Town Talk Features

Comics Queen: Rori de Rien

You may not know it, but St. Louis has become home to a thriving community of comic book artists, writers and illustrators. One of them is Kirkwood artist Rori de Rien, creator of popular online comic Tiny Pink Robots.

T&S | Tell me about Tiny Pink Robots.
Rori de Rien | It’s a semi-autobiographical comic I’ve been publishing since 2011. It’s humorous and whimsical, and it takes a little bit of license with reality.

T&S | What made you start it?
RDR | I had been underemployed. It was December, and I was wondering what I was going to do. I decided to take advantage of this forced free time and draw a comic strip every day for the next year. Even after I became fully employed again, I kept at it.

T&S | What has the response been?
RDR | Good! I crowdfunded to put the first year in print, and the response was great. One cool thing about doing an autobiographical comic is that you meet fans who automatically become friends because they already know all about you. It warms my heart.

T&S | How long have you been drawing comics?
RDR | Off and on my entire life, but I’ve been continually creating them since 2006. While pursuing a degree in graphic design from Columbia College in Chicago, I took an elective in making comics, and I ended up loving it!

T&S | What appeals to you about the medium?
RDR | I love the combination of words and art and the relationships you can make between them. There’s no other medium like it. The creator is in control of the entire thing—it’s very personal.

T&S | What are you working on now?
RDR | My husband and I are working on pitches to publishing companies. We’d like to develop a larger work, like a graphic novel. We’re working on an adaptation of The Snow Queen, a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It’s a cool story with a female protagonist—we think we can make her even more interesting and update the fantasy elements.

T&S | How has the internet changed the industry?
RDR | Comics is still kind of a boys club, and the internet has changed the game for women and other marginalized people wanting to break in. People now can build their fan base themselves. There’s no barrier to entry or anyone telling you you can’t do it. You just put something up, tell all your friends, and hopefully they’ll tell all their friends.

T&S | Tell me about the St. Louis comics community.
RDR | There are tons of people doing comics here. We have amateurs, as well as several professional, full-time comics writers. As a working artist, often you’re not working a lot, or income flow is sporadic, and St. Louis provides a nice lifestyle for not a ton of money. With internet and telecommuting, you don’t have to live in someone’s closet in New York. Here you can be an artist, yet have a house with a backyard.

Photo: Bill Barrett
Photo taken at AM Trading Co. in Tower Grove

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