In the run-up to March’s MCM Birmingham Comic Con we sat down for a chat with one of our super-talented Comic Village guests, Michael Dialynas. An Athens-based comic book artist, Michael’s work includes IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, award-winning series The Woods… and the cover of our very own MCM Birmingham show guide!

First of all, thanks for drawing our show guide cover – it looks great! Could you talk us through the ideas behind it?

MD: I remember attending my first comic con back in 2009 as a reader and an artist wanting to break in to comics, and just being ‘look at that!’ and ‘wow!’ every five seconds. In this cover I wanted to get across that feeling of being a fan and an all-round appreciator of pop culture among all the awesome things you love. I also snuck a few references in the cover; I’m a big fan of the Yotsuba manga, so that’s why the young girl has four green pigtails!

You’ve just wrapped up a critically-acclaimed seven month run on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; can you tell us about your time on TMNT?

MD: I had the best time; I got to draw the Michelangelo Macro one-shot with Ian Flynn writing and work on issues 89-92 of the main series – my last issue should have come out just before this show. It’s a real honour to be a part of the longest-running TMNT comic, with the series hitting 100 issues this October.

One of my favourite things to draw was the Michelangelo issue. I got to delve deep into his character and show many sides of his psyche …and also draw a very cool fight scene he has with a particular character. I don’t want to spoil it!

Were you a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan growing up?

MD: I was a huge fan! I grew up during the height of their popularity. The first movie came out when I was six and all I would draw was turtles; for the life of me I couldn’t stop drawing turtles. I grew up in the UK and remember going to a cinema where they were giving out coloured eye-masks at the screening. I got an orange one!

Boom! Studios is publishing the first Yearbook Edition of your and James Tynion IV’s series The Woods this May; could you tell us about the series and the upcoming new editions?

MD: Collaborating on The Woods with James and Boom! Studios was a big part of my growth as an artist. For those who don’t know, the story is about a high school that gets transported to another planet in another galaxy.

We follow a group of teenagers as they survive the harsh reality of being stuck millions of miles away from home, discover the mysteries of the planet itself and hopefully figure out a way to get back to Earth. I like to call it The Breakfast Club meets Lord of the Flies in space.

The series ran from 2014-2017 for a whopping 36 issues and I’m proud of surviving the journey! We were lucky enough to win a GLAAD award for Outstanding Comic in 2017 and it’s currently in development with UCP and SYFY to become a TV series.

The new Yearbook Editions will collect 12 issue chunks of the series, making it the perfect way to read our story and see our teenage group grow into adults on this weird forest planet that they are stuck on. All three Yearbooks will be released this year. I can’t wait to see them!

What other series have you been working on recently?

MD: After finishing The Woods and before jumping back in to TMNT, I co-created a book called Lucy Dreaming with Max Bemis, also published by Boom! Studios. It was a fun and colourful coming-of-age story about a young girl named Lucy who can travel to alternate universes and embody various heroines. The paperback came out in January.

How did you get into drawing comics in the first place? What’s the Greek comic book scene like?

MD: Like most comic artists out there, from the love of comics! Funny thing, though – I never wanted to draw the interiors ‘cos it seemed so hard, but now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

The comic scene in Greece is small but it’s constantly growing, especially over the past 10 years. We have around 20-30 creators constantly making comics, over a 100 up-and-coming self-publish heroes and about ten creators working internationally. In fact, three of us are here this weekend – big shout out to my good friends and travelling buddies, Ilias Kyriazis and Dani Strips!

Are there any comic artists who have especially influenced your work?

MD: The art team of Guy Davis and Dave Stewart was a big influence on my work. When I was in art school, I sent Guy an email asking for pointers and he helped me a lot to gather my early anxieties of drawing comic pages and I thank him for doing that. I loved their work on the BPRD series – a match made in heaven in my opinion.

Would you say that your art style has changed much over the years?

MD: I have a weird habit of changing my style for every book I work on. It’s a fun way to keep things fresh and exciting, plus I like to find the best way to tell the story I’m telling. If someone saw The Woods and Lucy Dreaming, I’d doubt they could tell it was the same artist!

So yeah, my art changes all the time. Over the years I’ve got over the fear of drawing a comic page, thankfully, and can now enjoy exploring new styles. Right now I’m developing a new look for a new project; it’s fun but also very daunting.

You also used to do illustrations for ad agencies; have the skills and techniques required for that kind of work influenced the way you draw comics at all?

MD: I used to work as an in-house illustrator early on in my career; I’m out of that game now because I get to draw comics! But I did draw a lot of storyboards to sell cars and washing machines back then and in the two years I was working there, I can say that my drawing speeds increased immensely. It used to take me a couple of days to draw a comic page but after getting used to the grind working on storyboards I got up to a couple of pages a day. So if I took anything away from my time in advertising, it would be super speed!

If you could collaborate with any comic creator – living or dead – who would it be?

MD: Tough one! I’m actually really happy working with my buddy James Tynion IV – I’d love to keep creating cool stories with him. I consider myself lucky to have found a writer that I click with and have a cool friendship with.

What advice would you have to for people trying to break into the industry?

MD: Believe in your strengths, don’t over commit. You must be reliable and on time with deadlines. Listen to feedback, this is very important; comics is a team sport and your team wants to help you create the best comic they can. Also make sure you walk a hour a day -drawing comics can keep you confined to your desk for hours, so it’s super important to watch out for your health. I’m talking from personal experience here, believe me. So I took up Pokémon Go, which helped motivate me to walk to my office every day and I love it!

Have you any new comic books in the pipeline that you can tell us about? Do you have a dream project that you’d like to see come to fruition someday?

MD: I’m currently developing on a brand new creator-owned series, I’m super excited for everyone to see it but you’ll have to wait until 2020! Hopefully I’ll get to talk about it a bit in a few months, but we’ll see. At some point I would love to write and draw my own creator owned-book, but there aren’t enough hours in the day when you’re already drawing for 10 of them!

Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello & Raphael – which hero in a half-shell are you most like?

MD: Mikey! Mikey’s my boy, I love drawing his goofy face and his child-like innocence. But also I’ve had the opportunity to draw some very emotional stories that involve him in the issues that I’ve worked on, so personally I consider him the most rounded of the four Hamato brothers.

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