Interview Series: R.J. Ryan

I refuse to believe I am alone when I say that I love a good graphic novel. There’s something about the ritual of wandering into a comic book store, browsing through colorful, thick novels and finally settling on one to enjoy over a cup of coffee during a particularly lazy Sunday morning. Enter R.J. Ryan‘s THE JOYNERS IN 3D – thought provoking content complete with intricate human relationships woven together via a 3D medium. And the bonus to this book? You get to wear 3D glasses while reading it, completing your indulgent nerd experience. Illustrated by David Marquez, the man behind many of the popular Spiderman and X-Men comics, THE JOYNERS IN 3D challenges the boundaries of the comic world, taking the reader on a long winded jaunt through family dynamics and emotions. R.J. Ryan was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Peep the interview below!

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Q&A

LF: Give us a quick introduction to yourself.

R.J. Ryan: I am a writer, based in Los Angeles, about to debut my first book in three years, THE JOYNERS IN 3D. It comes out February 19.

LF: What is The Joyners in 3D?

RJR: It’s a lengthy, tragicomic graphic novel, a family drama with all of the art presented in 3D, so you have to wear a pair of the enclosed glasses while reading it. The artwork is created by my partner David Marquez, who draws popular Spider-Man and X-Men comics for Marvel. As far as we know, this is the longest and most ambitious piece of 3D comics ever released at once, even though the underlying technology has been around since the early 1950’s.

LF: Speaking of the actual, logistical process of creating this book, what was your biggest obstacle?

RJR: 3D is never easy, and we learned that quickly. Sometimes it feels like everybody is seeing the 3D a little differently, and you work hard to find consensus. I can’t think of one aspect of putting the book together that wasn’t challenging, but also rewarding. Some of the biggest debates with our publisher came with picking what kind of paper to print this on, and what kind of ink to use to get the 3D effects — as seen through the glasses — working as perfectly as possible. There was months of that. But the rewarding thing is that THE JOYNERS IN 3D  has wound up being an extremely luxurious, hefty, and serious-looking book, something that will look intense on your coffee table and that house guests will want to pick up and play with.

LF: How do you feel The Joyners in 3D sets itself apart from your other work?

RJR: David’s and my last book, SYNDROME (2010), was a subversive serial killer story, one that tried to ask bigger social questions even while it told a suspenseful story about a depraved murderer being experimented on like a caged rat. Thematically, THE JOYNERS IN 3D is deliberately interested in different issues: family, loyalty, trust, betrayal. Artistically, the new book is an even bigger departure, because of the very specific look we wanted the 3D to have when we started out.

LF: Why 3D?

RJR: We had a million reasons to do it in 3D, so here are just a couple: nobody else was really doing 3D comics; we saw it right off the bat as a unique storytelling tool that we could use to bring people a little close to the family dinner table, and into their problems a little bit more. We were also genuinely curious about the process of putting together a book like this — we were eager to learn the nuances of 3D storytelling. It was tough, but we came out of this book feeling like genuine 3D experts who had pulled off something unprecedented.

LF: Knowing that the finished product of the book would be in 3D format, how did that affect the way you constructed your storyline?

RJR: When I was writing the book itself, my editor Stephen Christy hadn’t signed off on the 3D element yet. He was waiting to see a range of technical, printed tests that showed that we knew what we were doing and knew how to make it look attractive and clear. As that process was going on, I was obsessed with writing scenes and pages that, when Dave turned them into 3D line art, would be unlike any comics you’ve seen before. We became obsessed with NOT just doing that dumb comics thing of a guy’s fist punching out at you. It became about this idea of “beyond the window” which is a term 3D people use to describe that feeling of just falling into a frame for its illusory depth. To achieve that, Dave actually enlisted his wife Tara Rhymes to help him refine and calibrate the 3D throughout the book. It became a family effort for all of us, but we couldn’t be prouder with the finished product.

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LF: There were some post-production issues that delayed the release of this book. Now that it is finally being released, what are your plans for the rest of 2014?

RJR: I’ve worked on a lot of comics and book projects, and this by far was the most rigorous post production I’ve ever seen — just getting everything in line with a world-class high end printer we used in China took forever. That said, you absolutely see that with the finished book and it’s meant to feel substantial, like you’re actually getting more than your thirty dollars.

I’m working on two books right now, but I’m also focused on getting JI3D into the hands of readers now that it’s finally out. Our whole team will be in Seattle at Emerald City Comic Con at the end of March, and I’m looking forward to talking to people who have already read the book by that point.

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LF:  How fast do you live?

RJR: The big question for me is how fast can I write? I feel like life is a lot more exciting the more work I’m producing, even though that means spending more time sitting at my desk than anything else. Funny how that works.

In the Los Angeles area? Meet writer R.J. Ryan and artist David Marquez TONIGHT at the WORLD PREMIERE of The Joyners In 3D at Secret Headquarters.

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