Dublin Comic-Con 2018 took place on the 11th and 12th of August in the Convention Centre, Dublin. The ground floor was filled with stalls full to the brim with comics and merchandise. On the first floor lay Artists Alley, with stalls ran by Irish comics Indie talent. Ben Hennessy is a freelance illustrator, storyboard artist, and character designer. He is the creator of his self-published comic CARRIE AND RUFUS. He was selling prints, providing commissions, and copies of CARRIE AND RUFUS #1. We caught up with Ben after the Con. 

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Dublin Comic-Con

ComicsVerse (CV): First of all, how was Dublin Comic Con for you?

Ben Hennessy (BH): Dublin Comic Con was a blast. Thought it would be slower than previous years for me as I’m late trying to get the second issue of my book CARRIE AND RUFUS together, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I was doing sketches, signing issues and prints right up until the end of the con. I had lots of people approach my table too and ask about issue 2 of CARRIE AND RUFUS who are happy to wait until it’s ready, which was really nice to hear. Hopefully, they won’t have to wait much longer, it’s nearly ready.

Ben Hennessy – Background

CV: You’re a storyboard artist and character designer. How did you get into that line of work?

BH: I’ve always wanted to draw for a living, specifically comics. When I was trying to find out how to make drawing a viable career option, I was pointed in the direction of Ballyfermot College. I studied animation there for 5 years and chose it as it had such a huge focus on draughtsmanship. Figured I could apply those skills to working in comics. I enjoyed classical animation, character design, life drawing and obviously story-boarding. I threw as much of myself as possible into traditional drawing. In hindsight, I should have put some effort into digital drawing, but hindsight is always 20/20.  

I left college in 2008. It was peak recession. Half the country seemed to either be in Australia or in the process of going there. There wasn’t much work. A lot of studios could only offer unpaid internships. 99% of work going was all digital, which due to my decisions in college left me massively outdated and in a weird position as a young artist with only old-school skills.  One studio was hiring traditional animators and was even using a similar technique that I had used in my final student film. I interviewed and I got the job, learned a lot, I got to work with some really great and talented people. Over the next year, I tried to up-skill digitally. It eventually paid off and that same studio gave me my first story-boarding job.

From there it was job to job. I worked a lot, took every job and opportunity that came my way until I was getting enough work consistently that I felt like I could take my foot off the accelerator a bit.

Ben Hennessy
Image courtesy of Ben Hennessy

Pegbar

CV: You helped set up Pegbar, an animation social networking. What is it about animation that you love?

BH: Well Pegbar quite fittingly circles back to one of my favorite things about working in animation, the people. I’ve made friends in this industry, friends that I’ve really come to trust, look to for advice and share a laugh with.  

Animation is a tough slog, so it’s best to surround yourself with good people. I’ve been lucky to work with some really great people and they know how to produce some really nice work.

Making nice shows is right up there after that. Animation is a long process. It’s always rewarding seeing your designs, backgrounds in the final product or how your storyboards made it past edit. It could be a few weeks/months before you get to see them in the final product, but the wait makes it all the more satisfying.

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From Animating To Drawing Comics

CV: How did you make the leap from animation to comics?

BH: Well I guess I’m still making that leap.  My book CARRIE AND RUFUS is self-published. Self-publishing while holding down a full-time gig as a storyboarder is a big ask. So until a publisher swings my way and wants to back me, I’ll continue making small leaps into the comics industry.

I’ve come pretty close a few times, but nothing has turned into what I would consider a proper foothold in comics just yet. But that’s alright I kinda like where I am right now with one foot firmly in animation and the other foot hovering and waiting for the comics door to open.

Ben Hennessy
Image courtesy of Ben Hennessy

CARRIE AND RUFUS

CV: Can you tell us about how CARRIE AND RUFUS came about?

BH: It’s something I was toying around with for a long time. I always thought about doing a  zombie comic, as I’m a big fan of anything zombie or post-apocalyptic. I definitely had elements of it floating around in my head when I was getting the bus to college. Traveling from Wexford to Dublin you’d have to pass through a town called Gorey. I always thought it would be funny to have a zombie story set in Gorey. A gory story set in Gorey, someone had to do it right?

It was a number of years after that I got serious about it, foxes are a really common sight over here. A number of them come out around my apartment every night. Instead of continuing zoo studies which I used to do a lot, I stayed at home and drew the foxes instead.  I knew by that stage that I wanted to have a female hero, probably because I’ve watched NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD so much. So I started drawing a short haired girl among the foxes and this swirled around in my head for a while until I eventually decided that this unlikely pair would be my duo to tackle the zombie hordes of Wexford.

A Talking Fox!

CV: CARRIE AND RUFUS is a zombie horror set in Ireland. One of the things that stood out about the story is that Rufus the fox talks. Where did that decision come from?

BH: Ha! This is something that I was unsure about doing but I’m very happy I did. I’m a big fan of THE WALKING DEAD and the one thing I didn’t want to do was try to do another WALKING DEAD. That’s going to be a hard act to follow.

So I tried to tackle my zombie story differently and I decided CARRIE AND RUFUS should be a lighter take on the apocalypse. So I thought about other films/comics that I like, TURNER AND HOOCH came to mind, it obviously has some similarities. Originally I wanted Rufus to be a silent character. Like Hooch, he would be someone who’ll ‘speak’ through expression only. But I realized that making him talk makes the book feel VERY different from any other zombie film or book that I’ve come across and immediately brings a lighter tone to the story.

That was reason enough for me since zombies are sorta everywhere really I needed my book to have a unique element and this seemed like a nice approach.

Ben Hennessy
Image courtesy of Ben Hennessy

The Collaboration Process

CV: You worked with Ciaran Lucas, Dee Cunniffe and Cara Clara Murtagh on the book. How did they get involved?

BH: I asked them all to get involved. I was preparing CARRIE AND RUFUS for a pitch and I was hoping some publisher would be interested in it. With that in mind, I needed the pitch to be bulletproof, so I really wanted some talent behind it. I luckily formed my dream team. I’ve worked with Ciaran before and knew he had worked in comics. I was positive that if I could get him on the book, coloring it was one thing I didn’t have to worry about.

Ciaran introduced me to Dee. I’ve come to know Dee pretty well. We’ve worked together a few times since so I know I must have done something right with CARRIE AND RUFUS. Cara is a friend of mine from Wexford. She’s a font wizard so there was nobody else I thought of when it came to lettering and making the title font for CARRIE AND RUFUS. Luckily all of them were available and I had saved up enough to hire them all.

I can honestly say the book would look amateurish without them. I know my strengths, most importantly I know my weaknesses and this team of people makes me look better than I am and because of them, Carrie & Rufus looks like it belongs with any other title on the shelves of any comic book store.

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CV: Is CARRIE AND RUFUS a limited series?

BH: CARRIE AND RUFUS is going to be 6 issues. Maybe if the stars align in the form of a fox and the time gods grant me a few months, they’ll be more after to come.

Cover Design Work

CV: You’ve done covers for the FLARE book series. What is the appeal of working on a comics cover?

BH: Well Paddy Lennon writes those books, he’s a great guy and writes a great book so I really wanted to do the Flare covers.

Covers are a lot of fun to do. They’re different than working on storyboards and doing interiors, they scratch a particular kind of itch. I like finding a balance of storytelling and employing graphic elements to make a cover really pop. I feel like the best covers always have a strong graphic element. Having such a focus on a graphic element isn’t something I get to do a lot of as storyboards and interiors concentrate more on narrative.

Ben Hennessy
Image courtesy of Ben Hennessy

Want To Know More About Ben Hennessy?

CV: Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to mention or is there anything else you’d like to add?

BH: I’m currently coming to an end of the TV show I’m working on.  PINKALICIOUS AND PETERIFIC, it’s one for the kid’s mind, no zombies. So if you’re trying to find a new show for your children to watch I’d recommend this one. The scripts were a lot of fun and the art and animation departments really made this show sing. So if you’ve been up late all night watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for the billionth time and need to find a show for your early rising children, look no further!

And OBVIOUSLY please keep an eye out for issue 2 of CARRIE AND RUFUS, it’ll be out really soon! If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook or my website bennessy.com I’ll have all the details of where you need to go to get your mitts on it!

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