Arts & Culture

Local colour from Ottawa Comiccon: Q+A with artist Ronn Sutton

Ottawa is getting animated. In honour of Ottawa Comiccon (May 13 to 15), Ottawa Magazine continues to pull back the mask on the city’s homegrown comic book gurus.

Today, Ronn Sutton, a comic artist, designer and motion-graphic illustrator whose work includes Natural Born Outlaws (History Channel), Honey West, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Claypool Comics):


Q: Which of your own comic creations are you most proud?

A: Two of them really for different reasons. First of all, I drew Elvira, Mistress of The Dark comic book for nearly nine years, penciling nearly 50 different  stories. It was based on the live-action macabre character created by Cassandra Peterson for TV and movies. I enjoyed  working on it because it was a humour comic for kids and adults alike, in mostly non-continued story lines — so stories were generally complete in any single issue. My partner, Janet Hetherington, wrote many Elvira scripts, so she would gear her scripts to the things I liked to draw. Its unlikely I’ll ever have the opportunity to draw another single character project for that long again given the turn-over nature of comics creative teams nowadays.

More recently, a year ago Motorbooks published Lucifers Sword MC: Life & Death In An Outlaw Motorcycle Club which was a 96-page graphic novel that I drew. It was written by Phil Cross based on his experiences as a member of the Hells Angels for more than 40 years. I had five months to pencil and ink the pages, which required me to turn out a finished page of artwork every 36 hours. I’m enormously proud of the project. Its set in the 1960s and I worked very hard to make sure that the motorcycles, cars, clothing, etc. were accurate to the era. Much like the Honey West comic series I drew, also set in the 1960s, where much of the comic’s charm is defined by its accurate portrayal of the times.

I’ve been drawing comics since 1972, and have drawn horror, humour, adventure, historical, true-life, science fiction, westerns, funny animal and even romance comics, so I’ve had a wide range of experience. I just drew two weeks worth of the long-running newspaper comic strip Rex Morgan M.D. recently, to help the regular artist get a little ahead of deadline.

Elvira by local comic guru Ronn Sutton, appearing at Ottawa Comiccon.
Elvira by local comic guru Ronn Sutton, appearing at Ottawa Comiccon.

Q: Who are your favourite homegrown Ottawa comic book artists, and why?

A: My partner Janet Hetherington and I have worked on a number of projects together including Elvira, the Jannie Weezie newspaper comic strip, Spinnerette and others. She’s also written scripts for a number of other popular artists including Steve Rude, John Heebink, and Tod Smith. She also draws comics that she’s written herself, including her series Eternal Romance which were “dating horror stories”.

I also admire the artwork of Geof Isherwood, who has drawn a number of characters over the years including Conan the Barbarian and Dr. Strange. Like myself, he draws in a fairly realistic style and we’ve had the opportunity to work on something together.

Ron Sutton's Elvira. The local comic guru appears at Ottawa Comiccon.
Ronn Sutton’s Elvira. The local comic guru appears at Ottawa Comiccon.

Q: If you were a superhero and could have one superpower, what would it be?

A: Possibly the ability to freeze time so that I wouldn’t have to sweat over deadlines. I could simply take all the time in the world and get each drawing done to my own satisfaction.

Q: If you could have a secret superhero lair somewhere in Ottawa, where would it be?

A: I’d choose my own current Ottawa South studio. Tucked in our house’s basement, I’m happily isolated from the world, surrounded by the comics, toys and artwork I love. I toil away on comic art and illustrations on a daily basis, as I have done for years and years, with very rarely a visitor — so it must already be a secret lair.

Ronn Sutton is a guest at Ottawa Comiccon. We also spoke to his partner Janet Hetherington earlier this week.