It’s been awhile since my last Best Of Webcomics Interview and I’m feeling it needs more of an anecdotal intro. So here it goes:
I went to college at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I took up surfing… oh, and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. On the first day, I was greeted by the professor with this statement: “Welcome to the ‘Most Depressing’ major you could have chosen.” And, once I learned about many of the issues that face the Earth and its inhabitants in terms of environmental degradation, socio-political choices that change ecosystems, etc., that statement holds true.
The reason I bring this up is that the more we look at what is happening to the Earth, the harder it is to stay positive. That is where humor and the comic, Not My Earth, Not My Problem, comes into play. We can scream all we want at others, demanding that they stop what they are doing and wake up. But, using force often attracts more force, and the desired response of taking such emotionally-charged, vocal action usually backfires with resistance. That is why using humor as a vehicle to introduce deep issues such as mass extinction or poisoned drinking water is one of the best avenues to introduce ecological concerns to the masses.
I really don’t recall exactly how I came across Not My Earth, Not My Problem (NMENMP), but have been following Ryan Gill and his comics for over a year on Facebook. NMENMP really stood out to me because of the feeling I receive from the comics: the idea that “hey, I care, and guys, this stuff is a real concern.” From Earth’s complete destruction, to global warming, to corporate greed-induced snafu’s, Ryan successfully presents in a lightened manner that these are issues that we all should do something about. In addition to his own works, Ryan curates some of the best environmentally-related comics out there.
Interview with Ryan Gill, creator of Not My Earth, Not My Problem:
Q. You mention you’ve been creating comics since high school. What was the instigating force behind drawing comics during those years?
It was way easier than writing articles in the school newspaper. I got my whole idea across with just some lines and shapes. Unfortunately I wasn’t much on an artist; they we’re crudely drawn, to say the least.
Q. What artists/cartoonists have inspired you and why?
Gary Larson – he has always had a way of making everyone look really stupid. I think that’s important to remember: at some point, we’re all really stupid.
Q. How do you feel your degree in graphic design has helped you with your career in comics?
The comics are a great way to exercise the design techniques I’ve learned over the years – and the degree is what helped me learn… how to learn… and teach myself. Sometimes my own comics teach me new design techniques.
Q. Environmental and socio-political issues face us all, but not everyone chooses to have these problems in sight and in mind. What was the deciding factor in dedicating your entire comic, Not My Earth, Not My Problem (NMENMP) to these important concerns?
I had this job working for a big box company super store – I sat in a room and dealt with broken things, and hazardous materials. The disposal of the materials was an issue for me and the various corporate managers:
Corporate would have a problem with me having services to collect items like fluorescent tubes for recycling. They preferred I tossed them in the dumpster – which at the time WAS legal in the state of New Hampshire.
They also preferred I tossed 42 grills in the same dumpster (vs a recycling truck where people may steal the grill parts).
After an entire pallet of caulking went into the dumpster (because of a logo change) – I decided the least I could do with my environmental opinions were to make a bunch of comics and stickers.
Actually, it started with the stickers – and the comics were merely filler for social media. After the first few had positive reactions, the site clearly shifted towards the comics.
The name came from the famous Dan Deacon Drinking from Cups video – I somehow started walking around work pretending to be an idiot – mumbling “not my earth not my problem” in the same meat-head accent as in the video. Honestly, who can actually say that? A space alien? Or a complete idiot.
Q. I chose to get a BA in Environmental Studies, which became one of the most depressing things I have ever done. What do you do you keep inspired and stay positive when your comic requires that you focus on the negative impact humans have on our eco-system and the distress in our socio-political climate?
You are creating a social product of art and design – that’s the driving force. That could be positive – if you consider the outcome. I feel great when I think I have a message – and others agree.
It doesn’t bother me if satire is the vehicle; there’s a million ways to get to people and I’m choosing one.
If the topic is a particularly hard one, you could look at the comic as a work of art and design, lines and shapes.
Whatever works. It’s more important to finish the comic and get it out there. I don’t sit on one for more than a day or two.
It also helps if there is another dude out there with your exact name working for horrible causes – and all you can think about is rising above him – and cleaning your name up.
Q. What do you feel are the top environmental/political issues you hope that people start to take seriously?
I’m honestly trying the wittiest ways I can think of to bring any environmental topic to anyone’s attention. Oddly put, I’m focusing on general awareness.
Q. If a NMEMP comic inspired a reader to take action, what type of action would be your desired outcome?
Understanding that something isn’t right.
Q. What are some of your all-time favorite responses NMENMP has received from fans and supporters?
It’s mostly people asking for certain comics – sometimes they provide me a ‘rough draft.’ And those are way fun to look at.
Q. What has been your most successful approach to comments from global-warming deniers and other climate change nay-sayers?
For all I know, some 12 year old is trying to get the best of me; that’s what I assume when I read any of those online comments. It’s not dismissive; it’s a matter of knowing when to choose your battles.
Q. If you could be sure that policy makers would see a few of your comics, which comics would you send them?
Q. By day, you do graphic design, by night, you are comic. What else do you fit into your busy schedule?
Mostly Drums. Which reminds me, I need to plant some trees.
Q. What upcoming project is in the foreseeable future for NMENMP?
Q. Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to add?