'Gigant' creator Rune Ryberg brings his fantasy-comedy to SPX

Danish animator Rune Ryberg made a splash in Europe last year with the release of his comics debut Gigant, a raucous -- and award-winning -- fantasy-comedy about a guy who attempts to free his girlfriend from the stomach of a thousand-eyed monster.

And this weekend, Ryberg sets out to do it all over again, as Gigant makes its U.S. debut at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland.

Ahead of his first appearance at SPX, Ryberg spoke with ROBOT 6 about the success of Gigant in Europe, his approach to the comic, and how the AdHouse Books edition came about.

Robot 6: You've described your art style as "a color-saturated quirky, skewed and rumpled impression of dynamic movement and expression." How did you arrive at that?

Rune Ryberg: Yeah, that's a bit of a mouthful of a description. I have basically settled on a style that comes very natural to me. It flows freely and quickly so I can get that first impression down on paper before I have a chance to turn it around in my head. If I think too much about a drawing, it tends to become weaker. It started out as a personal epiphany with my life drawing and sketching where I started to apply a more bulgy, dynamic and rhythmic line inspired by baroque art. I had more fun and my drawings had a lot more life and movement to them. So I went ahead and applied more of that approach to my stylistic drawings combined with a certain level of European comic style. It's loads of fun, and I don't think a lot when I draw, it just sort of happen. I have a background in animation, and I'm sure that's where a lot of the dynamic movement comes from, but I don't think about it. I'm not making any eefort on trying to show it.

How has your work in animation helped to inform your approach to Gigant?

I think the story played through my head more as a film when I drew Gigant, and that's definitely an influence from animation: trying to maintain some of the classic rules of camera shots from film /storyboarding, and at the same time trying to loosen up and be less tied down by these rules. It's very liberating to work with comics. I feel like anything goes (almost) and you can really have fun, both as an artist and as a reader. Also the "pre-production," which is a common animation/film term -- I don't know if anyone else would use that term in comics -- but you know, sketches, concept development, character design and that sort. I put quite a lot of effort into that -- too much, I think. But as this is my debut as a comic artist, I reckon I had to start out with what I knew before moving on to the unfamiliar terrain of making actual comic book pages. For instance, I did a quite elaborate turnaround for the main characters, and I honestly didn't use it at all! But, drawing and sketching the characters over and over, getting to know them before starting on the pages, was very helpful, and I think it's essential.

I was impressed that the European edition sold out. Was it a matter of rightsizing the book orders, or did the advance buzz bolster sales?

I think it was rightsizing the book orders, but some advance buzz definitely did help. It was a very busy day when we published it; that was quite overwhelming. Lot's of people showed up to get a copy or two and get them signed. Friends and happy faces crammed into a little studio in Copenhagen last year. My worst fear was to just sit there without anyone showing up. Thankfully, that did not happen. That was a great and very welcoming debut as a comic book creator. I also made this short animated teaser film to promote the release of Gigant; I released it on Vimeo and it reached a big audience. I think that helped the buzz and it was fun to make. That way, I could see if Gigant worked as animation as well.

How surprised were you to win a Ping Prisen for Best Youth Comic Book at the Copenhagen Comic Festival?

I was very surprised, since I was up against some very professional, established and tightly produced comic book series. I was nominated in two categories, "Best Debut" and "Best Children's/Youth Comic Book." I was pretty happy about that, but, of course, to walk home with an award would be even more awesome. I even managed to do the classic "fall up the stairs" when I had to get up on the stage to receive the award.

How is the book landed stateside with AdHouse?

It had been my hope since the start, to be able to reach out to an international audience rather than just being published inside my Danish national borders. So after the great debut at home, I simply reached out, presenting myself and my work to AdHouse Books. I received a reply within a short time and we quickly arranged everything and got Gigant ready for print. That was awesome, and I couldn't believe it.

What are you looking forward to most in attending SPX?

Whoa, that's a tough one. Getting Gigant published on AdHouse in the USA is probably what I look most forward to. It's like it hasn't happened before you actually hold a physical copy in your hands and see people carrying it with them and reading it. But I am looking forward to all of it, just being there, at SPX (it's my first time there). I've wanted to go for years and I've been following it online on other artists blogs every year, it looks great! I look forward to check out all the tables and see how many crazy comic books I can carry home. And of course, to meet awesome people. Can't wait.

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