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UNT alumnus uses illustrations to break down monsters in children’s books

UNT alumnus uses illustrations to break down monsters in children’s books

UNT alumnus uses illustrations to break down monsters in children’s books
March 06
12:00 2020

Growing up fascinated by monsters and with an urge to draw, UNT alumnus Bryan Kelly has evolved into a professional illustrator and a self-published comic book author.

Originally from New Jersey, Kelly moved to Texas as a child and grew close to the Denton community as an adult. Currently, he often appears at comic conventions and is a long-time vendor at the Denton Community Market.

“I’m an illustrator and cartoonist because that’s what I can do,” Kelly said. “My brother drew when I was a little boy and I wanted to be like him. I’ve been drawing ever since. I got a knack for it when I was young and received positive reinforcement. I wasn’t good at anything else, so I carved out a niche for myself.”

Kelly said he developed an interest in monsters after buying his first comic book, “Fantastic Four” by Marvel Comics.

“There’s this character called Master Pandemonium, his arms turned into a portal for demons,” Kelly said. “Piles and piles of monsters came out of his sleeves. That has never left me. As you can see, it’s monsters. That’s what I draw. I’ve always been a monster kid.”

Monsters appear consistently in Kelly’s work. His first children’s book, called “The Adventures of Lily and Granddad,” contains a variety of monsters. He produced a second children’s book about his son titled “Monsters Who Walk the Earth.” Kelly has also created coloring books, and his first book is about cryptids while the second features the monster Cthulhu. His most recent comic book, “Tales of Fiction,” contains a monster cocktail party, a walking tombstone and a werewolf.

“Tales of Fiction” contains three short stories presented by a character named Cryptina. The final story, “Monster Cocktail Party,” stars German film director Werner Herzog. Kelly says he included Herzog in the story because he’s a serious guy known for his grim work.

“I take Werner Herzog and make fun of him because anything that’s super serious has to be deflated,” Kelly said. “Anyone who can’t handle that doesn’t have humor in their life. That’s when things get toxic.”

Kelly uses humor to make serious characters and monsters less threatening. His coloring book about Cthulhu shows the Lovecraftian monster in real-life situations. On the front cover, Cthulhu is in underwear, and later in the book he cheats on his wife, loses his job and appears on the toilet eating ice cream.

“Lovecraft’s work is about the universe being mad and hating you,” Kelly said. “If you knew the true reality of the world, you’d be insane. So, I take that big scary monster, an unknowable evil, and put him in some dingy undies. Take something that’s terrifying and take away it’s dignity, that’s funny to me.”

Kelly said his method of ripping dignity away from a wicked character applies to political cartoons as well.

“In college all of my cartoons were political, I did a lot of making fun of George W. Bush,” Kelly said. “At the time I thought that was the worse it could get. I was wrong. This is the same idea. Instead of drawing Donald Trump, because it’s depressing, I draw Cthulhu. He’s the big scary thing that I can’t deal with, so I put him in undies and make it funny.”

Laurie Morrison, Kelly’s editor and a fellow artist, described his sense of humor as quirky.

“I love his sense of humor which shows very strongly in his work,” Morrison said. “He’s very unique in the convention circuit. I consider it an absolute privilege to edit his books because I get to see his wonderful quirky humor before everyone else.”

When he is not illustrating or attending the Denton Community Market, Kelly likes attending conventions like Dallas Fan Expo.

“I like doing Fan Expo and conventions because it’s my chance to talk to people,” Kelly said. “It gives me the thing I need to go back and draw by myself in a room. If you’re in a creative field and you don’t go out and talk to folks, you go nuts. If you look at Frank Miller’s work, who is known for ‘Sin City,’ you can see he’s absolutely insane and I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but his worldview is corrupted by isolation.”

Kelly said the one downside to drawing comics is it requires him to be alone for a long period of time. He uses conventions and social media to engage with his audience. Kelly produces a sketch of the day online and said he has accumulated a backlog of 2,500 drawings.

“I force myself to share my art every single day on social media,” Kelly said. “It’s healthy for self-reflection. You can look back at work you did three years ago and see progress in what you’re doing. It allows you to objectively see your work.”

Kelly has gained respect from fellow artists through his regular participation at conventions, according to Morrison.

“If you look at his Instagram you’ll see lots of happy customers,” Morrison said. “He has a lot of respect from fellow artists, he’s very original.”

Fellow artisit, Ashley Villers, said she admires Kelly because he’s kind, helpful and talented.

“Bryan really has a trifecta going for him,” Villers said. “He’s a skilled artist and he’s incredibly funny. He’s also very dedicated to his work. I don’t know many artists who do more with their craft on a daily basis than he does.”

Currently, Kelly is working on an animal alphabet series of 26 drawings for each letter of the alphabet. On March 14 at Howling Mutt Brewery, he is having a comic book release event where the animal alphabet drawings will be included in the first 26 comic books that are sold.

Featured Image: Denton resident Bryan Kelly poses with his comic book “Tales of Fiction” on Feb. 27, 2020. Kelly ws a self-published comic book artist and author. Image by Scout Streit

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Jim
    Dr. Jim March 26, 16:54

    Dude, as a UNT alum and published author, at least we see the light. We do what we do for fun, which pays little. Hey, man, when you do what you like to do, time spent on our art is not work. Success!

    Reply to this comment

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