I recently caught up with cartoonist Ross Campbell to discuss some of his past present and future projects. I found Ross through my deviant art profile (which I should update more often) and was immediately impressed by his style. Ross contributed to various comic books and also has his own graphic novels that he creates. What is unique is that a lot of his works are female inspired which at first glance can lead one to believe that the artist is a female as well. He explains some of his favorite artists, inspirations and some of the struggles of an independent artist. Check it out below.
Welcome to The Gotham Kafé, for those who are not familiar with your presence introduce yourself, where you’re from and what it is that you do.
I’m Ross Campbell, I’m (currently) a freelance cartoonist probably mostly known for my series Wet Moon from Oni Press, which I both write and draw, and Glory from Image Comics, which I worked on with writer Joe Keatinge. I’m from Rochester, New York.
Now I’ve been following you via deviant art and was amazed at your artwork. I believe I found you through someone else favorite list and was like wow, this stuff is pretty cool. How long have you been an artist? Or at least a professional one?
Thank you! I’m glad you like my stuff! I’ve been drawing for a while but I’ve been professional for about 10 years now.
Who are some artist who’ve inspired your art career?
Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Bill Watterson, and Becky Cloonan.
Are there any artists out there you think is underrated?
Yes! There are so many great ones I never see people talking about. Some of my favorites off the top of my head are Lamar Abrams, Sloane Leong (though she seems to be a rising star at the moment so that could change), Kaylie McDougal, Afua Richardson, Heather Nunnelly, Brian Wimberly, and Erin Watson.
How do you drink your Coffee?
I don’t drink coffee! I drink a ton of tea, though.
What are some of your favorite graphic novels?
Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki, Remake Extra and Remake Special by Lamar Abrams, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City At War by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird & Jim Lawson, Potential by Ariel Schrag, We3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, Fool’s Gold by Amy Reeder, I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly & JM Ken Niimura, and despite being single issues I have to mention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11 by Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leonardo by Eastman, Laird, Jim Lawson, Steve Bissette, Ryan Brown, & Michael Dooney.
I see you have your own graphic novel series, Shadoweyes, can you tell us more about it and the story line?
It’s about an aspiring vigilante Scout Montana who gets her chance when she mysteriously gains the ability to transform into a superhuman creature, and then goes out into the dystopian wasteland city Dranac to beat up jerks. It’s got superhero trappings but it’s more of a character study of Scout/Shadoweyes and how she figures out what sort of hero or anti-hero she wants to be as well as navigating relationships and society when you’re a blue alien-like creature.
I’ll be honest with you, when I first started following you I thought you were a girl and was excited that we might have a possible connection. When I found out your name was Ross, it crushed my dreams bro. I guess I assumed you were a girl at first because the lead character in Shadoweyes is a female……. sighs* lol
I’ve heard this a lot from people all throughout my career so far, I still get this regularly or when I go to conventions people are surprised to find out I’m a guy or that I’m not black. I guess it’s because of my characters, like you said, my leads are always women and there’s something about the treatment of the characters that makes some people think I’m a woman. I consider it a huge compliment! It doesn’t get better than that. But sorry to disappoint you!! I wish I was a woman, does that make it any better?
What are some major projects that you have contributed to that our viewers can be aware of?
My most well-known and popular series is called Wet Moon, which has been going for 6 volumes so far with a 7th in the works. I also drew Image Comics’ relaunch of Glory, which recently wrapped up at 12 issues. It’s not major in that it was only 1 issue, but I also drew IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leonardo solo issue, and I have a couple more Turtles issues coming up. I’ve done a few other books but those are the big ones or the ones I consider “important,” anyway.
So are you working on any current projects?
Yep! I’m currently working on Wet Moon volume 7, I’m working on a new draft of Shadoweyes volume 3, and I have some more IDW Ninja Turtles stuff in the works like I was saying. I can’t wait!
What are some of the toughest obstacles you’ve faced being an artist?
I guess paying the rent is the most obvious one, but I also struggle with self-doubt and dissatisfaction with my work a lot, that can be tough to power through sometimes. I psych myself out a lot.
I love your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan-comic, I’d love to see that as the new official style! What inspired you to start that?
Thanks!! I’m glad you like the art so far, people seem really supportive of it even though I haven’t drawn a single page for it yet, haha. I had the idea for a fan-comic for a few years but never took it seriously, but after IDW offered me the full-time regular artist gig on Ninja Turtles, I ended up turning it down for various reasons but I still wanted to do a TMNT comic purely for the fun of it and on my own terms and with my own ideas. So after that, that really kicked me into gear and made me decide to actually take the idea seriously and attempt to do it.
Who’s your favorite TMNT character?
It really depends on the version of TMNT, sometimes the characters vary so much and I like different characters in different versions, but generally it’s a tie between Raphael and Leonardo.
Who’s your favorite super hero and why?
Sleepwalker, because I’m a sucker for heroes who aren’t human and who can’t live in regular human society.
I’m a struggling artist who runs a late night Kafe so can you make sure to leave a tip in our cup….? No seriously, any tips you can give to aspiring graphic artists?
I guess practice practice practice, and find time for other things besides art, figure out a way to balance art, work, and play. I still haven’t figured it out but I know that’s the secret. Make as many connections as you can, so much about this sort of career is based on who you know or who knows who you are!
Definitely! I’ve gotten most of my biggest gigs thanks to having friends in the right places at the right time. So be friendly and try to make friends with anyone you can.
I myself have been working on a graphic novel for quite some time and it’s been very difficult putting it together. Any advice?
I’d have to know more about the specific difficulties that you’re having, but I guess my general advice is to keep going!
I’d love to see how you’d interpret my Key Master project, I can only imagine how you’d flip it.
Never can tell, right?
Anywho, thanks for stopping by at the Kafé, your total is now $4…nah I’m just playing, thanks again for the interview, any last words or shout outs before we close up?
Thanks for having me and doing the interview, it was an honor! My shout-outs are read these comics: Dinogeddon by Kaylie McDougal (dinogeddon.com), Lost Pieces by Erin Watson (lostpieces.smackjeeves.com), Lucky Penny by Ananth Panagariya & Yuko Ota (www.johnnywander.com/comics/351), and Super Haters by Nick Marino & Justique Woolridge & others (Super Haters).