Creator Spotlight 2024 – RUSSELL MARK OLSON

Hey Russell – I last saw you at the April Portsmouth Comic Con Drink n’ Draw fringe event. How have those been going? I saw some absolutely brilliant work at the one I attended!

We’ve had a lot of participants throughout the sessions with a core group of returners, and so, even though we’ve only done three so far (with a fourth and final session tonight (7th of May)) it has the feeling of an established drawing club. I try to keep things fun and pacey to cater for all levels of ability. We typically get through 5 or 6 drawing games throughout the evening with everything from warm-ups to collaborative drawings. What I’ve tried to do is give each drawing spell a clear set up so that no one is faced with the Blank Page of Doom. We’ve done everything from making evil fruit, to designing new Cluedo cards, to playing the classic Exquisite Corpse.


For new fans, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start in comics?

Since I was little, I’ve made up stories and drawn pictures. In the early 2000s I started a webcomic on Myspace that then moved to Tapastic when I moved to the UK from the US. I started Gateway City as a webcomic in 2016 and met the wonderful editor/writer, John Freeman. John encouraged me to print up some books and hit the con scene. I’ve been self-publishing Gateway City ever since, and through the exposure that series has garnered (I was lucky enough to win the Tripwire Best New Talent award in 2018) I’ve been working with some of the finest UK small press folk, met my “brothers-in-SKRAWL,” and then got a break with 2000AD. Since 2021, I’ve worked with some great writers and editors and have some really cool projects in the works. First up is a graphic novel from Mad Cave written by Rich Douek with art by me due in August called A Phone Call Away–a classic noir yarn with a contemporary spin.



It’s obvious from your work that you really love the medium. Have you always been a comics fan, and what is it about comics that attracts you?

I’ve loved comics and cartoon strips as far back as I can remember. As a southpaw who is unmistakably right-brained, I think, and learn best using visual mediums. I reckon I also communicate best using visuals. Comics just seems like the most natural way for me to express myself. And because of that, I’m always thinking about how the mechanics work, and if there are ways I can use them to stretch my own understanding of the medium and make the reading experience even deeper for the audience. With Comics, as long as the reader can follow along with the narrative, there’s really nothing you can’t do. If it makes sense, conventions be darned.


Can you tell us about Skrawl and the Skrawllordz collective you’re a part of? (Surely the coolest comics collective since Meathaus – and if you want to start a beef with them, drop a diss track, now’s the time!)

Hah! I think I’ll decline the invitation for now. I try to limit my pot-stirring to when I’ve got immediate backup from everyone’s favorite two-fisted Welshman, SOK.

The SKRAWLLORDZ came about at the 2019 LICAF. Accounts of how our motley crew came about vary, but as I’d rather not jeopardize my permanent leave to remain, I’ll stay stum on that front. Suffice it to say, I’m very proud to be a member amongst such august company: Pete Taylor, SOK, Martin Simpson, Nick Prolix, and Gustaffo Vargas. As our storytelling and visual styles vary so wildly, we knocked our heads about for a while to try to find the right vehicle for some kind of collaboration. In the end, SKRAWL the Comix Magazine was born. SKRAWL has become a periodic opportunity for us to explore the medium, push ourselves to dip a toe out of our comfort zones, and to work with other (mostly UK-based) artists whom we admire. In the first two issues, we’ve had a cornucopia of riches from Lucy Sullivan, Jordan Thomas, Leah Moore, Phil Elliott, John Reppion, Rosie Packwood…just a bunch of really great, really talented, lovely folks. While it’s often described as an anthology, we don’t really think about it as such. It’s a Comics magazine. We try to lean into that magazine spirit. One pivotal masthead of the mag is an in-depth interview with a member of Comics royalty. Nick interviewed the titan, Roger Langridge in ish 1 and I got to chat with Shelly Bond in ish 2. What we try to do is go beyond the general headlines and allow our guest to give a kind of retrospective. The next issue is in development, but we’re all getting busier and busier so it might take us a little while to knit it all together. We’ve got a few other bits and bobs planned, so do watch this space. Working in a virtual studio is a great way to prevent oneself from becoming too insular. Working in a virtual studio as talented and gutsy as the SKRAWLLORDZ is a great way to keep the ego in check and most importantly, have fun.


What can fans expect to see at your table on Artists Alley?

I’ll have copies of all of the volumes of Gateway City to date, including the newest, Vol. IV released this year. I’ll have both issues of SKRAWL, and my most recent sketchbook, as well as original art and sneaky peekies. I’ve opened up some commission slots specially for the event, so folks can either reach me on Twitter (@russell_m_olson) or Instagram (@russellmarkolson) to book one. Folks can also request sketches at the con and I’ll do my best to fit them in. I’ll have sketchcards around, too.


What are you working on / really excited about right now?

I’m currently halfway through the next volume of Gateway City (I’ve got two more planned after this one before I wrap the book up), and without a doubt, this is the best one yet. I’m also a few issues into a new project with Mad Cave. I don’t think I can divulge much about it yet, but all I can say is that it is well within my wheelhouse and is allowing me to work on a subject near and dear to my Missourian heart. As mentioned above, I can’t wait for A Phone Call Away to get out into the world. I think folks are going to dig it.