronto here too and so we’re creating and doing all this stuff. And then you have guys like Cameron who are in the studio and kind of look over go “Hey, what are you guys doing over there?” He’s like “I’ve got some ideas, what about- could I?” So the group grows. It’s like the artists in Toronto are going to have to social network so then you have like Karl Kerschl who joined our studio and we saw the energy happening with that. You’re like “Come on up! Come on aboard” and it sort of organically grew as you see another guy at the table across from you doing something, creating something that is unique and his own and it sort of inspires you to do your own thing. So I think it was kind of infectious really all of us, like I said, 5 of us all share a studio here, but we also have lunch every week with 4 or 5 other artists from Toronto and creators who also became inspired like “hey, do you mind in onboard on that?”. And so it was pretty much a group of friends just kind of coming together and finding a way to kind of have some place to tell their own stories.
CBD: So do you guys see yourselves growing to a massive studio of like 100 people one day?
Ramon: [laughs] I hope not. I think we’re looking at keeping it relatively small. Like right now, we’re 5 people in the studio and Cameron and Karl have moved to a separate studio now in Montreal. A couple of the other guys work out of their house, but I think we see ourselves as kind of maybe- I can’t see us- I think we’re keeping ourself comfortable and small. We don’t want ourselves getting lost in a sea of creators, so I can’t see- eventually maybe going larger than 15 or 20 creators at a time. There will always be turn around as well. Maybe 1 or 2 will stop their projects as their story finishes, a couple new fresh faces might come in and lend their visions. Maybe those creators then who finish their stories might come back and have new creative ventures. I think we’re going to keep it small though. Nothing like; for example, if you go to Keenspot or these other web collectives that have hundreds upon hundreds of comics. I don’t think we want to go that route. We just want to keep it fairly tight. People we know, friends for the most part. That way everybody knows everybody. It has a kind of family-community vibe to it.
CBD: Going back to ButterNutSquash, why did it take it so long to get onto the Transmission-X site?
Ramon: Well recently, we were part of the Dayfree collective when we first started and technically we were part of them until two months ago. And I think for a while, I didn’t want to just automatically assume that I was bringing that project over.
Ramon: So it had a life of its own. It was very separate. I didn’t want people to- I wanted to keep Kukuburi separate too. It was aimed at a different audience When we did the hiatus with ButterNut and we did a lot of touring with T-X in the summer trying to promote the individual creators. It became difficult to promote ButterNut as a separate entity, so it was- it was the logical choice for me in the beginning, but I think I just delayed it for probably silly reasons. Eventually I was just you know, makes perfect sense to bring it over you know. Everybody knows Rob; Rob who I do ButterNutSquash with everybody knows him well. He’s friends with everybody else, so it’s a natural fit. We’ve been part of the Dayfree collective like I’ve said for ages, but we’ve never actually showed with them at shows. They usually have their own tables and stuff like that, but for some reason we just never kind of gelled with that group. And they’re all great guys, but we just never connected.
CBD: You just weren’t at the cool table I guess.
Ramon: [laughs] Well, they were at the big table and we were at the little kiddy table in the corner. It was just a natural migration. It took a lot longer than it should have, but with the half years break in between- when ButterNut took a year off, it was a natural way to get there, now is the perfect time.
CBD: How does the scripting between yourself and Rob work, actually? You’re mainly on the art duties. Do you do the writing with him?
Ramon: Yeah, we both write. I maybe plot a little more. I’ll think of the overarching story elements and stuff like that, but we just sit down and we have our ideas; he has his ideas, I have my ideas and we just sit and banter. We bounce them off each other; Rob has an idea and I’ll go “Oh, that’s fantastic. Let’s go with it” We’ll make each other laugh and say “that’s gold” and file that one away. And then if I put something forward he’ll be like “oh, that’s stupid” and I would be like “alright”. We’re a good sounding board for each other. We have very similar sense of humor and if we- if one of our ideas make the other guy laugh, it’s a good way to go. And if one falls on deaf ears, you go “alright, maybe that wasn’t such a great idea”. Or maybe I have an idea that’s kind of mediocre and by him coming in, he kind of punches it up a few levels or vice-versa. It’s a very cool dynamic. It’s very smooth sometimes but other times it can be butting heads as you try to force your ideas in there. But I think it actually makes for better material in the end because we’re like each other’s editors; possibly keeping each other on our respective toes.
CBD: So it’s very fine tuned. The writing afterwards; the final product.
Ramon: Yeah, we basically knock- sit down, knock out the idea. It’s very rough and then I take them and I go plot them out, I pace them out and draw them. And then we go back to the drawing board and script them. They’re never scripted beforehand; it’s almost like doing it the old Marvel way, where we have a rough idea. We know the punch line, the vague steps to the punch line and then once it’s drawn out, we go back in as writers then and sit down and we go through and script it properly.
CBD: So now that it’s officially back, can you give us any idea on what you and Rob have in store for us?
Ramon: Right now, we’re just going to use the remainder of the year to wrap up old storylines. Because obviously there’s a whole bunch of things left hanging when we went off the air last year around this time. So we’re just going to try to wrap relationships up and then we’re hoping in the new year, to go to three times a week. We really want to make a push to take ButterNut to where it should have been ages ago, but we just never had the time or the ability to do it or take it to that next level. So we really wanna kind of make it more- you can develop more stories and punch lines without every week having everything hanging on a week by week basis. With three days a week, you can play with a little more or you can put in lighter things that might not work all the time just because you’re waiting another week for the next episode. So we wanted to develop the characters and make them work. Just go back to the more punch line driven stuff which we kind of went away from for a little bit. Have some fun with them. We’ve got silly things waiting to happen with Andy, Ramon and Rob; the characters obviously. And make it happen; dating sprees and you know. There’s one storyline where my character will encounter a porn studio in his building and some weird tangents will happen there. And this is all based on reality. I was walking to my home one day and there’s this porn studio around the corner from me. I was like “oh ho, what’s this?”
CBD: Did you try to walk in on the filming?
Ramon: Well, I was walking down the hallway and I hear this very orgasmic scenario going on and I’m like “wow, someone’s having a good time”
CBD: Orgasmic scenario, eh? (CBD Fact: David’s left eyebrow rose while saying this)
Ramon: I just hear these moans and groans and I’m like “ho ho, this is pretty outrageous” and then I hear “aaand cut”. I was like “Cut?” I was just standing by this door listening and I hear the director getting up and then I’m walking out of the building and I run into my superintendent. I’m like “I just walked out and I heard this”. “Oh yeah, that’s a porn studio”. I’m like “There’s a porn studio in my apartment…rock and roll”.
CBD: So if this comic thing doesn’t work out for you, you’ve got a new career in I guess…porn?
Ramon: Yup, they already have my headshots. But yeah, so we have odd things like that where we just go “oh my god, there’s so many possibilities where we can take that”. There’s all kinds of little scenarios like that, that spawn various ideas that have been written down, but haven’t been attended to yet. So over the next year, we hope to just really push the limits, get ourselves out there a little bit more, push the characters and make it a little more kind of raunchy if you will. We kind of played it safe for a while, so I think we just kind of want to get back out there and get back in touch with what the Squash was all about.
CBD: The raunch?
Ramon: Yeah, the stupidity, the cheese- whatever you want to call it. Just guys being guys having fun. Being honest about it and poking fun at it at the same time.
CBD: Speaking of raunch…shesmykindofgirl.com (CBD: This site is probably NSFW, unless you work in a porn studio). What to say…it’s kind of ah…how’d you get that started? (David: Real smooth right there…real smooth.).
Ramon: That was- many of us do a- we used to do a- that obviously hasn’t been updated in months I think. But it began as…on Fridays, most of the time in the studio when we’re not as crazy busy as we are now, we’ll have a little draw-off we call Girl Friday. We just draw a pin-up girl. Something to just chill out. It’s not a work obligation, it’s not anything, so that kind of spawned that website. We had all these great pin-ups, why not give them a home? Get them out there and have somewhere to showcase them. So that’s essentially how shesmykindofgirl.com came out. All of the pictures up there are most of our girl Friday sketch-offs and though I think 8 or 9 of mine on that site are from an ad campaign I did for a porn company about a year or two ago.
CBD: How’d you do things for porn companies?
Ramon: It just kind of fell in my lap. [Laughs] They were like “Hey, you wanna draw pretty girls?” How can I say no?
CBD: Wow, I was gonna have a joke about the site being for lonely guys on Friday nights, but you’ve gone and killed it right there.
Ramon: [laughs] No no, we do them during the day and then go out Friday night.
CBD: So, the Green River Killer Project. You’re working on that alongside Jeff Jenson; the son of the original investigator on the Green River project. How’d you land that gig?
Ramon: That came through Sierra; my editor at Dark Horse. I met Sierra about a year before and gave her my portfolio. She knows many of the guys at our studio and we’ve hung out with her at various cons. We met at the various conventions, I gave her my portfolio, so she just called me up one day and she just teases me with an offer. “Hey, would you be willing to work on this crime- true crime noir kind of book?” And I’m like “ohh, that’s one of my passions.” My first story idea for Transmission X was actually a crime noir which I ended up shelving. So I was like “whoa, this might be an opportunity to do that as a warm up, kind of play that field before I jump into my own crime noir in the future. And once I kind of expressed interest, she laid down the actual story and she sent me the outline of the book and the first prologue script for the story. I sat down and read it rather quickly and I was hooked. I was like “this is amazing”. It’s some of the best comic scripting I’ve read in ages and it sucked me in. And the fact that these are real people with stories of real people I was peering into added that much more visceral quality to it. It really sung to me. Then talking to Jeff afterwards, finding out that he’s the actual son of the investigator who hunted down Gary Ridgeway over the years and caught him over a multi-year period. I couldn’t put it down; I quickly jumped on it.
CBD: The graphic novel promises to be a behind the scenes look at the events. Did you have to do a lot of reference and research for this? Like look at crime scene photos, that kind of thing?
I did go to Seattle earlier this year and I met with Jeff and his father. And his father took us to various sites where bodies were found and talked to us about the investigation. I got to see their home and I got to see the place where- the actual story takes place the first five days or four days after, I can’t recall exactly, of the capture of Gary Ridgeway, so it’s very much a deconstruction of him those first four days of interrogation. A lot of flashbacks are involved in the story, stuff like that-
Ramon: Yeah, I got to see videos of these talks and I saw some crime scene photos of various sites, stuff like that. So I got to see some really grim groovy and hear some groovy story from Jeff’s father himself.
CBD: So when can we expect it out, actually?
Ramon: I believe- I was talking to Sierra the other day and I believe they’re looking at a fall 2010 release. Probably solicited sometime in the mid-summer, I think. Yeah, with a fall release next year.
CBD: Right. You’ve got a lot on your plate right now with two active webcomics, the big Green Killer project, how do you balance them all out?
Ramon: [laughs] I work a lot. I have Green River, I also have a monthly comic I do for Owl magazine called Max Finder and yeah then I have Green River and the two webcomics. I also have other odd jobs that float my way as well. It just comes down to just trying to time manage. I have days devoted- when things are going smoothly I have every Monday I work on Kukuburi, every Tuesday I work on ButterNut and then Wednesday is devoted to corporate work, Thursday is Owl and maybe Friday I go back and do some scripting. When things work out ideally, that’s how I break it down. I devote days of the week to certain projects. And when things aren’t working out so smoothly, it’s a juggling scenario where I’m working 3 hours on that, 2 hours on that, jump on this project. So hopefully- I’ve been working towards fine-tuning. I’ve actually been turning down work because I think it’s an old freelancer habit where you’re always trying to make sure there’s money in the coffers. So you’re always jumping at the next job, no matter how busy you are. And the next thing you know- when Kukuburi and ButterNut went on hiatus last year, that was because I was literally juggling twelve contracts over three months. I was like- I even look back at it now and I don’t know how I accomplished the amount of work I accomplished in those three or four months. And the recuperation since- and then eventually Kukuburi came back online and ButterNut suffered for a little bit longer because it took more time for Rob and I to get – to be able to find the time to hook up and bang out some ideas. But yeah, I’ve been focused more of late on trying to keep the projects to a minimum. So right now, I’m at four and that’s more than enough to keep me busy and two of them are on my own and two of them are for corporate clients. So as long as I keep them happy and pay my rent so that I have time to work on my own stuff as well. Maybe eventually I can pare it down to three and eventually just two and then maybe just my own stuff whether it be the crime book or Kukuburi or ButterNut or one of the other dozen ideas I have in my little black book.
CBD: For your drawing, what kind of materials do you use?
Ramon: I’m pretty traditional for the most part. I usually mix up the materials between- I mean depending on the look of a project I’m working on. So for example; Green River Killer is very much a loose brush style, so it’s Indian ink with Sable brush. While Kukuburi, I wanted a very clean crisp style, so that’s all inked by using Staedtler fineliners, like just little markers. I’ve also used quill in the past. It really just depends on the project. But I’m pretty much traditional. I don’t do any inking digitally or anything like that. It’s all brush, quill or pens and then I do all my colouring on the computer right now with Photoshop. Though, I would like to get back to doing more traditional colouring. Before I got into comics, I used to do a lot more painting. I would love to bring back more watercolor, wash painting into my stuff.
CBD: Comic series. Are you reading right now?
Ramon: Ah, right now, ongoing stuff…very little actually. I’m reading Hellboy; the Fegredo illustrated Mike Mignola arc right now and that’s coming out rather slowly. What’s the mainstream stuff…I’m trying to think. It’s kind of a blur for the most part. I pick up a lot of Immonen’s books here and there and flip through them and- I’ve been buying a lot of old collections. The Creepy and Eerie collections being put out by Dark Horse.
CBD: Oh, those massive hardcover guys?
Ramon: Yeah, I’ve been really going back to a lot of that stuff. I picked up Mazzucchelli’s new book…I can’t remember the name right now…
Voice of God: Asterios Polyp (David: I honestly don’t know who said that, so I will attribute this to the voice of God.)
Ramon: Asterios Polyp and that was a phenomenal book. Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of The Hunter as well.
CBD: That was a fantastic read.
Ramon: So I’ve been leaning more towards larger collections or just new graphic novels. I don’t really collect much on a monthly basis anymore. The last thing I was collecting in that respect was 100 Bullets.
CBD: Which recently finished its run in trade and single issues.
Ramon: Exactly, so a lot of the stuff I was collecting has actually wrapped up. So I’m kind of without any ongoing stuff for the most part. I’ll pick up a random here and there. I picked up an issue recently of Batman and Robin with Gorilla Grodd- wait not Batman and Robin, Batman and Superman. The Gorilla Grodd where he takes over. I think it’s a future alternative story or something like that, having a lot of fun. But yeah, it’s mostly whatever catches my eye on the shelf. I don’t read anything regularly anymore.
CBD: Right, any advice for those hoping to get into the comic book industry?
Ramon: I think it’s the cheesiest advice you always hear, but it’s just drawing and perseverance. Part is talent but part is putting yourself out there and talking to people and going to these shows, networking and meeting and shopping your portfolio around. Also, making those social connections that hopefully pay off in the future.
CBD: Well, thanks for all your time today, Ramon. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
Ramon: Oh, no problem, it’s been great.
CBD: Hope to talk to you again when the Green River Killer book comes out.
I hope you guys enjoyed this little conversation between Ramon and I. You can check out Ramon and the other Transmission-X guy’s work at www.shesmykindofgirl.com. Don’t forget to check out Ramon’s travel blog as he tours around Europe at http://blog.ramonperez.com/.We’ll see you next time for the next interview! And by the way, final score? David: 4 actually to Ramon’s 17! Woohoo!and
David Diep is the News Editor at ComicBookDaily and an assistant manager at Big B Comics in Hamilton, Ontario. He is fond of maple syrup and pancakes.