Tell us a bit about yourself! What’s your background, and how did you get into comics?
I grew up in Dublin, Ireland, and I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I’ve always been drawn to what some might refer to as ‘trash culture’ or what your grandmother might view as such when really it’s the most exciting stuff you can feast your eyes and ears on. This includes Saturday morning cartoons, sci-fi, horror and b-movies, golden era Hip-Hop, vinyl records and, of course, comic books. My beginnings with comics would be comics my Dad had, Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes, Mad Magazine and even stuff like the Farside Gallery. When I was about 10, I started getting into superhero comics, it was hard to know where to start, but I would just grab whatever, Spider-Man, X-Men or Hulk joints I could find in the comic shop. When I was about 12, I discovered Sin City by Frank Miller and Hellboy by Mike Mignola, and that’s when I knew I wanted to make my own comic books. I would do little strips here and there, but mostly I would draw characters and create worlds for them to inhabit, but it wasn’t until many years later that I created my first full-length comic book: Cosmic Slop.
What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
I attended Ballyfermot College in Dublin, where I studied animation for three years. I had no aspirations to become an animator by the end of it, but the course improved my understanding of drawing immensely, I had a great life drawing teacher, and the animation side gave my drawings a greater sense of movement and dynamism. A scriptwriting class was also part of my course, which I loved. My teacher was cool, and I learned a lot about storytelling and film from her. I actually wrote the script for a graphic novel prior to Cosmic Slop. However, it’s collecting dust for now. It was a more ambitious story that I plan on coming back to once my skills are sharper.
Who are your art heroes? Who inspires you?
My art heroes come from all sorts of mediums, really: Hip Hop artists and musicians really inspire my work, Wu-Tang Clan, Gangstarr, KRS-One, Eryka Badu, Grace Jones, Parliament/Funkadelic, to name a few. Sometimes I’ll listen to their music, and entire stories come to mind. I think it’s something to do with their larger than life personalities, the wordplay with their lyrics and sonically their music is highly captivating. In terms of movies: directors like Stanley Kubrick, Tarantino, Coppola, David Lynch always hold a soft spot because their stories are so layered, and they’re pulling from so many other films and ideas already. Obviously, Star Wars, Alien, Predator and exploitation movies are some favorites too. Comics wise, I’m usually inspired by artists who write and illustrate their own work: Moebius, Frank Miller, Mignola, Hugo Pratt, Guy Peelaert, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and Michel Fiffe, to name a few. Vinyl Record cover art can be weird and beautiful to look at too, take those Funkadelic covers by Pedro Bell for one example of many psychedelic covers from the 70s that are mind-blowing.
What (comics) are you working on right now? How did the idea for the storyline first come to you?
I’m working on a series called Cosmic Slop. It’s a sci-fi story about the rediscovery of vinyl music in space about 300 years into the future. The first issue is out, and issue 2 is inked and being colored at the moment; it should be out by October/November 2020. I have some other stories I plan to get on the page over the next few months too. Cosmic Slop kind of encompasses all of the stuff I enjoy mashed into one, that way, I can’t really get bored with it. As I’ve mentioned, it’s my first complete attempt at a comic book. I wrote a long script for a kung fu story that was going to be more complicated and demanding to draw, so I said to myself I need to start with something fun and light-hearted with lots of room for experimentation from an artistic point of view. This became ‘Cosmic Slop.’
How would you introduce your work to the readers?
If you enjoy low brow culture with lots of nerdy details, you’ll get a kick out of it.
What comic book character do you identify most with, and why?
Hellboy. He’s easily angered by his gadgets; I’m sure he’d shoot his printer to pieces and slam hunt 102 nibs off the drawing desk if he was a cartoonist! But generally, he’s good-hearted with witty humor despite his demonic origins
What’s the relationship like between you, the comic book writer and you, the illustrator?
I work on the stuff alone, mostly I get along ok with myself, but life can be distracting.
Do you keep a little notebook and sketchbook around you at all times in case inspiration strikes, or is this more of you sit down at your work desk, and you bang it out?
Ideas usually come before bed or in the middle of watching or listening to something, and I am pretty diligent about writing them down in my notebook, or they may disappear as quickly as they arrived in my head. A lot of my characters will be doodles in sketchbooks; I’ll draw some funny looking alien with a boombox and then create a story around him afterward. In many ways, that’s how Cosmic Slop came to be, a bunch of doodles I tied together to form a story.
What outside of comics inspires your work?
As aforementioned movies, music, and the occasional book, I guess looking at art too, a trip to a museum can be a great way to charge yourself up creatively.
What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
Mostly traditional methods, pen and ink, pencils, watercolor paint, some photoshop for textures and color. I do have a more psychedelic story in mind, though, so I might bust out some gouache or maybe even try out some screen printing techniques when the time comes.
Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
I do have deadlines that I try and stick to, but deadlines are easily extended when working on your own stuff. I hope to get faster at making comics as I make more of them, though. That is something I like about working on commissions and other people’s stuff; you have to get it done fast.
What experience do you transfer from comics when working in other media?
Comics are great for teaching you about composition; the layout and presentation of my other illustration work have improved greatly from creating with comics in mind. Anatomically my drawing is always improving from looking at comics, and I think my work has probably become more graphically pleasing from the practice of making comics too.
What do you desire most as an artist?
A bronze bust of me in the middle of a park with a seagull poo sliding down my cheek. Nah, I love storytelling and obsessive world-building within stories like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. You can really get lost within these worlds and Wookieepedia. I just want people to read and enjoy my stories.
What’s a trend you see in comics art today that get’s on your nerves?
Poorly drawn webcomics that aren’t funny or in any way stimulating.
What does the world need that comics, or art more generally, can provide?
Sometimes if you go to a museum and wander around, looking at all of the ancient objects from some culture long forgotten by time, like Sumerian tablets, renaissance sculptures, a dove painted by Picasso in a single wrist movement, whatever, it can give you this weird feeling, you feel insignificant because you’re just one of the countless people who either made this stuff or just appreciated it, but it’s a very human feeling all the same like you’re part of this crazy timeline on Earth, but you feel a connection to the story of mankind in all of its brutal beauty. I think we can learn from feelings like this that art provides you with, a sense that we’re all in this together no matter where you’re from or what you look like, and we should be nicer to one another while we’re here as a result.
Do you have any quick advice for aspiring comic book illustrators out there?
The biggest bit of advice is to sit down and do a page. Pick a topic you enjoy and form a story around it. I spent way too much time thinking about doing comics. Even just do a panel a day if you find the idea of a page daunting. Do this for a couple of months, and you’ll have a comic; it might not be what you hoped for, but it will give you a sense of completion, and your next attempt will be better.
Where can our readers find you online?
You can find me @illstrips on Instagram, and my website is illstrips.com, where I sell comics, zines, stickers and t-shirts. Now go listen to The Low End Theory or something and keep those creative juices flowing!
Name: Jordan Barry-Browne
Comic Book series: Cosmic Slop
Tools: Pen, Ink, Watercolours, Pencils, Photoshop