In a surprise to all of us, Darick Robertson offered the guys at SpiderFan a 'sneak peek' of his current project, Spider-Man: Sweet Charity. Of course, I jumped at the chance and Darick came through with some killer pages for everyone to check out! I had to thank him for giving us the opportunity, and I asked him if he would be willing to do an interview, even though I had to admit I have never done one before. Once again, Darick proves what a great guy he is when he writes back:
Glad you enjoyed the pages, Byron. I'm wrapping this thing up, and it's fun stuff. It's due out early June.
I used [spiderfan.org] for reference pics. I think this version of the Scorpion is unlike anything that's been done before. He's truly the psychotic that he was intended to be. This book really handles all the characters in their classic sense. I had a ball drawing it.
Ron Zimmerman wrote a funny, funny scipt and there's cameos galore, including some of the FF, The Avengers and actual, real world celebs.
As bad as you think you are with questions, I'm worse with self promotion, so I am welcoming any interviewing and promoting on PPP you'd like to do.
Best Wishes - Darick Robertson
Now, I am not about to pass that up, wouldn't you agree? I finally get the chance to speak with one of the chosen few that has both written and drawn for Spider-Man, and so I post it here for all the fellow SpiderFans!
SpiderFan: Lets get some background on you first. Tell me, just who is Darick Robertson, the man? Tell us about your family, current job title, things like that.
Darick Robertson: I live in Brooklyn with my wife and we have a 7 month old son, named Owen. He doesn't really get what I do yet, but is fascinated with the abundance of toys and such in my studio. I'm a hopeless collector. For the last 5 years I've been hard at work on the title I'm mostly known for and Co-created with Warren Ellis: TRANSMETROPOLITAN. For various reasons I've been doing side projects while doing that book monthly. Most notably I helped launch the Marvel Max line with Garth Ennis on FURY.
SpiderFan: A couple of outstanding titles, indeed. Can you tell us where and when you studied/practiced art, and how and when you got into the comic business?
Darick Robertson: I'm self taught, from a life long fascination with comic book art. I used to draw my own comics and staple them together and show them to my friends when I was in 5th grade. (You can see some of this work on my website Transmetropolitan.com in the archives section). I did my first published work right out of high school, actually started it in my senior year high school class, at 17. It was a book called "Space Beaver" that I wrote and fully drew. It was a long 5 year crawl to break into the mainstream from there.
SpiderFan: I must say I am impressed with your natural abilities then.
Darick Robertson: Well, thanks, but it wasn't all that impressive in 1988.
SpiderFan: Even so, I am surprised it took 5 years for someone to finally recognize your talent, or is it just that competitive?
Darick Robertson: Both, I suppose. The main thing you need to go anywhere in this business is persistence.
SpiderFan: Who was it that eventually did snag you up and help you get into the mainstream?
Darick Robertson: That would be Andy Helfer. He gave me my first real break and a monthly book to start on that led to my work at Marvel.
SpiderFan: What was your first assignment or project?
Darick Robertson: Space Beaver independently, Justice League Quarterly #4 for DC, Wolverine#54 for Marvel.
SpiderFan: You will have to excuse me as I am not too familiar with all of your work that is not Spidey related, so can you mention a couple of things you have done so far?
Darick Robertson: Done and done. Before Transmetropolitan I was known for doing a 2 year run on New Warriors and before that, a 7 issue run on Justice League Europe.
SpiderFan: The New Warriors! That was it, I loved that series back in the early 90's, and I have almost all of them. I am also familiar with the work you have done on Spider-Man, so I do know you have done some writing as well. How do you like doing that as opposed to penciling?
Darick Robertson: Ideally, I like to do both. I would like to do more writing in the future, but I've worked with the best in the business, so it's intimidating, as people will have high expectations when they read something with my art. With the changes at Marvel, I think I have a better chance at emerging as a writer than I did under the old regime. I have more progressive ideas for what I want to write and the stuff I have had published has always been toned down, edited for content and in the end only a third of what I wanted to do.
SpiderFan: I am sure we would like to see some more of your ideas, preferably in the way you want them done. What do you think is the best story you have written, or perhaps the most favorite project you worked on?
Darick Robertson: Fury and Transmet have been the highlights of my career, but as far as my writing goes, I am proud of the story I did in the Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special #1 (I believe it was that issue. It has the Lizard on the cover, I know cuz I did the cover. One of them at least; it flipped. That's actually a credit of mine that's missing from your data base) it was my first team up with FURY inker Jimmy Palmiotti, wherein it's the POV of a young couple who get attacked in the midst of a breakup, and when Spidey rescues them, they see how fragile life is and makes their problems seem small in light of losing each other to death. It was done from the narrative of a woman in therapy talking to her therapist.
I also had fun doing the Marvel Team-Up with Gambit, but that story only had elements of what I wanted it to be. It was heavily edited and very watered down. My original story was actually set in New Orleans and involved a woman that both Gambit and Ben Reilly had been in love with at different one times and her child that may or may not have been either Gambit's or Ben's getting kidnapped by a local mob boss who wants to control the woman he loves but despises him. Both Spidey and Gambit have to go back to New Orleans to help and they have this jealous competition between them and are both trying to rescue a child that may be theirs. Bob Harass said I couldn't take Gambit to New Orleans and it had to be set in Manhattan. Just like that. Then I was told I had to put a Spider-Man villain in it. In the end it wasn't the story I wanted to do at all, but people were kind in response.
The highlight of my Spider-Man work was doing the 1995 story with Stan Lee writing and being inked by George Perez (who was brought in to replace John Romita Sr. when he backed out as inker). George called me to tell me how much he liked my work, which meant the world to me. JRJR told me the same thing once, and from those 2, whoo! You don't need much more. That story was reprinted in the Best Of Marvel 1995.
SpiderFan: Whoops, sorry about the missing credit, I do have you down as doing the pencils.
Darick Robertson: I hope that my writing credit's in that one too (I always forget the issue numbers. Too many to keep track of now...)
SpiderFan: Consider that missing credit added. How well do you like your job? Was it one of your dreams to be a writer/artist for comics?
Darick Robertson: Being a writer/artist is still my dream. I have yet to really be presented as a writer, and do what I want to do. I want to be another Frank Miller in 10 years, that's my dream. I still like my job, but I'm looking forward to a less hectic schedule. My future projects are ones where I get to ink myself and I want to write more. I love that my job lets me work at home and watch my son growing up. That's the best.
SpiderFan: No doubt there, having a son myself, I know what a great benefit it is to not miss out on those times. Any other artists that have had an influence on you?
Darick Robertson: This is a well covered question, so I'm limiting it to a few top names: Brian Bolland, Frank Miller, Neil Adams, Art Adams, David Mazzuchelli, Adam Hughes, Kevin Maguire, Dave Gibbons, Jose Garcia Lopez, George Perez and the list goes on (Will Eisner, Joe Kubert, The Romitas, stop me! ...)
SpiderFan: Any childhood heroes that inspired you?
Darick Robertson: Super hero's or art heroes?
SpiderFan: Well, I guess I was thinking Superheroes, but if you have names to mention for both types of heroes that would be great!
Darick Robertson: Well I gave my list of Art heroes, but the characters I loved growing up were Batman, Spider-Man, The Flash and Star Wars.
SpiderFan: Any other hobbies aside from your artistic and writing talents? What else do you like to do?
Darick Robertson: I am a practicing musician. I play guitar and piano and sing and write songs. I performed for a very short time. Now it's mostly for my own enjoyment. I have done some acting, a little improv theatre here in New York with "Ka-Baam!"
I also collect action figures and comic statues (like the Bowen stuff and DC Direct) I love that stuff. I was a big Star Wars fan. Phantom Menace spoiled that for me. Let's hope Clone Wars makes up for it. Personally, I'm all about the Spider-Man movie. That's going to be THE summer film. The best comic adaptation since Superman the Movie.
SpiderFan: You say you play music for your own enjoyment, but if you had the opportunity, would you go for cutting an album?
Darick Robertson: Given the opportunity? Absolutely. I think about buying recording equipment and doing my thing. I have some demo tapes already. But that's a tougher business than even comics and you have to want that and only that. I have so many friends that are ten times better musicians than I am that work at that all the time and struggle. I don't see much hope for a career in music for me at this age. Besides, I think I enjoy my music because it's not my job. Drawing comics used to be an escape for me as a boy, but now it's my career. So music is my art, you know? No pressure, just release. It's my video game. You can never reach the final level of musicianship, you can only get better inifintely and eventually, the high score could really result in something substantial.
SpiderFan: Similarly, are you interested in pursuing an acting career?
Darick Robertson: Also it's just for fun. If I had a time machine I'd go back and give both careers a shot, but I'd be as focussed and determined as I was getting into comics. I knew I could do comics from a very young age, but when I look back, that was based on how people responded to my art. People gave me similar attention for my music and my acting, but I never thought that was realistic. That seemed impossible for some reason. I believed I could do comics and put all I had into finding my path into the mainstream. Perhaps, with the opportunity to do it all over again, I would have developed one of my other crafts into something people would notice. (Ask "The Watcher" for the Darick Robertson 'What IF?..' issue I suppose. ; )
SpiderFan: Even though your other endeavors are just for fun, I wish you the best and I am rather glad you are here creating great material for us comic fans. Let's delve into Spider-Man, are you a fan?
Darick Robertson: Definitely. The first comic I remember reading was Spider-Man #130. I had the toys, I watched the cartoons. I collected the comics (until they got unbearable to read)
SpiderFan: Do you or have you done any of the following: Collect/read the comics, own Spidey merchandise, seen the animated series, played any of the videogames?
Darick Robertson: Yep.
SpiderFan: What do you think sets Spider-Man apart from other heroes, the reason for his popularity? What do you like best about Spider-Man?
Darick Robertson: He's so human, and so believable in his humanity. He has powers but that doesn't put food in the fridge. He still gets his heart broken. I love that he was a nerd and the first impulse was to make money from his powers. That made him believable to me. Then it was through loss that he had his life changing moment. Really, classic stuff. Almost Shakespearean in it's way.
SpiderFan: Very well put. I have to ask this, or Al will never forgive me. Do you have any opinions or comments you want to share about the Clone Saga?
Darick Robertson: Well, I had the unfortunate timing to get most of my work on Spider-man during that awful, awful time. I will always be sad that my one issue of Amazing Spider-man was all about Scarlet Spider. The Clone Saga was a 4 issue story arc idea that went on way too long and got way too big and way out of control. It proved once and for all that Spider-man does not need a new costume, EVER (It's one of the best, most original designs in all of comics, I think) and that it's better to leave well enough alone. If Spidey had a teenage sidekick, ala Robin, in the Scarlet Spider suit would be cool, but no 2 Spideys that are both Spidey. That sucked.
Move forward, not backwards. Look at the current issues and how great Straczynski's doing with Spidey now, just by getting into the character at his roots. No marriage, a little apartment, teaching, at his old high school, and a whole issue with Aunt May finding out about Peter's secret, and not a single punch thrown. I thought it was great. It's a pleasure to be involved right now.
SpiderFan: Any favorite Spidey villains?
Darick Robertson: I like them all, mostly. I'm digging on the version of the Scorpion that Ron Zimmerman and I are doing for Sweet Charity. I always liked Black Cat also, but it's hard to call her a villain.
SpiderFan: Mary Jane, what's your take on this? Would you like to see her return for good, and stay married to Peter?
Darick Robertson: Definitely not. Peter is more interesting when he's on his own. Marriage doesn't make sense for him, but he should want it, for sure. It should always be out of reach for him. Mary Jane should be the wild out of control woman that she used to be, coming and going from Peter's life, always breaking his heart with Peter hopelessly in love with her. That's interesting. Wedded bliss is dull.
SpiderFan: I understand where you are coming from, and the current Spidey is the best it has been in years -
Darick Robertson: Oh yeah! Like the clock got reset or something!
SpiderFan: But Darick, how could you say that? You're a married man yourself!
Darick Robertson: Yeah, but I'm not Spider-Man! I want dullness in my everyday life! I don't want to read about somebody living my uneventful life. I like stability, but I don't go to comics to get that. I don't want the Green Goblin smashing into my house while I'm watching TV with my wife either. I do want him terrorizing Peter Parker though, and making his life miserable. I want to suffer with Peter and feel his highs and lows, hope and despair, when I read a comic. I don't want to see Peter sleeping with his Super Model wife in his snazzy uptown Manhattan apartment. Boo-fucking-hoo if that guy has any problems! How can I relate to that guy? This current Peter Parker I can relate to. I care about him and his situation. The journey, not the arrival, is where the story is. The arrival is the end of the story. Come on, admit it, all those years they had them married felt like it was a long dragged out ending. Now there are questions again! Where is MJ? Is she coming back? Will they get back together? What if she dates Johnny Storm? Interesting....
SpiderFan: Okay, you bring up real good points, but I guess I am a hopeless romantic in that I wish for MJ's return. Does your wife know you wrote "Wedded bliss is dull"? (I am teasing ya)
Darick Robertson: I hear you! No,I wasn't very clear that I was talking about Spider-Man's life specifically...
SpiderFan: Well lets hope you stay out of trouble then! You said you are looking forward to the Spider-Man movie, got any news or comments you can share about it?
Darick Robertson: I have a funny story wherein I was almost Peter Parker's hand for the shot designing the costume, but Phil Jimenez was home that weekend and I wasn't, so he got the gig. I am so excited about the film that I feel like a kid again. The trailers are incredible. That movie's going to rock! It's got a great directorial choice, it looks and feels like Spider-Man, and the casting is perfect, really. 3 excellent actors carrying the leads, yet not so big they overshine the roles.
SpiderFan: Oh no! I am sorry you missed out on that opportunity to be in the film! I take it your heart sort of sunk down a little when you heard the news Phil got it?
Darick Robertson: I like Phil, he's a good guy, so I was happy for him. Glad it wasn't McFarlane with his already made millions and all. Glad someone in the trenches with me got the gig. I was disappointed in general. Happy they thought of me, sad they didn't wait for me. (I called them back the very next day, but if I had been home...)
SpiderFan: Well, if that was me, Phil would now be the #1 person on my pranks-to-pull-on list, but anyway... Your current project, Spider-Man: Sweet Charity, tell us a little about it, how did you get involved with this one, and who else is working on it?
Darick Robertson: It's written by Howard Stern's pal and Television writing veteran Ron Zimmerman. Ron's being really embraced at Marvel and is shaping into the next big thing. They teamed me up with him because I am becoming known for the dark comedic element in my art. That suits me fine, since I love to draw funny stuff. It's partially inked by Rodney Ramos and the other portion by me. Rodney's a good inker but I am really enjoying doing my own inks. The story is centered around JJJ getting together a charity auction for the WTC disaster relief fund and they're auctioning off celebrity dates. Real world celebrities are making cameos, like Jay Leno who they made me draw in the same style that Greg Capullo drew him for approval. A mutual foe of Spider-man and JJJ's has enough money to force Spidey and JJJ to go camping together, knowing how much they hate each other, it's delicious for him (and the reader). The Scorpion hears about it and sees an opportunity to go exact his revenge on them both.
SpiderFan: I can tell from the pages you sent, even without the dialogue added, that it is funny stuff! All that power and Spider-Man can't pitch a tent! How does a project like this get started? How does it relate to the current Spider-Man creative teams in that sense, such as, do you have to have the Spider-Man story approved by the current creative teams?
Darick Robertson: Spider-Man is all overseen by Axel Alonso, and the new attitude at Marvel is less about restricting the storylines to that old anal retentive continuity and more about good Spider-man stories being published. He's a comic book character and reigning yourself to a rigid storyline results in things like the Clone Saga. Keep the essential elements in tact, respect the history, but remember it's about entertainment and fun, not Holy Scripture.
SpiderFan: A big thanks for the sneak peek at the pages you are doing, for many fans its a rare thing to be able to see something like this, especially before it goes to print. Anything specific you would like to say about Spider-Man: Sweet Charity?
Darick Robertson: I am really having fun drawing this book and think it's a very funny script. It's my best Spider-Man work to date, I think.
SpiderFan: I know I will definitely be picking it up, and I imagine all the other guys will as well. You have been involved in a number of Spider-Man projects in the past, would you like to stay involved with the character? Would you want to be the artist for future Spider-Man storylines?
Darick Robertson: Sure! I am talking about some Tangled Web stories and have already expressed my interest in filling in or taking over for JRJR on a Straczynski script if opportunity arises. Axel has given me every indication that he wants to keep me busy in his office. Axel wants to team me with Ron Zimmerman more, so we'll see what happens.
SpiderFan: I for one, would love to see what happens! Other than Spider-Man: Sweet Charity, what future projects do you have coming up that we can watch out for?
Darick Robertson: I am about to start drawing and inking DEATHLOK for Marvel Max and later this year will be teaming up again with Garth Ennis for a Punisher story for Marvel Max.
SpiderFan: Thank you so much for taking the time out in answering all these questions! Something like this is a big boost to all of us at Spiderfan, for someone like you who has worked on the books has a celebrity status with us, I mean, you draw Spider-Man!
Darick Robertson: Well, thanks! I hope my future Spider-Man work will be closer to what I really want to do. Sweet Charity was great as I got to draw classic Spidey in classic situations, with JJJ and Scorpion. That's my idea of a Spider-Man story! I want to do more stuff like this down the line. My past Spider-Man stuff has been a lot of embarrassment and disappointment. I was always next in line to do the regular books, and the editors kept getting fired and or quitting. I was finally offered the regular spot on Marvel Team Up and then it got cancelled. Luckily, I had chosen to pass on that offer and do Transmetropolitan instead. Marvel's future looks a lot better right now than it did in 1997 and I'm happy to be back working in a progressive environment. The house of ideas feels like it's the house of ideas once again, instead of the house of old ideas. (or bad ideas, like the Clone Saga)
A million thanks goes out to Darick, who is extremely friendly and quite generous. You can find out more about Darick and his Spider-Man work by checking out his credit page here: Darick Robertson.
I would also like to point out a little-known fact about Darick, something for the hardcore Spider-Man trivia buffs, which he personally wrote in and told us about. On the Daily Bugle miniseries, for issue #3 there is an artist credited as Phillip DePages. In reality, Phil DePages is Darick Robertson, who chose the alter-ego as he was helping out Editor Tom Brevoort by filling in and basically 'copying' the other artists style. Because Darick was aping someone else's style, he didn't want his name on it, and instead just 'filled up the pages', get it?