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MSU professor Ryan Claytor brings his late grandfather's poem to life in a comic book

A Hunter's Tale cover
Posted at 8:43 PM, Jan 31, 2022

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ryan Claytor has been creating comic books for almost 20 years, but the pages in his most recent book hold a special place in his heart, filled with words from a poem his late grandfather wrote almost 40 years ago.

Claytor teaches comics classes at Michigan State University. He also makes his own comics.

Photo of Ryan Claytor and his late grandfather
Photo of Ryan Claytor and his late grandfather

His most recent book is called "A Hunter's Tale." It was originally a poem written in 1983 by his late grandfather Charles Kermit Claytor.

"This has been with me almost my entire life. And I've always wanted to sort of collaborate with him on this and make this visual in some way because I feel like it's such a narratively driven poem," Claytor said.

In the first pages of the comic, you can see a man getting ready to go hunting, prepping his bag, even has his first encounter with the deer.

Ryan Claytor reading pages out of his comic
Ryan Claytor reading pages out of his comic

"It's about these two seemingly, very disparate subjects, a hunter and his prey, and this unlikely understanding they form with one another. And at its core, this poem is about reciprocated empathy, which is a value I think we all need right now. Especially, you know, after we've all been through the past two years together as a global community," Claytor said.

To find out what happens nexst, you'll have to read the comic. But Claytor says, after almost 20-years of cartooning, he felt like his skills were finally up to the task of keeping up with his grandfather.

Preview pages inside the comic book
Preview pages inside the comic book

"I really appreciate the fantasy element that my grandfather was able to bring to this. I think it starts out as a pretty typical day in the life. But as the poem progresses, it's pretty clear that it's not a nonfiction poem," Claytor said.

Bringing his grandfather's vision to life took him about six months. And he even used some photographs and did a number of sketches to make the character look a little like his late grandfather.

"Initially, I was trying to layout these pages in a particular cadence of the poem. And as I was going through, I was thinking, 'Well, if I massage the words, just a little bit, I think they might fit in a particular way.' But, you know, my grandfather's not around anymore to have that type of creative conversation with," said Claytor. "I came to the decision that I am not going to touch his words, I am going to be vehemently faithful to his poem, and allow those words to be the words that they are and then I would craft the comic around that."

Claytor is hoping this comic book will be a gentle reminder of how people should interact with each other.

"I feel like this is a little bit akin to therapy, where, you know, there's not going to be whole class changes straightaway. But with reminders, you kind of slowly start to make changes," Clayor said. "I hope that this poem can restore a little bit of that empathetic thought in each of our lives and allow us to come together."

If you would like to purchase a copy of "A Hunter's Tale" click here.

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