Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

How I got into Comics

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How I got into Comics

I'm an unlikely comic-book nerd. I've played rugby. I've driven tractors. I've renovated houses. I've worked on cars. I love beer and eating steak. Plus, I've stopped a run-away team of horses. You might wonder, why am I writing a comic blog for Open Book Toronto then? What the hell does this hick know about comics? Well good question.

I grew up outside of Toronto, in the small-town of Cobourg, 5 minutes east of Port Hope, the home of Farely Mowat. My parents had decided to move there in 1985 planting us down in a house about a 2 hour walk from civilization. I spent my childhood climbing trees, catching frogs, and reading Mad/Cracked Magazines. I would ride my bike to a corner store on the other side of the valley we overlooked to buy the latest issue, along with a nice, tall (glass) bottle of coke. I also grabbed the latest pack of Garbage Pail Kids if they had some. Those were the days.

As I grew up, I begun to draw in my spare time when I wasn't shipped off to the family horse farm during the summers. While on the farm, I learned all sorts of useful country aptitudes, while also discovering punk-rock and the world of skateboarding. I still had no clue at this point that alternative comics existed. I had stopped buying Cracked and Mad when the stories were stale and moved onto buying beer.

Once I was old enough to drive, I stopped heading to the farm for the summer and stuck around Cobourg. I was meeting all sorts of new people in the local music scene, as well as getting into my fair share of 'trouble'. I was also honing my drawing abilities by doodling 'cartoons' for the school newspaper, and in the back of math class where I would make fun of a new person everyday. I didn't really think much of it, but friends were cutting out some of the drawings and pasting them up in their lockers. Very flattering, but I just figured they were still lame-ass crappy drawings, and that I had better prepare my life to become a Mechanical Engineer or something.

Near the end of high school, I took a road trip into Toronto with some buddies to visit one of the infamous Cobourg 'hardcore' scensters who now lived there for college. He had recently released a new 7" record for his band, and on the cover was a really cool comic-based illustration by Tony Walsh. It turned out to be 'Ratboy'. I was very intrigued by the style and tone of the drawing, and begun to search for more work by the artist, uncovering the 'He is Just a Rat' series of comic books. They were hilarious, and also cool to look at. I was amazed that there were comics out there that weren't about super heros or weren't drawn by 90 yr olds in Mad or Cracked (along with 90 yr old humour). It was a total revelation! I wanted to read (and draw) cynical, alternative comics too!

Soon I graduated high school, and eventually ended up in Toronto as a graphic designer. Here and there I was discovering comics but still had no idea Toronto had such a wealth of them. I was really getting into Chris Hutsul's work and following his comic in Eye Magazine, as well as picking up random comics at Rotate This & Suspect Video, until the day I discovered The Beguiling! Wow, what a place! I then proceeded to spend about a $100 a month on all sorts of super cool comics. Eventually, I got off my lazy ass and started drawing some of my own stories, contributing to Roscoe (a short lived comic newspaper here in Toronto), as well as doing a daily single panel for Dose before they died. At the same time, I was beginning a new career as an illustrator, with clients such as Owl Magazine and Nickelodeon, who are both HUGE comic advocating publications.

This brings us up to present-day. I absolutely love comics and recommend them to anyone & everyone. Spending $100/month on them might not be the best idea, but definitely check out your local comic book shop and give any graphic novel a go. What drew me to the form most, was the visual aspect I suppose. The ability of the writer to both draw and create an engaging story is quite a feat in my opinion. I'm mostly interested in books & comics that I can personally relate to so the alternative genre is especially appealing. I can't lift a car in a single bound, or shoot x-rays out of my eyes, so why would I want to read about that? I like to see & hear about other people's experiences, even if they aren't 100% true. Alternative comics can do this, and more.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Clayton Hanmer

Clayton Hanmer (aka CTON) is a Toronto-based illustrator, author and graphic artist. He is the creator of CTON's Corner, a popular feature in OWL Magazine, as well as the author/illustrator of CTON's Super A-Maze-ing Year of Crazy Comics.

Go to Clayton Hanmer’s Author Page