Ryan Vella has been a mainstay in the underground scene in Australia for roughly 30 years now! Making art, playing in bands, self releasing comics, creating unique characters and contributing to various anthologies. With all his works being imbued with an in your face, outsider aesthetic.

Born in Queensland in 1975, were he grew up on a sugar cane farm, Ryan had his life changed in his teens through discovering punk rock, heavy metal, marijuana and comics. Going on to join Australia’s vibrant independent comic scene in the 1990s. Where his unique mix of clean, cartoon-esque lines, chaotic detail and unique storytelling immediately set him apart.
Since then Ryan has continued to release comics to an ever increasing audience, whilst also flexing his musical talents in bands such as Killrag, and most recently, Viper Syndicate.

Some art by Ryan.

Wanting to get to know him better, we sent Ryan some questions to answer over email.
Take a dive into his world, below…

Getting Acquainted

Name + D.O.B?

Ryan Vella
13th May 1975

City, State and Country you currently call home?

Born in Mackay, Queensland, Australia.

City, State and Country you’re from?

Still living in Mackay.

Some art by Ryan for his current band Viper Syndicate.

Please describe some memories – such as art, music, comics, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion, drugs… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:

* Your childhood:

I was raised on a sugar cane farm.
My family grew and cut cane. It was a very peaceful upbringing. Did lots of outdoor activities.

Ryan as a kid.

* Your teenage years:

In my teen years I discovered punk and heavy metal music and that took up a lot of my time.

I also started doing comics around that time. Nothing serious. Just lots of sketchbook drawings and paintings.

Also started smoking weed around then.

Some tribute art by Ryan of iconic comic character The Phantom.

* Your 20s:

In my 20s I moved to the Gold Coast for a few years and started doing my own self-published mini-comics.

I continued doing mini-comics up until a few years ago.
I’ve now moved on to standard sized comics.

Ryan in his 20s.

* Your 30s:

My 30s were pretty chaotic. Lots of crazy stuff. Mainly due to bad relationships and drugs.
I stopped doing comics for around a few years then too – I was burnt out. So, I got back into canvas painting. I’ve had a few exhibitions over the years.

I also spent more time doing music, writing songs and playing in bands.

Ryan in his 30s.

* Your 40s so far:

My 40’s I got back into doing comics – I decided to have more fun with the medium.
I did my craziest work around that time. I just did it for my own amusement and didn’t care what others would think.

I stopped again from 2017 to 2021 – As I got bored with comics in general. But a couple of years ago I got back into it.

Things have improved and the Australian comics scene is the best I’ve ever seen it! It’s inspired me to start again.

A recent photo of Ryan on stage with his band ‘Viper Syndicate.’

Personal motto(s)?

“Just have fun with whatever you do – If it’s not fun, it’s work.”

What role did toys play in your childhood?

I loved toys and cartoons as a kid.
I was a fan of Starblazers, Astro Boy, Voltron, The Hulk, Spider Man, Masters of the Universe, TransFormers etc.

Creativity Questions

When and why did you first become interested in art, comics, music and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?

I got into art at an early age from watching cartoons and then from comics.
I started collecting comics in 1985, mainly Marvel and DC.

If you had to explain your creative endeavors to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?

I’d just say I tell stories with pictures.

Who are some of your favourite artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?

I like a wide variety of artists and musicians.

Art wise I like Simon Bisley, Steve Ditko, Sam Keith, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams, Erik Larsen, Keith Giffen, Todd McFarlane and a heap more!

Music wise I like Dead Kennedys, Fugazi, NoMeansNo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Guns N Roses, Buddy Holly and a heap more!

Films – Jaws, Return of the Living Dead, Ford Fairlane, Aliens, Buckaroo Bonzai, Hammer Horror movies…
Lots of horror & sci-fi mostly.

If people wanted to check out your art, work with you or buy some of your wares – Where should they visit and how should they get in touch?

People can just contact me on FB or Instagram.

As a key player over the years – What are your thoughts on the Australian Comics Scene?
The good?
The bad?
The ugly?

I think the Australian comic scene is the best I’ve ever seen it – Everyone is doing amazing work.
It seems like the whole scene is coming together as one.
It’s great!

Some tribute art by Ryan of Australian superhero troupe Southern Squadron.

Odds & Ends

If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?

I like the era I’m in now.
It’s all I know.

What does “God” mean to you?

I’m not a fan of religion in any form.
It’s all about money and oppression.

One of Ryan’s self released comics.

Does sex change everything?

Sex doesn’t change anything.

What are the top 3 items you own?
… and what is it about each of them that you so love?

My number one top item I own is my guitar. It’s an American Strat.
I’ve put a lot of work into customising it over the past 10 years I’ve had it.

In a fight between the following fictional punks: Bebop and Rocksteady (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) Vs Trash (From The Return of the Living Dead) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
[Please draw the battle in all its violent beauty!]

Trash would beat BeeBop and RockSteady in a fight.

She’d do her striptease and they’d be mesmerized.
She’d then attack them, zombie style.

Ryan’s depiction of the battle in all it’s glory!

Please describe your last dream in detail…

The last dream I had was of someone trying to get into my room.
They kept trying to open the door, but wouldn’t say anything.
I woke up yelling!

Of everything you have done so far, what would you most like to be remembered for?

I’d just like to be remembered for my art and music.

Some art by Ryan of his character Battery Hen.
(Who can also be seen in the header image to this interview!)


All images supplied by Ryan.