Artist Spotlight: Illustrator Neil Bryer
by Nick Hatzinikolis
Neil Bryer is a Southwest Michigan Illustrator, artist and writer of the online series, "Wombat" (wombatcomic.com). The six panel comic strip features the character "Neil the Wombat." Neil was nominated for the fan based Shel Dorf award for best web comic in 2011.
SMASH Magazine caught up to Neil to talk about his creation "WOmbat" and why he got back into his comic strip. Neil says "I was looking for a project to fulfill my creative side, so I decided to create a weekly comic strip. Neil added, "I never considered myself a strong writer and developing a weekly web comic would give him weekly exercise of writing and art."
Neil the Wombat is an eye glass and clothes wearing character that wants to do the right things but it somehow seems to not always work out as planned. Neil says "Wombat is a semi-autobiographical web comic about a pop culture junkie and the friends that enable him. It's the conversations geeks have at the bar come to life."
"Wombat" would be loosely based on Neil's real life experiences and include not only himself, but also close friends John, Paul and Amanda as characters. WHen asked about "Wombat" Neil says "It's my personal avatar, the nickname came from school but it didn't stick, but I started to draw myself as a wombat character and that's how it started."
The supporting characters, Neil quickly adds "The comic strip is based on events that happened to me but in a very inflated way, and the other characters are based on (Stressing based on) actual people that I know, I'm using theri names but not necessarily the situation we were in." the Wombat series first appeared weekly on his Myspace page in 1996 before moving to its own site in late 1997.
Originally from Otsego, MI, Neil says he had "a typical upbringing of Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday comic strips." Drawing and doodling from a young age, he showed aptitude toward artm, which his parents encuraged and helped him to develop. Neil gives credit to his father, himself an artist, "he was always drawing and I was always around it and drawing things myself and I really enjoy it"e!
While in school, Neil's best friend introduced him to comic books and after a little bit he stared to draw his own comics which he enjoyed doing. "When I was at the comic book convention. I met other artists that gave me feedback on my comics and they showed me the ways of self-publishing in the form of mini-comics". Neil eventually used this format to produce his own comics on the web.
Neil has taken art classes through several different institutions over the years. From basic school art classes to more advanced classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, he jumed at the chance to expand artistically. After high school, he attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College where he received an Associate's Degree in Graphic Design. He has since continued his education learning new skills in illustration, animation and web design.
Neil currently lives in Kalamazoo, MI where he works on marketing campaigns for United Bay Community Credit Union.
Neil continues his artistic education both in school and at comics shops. His web comic, Wombat appears on his website