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Comic artist lives the dream, charting a career his parents thought sketchy

Most comic book stories start the moment the super hero gets powers — a bolt of lightning, a radioactive spider bite. Ottawa illustrator Ronn Sutton remembers exactly when he decided to get into the business, his own kind of bite.

“I got turned onto comics when I was a kid. I was buying comics voraciously, buying everything I could get my hands on,” says Sutton. “When I discovered Flash Gordon #1, which was drawn by Al Williamson, it sort of changed my life and I think that was the moment I decided I wanted to draw comic books.”

But convincing his parents he wanted to make a living drawing comic books was no easy task.

“It was a pretty unpopular thought,” Sutton admits.

“First of all, it was the late ’60s, early ’70s that I was getting into all this stuff and just 10 or 15 years before, there had been this big North American movement to ban comic books, there were comic book burnings and everything else.”

Undeterred, Sutton moved to New York City when he was 19 to study under his favourite artist, Bernie Wrightson, the co-creator of DC Comic’s Swamp Thing, and American artist Jeffrey Jones.

“They were two of my idols,” he says.

After spending time in The Big Apple, Sutton moved back to Canada, where he’s been working on a number of high profile projects over the years.

He is perhaps best known for his drawings of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, which he drew for nine years, and his recent work on the Honey West comics.

Sutton is working now on a series called The Loxleys and the War of 1812.

Drawing each panel of a comic book is painstaking work but Sutton says paying close attention to detail is what makes a comic book make sense.

“If two characters are talking and, all of a sudden, one of them picks up a knife and stabs the other one, you don’t want to do it like that. You want to start showing that the knife is in the room, panels before, so the reader can see something is coming up so things aren’t happening out of nowhere,” he explains.

“It’s much more than just plain illustration; it’s literally storytelling. Each picture you’re drawing has to relate to the next picture and you are really trying to set things up.”

Online

•    To check out some of Ronn Sutton’s artwork, visit ronnsutton.com.

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