Under the Covers with Riley Rossmo

Riley Rossmo is a Calgary based comic book artist who has gained recognition for his well detailed and vibrant style of drawing. He has worked on big name comics such as: “Green Wake”, “Rebel Blood”, “Bedlam”, and his latest adventure “Drumhellar”.

“I think [when I first took interest] my grandma gave me a G.I. Joe comic when I was about 5 and sick with a fever. I was hooked after that,” says Riley.

“The second comic I remember reading was Voltron #1 and after that I’d buy used comics from the quarter bin at the local used book/comic/record store,” he adds.

“I’ve always been into drawing narratives. I’d draw little military scenes, animal drawings, fantasy battles, design cars, etc.” he says.

“I was often bored in school so I drew all the time on everything,” Riley says.

“I received my formal training when I was 19 in college,” he shares.

Comic book art is very distinct in nature and always has an emphasis on dramatic flair. Riley draws his inspiration from the real world.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about horror and comics lately. I feel like the grotesque is easy to draw and I’d look at images of road kill, or from slaughter houses for inspiration and apply it pretty directly especially in Rebel Blood and Green Wake,” says Riley.

“The next horror comic I’d like to try and do is something in atmospheric horror,” he adds.

Being a comic book artist wasn’t always his first choice as a career either.

“Yes and no, I didn’t know it was an option really till I got older,” says Riley.

“As a teen the only people I knew in the arts that had careers were tattoo artists and I only really put my mind to doing something in art after I went on a tour of ACAD,” he mentions.

He found his success when his first big comic “Proof” was published by Image Comics.

Each edition to his collection of contributions quickly becomes his favorite series.

“Whatever’s current is always my favourite. I like making, imagining, and building stuff more than putting the final touches on this,” he says.

Most artists usually draw inspiration from the real world, experiences they’ve had, or even some fantastical ideas birthed from the recess of their minds.

“I draw my influences from film, books, comics, locations, etc. and I read a lot and listen to podcasts, when I travel,” says Riley.

“My biggest influences are probably Bill Sienkiewicz, Ego Schiele, John Byrne, and Frank Millar,” he says.

One of his long time collaborators, Kurtis Wiebe, has shared quite a bit of success as well.

“We both lived in Saskatoon for a while. I was interested in doing something new and Kurtis was open to starting a book from the ground up so we came up with a concept and started fleshing it out,” he says.

“It was pretty cool to work like that in the same physical space,” Riley adds.

“When we can work in a back and forth way like that we do good. When talking concepts or pacing, or characters, I like to do it verbally,” he says.

“On Green Wake we’d back and forth a lot and let each other’s’ ideas grow and evolve and it was a real partnership,” Riley adds.

Being artistic has always been important to Riley.

“Drawing is the only thing I’ve ever worked at that hasn’t been a grind,” he says.

Calgary has its own little niche for artists and the city is responding to the success each artist has gained.

“Comics have an interesting place in Calgary,” says Riley.

“ACAD produces a lot of artists and more of them seem to be into comics so the talent pool keeps growing,” he adds.

“Historically there have been some comic giants such as John Byrne, Todd Mcfarlene and Cary Nord from here. The thing about oil and comics is lots of engineers seems to be into comics and with all the wealth in oil lots of big comic art and comic collectors in Calgary can afford to buy stuff,” he mentions.

Some big names such as Guillermo del Toro, the Dalai lama, Rupert Sheldrake and Grant Morrison are people he’d love to meet one day. Grant Morrison is also well known for his contributions to DC comics.

Riley’s steam isn’t running out any time soon. He’s working on some new material that is quickly gaining attention as well.

“My newest book ‘Drumhellar’ (a paranormal road trip set in small town America), came out in November and I’m pretty excited about it,” he says.

“I’m co-plotting, penciling, inking and coloring it,” he adds.

Riley Rossmo has contributed to: “Seven Sons” (Ait/Planet Lar), “Proof” (Image Comics), “Cowboy Ninja Viking” (Image Comics), “Green Wake” (Image Comics), “Rebel Blood” (Image Comics), “Daken The Dark Walverin” (Marvel Comics), “Debris” (Image Comics), “Bedlam” (Image Comics), “Adventures of Superman” (DC Comics), “Dia de la Muertos” (Image Comics), and “Drumhelar” (Image Comics).