As you might already know if you're reading this, I wrote some comics for the newsletter, about life in my neighbourhood. But this year, I invited other artists to contribute, starting off last month with Lethbridge's Eric Dyck.
This month's comic comes from American indie comics creator Phil Dokes. What brings Phil to the Ramsay newsletter, you may ask? Well, to make up for all the time it's taken me to post this, let me tell you a little bit about that story! It starts (of course) with Bob Dylan...
Comics Collectors vs. Comics Makers
Now indie comics people fall into different groups, I have found. Some (like me - and like Calgary's awesome Damian Willcox, currently writing daily comics about a baby dinosaur), are interested in MAKING comics.
Others are more interested in reading, studying, collecting. This was Phil's hobby, and I have often told people that he's the only reason I know anything about indie comics. I'd started writing the Drawing Book (featuring tales from many Dylan show adventures), and whenever I saw Phil, he'd quietly hand over a couple more beautiful volumes and say: "You should check this out." Lynda Barry, Kyle Baker, Posy Simmonds, Neil Gaiman, Craig Thompson... every once in a while Phil would send me some magical new work. Even when it was something that didn't really click with what I wanted to do, still it educated me about what was out there.
These days, my kids totally love "A Chance of Sunshine" by Jimmy Liao, which Phil sent to me longer ago than I can remember. (I think they just like the way the author is depicted in a lion suit on the flyleaf.) These days, you can actually find all sorts of amazing comics right here in Alberta - but back when I first met Phil, these books weren't always easy to find, even at your local comic book store.
Such a Fine Memory
I did find another of Phil's comics, a 2015 mini-comic called Such a Fine Memory. I really like the unconventional format he used here (a long vertical strip of paper) and the fact that it's a real artifact made of paper, not just a web comic.
Phil's comics-making progress has benefited from his proximity to the seemingly amazing Pittsburgh indie comics scene. There's a festival just for independent comics creators! We're certainly seeing a trend towards this kind of event in Canada, with events like CanZine, the Prairie Comics Fest, and Calgary's own Panel One Comic Creator Fest - but I feel like our local scene still has a lot of room to grow.
Phil's also told me about how his transformation into a comics maker owes some thanks to the way in which his local comics store, Copacetic, has nurtured a scene for creators to connect and learn. I hear that Eric Dyck has something like that going on, down in Lethbridge, with his Drink 'n' Draw with Eric Dyck. I like hearing how community can grow creativity!
Ok, so back to the whole "community" theme: What's Phil's connection to Ramsay?
I've visited Phil in Ohio and Phil has visited me in Calgary. In fact, he was one of the first visitors to see my then-brand-new house in Ramsay - the house I still live in now - right after I bought the house 2004.
When I asked Phil if he'd write a comic for the Ramsay newsletter, I suggested he might re-purpose a neighbourhood-themed story he'd already written. I remembered that he'd written a couple of stories that reference neighbourhood settings. Instead of looking for something he'd already done, Phil drew a new comic - exclusive for the Ramsay newsletter!
To me, Phil's comics always have a somewhat dreamlike quality. The panels have a rhythm that reminds me of the slow in-and-out of breathing. Each one is a place to pause and consider, before looking ahead to the next.
Anyway, more than enough from me. Now, check out Phil's artwork on Instagram, and of course, here's his Ramsay newsletter comic! Thanks Phil for contributing to our local scene!