An interview with Riana Moller
OPB) “Do It” is based a true story. Can you tell us a little about what this dark time in your life was like?
RM) Throughout childhood we were clearly told what was expected of us by the media and, and by society as a whole. We had no choice in the matter; conform or become an outcast. Most of my classmates conformed, out of fear of being different. But I was a naive kid, and I didn't understand the subtle undertones of unease in my playmates.
First came light jabs, often from kids who wanted to prove themselves by pointing out anything that didn't quite fit the established mold... Then came actual punches. Kids waited for me to leave class so they could chase me around on their bikes or beat me with nettles. They prank called our house endlessly, stealing, pushing, breaking, throwing rocks at our windows and spouting abuse at every member of my family.
The sense of rejection and the abuse that came with it forced me to decide whether or not I should flee or fight the situation. I could accept to hate myself; become apathetic and lose myself in escapism... Or I could resist and fight my oppressors.
OPB) So what did you do?
RM) I embraced it. They called me a dyke, a witch, a nerd and of course a freak. So I cut my eyelashes, listened to metal, elected to play the most masochistic games I could, and worshipped famous outcasts. Everything from rock stars to school shooters. I started preparing for a fight.
When my grandfather died, I clearly recall taking fake glee in his death. I forced myself not to cry, I forced myself to laugh it off... To despise my weeping relatives... Just so I myself wouldn't feel any more pain. I loved him, he was a painter, and I didn't allow myself to mourn.
It was a downwards spiral. From there on I actually killed smaller animals in the nearby forest, the very same forest I crossed to avoid bullies. And I started preparing for revenge both mentally and physically. That meant training, forcing myself to watch gore, collecting weapons and making plans for using chlorine gas after the initial attack. I lost whatever friends I had left...
OPB) Was there any sense to it all? Why would you ever do such things?
RM) It was self-programming. Semi-self-aware-programming. I wanted to feel in control, I didn’t want to feel like a victim. I wanted to be numb and tough, but the truth was that I was a soft skinned girl letting others ruin my humanity.
The craziest part is that I really believed I was the hero in all this.
OPB) The protagonist receives a helping hand and some important advice at a key part of the story. Was there someone who helped you like this, or did you have to pull yourself up?
RM) The story sums up almost a decade of changes in my mindset. While there was no single person who helped me, there were several who, by their example and kindness, inspired me to move on. I was encouraged to draw, and to tell stories. It saved me from doing terrible things.
Love, the love of self-improvement and forgiving my bullies pushed me onwards.
It also took a lot of self-realization, active efforts to pry off the mask and admitting to myself that being violent, hardcore and cold-hearted... Wasn't me at all.
Once I got out, the sense of ego death was so profound I almost felt like I suffered from amnesia. My entire personality seemed lost. It was frightening, but rewarding.
OPB) What sort of policy changes (governmental or educational) do you think could help young people in a similar situation?
RM) Give them choices. When someone faces bullying, they need to be given a choice of escape. It's all fight or flight and anyone who gets cornered will end up lashing out.
Educators need to offer vulnerable people a way out. Figure out their passions and show them that there's a life outside of school. Internships, courses, and family support for their chosen path help so much more than blaming bullies, metal detectors, and micromanagement.
We can't stop bullying, but we can render it impotent.
OPB) What are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?
RM) My biggest art boner goes to creators like Ralph Bakshi, Alison Bechdel, Craig Thompson, Joe Matt, good ol' Robert Crumb, Jean Giraud, and Takato Yamamoto. Honesty and bravery are the single greatest values an artist can possess, at least in my bothersome opinion.
OPB) Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
RM) First, I try to figure out the meaning of things... I fail at it and instead think of inconsequential/personal nonsense. Then I whip myself for being a fraud until I feel guilty enough to take on said nonsense.
Everything is plotted out for several days. While talking to myself I scribble down notes about pros and cons, structure, scenarios, do goddamn Venn diagrams, character arcs, and subtext fluff. Mind you, these notes will be indiscernible later on.
Then I almost completely withdraw from social networks, losing followers left and right, because I don't tell anyone! EVEN the slightest amount of flattery dulls my desire to complete the project. Once the line work is done, I pass it around to optimum readers and ask them to destroy it. Then comes coloring and as many rounds of edits it takes. 90% of the art for Do It was done in 6 months. Edits took almost a year.
Finally I end up with something I am proud of, for just under 24 hours... till I change my mind and start to loathe it.
OPB) What other projects are you working on?
RM) All I can say is that it's an illustrated novel for a very beloved project of mine that was almost realized as a video game a few years back. It's about facing your demons.