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To Better Know a Renegade: Ben Rankel

Sean Tonelli - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When I first started working with Renegade there had always been one book that stood out to me. It combined my love of mystery, history and natural disasters. I had been so enthralled by this book that my family and I took a trip to Frank, Alberta, travelling 5 hours just to get a sneak peak into this tale that arrived in bits and pieces to my Dropbox. When I stood at the base of the fallen mountain, I was humbled by the destructive power of nature. I also knew I just had to read Ben Rankel’s ogn debut FRANK. Well, good things come to those who wait and two years later I finally have my hardcover copy next to me on my nightstand. Now, with the dust (almost) settled after its whirlwind release, I managed to get Ben to sit down with me for the next installment of…

To Better Know a Renegade. Ben Rankel is a comic book artist & writer. His debut graphic novel, FRANK is a historical mystery set in one of Canada’s worst natural disasters. His comic work has also appeared in Avenue Magazine and at the Roq La Rue gallery in Seattle, Washington. His comic, illustration and design work on Sidney York’s 2015 album <3s (HEARTS) was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award. He has also published a handful of short comics and pin-up art through various comic book companies including Image Comics, IDW, Monkey Brain and Penny Farthing Press.

Sean: How did you get started as an artist?

Ben: Like most people who answer this question, I’ve always drawn. I’ve been doodling on everything since childhood. At some point I decided I should be some sort of artist as a career and so I attended ACAD a couple of times. I did a bunch of webcomics in my early twenties, then some small print stuff in my mid-late twenties. I guess I didn’t really get serious until I left my day job a few years back to make FRANK.

Sean: Who inspires you?

Ben: My partner Fiona is a huge influence, inspiration and mentor in making comics. Outside of people I’m married to but still inside comics I’m a wildly inspired by Becky Cloonan, Flavia Biondi, Paul Pope, Jamie Hewlett, Asaf Hanuka, Tomar Hanuka, Osamu Tezuka, Adrian Tomine, and definitely Chester Brown, all part of a not-so-short list.

Sean: What are some secrets to your creative process?

Ben: I’m not sure I have any secrets. I guess an important lesson was realizing those down moments, when I’m watching a show or reading my phone on the couch when my brain tells me I should be drawing? Those are actually important parts of the creative process I think.

Sean: Any upcoming projects that you would like to tell readers about?

Ben: For now, I’m just spending time promoting FRANK and enjoying life without an impending deadline for the first time in 3 years. I’ve got a few projects in mind after that but it’s too early to talk about them. ;)

Sean: What are some of your favourite tools? Pens, inks, programs?

Ben: I drew FRANK on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 1, so I guess that’s my favourite for now. I also enjoy doodling with Lammy nib pens and Pilot Fineliners. Actually, the digital linework in FRANK was an attempt to replicate the look and feel of drawing with a black Pilot Fineliner. I wonder if I succeeded...

Sean: Any advice for up and comers?

Ben: Start drawing with intent to learn, and to get better. That means drawing from life, use reference etc. It also means finishing your drawings and not just quitting them because they aren’t perfect. They never will be. You can also just start making comics. Right now. Nothing’s stopping you! Don’t let “skill level = not high enough” mindset hold you back. The more you draw and create comics (and finish things and look for ways to improve) the more you’ll level up!

FRANK is available today at your local comic book store, online and in bookstores.