Comic book inker Ryan Winn widens role with creator-owned series
The artist started writing and coloring “Gods and Gears,” an all-ages series from Alterna Comics, in 2019. The fourth issue recently came out.
Ryan Winn, writer of "Gods and Gears" and comic book inker. Courtesy of Ryan Winn
He’s not an old man by any means, but it may seem like it to longtime comics readers and industry professionals who don’t know him personally.
Forty-three-year-old comic book creator Ryan Winn has inked some of the most popular characters and series in comics over the last two decades, and for a time — from the late 2000s to the early 2010s — it seemed like his name was popping up everywhere.
Most of Winn’s time and creative energy these days goes into “Gods and Gears,” a creator-owned series he writes and colors. Launched in 2019, Dean Kotz pencils the book, which is published by Alterna Comics, and Wes Locher provides letters. The comic was originally solicited as a limited series but it was recently announced to now be ongoing. The fourth issue came out earlier this month, completing the first story arc.
“Gods and Gears” is soon taking a slight detour, as Winn prepares an Indiegogo campaign centered around a character who is being introduced to the all-ages series: Hammerella. Winn will pencil the one-shot, giving Kotz the opportunity to work ahead on the next arc, tentatively titled “The Heart of Racing.” The new arc will shift the story line back to the series’ main characters to date: Jimmy and Eli.
Winn approached Kotz a half decade ago about doing the book, which was originally titled “Driver and Shotgun.” By the time they pitched the comic to Alterna, the series concept had grown and expanded beyond racing, so the title was reworked to “Gods and Gears,” as there’s now fantastical elements, including time travel and a family of humans that have been transformed into gorillas. The book also includes a group of godlike beings, and there’s plenty of mystery and intrigue to set up additional story arcs.
“We wanted to do a comic that sort of embodied what we loved about comics in the ’80s — specifically Marvel Comics,” Winn told me. The comic is even packaged with that ’80s vibe intact, as it’s published onto newsprint with a price tag of $1.50 per issue, like other Alterna series.
For readers who can get their hands on a copy of “Death Betty” No. 0, a 2014 release from Castle & Key Publication, an early glimpse of the series can be viewed in the back by Winn with artist Jason Gonzalez.
A trailer for the "Gods and Gears" comic, from Ryan Winn's YouTube channel
Winn got his initial break in comics while working in an art store in Irvine, California. One day, illustrator Danny Miki came in to pick up some art supplies and said he was looking for assistants for his studio, called the Crime Lab. Winn, who had been refining his pencils and inks, submitted samples and was soon hired to be one of Miki’s assistants, which led to Winn illustrating backgrounds for Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” series at Image Comics.
While honing his artistic chops with Miki part-time, a business relationship which lasted for about half a decade, Winn logged work hours at QuickSilver, a men’s clothing company, in the retailer’s visual arts department.
“We did the visuals for all of the QuickSilver stores that were opening up in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and those were popping up all over the country,” Winn said. “We would have these giant display boxes with surfboards that we would cut holes in, and put monitors in, and have spinning tikis, statues, and all kinds of displays.”
He later left QuickSilver for Urban Outfitters, doing similar work, and he transitioned from Miki’s studio to working with John Livesay on “The Flash” at DC Comics, and with Joe Weems on "Hunter Killer" at Top Cow Productions, and other books. As he continued developing his craft, Winn worked 10-hour days, taking whatever assignments he could get. In a span of just a few years, he inked issues of “The Darkness” and “Artifacts” for Top Cow, “Wildcats” for WildStorm, a now defunct imprint of DC Comics, and “Batman,” “Detective Comics” and “Batwing” at DC.
“One thing just led to another. Everything was pretty organic,” Winn said of that busy stretch of assignments. “I was always trying to step up to the next, biggest thing.”
Ryan Winn's inks over artist Michael Broussard in "The Darkness." Courtesy of Ryan Winn
Like for many artists, experience, wisdom and age started catching up with Winn. He reveled in the hardworking grind of inking for major publishers, but he started to find more joy in working with independent studios, which led to creator-owned work like “Gods and Gears.”
“Now that I’m doing more indie work, I find that I can schedule my day better and I’m way more productive that way,” Winn said. “When you’re younger, it’s kind of fun to play the deadline game, because it’s a race and it’s a challenge. But then, at a certain point, you realize you’re racing for other people’s deadlines — especially as an inker.”
Winn spoke to the current organization of publishers in the comic book industry and how he thinks the business typically ran tighter in years past. He said Todd McFarlane pushed his Spawn artists to be timely. They couldn’t always make deadlines, Winn said, but the desire and effort were there. As the 2000s transitioned to the 2010s, however, Winn said inking became increasingly more challenging as he attempted to refine his work and life balance, a challenge given he often didn’t know when he’d receive pages that needing inking.
Even while stressed about deadlines, Winn worked to keep effort and quality up. He wasn’t interested in taking shortcuts, or going easy on himself. He wanted his skill to show on the page.
Winn still mostly inks the old-fashioned way, with brushes and pens. About three years ago, while he was working on assignments for Valiant Entertainment, Winn stumbled upon an iPad Pro at Target, he said. The Procreate software program was open and there was an Apple Pencil attached, so he started tinkering while his wife shopped. He was so impressed he bought an iPad Pro that day and started experimenting as a digital inker. He said he inked about half of the “Eternity” miniseries digitally.
“I still prefer inking with a brush,” Winn said. “I don’t think anything can actually ever compare to that experience but I enjoy all sorts of tools.”
Though he prefers traditional inking methods, he’s happy to be experienced and equipped to ink digitally, which is faster and can help him meet deadlines when he’s in a time crunch.
When he’s not writing or coloring issues of “Gods and Gears,” Winn takes commissions, does sketches and he’s been producing content for his YouTube channel. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering the comics industry in mid-March, Winn has kept a pretty normal workflow.
Fantastic Four sketch cover by Ryan Winn, from Paul Patane's personal collection
Winn has more than 560 subscribers to his YouTube channel, and he often uploads two or three new videos to his channel per week, ranging from just a few minutes in length to 20 minutes. His most popular videos are his “Late Nite Inks” installments. He also has shows dedicated to animation and working with Procreate. He enjoys teaching through his videos, and hopes that by opening up about his process, and inking by example, he can help a new generation of inkers achieve a higher quality of work.
“I’ve had the (YouTube) channel for a few years now, and I’ve slowly played around with what I wanted to do with it and how I wanted to teach,” Winn said. “Step up to the challenge, and I’ll show you how to step up to that challenge.”
His routine is to write “Gods and Gears” in the morning and evening. Throughout the afternoon, he listens to podcasts and videos while drawing and inking. He’ll often record his inking videos during the day and then upload them late at night. His wife tends to play video games while he’s writing, he said, so it’s easy for them to separate easily, which is key since his wife also works from home.
“The fact that we have readers, I’m ecstatic,” Winn said. “The fact that we have people who stuck onto issue three, and are loving each issue more than the last, is blowing my mind and really inspiring us going forward,” Winn said of the future for “Gods and Gears.”
To learn more about Ryan Winn, you can visit his website by clicking here. To get signed books, sketches and other products from him, click here. His YouTube channel is linked here.
Note: Ryan Winn is the artist of this website and its associated social media platforms, having created original characters and designs, including logos and banners, for Interstellar Intersection. He was compensated for his work, and his involvement in being interviewed and profiled for the site was in no way impacted by his work-for-hire status with Interstellar Intersection.