Leading Stories

by Jay O’Bryan, Staff Writer

A crowd at Pensacon begins to gather around the booth with drawings of heroes that range from Spider-Man to Green Lantern.  Artist and inker Roland Paris opens his sketch book as he starts a new drawing with a passion that has been with him since he was a young boy.

“It all started stupidly young,” Roland Paris said.  “At like five-years-old when I bought my very first comic book.  I realized, oh wait, people do this for a living? I want to do this.  So literally at five, when I bought my first book, I’m like, this is what I want to do.”

The book that got Paris hooked isn’t a hero that first comes to mind.

“I don’t remember the issue number,” said Paris.  “But it was Aquaman fighting Starro. So, it’s like early 70’s I bought the book and was like yeah, this is it.”

That passion for comic books stayed with Roland throughout his life.

“I just fell in love with comics,” Paris said.  “All though grade school and high school, I just soaked it in.  I was always gearing myself, trying to work towards comics. Buying ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way’ and studying it front to back and back to front”

This dedication lead Paris to collaborate with some big artist early on in his career.

“I worked with Steven Butler, Mitch Byrd, and Roland Mann on some books that they were doing very early,” Paris said.

He then went to Ringling School of Art and Design and got his degree in illustration.

“I then decided ok, I actually do want to get a college education,” Paris said.  “So, I went to an art school for a while. Then after college I decided to try and get back into comics.  Took a little while, took about six years. I got back in and have been in it full time since then.

When he gets inspired to draw, Paris sees images in his mind. Like other artist before him, he has to put them on paper.

“I get images in my head and I’m like ok, I wonder what they would look like,” Paris said.  “So, when I am drawing and painting, and doing all the stuff like that. I try and get as close as to what is in my head.  It never turns out exactly as what is in my head. So, I’m never 100% happy with anything I do. But sometimes I get it to where I am like ‘alright’.  Then I’ll actually get up and look at it again and be like ok it’s good I like that.”

Paris has drawn a lot of characters during his 20-plus years in the comic book industry.  But none more so than Spider-Man. While Paris doesn’t have a favorite, Spidey does rank right up there.

“I don’t really know if I have a favorite character to draw,” Paris said. “But because I’ve worked on a lot of Spider-Man and X-Men books.  Most of my commissions are either Spider-Man or one of the X characters. I also get female characters a lot because I think that people like the way that I draw women characters.”

Paris, like other artists, has people that he looks up to and have inspired him.

“Frank Frazetta hands down is my biggest influence ever,” Paris said.  “Illustration wise, there is Alphonse Mucha, Leyendecker and Rockwell. As far as comics there is Jose Louis Garcia Lopez, Neal Adams.  Inkers like Joe Rubinstein. John Dell has been a big influence on me. I soak in what I look at, everything is an inspiration.”

Along with his fantasy art that he is working on, Roland has his own comic that he has been nit-picking and working with on and off for about three years.

“It’s a six-issue miniseries set in New Orleans in the late 1800’s,” he said.  “It’s not superhero, it’s like a supernatural detective kind of a thing.”

Everything for Roland Paris isn’t just work. As a New Orleans native resident of Baton Rouge, he is a huge LSU Tigers fan.

“National Champions, we swept everything, it was great,” he said. “Now the baseball team needs to step up and get us number seven.”