Comic Artist Farel Dalrymple

Farel Dalrymple is an American artist an alternative comics creator best know for his award winning Pop Gun War series. His work has been published by Dark Horse, Image, Marvel, and DC comics among others. Cell Vision correspondent Nick Gazin interviews Farel and discusses his latest work.

by Nick Gazin

Photo above by Sean Edgar. All images below by Farel Dalrymple, excerpted from'Proxima Centauri'.

I first met Farel Dalrymple back in 2001 when I was eighteen. Farel worked the counter at Alt.Coffee in Manhattan’s East Village. He was this all American guy from Oklahoma with an eternally boyish face perched atop a tall man’s body. He would sit behind the counter at Alt.Coffee drawing things and selling coffee to some of the oddest people I’ve ever known in a version of the neighborhood that hasn’t existed for at least fifteen years. Farel grew up pretty seriously Christian and remained that way for at least a short time into his time as a New Yorker. After a few years of friendship he gave me a copy of his first published comic, a 3D Christian comic called Behold 3D. I don’t think he was still an ardent church goer by the time I met him, but I think that much like punk, Christianity is a great thing to experience but not get stuck in.

His first mature work was a series called Pop Gun War about a little black boy with angel wings who flew around a fantasy version of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Some of the same strange people and artists that lurked around Alt.Coffee would appear in this comic.

Farel was also one of the founding members of the Meathaus Collective. Although people don’t remember Meathaus, about three quarters of its members became the reigning stars in their fields. James Jean, Kenichi Hoshine and Mu Pan all became great and celebrated painters. Tomer Hanuka became one of the most in demand editorial illustrators in the fading field of illustration. Angry Jim, Chris McD and some of the others went on to do a lot of stuff in animation. Farel stayed in comics.

He went on to draw a comic about Jewish organized crime called Caper for DC which was written by Judd Winick, one time star of MTV’s The Real World. He also drew a comic for Marvel called Omega: The Unknown, written by big deal novelist Jonathan Lethem.

A few years ago he made a very fun graphic novel called The Wrenchies which was about a bunch of gangs of teenagers in a dystopic future. I’m leaving out some of the comics he’s made, just mentioning my personal highlights. You can do your own research if you want a complete Farel Dalrymple archive.

Most recently Farel wrote and drew a series for Image Comics called Proxima Centauri, which serves as a sequel to The Wrenchies. I find it very difficult to follow the story of Proxima Centauri because I have been perma-stoned for the last couple of years, but I also do not mind that I don’t know what’s going on, because I have been perma-stoned for the last couple of years.

The comic presents some of the most beautiful, inviting, and exciting pages that I’ve seen in years. Farel makes the kind of work that makes you immediately want to start drawing. He draws the way a child draws, but if that child drew beautifully. He creates multi-dimensional environs and moments. The story of this book is about a “teenage wizard adventurer trying to get home from a far away sci-fi bunker.” You can embrace the story or just accept Farel’s comics as these little moments. What if the relationships and moments we see in David Hockney paintings were expanded so we could see a whole little scene with those people? To me that’s what Farel does. I love him and if you love weed and science fiction I would recommend getting Proxima Centauri from Image Comics.

I interviewed Farel both about this book and just to check in with my friend from the old days.

CELL VISION: Do you see yourself continuing stories within the universe you've created with The Wrenchies, It Will All Hurt, and Proxima Centauri?

FAREL DALRYMPLE: Yeah, I’m working on a new series right now with Robot Tod from It Will All Hurt. I’m also starting on Pop Gun War 3 and have plans for more volumes of Proxima Centauri. They are all tied together but take place in different times, tones, and settings. That was pretty much the plan from the first Pop Gun War to have all these characters popping up in each other’s stories.

CELL VISION: What are you trying to make the reader think and feel with Proxima Centauri?
What I get from it is an extreme sense of play, like building a fort out of Legos or pillows and then creating characters. There's an intensely childlike feeling to the storytelling that I find very satisfying. There's also the beautiful art and lettering,I love staring at each page.

FAREL DALRYMPLE: As someone who has spent time with Lego and pillow forts, I really appreciate that. Proxima Centauri I set out to keep it fast paced, limited panels, and more open than my previous work. It was intended to be sort of a hybrid of the more illustrative Pop Gun War and the loose sketchy quality of It Will All Hurt with the execution and different types of coloring reflecting the weird soft psychedelic chaos of the spectral zone Sherwood and the others are trapped in. Also I wanted to be free to experiment with different unconventional ways of telling a space fantasy story. Some pages work better than others and I think at times the shifts can be a little jarring. Ultimately I was hoping it would be fun to read, even with the main character acting like a whiny brat constantly.

CELL VISION: What works inspired Proxima Centauri? Any particular sci-fi authors?

FAREL DALRYMPLE: There a bunch of science fiction authors I enjoy, like David Marusek, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ursula K. Le Guin but my comic work and, at least visually, this work was very inspired by Moebius and Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, and this amazing book, Stages of Rot by Linnea Sterte, Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s Ancestor, Simon Roy’s Habitat, Tatsuyuki Tanaka's Cannabis Works, No. 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto, pretty much all of Brandon Graham’s stuff. All those guys are better at doing sci fi than me. My work is more like weird space fantasy. I was attempting to make a tale about an entitled teenager dealing with obsession and loneliness and all the hormones one might have at that point in life, sort of an emo space opera. Like Sherwood has all this power but doesn’t want to accept responsibility or face reality. It's basically all of my middle aged neurosis projected into this sucker who ends up helping destroy the world.

CELL VISION: I often forget what the overarching plot of a comic is, but I still feel engaged. It feels like a satisfying dream. There's a beautifully realized sci-fi clubhouse and a focus on small interactions between characters. How do you describe Proxima Centauri when people ask you to tell them what it's about?

FAREL DALRYMPLE: I tell them something similar to: A space fantasy about a teenager trapped in a spectral zone inside this dimensional gateway hub. He’s trying to escape back to earth and find his brother and deal with the loneliness and tumultuous teenage feelings, as well as the challenges of relationships and strange inhabitants of the zone. More than all my other work, I have had people tell me this book is confusing. I wasn’t trying to be deliberately obtuse. I wanted people to work for it a little bit, I was hoping it would all make sense and still be fun to look at. I think it has more to do with the shifting styles and some time-jumping than plot. So I kind of feel like I failed with this book as far as the storytelling goes. A few peers whose opinions I really trust told me they get it , which is the most important thing. But I would love it if my work easily appealed to the masses. Like when I was making it, I kept thinking about how Proxima Centauri might make a fun little video game. I don’t really play video games though, so that shows what I know.

CELL VISION: I think the confusing story makes it a little harder to explain to other people, but it doesn't make it unpleasing. Life is confusing. I think the straightforward nature of popular storytelling can sometimes feel dishonest as a representation of reality. Do you feel confused by life? Are you on a straight path?

FAREL DALRYMPLE: I do feel very confused by life. It's a constant challenge for me to let certain things go and focus on what really matters. it's that old thing about the more you learn the more you realize you know nothing. I don't know about paths but it doesn't feel like it has been very straight. lots of stumbling around in the dark stubbing my toe and looking for my keys.

Check out more Farel Dalrymple’s work on his website:

fareldalrymple.com