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TODAY

Monday, October 21

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Most widely known for his self-published, autobiographical, all-ages comic book series And Then One Day, Ryan Claytor is a cartoonist, teacher and student living in San Diego, CA. In May 2007 he served as the Cartoonist in Residence at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA.

In his series latest incarnation, And Then One Day #6 — The Autobiographical Documentary, Claytor organized a series of isolated interviews with various people in his life, which he then transcribed into comic book form. Readers of Claytor's work are consistently treated to his thoughtful and entertaining personal anecdotes immaculately packaged with a designer's eye for production detail.

During the summer of 2007, Claytor will embark on the most ambitious tour ever organized by a self-publishing comic book artist. (Claytor says on his website about this claim, "I haven't had anyone contest it yet."). This North American In-Store Signing Tour will take Claytor to 18 states and two Canadian provinces where he will sign, speak and hold art exhibitions at 50 different museums, bookstores, libraries and comic book specialty shops. He comes to Chicagoland this weekend, appearing at Quimby's Friday, June 15, at 7pm, and then in Evanston at Comix Revolution Saturday, June 16, from 1 to 3pm.

For more information about Ryan Claytor or any of his work, visit his website, ElephantEater.com.

Q: Self-publishing is an art unto itself, no doubt, and I imagine this could especially be the case if the self-publisher has his or her eyes on making some money back. One has to become quite imaginative when the machinery of marketing and publicity are not already decided upon. After the images and words are put on the page, and after the book comes back from the printer, where do you find excitement in self-publishing?

Claytor: I know cartooning seems like a pretty hermetic lifestyle, and it is, but that's what makes promotion even more enjoyable for me. I really like interacting with people. I love finding out what sort of comics, narratives, and storytelling they are interested in, and chatting about not just my comics, but comics in general. So once the book is done, I actually look forward to business aspects of self-publishing (distribution, conventioneering, retailer/reader/artist interaction, critic/reviewer discussion, etc.). All that is exciting to me, as well.

Q: For better or for worse, editors have and continue to play an important, and at times a necessary, role in the cultivation of an idea and motivation. How have you made up for the "outside" objective eye you would have gazing over your work if you were with an established publisher? Do you have a process in place to make up for the absence of this eye? Or, is this the beauty of self-publishing — the cutting out of the objective eye?

Claytor: I think it is a mistake to cut out this "objective eye." When people make art "just for themselves" I think they are doing us all a disservice. In my opinion, art should be something that conveys an idea, message or feeling, and if your initial manifestation of that intended message is not received accurately by your reader/viewer, then you (as the artist) are not accomplishing what you set out to do.

I always show my work to as many people as possible for "outside" feedback. This is critical to having a greater understanding of your work. After an artist spends hours upon hours with a project it is especially difficult to step away and see it objectively. Honest friends, artist and colleagues can aid in this processes. I think the benefit to self-publishing is that you, the artist/editor-in-chief/publisher, have the final decision on any changes to be made.

Q: Self-publishing could be a lonely venture, leaving the self-publisher alone to shoulder the sales, the lack of sales, the reviews or lack of reviews, etc. Have you found any longing with Elephant Eater Comics to collaborate with another artist or writer?

Claytor: Sure. There's a collaborative web-comic that is in progress, but currently dormant due to the rigors of grad school, and posted on my website. I've also done illustration duties for a writer buddy of mine. That was a couple-page excerpt for an anthology a while back. So while there is a different kind of energy that comes about from a symbiotic project, I have to admit that most of the projects I'm interested in creating are things I'd rather produce on my own.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to tqf@gapersblock.com.

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