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Darick Robertson - comic book artist
1999 - Chatting with Jennifer Contino of Sequential Tart

He began in the late '80s at the age of 17 with a small press comic book called Space Beaver, which was published by Peninsula Comics, a comics shop in San Mateo, California

At DC, Darick Robertson drew a couple of issues of J.L.E., where Lobo, The Last Czarnian fought Despero, with The League in the middle. At Marvel, he became one of the few artists to give Wolverine a rare haircut with his Adamantium Claws, as well as becoming the second artist on the New Warriors title in 1992 and continuing for most of the series' run. At Acclaim, Fabian Nicienza (New Warriors writer and now the Acclaim editor) brought him and Warren Ellis together for Solar: Man of The Atom.

When Helix/Vertigo editor Stuart Moore was looking for titles for the then-upcoming Helix line, he asked Warren Ellis to come up with a premise... which became Transmetropolitan. Initially, it was planned for each story arc to have a different artist, but Darick put so much heart and soul enthusiasm into his renderings of The City, that he remained as artist and is credited as co-creator.

K2K: You were 17 when you started doing comics [Space Beaver]. How did you get involved with the independent comics scene?
DR: I so didn't "get involved with the independent comics scene." We published a sad little comic called Space Beaver. It turns everyone into Beavis and Butthead from reading the title. It didn't sell well, and I went onto other things. I got involved with Space Beaver because I sucked in my history class so much, because I just sat and drew, that they sent me to summer school, where I sat and drew. I there drew Space Beaver on typing paper in ball point pen, and then showed it eventually to Tibor Sardy at Peninsula comics, who thought me and Space Beaver were destined for greatness. We weren't.

K2K: Have you had formal training as an artist or are you naturally talented?
DR: Oh "naturally talented" by all means! (Can you hear my sarcasm? It's self directed) I'm one of those guys that when I wasn't working in comics I was trying to get into comics and I drew and still doodle constantly. I draw on placemats, sketch pads, whatever. It's been my life long goal to be Brian Bolland. When I meet that goal I shall set my pencil down. It's this insatiable drive that spurs me on.

K2K: How did you go from independent comics to DC Comics at such a young age?
DR: See above answer. Actually, I wasn't very young when I went mainstream. It was shortly before my 22nd birthday I got in. I did make it by 21, which was my personal goal, though. I took any job I could find and even made the mistake of hiring an agent. It got me my break, but the agent support died there after. In those days. working at DC meant Marvel wanted you and vice versa, so I just went back and forth between the two.

K2K: Who is your favorite character to draw?
DR: Spider Jerusalem, believe it or not.

K2K: How did Transmetropolitan come about?
DR: I had worked with Warren before on Ultra Force for the now dead Malibu Comics. Then I did "Man of the Atom" with him for Acclaim. I had told Warren during UF that if he ever wanted to do a monthly book together, I was all over that and to let me know. After seeing my stuff on MOTA, he felt I was the guy for Transmet. I came in, put in my 2 cents and here we are today.

K2K: What's up with all the graffiti? I find it quite funny -- mainly because I know some of the folks whose names are on the walls!
DR: Uhm, city's have graffiti, so therefore, I draw graffiti on the walls.

(From Steve)
SC: Who are some of your artistic influences?
DR: Brain Bolland, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, Dave Gibbons, Geoff Darrow, Steve Rude, Milo Manara, Neil Adams, Joe Kubert, Frank Miller, David Mazzuchelli, George Perez, Art Adams, Frank Frazetta, and more...

K2K: How does drawing a book about a single character differ from drawing a team book?
DR: Transmet has sort of become a team book since #19, a team of 3. But in general, focusing on one character allows more space in my mind to make the city more of a character. On a team book, the team tends to fill up the panel.

K2K: What issues of Transmet would you recommend to someone who is new to the series?
DR: Back On the Street TPB, #5, #8, 10-12. Hell, the first 3 collections. Just go get 'em.

K2K: Do you use models, a mirror, or photo reference to capture the amazing realism of the characters in your art?
DR: In the beginning I used a number of my friends and loved ones as the models for my characters. I've drawn them so often now, that the characters have their own looks now. Attached is a modeling photo Andre Ricciardi did for me as Spider.

K2K: Do you listen to music as you draw? If so, what's your preference?
DR: Sometimes I do and I have a wide variety of taste. Mostly I watch movies on DVD or video while I draw. I sort of live Spider's life in a weird way. I'm usually up all night in a media saturated environment, pushing to meet a deadline, hopped up on herbal boosts of many varieties. The music I like best is stuff like Lou Reed, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Owsely, Elvis Costello, Semisonic, Beatles, stuff like that.

K2K: What inspired you to create Spider's unique housepet, the two-headed gecko-eating cat?
DR: In the original drawing I did of Spider I had him standing in an alley and I imagined stuff in that alley. So I drew this mutated cat, thinking that in the future there would be strays, just as there are now, but generations upon generations of Momma cats eating out of dumpsters would start to produce these mutant cats. God knows what would get onto the food they eat if it's in a dumpster of the future. Warren liked it so much, he said "Let's make it his pet" and I said "Yeah!" and off we went.

K2K: In Transmet # 9, Spider Jerusalem is in a bar, where two patrons, who look very familiar, are having an argument. How did Warren Ellis react to seeing himself in the book and talking to Spider?
DR: I think his official reaction was "You are so dead." then it was "I am not that fat" although he seemed comfortable with the idea that I am, even though I added a great deal of excess baggage to both of us.

K2K: Did many readers catch this homage?
DR: Nope, not really. The script called for two drunken bar fly losers to be harassing Spider, and I guess we fit the bill a little better than I hoped.

K2K: How have other people reacted to seeing themselves in Transmet, such as Larry Young, writer of Astronauts In Trouble?
DR: Most people really enjoy it.

K2K: Who modeled for Spider's wife and how did she react to seeing herself as a cryogenically frozen head in a glass jar?
DR: My wife Meredith is the model for Spider's. She was great. She modeled for those pictures of her giving the finger and guzzling booze. She said "If you draw me into the book, I don't want to be anything like myself" so I chose her as the ex-wife.

K2K: What comics do you enjoy reading?
DR: Preacher and the Fun minis that Axel Alonzo's putting out like "Strange Adventures" and such. I just read Human Target and thought if anyone should replace me on Transmet it should be Edvin Bukovic. I also am digging 100 bullets JCuite a bit.

K2K: Super-heroes?
DR: Daredevil and Nightwing, as well as Moore's "Promethea" and TOP TEN. I also enjoy Astro City.

K2K: Speculative Future fiction, such as Slash Maraud by Moench and Gulacy?
DR: I remember reading that and liking it, but kind of forgot about it being in the future. It just seemed like it's own world to me.

K2K: What do you think is the appeal of Transmetropolitan to the reader?
DR: I think it's the spoonful of humor that makes the medicine of the topic go down. Warren writes great comedy for me to play with and it's easier to accept an ugly truth when you're laughing about it.

K2K: How does Spider Jerusalem differ from the main character of a regular comic book?
DR: He swears and he's not tall and muscular. He's not really a hero, but he's heroic. He takes drugs, but he's not a bad guy. But he is a bad guy if you're the president. Transmet really shows the hypocrisy that goes on in our society and puts it under a magnifying glass.

K2K: On average, how long does it take to complete an issue of Transmet?
DR: Lately we have had all kinds of problems and I have been doing them in 2 to 3 weeks each which is not going to last much longer. That's becoming unbearable.

K2K: What's the most rewarding aspect of your comics work?
DR: Working with Warren on something I care about and have helped create.

K2K: . What's the most difficult aspect of your comics work?
DR: Meeting deadlines.

K2K: You recently did a Marvel Team-Up (vol. #2) story with Spider-Man and Sandman. Do you have an opinion on the re-villainization of Flint Marko, A. K.A. The Sandman?
DR: Absolutely none. Those stories tend to yo-yo and eventually he'll go straight again, then go evil again, so who cares? I'd be more interested if he admitted he was gay or something or had a disease that made it so he couldn't stabilize into a solid shape, and he began to just turn into a talking pile of sand. That would be interesting to me. Then I'd have an opinion.

K2K: Is there something that you haven't done in comics which you'd like to do?
DR: I'm about to do 2 of them. I'd say yes, My Speedball mini series idea and a Rogue Nightcrawler-Wolverine 40 page story. A run on Batman or Daredevil would be nice too.

K2K: Who are some of the guest cover artists coming up on the book?
DR: The incredible Jaime Hernandez! Tony Harris, and Tim Bradstreet for sure.

K2K: What do you feel are your strengths as an artist?
DR: My storytelling ability and expressions.

K2K: If Hollywood announced the making of a Transmet movie, who would you like to see as Spider Jerusalem?
DR: God, I have a list now. In no order of preference: Tim Roth, Denis Leary, Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller or that bald jerk, doctor Romano on ER.

K2K: What awards has Transmet won since the series began?
DR: We were nominated for 2 Eisners, didn't win though. We won "Best Graphic Story" from the International Horror Guild, A number of Squiddie awards including Best Creative Team (I believe), and best new series in the UK at the last UKAC con in England.

K2K: What was it like at The Eisners when Transmet was announced as being nominated for Best Continuing Series and Best Story Arc?
DR: I appreciated people's enthusiastic applause. Dan Brereton congratulated me and said "Welcome to the fold" and that was cool. I met Art Spiegelman and was thrilled, then Will Eisner put his arm around me and congratulated me on the nominations, so those were awards in themselves.

K2K: How is the title coping in these uncertain times?
DR: Have there ever been certain times? I just do the best work I can and am trying to break into new advertising territories. Printing my own shirts has been a good way of getting attention. The title has it's own following and it seems to be slowly growing a bit each month.

K2K: I was struck by Transmet #8, which introduced the "revival" known as Mary into the world of Transmet. I was also struck by Transmet #25 and the story of Spider's old flame. What are some of your favorite Transmet works and why?
DR: My favorite issue is still #8 also. I thought that had so much humanity and a totally different take on being revived in the future that I felt we were really doing something good when that one came out. Still my favorite story. I had to draw that whole issue in one week, so not only is it my favorite story, it's also the record holder for fastest issue drawn.

K2K: What is your favorite of your other work and why?
DR: I'm still proud of the run of I did on New Warriors with Fabian Nicieza Especially the story line where Nita leaves and Nova and she have their first kiss and the return scene where she's mutated and not sure if he'll still love her that way. I thought that was good stuff. Plus Rage losing his Grandmother in that storyline.

K2K: Are there some upcoming projects on the horizon?
DR: Batgirl Catwoman mini series with John F Moore, early next year, and I just filled in on Generation X #58. I've also been doing covers for New Warriors and have been enjoying that.

K2K: Will there be more Transmet merchandise on the way (including those Smiley face T-shirts)?
DR: I'd like to do coffee mugs on my own, with the I hate it here thing on it, for those office working fans who need that on their desks. DC is putting out Spider's glasses, a watch, their own T-shirt, as well as an action figure and statue, that I designed, due out in November.

The first few Transmet story arcs have been reprinted into trade paperback, including: "Back On The Street", "Lust For Life", and the recently collected "Year of The Bastard", which cover the first eighteen issues, written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Darick Robertson, inked by Jerome Moore, Keith Aiken, and most recently Rodney Ramos, with superb coloring throughout by Nathan Eyring, and lettering by Clem Robbins.

"Back On The Street" is the initial story arc which brings Spider Jerusalem back to the city he loathes, as he must fulfill his contract by submitting weekly columns to The City paper, The Word.

"Lust For Life" focuses on Spider's new assistant, Channon Yarrow, and her relationship with her boyfriend, Ziang. Spider shows us what's on City TV, as well as participating in the TV call-in shows in his own unique manner. Spider also takes a tour of the various sites in The City, as well as telling the story of a twentieth century journalist, who is revived and finds herself in the unfamiliar City.

"Freeze Me With Your Kiss" deals with the abduction of Spider's cryogenically frozen ex-wife, a plan of revenge, a new definition of "police dog", intrigue with Royce Mitchell, Editor of The Word, Spider Jerusalem literally "stalling for time, and the mystery of Spider's son?

Year Two of the series saw "The Year of The Bastard" arc with Spider's apprehension about covering the election and the lengths he'll go to, in order to be able to write the story and cover the race between the incumbent "Beast" and "The Smiler", the challenger. Spider gets a new assistant, none other than his editor's niece, Yelena Rossini, who is less than pleased with working alongside the seasoned journalist, and even less as the arc reaches its climax.

Written by Jennifer M. Contino and Steve Chung / SequentialTart.com

Jen has loved reading comics since her earliest days of reading. The whole world of good versus evil-with colorful tights thrown in as an added bonus-has intrigued her since she first viewed Wonder Woman, Batman, or the Adventures of Superman. She's always wanted to work in comics and talking with creators / artists / writers, etc. is more fun than work.

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