Comic artist Maybury finds support in Austin

Jessica Lee

Paul Maybury never expected a chalkboard drawing of Mr. T pitying the fool who did not eat Whole Foods’ boneless sirloin steaks would give him the push he needed to turn his interest in comic books into a full-time job.

Boston native Maybury had planned to transfer to the Austin Whole Foods location, but after those plans fell through, he was left in a new city without a steady job.

He has since made a name for himself in the Austin comic book scene. His webcomic, Party Bear, can be viewed for free on ACT-I-VATE, a website featuring comics for a more mature crowd. Party Bear focuses on the lives of a variety of inner-city children whose seemingly separate story lines end up intertwining.

Party Bear, literally a bear with a party hat perched on top of his head, takes on the role of father to these kids. He says nothing and barely makes an appearance in the comic, but somehow manages to remain central to the story with his cool nonchalance and authoritative air.

Maybury keeps all his ideas in a Piccadilly notebook to protect them from frequent coffee spills.

“I’ll have an idea and just scribble it down,” Maybury said. “I won’t think about it for a month, but eventually, I have a whole story floating on a page.”

A bit of an urban legend in the modern day comic book world, Maybury does almost everything himself. Aside from his two assistants who erase pencil marks off his ink and fill in the base colors on Photoshop, Maybury makes sure to stay away from letting too many people touch his work.

“If you’re familiar with different styles, you notice if there are lots of people working on one comic,” Maybury said. “It just seems disjointed.”

Though his work has been featured by well-known comic corporations such as Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, Maybury still faces a lot of criticism.

“Comic book readers are worse than music snobs,” Maybury said. “The worst thing I can do is Google my name. People are really mean.”

Coming from Boston, Maybury has found Austin to be more supportive of his craft. Austin Books & Comics stocks most of Maybury’s work.

But do not expect to see Maybury reading comics anytime soon. He simply does not read them. It has nothing do to with his creative process — he just doesn’t have the time. It takes him about a month to produce a 22-page comic book.

Maybury’s advice to aspiring comic book artists is to make sure it is the job they really want. Pay tends to be low, the work itself is tedious and many of the artists feel underappreciated.

“It’s only for the really sick in the head or really strong-willed people,” Maybury said.

His assistant Jordan Gibson praises the knowledge that comes with working as an assistant for Maybury.

“Find one person that has their foot in the door,” Gibson said. “The amount you can learn from them is invaluable.”

And getting to know just one artist can lead to a bounty of connections. Maybury said that the comic industry in Austin is small, so the artists all know each other, hanging out in bars at the end of the day.

“I met Paul through other creators that I knew first,” Gibson said. “You meet one guy and you’re good because they will help you out and refer you to someone else.”

Maybury said the best advice he ever received was just to do as many books as he can while he is still young — which is exactly what he has been doing. He expects to have three or four books out in 2012.

“I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t fun for me,” Maybury said. “My whole career is built around what’s fun right now.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 as: Comic book artist built his career on the concept of fun