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Andy Runton

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In an era of brooding superheroes and adults-only graphic novels, Andy Runton's Owly takes pride in being wholesome. Runton writes and illustrates the warm-hearted, nearly wordless tales of huggable Owly and his fine feathered friends. Marietta's Top Shelf Productions publishes his third graphic novel, Owly: Flying Lessons, in September. From his home in Lilburn, Runton describes how he realized that "cute" wasn't a dirty word.

For 20 years people have been saying "Comics aren't for kids anymore!" Since Owly is completely family-friendly, does that make you the odd man out in comics?

To be known as "the guy who does the cute stuff" is fine with me. When I worked as a graphic designer at Motorola, I was always trying to create things that were just too cute, too cartoony, for what they wanted. Then when I started comics, I first tried to do ninja stories with action scenes, but eventually I'd say, "That's not how my characters would solve their problems. This isn't me!" I'm a pacifist, vegetarian, cruelty-free kind of guy.

Where does Owly come from?

Owly is a conglomeration of everything I grew up with -- not just Disney films and comic strips like Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts, but also iconic little mascots, coloring books, drawings my schoolteachers may have posted next to their desks, anything. Most of the stories are based on things that happened to me. The second book, Owly: Just a Little Blue takes place basically in my back yard. The stories always have a little kernel of reality and emotion.

How much of your readership is adults?

About half and half. If the parents already love comics, they love having something they can show to their children. A lot of pop culture trends for kids today are things like Pokemon, which are about trying to sell something. Owly is just a little owl and his story.

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