INTERVIEW: Dean Rankine

Dean Rankine is a Frankston-based comic artist and writer best known for his work on The Simpsons comics. He’s also contributed work to Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland (Image), Hellboy (Dark Horse), The Beano and The Dandy (DC Thomson), Australian MAD Magazine (Next Media) and illustrations to Bartman: The Superhero’s Handbook (Matt Groening Productions).

How’s it going Dean?

Hey, Darren. I’m good.

What are you working on the moment?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that right at the moment I’m not working on anything. Last year was insanely busy (with doing comics, storyboarding, teaching comics, running workshops, illustrating a book and a bunch of conventions) but, so far, this year I haven’t done anything (except for catching-up on watching Netflix)

Ah that sucks… what are some of your fave shows on Netflix then?

I’m digging the new Star Trek, The Good Place and at the moment I’ve got a thing for Anthony Bourdain No Reservations.

I’m about to run some workshops myself in March – any tips? Do you think you’ll do more in the future?

My theory is to get “good” at comics takes a long time. So, I saw my role as teaching the the basics but just as important was to light the fire in the participants bellies so to speak. To show that in comics you can tell whatever story you want.

I run the occasional workshop in schools and libraries but I can’t see myself teaching comics on an ongoing basis anytime soon. The preparation time required to even just run a short class is ridiculous. And as an introvert by nature I struggle being ‘on’ in front of a class for too long.

It was pretty great to see your work in a recent issue of I HATE FAIRYLAND, how did that come about?

I know right! I was so stoked to get the gig! Skottie Young asked me via Facebook if I’d like to contribute a pin-up (which, of course, I was rapt to do) and after that he invited me to be a guest artist on issue #13. It was very much a dream come true!

Does this maybe open the door a fraction to pitch some of your own projects to Image Comics?

I don’t know. Maybe. In the past I’ve pitched a bunch of submissions to different publishers but they haven’t gone anywhere. It can be kind of disheartening. I’m not sure, at this point in time, if I have the emotional stamina to go through the ringer again.

Is there anyone in Australia that doesn’t have a sketch of themselves as a head in a jar by now? It’s become a great success at the various conventions you’ve done over the last few years.

So, for people who don’t know, at conventions or in-store I draw people like they’re a Simpsons character or draw their head in a jar a la Futurama. I’ve done a few over the years but, I have to say, I love it!

How many Simpsons comics have you drawn now? Do you have a favourite character to draw?

At last count I’ve been published in 40 odd issues. Keep in mind though that’s mostly back-up stories. Milhouse is my favourite character. Though, if I had to chose a character purely as one I like to draw then it’d definitely be Sideshow Bob.

What’s been the process on those books – does Bongo send you scripts to draw, or are you able to pitch your own Simpsons stories to them?

So far I’ve always written my own scripts for Bongo. It’s either I’ll pitch a story and sometimes they’ll ask for something featuring a particular character.

Have you had many corrections come back, or do they allow you a certain amount of “Rankine” to come out in the otherwise Groening style?

I’ve never been asked to be more on model but over the years I’ve really tried to be. My theory is when you open a Simpsons comic you want it to look like the Simpsons.

Can you believe The Simpsons is still going after nearly 30 years?

In some ways, no. What I really struggle to comprehend is that sooner rather than later it’s going to end. I just quite imagine a world when The Simpsons aren’t on tv anymore.

Itty Bitty Bunnies

 

You had a great response to your irreverent ITTY BITTY BUNNIES series, even so far as winning a Ledger Award for them. What inspired you to create them in the first place?

For some reason I’ve always thought cute, adorable critters doing really adult stuff is funny. The problem is every time I try to draw anything that’s cute and adorable it turns out kind of twisted.

There certainly seems to be a big market for that kind of humour though!

I dunno. Maybe. I often wish I could draw a little more ‘straight’. I think they’d definitely be more work opportunities but everytime I sit down to draw ‘twisted’ is what comes out.

Marvel seems to be producing a stack of Star Wars books lately – have you pitched anything with your version of Porkins?

Ha! No. I don’t think it’d really be their thing.

Do you have any other creator-owned ideas you’ve been pitching or cooking up? Seems a shame to have no new Rankine stuff on the shelf!

I’ve got that “post-apocalyptic mutant love story’ thing I was telling you about the other day. The first issue is scripted and I’ve drawn about 6 pages but I’ve kind of hit the wall with it. I don’t really know where to take the story after issue 1. And I don’t have a publisher or anything. I’m feeling sort of ‘meh’ about it to be honest. If I had a choice what I really feel like doing at the moment is working on known IPs.

Tell us a little about the phenomenon of “Little Dean” on your facebook page.

So, I got this mini version of me 3D printed at the last Supanova in Melbourne. I named him ‘Little Dean’ and I take photos of him doing stupid stuff with the toys in my studio or next to bottles of booze and I share it on Facebook. He’s developed into my slightly more evil alter ego. He’s a bit of an arsehole but people seem to like him for some reason.

What’s the best piece of art advice you ever received?

I can’t think of anything to be honest. Not that I haven’t learnt anything. In fact, I’m constantly learning. I just don’t recall anything that stands out as the ‘best’.

What would be YOUR advice to aspiring artists then?

I think about how to break-in to (and survive) in comics A LOT. And here’s what I’ve come up with: 1. You have to be as good (or kinda, nearly as good) as the artists who are currently drawing comics. That’s sequential art btw. Not just pin-ups 2. People like to work with people who are not only good but who they like. So, making meaningful connections within the comics industry is essential. Not in a mercenary kind of way because people hate feeling like they’re being used (I sure do!) 3. I think you need to have someone on the ‘inside’ (eg; Editor) who believes in you 4. And when all the above fails you have to resilient. Comics are brutal. You have to be able to bounce back after multiple rejections.

Where can people find you online?

I’m on both Instagram and Twitter but, honestly, I don’t really use them. These days I’m still pretty happy plugging away on Facebook.

About Darren Close

Darren Close
Darren is the creator and publisher of the KILLEROO series, and also the creator of the OzComics website and subsequent drawing challenge on Facebook. He's been around the local comic scene for far too long for many people's liking. Gary Chaloner was foolish enough to make him the new Managing Editor of AustralianComicsJournal.com

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