Interview with Simpsons Artist Dean Rankine

Oz Comic-Con Melbourne is just around the corner and their stable of local comic book creators is massive!

Among the finery you'll see Tom Taylor, Dillon Naylor, Tim Molloy, Colin Wilson, Jason Franks, Paul Bedford, Justin Randall, T-Rex Jones, Andrew Constant, Wolfgang Bylsma, David Yardin, Nicola Scott and many, many more

To prepare ourselves for the coming awesomeness we had a chat to Futurama, The Simpsons and MAD Magazine artist, Dean Rankine.

Ryan: You recently made a comment on Facebook which garnered all sorts of reactions. Would you say that your general advice for up and comers is "don't complain, just be better"?

Dean Rankine: Ah, crap! I was thinking before the interview, ‘I hope he doesn’t ask about the facebook comment’! And BAM! Straight out of the gate! It’s true, I DID make some comments about ‘Australian’ comics and it sparked quite the lively discussion. And to be honest I’m not really sure what I was trying to say. But I think, ‘Don’t complain, just be better’ is a more succinct way of saying anything I was trying to suggest. And I’d add it’s not easy. In my my head I know the standard of work I want to be able to produce and I think it’s reasonable that I SHOULD be able to make a living from what I do. But both things continue to elude me. I have this rock hard callus on my finger and I’m constantly breaking pencils from pushing too hard as I draw. I’m sure that comes out of a sense of frustration. Like, ‘Why can’t I do this better!’. And I know that it’s not a healthy attitude. Comics have given me such amazing experiences. They’ve given me a chance to travel, meet some of the best people ever but still playing in my mind I have that scene from ‘Field of Dreams’ when Kevin Costner’s character says, "I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what’s in it for me", and Shoeless Joe Jackson says, "What are you saying, Ray?", and without missing a beat he says, "I’m saying, what’s in it for me?". I’m conscious I’m rambling and haven’t really answered the question. But I think this is exactly what drew me to comics in the first place (Get it? Drew!). When I was a kid I had a bit of a stutter. And I got so frustrated when I couldn’t get out exactly what I wanted to say. Words elude me. But drawing. Drawing is a language that you don’t have to ‘say’. Anyways, I’ve overshared and completely contradicted the ‘don’t complain’ bit.

Sometimes we all need a little tough love. Can you share some advice that you've found useful as an artist?

I don’t know if it’s ‘tough love’ but here are some thoughts for the comic artist;

Draw sequential pages. NOT just pin-ups. Comics are a storytelling medium. And the best way to learn how to draw comics is to DRAW comics.

Life drawing classes will help you. And I’m a complete hypocrite for suggesting this seeing I haven’t done a life drawing class for 20 years. But the theory is sound.

I kind of dislike tracing. Some people swear by it as a tool to learn but I find it a bit blah.
That’s all I can think of at the moment.

When looking at your art, The Simpsons immediately springs to mind but so too does Duckman, Rugrats and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. Where does your artistic inspiration stem from?

Yeah. Animated cartoons have always been a big inspiration to me. I watched WAY too much TV as a kid and even though I watch a lot less now I’d still consider them to be my major influence. When creating my comic, ‘ITTY BITTY BUNNIES IN RAINBOW PIXIE CANDY LAND’ I kind of think about about it in an ‘animated’ kind of way, if that makes sense.

Your visual style and storytelling style are often at odds with one another. Does this add to the overall effect?

I think so. I just think cute, fluffy animals doing adult things is funny. Also, I like the satire that can come from using a place like Rainbow Pixie Candy Land to make a bit of a comment about our consumer society. It’s all smiles and rainbows on the outside but dig a little deeper and there’s a dark undercurrent. But I don’t want to dwell on it too much in the comic so quick, look, here’s a dick joke.

You've worked on many properties and been published in numerous countries. Is there any one franchise you'd love to work on? Please say Peter Porker Spider-Ham.

Ha! I would LOVE to work on Spider-Ham! But I’m a dirty, dirty comic-book-man-whore so I’d take pretty much anything. I guess the properties that spring to mind are; Spongebob, Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, Rocky and Bullwinkle. I have a very cartoony style so it kind of limits my options. But I have to say I LOVE getting the opportunity to work on the Simpsons Comic whenever I get the chance.

Where can people find you at Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne?

I don’t know. Somewhere near or in Artists Alley, I guess.

Also, would you be averse to putting peoples dismembered heads in a water filled jar? 
No. I would not be averse to that at ALL! My main schtick at conventions is to draw punters like they’re a Simpsons character OR draw their heads-in-a-jar al a Futurama. It’s a hoot to do by the way. It’s a very different experience to me being at home hunched over a drawing desk. I can be hunched over a convention table instead! But I think the people who get a sketch seem to enjoy it. And it’s kind of fun for people to watch it get created.

I also asked David Yardin this question (hopefully you'll get some sort of hook up). Can fans bring you something at the Con? Cookies? Ribena? Six portabello mushrooms and a snow leopard?

Ha! I can’t really think of anything. I’m usually pretty busy at cons. So coffee. Lots of coffee.

Dean Rankine will be at Oz Comic-Con Melbourne on the 4th and 5th of July with tickets on sale now!


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