Arts Desk

Meet a Visiting Cartoonist: Ryan Claytor, the Man Behind Elephant Eater Comics

ryan_claytor_elephant_eater_extractRyan Claytor was feeling restless this spring. The minicomics artist and fledgling assistant professor of comic art decided to visit 15 American states and five Canadian provinces promoting his new comic, And Then One Day No. 8. He'll be making three stops in our area this week, so we took the opportunity to question him.

Washington City Paper: What type of comics do you do?

Ryan Claytor: I produce a series of all-ages autobiographical comics.

WCP: When did you start?

RC: I've been drawing and interested in art all my life, but I published my first comic in 2004.

WCP: Why?

RC: I read comics when I was a kid and then forgot about them altogether for about a decade.  Shortly after undergrad school, I got back into comics in a big way.  I discovered so much thoughtful and interesting material coming out—really cutting edge work and stuff that's never been done before.  Not to mention the narrative possibilities of mixing words and images are limitless.  I wanted to be a part of that...and still do.

WCP: What's it like teaching comics for a living?

RC: It is my dream job.  I've been a professor for several years and proposed this class at a few different universities.  I came close a couple of times, but it finally came to fruition after I moved to Michigan.

WCP: Why are you doing this tour?

RC: Lots of reasons.  It helps promote my series of books.  I get to reconnect with established readers and meet new ones too.  I get to see a lot of the continent I've never seen before (and use the trip as a tax write-off).  I'm also able to visit a few family and friends while I'm traveling around, which sometimes dictates the stops I'll make.  Another side benefit is that I meet a lot of comic book retailers face-to-face, which is really important in this industry, since they're on the front lines of comics.  They're selling the books everyday for a living and those are the folks you want on your side.

WCP: How has it been so far?

RC: I'm answering this after only two stops, but the first couple locations (Lansing, Mich., and Toronto, Ontarioi) have been great! The first was a hometown stop with a bit of a twist; I signed my comics at a gourmet cupcake shop.   The second stop was at The Beguiling, "Canada's Finest Purveyor of Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga, and Original Art."  I'd heard so many good things about The Beguiling prior to my trip, and they did not disappoint.

WCP: Any horror stories? Or amusing stories?

RC: Some guy in Toronto asked me if I smoke weed.  No lead-in or anything.  We were just talking about my books and comics and, oh, by the way, do you smoke weed.  I had to ask him to repeat himself because I thought I misheard him, but no, he wanted to know if I smoked weed.  I haven't been asked that question since college.  I thought I'd cultivated a square enough demeanor to fend off such queries, but I guess I'm a little edgier than I suspected.

WCP: Have you been to D.C. before?

RC: Never.  This will be my first time.

WCP: Looking forward to anything here?

RC: I hear the Library of Congress has a fantastic comics collection, which I'll be sad to miss.  I'll be in D.C. on a weekend and they're only open on weekdays.  Bummer.

Ryan Claytor will be at Laughing Ogre Comics, Lansdowne Shopping Center, 19340 Promenade Dr., Lansdowne, Va., on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then at Fantom Comics in Union Station from 4 to 7 p.m. On Sunday, he'll be at Beyond Comics at 536 North Frederick Ave.,  Gaithersburg, Md., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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