Often times when interviews happen for me it’s an arrangement, someone replying to a small post I’ll do about wanting to do an interview or someone asking me to help them out while they’re promoting, but that was not what led to me meeting comic artist Ryan Westbrook. In this case, I was taking a break from my scheduled workload and saw that horror phenomenon TJ Weeks was sharing a live stream from The Horror Squad artist. I being curious and on a small break decided to check out the comic in its process. I’m always interested in seeing artist’s do what they do.
After watching him for awhile and commenting, I ultimately messaged him. I was curious how he got into the business, how he ended up doing this project, and when asked if he’d let me interview him for TBK Magazine, he agreed. I did my usual routine then, but wanting to change things up I did a vocal interview. I’m sure there’s a better or more professional word for ‘interviewing over a mic’, but that’s what I’m using.
I asked him the questions I had already come up with, which weren’t many. So it began with the question, “For those that do not know you, what can you tell people about yourself?”
He replied, “My names Ryan Westbrook and I own MOTB Comics. I’m 34 and I live in Dallas, Texas. I actually grew up in East Texas though and I was in a rock band for over ten years called
The March of the Bull. That’s where MOTB Comics actually came from. I started MOTB comics to coincide with our band illustrating all of our songs in comic book form.”
Of course, one of the questions I had listed was how he got started in sequential art, but he had already answered that for me. I joked how he had already answered it with his answer to the previous question, but he elaborated further. “Actually it was music first. I had always drawn though too but I originally had this idea that I was gonna make it playing music. Somewhere along the way though I had an idea to write a complete album telling a story about a serial killer named Newton and a zombie apocalypse. So with the help Shaun, Mickey and Brad (the other members in The March of the Bull) I sat down and began drawing my first comic titled State of Emergency. It was named after the album itself and went with the songs word for word. It was actually a genius way to teach people the words of our songs. Shortly after that Rex Kaiden was born. Rex Kaiden was sort of a spin-off story about the actual bull himself and it tells the entire story about how the zombie apocalypse gets started and how Rex Kaiden eventually stops it and saves Dallas/the rest of the world”.
I wanted to learn more about his creation Rex Kaiden, so naturally, I asked, “What was the inspiration behind this work?”
To which he kindly replied, “Music and my overall love for being creative. At the drive inn, Glass jaw, Deftones, Thursday, Coheed, along with Stan Lee, Todd McFarland, and Jim Lee–etc. All those guys were huge inspirations as both writers and artists. Music and comics were always just one big entity in my world sorry if that gets confusing.”
Coming toward Westbrook with my own artistic background, I couldn’t help but wonder his process of developing Rex Kaiden, and upon asking him this his reply was simple, “At first all I knew was just that I was excited about making it happen. However, I had no clue what I was doing or where to start. If you go back to the first issue, with The March of the Bull’s, State of Emergency, it’s night and day to what I’m doing now. You can actually see my progression from issue to issue in that series. There were 12 books in the State of Emergency series each titled after the song it illustrated. Since those early days, I’ve developed tremendously as an artist and a writer. I’ve come a long way as far as planning out pages and production too.”
I could tell that Ryan’s March of the Bull projects were really a passionate project. It’s that same fire I can relate to and understand with my own works. I asked him then, “What are your hopes for MOTB Comics?”
“The end game is to get MOTB on the map. I’d love to hire independent groups of artists to come on board and start expanding our universe.” Westbrook replied.
Prodding at this Rex Kaiden comic I asked, “What can you share about the story line of Rex Kaiden?”
“Well all of my stories are based in Dallas, Texas, so you see a lot of familiar buildings such as the American Airline Center which is attacked in issue one and Rex shows up to protect it. You’ll see a lot of other things from the center of town in the comics as well. He’s Dallas’s very own Super Hero, so we can all rest easy at night.” He laughed.
While doing my research into Ryan Westbrook, as I do just about everyone I’ve ever interviewed, I found that the Rex Kaiden books even had a devoted edition to a shooting in Dallas that involved fallen officers, and asked about just that. “So I heard about a tribute you did with Rex Kaiden for the fallen officers in the recent Dallas shooting, could you tell us a little about that?”
“Yeah, Rex and I took that really hard… I think the illustration says it all.” He replied and I fully agree. I saw the images and they were touching.
I truly enjoyed interviewing Ryan Westbrook. I respect him for the craft he does. Witnessing his live feeds of him working on The Horror Squad brought him to my attention, and I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought him to working on The Horror Squad by TJ Weeks’ conversion into comics.
“What drew you to this project? What was it like working with TJ?” I asked curiously.
Ryan replied to my duo of questions, “I’m a huge zombie slash horror fan. I’ve been drawing zombies since the very beginning, So this is right up my alley. It’s been great. I was kind of nervous at first, I have never worked with a writer before. I wasn’t sure if he’d like what I was doing, but once I started showing him pages he loved it and really motivated me to keep going. I think it’s awesome that we seem to be on the same page with the project. It’s been really cool to work with somebody and make their ideas happen as well as my own.”
I know that The Horror Squad has several volumes to it, so I was wondering if the comics would reflect this or be compiled down into a single comic volume. “Are you doing the entire series as a series of comics or combining them all into a single comic book?”
“The plan as of right now is to do the entire series, which is twelve books. Once those are finished it just depends on where the story goes from there. It may have a definite ending, I don’t know, but if TJ wants to take it to the end then we’ll do that.”
With all that we had covered, I was curious to even he would be open to more work or was he just doing comics and I was happy to discover that he was flexible and open with his reply, “I do all kinds of work. I’ll do anything from logos to cover art to graphic design.”
Obviously, Westbrook was experienced enough that perhaps he would have some advice to others interested in this field or newcomers already in it and his advice is this, “The best thing, in my personal opinion, for an artist out there drawing digitally is to buy a copy of Clipstudio Pro, formerly known as Manga Studio ex 5. It’s a Drawing program made by Smith Micro designed specifically for comic book creators. The program changed my life. Doug Hill will teach you so much on YouTube. From that program, you can create a comic page from start to finish, panels, halftones, lettering, the works! I also use Photoshop for coloring, but that’s just my personal preference. If anyone is curious I use Surface Pro tablet 8 gig instead of the 4 gig, it’s worth getting the 8 gig you’re going to want the space especially when it comes to uploading 1200 dpi files.” He also, in conclusion, wanted to add, “I just want to thank TJ and Kris for letting me come aboard the Horror Squad project. And for the readers, I think you guys should definitely check it out. The books have a lot of heart put into them. This is what TJ and I love to do it’s who we are. Thanks for reading.”
For those that do not know, the books included in the series of The Horror Squad, are unique in the way they were written to feature fans of his books and stories. It’s still being developed as Ryan Westbrook converts the volumes into comics. On top of this fantastic news, the series is also being developed into a movie by Emir Skalonja at Fox Trot Productions.
I did speak with TJ Weeks, asking him what he thought about Ryan Westbrook’s work on the comics and this is what he had to say, “He’s really doing a good job. I’ve been pretty impressed with all he’s done with THS so far.”
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