Comics do holiday specials all the time. From Christmas to Halloween and even a July 4th comic here and there. But Cowboy Ninja Viking artist Riley Rossmo wanted to celebrate a different, darker holiday; Mexico’s Day of the Dead.In the anthology series Dia De Los Muertos from Image/Shadowline, Riley Rossmo is working with nine different writers to tell standalone stories that celebrate family and the dead. Some are horror, some are dramatic… there’s even a romance story. This unique, artist-centric anthology allows Rossmo to explore different styles with each story, partnered with some of Image’s best up-and-coming writers like Joe Keatinge, Kurtis Wiebe and Joshua Williamson.
With the third and final issue set for release on May 22, we talked with Dia De Los Muertos mastermind Riley Rossmo about celebrating this evocative memorial festival, the unique format, and new areas he’s pushing his art.
Newsarama: Riley, how did the idea for Dia De Los Muertos get started?
Riley Rossmo: Well, I wanted to do some illustrations just for myself. I liked the idea behind Mexico’s Day of the Dead and the surrounding festivals; that you give the deceased things they liked in life, and I thought I’d like more stuff like that in my life. I wanted to remember people who had gone before me. So I did some illustrations for myself, showing cool thematic things like the festival-goers, the different costumes, and the ever-present sugar skulls.While I was doing this, I talked with Shadowline’s Jim Valentino, and we ended up batting around ideas and it turned into the Dia De Los Muertos anthology. Tales From The Crypt-style, creepy short stories. Some have twists and some don’t, but there all based around the idea of family and the dead. Nrama: Have you had the opportunity to attend an actual Mexican Day of the Dead festival yourself?
Rossmo: No, I wish. I have a bunch of artifacts that friends have given me after they traveled down to Mexico. I collect sugar skulls and saints.
I heard there’s a great Day of the Dead festival in Los Angeles that’s really colorful; I hope to visit that during a convention trip someday.
Nrama: You collect Day of the Dead items – can fans bring you some at conventions or store signings?
Rossmo: Totally. [laughs]Nrama: For this 3-issue series you’re illustration stories from nine different writers you’ve chosen to work with. First off – are these stand-alone stories, or are they connected?
Rossmo: They’re thematically connect, but all totally different concepts. Some are love stories, some are real hardcore horror stuff, and some are lighter horror… and oh yeah, there’s some romance stories too. I’m drawing every story in a different style; the one with Ed Brisson, for instance, is in kind of a Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson style.
Nrama: How did you go about choosing the nine writers you did to work with?
Rossmo: Jim Valentino just made a list of guys we both know; either I worked with them before, or I thought they were pretty cool. We did up that list and went from there.
Nrama: We’ve seen anthology series where one writer works with various artists, but I love the idea of flipping the tables and it being an artist-centric anthology. How’d this come about?Rossmo: I’m just flattered that Jim would trust me to do something like that. It’s a neat kind of thing but it doesn’t happen very often, so I’m very appreciative that I have this chance to do it. And allowing me to use different styles for each stories allows me to be very experimental.
Nrama: Can you describe some of the different techniques you’re doing in the stories?Rossmo I got really inspired by Ted McKeever’s Meta 4, and I realized I need to make stuff crazy. So whatever came into my head I wanted to use. Say I had acrylic paint in front of me? I’d use it. It’s not often I get the opportunity to make whatever stuff I want, be it acrylic or digital or collage or classic cartooning.
Nrama: Although you have other writers involved, how much did you contribute to the stories in terms of plot or characters?
Rossmo: It just depends on the story. Given that its an anthology book and there’s not much financial reward to it, I didn’t want to be too bossy and instead tapped into their passion and offered them the chance to do whatever they wanted to do. They ride ideas by me and we go back and forth, and at the end of the day I get to draw cool stuff.