Transmet illustrator Darick Robertson kindly answered the questions I sent him, and also included a lengthier interview he'd done previously.
Hello Ole Peder GiŠver,
I am currently being interviewed and many of the questions you've asked I've already responded to at length there. I am attaching that interview for you to apply to your questions as well. If you have any unaswered questions beyond that, please write and ask me again.
Best- Darick Robertson
What other projects are you working on?
I am doing layouts for a future Vertigo mini series called
The Bamboo Union with artist Brian Snoddy doing finishes.
What have you done previously? I found a "Space Beaver" page dedicated to you other than that?
That page has a list of my previous work. Most notably I'm
known for work on Spider-man and a 2 year run on Marvel's New Warriors.
How did you come up with the design of the Transmet characters, the City and so on?
I based the characters on friends of mine and the city is
from my vision of the future.(refer to attached interview for more info)
How do you like working with Mr. Ellis?
It's great. He's the best.
|Do you have any favourite scene(s) in
the Transmet issues that have come to date (#23)?
I'm fond of the end of #3 when Spider screams "I'm Spider
Jerusalem! Fuck you all!" and he's all beat up. I also enjoyed drawing him injecting
drugs into his eye.
I like drawing people in extreme moments of anguish, or unusual emotion.
What do you most dislike drawing?
Cars and buildings.
All the nifty little details you add to your City backgrounds etc, are they your ideas or Ellis's?
Usually a combination of both. Mostly Warren leaves it to
me, sometimes he has specific ideas.
What is your day like, how do you work?
I work late into the wee hours of the morning, sleep until
the next afternoon and usually watch movies while I draw.
What have we got to look forward to in the upcoming Transmet issues, can you reveal anything?
Not really as we're only a couple of issues ahead and I
don't know what happens until I get the script from Warren.
Who are your inspirations?
Many. Brian Bolland, Jamie Hernandez, Kevin Maguire, Adam
Hughes, Milo Manara, Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Neil Adams, John Romita SR & JR, are
How did you get into comics, when did you decide you wanted to do comics?
I decided I wanted to do comics at a very young age. For some reason as a kid, probably due to the fact my parents didn't have a lot of money, I was very focused on having a career and choosing that career. For a long time I wanted to be a lawyer. Someone once told me I was good at arguing my point, so I thought "Hey, yeah!" but as I settled on that notion, someone else prodded me by saying "Yeah, I can see you now, doodling Superman on your notepad while trying to defend someone in a murder trial..." That picture stuck, so I began to realize that perhaps I could make a living doing comics, which I loved. I was 11, I think.
In high school I created a stupid little character named Space Beaver, because the name sounded good in my head. It just makes people snicker like Beavis and Butthead now. It wasn't a porn comic, but more of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle type of book.
(For those interested, check out http://www.prairienet.org/~kiadm/beave.html, it's a fan based Space Beaver web site)
I met Michio Okamura, an inker for a small press comic named Shuriken. He was working as a security guard in the building I was working in. I had an after high-school job my senior year, as a bill collector for Citibank Visa. I saw him sketching and he invited me to bring my work over to his place. I showed him my stuff, and out of everything he really liked the 4 pages of Space Beaver done in ball point pen on typing paper in my summer school class. He sent them to his publisher and the publisher agreed to publish them, but I'd get no money. I was happy just to be in print, so I began working on my first real comic, with Michio introducing me to Bristol Board, and ink pens, and zip-a-tone.
I had some pages done and took them to a local comic book store, Peninsula Comics in San Mateo, and showed Tibor Sardy. He was either so drunk or so impressed, that he offered to publish my comic, pay me a wage and get it distributed. This was a time in the industry when B&W small press comics were selling like mad because of the TMNT craze and everyone hoping to have the next big thing. So that's where it all began. I wrote and drew whole issues and painted covers. I'd work til 3 am, sleep until 7:30, go to school, go to work right after school, go home and draw. I did this until graduation.
People like to bring up Space Beaver comics to me at conventions like they're the only ones who ever found a copy warming quarter bins across the country, and try to zing me with it, saying 'Hey remember this?!" I'm not saying it was my best work, but at 17, I was putting out a comic while most of the people I knew were going to keg parties. Because of Space Beaver, which still enjoys a weird, inexplicable small popularity, I began to go to comic cons and meet real artists and get information about the workings of the business. I spent the next 5 years drawing, starving and working to break into main stream comics. I did a variety of comics for companies like Eclipse, Malibu and Innovation before landing a job with DC on Justice League.
During the 5 years it took you to break into comics did you have a "real" job or did you manage on the salary you got?
I had many "real" jobs. The worst was sweeping floors and shipping oven parts so i coud pay rent. I've worked at a variety of fast food places and as a bill collector for Visa. I've also worked a variety of comic related jobs, like packing boxes for Diamond distributors and working the counter at a comics store. I also took any art job I could get. I was really hungry and anxious to work mainstream.
What artists have influenced you the most?
Many. Neal Adams, Frank Frazetta, Brian Bolland, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Stevens, Adam Hughes, Kevin Maguire, Moebius, Manara, Libertore, Art Adams, Paul Smith, Kevin Nowlan, Dave Gibbons, David Mazzuchelli, Frank Miller, George Perez, John Romita Sr and Jr, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Boris, John Buscema...My list could just keep going.
I learned to draw comics by copying comics. Luckily, I had a desire to be more realistic and it led me to seek out real sources and draw from photographs. I learned so much more about figures and settings and light from drawing from photos. But the storytelling came from the people listed above. I've always been attracted to artists that can be artistic and stylized, without losing the underdrawing. The figure work is there and solid, no matter how exaggerated. I am repulsed by artists who clearly are drawing other peoples work, half as good, repeating and emphasizing their mistakes, and lacking in originality. In the early nineties you'd see that sort of plagerism rampantly, by big name "talent". I'm happy to see a higher standard returning to the medium. Now, if only we could recapture the audience....
What do you think of the comics code and censorship in general?
I am a strong believer in free speech, and freedom of art. It's ridiculous how people will take offense at a comic book but have no problem with the same level of violence and sex in any other medium. There is still a predisposition that comics are for kids only and anything published in that medium is aimed specifically at children.
Coincedentally, I just worked out a deal with the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) to do a Spider Jerusalem shirt for them. I believe in what they are fighting for. In many ways comics are small money so retailers are easily bullied and persecuted. There are documented cases of stores having product taken from their shelves without any court order, warrant or trial.
If all goes as planned the shirt will feature Spider and his middle digit proclaiming "Put this in your comic book!" and the legal defenses logo at the bottom with the proud banner "Fight Censorship". I truly believe the supression of ideas is the most dangerous propaganda tool. When we can experience other points of view through film, art and literature, we have time and space to consider our own. Communication is the most important thing in any civilization.
What projects were those?
We first collaborated on Ultraforce with pre Transmet inker Jerome K Moore, for the now defunct Malibu comics' Ulatraverse, then on Man of the Atom for the now defunct Acclaim comics. Then we got together to do Transmet for the now defunct Helix line. Hmmm, do you see a trend here?
|How did the look for the
City come round?
Warren and I agreed that the future shouldn't look so bleak, that man has a way of correcting his mistakes or at least counter them so people stay alive. I see man as having an unending goal for ultimate comfort. That seems to be what humans aspire to, comfort and security. So the city reflects that. Of course,
greed still exists, so people will always be trying to be the first and biggest pig at the trough.
So I imagined the city as a New York tumor growing in America. So big and massive, no one's really sure where the borders are anymore. As if from California to New York, mini malls have popped up and connected all that was land in between, to the point states are more like districts of the teeming city. Even now I can se how any small community is succumbing to the promise of more by the infusion of corporate franchises. Corporations offer the promise of jobs and a sense of connectedness to smaller cities. Eventually, growth will inspire more growth and so on. But there's only so much room, only so much land. With things like Makers, there's less garbage and less strain on resources, so in our future, this kind of unbridled growth could be possible.
You wouldn┤t be a technocrat or what-you-now-call-it?
Hardly. I have a car and a cell phone, and obviously a computer. I have a mocirowave and a VCR. Typical shit but I wouldn't say I'm a devotee to technology. I also don't agree that there's anything wrong with technology and progress. Things that work, integrate into our society. We accept them or we don't. If we do, I consider that part of evolution. If something we create destroys us, that too, is part of Humanity's evolution.
Do you agree with Warren┤s America bashing, do you perhaps feel much the same way?
If I felt he was wrong in his criticsm of America or somehow he believed that England was any better I might disagree, but for one, Warren is describing a fictional future America, so anything he dictates as wrong, is, because it's his vision of the future. It's not today. Also, Warren is mostly correct in his criticisms and suspicions. He's more aware of the political structure of America than most Americans.
America is not a perfect country. Like any country it has it's strengths and weaknesses. I'd say it's strength is that it allows a forum for criticism. I'd say that capitalism, not democracy is the reason that America is the strongest and wealthiest nation today. And that's not necessarily a good thing. Inevitably, throughout history, whomever's on top is destined to fall. No one stays on top forever.
The problem is, when America eventually does fall, what is the aftermath going to be like? We have a large, poor, under-educated population that's getting bigger by the day while unbridled corporate growth downsizes and lays off the middle class to the point that we'll have a huge gap between rich and poor. That's the same equation that led to revolution in France and Russia. I believe in the American way, even the American dream. I just don't see that happening in America anymore.
You mainly did superhero comics before Transmet. Did you feel that you needed to get out of that genre?
Not needed too. In some ways I didn't feel I was well received in that genre. Marvel wouldn't offer me a monthly title, regardless of how well I did on mini series or even on my run of New Warriors. Meanwhile decent characters were given over to the hacks at Mike Deadato's factory. I got sick of seeing inferior work on Marevl stuff, so I was thrilled at the chance to work at Vertigo.
My friends pointed out that I had always been the one to turn them onto alternative comics even when I was drawing mainstream super hero stuff. So now I'm working on something I would enjoy reading.
The super-hero comics I want to do are inspired by those that raised the bar on the medium, like Alan Moore, and Frank Miller. Those guys showed what you could do with super heros besides give them flashy costumes and one liners.
Unless something dramatically changes, the industry will continue to flounder. The medium, not individual comics, needs to be promoted to the public. We've lost our core audience to Sony Playstation and N64. Why read about Spider-man when you can BE Spider-man? If all you get from the comics are cool visuals and fight scenes, well then you get that and even a hodge-podge story from the games. Comics are becoming irrelevant to super-heros. Sadly, I don't think the people at Marvel, outside of the creative and editorial staff, care about that. They only care about profit.
I think books like Transmet and Preacher are the future, because they reach a new audience. People who like to think while they're being entertained. People who enjoy a challenging story and can discern good from bad without having it spoon fed to them. With Vertigo books, you're getting a form of entertainment that can't be had anywhere else. Not in a movie, not in a TV show and not in a game. The characters may translate into those mediums, but the comic is the foundation, not incidental.