Sunday, October 17, 2010

#11 - Alex Robinson

You’re writing and drawing your comic books, so you can control everything in your art. But do you have situations, that you can’t draw what you wrote before or maybe you were angry with yourself, that you wrote 350-pages script of “Tricked” (and now you must draw it)?

For better or for worse I think I've developed a filter in my brain, that doesn't let me write something I don't think I would have a reasonable chance at drawing. There are always times the story will call for me to draw things I'm not excited about, but that's more a case of my laziness than me writing myself things I can't draw. I've only scripted out one of my books in advance – and that one was only 66 pages – so I've never faced the daunting task of having to now draw a 350 page book I wrote out. I almost always write and draw one or two pages at a time, so fortunately I never have to tackle a long script in the way you describe. The idea of sitting down with a huge script like that is horrible to imagine!

Your comic books are like movies on paper. The way, that you are showing the action, the number of characters and plots – movies and your comics have very similar structure. Does cinema inspire you? And have you ever thought about writing movie scripts?

I enjoy watching movies but I've never thought about writing a script. I've just heard so many horror stories about Hollywood and the process of making movies that it's not for me. It sounds like having a baby and then – when the child is three – having to give it to a mad scientist. “I'll take over from here”. I like that when I do comics I can really control everything and tell exactly the story I want, without compromise. It's strange because I have absolutely no problem with someone else turning one of my books into a movie. As long as I get some money out of it they can do whatever they like. This sounds sort of contradictory to my other attitude, but the difference is that no matter how awful (or great) a movie they make out of it, my book will still exist. People will still be able to find out my original story. The same thing can't be said of a script, which most people never see.

Your stories (especially “Tricked” and “Box Office Poison”) are very complex. It’s hard to do stories like that without any mistakes in the storyline. So what are you doing before writing a script? Writing yourself a treatment or a synopsis?

I'll have a rough outline in my head, along with the main characters and important plot points or scenes that establish the theme of the book, but beyond that I like to keep it very loose. I like to give myself room to follow things that interest me and improvise, so I don't have any formal script or written synopsis. I usually work one or two pages at a time. I'll get out my sketchbook and write out the dialogue and drawings for about a page or two, then I'll write and draw the actual page. Once I complete that I'll go on to page two and start the process over. What I like about this method – and I've rarely worked any other way – is that if something intrigues me I can digress a bit, or even change the plot. The best example of this was the character Caprice in “Box Office Poison”. Originally I intended her to just be in one chapter of the book, but I enjoyed writing and drawing her character so much I brought her back and she played a rather big part in the end. “Box Office Poison” was kind of structured in such a way as to really encourage this kind of improvising. I had a general rule that I would alternate chapters that moved the plot with chapters that are kind of incidental or just established the characters. My though, my hope was that this would give the book a realistic flow, since that's kind of how real life works. Some things in life are important plot developments and some things are just interesting diversions.

Do you think, that you could write a script for someone else or draw a comic book to another artist’s text?

I wrote a short story years ago for someone else to draw but the artist never completed it, and last year I drew a superhero story that my friend Josh Flanagan wrote. Both were interesting experiments that I'd like to try again. The story Josh wrote was an interesting example of what you asked earlier, about writing things that you don't or can't draw. Josh included a big scene featuring a car and that's a big weakness of mine since I've never been able to draw decent cars. I just had to grit my teeth and tough it out as best I could.

Cinema has movement and music has sound. And what – for you – distinguish and make comic books a different medium?

I can't really think of anything that smarter people than me haven't already theorized. I think Scott McCloud probably summed it up best. Since comics lack those elements it's up to the reader to provide them, and that participatory element makes the reader more involved, compared to the passive experience of watching a film. Comics are sort of compromise between movies, in which everything is presented to you and prose books, where the reader has to fill in even more.

Many critics say, that everything in art had already been said and done. If that’s true, what are the new solutions and horizons for comic books?

For me, much of the experience is personal, in the sense that even if every story has been told “I” haven't told them. It's like riding a horse: just because other people have ridden a horse doesn't mean I'm not curious to try galloping on one myself. So my interest, as a creator, is to do the kind of stories that are interesting to me. Hopefully, people will find the way I ride that horse interesting, too, but I wouldn't say I'm ever consciously trying to explore any bold new directions.

Instant photography, like Polaroid, captures the evanescent moment. And what is evanescent for you?

Wow, this is a heavy question! I think as I'm getting older I'm realizing that it's all evanescent. My wife and I were out for a dinner one time and I remember saying to her: “There's going to come a time, where this evening will be just another memory. We'll be lucky if we can recall one or two details”. In fact, the thing I recall about that specific meal was that I brought up that way of looking at it – oddly, if we didn't have that conversation I probably wouldn't remember the evening at all. I guess, I've always been a somewhat nostalgic person, so in a weird way I'm always experiencing every moment as it happens but also keenly aware that some day it will all be forgotten.

If you could take only one picture, what would you photograph?

I'm a big history nerd so I would probably go somewhere in that direction. The crucifixion? Dinosaurs? Maybe John Wilkes Booth about the kill Abraham Lincoln? Too many options!!

You can also find Alex Robinson here:

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