David Robertson makes comics, reads comics and writes about comics. His comics and articles have appeared in various anthologies, journals, magazines and websites. He contributes to podcasts and workshops and through Fred Egg Comics, he publishes his titles Berserkotron; Dump; Wow! Retracted; Zero Sum Bubblegum; and, most recently, another great anthology featuring work by a variety of creators, Break the Cake.
We caught up with this busy, enthusiastic experimental creator just before Christmas to talk to him about his work…
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
David: It’s difficult to single out one project to be most proud of. I could say Berserkotron, as it was the first long form comic story I completed and put out as a small press comic. My story, “One Day at Space Wizard Central” was notable for me in that it was the first time I decided to put a viewpoint out there, on a topic I was hardly an expert on.
I am happy with the new comic Break the Cake, while looking forward to the next. As each comic comes out, that’s another achievement to be proud of. They don’t produce themselves automatically, they exist because I make them.
downthetubes: Your latest anthology, Break the Cake, is available now and has been well received, offering a great mix of some 30 strips from a variety of creators, including yourself. How do you plan out these anthologies and chose which strops and creators to feature alongside your own work?
David: I work on separate comic stories as deadlines come along throughout the year. I like to always be working on something, so if I’m not doing a comic for a publisher or a project, I work on my own personal stories. I include comics I’ve made in my own book if they are personal or have enough of my own voice in them to be included. I view my comics the way I imagine bands would view putting together their albums. So they’d have a bunch of songs they’d worked on throughout the year, then work on putting them in a pleasing running order for the collection.
The artists I feature are people I’ve either met through the comics scene or seen their work online or in print. In any case, they are artists whose work I’ve seen and liked.
downthetubes: Are there particular stories you yourself like to tell, or do you prefer to experiment?
David: I like to experiment. I like to do whatever idea comes to me, as long as I feel it translates well to comics. Hopefully it’s original, funny, relatable.
downthetubes: Your Star Wars-inspired strip “Goodbye, Star Wars” has been singled out bu a number of people for praise. Over on Broken Frontier, for example, Andy Oliver described its as “grudgingly accepting” of the evolution of the franchise. Are you “accepting”, or do you hanker for the optimism of its early years?
David: I am “accepting” in as much as I have to be. Things change, and that’s the way it is. As I say in the comic, I have the idea that there is a loosely planned nine part film story because George Lucas said there was when I was a kid. Now we have episodes 7-9 coming out and it’s not him making it. It’s people roughly my own age who also grew up with it, making stuff up to continue the story.
I guess I don’t accept it all, do I?
I’d like to add that I made that comic before The Last Jedi came out, and it does feel like that film was a watershed moment. Funnily enough, I have a line in the comic, “I don’t remember watching the film in the cinema”, when I later did remember a couple of things from my first viewing; finding the two robots arguing hilarious (particularly C-3PO kicking R2-D2), and also when R2 falls over flat on his face.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
David: On days when I’m off work, and I’m going to do comics all day, I get online around 9.00am, answering e-mails, doing website and social media business. By ten I want to be at the drawing board working on whatever page I’m doing. I’ll work through to around 3.00pm.
Other times, when I’ve been at work all day, I’ll get to the drawing board around 10.00pm and work until I’ve finished what I’m doing. On those occasions, my reward is getting to go to bed. These are really my aims, what I’d like to do. I have a family, so other things come up all the time.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
David: It’s a great feeling to have a completed page, and be aware that you did everything on the page. Came up with the idea, researched it, wrote it, laid it out, pencilled it, inked it, coloured it. It’s also great to do production on your comics and work them up into books or publish online. It’s also very interesting to work with other artists on your stories, or have other publishers use them in their publications.
downthetubes: And the worst?
David: It’s very work intensive, for a limited effect. In our society, worth is given to hard work if it means you earn money from it. Doing comics and art generally is not necessarily about that. That’s not a negative about doing comics though, more how art is perceived in society. (Smiles)
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
David: Everything is a distraction. I always say there are a million reasons to not do comics, and only one reason to do them.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
David: Online distribution can get you an audience and feedback, and could lead to being published. There are also always people putting out calls online looking for comics to publish, so you can keep an eye out for them. However the comics print market has shrunk drastically. There are pros and cons.
downthetubes: Do you attend many comics events to promote your work? How think they help creators most?
David: I do attend events and table at them, and they are useful. You meet other creators and readers. They are a good chance to meet people in person. They help foster the idea of a comics scene.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
David: The first one that comes to mind is Peter Bagge. I love his comics. I’ve interviewed him via e-mail and been in touch sporadically over the years. It would good to meet him in person.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
David: It depends on what people want to do. If you want to draw Marvel, DC, or 2000AD, the advice would be keep sending them your work, follow any advice they give you. They are also at cons doing portfolio reviews in person sometimes.
If you want to do more personal work, there are other publishers like Avery Hill, BHP, Good Comics, etc. that you can send stuff to. In fact, you should check all of this, as I don’t know if they accept unsolicited submissions. Look online to check their submission guidelines!
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
David: My favourite comic right now is Soldier’s Heart by Carol Tyler. You can get it from the Fantagraphics website.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
David: I am working on a comic for D.Blake Werts’ Copy That! His turnaround is usually really fast, so if he accepts my work, it should appear before January is over!
downthetubes: David, thank you very much for your time and the very best of luck for all your projects in 2019!
• There are reviews of Copy That! on the Poopsheet Foundation web site. To get your hands on Copy That! and for more info contact: D. Blake Werts, 12339 Chesley Drive, Charlotte, NC 28277 USA – or email Blake at: bwerts (at) vnet (dot) net
Interview questions by John Freeman