Neither myself, nor one Mr. Ross Campbell were able or willing to make it to SDCC this year. So instead, I trapped him in an IM interview where he opened up about his art, his love of The Hunger Games (books, not movie), and the pseudo-possibility of a Jem comic book series.
Jess Pendley: First, let me thank you for taking time out for us today.
Ross Campbell: No problem!
JP: I know Con season is on us and everyone’s pretty swamped.
RC: Not me, I bailed. I haven’t done s#!t today.
JP: How do you feel about Cons? Do you prefer more intimate places to chat with fans or do you love the circuit?
RP: I both love/hate cons, I guess. I hate going to them and the traveling and the crowds, the schmoozing, I’m always exhausted on the first day. I almost always lose my voice by the end, but I love meeting fans and signing stuff for people. I’ve gotten some great fans who come up to me and just being there for them makes it worth it.
JP: What’s the best Con experience that you’ve had?
RC: Hmmm. Probably the Toronto Comics Art Festival last year. I like the smaller shows like that, less crowded, more about the comics and less the Hollywood TV Show video games stuff, but I had some really amazing fans come talk to me at that one.
JP: Any weird convention moments worth mentioning?
RC: I made a girl cry one time.
JP: That sounds promising.
RC: At FanExpo in Toronto. In I think 2010? She was a fan who came up to my table and she was like “I’ve wanted to meet you forever!” and then burst into tears and ran away. She came back a little bit later and we took a photo together and stuff so everything was okay, but just knowing that somebody liked my work enough to cry when face to face with me was like… well it’s not like I WANT her to cry, you know, but it was a pretty humbling, honoring experience.
JP: That’s a good story though! When you said that you made someone cry I assumed you did something terrible.
RC: Nah, I’m not THAT mean! :D
RC: Can’t think of any other good ones, I’m sure when we both log off I’ll remember a bunch.
JP: Well, then let’s move on to Glory.
RC: Oh is this the interview?!
JP: It doesn’t have to be. Rethinking all of that incriminating stuff?
RC: Haha. You’re like a stealth interviewer.
JP: I like to think of myself as the love-child of Lois Lane and a Ninja.
RC: Which ninja? Just any ninja?
JP: I don’t question my Mother’s past.
RC: Maybe Splinter.
JP: That would explain the tail and wise demeanor.
JP: Back to Glory. I love your version of Glory.I want to see Glory Action Figures, Cosplayers, the whole nine.
RC: Yeah! That would rock. I’m glad you like her. :)
JP: I do! What stands out the most to me about the character, is the amount of femininity that you manage to portray so subtly.
RC: That’s cool to hear. I’ve seen a handful of people (mostly guys who want her to be a supermodel) complain about her not being feminine enough, in the traditional sense. Lots of derogatory insults.
JP: I hate those people.
RC: Yeah. Blah. Like “Oh sorry, Bro, just go jerk off to something else.”
JP: Exactly. These are the same people that equate femininity to your breast-waist ratio.
RC: I think she’s still feminine, though, like you’re saying, so that’s good to hear. There isn’t just one way to be a woman! Even if you’re a supernatural alien woman.
JP: There’s a panel in a recent issue where Glory is talking to Riley and she’s drinking tea with her legs crossed and she reminded me of my first grade teacher! She was so prim and proper; way more traditionally feminine then I could ever be despite the fact that she could tear you in half like a phone book. The little nuances like that are what make your characters so great.
RC: I don’t remember Glory drinking tea, where is that? Haha. It’s all a blur for me.
JP: She’s drinking something. I assumed it was tea, that’s how demure she seemed. Now that you’ve called me out it could have been Squirt.
RC: Are you thinking of in issue 26 where she’s in the lair after training Riley?
RC: She’s looking at a map, not drinking anything! ;) I should have had her drinking tea there, though, now that you mention it.
JP: Well, now you’ve made me look like a fool.
JP: Either way, what I’m saying is she seems genuinely “womanly”, for lack of a better term.
JP: I’m trying to compliment you, damn it!
RC: Haha, sorry. Thank you!!! :D I appreciate it despite my tea-drinking derailment there.
JP: Is Glory more of a tea drinker or coffee drinker in your mind?
RC: Definitely tea.
JP: Especially now.
RC: Although the way she stalks past Henry offering tea in #26, maybe she isn’t.
JP: I expect full credit for every drop of tea she drinks in the future.
RC: I’ll let Joe know to put a tea-drinking scene in a future issue!
JP: Awesome! It will be our Carol Burnett ear-tug. Were you allowed to go wherever you wanted with the character design of Glory, or were you given parameters to stay in?
RC: At first there were some limitations. Originally Joe and I had wanted to give her a Mohawk. I wanted to give her pants and being albino was my idea. There was some resistance to her being super tall and muscular so in the first issue or two I kept her pretty toned down compared to what I’d wanted to do. But after that, after the bosses saw what we were doing, they seemed to back off and I went all out. My main regret, the thing I wasn’t allowed to do was in the first issue I wanted Glory to be taller than Supreme. :(
JP: They nixed that?
RC: Yeah, Supreme had to be the tallest, baddest dude. But next time he shows up I’m making Glory taller than him. I think I have free rein at this point.
JP: Do it. Make sure she’s barefoot too, that way it’s completely legit.
RC: Glory is practically albino, she’s a tank, she’s got pants, next stop: taller than Supreme.
JP: Take it to the limit. Maybe we’ll see a mohawk eventually too.
RC: I’m on the fence about the mohawk now, which I can’t believe I’m saying. I actually got attached to the giant ridiculous mane of hair.
JP: She does have pretty luxurious locks. And always so intricately styled!
RC: I like the idea that her hair is magical so it never gets tangled. And if you look in issue 27, her hair cuts people’s heads off and wraps them up like tentacles, like it’s got a mind of its own. Hehheh.
JP: Yes! Ask anyone I know, I am a sucker for prehensile hair.
JP: Your art is very stylized. When I see a Ross Campbell piece, I immediately know it’s yours. Who or What had the biggest influence on your style? Is this a direction that it took naturally or did you have to push yourself in a certain direction?
RC: Hmm. I’ve gone through a lot of stylistic changes over the years so it’s tough to pin anything down. My biggest influences when I was a kid, though, were Bill Watterson, Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird, and HR Giger. Then my next big style influence was I got hardcore into manga for a few years in college. I adopted a generic manga flair to my work. But I burned out hard on it, which lead to a kind of stylistic/artistic destruction where from the wreckage of my manga burn-out this new stylistic path opened up. Which lead to my work not being influenced by any specific artists, but it was like through destroying my own influences I created this new thing? Does that make sense? Haha.
RC: I’m probably making it sound way more epic than it actually was. It was just me going “God I’m so sick of this manga style! I SUCK!” and consciously stripping those elements out of my work and actively doing something new.
RC: I know a lot of young artists, and that’s no small thing. You made a conscious decision about where you wanted your art to be and you did it. That’s pretty admirable.
RC: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. I see other young artists go through similar things, too. Especially with manga and anime, there’s something about it that really grabs onto people. But most of the young artists who adopt elements from Japanese artists don’t fully understand the styles or why those artists draw that way, and I was the same way. And I’m just speaking of generally American artists here, that’s my experience.
JP: The current trend of artists emulating that style is very reminiscent of the 90’s trend of everyone attempting to be Jim Lee.
RC: Yeah and it starts creating these weird, recycled, stylistic elements where the artists aren’t questioning what they mean or something.
JP: You have to burn your own path.
RC: Yeah, I’m still trying to do it! I don’t think it ever stops.
JP: Is there anything that you look at in your career and wish it could be redone or that you just hadn’t done in the first place?
RC: Oh yeah, EVERY DAY. Haha. EVERYTHING!
JP: That’s hard to believe! You’ve done such great stuff.
RC: I’m my own worst critic, I guess. I think the biggest things I wish I could do over are some of the more sexualized stuff in Wet Moon and particularly Water Baby, and how much I exaggerated Audrey’s features in Wet Moon 3-4. I just thought she looked cute but looking back on it, it shares some elements with racist caricatures. Live and learn, I guess. In terms less weighty things, I wish I didn’t introduce so many characters in Wet Moon because it’s tough juggling them all.
JP: I know that some people criticized some of your work for being overtly sexualized, but I thought it was honestly refreshing to see characters of different body types and ethnicities portrayed as sensual beings. It never seemed harmful to me. Do you think that you were inadvertently fetishizing them?
RC: Hmm, I don’t know, tough question. If it was inadvertently or not consciously then I’m not sure I could identify that. I think it was mostly just me not thinking about it. I had this kind of awakening during Water Baby where somehow I looked at what I was doing and realized that it was out of control (on some level, it’s subjective, I guess). I don’t think I had much objectivity back then, like I had no real self-awareness or concept of what I was drawing or writing. It’s not like I was sitting there going “WOW THESE GIRLS ARE SO HOT,” it was still me grumbling about work and wishing I could slack off instead, but I’m not really sure why things turned out that way.
JP: I think that it was innocent. I think that it’s fantastic that you felt like you were doing your characters a disservice and decided to change your style, but realistically I think the criticisms stemmed from hypersensitivity. Generally when a man writes predominately female characters, it doesn’t work out in our favor. We have to be defensive. I think that you are one of few who do us real, altruistic justice.
RC: I don’t know, I don’t want to claim hypersensitivity. I’m not sure somebody can be TOO sensitive since it’s so subjective, you know? Different people have different thresholds, and I think my older work definitely has straight male gaze qualities but it’s got good and bad aspects to it. Like what you were saying about different body types and races than the white supermodel ideal being portrayed as attractive, that’s a huge positive thing. But at the same time I can see where it’s too much, too. Thank you though, I really appreciate the support and kind words. :)
JP: It’s what I’m here for.
JP: What are you proudest about, in terms of your career in comics? What do you feel like you can look at now or three decades from now and still generally be proud of?
RP: I’m not sure I can look that far in the future. I’ll probably hate everything I’m doing now 2 years from now, but I’m pretty proud of the sheer volume of work I’ve done and I know whatever negative aspects there are that the positive ones have been important to some people and helped them with their self-esteem and stuff like that.
RC: I’m also proud that good or bad, I did all this stuff my way, too. I made my own choices and my own mistakes.
JP: Just like Frank Sinatra.
RC: I’m not really familiar with him but sure. XD
JP: He was on Family Guy, I think. :)
RC: Haha! Another thing I’m proud of is what you were saying earlier, that my stuff is recognizable as me. Good or bad, whatever. I’m not sure my characters and writing are like anyone else’s.
RC: And being recognizable and distinct is pretty cool.
JP: I think it is. I think you are, despite the tea mishap earlier.
JP: What’s happening with Mountain Girl?
RC: I’m dying to go back to it! I’m itchin’ to do the new revamp book but I never have time for it. :(
JP: That makes me sad. I was hoping you would say something like, “Oh it’s coming out next month! Give me money!”.
JP: Because I would.
RC: There’s a TPB but it’s sold out. I’m waiting on a new batch right now.
RC: You can only get MG from me, so if you never ordered them from me you’ll never find them. ;)
RC: The only store that sells them is The Dragon in Guelph, Ontario.
JP: I don’t find myself in Canada that much. Or at all, really. Do you know when you’ll have the next batch? At this point I have completely forgotten that this is an interview, I just want stuff.
RC: Haha. I placed an order a few weeks ago, so I should get the next box pretty soon.
JP: Wicked! I actually just ordered a Shadoweyes tee from your store today.
RC: Oh cool Thank you! :D
JP: No Sir, thank you
RC: I’m checking now
RC: Oh yes! You ordered a youth large. Those things are a tough sell.
JP: It isn’t polite to proclaim my dress size in a public forum. Mr. Campbell.
RC: Haha! Wait this isn’t public.
JP: Now what’s your shirt size?
RC: I wear either an adult small or medium, but I wish there was a size in between those. Smedium. Sometimes small is too small and medium is too big.
JP: I agree. Now that we’re even on the shirt front I don’t feel so bad.
JP: Let’s say a Genie appears and you’re given the opportunity to work with anyone on any title in any fashion you’d like. What would you do? What’s you dream collaboration?
RC: Man, I don’t know…maybe writing a book for Amy Reeder or Frank Quitely to draw.
JP: Based on what character? You could take them in any direction you want. Height and mohawks be damned.
RC: Maybe something new? Creating something from scratch with Amy or Quitely involved from the get-go, rather than me handing them something to draw.
JP: What type of comic? Horror, capes-and-tights, what?
RC: I’m a big horror fan so maybe something along those lines, yeah… something like suburban horror would be cool.
RC: Suburban horror with lots of characters talking about their feelings. :D
JP: Sounds vaguely familiar…
RC: Yeah that’s basically Wet Moon. I just keep ripping myself off all the time. sigh.
JP: Who do you think is the most underappreciated character in main stream comics?
RC: Either Sleepwalker or Marrow.
JP: I love Marrow!
RC: Sweet! It seems like there’s a lot of underground Marrow fans but overall the majority seem to disparage her or be totally indifferent. Maggot is another one I see people badmouthing a lot. And then with Sleepwalker nobody talks about him at all, badmouthing or otherwise.
JP: I have always wanted to do a team book with Marrow, Boomer, Wolfsbane, and Dazzler. I have no idea why, but it would be great.
RC: I’d read it.
JP: I’m going to call myself out and say that I have no idea who Sleepwalker is.
RC: Haha, it’s okay, I don’t think most people know. He’s an obscure Marvel character from the early 90s. His series ran for 35 issues, and after that he pretty much faded into obscurity except for the very occasional cameo in other books.
JP: That’s a heartbreaking story.
RC: Haha, I guess so. Not every character can be a big blockbuster. His 35 issues were still great. I kind of like that it ended, more series should just end for once.
JP: I actually agree with that. Sometimes, stories are over. Sometimes, characters are dead. Making things finite makes them more…valuable.
RC: Yeah. Stringing them along forever gets boring, too. I pitched a Sleepwalker revamp with Tim Seeley one time but it was a no-go, since nobody cares about Sleepwalker. XD
JP: I had no idea who he was until five minutes ago and I would still read that.
RC: Then he could cross over with your Marrow team book.
JP: I feel like this should become a concrete plan. You get Marvel on the line.
JP: What are you reading right now? Are there any new series or novels that you’re excited about?
RC: Right now I’m on the second book of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, it’s pretty good. A couple of people told me it was better than Hunger Games so I had to see about that but so far it isn’t.
JP: Are you a Hunger Games fan?
RC: Hell yeah! Have you seen my Hunger Games art?
JP: Actually, no. No I haven’t.
RC: Haha, nah, it’s okay.
JP: Did you think that movie did the first book justice?
RC: No way. Not even close. It was like Diet Hunger Games while not doing enough of its own thing to justify itself, so why bother.
JP: Wow. I’m sorry I brought it up. You obviously feel rather strongly.
RC: I could keep going if you want. >: D
JP: You really are a fan. I can appreciate that.
JP: I might have missed your Hunger Games art, but I didn’t miss your Jem art.
RC: Ha! Yeah :D
JP: I really like it. I would read this. Or watch it.
RC: I’d love to be involved if there was a new show or comic or something.
RC: I still have more coming. I still have to draw the Stingers, Techrat, Jerrica…
JP: I think that now is the perfect time to launch a Jem comic.
JP: Especially with the new He-Man series just launching.
RC: I saw that, yeah! I love He-Man too.
RC: I’d be into it. I wonder if IDW could get the license.
JP: Get IDW on the line.
RC: They just announced they’re doing a My Little Pony comic.
JP: I know!
RC: My IDW editor’s working on it. Pretty cool.
JP: Are you a Brony?
RC: Haha, no, can’t say that I am. I’ve seen a few episodes of the new show and I like the art style a lot but I couldn’t get into it.
RC: What about you? Is Brony only used for male fans?
JP: I think Brony is a male term. I’ve heard female fans referred to as Pega-sisters, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. But no, I am not a fan.
JP: Like the style, but couldn’t get into the overall content.
RC: Yeah. :\
JP: Though we can both agree that Tara Strong is fantastic.
RC: Oh God, who is Tara Strong. O_O
JP: She’s Batgirl! From BTAS!
RC: She did “additional voices” in the 2007 TMNT movie.
JP: You’re messing with me, right?
RC: Haha. No, I mean I remember Batgirl, of course, I know who that is. XD
RC: I like Return of the Joker.
RC: I never got into the Batman cartoon much, I’ll admit.
RC: Batman Beyond and the Michael Keaton Batman is the only Bat-stuff I like.
JP: This is why you should never talk to your idols, Ross.
JP: Besides Glory and Wet Moon, are you working on anything else right now?
RC: I’m slowwwwwwwwwwly thumb-nailing Shadoweyes 3.
JP: How slowly? Is there an ETA?
RC: Pretty slow. No release date yet, it’s too early. :\
RC: I’m hoping to focus on it late this year and next year.
JP: Cool deal.
RC: Oh yeah, my TMNT fan-comic, which I’m outlining right now.
JP: Really? Will it be in continuity with the current series?
RC: No, it’s totally its own thing.
JP: That’s awesome! Will Vanilla Ice be making an appearance?
RC: Yes, Vanilla Ice is in it.
JP: Thank God. I was a little worried. This world needs more ninja rap.
JP: I will definitely be picking that up.
RC: It’ll be online only. ;)
RC: I just want to do TMNT my way on my own terms, just for fun.
JP: Any knowledge you would like to lay down on our Comics Crux readers before we go?
RC: Buy my comics.
JP: You heard it here first, folks!
RC: I don’t know, what kind of knowledge?
JP: Anything. Pull from your vast well of comic book insights.
RC: Man…lots of tough questions tonight…
JP: You started with the tea.
RC: This’ll be another thing where I have nothing, but then once I’m not on the spot anymore, 5 hours later, I’ll come up with something great.
JP: We can always end on a joke instead?
RC: I don’t think I have any jokes.
RC: I’m very unfunny.
JP: You’re killing me here.
RC: I know, I’m the worst interviewee.
JP: No, you were great. I really appreciate your time tonight and your contributions to comics as a whole.
RC: I appreciate the interest and interview, thanks so much for taking the time, too.
JP: Any time at all.
RC: I’m sorry again about the Batman thing. XD
JP: I’ll let it go.
RC: Okay! Thanks again, Jess. :) Much appreciated.
RC: See ya!!