Published on March 24th, 2015 | by Lauren McPhee0
Ten Questions With…Ryan Ferrier
Ryan Ferrier is a comic writer and creator of titles including Sons of Anarchy, D4VE, Tiger Lawyer and The Brothers James. I first took notice of his work as a letterer on Roche Limit; however, it was his new comic Curb Stomp that really grabbed my attention! Many of you may recognise the beautiful cover by Tula Lotay but if you haven’t yet checked out Curb Stomp, I’m here to urge you to pick it up. I’ve also enlisted Ryan to help me by talking to us a bit about the comic, how it came about and what it means for us. Curb Stomp is the story of The Fever, five women from Old Beach, an area abandoned by civil authorities, who oversee their home as its protectors. It’s a comic about power, violence, resistance, women, humans and family. A new take on the street-gang-war genre, this is a story that’s powerful, shocking and just getting started.
NTC: To start with, as Curb Stomp is my first real introduction to your work, I’m really interested to know how this book relates to other comics that you have done. Conceptually, artistically and in terms of genre, this book stands out to me, so can you please start us off by giving a comparison of Curb Stomp to your other work and perhaps explaining if or how it has evolved from your previous experiences working in comics?
RF: It’s funny, I think a lot of people respond really well to my more comedic works, especially D4VE and Tiger Lawyer. As I’ve been growing and learning as a writer, and producing more work, I can see myself following a few different paths and styles really. A part of me really loves the more satirical, funny stories and tones, while the other part of me gravitates towards the more pulpy, neo-noir genre style stuff, like I’ve done with The Brothers James, Sons of Anarchy, and now Curb Stomp. A lot of people are actually surprised when, for example, they only know me from Tiger Lawyer, then see a more serious fare with Curb Stomp. And vice versa—D4VE #1 was released the same day as Curb Stomp #1, and some of the feedback was along the lines of “no way, they’re so different!” But I think it all comes from a place of not wanting to force myself into one box, and venture into all the possible places I love, and stories I want to tell. I consume a lot of different things, and I’m really interested in a lot of things, so that’s how I want to create as well. I want to have the light-hearted stuff like Tiger Lawyer in my life, but I want to equally have the important, meaningful work like Curb Stomp in there too. I feel like D4VE is a huge accomplishment for me, as it melds the two in many ways.
I’ve been really fortunate to have several projects coming up that allow me to really spread out and explore all of those different tones and avenues. It’s cool! I get to tell the stories I want to tell, in worlds I create (or in other pre-established worlds), and it’s really satisfying to touch on so many genres and styles. No matter what the project though, if it’s the more light, comedic story, or the more gritty, serious story, everything I do has to have a message and meaning. And I aim to constantly evolve and learn, no matter what, until the day I’m no longer part of the ether.
NTC: So, now how exactly did Curb Stomp come about and what and who has been involved in the book’s conception
RF: Devaki (Neogi, the artist) and I have been working on Curb in some form for almost two years now, and we’ve really made it as organic and natural of a development as possible. From the very beginning I wanted to tell a story that had weight to it, that had a series of messages. But beyond that, I wanted to shatter any notion of a “template” that I had for telling a story. I think a fair amount of comics are formulated by an inherent perspective—as are many, many things in our society—and that’s a very narrow, exclusive perspective. I think I simply became bored of approaching a narrative with a hero that overcomes odds in a physical—let’s be honest, white, male—way. The last couple of years have been really eye-opening for us, for me personally, and for the world. We’re becoming more aware of our social issues, our problems, and our injustices. They are right in front of us and on our doorsteps, and we’re programmed to not really see them. I think this was the driving force of the story—I wanted to be part of a comic that displays survival, not just from a physical standpoint, but from a societal standpoint as well; for many people, every day life is survival. We wanted to feature a meaningful cast that you don’t often see on the shelves of a comic shop—granted, we’re getting better as an industry, but nowhere near enough. All of this, combined with the desire to tell a story that was exciting and thrilling and a whole lot of fun, led us to create The Fever, the protectors of Old Beach. As it is in real life, “The Rules” are created by those that benefit most from them, and for The Fever, the buck has to stop, so to speak.
But the greatest thing we could possibly achieve with Curb Stomp is making a comic and telling a story that someone can pick up at a comic store and think “this is really cool, and this looks like it is for me—I can relate to this.” And not to get too heavy, we also really wanted to make a kick-ass, street-level, punk rock, girl gang comic that, above the issues we’re diving into, is also fun.
NTC: The BOOM! site gives punk rock and The Warriors as inspirations to the comic; can you elaborate on what inspired the style of Curb Stomp and what influences you are working from
RF: The Warriors is, on the surface, the most obvious comparison, but truth be told, we didn’t really look too closely at that for influence. It’s fantastic pieces of work of course, but I’d cite Switchblade Sisters or Scorcese films as being closer to Curb. The Warriors kind of has the stronghold on the street-gang-war genre, so the comparison is inevitable. We can’t deny the cinematic aspects of Curb, but The Warriors is only a whisper; I would say we have taken more influence from Italian Giallo horror/suspense films—which is really apparent in the coloring, done wonderfully in the first issue by Neil Lalonde. I’ve always been such a huge, huge fan of exploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s, and I think Curb wears that on its sleeve, which I’m completely not apologizing for at all. I love it. Music has also been a really profound influence on this book, probably more than anything I’ve ever worked on. So much punk rock and metal, ranging from The Browns to Black Flag to Bikini Kill to Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan; but also music you wouldn’t attribute to this type of story like The Rolling Stones, Nancy Sinatra, and Rod Stewart. We’re really reaching out and taking in whatever we can to make everything feel how it should. Above all else, Devaki and I have researched so many parts of the world and everything from architecture to fashion design to create a very real world albeit with very vibrant characters.
NTC: The stand out feature of the book has to be the main characters: five diverse women with unique personalities and essential backstories; can you tell us what prompted you to create these characters for the story and why?
RF: Thank you! First and foremost, we had to create characters that, independently of the main story, had their own goals and journeys; their own strengths and weaknesses and desires and challenges. They’re all really quite different even though they all share this unbreakable bond and connection with each other, and their town. We simply wanted each member of The Fever to be their own, realized, and important character. There are reasons they have come together and live together, there are reasons they look and talk and dress how they do. As the full story unfolds, you’ll see how their individual stories play out, how they converge, or how they shatter. The women in Curb Stomp have very specific perspectives, ones that aren’t shown as much as they should in comics, and Devaki and I really hope that it connects with everyone. Even if Reader A can’t connect directly to them, it’s important that every reader learns something, or sees something different beyond the common narrative. Bringing them all to life though couldn’t have been made possible without Devaki’s incredible visual sense of representation and style. It was important to me from day one that we captured these real characters and told real stories. Again it comes down to breaking the inherent template in our heads, and giving life to characters that are meaningful and have a story, a message to tell.
NTC: Carrying on from your last point regarding the women of Curb Stomp taking on these non-typical perspectives for comic books, I was really impressed that the main event of the comic revolves around an overly excessive act of violence. Given that you are wanting to buck the template with this book, what drove you to choose the curb stomp as the central pivot for the action in this story?
RF: The title is bold, that’s for sure, and it’s something we all thought about at great length and considered the terminology. It’s certainly something we were very sensitive to and thoughtful of. Modern media and pop-culture has almost adopted this act and term into its cultural lexicon, and that is in no way something this book is a part of. But I think a lot of people have been surprised that the act itself is literally in the book, and the title isn’t just for shock. The motivation to include it in the book—as a catalyst for the main arc even—came down to the concept of a decision, in this case, Betty’s decision. She made this decision to do this action in self-defense, and it’s an action that really is horrible and vile. It’s a tremendously unsettling thing, and it completely voids the victim of any power. It’s brutal and visceral. For Betty, this is a lifetime of oppression and racism and sexism and classism and homophobia and just a whirlwind of everything never being fair boiling over into one moment when this man, on her home turf that she’s driven to protect, tries to kill her and threaten her sister. She turns that around on him tenfold. It was important however, that we don’t show too much, we don’t show the act as it happens. But we see everything before and we see everything after. And even after taking control of that power, King Charles of The Wrath uses the incident to take that power right back and contort the “rules” in his favor.
NTC: Other themes you’re working with – survival, collectively and power, whether it’s in the hands of the gangs or institutionalised – are tied quite closely with the punk rock and gang-war themes. Obviously, The Fever are very alienated and disenfranchised. How do you feel these themes speak, perhaps, to larger culture as it stands today?
RF: Frankly, we’re in a scary time I think. We have been for decades though—but the last few years have seen events that are unsettling, to say the least, on our very own doorsteps and in our own streets. I think a huge number of people are surviving and fighting back. There needs to be shifts in power, because the powers that be only serve themselves really. I think in particular The Fever represent some of those people—The Fever are not like The Wrath or The Bayside Five in that they are good people just trying to live their lives and have be treated the same as anyone else. This is really what separates The Fever, and Old Beach, from the surrounding boroughs, and really speaks to the climate of society—it’s injustices—today. The Fever shouldn’t be alienated or disenfranchised, to me. The Fever should be the norm. It’s a broken system that has made them this way. As for the “punk rock” themes, I see it as being two things: standing up for what you believe and what you love, and always, always question authority.
NTC: You say (and I agree) that the comics industry is tackling issues of representation and perspective to a degree; however, considering other cultural mediums from comics to cinema, would you agree that this is something that comics is particularly engaged with more than other industries and if yes, why do you think that is?
RF: I do see that comics are more engaged in these issues, at least on social media, and I think it’s awesome and very, very important both as an industry and an audience. But the work is far from over; it’s just beginning, and long overdue. The key being that these issues need to not be issues–equal representation needs to be the norm. A huge part of that is dismantling our programming. It is inspiring however, to see people talk about it and be passionate about it, and take a stand, and do something about it. We just need to do so much more, all the time. Because I’m “in” the industry, albeit very early in my career, I’m perhaps seeing the “behind the scenes” from a different vantage point. I’m curious as to how this all looks from the perspective of a reader, because that’s really important as well. At the same time we need to make new readers by offering something for everyone, stories people can connect with and relate to, and feel they are for them.
I can’t really say how other industries compare, just because I’m not “in” those industries. As far as film and tv, we’re starting to see more diverse representation, and I absolutely love it; but at the end of the day, I’m in that demographic, admittedly, that has never had a problem with representation. I guess as far as I’m concerned, no industry is doing enough right now, but, like comics, there are big hints that we’re moving toward being more inclusive. Again, while I can’t speak for any other industry, I do, on the surface, see comics as being so incredibly passionate, more than any other industry. It’s why I choose to devote myself, my livelihood to it.
NTC: I absolutely loved the cover art by Tula Lotay as well as the variant by Marie Bergeron, and obviously Neogi’s art is excellent and integral to the series, but it is also amazing to see women represented in the industry. Curb Stomp is a comic that represents women; however, is it fair to say that representation of women in the industry is lagging behind representation and diversity in comics themselves? What can be done to counter this?
It is 100% fair to say that, yes. All it takes is going to a convention and looking around and seeing the thousands of people so passionate about the medium. Scratch that, all it takes is walking outside your house and looking around. At people, at the world. Not to echo my answer to your last question, but we aren’t doing enough. No industry is doing enough. I think it’s really important to give new creators, new writers, new artists, colorists, letterers–everyone–a voice and a platform. We need to smash our “templates” of storytelling. We need to push ourselves in every way.
NTC: With Curb Stomp being only four issues, it’s obviously an intense venture and one that feels very significant to you. On top of your ongoing projects, and as you’ve said that you like to explore different areas and themes, what areas or projects would you like to tackle or expand on in the future?
RF: I’m definitely all over the place in terms of the work I want to do, and I’ve done my best to explore as much as I can so far; something I never want to stop. To me, the creator-owned work I do is all very personal and relative to where I’m at in my life at that moment. The great thing about that is it’s very cathartic in the moment, for a lack of better words, and I also get to learn a lot. It’s like my own comics therapy. It’s also a little hard to project where I’m going to go in the future. We’re working on continuing D4VE–my most personal work ever–and that’s going to be really great, with some new themes (which I cannot spoil). I’ve always gravitated towards animals as well, and that’s something that will be a big focus on a project coming down the pipe. I really want to keep balancing the light and the dark, so to speak. A lot of people are surprised that I write more comedic things as well as serious; take Tiger Lawyer vs. Curb Stomp, or having both Sons of Anarchy and a Bravest Warriors story in the same few months. On the flip-side, I do want to tell stories in more established sandboxes; hopefully I can get that opportunity and put my own spin and heart into something. Regardless, creator-owned is something I will always be passionate about, and I always want to tell stories that mean something. That’s where everyone does their best work. But that hungry creator inside me wants to do it all.
NTC: We have a house question here at Need to Consume which is who is your favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and why? So, to finish us off, were you a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, if so, who was your favourite Turtle?
RF: Great question, and heck yep! I was huge Turtles fan as a kid (and still am!). While I may have been closer in personality to Michelangelo in my youth, I always gravitated towards Donatello. He was always the more quiet, nerdy one, which I like a lot. Of all the turtles, I think he and I would be the best roommates. [This is absolutely the right and only answer – Duke]
NTC: Roommates with a Ninja Turtle? Let me try and imagine that for a moment and…yes, it makes perfect sense! Anyway, I want to thank you first of all for enlightening us with regards to the comic and its cultural context. It’s been truly entertaining and inspiring to hear about your creative processes and creator interests. Secondly, I also want to thank you for speaking so strongly and effectively on issues of representation, diversity and inclusivity – issues that mean a lot to myself and the rest of us here at Need to Consume. We really value people like yourself and the work you are putting out in the comics industry. All the best to you! And to our readers, both D4VE #2 from IDW and Curb Stomp #2 from BOOM! are out this Wednesday. We hope that you are encouraged to check them out!