June 18, 2013

Ryan Claytor Delves Deep Into Autobiographical Theory

Ryan Claytor writes and illustrates a series of autobiographical comics titled, And Then One Day. Recently he's turned to Indiegogo to help publish his most recent story arc, Autobiographical Conversations, as a 96-page collected edition. Comics Bulletin's Daniel Elkin caught up with Ryan to find out more about him, his project, and his experience using crowd-funding.

Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: Easy first question: Who the hell is Ryan Claytor?
Ryan Claytor: Well, Bart Simpson, I’m a comics artist and professor living in Lansing, Michigan. As a creator, I’m most widely known for my self-published, autobiographical, comic book series And Then One Day. I also teach Comics Studio courses at Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan Flint. I’ve served as the Director of the Michigan State University Comics Forum, a yearly event for scholars, creators and fans, since 2009.
That’s the short of it, but my other achievements have included a Cartoonist in Residence position at theCartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, California, visiting lecturerships at the Dallas Museum of Art , The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, and The Savannah College of Art and Design, an internship withMarvel Comics in New York City, and judging the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award in 2007. I’ve also embarked on a few signing tours for my comics which have taken me to all 48 contiguous United States and several Canadian provinces.
CB: Softball second question: Why comics?
Claytor: Because I love them with all my heart and soul. As a visually-oriented child, they were my gateway into reading and as an adult artist, the creative and narrative possibilities of combining text and image are limitless.
CB: Fluff question number three: For your Indiegogo campagin for Autobiographical Conversations, you say your book is “a 96-page comic book about autobiographical theory and how it relates to the medium of comics.” What the heck is autobiographical theory anyway, and how does it relate to the medium of comics (without giving too much away, of course)?
Claytor: Basically we’re exploring questions like, how and why does the artist portray themselves in a particular manner in autobiographical comics, why don’t more theoreticians present their work in comics form, and does autobiography need to be truthful? My hope is that the comics medium will provide a more visual approach to understanding autobiographical theory and framing the subject matter in the context of a conversation will allow the reader to feel more engaged, almost as though they were part of that conversation unfolding.
CB: Ponderous question number four: What's been your experience with crowd-funding and what advice would you give other creators thinking about using this platform to fund their own projects?
Claytor: Well, this is actually my first attempt at crowd-funding, and it’s been a pretty fantastic and humbling experience thus far. However, despite this being a successful campaign, I still feel like I’m getting the hang of it myself. With that said, I’d feel comfortable suggesting a few things:
  1. Keep copious records of everything. I have an exhaustive spreadsheet detailing every contributor’s name, mailing address, incentive, etc in order to expedite the fulfillment process. Start that record at the beginning and keep up with it every single day! It’s sort of like doing your taxes; if you wait until the last minute, you’ll regret it.
  2. Communicate with each funder individually. It is a ridiculous amount of work but, as small press publishers, customer service needs to be a huge part of our business model. Don’t treat your contributors like cattle.
  3. Plan on this being your second job. I was not prepared for the amount of work that was involved. I mean, you have the creation to the campaign video, coming up with interesting incentives, promoting the heck out of the campaign, corresponding with each funder, data entry for all the various contributors’ information, (potentially) re-marketing a stretch-goal, and I haven’t even BEGUN to fulfill all the incentives.
CB: Homerun question number five: After Autobiographical Conversations, what's next for Ryan Claytor?
Claytor: Well, this question is probably best answered by deftly directing you to my new stretch goal. So, here’s the excitement I’m prepared to unleash; if my campaign can reach $4,500 – 50% over the original goal – 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 143 funders thus far) will receive my next book, And Then One Day #10, at no additional cost or contribution!
Ryan Claytor Stretch Goals
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.
You can still get in on the funding; click here to back Ryan Claytor's project

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