Interview: Ben Rosen Pt. 2 (of 2)

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Part two of the e-mail interview with Ben Rosen, Indie Comics’ Boy Wonder.

10. Do you challenge yourself as a reader of comics by picking up comics outside your favorite genre?

I tend to like straight dramas and comedies that maybe don’t fit into a genre. Maybe you’d call the slice of life comics or maybe you’d call them boring, whiny black and white relationship comics, but they’re what I like. I have tried comics from all genres, but the more fantastical comics have been much harder to get into. I tend to experiment more with books that are challenging technically rather than a genre I’m unfamiliar with.

11. What keeps inspiring you to make new comics?

So many things inspire me. I’m inspired by writers or musicians who are able to make art with real emotion. Other cartoonists inspire me to be a better storyteller. My own life is definitely the biggest inspiration. Comics are my favorite way to express myself and my opinions so I’m always inspired by my life to translate all these crazy teenage feelings into something coherent.

12. How long after you released the first issue of I2I did it receive a public response?

It was ridiculously quick. I went on Brian Bendis’s message board and offered it for free to anyone interested. Responses trickled in and I received feedback within a week or so. Then more people became interested and it totally exploded. I think I sent out over 100 free issues when all was said and done.

13. What happened to you on the day you really felt like a cartoonist for the first time?

There were a couple of moments. The first was when I finished printing the first issue and held it and flipped though it. Also when received my first bit of feedback from a stranger who enjoyed my work. That made it seem real. Then when I had a table at MoCCA, I finally felt like part of the community.

14. How old were you when you self-published your first comic and what was its title?

The first comic I drew was a little number called “Ultrasquad” sometime in middle school but the first book I seriously printed and gave to people was Insult to Injury. I finished what was the first issue around January 2005 and started giving it away soon after.

15. What draws you to the comics you read?

I like stories that feel real. I like stories that are challenging. I like stories that are unique and different and push the art form. But I would say the most important factor would be that the comic has real emotion.

16. What is going on in your life when you feel the most creative?

I feel most creative in the calm right after something crazy happens. When I’m busy and stuff’s going on in my life, I find it so hard to focus and concentrate on comics. But once things settle down and I can reflect on whatever just happened, I’m able to write better and draw better and the ideas just flow so much better.

17. How do you think college will affect the stories you create?

I would be disappointed in myself if it didn’t. College is going to be a huge adjustment and a whole new atmosphere and I would love to capture this crazy time in my comics.

18, Do you prefer to write fantasy-type stories or ones that more closely relate to your own life?

I have a lot of trouble writing fantasy stories. They usually aren’t the comics or movies or books that I want to read so it is tough to get excited about making them. I also feel like they have been covered so extensively in comics that I wouldn’t know how to put a unique spin on a genre like superheroes or sci-fi.

19. Is there anyone near to you in age and location who is also making comics? (no) Would it be more enjoyable for you to make comics with such a person around? (yes) Is it more fun and encouraging having someone near to your own age sharing your interests?

Nobody close to me. And it would definitely be more enjoyable! Support from friends your age is the best, and I’ve been lucky enough to have that. But if there were cartoonists who understood how grueling it can be to give me support it would be even better.

20. Do you see the field of comics as a good place to meet people?

The comics community, but especially the art comics/indie comics community, is so tight and supportive. I had been to conventions before, but at MoCCA 2005, I went as a fan and was blown away just by how nice everyone was. The ego’s weren’t there, people were making comics because they love them, not because they want movies made out of them, it was perfect. That’s when I started seriously trying to devour as many new, interesting, exciting comics as I could. Okay, I think I’ve strayed from the question. YES! They’re a wonderful place! I’ve found it to be a nice, welcoming, supportive community full of great, kind people.

21. Do you see the field of comics as a good place to meet girls?

Indie comics moreso than your average Wizard World convention, but yeah, of course. Using MoCCA as an example again, the gender demographic is split pretty evenly.

22. What outside (non-comic) interests inspire you in your comics?

Music is the biggest influence. It’s the medium I feel I connect to best, but I’m completely untalented musically. So I try to translate the emotion of music to the narratives I produce in comics.

23. Would you be interested in attending a convention of all-highschool-aged cartoonists? What would be the pros and cons?

I think that’s a fantastic idea. I love the regular conventions, but no matter how hard I try I always feel like I’m in that weird transition period when you move up from the kids table to the big one at Thanksgiving. There’s that bit of time where you’re too old to hang with your little cousins but you don’t have much to say at the regular table. That’s what being a teenager cartoonist feels like sometimes. Having a table to ourselves would be amazing. I always wonder where my peers are when it comes to making comics and a place to meet them and confirm they are out there would amazing. The cons would be that the work wouldn’t be great across the board. Still, there’s a charm to that and there isn’t any reason to discourage kids from making comics.

24. Where do you sell your comics?

I sell them through PayPal orders online. The info on how to order is at my blog at livejournal.benrosen.com. I do have some issues at Jim Hanley’s in New York City. I’ve tried to get them into more stores, but I haven’t found many willing parties.

25. How much of a factor would you consider the internet to have been in the success of your comics?

The internet is everything. I’m close to NYC but I don’t live in a big city with a community of artists and supportive LCSs. The comic stores around here don’t shelve anything interesting. So the internet is where I met people interested in the same types of books as me and who look for the same types of challenges in comics. If there was no internet, I could not give out a hundred issues and receive feedback and know that there were people like me out there, so it has been a huge factor.

Part One: CAN BE READ HERE

—Sarah Morean

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