Chris Ryall is a busy guy. On top of being an accomplished comic book writer, he’s also the Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in-chief of IDW, one of the most consistently exciting comic publishers in the industry.
And, if you grew up reading comics in the 1980s, you may already know that Ryall is now the writer of the Rom the Spaceknight revival. Yep, the old Marvel Comics series is back, but now in Ryall’s very capable hands.
As an editor and writer, Ryall has developed a few long boxes full of truly fantastic stories featuring licensed properties, including Kiss, Transformers, Judge Dredd, Godzilla, GI Joe, and Ghostbusters to name a few. Under his guidance, IDW has produced a wide range of buzzworthy titles like Locke & Key, Zombies vs Robots, 30 Days of Night, and his own series Onyx about a metal-suited warrior.
But despite his busy schedule, Ryall made time to share photos of his workspace, which is pretty darn cool, if you must know. And, of course, to answer a few quick questions.
Comic Book School: Where do you do most of your work?
Chris Ryall: For my writing, since it’s done around my IDW responsibilities, I split most of the time between sitting at a desk in my home office and sitting with a laptop on my couch. But now and again, early mornings or lunch hours, I’ll work on scripts in my IDW office, too. And with our new office space being near the bay here, I’ll occasionally spend a lunch break by taking a bike ride down to a bench near the bay and scribble notes and rough drafts into a notebook. Basically, anywhere and everywhere I can steal away some time.
Comic Book School: When do you get your best creative work done?
Chris Ryall: Early mornings are best for me, but also the hardest to come by, so I’d say the bulk of the work gets done later in the evening.
Comic Book School: What’s on your desk right now?
Chris Ryall: A notebook I started exclusively for the relaunch of Rom the Space Knight next year, a few pages to dialogue for the final issue of Onyx, and some notes and scribbles centered around a new project for next year, too.
Comic Book School: What are those art pages hanging in your office?
Chris Ryall: There’s a lot of it—and definitely a heavy Rom emphasis throughout the office, but looking left to right here, the pieces include a Mars Attacks Rom pinup by Sal Buscema, a Rom cover by P. Craig Russell, a Rom painting by Jim Calafiore (toldja), a couple portraits of me that Dave Sim did (which feels odd to display but hell, Dave Sim drew me, that’s weird enough enough in itself to deserve a showcase); Zach Howard’s wraparound cover for the Stephen King/Joe Hill project I adapted, an Onyx cover by Sal Buscema, a James O’Barr Crow painting from one of the series we did, a Wraith page from Charles Paul Wilson III, a Simon Bisley painting, a huge blow-up of a Fantastic Four #5 Kirby splash page, a Carl Potts Daredevil cover, John Byrne OMAC page, a crazy jam piece with art from maybe two dozen illustrious artists done in the 1980s, a Vanessa Del Rey piece, and on the wall near the door, a couple Gabriel Rodriguez pages, a Phil Jimenez Star Trek/LSH cover, a Dave Sim cover for my series The Colonized… and a bit more hanging behind me, too. One thing I love about the new office is the space to surround myself with inspiring art pieces.
Over to my left, too, I hung Joe Shuster’s autograph, something I have only the vaguest recollection of even getting, back when I was maybe 5 years old and attending my first comic convention.
Comic Book School: What’s on your bookshelves?
Chris Ryall: The bookshelves are similarly packed with things I love to be surrounded by: books (mostly IDW’s books), toys and statues and a small Rom shrine and a great Sergio Aragones Groo drawing and a healthy stack of vinyl records (a thing I’ve only recently gotten back into, since I put a vinyl player on my desk here. As much as I like having access to all music ever on my computer, I enjoy the ritual of getting up to change records, and the added focus it gives me on the music).
It’s weird—when we were going to move offices, I loved the old office space because I had a huge amount of space to display all these things and worried I’d not be able to replicate it here. But it’s even better now—I am pretty much floor to ceiling surrounded by art, books, statues, toys, and other such things that serve as constant inspiration all day long.
Comic Book School: What are your creative tools of choice?
Chris Ryall: I work most mainly on an iMac, a MacBook Air, and a handful of Moleskin notebooks that I always carry with me.
Comic Book School: Do you multitask while working? If so, what sorts of things are you doing or listening to?
Chris Ryall: I do, but I’m trying to get better about that. I used to love to tailor the music to the subject matter I was writing, but the last few years, I’ve found songs with lyrics too distracting while I write, so I now rely much more on movie scores, light electronica, and some non-boisterous classical music.
It’s throughout the days at IDW that I keep everything else playing in my office, though.
Comic Book School: What’s one comic book you’d recommend that people start reading?
Chris Ryall: Locke & Key. Is that too biased an answer? Even if it is, I think it’s an amazing story with incredible art and a perfect gateway for people who aren’t longtime comic readers, as well as a very adult, well-told story for people who want something different than the usual comic fare.
Comic Book School: What’s one non-comic book do you recommend that people start reading?
Chris Ryall: For fiction, my favorite book of all time remains Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. But just like recommending comics, I could recommend dozens upon dozens of great novels, short story collections, books about writing and creativity, and non-fiction, too.
Comic Book School: What’s one thing every artist should include in their convention portfolio?
Chris Ryall: Variety, if that counts as one thing. Also, a very realistic sense of what they are capable of producing in a day.
Comic Book School: What do you have coming out that we should be looking for?
Chris Ryall: The final issues of two of my series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and String Divers, both ship this month, and then the finale of Onyx will be out by year’s end.
For 2016, my big focus is relaunching, alongside co-writer Christos Gage and artists David Messina and Paolo Villanelli, Rom the Space Knight. The series kicks off on Free Comic Book Day and then goes monthly from July forward. I’ve wanted this one forever (as the decor in my office makes very clear) so I can’t wait to get it back out into the world.
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Workspaces graphic by Grant Shorter.