Hey there, thank you for reading my webcomic, it means a lot.
So, a little about me; my name is Richard Adam Reynolds, more commonly Richard Reynolds, but my friends and acquaintances call me Richie, Richie Ren or simply, Ren. I was born in the summer of 1981 and that handsome devil in the picture there is my own good self, and yes, that is a badass The Good, The Bad and The Ugly poster.
From a very young age I was a huge film fan, in fact I was a huge fan of stories in all their forms, but I was and am pretty slow on the uptake, so wasn’t fully aware that my own enjoyment of these stories far exceeded many other people’s, but the older I got the more I started to realise that I was more of a tele-addict than the other kids, I owned more videos than the other kids, and when I was fourteen, the age when most people were outgrowing comics, I discovered my hometown had a comic shop, and good lord, you couldn’t get me out of that place, I spent my money on little else. A few years later I uncovered the greatness of novels and from there I was pretty much set.
I never got in to music or sports, but I didn’t really have room for more pass-times anyway, so on I went through life getting into art a little bit, but mostly watching stuff on the TV or reading. It was only a few years ago, when I was well into my twenties that I realised that everything I enjoyed doing was story orientated. Like I say, slow on the uptake.
Anyways, although I had a risible imagination on me and was a slightly better artist than most of the kids in my school, I come from a very down to earth family and we lived in an ex-coal mining town called Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire, England. The point is, it was so unrealistic that anyone from my background could make it in comics or films that I never for a second considered it an option to even try… well, that’s not exactly true, I aspired, but never put in the effort because I assumed anyone who was meant to do such things would have some kind of instant natural affinity for, say, writing, and drawing something good wouldn’t take all the effort and practice in the world, and shooting film? Well you had to be able to afford a camcorder for that.
So I went to college, studied graphic design and hated it (was also no good at it… no good with computers either), got slightly better at drawing off my own back but realised I was nowhere near good enough to draw comics, though perhaps good enough to illustrate children’s books.
I entered the workforce as DVDs started coming in and my first job was at my local HMV (a music and movie chain here in the UK), which suited me just fine, so much so in fact that I barely did any drawing and just about gave up on the idea. I’d occasionally send work to illustration agents, publishers and greetings cards manufacturers and was rewarded with numerous rejection letters.
A few years later I was hating my job at Christmas, as is the like for those that work in retail, and being in more stable financial times, I just put in my notice, told myself I would work part-time, work harder on the drawing, and soon enough got a part-time job at my local comic shop, as, by this point, I was very good friends with the owner. I, of course, didn’t work too much harder on the drawing but did still enjoy a regular feedback of rejection letters. But something good did come of this time, I started to meet more people of a similar background to me who aspired to greater things and were actually good at stuff, and reading about some of my heroes, writers, artist and filmmakers, I found that they, in some cases, didn’t originally have special training or a secret skill, just the balls to try. I even helped my friend write his first screenplay and started to have more complex story ideas for myself. I still didn’t have the will to put the effort in to developing any of these ideas though.
The major push came a few years later, when I was in serious need of a proper income again. A customer of the shop put me onto a vacancy at a medical device production facility. I got the job and found that the small production team was almost entirely made up of disgruntled creative types, two musicians, an aspiring filmmaker, a graphic designer and me, an illustrator. Well, it worked out a treat, Jordan, the filmmaker, soon realised what a huge film fan I was and asked if I wanted to help him make a short, the musicians supplied us with music and connections, I did band artwork for them… you get the picture, we all helped each other out, and creativity begat more creativity, I told the team my story ideas and was so happy with the response that it gave me that force of will I needed to attempt a big project for myself.
I wrote and illustrated my first novella, a fun but amateurish little tale called Kev an’ ‘is Monkey: Local Heroes. That’s when I caught the writing bug. I was always a terrible speller, and never in a million years did I assume that writing would be something I could do, enjoy doing and be pretty good at. I only wrote the thing initially so that I would have something to illustrate, but I had a great time, I was proud of myself because I kept overcoming that wall in my mind that constantly told me I would rather be watching a film than wrestling with my brain to extract ideas, and when I had done, I could hold that thick-ish wad of paper which contained a story that had been dragged out of my own skull and more pride would swell in my chest.
I guess by this time I was just past my mid-twenties, and I was just making the mental breakthroughs that many go through in their teens or while at Uni. Again, slow on the uptake, but I’ve never looked back, since then I have become production partners with my friend Jordan Morris, in a locally based indie filmmaking group we call Waking Dream Studios (go visit the website!). We each take turns writing and directing short films (and in Jordan’s case, a feature), which as you can imagine is a great amount of fun but an even greater amount of work.
I also regularly write, and refuse to bracket myself in as to what I write. I’ve written another novella (called An East Midlands Ghost Story) which I like a very much, I write comic strips for artist friends who are far superior to myself, I’ve written a feature length screenplay and many shorts and I write a weekly opinion article for the website Fanboy Confidential (go visit the damn website!), which consists of film/comic reviews, recommendation pieces and general soap-boxery. The added bonus to all this is that along the way I have made some good connections and even better friends from many different places in the world as well as on my own doorstep.
I’ve not had anything published professionally and I’m obviously not a famous film director, further I still work at the same medical device company that kick started this entire thing, so have to fit all my passions around an eight to ten hour work day (and, yes, that also includes watching as many films and reading as many comics as ever), but that’s alright, I love doing what I do in my spare time and will never give it up, professional or not. My only problem is that any creator wants their work to be consumed and enjoyed, which I just don’t have the platform for with my creative writing, and that saddens me somewhat.
But then I had this idea for a webcomic, and sometimes those things take off big-time, right?
… and my comic.
So, like many of my ideas, it came while I was arsing around, talking crap to my workmates. It struck me that it would be funny if The Shawshank Redemption was set in a school, minus the sodomy of course. It was a daft idea, but it stayed floating around my head. When I would think of an innocent twist on something more sinister that happens in the film it would usually make me smile, and eventually I realised there wasn’t a scene that I couldn’t easily think of an alternative for.
I always saw it as a comic, but had never really tried sequential art and certainly didn’t have the patience for it, so kept the idea in the back of my mind just in case I came across a talented young artist that was looking for a big project, but knowing how unreliable people can be when they’re not getting paid, kinda never thought that anything would come of it.
Fast forward to the last few months of 2011, a year in which I got less and less creative the further it progressed and feeling down on myself because of it. A friend of mine was regularly asking me why I didn’t draw any of the comics that I wrote for other folk, for which the only answers were that I WAS too inpatient, there didn’t seem to be enough time in the day and I thought I didn’t have the requisite skill… but it did make sense that I should try. Add the fact that I did want to do a work that a wider audience would see, and things started to slide into place.
I read Axe Cop and Freakangels, right?! People like their free webcomics, right?! The chances of a webcomic gathering regular readers must surely be better than someone like me getting a book/film deal or a job at Marvel, right?! Besides, these days, you’ve got to show you’re willing to go above and beyond before any one of those industries will take you seriously, and I wasn’t that bad an artist, I just had to find the patience… and the time.
So what if I developed a cartooning style that was simple and allowed me to draw more quickly than usual and with less fuss over background and detailing (AKA masking my artistic inadequacies), what if I kept the episodes short and what if I started doing less overtime at work and maximising the time in my days?
Well, I talked myself into it and here we are, St. Shawshank’s Infant School, my first self-drawn comic work, a mini epic. I’m going to try my damnedest to get an episode out every two weeks, but I DO work a full time job and have other projects and obligations, so forgive me if I slip up from time to time. As well as it (hopefully) being a fun read, I would like it to reflect my development as an artist, much like the original The Crow series did for J.O’Barr’s style. I love flicking through that trade and watching his talent grow in fast forward, I want that here for my work, so, again, I beg forgivness, because my characters WILL go off model, and it WILL take a while to become sure footed in the style, but I won’t be doing a George Lucas and going back to change things (‘cept maybe poor spelling), it ain’t that kinda party.
There will be other treats along the way. I’m gonna talk some of my arty mates (and perhaps some professionals?) into providing some guest pin-ups, and some of the strips that I’ve only written will find a home here.
Thanks again for stopping by, and all the best.