Rice Boy, revealed

Ah, Rice Boy. To those not familiar with the web comic by Evan Dahm, you are missing out on the thrilling, and often quirky and surreal adventures of the aforementioned Rice Boy, the apparent savior of the world. Recently, the third volume of the series reached its conclusion on something of a cliffhanger, with an unconscious Rice Boy seemingly abandoned on a deadly desert path.

Xpress spoke to Dahm about Rice Boy, his influences, web comics, and what the future holds for his creation, and the publication of his work—in Finland of all places.

Mountain Xpress: When I read Rice Boy, I immediately noticed similarities to Jeff Smith’s Bone series. How much were you influenced by his work?

Evan Dahm: I read Bone a little while before I started Rice Boy, so I imagine the influence is there, but I can’t really find it. I think I’ve drawn more influence from the sorts of things Jeff Smith has drawn from than from Jeff Smith himself: old cartoons, mythology and fantasy stories. I have trouble looking for my own influences; I try to make a practice of sucking in the whole world through my eyes indiscriminately and synthesizing it in my comics, somehow or other. Jeff Smith is one of the best comic artists around right now, I will say.

Xpress: Bone is wonderful because it’s kid friendly while still palatable for adults. Do you find that your stuff is like that in any way?

Dahm: I think of Rice Boy as something adult or teenager-oriented, but a lot of elements of it seem like they’re for a young audience. Some more adult parts prevent it from being kid-friendly. Mostly, it’s what I enjoy looking at and reading, and the kind of story I enjoy telling and hearing, so I am my only real target audience. It seems to attract mostly people my age and younger. I’m working on another project now that takes place in the same world, but is aimed at an older audience.

Xpress: Do you find that you have to shrug off the superhero stigma when telling someone about your work?

Dahm: At the end of the day, I am doing comics. The benefit of having a comic available entirely online is that you can give someone your website address and you won’t have to shrug off the superhero stigma, because they can see what you do for themselves for no trouble at all. The superhero stigma is fading away, which is nice, and a fair amount of people know how huge an area is covered by the word “comics” now. It doesn’t bother me very much, all of the stigmas. I really love what I’m doing, either way.

Xpress: Do you ever envision doing Rice Boy primarily in print, or are you a bigger fan of the web-comic format?

Dahm: Print has always been my goal for this, because print is easier and more fun to read. I’ve been doing my best to present the web comic as if it were a book, and I’ve kept the format uniform with print in mind. That’s still a goal for this, I think, though I’ve partially realized it. I’m kind of in love with the idea of making a big, thick comic book that is attractive and hard to carry around. It didn’t take long, though, for me to figure out how fantastic the web-comic format is. You don’t have to pay extra to make color comics, and you don’t have to worry about anybody having to approve your comics, and there are just huge numbers of people out there on the internet, and only a number of decent web comics that I could probably count on one hand. I still think of and advertise Rice Boy as a “comic book” and not a “web comic;” I think the stigmas attached to the latter are much worse than the ones attached to the former.

Xpress: Where do you see Rice Boy going from here? T-shirts, lunch boxes, etc.?

Dahm: Merchandise is something I’ve been slowly working at for the last couple of months. [I’ve made] posters and stickers, so far. Rice Boy started out as kind of a pipe dream of some animated movie I would like to do someday, and I’d still like to have it move and make noise somehow, someday. I’m focusing mostly on the comics, though, because they interest me a lot more. I have big plans for more stories in Rice Boy’s world, but I’m not sure about Rice Boy himself right now. I just want to keep doing this as long as is reasonably possible.

Xpress: How did you get end up being published in Finland?

Dahm: The Finns contacted me about publication, not long after I joined the Koala Wallop web comics collective. I’ve always had a disproportionately large amount of readers in Scandinavia. I don’t know why. Finland has the second-largest comics market in the world, though. The publisher is called Taikapaja in Finland, and Jessor & Co. in America. So the Finnish Rice Boy (Riisipoika) will be with the former, and the English with the latter.

You can read Rice Boy in its entirety online. The first two volumes of Rice Boy are available in printed form through Lulu.com.

[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]

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