Rascally rabbits

Local artist immerses himself in the other-worldly Oggy’s Army

ANIMAL INSTINCT<br> Dan Seward does Deeres, too.

Dan Seward does Deeres, too.

Courtesy Of Dan Seward

The current Another Gallery exhibit is the first time visual artist and graphic designer Dan Seward has ever shown the work from his Oggy’s Army cartoon series in public. When asked why, Seward seemed momentarily taken aback, before laughing and answering with a child-like innocence, “I don’t know. That’s a funny question.”

After some thinking out loud, describing a few of the many other possibilities the prolific artist had to choose from for his latest exhibition, Seward concluded simply and honestly: “That’s the stuff I really like.”

The engaging 32-year-old is a busy freelance graphic designer who teaches illustration and Macromedia Flash character animation at Butte College. He’s also the founder and executive director of innovative Paradise art/lit magazine VOICE.

Seward has actually been creating the highly imaginative cartoon characters featured in this series since 1998. Oggy, a “small, peaceful rabbit” who totes a machine gun and wears an army helmet, inhabits “The Known World.” In the 10 years since creating and working with Oggy, Seward has populated the imaginary world with numerous animal characters (Arahg, the rabbit wizard; Tiny, a steroid-enhanced “runt rabbit,” and Izzy, “the biggest, baddest green dragon") and has created extensive detailed maps, very much in the spirit of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien.

“I’m kind of a goofy guy,” offered Seward. “You know, J.R.R. Tolkien and all those guys, I bet, were kind of goofy. And they wrote some good books.”

Seward’s current exhibit is just a taste of some of the players and scenes that make up the complex, interesting world of Oggy. He plans to fashion the characters into a number of graphic novels to be debuted at San Diego’s well-known comic book convention, Comic-Con International, in 2011.

Assisting Seward in this ambitious project is a crew of trusted friends and fellow visual artists and writers from around the Western United States who are working on separate stories and art projects for Oggy’s Army and its spin-offs.

Samuel Overman, Seward’s writer friend whom he met while working “in a medieval-style rock quarry” in Montana, is working on writing the script for Doug and Henry, featuring the curious character of the same name—an impressive rhinoceros with a bird permanently perched on its shoulder. Doug and Henry’s primary concern is its “conflict with an ant.” And Seward’s childhood friend, Idahoan Michael Marchetti, is at work on the story and pencil concepts for Arthur, whose title character is another bad-ass dragon that carries a futuristic weapon.

Other contributors include former VOICE art director and Chicoan Daniel Vera—who is working on both the story and the art for spin-off Gert, about a “little ferret dude"—and artist Aja Wells, who helped start VOICE, and now lives in Arcata.

What began as an idea in Seward’s head has branched out into the creative minds of his seven-plus group of co-creators. Seward loves the idea of being asked to come up with drawings of characters that come out of his friends’ imaginations, as he did when Overman described the Doug and Henry concept. And it’s also his passion to continue to draw and write his own stories about Oggy and his increasing number of cohorts and enemies.

Together, Seward and his artistic friends are bringing into existence this fascinating “world of animals whose stories intertwine into a grand, epic story.”

He even dreams of the day when there will be a full-length animated Oggy’s Army movie and Oggy’s Army action figures.

Seward is clearly devoted to, in love with and immersed in his long-term project, and says he has no intention to quit creating the ever-expanding world of Oggy.

As the intense but light-hearted artist puts it: “I can’t lead a bunch of creative people without being creative myself.”