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Home  >  Features  >  The Voices of Valiant Part 8: Darick Robertson

Darick Robertson's Renegades

 

He's helped usher an award-winning, gonzo journalist into a dystopian future. He's unleashed a team of heavies to protect the world from the evils of superheroes. He's sent Frank Castle to Hell and back. And he was even there when Wolverine lost his face and his balls to The Punisher

Now, artist Darick Robertson, co-creator of Transmetropolitan and The Boys, lends his artistic eye to the world of Harbinger: Renegades at Valiant Comics, sending them well on their way to...a massacre. And they are in the best of hands! Find out why in one of our most revealing creator interviews to date...

 

Darick Robertson

 

MightyVille: Hi Darick, thank you for joining us today. 

Darick Robertson: How you doing?

Doing great, thanks! Tell us: what's been the highlight of your trip here to the Silicon Valley Comic Con so far?

Just meeting people. Everybody seems enthusiastic about the new work, and old friends and faces I haven't seen in a while. And I would say the biggest highlight is Scott Shaw drew me a Space Beaver

Oh, nice.

Space Beaver is the first comic book I ever did, back in 1986, but he doesn't know, or didn't know at the time, that I ripped off one of his characters as inspiration for one of my Space Beaver characters, and...because Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and Rocket Raccoon were the two biggest influences on me.

I had no idea I'd ever get published doing that book. It's just sort of a weird pathway into my career, but it was the first published book I had. And just out of the kindness of his heart, Scott drew me a Space Beaver. 

That's awesome!

That...made my day. Because he actually likes the character and liked my book. So that was pretty amazing, just complete surprise.

 

SPACE BEAVER

 

Fantastic story.

And he wants me to draw him a Spider Jerusalem, so it's a mutual admiration society, but 17-year-old me is freaking out. 

I see you're drawing a Weapon X sketch there...

This is a commission, an interesting request, because somebody drew the drawing underneath, so I'm basically doing a finish over somebody else's sketch like a jam piece. 

Interesting!

It's kind of fun. It took some of the brain work out so I can just focus on the details.

You don't see that too often.

No. It's actually kind of nice. He's getting a good deal because I don't have to do a lot of heavy lifting of laying it out and everything.

Switching gears: I see you've got Dante there on the table. Tell us about Dante.

Dante is a fun book that I did with Matt Hawkins based on an idea from Jason Ning. I got hired by Cryptozoic Entertainment before they took it over to Top Cow to publish. It's a story about a hitman who's trying to do one last job for The Mob, and we always know how well that goes. Because he wants to get out of the business and be with his family.

As one would.

But the last job goes badly. He ends up crossing a mystic Chinese woman in Chinatown, and she curses him, and he has to keep working until he can undo this curse- this curse which comes in the form of a body completely covered in tattoos that can't be removed until he removes the thing that gave him the tattoo. 

So it's a fun, cool story. Dante's not a nice person. He's lived a pretty horrid life, so he's got a lot to make up for. But there's a side of him, you can't help but root for him on some level. He's good to his kid and his wife. 

That's always a good thing.

It's redeeming.

 

DANTE

 

You're also working on Harbinger: Renegades for Valiant Comics! How did that come about?

Back when I worked on Wolverine with Greg Rucka, my assistant editor was Warren Simons. Warren is now Editor-in-Chief of Valiant and my editor on Harbinger, and a couple of years ago I started doing covers for him, and he kept saying, "If you want to do interiors, we'd love to have you." So when I had an opening in my schedule, they came back to me, very enthusiastic, offering to reboot Harbinger. And I didn't know what a big deal that was at the time, but I've since found that it has a very passionate following. 

And then I got to work with up-and-coming superstar Rafer Roberts, who has been an absolute joy to collaborate with. And between having a great company with great people, a great editor who's been a lot of fun to work with and very supportive, and just probably the "next-big-thing" writer in my stable to collaborate and create with, it's been kind of a perfect spot.

Were you a fan of the Valiant books back in the '90s?

Actually, that's the irony. I wasn't. I didn't really know anything much about them. I was aware of them, but it wasn't my jam in any way. I was more about...I was a Marvel guy at the time and--

You were working at Marvel around then, right?

Yup. So Valiant just sort of mystified me. I had a habit of...I had a hard time looking at comics in those days. And I still...it's still kind of my curse, but I can't look at a comic unless it's by somebody I really admire and not pick the work apart constantly to where it distracts me.

Sure. I can understand that. 

And it's not fair, because I need to just let that go and let other people do their thing. But I do it with my own work, so it's sort of like you either have to be so amazing in my eyes that I can never do what you do, or I'm just constantly correcting the art the whole time, or changing the art, I should say. Not everybody's beneath me, I don't mean it that way. It's like I can't take my editor's hat off, you know?

Right. Right. My wife doesn't like watching TV shows with me, because I tend to figure out what's going to happen just based on the way it's written.

Oh, I had a buddy like that. He was no fun to watch movies with.

What's coming up in Harbinger that's got you excited?

Oh, I'm not allowed to talk about anything coming up in Harbinger.

I heard there's some big secrets...

Well, there's a massacre...that's their words, not mine...

Not very kid-friendly from what I understand.

Oh my God. I didn't realize I'd really be-- it is a massacre, that's all I can say.

All right...

They've been letting me do my thing. I guess I have a reputation to uphold.

 

HARBINGER...massacre!

 

Fair enough. We'll get to that point in a sec. What other Valiant characters would you like to work on?

Oh, I really like X-O Manowar. I think that one...I love what Tomas Giorello is doing. He was doing Conan about the time I did my little bit of Conan work over at Dark Horse, so I kind of fell in love with his stuff. I love that guy's work, and I think X-O is a perfect fit for him. And then they put my favorite colorist to work on his stuff, and the two of them together just...that book came to life!

Who's your favorite colorist?

Diego Rodriguez. I've been working with him pretty consistently for the past four years. But that X-O book is so gorgeous that I want to go play in that world now, and Tomas...he's really brought it to life.

Nice!

I know...I could do some of their funnier, quirkier books like Quantum and Woody or Archer and Armstrong. I've done covers for some of those titles, but...it's a world I like to play in, but I get the feeling that Harbinger might be getting some visitors, for all I know...

Oh really..?

That's not a spoiler, that's a maybe. It's more of a wish, than a fact.

We'll take that for what it's worth here, readers! Changing gears just a little bit: We touched on this a little bit earlier-- you've been asked to draw a lot of, I'll say crazy things in your career... 

Yes.

Working with Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis...

Yeah, guys known for their violent imaginations that...it's funny because a lot of people go, "Oh, do you cringe when they ask you to do something..?" I'm like, "You don't know me very well."

Has there been anything that you've been asked to draw that editorial has kicked back, like, "Oh, too gross, too dirty, can't do it."

Yeah, the entire The Boys series from Wildstorm! 

That's right! It got moved from Wildstorm to Dynamite Entertainment. In hindsight, that was a silly question...

Well, I wouldn't say it got "moved". It got dropped...and Dynamite picked it up. It was a little bit too much for Wildstorm...at the time.

 

THE BOYS

 

Anything specific outside of The Boys, maybe, that we may not have heard about?

You know, I had a hard time on Wolverine back in the day because they were a lot more...I was a little ahead of the curve as far as what they publish now. Back then they were so, like, "No blood." They kept censoring and covering stuff up and making me redraw stuff. So that was...well, if I was doing the book now, I would've been right on at the right time.

It was just different editorial team at the time...

 

OUCH

 

What's a scene or an issue you've drawn that's really made an impact on you, one that you think about more than others?

I would say I really loved working on Punisher:Born because I did such extensive research for that, and one of the things that was really nice about working with Ennis is that he really does his homework. So I learned a lot from him, and he inspired me to really dig in and learn about the Vietnam War, and so I bought a lot of ... At the time, 'cause this was early 2000s, so the Internet wasn't quite what it is these days. But I remember going on eBay, and I bought a disc of a veteran's photos just so I could get authentic stuff.

My friend Nick Lowe, who's now Editor of the X-Men — he was our assistant editor then — his dad was a vet, and I got to borrow his father's photo album and go through it. So the backgrounds that I did in there, they were as... I really, really wanted it to feel as authentic as I could make it. And I have my own limitations, but...I wasn't my own inker, not that Tom Palmer let me down in any way, it's just that you have to let things go and hope that they come out the way you want them to. And Tom Palmer was awesome.

Those details were really important to me, and as a result, I would say that was one of those things that whenever a veteran-- I'd meet somebody and they'd say, "No, you really got it right," it made me feel good, because I didn't want to exploit a war that people actually lived through just for fun and games in comics without at least showing it the respect of getting the details right.

And it was such a dark story anyway that I felt like it needed to reflect that so it didn't look like a superhero story happening in the Vietnam War, rather than a person living through the Vietnam War, because in a weird way the...at the time, the war in Iraq had just broke out, and Garth had written an intro that Marvel didn't run for the trade paperback because it was...they felt it was too political at the time, and I always think about that. So in a weird way I felt that...We live in a generation now where we live a life that doesn't involve the people that are fighting these wars that are still going on, and they're just sort of off doing that for us, but in World War II, everybody was involved. Everyone was thinking about, "How can I be a part ...? What can I sacrifice? What can I do to help us wrap this up and make sure they're okay over there?" We don't live like that anymore, and that's...I think that's dangerous. 

And, so the only thing I could do, at least, was to show my respect that the Vietnam War was something that people lived through and fought and came home not the same. And that's sort of the Punisher's story. 

And so, in that regard, Born was a great example of what that did to Frank, because the whole premise of that comic was, "Was the Punisher driven crazy by his family getting killed in the park, or was he already crazy and looking for a reason?" 

Which was brilliant. So I wanted that book to be special, and people seemed to really appreciate it.

 

BORN

 

Yeah, it's a great story. It's one of my favorites.

I'm proud of it. It makes the top of the countdown, so I'm proud of that.

Great answer.

Thank you.

What do you think of the Punisher's interpretation on the Netflix Daredevil show?

Oh, I think that's the best part! Jon Bernthal was born to play that guy. He's absolutely pitch-perfect. After I saw him as Shane, I was like-- because I thought that there was a point, too, when I was watching Shane on The Walking Dead, I'm like, "He would have been a good Wolverine." A much better part.

I totally agree, he was a great fit. Changing gears again, do you have any interesting comic convention stories that you can share with us? 

It's a long list...

All right. It's...1992, '93, and I'm just breaking in...I just got in at Marvel. We're down at San Diego Comic Con, and it's me, Ron Garney, Dan Panosian, Dynamite publisher Nick Barucci, my buddy Jeff Johnson, and Fabian Nicieza, co-creator of Deadpool, and a good friend of mine at the time, we were working on New Warriors together then. And we all decide to go down to Tijuana for dinner and took the train down. And we're on our way back, we'd all been drinking-- some more than others-- and as we're going across the walkway back to the pedestrian border crossing, some...aggressive words were exchanged with some guys that were coming the other way.

Now I don't know if you've ever met Ron Garney...

Nope... 

...but he looks like The Terminator. And this is when we're all in our young 20s, and he's like 6'4" and works out and-- still is-- a martial arts champion and instructor. And Dan Panosian, he lifts weights every day of his life, and they're just trying not to get out-shown by The Hobbit that stands next to them (me). So these other guys, they're walking across and words were exchanged. And the next thing I know-- and these guys had girls with them-- the next thing I know, there was a whole fight going on on the top of this overpass! 

Oh geez!

Like fist fights! Now, Jeff Johnson knows martial arts, so he jumps on one guy. He's got him in a full nelson. Fabian's just trying to talk him down. The girls are screaming and yelling at us, and I'm saying to them, "I'm just trying to break up a fight." They're not hearing me at all. And so the other guy, the smaller one, he got up in big, old Ron's face and was like, "You want a piece of me?" And Ron just laughed. And the guy got mad and sucker punched him, and then that was on between them. 

So, while this is all going on, Jeff's got this one guy in a full nelson, and I'm trying to talk the girls down. Jeff says, "Okay." The guy's like, "All right. I'm cool, I'm cool." Jeff let's him go...and he punches Fabian in the lip!

Oh geez!

And then Jeff's on him again, and I'm trying to tell this one girl who's swinging at me and screaming, "Look, look!" And I don't know what to do when I panic, and I foot-sweep her just to put her down. Big mistake! She jumps on me She not only tore my tour shirt that I got at the concert on the way down, she stood up and punched me in the jaw when I was trying to apologize. So I got hit by a girl. You know, respect, but... 

But the best part was, in all the chaos, I happened to look over at Ron, who's got the guy that sucker punched him in a headlock and going...actually, it's his big buddy, the bigger one jumped in after the fight started there, and Ron and him were tussling. He's got that guy in a headlock and he's like, "All right. Say you're sorry." 

"Fuck you!" 

Boom! "Wrong answer!"

That's fantastic! That's a story out of a comic.

It was straight out of a comic! And then all of a sudden, I looked around and everybody's quietly walking away. All of us, everybody...and then here comes the Mexican police with their shotguns and I'm like, "Oh, I guess we're leaving now."

And so we all proceeded to hastily make it to the checkout point. Like, "We weren't fighting. Nope."

So, I went to school in San Diego for five years...

So you know how easy it is...

I may not have been in such an altercation, but I've certainly witnessed such altercations on the border. So...that's probably the best answer to that question I've ever gotten.

It was one of my more adventurous moments! The funniest thing was riding home because of, you know, the drunkies in the back were like, "That was great! That was crazy!" Fabian's up there nursing his split lip going, "Screw you guys!"

"I'm bleeding from the mouth!"

Yeah, "I got a fat lip!" Fabian's a good guy...they're all good guys. There's a photograph of us all at the restaurant beforehand, too, all young and hopeful.

Who knew what was waiting for you all later in the day? 

Before all hope got crushed out of us...

That's when the comic industry beat you down..?

...It took hope from us. Different times in comics then, too. There used to be money going around...

 

MORE BORN

 

On that note...what are you reading now that you want to recommend to our readers?

I'm, like, so lame. I don't read current stuff because I never get to the comic store, because I don't have one local to me. So I only get to catch up on comics when I'm at a signing or, in this case, I can get a trade from someone at the Top Cow booth so I can find out what else Matt Hawkins' been writing; great books like Think Tank and Postal. So I want to read these because I like working with these guys, but I have tried the stuff that gets handed to me. 

So, right now, a lot of my reading is just actual books rather than comics, but I would say the best thing I've read still, of late, is Saga, Brian K. Vaughan's book, and I'm like two volumes behind on that...

You know, when you're creating comics, it's very hard to read comics. 

That's just it! It's like I know what I'm doing-- and I'm working on four projects at one time most of the time, and I can't talk about anything because it's all unannounced-- but I don't know what anyone else is doing. 

Alright, so, Saga, which is also...

I love Saga.

...a fairly common answer.

I think what they're doing is great, and I know...I worked with Brian once, and we're old friends, so I love what he does.

Last question: What's your favorite beer?

Guinness.

Guinness, okay. The straight Guinness stout, the classic?

Guinness stout, yeah. Get her on tap, love it.

 

GUINNESS

 

Have you ever been to the Guinness Brewery in Ireland?

I have. Actually, it was so funny. I was...another story if you want to shut that off...

I will not shut it off!

We were in Ireland. We were in Nice the night before, because we had a friend that lived there that used to live in San Francisco. So my wife and I, after we got engaged we had gone around Europe. We were living in Italy at the time. We were taking a tour before moving back home to San Francisco. So our friend, he lived in Nice, and I had a weird altercation at a kebab shop after the bar closed. I'm a pretty nice guy. I don't get in a lot of altercations, although this is the second one I'm telling you about. 

I don't know, Darick...

I'm around a lot of altercations, I usually don't start them, ha, ha. But in this case, it was a very weird, drunken, "we're-gonna-fight-'cause-I'm-drunk" kind of thing. Never led to blows.

Ah, Ireland. You have to love it. 

Well, that's funny, because I was telling Garth Ennis this story, and he's like, "Where were you?" 

And I said, "Abrakebabra."

"Oh, Stab-rakebabra." 

I said, "Oh, that says a lot." So I didn't feel as bad. 

But my friend Barry was embarrassed, because he said, "I don't like to come downtown for this reason. I'll go out to my local tomorrow night, and it will be much better." 

So we went out to this pub that was in the middle of nowhere, and I mean literally. The B&B driver was nice enough to give us this ride up by Ron Wood's house-- from The Rolling Stones. He goes, "He lives there"...this big, palatial-looking place. We got out there and then there was just a little rectangular building next door, and we got out of the car and as far as I could see North was fields. South, fields. West, south, all of it, fields. And I said, "Well, if something goes wrong tonight, I'm screwed. I have nowhere to run." So I was hoping that everything's gonna be okay. 

And we went in and our friend Barry wasn't there, and so we were like, "Ah!" It was that moment where you...it wasn't quite like this, but it felt like that moment in the film where the needle skips the record and everybody looks up...but it wasn't. Everybody ended up being very nice, but what was funny is that it was the opposite of the night before! Everybody was so kind and so generous that I could not buy a round, and every time I tried to I kept hearing, "Darick, your Guinness! Darick, your Guinness!" And I just kept drinking and talking and laughing, and it was the night of the World Cup when France won. So our Bastille Day against England...so everybody went crazy because they don't like the English. And so the whole thing went...the whole night was kind of-- by the end-- it was a blur. A local football team had won, and they bring in a loving cup, and I got a big drink out of this loving cup at some point. I went home, like, blotto.

And the next day, we were off to tour the Guinness factory...

And at the end of tour, they give you free Guinness, and we were so hung over! My wife and I were so hung over from the night before, and I had drank so much Guinness that I have never consumed that much since. But as a result, we ended up giving ours to a couple of grateful younger people at the table nearby.

So you got there but couldn't drink the Guinness that was poured at the Guinness brewery?

I couldn't drink my free Guinness at the Guinness brewery...

The irony, the irony.

The irony...

Thanks for your time today, Darick. it was a pleasure. We can't wait to see what you've got in store for us in Harbinger: Renegades! 

 

What's your favorite comic that Darick's worked on? Sound off!

 

More Interviews on MightyVille:

Mighty Writer Spotlight - A.J. Scherkenbach

Mighty Artist Spotlight - J. Briscoe Allison

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: Jeff Parker

 

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