Ryan Penagos

Tacos, Tattoos, and Comics with Ryan Penagos

From near toddler-hood, Ryan Peganos has been one of history’s most well-versed Punisher fans. Not convinced? Well, bloody believe it.

A lot has changed with social networks popping in on our World Wide Web’s cyber-door. From Twitter to LinkedIn to the major motion picture worthy Facebook, the list goes on and on. Ryan has been keen to this recent internet phenomenon and has been able to create a super human presence online. Not only “job title” business oriented networking, but down to earth topics. For example, what snack he would eat if it was the last delicacy on the planet, or a commitment to a band fronted by Keith Morris.

In this interview Ryan raps to New York Body Art from growing up with a Jim Lee mentality to the close relationship between tattoo art and the colorful pages of Captain America. Subjects beyond the pigment, pen and ink; the industries’ avoidance of change and the allowances the old-schoolers have, at times, accepted in order to progress their “working-art” businesses.

Ryan Peganos has been able to approach this industry in a modern, three piece suit-less fashion, which seems to speak volumes to today’s comic book reader, lover, or friggin’ obsessive compulsive fanatic.

One word: Taco.

“ I think it’s better now than it was in the ’90s. There’s less superfluous barbed wire and tribal tattoos —Ryan Peganos

When did you first discover your love for comics/illustration? Probably when I was 5 or 6. My oldest memory of reading comics goes back to being at summer camp as a kid and reading old PUNISHER: WAR JOURNAL comics by Jim Lee and some AVENGERS WEST COAST by John Byrne.

Did you immediately feel like you wanted to create your own? Or did the creation come after the obsession? I traced and tried drawing as a kid, but I’ve never had that skill. I’m always blown away by artists who can create amazing things in minutes. I’ve been a bit more interested in writing comics, but only very minimally.

The digital world, i.e Twitter/Facebook/Linkedin is taking over both the comic book and tattoo industries in a massive way. In the tattoo world these are modern avenues to get your name out. These networks are viewed as a huge asset to the business, but detrimental in many ways. What are the pros and cons in your industry? It’s very similar. I’ve been very happy to be on the forefront of getting Marvel into the social media world. We have something like 400 creators/staffers/partners on Twitter alone. That’s a really great reach, especially when you look at the number of followers many of them have. We can get the word out on cool stuff we’re doing in a big way. And, for me, it’s great to have the huge Twitter reach that I do because I can shine the spotlight on a great writer/artist/comic and get all sorts of new people interested. Also, I absolutely love being able to have that one-on-one interaction with our fans. It’s huge. We do what we do and continue to do it all, because of the fans. As for the detriments, some folks get bogged down by negativity or criticism, but that’s part of the game. Nothing is universally liked. Now, though you can be confronted with it directly and quite often. Gotta be able to handle that–and I think most of us do. Also, the more we go out socially, the less privacy we have. Gotta find that balance.

Is there an element of traditional values in the comic book industry that artists/writers/editors hold close to them? Traditional values as in morals and ethics? Like, God and country? I’d say, sure, everyone who creates comics puts their own experiences, knowledge and life lessons into things. But I don’t think, especially for mainstream comics pros, we’re going to push agendas or thoughts or ways of thinking. In the end, it’s all for entertainment. Good stories, good art, etc. Politics, shmolitics.

The western world tends to agree that decades before, and even now, tattoo art was exclusive to bikers, sailors and hookers. Today, with TV shows like LA Ink, the industry has grown into the mainstream. Many old schoolers seem to look down on the exposure. Do you notice the older generation of comic book writers/illustrators/editors welcome, say, productions like the X-Men film trilogy? I think that’s always an issue for something that was part of a subculture. The more exposure it gets, the more the early/original adopters feel like they’re losing ownership of this thing they love. Comics, though, aren’t quite the same. It’s still niche in some respects, but the characters are so well known and have been around for so many years, it’s better for everyone when there are big movies and more exposure. Well, at least when they’re good movies. We want people to go see Iron Man in the movies and then find a comic book store and pick up some comics. We want kids finding out who Thor is and then wanting to read some kickass Thor comics.

Do you see the film/television industry doing these multi million dollar ventures as selling out? Buying in? Nah, not selling out. While comics are an amazing art form and there are some really amazing expressions of the form, it always is and always will be a business. Gotta make money. Gotta increase the audience. When a big comic book movie does well, it helps the whole industry.

You have some pretty visible tattoos. In the comic book world, do you ever come across problems with the powers above because of your outward appearence? Does having tattoos help? If someone did have an issue with them, would you consider getting your neck tattooed? Having tattoos has, fortunately, never been a problem for me in comics. More often than not, it’s an icebreaker or something that keeps me in people’s minds. The Editor-in-Chief of Wizard magazine, where I used to work, would send me tattoo stuff all the time. Pictures, news, silly stuff. It was a connection. Comic fans are pretty tattooed–they love to represent their favorite artists or characters with ink.
A neck tattoo? Hmmm. I’m not sure I’m into that for myself. If I was feeling it, I’d go for it, though.

When did you start getting tattoo work done? I got the Black Flag bars on my right arm when I was 18. That was my first. After that, nothing for 4 or 5 years.

Do you remember the first time seeing a friend or family member growing up with tattoos? Did you immediately want one too? Or did the motion to get work done strike you later on? I vaguely remember my uncle having some tattoos when I was younger, but they didn’t wow me. I don’t think the tattoo bug hit me until late in high school or in college.

Who inspired you to start getting work done? I wish I had some awesome answer, but I’m blanking. I just wanted some awesome tattoos.

Have you been to any tattoo conventions/comic book conventions recently? I’ve never been to a tattoo convention. I should go one of these years. Comic book cons? I’ve done two this year so far, with three more on the way. Cons are super busy for me. I’m either on camera or producing content or arranging stuff or doing something for the gig.

Do you notice any major differences/ similarities between events like Comic-Con and (insert tattoo convention)? Wish I had more background on tattoo conventions. That said, the folks who run a comic con called C2E2 in Chicago welcome tattoo artists. This year, they worked with a few local tattoo artists, letting them tattoo at the show. There were some auctions for fans to get original art done by a comic artist at the show and then the art would get tattooed with that art. It was rad.

Trust me, a ton of tattooers are , respectfully, gigantic comic book OCD collecting weirdos. Have you gone to tattoo shops/conventions to scout out new talent in/for your field of work? Our talent guys are so swamped with going to comic book conventions or working with artists trying to break into comics, I’ve not heard of them working with tattoo artists. It’s a good idea, but I suggest that any tattoo artists who want to do comics, put their efforts into making comics.

People frequently ask about the physical process while creating and drawing a tattoo. Are there similarities between what makes a good tattoo a good comic book? Totally. For comic artists, there’s no one right way or wrong way. Each artist has their own methods, processes, materials, etc. So much goes into it, though.

In the tattoo shops I have worked in there have always been a feeling of comradery, like a family mentality. In the past, we have given each other what we have called “club” tattoos. Do you think you would ever consider getting some of the Wizard guys together to get “club” tattoos to commemorate your growth/shared experience within the company? I’ve definitely thought about it. But most of them aren’t as gung ho about tattoos as I am, so it’s iffy. I’ve always kinda wanted the Flying Hellfish tattoo from the Simpsons.

When you see comic book heros/villans with tattoos, do you think there is always a stigma of “badass-ary” that goes along with the character? Do you think it accents the subject’s persona? I think it’s better now than it was in the ’90s. There’s less superfluous barbed wire and tribal tattoos. Putting tattoos on a character is more work for the artists, so it should really mean something. Sometimes it’ll be a fashion, but more-so it fits the character.

I used to get hassled by teachers in school for drawing in my notebook during class. Or people would say, becoming a working artist would most likely be a waste of time. I obviously did not listen. Do you think that defiance propelled many of the people in our industries to succeed? Where did you find your drive? Who did you turn to for support? I believe it comes down to personal character. Some people work better with positive reinforcement, others on fighting back against challenges and being told they can’t do something. I was lucky to grow up with immense support from my family who instilled in me a very strong work ethic. I’m an only child, raised by a hard-working, single mom. My family’s pretty working class and we’ve been happy, but never wealthy. I’ve been working since I was 14 and my family’s always pushed each other to do more, be better, learn more, etc.

Generally, it seems like you have to be on some level of nerdom when you tattoo and/or get tattooed these days. Do you wonder if it has and forever will be the same in the Marvel Universe? Nerdiness/geekiness is much more accepted nowadays. We’re all nerds for something.

Do you believe a picture can tell a thousand words? A thousand words is a lot, dude. I always tell my writers, “less is more.” Sometimes that picture can say one word and speak volumes.

So, when do you plan to get a tattoo honoring your love for tacos? Oh, my artist and I–Dave C. Wallin at Eight of Swords Tattoos in Brooklyn–have discussed a taco-themed chest piece for years now. It’s on my mind, but I have a few more pieces that I’d want to get first.


For more about tacos and ryan, visit him online at: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, official site

About Shannon

I was raised in Washington, DC. I moved to Austin, TX to open Sideshow Tattoo. I am currently in DC working for Mike Smith at Ambrotos Tattoo in Bethesda, MD.

Comments are closed.