A Canadian Artist Takes on America’s Trippiest Story – An Interview
About a year ago, I started thinking about moving to Prince Edward Island, Canada and not for the reasons you might think. Despite the threat of an onslaught of American refugees bearing down on our northern neighbor, my own motives weren’t political. P.E.I just looks like a great place to live.
It was through a P.E.I. Facebook group, that I learned about one of its residents, Troy Little. Suddenly, he was everywhere. A longtime artist, he first came onto the scene with the IDW published, Chiaroscuro, and then went on to write and draw the Powerpuff Girls comic book series before exploding in 2015, with his graphic novel translation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Little’s new book has made headlines all over the world with one NYC vendor even running out of copies during a signing. The drawings are so close to Thompson’s psychedelic (and drug fueled) imagination, that I wish the author were alive just so he could see what Little has done.
Troy is definitely the hot ticket right now. With a nomination for the Harvey Award (Best Graphic Album Original Category) and Eisner Award (Best Lettering) you can be assured that this artist is going to be hard to get a hold of. Luckily for me, I caught him at a good time so I could learn more about his background, what makes P.E.I. so great, and whether or not he’s still plain old Dad, at home.
Congratulations on being nominated for the Harvey Award AND the Eisner Award! That’s huge. What do your wife and kids think about Dad’s accomplishments? Have any of your children expressed an interest in drawing or art?
Thank you! You always hope people will enjoy the work you do, but artists are usually their own harshest critics and so we don’t really expect our work to measure up. It’s gratifying and humbling to be nominated for two of the biggest comic book awards in North America to be sure!! My wife Brenda (who also works in comics) is very hopeful for me, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
We have three kids, the twins are almost 10 and both enjoy drawing quite a bit, and our youngest is only 2 and a half and also seems keen with a marker. Too early to say if any of them have the art bug yet, but we hold out hope that one of them is a doctor or lawyer that will support the rest of us.
I’m looking to move to P.E.I. and this is how I came across your story. How long have you lived there and do they have a community of artists? It looks like there’s a lot to see and do.
I grew up in P.E.I. and spent a number of years going to school and working in animation in Ontario before moving back in 2003. There’s not much in the way of work for what I do here so I have to freelance. Thankfully so long as I have an Internet connection I’m good to go, and luckily I’ve been kept busy for a number of years now. The big perk of living here is it’s cost effective for an artist. I don’t have to work as hard as a comic artist in a big city to pay the bills, but the drawback is feeling isolated from the community of peers in your field.
Hunter S. Thompson is such a terrific choice for a graphic novel. I’ve read his book and you really did it justice. What made you choose Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Have you always been a Thompson fan?
I’ve been a Thompson fan since I discovered him back in the mid to late 90’s. It was an unbelievable opportunity to get to adapt Fear & Loathing – I love that book. I’ve also never tried to adapt anything from one medium to another before. My biggest fear was I wouldn’t do it justice. I felt better when we decided to keep all the text in the book Hunter’s and I’m just bringing the visuals to it. You muck about and take liberties with Hunter’s words at your peril, so it’s best you don’t. You won’t improve them.
I’m grateful to IDW and Top Shelf for offering me the chance to pitch on this project, and for the Thompson Estate for being supportive in bringing Fear & Loathing to the realm of comics and trusting that we’d honour the spirit of the original book.
How long did it take you to create it?
The project took just over a year to do, and it got pretty intense the last few months trying to hit the deadline. I was basically given the book and ran with it – editing it down to what I would draw, doing all the layouts and text placements, penciling, inking, lettering, colouring and designing. Lucky for me, I can be a control freak and so this 100% indulgence was great. They put a lot of trust in me and I did my best not to screw it up!
What kind of kid were you? Were you into art at a young age?
I was a lot like I am now. I like cartoons, comics, movies, video games and all that typical nerd stuff. My Dad was an excellent craftsman and I picked up a lot from watching him. I’d try and impress him with something I drew and instead of just praising me he pointed out where I could improve. I worked hard to get better. I held a lot of respect for him and really wanted his approval and he in turn was supportive in a stand off kind of way that gave me room to grow.
Can you tell me more about Meanwhile Studios?
Meanwhile Studios is just a catchall name I gave my “publishing house” when I started out self-publishing comics in early 2000. I picked it up from the old Adam West Batman TV show where the narrator would often switch scenes with a, “Meanwhile, back at the Batcave…” And it sort of stuck.
One of my favorite graphic novels is a Marvel version of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Would you consider translating another classic novel?
I would certainly consider it! In fact, I had a pitch in for 1984, which I would have LOVED to do, and the Orwell Estate was interested but when it came to locking it down things fizzled. Maybe it’ll happen someday? There are other novels I’d love to tackle but only books I really had a passion for. Not everything would work well as a comic, but some books could really excel taken into that medium.
A lot of my artist friends are getting annoyed about people asking them to do free work for “recognition” or “resume building”. What is your opinion on this? Have you gone through the same sort of experience?
Every artist goes through that, its part of the process. Eventually you get so that you can start turning down those jobs, but everyone has to start somewhere. I spent many years drawing peoples pets for a few bucks, or getting ripped off seeing my drawings used to make other people a fortune while I made next to nothing. You learn a lot the hard way, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t.
With all of these accolades, you have a lot on your plate. I think I saw that you’re attending a con in Germany? What are some upcoming dates and venues where fans can get a signed copy of your book?
I’m heading off to the San Diego Comic Con… In a few hours as I write this actually. Yikes! Brenda works on My Little Pony comics and was invited to GalaCon in Germany the following week, so I’m just tagging along on that one. In September we’ll both be at Salt Lake Comic Con. Brenda’s hitting New York in October, but I did that last year so this year I’m on take-care-of-the-kids duty.
So what are you working on now? I think you might just be the man who could bring to life, a Golden Girls graphic novel. Hint, hint.
A Golden Girls book would be fantastic, and I’m not even kidding! Man, can you imagine? I have ideas already…. But to your question, I just finished lettering a translated French graphic novel called “Who Killed Kurt Cobain” for IDW. Other then that, I’ve got a few things in the fire but nothing has caught yet, but hopefully this trip to SDCC will get something lit!
I have no doubt that you’ll be overrun with fans in San Diego! Thank you so much for your time, Troy. For everyone else, click on the social icons below, to find out more about his amazing work and perhaps, even ask for a consultation. Also, make sure you meet him if you’re at the Salt Lake Comic Con in September.