On Gamorrean Guards and Strollers: An Interview With Evan Dorkin

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  • Unwinnable’s Ian Gonzales spoke with indie comics legend, Evan Dorkin, at the 2011 New York Comic Con. After Ian pulled out his digital recorder, Dorkin commented, “Those things are like Type-1 Phasers.”

    They were off to a good start.

    ———

    Unwinnable: What do you think of NYCC so far?

    E.D.: I actually got lost at first. It’s very San Diego-like. I haven’t been to San Diego in 10 years, but this just gets bigger every year. This is the only day that I have come in and I haven’t moved around much and I almost don’t want to, but people seem to be having a good time.

    I really wish that they could do better traffic control in the aisles. Last year it was really rough. I mean, conventions have always been crowded but now everyone is checking their iPhones and their handhelds while walking, so they’re like Night of the Living Dead zombies. There are strollers and people don’t look out for them. If there’s one Gamorrean Guard in the aisle, you’re screwed. Then everybody stops for these photo ops with people dressed as Zatanna and shit. That’s cool and all, but maybe she should have a masturbator’s corner or something like that where people can parade and get pictures. It would be like a car show for cosplay. Just take the photos there.

    It’s just really rude to literally hold up lots of people because five guys are trying to get their cheesecake photo. I have no problem with what they are doing, that’s cool, but maybe they need to stratify it now and set up an area. They can have cute backgrounds, jungle scenes. You know what I’m saying?

    Unwinnable: Right!

    E.D.: I enjoy the smaller shows personally. I think these are great, but as I am looking around, I just wish that everyone here was buying comics. The industry would be doing so much better if all of the people coming to comic conventions actually liked comics and read even one comic. Because comic conventions seem to be the growth area in this industry. But what are you gonna do?

    Unwinnable: You have a new Beasts of Burden eight-page story out, right?

    E.D.: The first of our three. Jill Thompson and I did three eight-page self-contained stories for Dark Horse Presents. The first story ran in issue #4, which came about a month ago, and the next installments will be in issue #6 and issue #8. They are all self-contained.

    After DHP # 4 came out, I noticed we started selling a couple of books again. That’s what you hope happens. The Beasts of Burden/Hellboy one-shot came out and we sold some books. The film option announcement came out and we sold a lot of books. We are in our second printing and we have some foreign editions coming out soon. We don’t put a lot of material out every year. We have only put out 24 pages a year for the last two years. We’re hoping to remedy that next year if all goes well. It’s just schedules and that Jill’s watercolors are time-consuming and she is much in demand.

    Unwinnable: Writers – there are too many of us.

    E.D.: It’s slow. I’m a slow writer. I write slower than some people draw. But then again, everyone writes slower than Sergio Aragones draws so that doesn’t mean much. For a book that has been out for over a year and a half and people are still talking about it, that’s very satisfying. We seem to be getting new readers every week – at least like two. Maybe even one, you know, maybe it’s just one guy.

    I admit that I check the Amazon rankings every once in a while, and it’s really gratifying to see it keep selling.

    Unwinnable: Are there plans for another miniseries?

    E.D.: That is what we are discussing right now. I’m hoping that’s next, that we get a nice chunk of material out the next time. The eight-page stories are what we could work into Jill’s schedule. Since I knew they were the only thing that we were going to get done for a while, I tried to concentrate on different characters.

    Like with the series, each issue is self-contained, but there are ongoing plot lines and more information is revealed about the characters. You learn some more stuff about Rex, something goes on with Jack. The second story actually has some backstory on the Wise Dog Society. It’s a story that takes place in the Middle Ages. We tried to put as much in there as possible. I like to write short stories, but I try to put more material into one of our short stories than most comics have in an entire issue. That’s just the way I pack it in, for good or bad.

    Unwinnable: It’s evident in both the short stories and the issues.

    E.D.: I like for each issue to really feel like a story. I don’t personally enjoy writing or reading the comics that come out in serial form where I feel like I just watched the first two minutes of a movie and everybody just basically introduced themselves but nothing really happened. It didn’t feel satisfying; it didn’t feel like a story. It felt like a setup.

    Then you read the second issue and it feels like more setup. I mean I don’t think that people have to compress everything the way I do it. There are a lot of ways to do these things. They should ban splash pages and double-splash pages for a while, force people to write a little more into everything. But that’s just me. My books sell like shit on the whole, so I shouldn’t talk.

    Unwinnable: Right now, comics seem to be more of a movie-driven industry.

    E.D.: I think it has driven to get a lot more material out. Everybody can write 12 books a month. The artists draw two or three and they rely a lot more than ever on the colorists. Take a story that would have to be two issues or four issues – it’s now ten. At the end of the day, a lot of the superhero stories don’t really end anyway. They lead you. It’s a chapter in a longer story. I think that’s playing fast and loose with the readers. But if people enjoy it, they enjoy it. I’m not gonna tell them not to. But you know we have certainly burned out a lot of readers.

    I like done-in-ones. Eric Powell and I worked on an issue of The Goon. Eric likes done-in-ones, too. Mike Mignola keeps his stuff tight, like BPRD. I enjoy that sort of thing, where you know there is going to be an end to this – that is a door closing. Another door may be opened, but at least you get the narrative closing of a door and you can keep moving. You feel like you just read something that felt like a story. It’s like people don’t seem to know how to write stories anymore. They write ongoing arcs until they are replaced or they go onto something else.

    And superheroes talk too much.

    [LAUGHTER]

    E.D.: I talk too much, but I’m not a superhero – you’re not buying my book. I can’t buy a comic book that is 22 pages of a guy getting his feelings out. Fuck that! They are in costumes. They have powers. I wanna see them do stuff. If I want to see a play, I will go to a play. Anyway, I shouldn’t be running off about stuff. I should be promoting my work, right?

    Unwinnable: Your early career was a lot of humor work.

    E.D.: A lot of supposedly funny work, yes.

    Unwinnable: It’s funny. I like it.

    E.D.: That’s in the eye of the reader.

    Unwinnable: I read Milk & Cheese #666 in preparation for…

    E.D.: For what? Suicide?

    [LAUGHTER]

    Unwinnable: It’s funny seeing the amount of violence in Milk & Cheese versus the amount of horror violence in Beasts of Burden. It’s going for a very different effect.

    E.D.: Beasts of Burden is just doing something in a different gear. That kind of violence isn’t called for – the characters aren’t like that. I mean, Milk & Cheese is not a book of characters. Those two – it’s like a comedy team. It doesn’t have a narrative.

    I have always liked the horror genre. I have always wanted to write horror stories. I would love to write a ridiculous ‘80s B-movie one day. Scott Allie at Dark Horse knew that from talking to me while we worked on stuff. I did two stories for Hellboy: Weird Tales. There’s a bookend story and a story about a black metal cult in Norway that Roger investigates. After that, he knew that I liked to do horror stuff and he asked me to something for The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings. I jumped for it.

    People think that I just do really stupid humor books, but I like doing all different kinds of genres. I wrote an eight-page story about a haunted doghouse and Scott suggested Jill paint it, because I’m a friend of Jill’s and I love her work. I wrote it with her in mind and it got a nice response. The following year, they did The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft and he said, “Do you want to do another story?” I said, “Sure. Can we do another story with the dogs and the cats?” He said, “Yeah, that would be great.” We didn’t have a title for it. We never had a title for it until the miniseries. That’s four books later.

    Ultimately, we had four short stories and Scott said, “Let’s do a miniseries and lets start talking about getting this together as a project.” So we came up with a title. Did the miniseries. Did the Hellboy crossover and you see what happens.

    I would like to do more horror stuff, but I don’t have any opportunities. I’m not good at pitching to companies. Right now, I am very busy on a lot of stuff, so it’s hard to prep anything else, but I would love to able to pitch Dark Horse on doing a horror graphic novel. I would love to do a horror anthology, but that’s just so hard. I wanted to do something for Creepy but it’s not creator-owned, and I really don’t like the idea of writing original content that I don’t own.

    I would love it if there was a horror anthology that I could get a lot of different artists for. I have a lot of stories in my files. My wife and I have a couple of horror graphic novel ideas that we would like to do. It just takes me a long time to get things going.

    Beasts is in some ways based on things that I was working on when I was 18 – in the ‘80s. I wanted to do a paranormal investigating team comic that was a cross between Buckaroo Bonzai and The Untouchables, and then Kolchak: The Nightstalker. It’s kind of been done. People have done the paranormal team so many times since then that I just stuck it. My wife and I talked about writing it, changing the setting and reworking it. But I am the kind of person who’s like, “Oh, they already did a paranormal thing, I can’t do one now”. But my wife is like, “You know there were paranormal teams before the BPRD.” There’s been Witch Hunt before Kolchak and X-Files is based on Kolchak. Kolchak goes back to Carnacki.

    So, I shouldn’t be so uptight about things like that. If you’re gonna do something that is close to what someone else did, just do it your own way and try not to rip it knowingly. But a lot of that paranormal investigative team stuff has found its way into Beasts of Burden – the group dynamics and the sense of humor and things like that.

    Unwinnable: The character work in Beasts of Burden is strong.

    E.D.: Thank you. I work very hard on that. I wanted The Goon #35 to be an issue of The Goon – I didn’t want it to be weird. It’s an issue of The Goon with my level of violence in it, with my stupid jokes, which I patterned after Eric Powell. I like doing that kind of chameleon thing.

    I worked very hard to get Hellboy’s voice right in the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy one-shot and Mike tweaked it and he changed a few things, but he didn’t change as much as I thought he would.

    I am not so good at emulating people’s drawing style. If I am writing a superhero book, I try to put myself into that mode. I did World’s Funnest for DC 10 years ago. I tried to write all 17 or 18 sections in the style of the people known for writing that stuff. I wrote the Frank Miller section and I tried to write it like Frank Miller. I just run through the work until I feel like I can start scripting in that style. I just did a Milk & Cheese strip and I had to hold back because I felt like I was writing like The Goon and Frankie.

    Looking at a lot of Hellboy affected how I paced out some stuff that I did in the eight-page stories for Dark Horse Presents. I am like silly putty. If I am looking at someone’s work, even if I don’t have it on the table, I will be affected by what I just worked on.

    I am drawing a strip right now and I am fighting because I am drawing it in an almost Simpsons style (I have been working for Bongo lately). It was so hard to nail that style that I find I am now using a lot of the character construction on my own characters, and I am like, “Why are my characters all fucked up? This guy has an overbite – what the hell am I doing?” The teeth are all screwed up. I am giving them Homer and Barney teeth.

    I am slow because if I take a project, I really try to go to the wall on it. I really try to give people their money’s worth. If you buy a story from me, it’s a story. If I do eight pages, I try to put 22 pages of ideas into that. It’s obsessive compulsive.

    I’m trying to calm down, because as I get older I can’t draw nine panels with 25 balloons in them as much. Also, my wife has to color all that stuff and it’s driving her crazy. And, um, you know, my eyes are going. I am 46 and I can’t do as much as I did when I was 20. Eric was great, he went with it. He let me do as many panels on the page as I wanted. In fact, Scott told me he put some more stuff into the next issue. I hope I don’t ruin him or anything. He said he wanted to try to put a little more in, trying to work off of the pace. I hope that his fans don’t hate me and that they aren’t like, “I don’t like that pacing. Kill that Jew bastard who messed up his pacing!” I don’t even know what I am talking about. I have low blood sugar. I haven’t eaten much today.

    Unwinnable: You could always pay four dollars for a pretzel.

    E.D.: You know, I had some Cap’n Crunch. I ate classy. I had some Cap’n Crunch Berries before I left. I am taking good care of myself. I am gonna be shitting blood by six o’ clock.

    Unwinnable: What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?

    E.D.: Dark Horse Presents # 6 will be out. The Milk & Cheese collection with everything from 1988-2010 will be out Dec 21st from Dark Horse. I have a Bongo story that Sarah Dyer and I wrote. She drew it and I colored. That will be out in December in Simpsons comics. The other stuff I can’t talk about yet. But see me in a while and hopefully we will have some announcements.

    And so we parted ways. Evan returned to the Dark Horse booth and I returned to the show floor, where I abruptly stopped because the person in front of me needed to take a picture with the Silk Specter.

    ———

    Ian would have complained about gawking at cosplayers on Twitter via @IanGonzales, but there was no 3G on the convention floor.

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