A conversation with Ryan Claytor about 'Autobiographical Conversations'

Although I initially didn't plan it this way, it's appropriate that I'm running this interview with And The One Day creator Ryan Claytor on Father's Day, as earlier this month Ryan and his wife Candace welcomed their first son, Owen Marshall Robert Claytor, into the world. Congratulations to the Claytor's on their new addition!

No doubt Owen will one day be able to read about his birth from his father's perspective, as Ryan has been chronicling parts of his life in a series of minicomics titled And The One Day. After almost a decade of self-publishing his comics, Ryan has turned to IndieGoGo to fund a collection of Autobiographical Conversations, the most recent story arc from And Then One Day. Autobiographical Conversations centers on a discussion between Professor Harry Polkinhorn, who teaches classes on the personal essay, and Ryan when he was a graduate student studying Comics and Fine Art. Their conversation is about autobiography, comics and the intersection of the two. His campaign ends on June 19, and he just announced a new stretch goal.

You can read more about the project on its IndieGoGo page, on Ryan's personal site or in my own conversation with Ryan about the project below.

JK: You've been self-publishing your own autobiographical comics for a while now -- since 2004, I think? What made you want to start producing them?

Ryan: You’re right, in 2004 I released my first comic. I started producing them after graduating with an art studio degree from the University of California Santa Barbara. A couple of my formative classes were “Art of the Personal Narrative” and “Spoken Word,” which showed me the value of art-making from personal experiences. I read comics for a number of years as a kid, but forgot about them for about a decade, from around the start of high school until I rediscovered them shortly after my time in undergrad. Once I regained an interest in reading comics around 2002 (gravitating toward non-fiction genres), my art background naturally lead me to creating them.

JK: Your most recent project, Autobiographical Conversations, is a bit unique in that the story is told in conversation. Why did you opt to take that approach vs. a more standard autobiographical comic?

Ryan: I’ll be the first to admit, Autobiographical Conversations is an odd, niche, little project. However, I see it as an evolution of my work. If you watch that IndieGoGo campaign video, I do my best to outline a historical progression of my comics. My initial foray into autobio comics was in a more traditional page-a-day vein. However, with more experience and research I developed different working methods for my comics, some of which lead to a more documentary-film-inspired approach, transcribing peoples’ monologues into comic book form. I really enjoyed the authenticity this process lent to the reading experience. Each character had their own idiosyncratic speech pattern, personal cadence, and pauses included, which made the project feel so much more real to my ear. I wanted Autobiographical Conversations to have that same sense of realism to it, in an effort to make the subject matter (autobiographical theory) more approachable to a lay audience, rather than having to wade through weighty academic texts.

JK: You've self-published your previous comics, but are using crowdfunding, through IndieGoGo, to fund this volume. Compared to your self-publishing experience, what have been the positives and negatives of using IndieGoGo to raise funds?

Ryan: For many years I used a system of tithing, or frittering away a small percentage of my income in order to fund the entire print-run of my books, which I still see as a completely viable means of self-publishing. Yes, there is an initial outlay of cash, but you make it up in the long run with book sales through distributors, conventions, signings, and website sales. However, I was interested in trying my hand at this whole crowd-funding business now that I have a longer-length comic ready to print. I see the advantages of crowd-funding as being a couple-fold. The first advantage, obviously, is to raise money for a project and do away with that initial outlay of funds I mentioned before, but secondly, it’s really a pretty fabulous marketing device. In order to have a successful campaign, I’m forced to tell everybody and their mom about the fact that my new book is coming out, which is marketing at a grass roots level. As the word gets out and more people hear about the campaign, it’s really provided a wonderful marketing opportunity for my work, and I’m certain the same is true for the work of other small press publishers.

JK: Since you've already hit your goal, what are your plans for the extra money you're raising?

Okay, here’s the excitement I’m prepared to unleash; if my campaign can reach $1,500 above the original $3,000 goal ($4,500 total) by the end of the campaign deadline, every single existing and new contributor who pledges at the minimum book pledge of $15 (that’s all 129 funders thus far) will receive my next book, And Then One Day #10, at no additional cost or contribution!

And Then One Day #10 will consist of all-new material, at least 24 pages of comics by yours truly, and will be professionally offset printed in full-color approximately one year from now. After experimenting with full-color printing on our wedding comic last summer, I’m really excited about the possibilities for my autobiographical comics series, And Then One Day.

JK: According to the campaign page, you're looking to print 1,000 copies in order "to reach a broader audience through national distribution." What are your plans for distribution after the book is published?

Ryan: I have distributed my books through Diamond Comics in the past, so I’m already set up there. However, for the past few years I’ve been serializing Autobiographical Conversations in mini-comic format. Diamond won’t accept mini-comics but they will distribute books with a spine. Now that I have a 96-page work, they should be helpful again.

JK: What are your comic-related plans after this project is complete? Or do most of your plans involve midnight feedings and lack of sleep?

Ryan: Ha-ha! At the time of this interview, my first child is less than a week old and your assumptions about feeding and lack of sleep could not be more accurate. Needless to say we’re still getting a handle on how to care for our new bundle of joy and also find some time to sleep. Here’s hoping this interview is somewhat coherent.

As for my next work, I’ll be focusing on the 10th issue of And Then One Day, which will feature accounts of my father growing up in very rural Arizona. He has experiences that very few of us can claim, like living on dirt floors and calling a couple of railroad boxcars home. At one point in his youth, he even had a pressure cooker full of beans blow holes in the side of his boxcar house (and almost blind his brother). He assures me all of these stories are perfectly boring and no one else would care to hear them, but I’m choosing to believe otherwise and make him the subject of my next work in comics.

SDCC: DiDio Redefines DC Comics At DC Nation

More in Comics