Saturday, January 31, 2009

New York Artist Showcase: Ryan Dunlavey at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing one of Pete's college buddies from Syracuse University - Ryan Dunlavey (website) - speak at a Q&A on his artistic comic book work at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The exhibition runs until February 15, 2009. Dunlavey co-wrote a series of comics with another friend of Pete's, Fred Van Lente (website), for Evil Twin comics. One series took advantage of Van Lente's research on philosophers throughout the ages called "Action Philosophers," while another tackled the actual history of Comic Books itself, "Comic Book Comics." Dunlavey and Van Lente did an issue of "Tales from The Crypt" together as well.

Ryan Dunlavey (left) and Jim Salicrup

The Q&A featured both Dunlavey and Van Lente, and was hosted by Jim Salicrup, best known for being an editor for Marvel and current Editor-in-Chief at Papercutz. Salicrup (MySpace profile) is also a trustee of MoCCA itself, the small but well organized gallery of original art and memorabilia of comic strip and comic book art and history. I had heard of MoCCA through TimeOut New York listings and had always wanted to go, so this was the perfect reason to go and support a friend and check out the museum in one visit. In this gallery, Dunlavey has a number of original sketches, as well as a wide screen TV featuring a slide show of many of the final inked pages found in his books.

Left to Right: Ryan Dunlavey, Jim Salicrup, Fred Van Lente

Dunlavey's work, inspired by Van Lente's writing, is incredibly humorous and features a great pastiche of pop culture icons and reinterperetation of past styles. He is able to recreate a number of familiar artists' styles - from Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" to Berkeley Breathed "Bloom County" - and make mad, irreverant twisted stories on the original characters, sometimes mixed with movie or comic book references. One that made me laugh was a reinvention of the "Peanuts" characters as "X-Men" children. In this, Charlie Brown tried to achieve athletic greatness one last time and became Professor Xavier by the end in a sad football kicking accident. Another strip features a cartoon Orlando Bloom from "Lord of the Rings" visiting Opus and friends.

On the other hand, Dunlavey has his own simple comic book drawing style all his own, and is able to capture historical and fictional characters visually with very straightforward but energetic lines. Wonderfully, nothing is too sacred for Dunlavey and Van Lente...they choose to grab the twisted humor of any pop culture reference or historic event/character and run with it. Pete bought #1 of the "Action Philosophers" series and was already giggling at it on the subway ride home.

Page from "Action Philosophers" Volume 1, seen here.

Pete also saw a few other friends from his comic book club-Syracuse University years, so all in all it was a great reunion night and celebration of comic book art and creativity.

To purchase "Action Philosophers" Vol 1, go here. And Volume 2, and Volume 3 are also available through You can also purchase other Evil Twin Comics books from

From the website:
The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art - MoCCA - is pleased to present an exhibition of New York artist Ryan Dunlavey. His illustrations and comic strips have appeared in MAD, Wizard, ToyFare, The Princeton Review, Time Out New York, Royal Flush, and Disney Adventures...Dunlavey is a Brooklyn based cartoonist best known as the artist and co-creator of Action Philosophers. He attended Syracuse University, where he created the comic strip Evil Twin for the Daily Orange student newspaper. After leaving college he continued Evil Twin as a series of self-published mini-comics. In 1995 he relocated to New York City to pursue an illustration career. He was a graphic designer at Wizard Magazine for several years and would later create hundreds of original illustrations for them as a freelancer. In 1998 he illustrated a graphic novel adaptation of Moby Dick for Schoolastic Books and created a second self-published mini comic series - Tommy Atomic - which would eventually become a feature in Royal Flush magazine.

In 2002 he co-created Action Philosophers with his friend Fred Van Lente, which went on to win the Xeric Grant and saw publication of its first issue in 2005. The series ran nine issues, gained considerable critical acclaim and won a 2007 American Library Award. In early 2008, Dunlavey and Van Lente teamed up again to self-publish a second non-fiction humor series - Comic Book Comics - a cartoon history of the American comics industry from 1896 through the present day. The series is currently in progress and scheduled to be completed in 2009.

Special thanks to Evil Twin Comics for their support of New York Artist Showcase: Ryan Dunlavey.
Additional supprt from the Will and Ann Eisner Foundation and the members of MoCCA."

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