Comic Book Biography: DARICK ROBERTSON

darick-robertson“Darick is doing some amazing work; the best of his career! Crisp, clear storytelling, great characterization and facial expressions and his draftsmanship keeps getting better and better”
Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics Editor In Chief

Darick Roberston has had a long and distinguished career in comics over the last 16 years. The best is yet to come. This week sees the debut of his new Wolverine ongoing series and following in the shoes of Origins, Darick is producing Born, the origin of the Punisher.

First Comics News: You broke into comics at age 17 with Space Beaver, what was that like?

Darick Robertson: I was just a kid drawing in summer school class when I came up with Space Beaver. It was a joke to me and I was just writing and drawing it for fun, making each panel up as I went, to kill time. I had no idea that was going to launch my career. I met a security guard at the office building I worked at after school as a bill collector, and he was drawing in a pad. Turns out he was being published by a very small comic book company. We got together and I showed him my work, along with Space Beaver.

That stood out to him. He sent it to his publisher and the publisher offered to publish it but wouldn’t pay me. My friend showed me how to create actual comic book pages, with the right tools and such. A local comic book storeowner, Tibor Sardy, saw the work and in the fervor of the black & white comic boom of the late eighties, offered to publish it and pay me. Hell, I was sold! I was just finishing my senior year at Aragon High School in San Mateo, California when I was 17. I actually did some of the pages for Space Beaver #1 in class, for my art final. I created, wrote drew the series and painted some of the covers forSpace Beaver. It was the only title published by Ten Buck Comics. We did 11 issues, and in February of 2001, I finally drew the last issue after an 11-year cliffhanger.

Space Beaver, as laughable as it was from the title alone, enabled me to learn the ropes of the comic book business.

1st: I first became aware of your work during your run on Justice League Europe, how did you get the assignment?

Darick: I made the mistake of hiring an agent. The only reason it was a mistake was that was the only job the agent got for me and from there I got my own work at Marvel, which ended up paying much more. But the agent still took their chunk of the money, which they did nothing at that point, to earn. The agent was more interested in pushing their already more established clients rather than promoting up and coming talent.

1st: What were some of the differences between small press and working with a major publisher like DC?

Darick: DC of course is far more resourceful. This was the late eighties early nineties and comics hadn’t boomed and subsequently collapsed the way was about to, so there were a lot more established people and creators guiding the business.

1st: After Justice League Europe your next long tern assignment was a 2-year run on New Warriors, how did you move from DC to Marvel?

Darick: I met Bob Harras at a convention in Oakland, and upon seeing myJustice League work, he offered me a Wolverine try out, and that try out led to 3 fill-in issues and started my career at Marvel. I’ve bounced back and forth between both companies ever since.

1st: What do you find the most challenging about working on corporate owned comics?

Darick: You’re working on something doesn’t and never will belong to you. If you’re lucky you can bring you’re own stuff to a title and leave a lasting impression, but sometimes, the company is running the show and believe that, rather than creators, they know what’s best for their characters and so The Thing stops smoking his cigars, etc.

So whatever you come to the job thinking you know about, the character has to adapt to what the company wants, because at the end of the day, you are being hired to draw their characters for them.

1st: You completed a 60 issue, 5 year, run on Transmetropolitan, what type of freedom did you have co-creating and owning your own character?

Darick: Not as much as I wish we had, but far more then in the main universe comics. They will leave you alone more but at the same time I found myself fighting just as hard at times to get stuff into the book and still had my stuff censored arbitrarily.

1st: You have just signed a 2-year exclusive deal with Marvel; will it be difficult giving up the freedom and ownership you had withTransmetropolitan to work on characters that are owned by Marvel?

Darick: Yeah, it’s the compromise I outlined above. I’m getting better pay and health insurance for my family and the opportunity to draw my favorite character, so it’s a fair exchange for the 2 years I’m obligated.

And also the promise of guaranteed work. When you’re freelance, you risk hitting a dry patch. It hasn’t happened to me in over a decade, but you never know.

1st: You’re launching the new Wolverine comic; how did you get involved with this project?

Darick: It was offered to me after I went exclusive. The book was handed to Axel Alonso, and from there I was brought on and afterward, Greg Rucka, which was exciting, because Greg and I wanted to team up a long time ago and now we get to on such a prime book on a character we both have a passion for.

1st: What do you think the readers are going to appreciate the most about the change from the previous Wolverine series to the new one, and why should people who maybe haven’t been reading Wolverinecheck it out?

Darick: It’s going to be a more story driven approach to Wolverine, with focus on the character rather than about what the character does. These stories are more about his life as a mutant, and his journeys when he’s not being an X-Man.

I’m reading the first series again and the first year has Wolverine possessed by demon swords, fighting giant samurai’s, cute chick sidekicks and things like that. Greg Rucka and I are doing a very different, darker, and less adventurous, more realistic series. Stories of dark justice and revenge. Situations set more in the real world and throwing Logan into it to bring the bizarre. It’s not the same as having Logan being a bizarre character in a bizarre world. There was a panel in the first few issues of the original Wolverine series where Silver Samurai walks in, seven feet tall, all decked out in this outfit, and it’s like he’s anyone else. No one thinks that’s strange. That sort of thing makes comics seem ridiculous.

Buscema, even though I think he was a genius, drew Logan with this crazy hair sticking straight up in 2 clean swooping spikes. That looks like no hair I’ve ever seen. The way I depict Logan, I see his hair as just coarse and grows quickly, so it sticks up all over and gets pointy as it extends (my own hair does the same thing as it gets long).

Also we’re getting back to basics. I’m bringing him back to what I believe he was always meant to be, a brute little animalistic man with a soul.

1st: Are readers who have been with Wolverine since the beginning going to be happy with the changes?

Darick: Some will. Some won’t. A good comic is a good comic, and that’s our goal: to produce a good comic.

1st: In addition to Wolverine you have several other project line up at Marvel; what can you tell us about Punisher: Born?

Darick: It’s an origin story, comparable to Wolverine’s Origin, in format. It will be prestige formatting, etc. It’s about Frank Castle as a 21 year-old Captain in Vietnam. Garth Ennis asks the question “Did the death of Castle’s family make him crazy, or was that madness always there, just looking for a reason?” It’s a hellish story of Vietnam at its worst. We explore the foundation of Frank Castle’s initial descent into murderous justice and his insanity.

1st: The Punisher isn’t a character like Wolverine where his origin was never told. It’s been almost 30 years since Amazing Spider-Man#129, is it fair to the readers to say 30 years later, “you never really knew his true motivations and origin”?

Darick: Not this aspect of his past. At least it hasn’t been explored the way Garth Ennis is exploring it. It’s been a bear to collect all the research about the Vietnam War necessary. I’m striving very hard to get all the detail and authenticity I can into it, but it’s been a struggle to keep it and Wolverine on time and put the necessary quality work into both.

1st: Additionally you have Deathlok: Detour coming out later this year; how did the idea of doing Deathlok as comedy come about?

Darick: All through Daniel Way, the writer. I will get back into Deathlokafter I finish Born. It has taken some schedule juggling, but now its looking likely that I will be able to do that series in full, pencils and inks, the way I originally planned to draw it.

1st: Deathlok is a Max series, how much freedom do you have using characters in the Max Universe?

Darick: More than the other parts of the Marvel U. They let me run with my own redesign of Deathlok. The original Deathlok was sort of slender with Captain America’s build. My version is from some weird point, sixty years in the future and out of Marvel continuity. I figure, this guy’s a cyborg, so who knows how his body would be messed around with over the years. Deathlok’s huge, hulking, grotesque physique comes from that notion.

1st: How does this compare to your previous Max series, Fury?

Darick: It’s wilder. Fury had a few funny moments but wasn’t a funny story. This story is over the top comedy and action. It’s like the Farrelly Brothers meets Mad Max. Transmetropolitan fans will really enjoy it and so will Wolverine and Punisher fans.

1st: I have also heard that you are planning on writing as well as drawing in the coming year, what do you have planned as a writer?

Darick: Nothing I can really discuss at this time. Too many things on my plate already and some editorial shifts have changed my opportunities.

1st: How do you approach storytelling differently as a writer than as an artist?

Darick: I approach them the same way. I write to tell a cohesive story and draw the same way. I certainly have more experience as an artist. I’ve worked with so many talented writers it’s difficult to motivate myself to put my own work out there at this point. My art is associated with the plots and words of Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and now Greg Rucka. Not having that caliber of writing to accompany my images might leave my audience feeling cheated.

1st: Are there any other comics are you are dying to work on?

Darick: There are a lot of characters I love at both companies. I would have loved to have been the guy to bring back Firestorm, but that didn’t happen. For now, I’m feeling really good about Wolverine. I’m pretty satisfied and feeling fortunate.

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