"... we could use more books with talking tigers, am I right?"-- Joe Keatinge
If, like Joe, you think comics could use more talking tigers, then Ryan Ferrier has the comic for you. Tiger Lawyer, his self-published comic, is now available through his Big Cartel site as either a print or digital comic, and very soon, it'll start appearing in Keatinge's Hell Yeah comic.
Ferrier was kind enough to answer a few questions about Tiger Lawyer and his subpoena into the pages of Hell Yeah.
JK Parkin: I'm sure you've been asked about this a million times already, but the title, Tiger Lawyer, is the kind that elicits a chuckle and makes you wonder where the idea came from. So, where did the initial idea come from?
Ryan Ferrier: I really wish I had a cool story for this question, but alas it was one of those things that I've completely forgotten, though I'm fairly certain it stemmed from something I posted on Twitter last December, something silly. It was a tweet along the lines of Tiger Lawyer being my next comic, made entirely with sarcasm. I do remember gearing up to tackle a different script, and decided to actually write Tiger Lawyer--the script that would become the first short--one afternoon. I immediately posted the script online, and surprisingly, people dug it enough for me to actually make it.
What I liked about the first issue was that you you took what on the surface sounded like it could be a one-punchline idea and actually gave it some meat, so to speak. In particular, the second story was a real surprise. Are you planning to continue exploring different genres in future issues? And what genres would you want to tackle?
To me, the whole point of Tiger Lawyer is experimenting, be it with different genres, styles and tones, but also with other creators. I had never written a noir story, and really wanted to, nor had I written a straight-up comedy, and Tiger is really this neutral element that can flow through both. I hope, anyways. I love trying new things out though, and am definitely going to keep going with it. Especially with the print version, because you get that cool flip-book thing going, and people seem to really dig that. It just opens it up for so many different takes on the character. I'm hard at work on issue #2 right now, and we're keeping with the same format as #1, with one story being more of a bizarre farce, and the other more of a hard-boiled type noir. After that, I think I'd like to tackle something completely different, but I'm not entirely sure what yet. I have bounced around the idea of doing a species-swap issue that takes place in a world where everyone else are animals, and Tiger is now "Human Lawyer." That might be scraping the barrel. We'll see.
How did you go about recruiting the artists who worked on the first issue (both the stories themselves and the pin-ups)?
The wonderfully talented artist Matt McCray had done a quick character sketch after I put the first script online, and he tweeted it to me, which was incredible. When I mentioned on Twitter that I was actually going to move forward with the book, Matt offered and we talked. I was thrilled when we made it official. We were about halfway through the issue at that point, when it hit me to do more, and I wrote the noir story. I had been familiar with artist Vic Malhotra's work, and was a fan, so I simply emailed him and made that pitch, and he agreed, thankfully. Vic also brought colorist Adam Metcalfe on board to handle the greys on his story, and I'm really happy to have him in the book. Moving forward, Adam's going to be an even bigger part of the artwork. And Michael Walsh, who provided the cover for that second story, is beyond amazing, and we've been working together on a few things this past year, so it was reflex for me to ask for some work.
As for the pin-ups, I actually ended up with too many, a great problem to have, but all of them are fantastic, and from so many incredibly talented artists. A few artists approached me directly either wanting to contribute, or already having made a pin-up, but most of the artists involved received either a tweet or an email from me, asking them if they'd be interested.
Tiger Lawyer strips will soon appear in the pages of the Image series Hell Yeah. How did that come about?
The Hell Yeah pages are something that I'm still losing my mind over. Seriously the coolest thing ever. I owe many, many thanks to Joe Keatinge and Fiona Staples. I'm friends with Fiona, and she happened to tell Joe about the book when he commented on Twitter about a lack of talking tigers in comics--which is true. From there, Joe and I got in touch, and he dug the comic and invited me to contribute to Hell Yeah. Without a doubt, the single most awesome thing to happen to me since I started writing comics four years ago, and I have no doubt it will remain a very fond memory. I'm a big softie. Joe is just incredible, I'm very thrilled with the opportunity.
How do you plan to approach the one-page stories that'll run in the back of Hell Yeah? Have you started creating them yet? And who will you be working with on them?
One-pagers are tough, I'm not going to lie. It's hard to really tell a story with one page, but honestly, I think it's kind of perfect for Tiger Lawyer. I'm approaching each one page as its own scene. Tiger is already in and out of genres and scenarios, so it'll be fun and most effective, I think, to just dive right in and paint as much of a picture with one page as I can. I'm keeping with the multi-genre format for these pages too; the first two will be handled by Matt McCray and Vic Malhotra, in their respective styles, and I plan on bouncing around different genres and maybe even a different artist. I don't want to go too crazy, and I think Matt, Vic and I have a really great thing going. There might be a surprise here and there though.
Will we ever get to see the secret origin of Tiger Lawyer?
I actually wrote the first draft of the first Hell Yeah page as a nine-panel origin story with no dialogue, but quickly changed my mind on that one. While I do have the origin in my head, I would be surprised if we see the origin, honestly. I think that might be one of the "rules" of Tiger Lawyer, that we never see his origin. Part of me doesn't want to go that far into it; I think some of the appeal, at least to me anyways, is that there's this feeling of ambiguity. Tiger is never really acknowledged as being unusual, he's just kind of there.
Who is Revenge Rooster, the new character who will appear in the next issue of Tiger Lawyer?
Revenge Rooster is actually not new, nor mine. RR is a creation of writer Fabian Rangel Jr. (of Extinct and Fall for 215 Ink). He put out a Revenge Rooster one-shot a while ago, and he let me read it. He's really very talented, and a great storyteller. His one shot is just so over-the-top and brutal, but also so clever. While planning the second issue of Tiger Lawyer--which is going to be absolutely massive; I'm talking upwards of 50 pages--I thought it would be great for Fabian to write a new six-page Revenge Rooster short to include in Tiger #2 as sort of a back-up comic. I'm happy he agreed to do it, I think he's just great and I've wanted to work with him in some capacity for a while now. But to be clear, Revenge Rooster is in a completely different world than Tiger; it is two separate continuities. I think the addition of RR is definitely cool though. The second issue should come out late June, and I want to pull out all the stops.
You're currently distributing Tiger Lawyer yourself, via the web and through Big Cartel. How has it been doing, and how do the recent shout-outs you've gotten from Keatinge and Image publisher Eric Stephenson affect sales (if they did)?
I am! So far it's been doing really great, and I'm honestly kind of overwhelmed with how it's being received. I was a little terrified that it would be brushed off as silly, but the feedback has been really great. So far I've sold quite a few digital copies through the online store, and while I've done a very small initial print run, that's already looking like it's heading for a sell out after a couple of cons. A second, larger printing is definitely happening to keep up with online orders, as well as hit a handful of retailers. Obviously I saw a spike in purchases this week, since Joe's Hell Yeah announcement, and Eric Stephenson's generous blog post. That was a surreal day, I tell you.
Besides TL, do you have any other projects you've been working on?
I like to keep pretty busy, to say the least. I'm wrapping up a six issue mini-series from Penny-Farthing Press in June called Terminals, which I've written since 2010. I've got another mini starting up around that time called The Brothers James, with art from Michael Walsh. It's a 70's exploitation style revenge story set in the southern U.S., I'm really excited about it. That will be available from 215 Ink early this summer. Tiger Lawyer #2 is also set to come out near the end of June, I believe, we're hard at work on that now. And on top of that I'm working on a graphic novel with artist Elizabeth Beals called Companion. Then it's on to one of the thousands of pitches kicking around in my head, just like every other aspiring writer.