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Writer, Creator, Cartoonist of Tales of the Afterlife a.k.a. Bluboy Comics

by Allen Klingelhoets - (Posted: 9/30/2007)

Ryan Spencer

Allen: Tell us something about yourself.

Ryan: I was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. I've been married almost 6 years to my wife Karen Hubbard. We enjoy traveling whenever we can - even if it is just short trips to explore places in Ontario. She enjoys social sciences, the dramatic arts in general, singing especially and acting, whereas I am more exclusively a visual artist. Although she used to also dabble in visual arts (and is into fashion and decorating) so that’s one thing we have in common. No kids yet, but possibly starting in the next couple of years.

I enjoy having the conveniences of the city but I need to be able to escape to the country a fair bit - also something my wife and I have in common. St. Jacobs, Ontario, and Elora, Ontario are haunts of ours.

I went to Kitchener Collegiate Institute (KCI) in Kitchener, Ontario for high school. Then I went on to do the Graphic Arts and Advertising Program at Conestoga College (graduated in 1996).

Allen: What was the first comic book you ever read?

Ryan: Charlie Brown in the Sunday newspapers probably would have to be the first comics I've ever read. Then Garfield comics - it was Garfield that really inspired me to want to draw my own comics and have a character of my own. During high school I got into Spiderman when Todd McFarlane started drawing for Marvel. And it spiraled from there.

Allen: Why do you like to draw?

Ryan: I just love to draw. Drawing has always been my main interest in life and my forte. It's how I express myself best. It's what I know best. I love to escape into cartooning or graphic design or in any other type of art I discover. I love to develop characters and storylines.

On the downside, my drawing and artwork is what feeds my ego as well. But at the same time I wish I had more talent to produce the kind of work I sometimes envision.

Allen: Do you have any professional training?

Ryan: Not so much professional training when it comes to illustration itself. I studied and exercised illustration etc. through various high school courses. And as I mentioned earlier, I went to Conestoga College for a three-year design program. I was about to head off to Sheridan College for animation, but then I thought I would get bored with animation in the long-term and that I would have fewer job opportunities here in Ontario - that was years ago though.

I now have eleven-plus years of professional experience in the Package Design and Corporate Identity industry here in Toronto. And just about a lifetime of drawing/illustration experience.

I enjoy package design because it involves design, 3D artwork and sometimes illustration - so it combines a lot of my interests. I love to be a part of developing and branding an item and then seeing it come to life on the shelf. I especially love cereal and toy packages. I enjoy combining the best of design and illustration worlds, which package design affords me. For example, I've actually developed a series of designs for Dragon Ball Z packages for Irwin Toys just before they went bankrupt. On a personal satisfaction kind of level that was a highlight in my design career/goals.

Allen: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Ryan: Well, I'm not sure that I'm apart of the industry yet. It's sort of fallen into my lap since putting out my Bluboy Comics online.

Allen: Who are some of your favorite comic book artists?

Ryan: I've already mentioned Todd McFarlane of course. Also, Edward Gorey. I'd also have to say Charles Schultz, Jim Davis, Bill Waterson of the humor strips.

Allen: Do you consider your web comic a job or a hobby?

Ryan: It's a hobby right now for sure in part because of lifestyle issues and having the inevitable responsibilities at my age, and because I also love my "day job" and graphic/web design. But maybe I'll make more of it some day.

Allen: I see that you are writer and illustrator for web comic Bluboy. Is this first “true” comic book-related work?

Ryan: Yes, Bluboy I would have to say is my first "true" comic book-related project.

I've done some cover art and visual character development for friends of mine trying to get their own comics off the ground, like Ken Lillie's "Elsinore" and "Monkey Pharmacy" - I created some of the visual representations of the characters for those. But I've never done a real storyboarded strip like this. Although I have a ton of old strips when I was experimenting in grade school. For example, I had a group of penguin characters (before penguins went popular mind you): the main character was named Cooler and wore a Mohawk, and there was a dragon character called Fido who couldn't fly. And in high school I developed a Martian "superhero" character I called "Marvin the Martian". I also developed a stuffed toy ferret character named "Freddie the Ferret".

Later on I developed a character that I originally thought I would devote myself to, an elf/Smurf-like character I called "Stimpy the Stumpling". Stimpy was the most prolific of the bunch (until Bluboy) and a character I still may re-visit some day. I had fun with them all, but I just couldn't see an ongoing world with these characters.

My writing at that time was not one of my strongest abilities. I was so insecure with my writing that I pretty much give up the idea of having a comic strip of my own. English was my worst subject in school.

So, these projects never really made it anywhere but my scrapbooks and some paintings. I was just not able to come up with enough story lines to make them last. Or I would just simply get bored of them.

Allen: Have you worked with comic book layout before doing Bluboy?

Ryan: No, no prior work or training with comic book layout. Other than it's been a dream of mine since early childhood to become a cartoonist. And as I had mentioned earlier, my own home drawings/comic projects were my practice.

Allen: Who are some of the characters in Bluboy? What was key to creating Bluboy?

Ryan: As above: I enjoy creating in general but also creating characters specifically. I find Bluboy is perfect for me in this way - when it comes to the after life, there is really no limit to the amount of characters that Bluboy may meet. Although originally, I wanted the strips to be just about Bluboy and "Cedric" his spider. But then I found to truly illustrate my ideas I needed more characters to contrast with Bluboy, especially to help develop Bluboy's character. It quickly became apparent that these stories were about relationships. This is what actually makes the strips relatable and I think where the humor comes into play. A friendship, family or romantic relationship and the struggle we all go through in all these areas. As so does Bluboy.

I try to make some sort of struggle between all the characters. There is never a perfect relationship or partnership for Bluboy. These are all lost and/or troubled souls who are all looking for purpose and meaning.

- Bluboy is the main character. It is his cemetery and his house at which the stories take place. He is an innocent soul looking for friendship and purpose with a heart of gold. He is so naive that he doesn't even know that he is dead nor a spirit. And it probably wouldn't matter to him. He lives day-by-day enjoying talking to who ever will listen and playing around the cemetery looking for friends to daydream with. He helps anyone he finds in trouble or in need of help. To the human eyes he is a Blue Orb, and I see eventually being awarded the title "Spirit of Sadness".

A quote from my wife Karen Hubbard on Bluboy and his character development: "Bluboy simply just needs to be heard now, in my humble and domineering opinion....

He is Ryan, he is my dad, he is - despite Ryan not consciously intending it - the departed Charles Shultz and Charlie Brown.

Let me explain: My dad loved Charles Shultz and Peanuts, as did Ryan and myself though my dad was a bigger fan, [(as children, separately Ry and I used to both sketch Peanuts characters (me, the animals, of course)]. Despite being an incredibly successful, talented, and well-liked person, my dad (at least in his later years) seemed to associate with Charlie Brown (though rarely talked about it, just something we figured out on our own) likely because of the class-shame he felt growing up (the era was pretty tough for that), the racial-mix shame that he felt growing up (same thing....), his perceived rejection from his father, etc.

Peanuts also simply reminded my dad of a simpler sort of time for many decades... I'm sure he saw almost every strip Shultz ever did.

Oh, and then there is the fact that Snoopy was of course a flying ace (as was my dad). So Shultz' passing hit my dad hard (they were of a similar age group as well), as it did Ryan and I.

When my dad died, a week or two later Bluboy was born... his longing and feelings of not fitting in, feelings of clumsiness, etc. I think come from all of those roots (despite my dad not being like that in reality at all, he felt that way).

The death theme thus comes from not only my dad's passing, but what Ryan lost when my dad was gone (they were very close).

"Simple", but not so simple. I'm pleased so many people around the world are enjoying it.

oh, I should as far as the "inspiration" thing goes: I've done a lot of research on parapsychology, particularly ESP sorts of things and ghosts. Pretty much since I was about 7. I was checking books out of the library with such purposes. Even took courses in university, worked in a research lab that dealt with these matters (how they relate to sleep paralysis), etc.

Then I meet Ryan who is similarly interested. We discussed a lot. We had shared bizarro experiences that neither of us could forget.

We later went on ghost tours, though mostly bogus, had a few interesting granules... and of course were wonderfully fun. Then all of the above posting regarding Bluboy's "birth"/"death". Hence Blu... whoever said a comic was simple, huh?"

- Death is a character in the story, but a good spirit. Death is simply trying to police the Afterlife, it's his job. Death is a shadow that is omnipresent. His goal is to help Bluboy and other lost spirits off to a place in which they belong. So far has failed to do so because he is always frightening Bluboy away. He has also the help from the "Book for the Dead" a spirit guide who also represents the voice of death. Bluboy often counsels with this book or at least attempts too. The light and dark I create in the strip I try to make organic and give a bit of life to it. To kind of represent this idea and almost a reminder of the reality Bluboy is in. Which is his death or After-Life.

- Whisper is the ever happy bride in search of her soul mate. The main female spirit of the comic so far. Bluboy's love interest. Loves her bouquet of flowers and can easily become distracted by their beauty. Causing her to be a little self indulgent. She can also tend to be a little moody. She is found wandering through Bluboy's Cemetery every once in a while.

A quote from my wife Karen Hubbard on Whisper and her character:

"Whisper, the oblivious, whimsical, self-absorbed - though still sweet - ghost bride: I have to like, after all, she's based on me, minus the obliviousness and some of the self-focus (I hope!). So much back-story behind this... before Ryan and I met, we'd seen each other around a bar called "Phil's" (in our home town), and Whisper is pretty much how he perceived me before meeting me... sweet and kind, but in a haze of dashing about, head in the clouds (or so he thought), etc.

Then of course I became his bride, and he has very strong emotional ties to my wedding gown, which I designed but he did the first quick sketch of for prospective dressmakers... he shed a tear during his wedding speech when he talked about my gown, it's birth and process, etc... knowing it was one of my greatest self-expressions, and because of how much it connected us as a couple (too complicated to explain here). Or maybe he wept over the ordeal it's creation! LOL."

- Zoe is Bluboy's guardian angel. Though Zoe isn't really an official spirit with any real power. He only thinks he is. And dresses up only to hide from himself what he truly is, just a regular soul. He is also infatuated with Whisper and is always trying to get her attention in what ever way possible. Zoe represents the romantic side of the relationship theme. Bluboy is too innocent and naive to understand love and what love is romantically. Zoe's look was inspired by the Pope John Paul II, during the time of his death.

- Celina is the only human character so far. And is a mystery as to how she relates to Bluboy. But she is the only human that can see him and/or hear him. She is also mute. She has a 6th sense and can see the dead and is always trying to communicate to them in what ever she can.

Allen: What is the goal of your web comic?

Ryan: To share with people feelings of empathy, sadness, happiness, loneliness and death. To make people smile in the sense that perhaps they are not alone in this world. That there is always hope, and that you have to keep living life to the best of your abilities.

Allen: What are some of the conflicts of Bluboy and Cedric?

Ryan: Conflicts between Bluboy and Cedric are that it's again a one sided relationship. Cedric doesn't really know Bluboy exists and can't see him since Bluboy is a ghost. Let alone the fact that Cedric is just a spider. Bluboy has simply bonded to the spider, almost a haunting. I have fun with this theme. Everywhere Bluboy is you will usually see Cedric. Bluboy is always just trying to confide with Cedric his deepest feelings. But Cedric being a busy spider can't usually hang around for very long, no pun intended. I want to also look at this form Cedric's perspective. Bluboy is so into his own conversations that he never really gives Cedric a chance to speak or give back. Leaving Cedric frustrated and upset and even alone as well. I see possibilities to develop Cedric's character down the road as the comic progresses.

Allen: How often does web comic appear online?

Ryan: It's a weekly issue. Although being it still a hobby, it's not always weekly...

Allen: Please talk about Bluboy mini comic book ?

Ryan: Oh, my MiniComic Book. I have one issue produced, "Isolation" it's titled. It's a self made booklet of my first few set BluBoy strips. It was mainly developed to be handed out at Comic Conventions as a promotion. I updated it and added a few new strips to it and am now selling it on my Official Page. I hope to have my next MiniBooklet "Void" up sooner or later. I am also looking soon into some better publishing for them. As right now I can only produce a limited amount efficiently.

Allen: How can someone buy a booklet?

Ryan: So far I am selling my MiniComic booklets through my Official site in my Promotional section:

Allen: I am curious as to how idea of Bluboy came about. How did you think of idea to have Bluboy help lost souls?

Ryan: I think Karen explains some of this background. The idea and concept for Bluboy came into light from a combination of sources that had already been in my mind, just never solidified. The Curl came from a character before Bluboy I had been toying with. A Cinnabon Head character. There are some sketches of him on my Deviant art site. So the look was almost there. But it had no story. It wasn't until when my wife lost her Dad, Captain John B. Hubbard, my father-In-Law. It real hit us hard. I had been dealing with moving away to the big city and living on my own.

Lost contact with friends. So this loss was the last nail in the coffin (no pun intended). Now dealing with death and loss, in order to cope and escape I draw. But I also needed to share my thoughts and expressions. So the story of the after life suddenly made sense to me and my Cinnabon character finally had a background and storyline and then became a ghost, Bluboy. It all just came at once, I had a purpose or at least my character did. As I felt comfort from drawing my character so did my character need comfort. So his stories were at first just wanting to find friends in a world he was new and innocent in. And still is. So I wrote basically like all artists write, their own feelings or experiences. It just became an act.

In his search for friendship, coming across so many other spirits and troubled souls like himself it became apparent that perhaps these other spirits were in even more need and help than Bluboy. And Bluboy being a loving and a good spirit just became the one these other spirits could rely on and could ask for help.

Allen: How have you been promoting web comic?

Ryan: I have been going to a few Comic Conventions in Toronto since 2005. But mainly it has been all online. The Deviant art community of artists has been my main source of promotion and mySpace.

Allen: How can someone contact you?

Ryan: My Official Website: . My Deviant art Gallery: . My MySpace Page: . email:

Allen: What has been your favorite and least favorite thing about creating Bluboy?

Ryan: Favorite thing, receiving fan art! It's really wonderful to see that I'm inspiring young artists to draw. And to be able to see different interpretations of Bluboy is amazing. Least favorite thing, not having enough time for it all...

Allen: What are your hobbies and recreational activities?

Ryan: Right now I only have time to watch movies once in a while and surfing the web. I enjoy biking, fishing, camping. I enjoy video games and all the latest advances with in the computer industry. I enjoy toy collecting as well. I have a huge Star Wars collection.

Allen: If you could have any one comic book characters powers whose would it be and why?

Ryan: Spiderman's. I just love Spiderman. I have always dreamt about having his powers and just swinging up and away from any bad situation and sticking to walls. Its so cool... um I mean it would be cool..

Allen: H.G. Wells has just appeared with time machine. It's yours for day Ryan. Where are you going to take time machine?

Ryan: I would love to go back to see the Jurassic period of earth. I love dinosaurs. And take all kinds of pictures of a T-Rex. I would also be curious to see myself at an earlier age, perhaps my childhood. I used to dream of seeing or bumping into my older self and would wonder if I would recognize myself. I used never see my self growing up or getting older. So it might be neat to say to myself, see “we did it!”

Allen: Is there any one in comic book industry that you would really like to meet and show your portfolio?

Ryan: Yes, of course... I really wish I could have shown my work to Charles Shultz. But a first pick would have to be Bill Waterson.

Allen: What TV shows, movies, cartoons do you like?

Ryan: I hate answering this question. I like too much...

Allen: What is your favorite sort of music?

Ryan: I am into all kinds of music. Mainly Alternative music, Brit-Pop, Shoegazing, 80's New Wave and SythnPop. The writing of Mark Kozelek singer/song writer of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon is my favorite artist. Along with Robert Smith of The Cure. New Order is right up there as well... The list could go on. Music really influences my comics.

Allen: How many hours a week do you work on your web comic?

Ryan: A good week I like to spend about 8 hours.

Allen: What books do you enjoy?

Ryan: I love reading Mystery novels. I enjoy Edgar Allen Poe's work a lot. And some fantasy novels. I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit.

Allen: What comic books do you read now?

Ryan: Not much time to read as I would like unfortunately... I like reading the Sunday comics still. I like reading Mutts. I own the Peanuts collections, I intend on reading all the books. I also like reading American Elf by James Kochalka.

Allen: What gives you your creative energy?

Ryan: Music, real life and other artists in pretty much any industry.

Allen: What has been feedback about your web comic?

Ryan: People really love it. It takes readers a little bit to get into at first and really understand the message. But I think when people do it almost becomes infectious. They can't wait to see more. I really enjoy hearing what readers have to say. Good or bad. It really motivates me.

Allen: Is there anything exciting happening in regards to Bluboy?

Ryan: Nothing really big to mention at the moment. Though I have a lot of ideas and ambitions I hope to achieve with Bluboy on the marketing side. Toys and collectibles and am really excited about seeing happening some day.

Allen: What can you tell some one that wants to try this form of publishing?

Ryan: Unfortunately at this point I can't really say too much. Other than just keep at what ever it is that drives you. Don't give up. Listen to what people are saying, and allow yourself to take advice from others. But listen to your heart.

Allen: Do you have any future comic book related projects in works?

Ryan: No, not yet.

Allen: This ends the interview, any encouraging words of wisdom?

Ryan: Oh, Ok thanks very much Allen. Wisdom? I wish I had some. Well, don’t be afraid of the dark. Learn how to see the good in the bad. Don’t give up on your dreams or ambitions. There always seems to be a balance in life. With a negative there is always a positive. Sometimes it’s harder to find.

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