Interview: Ben Rosen Pt. 1 (of 2)

Categories:  Interviews

i2i4.jpgBen Rosen hit the comics scene like few cartoonists have before him. While still a student in high school, Rosen self-published and promoted his comic Insult to Injury (I2I) in stores, online and at the king of alternative comic conventions, MoCCA. This all began just two years ago. Since then, he’s printed three issues of I2I and been interviewd by the Indie Spinner Rack and Fanboy Radio. I consider him to be a darling of the young independent cartoonists community and it’s time you learned all about him.

Two things set Rosen apart: self-promotion and maturity. Plenty of great cartoonists made minis in high school. A few of them got their books into local comic shops. Beyond that, only a rare breed will ever give away 100+ free copies, make buttons and spend what must be a year’s allowance on a table at a comic convention. Rosen boldly got the word out on his comic, which is step #1 if you want anyone to read your minis.

Foremost, he writes great stories. Rosen has a real maturity when expressing awkward youthful feelings and circumstances. His comics are challenging and engaging without the 20-something weight of world-weariness and selfishness that age may yet grant him.

From his comics, I get the impression that Rosen is a typically sensitive and observant teenager. Impressively, he has been able to translate his world meaningfully into the posture, eyes and mouths of his characters. The moments are so keenly crafted, he makes it easy to relate and remember (in a friendly way) the unease of your own youth.

This month, Rosen intends to release the fourth issue of Insult to Injury, previews of which are available on his livejournal. This spring, he graduates from high school. This summer, he will again have a table at MoCCA. This fall, Ben Rosen goes to college. This interview takes a look at where he’s been, what he’s done and where he’ll go next.

Your own description of Insult 2 Injury:

Insult to Injury is my personal outlet for my comics that I started in 2005. The stories are all about teenagers in high school, usually who are overwhelmed or confused or sad. Little is going the way they would like, and while that tends to create “weak” protagonists at times, I find it makes stronger, more realistic stories.

I2I seems mostly to be comic fiction, but based on your real life. How do you expect the series will change after graduation?

Obviously, my real life is huge inspiration for the book, and while it isn’t straight autobiography, I’ve pulled a lot of emotions or events from my life and put them in the book. I think college is totally going to shake things up in so many ways. My schedule’s going to be completely different—who knows how I’ll be able to manage school and comics! It will be a totally different environment that should give the book a new and different perspective.

Do you intend to continue cartooning when you go to college?

I couldn’t imagine ever stopping.

What is your intended major?

I am completely and totally undecided. I’m looking forward to taking all types of classes and seeing what really gets me excited.

Did you play around much with drawing before settling into your current style?

Oh, definitely. I still don’t feel like I have a true style of my own. But I have become comfortable with being cartoony, which was something that, coming from a superhero background, was tough to do. But I looked at guys like Kevin Huizenga and Dylan Horrocks and realized there’s no reason to be strict in keeping one’s style realistic if it isn’t working out.

What is your method for drawing comics? (drawing materials, inking methods, paper, t-square, computer, etc.)

I use 11″ x 14″ smooth Bristol and draw two pages on each sheet, each page roughly 5.5″ x 8″. I draw with a mechanical pencil filled with HB lead. I ink with Faber Castell PITT artist pens. Usually I use the brush for outlines of characters and the S size for most details. I letter on the computer using fonts in Microsoft Digital Image Standard 2006 Editor.

What sort of comics were you reading when you decided to try making a comic yourself?

I was absolutely obsessed with the JLA around 2002/2003 and made my own super team. I drew a few issues before losing interest but then I became absolutely obsessed with Mark Bagley’s work on Ultimate Spider-Man and copied panels to make a Spider-Man knockoff comic. I was still really into superhero books when I started I2I, but I was frustrated and needed an outlet to express myself. Comics were what I knew best so I started drawing.

Was your first comic a copy of the comics you’d been reading before? Or at all related?

The first comics I made were huge rip offs of Obsidian Age-era Joe Kelly JLA comics. Then I made huge rip offs of Mark Bagley comics. Then when I started I2I, I was still obsessed with superheroes, but for the first time I tried to write something different. It was actually the process of making a non-superhero comic myself that made me go, “where are all the other books like this?” and find Drawn and Quarterly and Oni and Top Shelf and all those other great publishers.

Has expense ever been an issue holding you back from comic creating?

Thankfully, expense has never gotten in the way for me. Printing is expensive but even if it reached the point where I couldn’t afford it, I would put them for free online or just make them for myself.


—Sarah Morean

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