Larry Stroman: Seeing the World in a Different Perspective
I’m here at Garden State Comic Fest with artist Larry Stroman, who is most well known for his work on The Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, Alien Legion and is the co-creator of Tribe, the best-selling African-American comic of all time. Larry, I’d like to ask you a few questions.
Larry Stroman: Alright.
I read that you would get comics from your brother or from friends when you were a kid. What kind of comics did you get from them?
Larry: Well, my brother at the time he loved all kinds of comics. Marvel, DC comics, Archie comics – it didn’t matter to him. I mean he just loved reading comic books. So, he’d go to buy a whole stack of the books and he used to just throw them away. Then it got to a point where, because I showed interest in the art that was in the book, he said that he was just gonna give them to me. And that’s how I first got to know how to draw. That’s how I learned how to read. Because I had dyslexia growing up, so, I had trouble learning how to read. But because I loved the pictures so much in comics, that’s why I used to spent most of my time – to this day, I read those comics.
Do you still have time to read comics or are you too busy?
Larry: I read them every once in a while, not a whole lot. You know, I have a family to take care, 2 dogs and you got a house you got to take care, so I spend a lot of time on that kind of stuff, plus my regular art that I do. I read comics when I get a chance to, but mostly at the planes or I got a day off or stuff like that.
You’re known for using graphic design in your art and people say that you use unusual perspectives in your comics. How is it different from the way comics are usually drawn and how did you develop your style?
Larry: Style… I don’t really know how to define how you develop style. Style mostly comes from you having trouble figuring out a problem. So, you kind of create your own way of figuring out the problem. Like I used to have trouble drawing hair. So, I figured if I take the hair and do all these crazy designs with the hair, then that’s my excuse, I’m not having to learn how to draw hair. But people ended up liking it, and as a result of people liking it, I still to this day just go hair like that. I can draw hair better now than I did back then, but I just still just do the crazy design. So, design thing comes out of that was just something that I was always interested in it. I always felt that if I ever had an opportunity to do it, then I would. So, when I had that opportunity to do it in a comic book, I would put that in as much as I could. Not really having any idea of how fans would respond to it, but they respond to it very well, so like I said, I’ve been doing that ever since. As far as the traditional way: I’ve done it, I’ve done that, but that’s not as interesting to me as doing a lot of interesting designs.
I read that you draw the end of your comic first. How does that help you tell your story the way you want to?
Larry: I don’t necessarily draw the end of it first. What I do is, I draw the first couple of pages and then I draw the last couple pages. The reason for that is, after you’ve gone through almost a month of drawing a book, you start to get kind of tired and you start losing concentration. So, I figured if, when I’m real into it, if I draw the front and I draw the back, because I want people could leave the book having a good impression. So, when you have the energy and the excitement to do that, it’s better to just to do it in those important parts, which is the front and the back of the book. And everything else you just kind of fill in.
Nice strategy! You and Todd Johnson created Tribe, which is the best-selling African-American comic of all time. Our friend Pheerooan taught me about how important it is to have everyone represented in comics – that it’s important for everyone to see that heroes can look like them, too. Why do you think there aren’t more African-American comic book heroes?
Larry: There are! But there are not a lot a mainstream. Why? I have no idea. But there are a lot of independent books that have the main characters are black characters, and why there are not more, I have no idea.
They deserve to be in more comics.
With all your success with Tribe, have you thought about creating a new hero of your own?
I do all the time, but sometimes it’s just the right time – and you having actually time to do it while you’re doing all your regular work. So I’m pretty much focused on doing regular work right now.
I read that you turned down a job with someone who is part of all that Comicsgate stuff. Have you led your career that way, by carefully choosing the people you want to work with, or is that something you’ve thought about more as you’ve gotten older?
Larry: The thing with the Comicsgate thing is I didn’t really understand what it was. The only thing that I knew about it was that there was people on both sides arguing with each other and calling each other names and stuff like that. I didn’t want to be involved with anything like that. Since that time, I’ve been contacted by a number of people in the Comicsgate group and they were nice to me in everything. But, because of all the negativity that was kind of brought to that whole thing, that’s the reason why I don’t want to have anything to do with it. It has nothing to do with people being creators or anything like that. It’s just because of the negativity I was involved in that whole movement.
Good choice. This past year, you’ve mostly worked on variant covers. Do you have something else you’re working on that hasn’t come out yet or are you too busy to do more?
Larry: I have a couple of books that I’m working on, but they’re books I can’t talk about right now. The variant covers, I just like doing the variant covers. It gives me a chance to draw different characters at one time and put all my energy into just drawing the cover. So that is pretty much whatI do.
Thanks for answering my questions, it was really nice talking with you!
Larry: Thank you very much! Thanks.