Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.
This inaugural column is going to focus on Patrick Ian Rook and his mini-comic, The Celery Stalks. I discovered Pat’s work on his Instagram and was immediately taken by his linework and style; it’s equal parts indie comics (think Chester Brown), horror comics, romance comics, Steve Ditko and a whole lot more. It’s best to let the art and artist speak for themselves so read on for a chat with Pat and a look at some of the pages from The Celery Stalks.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: Okay, so first off Patrick thanks for taking the time to talk to us over at MFR.
Patrick Ian Rooks: Glad to be here!
MFR: Just because I feel I have to ask everyone, how are you holding up during the Covoid 19 crisis? You and yours doing ok?
Rooks: I’m well! It’s a cliche all the cartoonists are using, but quarantine is a lot like an average day for me haha! I’m not a huge fan of going out, so I’m not missing anything.
MFR: Ha. Very true. I’ve been talking to a bunch of cartoonists and they all seem to agree on that.
Rooks: It’s tedious work. I’d say to anyone who wants to make comics the same thing people are saying in these trying times “stay home!”
MFR: That’s actually really solid advice! So now that we’re talking comics, why not tell our readers a bit about your latest, ‘The Celery Stalks’.
Rooks: Yeah, so it’s the comic I serialize monthly. So far I’m focusing on doing about 6 a year. It’s sort of a B Movie horror/romance/adventure strip. Basically each issue is heavily influenced by whatever sort of story I want to tell that month, while still telling a big picture story over a bunch of years.
MFR: Oh I can totally see all those influences in there. Like the cover for issue 5 really made me think of ’50s romance comics. The interior of that issue too. Like with the heavy use of thought balloons and the narration. I loved it! Who would you say are some of your cartooning influences? Because I see a bit of Chester Brown in your work, a little Charles Burns too.
Rooks: Ah, thank you! I’m pretty happy with issue 5, and I’m glad all of that translated. It’s funny you’d say that I come from more golden age/ silver age influence. My alt collection is pretty lacking. In fact, I just got my very first Robert Crumb comics like a week ago. I like what I’ve seen of Brown and Burns, but I’ve only read the latter once. Celery Stalks specifically has an unhealthy amount of Ditko influence. Specifically his work with Creepy & Eerie magazines and his Spiderman Run. Besides him would be your Romitas (Jr and Sr), Miller and Janson, Johnny Craig to name a few.
MFR: Yeah, I can totally see the Ditko in your work. I feel like Ditko is a lot weirder of an artist that some people think. And a lot of the indie/underground artists always cite him as a big influence. So the edition I have of The Celery Stalks is the collected version. I absolutely love the size of the book. Were the comics themselves the same size and dimensions? I just love smaller formats like this.
Rooks: Thanks. Umm right off I can’t think of the exact measurement, but the mini-comic versions were just a little bigger. I wanna say 7″ by 4.5″. I like small format stuff for sure. And I always had that small paper book size in mind when I started working on the collection. I love old sci-fi paperbacks a lot.
MFR: Do you also create at those dimensions, or do you draw bigger then scale it down? And speaking of process, what’s yours? Like do you start with detailed writing, sketches, layouts, thumbnails, or whatever?
Rooks: I drew this stuff bigger and shrunk it down. The boards got bigger with each issue, but I’m shrinking them back to like 11″ by 7″ for the next run of issues. I can go a lot quicker at that size. So when I started Celery Stalks I just grabbed your classic college rule spiral-bound notebook and filled it with drawings until the story sort of became clear, at least what happens in that first and second issue. My process was different for pretty much each issue, but basically, I’ll write a script that’s really just dialogue-less layouts on folded graph paper and then go from there.
MFR: I take notes on graph paper too. I use these small ‘field books’. There’s just something about how they look. Have you always wanted to be a cartoonist?Rooks: Pretty much as long as I can remember. When I was like 16-17 I changed my mind and thought it would be a good idea to become a famous screenwriter and then use that to leverage my way into comics haha. Now I find that idea to be outlandish. After a year at film school, I pretty much decided comics was where I belong.
MFR: What made you decide to self-publish?
Rooks: Well mainly because I wanted my stuff out and my work was not ready for major publication. In my opinion, it’s still not, but self-publishing gives me the opportunity to build an audience while I get better at the craft.
MFR: I think some of the best comics come from the self-published world these days and it’s on the rise like me, you’re sort of part of the whole Cartoonist Kayfabe community that has sprung up around CK podcast. I see so much creativity and support for each other coming out of that network. Why do you think a community like that resonates so much?
Rooks: Hmmm that’s a good question. I’m not really sure how involved in that community I am. They’ve been supportive to me and I’ve done some promoting of my work through that network so that’s all positive! The way I look at it, Jim and Ed were on the shortlist of pros I was sending all my stuff to years before they had a youtube thing, but I like seeing that it’s gotten a lot of people talking about comics in a way that makes sense to me and not just about which superhero would win in a fight or something.
MFR: Yeah. It really is about a love of the craft, which is what I love about the underground/indie/self-published world. So where can people get your work? What’s the best outlet to check out what you are doing?
Rooks: So you can buy whatever I have in print at patrooks.bigcartel.com and I’m about to launch a Patreon for issues 7-12 of Celery Stalks that’s gonna be the only place the minis will be available until they’re collected next year. You can find that at https://www.patreon.com/patrickianrooks. I’ve got a really exciting artist doing the back cover to issue 7, so you don’t wanna miss that. If you just wanted to see what I’m up to my Instagram is patrickianrooks. That’s where I’m most active.
MFR: Awesome man. Now you’ve got me hyped and I can’t wait. Is there anything else you are working on you want to mention?
Rooks: Nope! Just working hard on that new Celery Stalks run! I didn’t mention it but that starts in July!
MFR: And that’s right around the corner! Awesome! Anyway thanks again for talking to us Pat, let’s do this again when the new issues start to hit.
Rooks: It would be my pleasure! Thanks for having me