By Natalie Phillips
He could’ve been a doctor; he could’ve been a lawyer; but instead, Darick Robertson decided to be a professional badass. Or, at least, a comic book artist, and to fans of his cynical cyberpunk series Transmetropolitan and his even grittier new series The Boys, it’s about the same thing.
In town for a signing at Atlantis Fantasy World last Sunday, Robertson took a few minutes to talk with City on a Hill Press (CHP) in between signing piles of well-worn copies of Transmetropolitan and Wolverine and brand new issues of The Boys, purchased just moments before. A fast talker and friendly to all who approached the signing table, Robertson chatted openly about his past works, his current collaboration with PREACHER writer Garth Ennis, and where he’s heading in the future. CHP: So, you started working in the comics industry at a pretty early age.
Robertson: Yeah, I got published at 17 doing a book called Space Beaver. I met a comic book store owner who wanted to capitalize on the black and white boom that was happening at the time, and foolishly thought that my idea was as good as the Ninja Turtles and that we’d make a gazillion dollars. It didn’t make us anything, because shortly after we published the first two issues the whole thing kind of tanked, the entire black and white boom went under, and we certainly weren’t far enough to the surface to not go down with it.CHP: Did you ever consider any other professions or did you always know you wanted to do this?
Robertson: There was a time in my life when I thought I’d be a lawyer. There was a time in my life when comics were tanking and I was still young enough where I thought "Well, you know I could go to medical school." CHP: How did you end up working with Garth Ennis for The Boys?
Robertson: We’ve been friends for a long time. I met him way back in ’92 before either of us even thought we’d be working together. I got to go to a convention in Glasgow, Scotland. I was working on some Marvel stuff at the time, I’d just gotten a couple issues of Wolverine published early on, and Garth was there. I met all those guys-Steve Dillon [PREACHER], Duncan Fegredo [Shade the Changing Man], Sean Phillips [Hellblazer]-a whole bunch of those British guys. I met Garth there and we got to be friends just through mutual acquaintances, and then our first job together was the Fury Max series and he was so happy with that. At one point, Garth said, "I just want you to know I really love working with you, and as far as I’m concerned you’re one of my go-to guys now." And he’s been true to that, so we’ve worked together as often as possible, and it’s always a treat because he’s a friend of mine. CHP: So there’s a quote floating around from Garth Ennis that The Boys will "out-PREACHER PREACHER," what do you think he means by that?
Robertson: Well, I think he meant "pay attention to us, buy our book, look over here we’re doing something." That was actually something I don’t think he intended to be public originally, because he said it in the proposal, and I think he really wanted to sell the book, but I think knowing Garth it means that he’s got an epic in mind.
We’re both going to try to push our limits rather than rest on our laurels, and achieve a new standard, set the benchmark a little higher. I think with my work on this compared to what I was doing on Transmet, just from the amount of time I’m able to focus in on, and that I’m inking my own work and all that, I’m already turning in a better product than I was able to under Marvel and Vertigo standards. I was always up against a deadline, which I’m not with The Boys. Garth writes far enough ahead and I get more creative control and I’m getting more editorial support than I got on previous projects. So I feel artistically, like I’m starting to grow. I think for Garth, it’s the same thing for him, He’s going to try and make this a new standard.CHP: Any other writers you’d like to work with eventually?
Robertson: Yeah, I’d love to work with Alan Moore [V for Vendetta], but I don’t think that’s going to happen. And Grant Morrison [The Invisibles] as well because we’re friends and we just haven’t had a project. I think both of their styles and mine would be very compatible. CHP: Have you considered writing your own series?
Robertson: Yeah, I have actually. The first thing I ever did was Space Beaver, which I published and wrote. Then I got published here and there. I have a series in mind that I’m developing, but everything will play second to The Boys until it’s finished, though I can usually handle more than one project. I plan on also maybe even writing and drawing something within in The Boys universe, some of the fringe characters that I might be able to take and run with, and Garth is okay with that, he’s been supportive of that idea so that probably will happen. CHP: Do you ever base your characters off people you know?
Robertson: Just when I’m creating characters generally, I like to cast somebody in my head that I would like to see the movie of, or I use friends of mine because I like the basis to stay consistent. If I base it off somebody real, I can keep going back to that well until I’ve memorized it and then they sort of take their own flavor and I start drawing it from my head, but with an educated sort of approach to it. So with The Boys, I used Simon Pegg ["Shaun of the Dead"] for Wee Hughie.CHP: I knew it!
Roberston: Yeah, shameless… I was shameless because I love Simon Pegg and his work and he just was the perfect role for this, so I did it as an homage. CHP: Do you ever miss drawing Spider and your other Transmetropolitan characters?
Robertson: Yes and no. I only miss them in that it’s not my job anymore, but at the same time all I have to do is pick up a pencil to draw them, it’s not like anything’s forbidding me. And there’s certainly enough people that have asked me for commissions, so I wouldn’t have any trouble selling that if I needed to justify the time. If anything, I miss collaborating with Warren Ellis. CHP: Any opinions on all the comic book-based movies coming out lately?
Robertson: I’m glad to see them improving. If you compare them to the comic book movies that were coming out in the ’90s, it’s like night and day. There are far more good ones than there are bad ones at this point, and I certainly hope that train’s going to pull up into my station at some point. CHP: So you’d like it if Transmetropolitan were made into a movie?
Robertson: Oh absolutely, as long as there’s some creative control involved. I wouldn’t like it so much if somebody just bought the rights and went off and did some terrible adaptation of it and cast, like, David Hasselhoff as Spider Jerusalem. And that’s part of the reason it hasn’t happened, we’ve already passed on a few opportunities that would require us to step away and not be as involved. But I think Warren and I want to be heavily involved if they do make an adaptation-get the right cast, make sure it looks and feels like Transmetropolitan. I think it’s got everything there that you need. CHP: Do you have any advice for people interested in working in the comics industry?
Robertson: It’s a lot harder to break into than it used to be. There’s less work to go around. The newsstand and those sorts of sales have died and its all direct market-supported at this point. The best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to self-publish. Right now they’re recruiting more people from other areas of entertainment, like TV screenwriters and things like that. So if you really want to do comics for a living, make sure you’re well-rounded.