Once again, I can thank the Kayfabe guys for introducing me to, yet another, badass cartoonist. The minute I laid eyes on Marra's work, I knew I had to check it out. I started with AMERICAN BLOOD and let me tell you, it's not for the fain of heart. He is without a doubt, one of this generations "outlaw" cartoonists. His work is visceral and humorous at the same time. If you aren't familiar with his work, I highly suggest checking out the aforementioned book and then gathering up anything else after that, they're all great. With his busy schedule, he was kind enough to chat for a sec, so I could share with all of you a little bit about him.
RYAN: First off, for those that may not be familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?
BEN: My name is Benjamin Marra. I'm a cartoonist and illustrator. My books are NIGHT BUSINESS, AMERICAN BLOOD, and TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror), all published by Fantagraphics. I do a daily strip on my Instagram account called WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY.
RYAN: When did you first get into cartooning?
BEN: I'd have to say be when I was a kid at some point. I was deeply into Saturday Morning cartoons and cartoons after school. I learned to read from TINTIN comics. I've been drawing all my life so drawing comics and "cartoon" characters have always been an interest since I first started being interested in things.
RYAN: You have a very unique/outlaw visual style, who were some of your artistic influences?
BEN: It depends on which style you're talking about. If it's NIGHT BUSINESS, then it's Paul Gulacy, Raymond Pettibon, Marc Laming. If it's RIPPER AND FRIENDS or WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY then it's Gary Panter, King Terry, or Ebisu Yoshikazu. If it's TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) then It's Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, and CRIME DOES NOT PAY comics.
RYAN: Having recently discovered your work, I picked up AMERICAN BLOOD first, which was fucking insane. Where do you draw your inspiration from when coming up with these insane ideas?
BEN: Mostly genre movies. But with RIPPER AND FRIENDS, it was Saturday Morning Cartoons and heta-uma art.
RYAN: Since you work on your books alone, can you walk me through your process when starting up a new project?
BEN: Well, it's always changing, but it usually boils down to having an idea I can't get out of my head, write an outline, draw page thumbnails, write the dialogue, pencil the pages, ink, color if I have to.
RYAN: Most of your work is through Fantagraphics, how did you hook up with them to publish your stuff?
BEN: I was self-publishing my comics and bringing them around to conventions and over the years got to know Eric Reynolds. We talked a lot about doing a book together and then finally got around to it one day. It was very organic.
RYAN: Do you do cartooning full time, or do you have a "9-5 job"?
BEN: I've always had a day job. I used to work for MLB.com full time, then part-time. Then because of covid-19, I was laid off. I have a bunch of freelance illustration assignments that I guess you could consider is a full-time job. I can't make a living from making comics. But I love making them.
RYAN: What your craziest convention experience?
BEN: Comic conventions in my experience are usually pretty tame. I don't really have a specific interaction or isolated experience at a convention that was too crazy. Overall though I went to San Diego Comic Con with Ed Piskor. He was good enough to invite me along when he was a special guest. So I got to have all those perks, getting flown out, free hotel room, etc. It was the best time I've ever had at a con.
RYAN: Do you have any other projects in the works? BEN: Working on my daily strip WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY is what I've got currently. Then there's a bunch of unannounced projects I can't talk about. Hopefully, you'll hear about them soon. RYAN: For all the readers out there, where can they follow you to learn about any projects you might be working on?