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Bob Byrne – Comic Book Hero

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Sarah Downey

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Writing.ie got a glimpse into the weird, wonderful and sometimes manic world of comic book genius, Bob Byrne.

Bob Byrne is a well-known comic book writer, artist and self-publisher. Born and bred in Co. Dublin, he now resides and works in the enviable Spanish sun of Murcia.  Bob was among the first publishers of Irish comics and helped found the growing industry here.

It all kicked off with his self-published series MBLEH! and the free pocket-sized comic, The Shiznit. He has since created the children’s book,Robots Don’t Cry, published by The O’Brien Press and brought us the impressive graphic novel Mister Amperduke.  Byrne has contributed to a number of publications including 2000 AD with the popular series Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales and currently produces the weekly webcomic Spazzmoid on his colourful website.

Bob’s interest in comics started with The Beano, Whizzer and Chips, and his parents’ collection of Mad Magazine.  “There were always comics in the house.  I moved onto 2000 ADwhen I was 11 and then on to American and Japanese comics after that” he recalls.  The young Byrne drew non-stop and was always encouraged in his creative pursuits, “All kids are creative really and then for whatever reason they stop or become inhibited.” This, however, was not the case for Bob who continues to imagine, draw and create.

Byrne cites the Spanish/Mexican artist Sergio Aragones as his biggest influence as he manages to draw three times quicker and fits three times more art on a page than the average artist.  “Every time I see his stuff I laugh and I want to draw. It’s so simple and free”. A world-renowned cartoonist and writer famed for his wordless work, Aragones appealed immensely to Bob, who also creates some fascinating wordless work. He says,

learn-comics-final2-coloured

“I feel comics use too many words in general, it’s a graphic medium and the speech balloons are largely redundant in most cases. The pictures should be able to carry the story. Plus it’s more of a challenge.”

Necessity was the mother of invention for Bob. After sending submissions everywhere and failing to make much progress, Bob set about creating his own comic from existing material and  MBLEH!was born in 2002.  “Nothing could stop me. Granted the content wasn’t up to much but it was a great learning experience” he says. Those early issues took him up to 3 or 4 months each to create, all while holding down his day job –  but they would ultimately be his big break.

Bob has since had a foray into the world of children’s books with 2006’s Robots Don’t Cry. “I have loads of ideas for children’s books so when I had the opportunity to do one I jumped at it. Writing and drawing it was the same process as the other work I’ve done. I originally wrote the whole thing in rhyme but the publishers thought it was too corny.” Following on from the book’s success, he’s planning on releasing more in the very near future.

When asked his favourite character in his own work, he replies “Me! Right now I love making comics about my life. I started a webcomic called Spazzmoid and I’ve been blown away with the reaction. Other than myself my favourite character is Mister Amperduke.” Judging by all the praise he’s receiving from fans,RobotsDontCry Byrne is indeed proving to be one of his most popular characters.

These days Bob tries to keep a pen and paper handy for jotting down ideas when inspiration strikes but technology is fast taking over.  “Now with the iPad and iPhone I can actually begin to lay out and draw the comics while I’m away from the studio. It’s not very social to be fiddling with an iPhone in a restaurant but it has to be done.”

So does Bob have any pearls of wisdom for those wishing to get into the world of comics? “Like all disciplines it takes practice, practice and more practice. Plus a generous chunk of luck. I’d recommend any aspiring writers or artists to first get a website and a blog so you gather interest, get feedback and meet potential collaborators. Going to comic conventions to get your portfolio reviewed is an exhausting process for all involved, but people say it really works.”

Bob’s currently working on his popular weekly webcomic Spazzmoid and has just launched a new website with an iPhone and iPad app that teaches Japanese. “It sounds silly but it really works,http://www.drmoku.com/.” He’s also making an exciting new children’s book for the iPad, which he says “is all coming along nicely.”

You can find Bob Byrne’s hilarious musings, webcomic Spazzmoid and blog at http://clamnuts.com/

About the author

© Sarah Downey for writing.ie

Bob Byrne is the writer and creator of MBLEH! (2003), The Shiznit (2005-06), Robots Don’t Cry (2006),Mister Amperduke (2008), Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales (2008) and Spazzmoid (2008-)

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