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Spiral-Bound and Determined
Article by James W. Powell
Posted June 2, 2005

Aaron Renier was bound and determined to see see his first professional comic published, and in August, he'll see his hard work pay off when Top Shelf publishes Spiral-Bound, an all-ages story about trying new things and accepting oneself. As the book’s creator puts it, “It's an animal adventure story with heart. There's family drama, artistic quandaries, town-wide superstitions...and quite a bit of dancing.”

What’s In a Name?
Spiral-Bound coverThe first thing comic fans might notice about Spiral-Bound is the interesting look of the cover: it looks like the spiral notebooks we all used in school. As it turns out, the title and cover imagery are more important to the story then one might think.

“I wanted my title to be multifaceted,” Renier said. “First off, it's a character of sorts in the story. Ana Rabbit owns the notebook, and it's passed along to different characters during the tale. The cover also supplies a missing detail from the interior...something I hope to do with other books in the future. I love that break in reading when you realize the cover needs to get looked at again.”

The creator also said the name is important because it reminds readers of the period in time when they used a spiral notebook as their first diary or as a place to collect their thoughts. But it goes a bit deeper then remembering our childhood. “I love both the words as well,” Renier said. “I feel like the story moves in a spiral, and that's what keeps it going. It's also slightly generic, which leaves room for the top secret title inside.”

Renier isn’t open to discussing the secret, but he did say he’d be interested in delving deeper into the characters and continuing to use the spiral notebook motif. “I really like the idea of more stories from the world I've created, and this mini library on people's shelves that look like old used notebooks. It's a nice package for the book.”

Animal Crackers
The solicitation for Spiral-Bound notes that the book features an “ensemble cast straight from a box of Animal Crackers. While Renier might not thing that’s exactly right, he does agree that there are some similarities between his story and the sugary snack. “I didn't write [the solicitation] but I feel it has two things going for it: that there are animals in my story and that it's sort of a sweet story.”

Spiral-Bound monsterSpiral-Bound features two main characters: Ana Rabbit and Turnip Elephant. According to Renier, Ana is an adventurous type who loves life on the edge. “She's a go-getter,” Renier said. “She’s the one that moves us through the story. Her actions are what cause events to happen in this very small town.”

Turnip, however, is the quiet character. “He doesn't truly know what he's doing,” Renier said. “But he's asking himself big questions and is trying to get them answered. He just started a sculpture class with some new friends, and is trying to find his voice.”

Naturally, there are many other characters in the world of Spiral-Bound, including Emily Bird and Stucky Hound. But the tale isn’t simply one of morals and little fun. “There’s a pond in the park that is forbidden to be entered, because of a bloodthirsty monster,” Renier said. “And [Stucky Hound] decides what he needs to do is build a submarine out of clay to explore it. And possibly meet this monster face to face.”

While Spiral-Bound is aimed at a younger audience, the story should be able to speak to all of us. “It's a story about trying something new and accepting personal failure,” Renier said. “That there is always someone out there that is better than you, somebody that is where you wish you could be, and at the same time you're right where somebody else wishes they could be. Just trying to be happy with who and where you are.”

Black and White
Spiral-Bound turtleSpiral-Bound was originally slated to be a two-color book, but as Renier continued working on the book, for one reason or another, he decided to make it black and white. “I find two color work really fun and challenging, so I tried that out...for thirty pages,” said Renier. “I liked it, despite the fact I hadn't been thinking of the book as a two color book.”

Renier said the book was created to be printed in black and white, but when he was offered to see it in color he jumped on the idea. The more he got into the creation of the book, however, the more he realized black and white was the way to go. “I had this plan that my line art would be my two colors combined to give me a third color. But the printer eventually got back to me that I wasn't going to be able to do it the way I wanted, so I decided that I loved it in black and white. I drew it this way... and I think it's great without it. Maybe better without it.”

New Kid on the Block
Renier spent two and a half years completing Spiral-Bound, but he’s been drawing comic since high school, and he made his first mini-comic in college. His biggest work prior to Spiral-Bound was a 16-page story that Renier considers his first real comic “even though it’s horrible.”

After moving to Portland and working on a series of paintings that turned into a mini-comic, he began drawing a comic called Spiral-Bound. The story revolved around a character’s notebook, but it was meant to be serialized in a newspaper. Instead, he approached Top Shelf. The publisher would publish the serialized story, but only if Renier got them published in a newspaper first.

Spiral-Bound dancingInstead, he started from scratch, working on a “big comic book” and sending his work to anthologies like SPX, Typewriter, Studygroup 12, and Top Shelf. Now, he’s preparing to see his first publication on the stands at local comic shops.

And how does it feel to finally see his creations see the light of day? “It feels pretty good,” Renier said. “I know that I would have done this book without Top Shelf, but it probably would have been much smaller, and not as well executed. I may have been on to a new project if I was doing it myself. So I'm really grateful to them. They put absolute trust in me, and let me tell the story I wanted to tell.”

Spiral-Bound: softcover, 10x8, 184 pages, B&W, $14.95
Diamond: JUN053272 - ISBN 1-891830-50-3

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