Conquest by Ryan OttleyBeing the new guy is tough. The only way to shake it is to quit – or amaze them with your talent. That’s just what artist Ryan Ottley did.
Ryan Ottley took over penciling Invincible from series co-creator Cory Walker, and Ottley has gone on for an uninterrupted 55+ issue run of the superhero title and arguably the flagship title for Image Comics. Over the course of the title, Ottley has gone from newcomer to a trusted part of the Invincible team and was even tapped to illustrate the upcoming collaboration between Kirkman and Todd McFarlane.
In the recently released Invincible #60, Ottley completed a seemingly herculean task of doing a crossover with virtually every Image superhero character in one single issue. The story was about a villain who collected alternate universe versions of the titular hero to battle the book’s star – forcing the wider superhero family of the Image U to step in to help combat in the ‘Invincible War’.
Ottley’s not stopping there though, he’s continuing on the current “Conquest” storyline of Invincible while continuing to work on Haunt Ottley’s become a rising star in comics, showing a dynamic and unique style that appeals to superhero stalwarts and people new to comics. For more, we talked with Ottley by email.
NRAMA: Looking over your website, I'm amazed by your diversity of talent - going from simple realism to more cartoonish work not seen in the Invincible pages. Any chance of sneaking some of that cartoony work in future issues?
Invincible #60 coverRO: I don't know, the word cartoony is so different for each person. Some say Invincible IS drawn in a cartoony style. I feel I make things more exaggerated at times and other times I tighten things up to be more serious, it just depends on the situation. The crazy exaggerated style on my site will probably never make into Invincible, of course there is that character Shapesmith, he can get pretty cartoony looking at times.
NRAMA: Definitely. Speaking of cartoony – I read that your introduction to comics was with a Todd McFarlane comic. Can you tell us more about that and how it influenced your comics work to come?
Invincible #61, page 20RO: My first comic I bought was an Amazing Spider-man comic by McFarlane, I'd always enjoyed drawing but when I started reading comics, especially comics drawn by McFarlane is when I realized what kind of artist I wanted to be when I grew up. I would copy that guy’s art, sign it with my name and hang it up on my wall. Todd along with Jim Lee, Sam Keith, and Dale Keown really influenced me a lot back then. You probably won't see their influence in my style these days other than I try to bring lots of energy to an action scene like they did.
NRAMA: You're coming full circle, working with McFarlane and Robert on the Haunt project - any tingling feelings from that?
Invincible #61, page 14RO: Oh for sure, If I could go back in time and tell my 16 year old self I'd be working with McFarlane someday that 16 year old would probably crap his pants. Of course the tingling wore off a little once I realized how much work I just took on, but it's still a fun project.
NRAMA: You're primarily known for your work on Invincible. Besides Haunt, what other projects do you hope to be able to do in the future?
RO: I'd really like to do some of my own books someday, I need a lot of work in that area though. Writing is tough, I'd like to learn more and dig deep in my brain to make some crazy stuff. Probably similar to Death Grub, the 24 hour comic I did in ‘07, but of course spend more time on it and make it somewhat coherent.
Invincible #62, page 15NRAMA: I read that your last job before working in comics full-time was at a warehouse, where you got fired for talking back to your boss. Not putting that down (as I've done the same thing), but now that you're working with Robert - who is the creator and writer of Invincible - is there back-and-forth, and if so, to what degree?
RO: Well I don't work well with those type of boss's who power trip all over you, and who does really? I'm just glad I don't have to work in that type of environment anymore, And I'm happy I got unemployment checks that rolled in while I worked to get into drawing comics. Getting fired was a GOOD thing. And ya know, I feel I'm pretty easy to get along with, and luckily so is Robert. We work well together and we have argued from time to time about certain things like I'll have an idea and draw it in and he'll want me to change it and I'll fight him on it until one of us understands who's got the best idea. But sometimes I don't even argue about it, like in issue 60 I had to draw 8 evil Invincibles floating above different destroyed cities, the punk rock, mohawked evil Invincible was floating above New York and I thought it'd be so punk and hardcore for this guy to not only destroy but to desecrate things as well, so I had the Statue of Liberty's torch shoved up her backside. He thought it ruined the whole scene. I didn't fight him on it, I just told him "sure I'll change it, hey you know what Robert, you'd make a good Marvel Editor."
Invincible #62, page 18RO: He didn't like that comment. I thought it was funny though.
NRAMA: No offense to any Marvel editors out there reading – Hey Joe Quesada!. I recently read your 24 hour comic Death Grub, and I also heard about another side project of yours - something about a Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark. Can you tell us about that?
RO: The shark and bear thing is just an odd idea that Jason Howard, The artist for Astounding Wolf-Man, and I came up with while we were hanging out in our Hotel at Heroes con last year. Basically a bear and a shark get mixed up, yeah I know it sounds dumb, but it aint! It's awesome and you'll love it once it eventually comes out! Anyway Jason did his Sea Bear side of the story for 24 hour comics day last year, I was still burnt out from doing the 24 hour comic the year earlier and I just had to catch up on Invincible so I still haven't got around to doing my Grizzly shark part of the story. I think it'll happen someday though. And Robert said he'd write the intro for us so it should be a lot of fun.
NRAMA: Coming soon to a store near you!
Let’s get to the primary reason for this talk -- Invincible. You recently completed the amazing Image crossover issue, Invincible #60. I have to ask - how taxing was it for you to draw all those characters, and keep them straight?
RO: The 4 page cover was the hardest part of the issue, I had to look up tons of reference for all these characters by sifting through old back issues of mine or Googling it and then when I started the issue all I did was refer to the cover. So it wasn't that bad, I really enjoyed drawing everybody, especially Pitt. I remember Robert saying we were still waiting on hearing back from Keown to give us the go-ahead to use Pitt and I was just biting my fingernails. I really wanted to draw him in Invincible, more than anybody. So I'm glad Keown said yes. Glad they all said yes!
Pitt vs. Evil InvincibleNRAMA: Later this year you're taking a well-deserved break from Invincible and have Cory Walker doing two issues. Your first real break since taking it over in 2004 - what's that like?
RO: The plan was for me to start issue 68 right after 65 so I really wouldn't be getting a break.
NRAMA: That Kirkman, he’s a slave driver!
RO: [laughs] For the most part that still is the plan but also Haunt needs to be worked on, so I'll be trying to bust that out as well.
NRAMA: Speaking about Cory Walker returning to Invincible, what's it like having the original artist for the series come in to help you out with two issues?
RO: Cory is one of my favorite artists, I try to buy a page of his art every time I see him. I know I'll love seeing these two issues and so will everyone else. Sure I'll have to try and fill his shoes all over again when his two issues are up, the fans will be begging him to stay, Robert will probably have me assassinated or something, but I'll do my best.
NRAMA: Let’s keep the murder in the comics, Ryan. Invincible is building up right now to the Viltrumite War that's supposed to burst open in issue #75. This idea has been bubbling under
the surface for some time - behind the scenes has this always been in the offing?
RO: Oh definitely, the threat of this happening has always been looming about on peoples minds. I know I've thought about it a lot and how it's all going to come about, I'm as much a fan as anyone so I can't wait to see how it all plays out.
NRAMA: Since you took over the book, Invincible has been all over the place - the past, present, future, alternate dimensions, crossovers and switching from adventure to romance and sci-fi and back and forth. How would you assess the series thusfar?
RO: Any artist's dream. There is so much variety in this book that keeps me interested, so I can't complain. Sure artist block still happens from time to time like during a kitchen scene or something but for the most part I have fun on this book.
NRAMA: You've been on the book for some time - but are there still things you've been aching to do in the book that you haven't done yet?
RO: Not really, what I've done I'm happy with and whatever Robert comes up with I'll probably be just as happy.
NRAMA: Robert's got a lot of ideas and story threads running through Invincible - I'm amazed at how he keeps it straight. Is it complicated for you as the artist?
RO: Not really, I take things a page at a time, I look at back issues to see how to pick back up a certain story thread and I try to draw it all better this time. I can only imagine how difficult writing it all would be, but drawing it is fine.
NRAMA: And finally… drawing all these various story-arcs, has there been a favorite moment, scene, or character for you that stood out most?
RO: It seems like whenever I'm asked a question like this I always say the same thing. The issue I'm working on now is my favorite. And it's true, sure I have many favorite scenes from the series but these issues right now are insane. Now obviously I can't give out details about the current issue but I'm loving this Conquest character, you fans are gonna freak when you see what this dude does. It's kind of a brutal time in Invincible right now, so buckle up and wear a helmet while reading, it's gonna get bumpy.