Interview with Andy Runton
Arguably you are showing signs of being one of the breakout talents of
the early twenty-first century with Owly: The Way Home. First Gerhard
picked it to be a Day Prize Short List candidate, and then we saw it
mentioned in one of the “Market Beat” reports in Comics Retailer. Then
we saw it mentioned in US Weekly (or was it People?) and then, visiting
your website you had a list of positive reviews as long as my arm. How
long have you been cartooning—what would a complete history of Andy
Runton, cartoonist, look like?—and is Owly: The Way Home your first
Wow, well, thank you for that, but you're too kind. I'm just drawing
the things I want to draw and telling the stories I've always wanted to
read, I'm just happy that I'm able to share them.
I've been drawing my entire life but I never really considered a career
in cartooning. I only took, maybe one or two art classes in high
school. In college, I settled on Industrial Design and that certainly
taught me a lot. But as far as cartooning, my professional career is
brand new. I recently found some old comics I drew in high school and I
tried a few little stories before Owly, but nothing ever felt right. I
knew I was forcing it. I have always drawn the kinds of characters I'm
drawing now but they just never fit into my stories or into my job in
corporate America. That was before I found Top Shelf and independent
comics, though. I had never read stories that were as personal as
those. I knew that was their strength. So when it came time for me to
write my own stories, that was my inspiration. So, Owly is my career so
How long did it take from the time that you first conceived of the
project to the time you delivered it to Top Shelf? How easy a process
was the creation of it? Were there any major creative snags along the
way, delays or (on the other hand) were there parts that seemed to go
I first really met the Top Shelf guys at MegaCon in 2003 and showed
them the first little four-page Owly story I had. Their reaction was
extremely positive, but I didn't have any ideas on what to do next or
even how to write. But the thing I needed to focus on was clear...
"longer stories." So from there, I continued to write. Sadly, my next
story was only seven pages. But I learned from it and my next effort
was "The Way Home," which was 54 pages. I showed it to Chris Staros,
Brett Warnock, and Rob Venditti from Top Shelf and they loved it, but I
still had a ways to go. So I kept at it and finished my next story,
"The Bittersweet Summer" in January of 2004 and submitted it for a
Xeric Grant. While I waited to hear about the Grant, I continued to
tour and promote Owly. I even started hand binding my own copies of my
new story. 88 pages is far too big for staples, so I had to do some
research and find out how to perfect bind my own copies. It was tough,
but I think my mom and I probably made around 200 hand bound copies
that I sold at shows. In early April, 2004, I found that I didn't
receive the Xeric Grant, but the guys from Top Shelf decided to publish
Why do you think people are responding so positively to the book? Is
there a common element to the favourable reactions and if there is,
does that give you some guidance on what to incorporate into future
works? Or do you still have to start right from square one?
I'm not really sure what it is that people react to. I hope it's the
honesty. I don't know if there really is a common element to the
reactions, but they are usually strong. It still surprises me, really,
because this is just how I draw and what I love, and it's amazing that
other people love it too.
I really don't try to force it or plan out the stories to be
emotional. I just put Owly in these situations and they just kind of
flow along. I have to steer them every now and then but most of the
time it just happens.
How is the sequel coming along? Any chance that you could post some
panels or pages to give people an advance look? And, comparing it to
The Way Home, how easy a process is it this time out? More snags or
fewer? More smoothly or less smoothly?
Technically, the sequel to "The Way Home" is "The Bittersweet Summer."
That one is also included in the first graphic novel from Top Shelf.
But, I just finished the second graphic novel which is a brand new
118-page story called "Just a Little Blue." As far as the process...
that's a very interesting question. This year has been a very busy one
for me. I ended up traveling to over 16 different comic shows all over
the country to help promote Owly throughout the year. During that time,
I was writing the new story much longer than I had ever done. Mentally,
that makes a big difference. Once I had it all roughed out, I was able
to ink about an average of 3 pages per day, which is slow for me. I
guess even though I've gained more confidence, I've started worrying
about more things and paying more attention to little details. The
first graphic novel was a much more gradual process. This one had to
come together a lot quicker. But I learned a lot about how I work, and
I still enjoyed the process. It does get a little lonely at the drawing
table so I'll be sure to schedule more breaks next time. ;)
(Also I've got the whole new book here... how many pages you guys want?)
Any chance of a complete list of Internet websites that have had
positive reviews of Owly? We’re looking to establish as many links to
as many websites as we can for these Day Prize interviews and, frankly,
we think this year you might be the “All Access Pass” that will get us
Sure, there's a big ol' list over at
http://www.topshelfcomix.com/index.php?section=reviews. Let me know if
there's anything I can do to help you guys out!
Thanks again, this is a real honor.