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Darick Robertson: The Artist Behind Transmetropolitan, The Boys and More

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Darick Robertson has been one of the most influential artists over the last 20 plus years. He has worked on some of the biggest comics including WOLVERINE and PUNISHER at Marvel. It has been his creator owned work that have been some of the best comics to come out in the last 20 years.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which was co-created with Warren Ellis, was one of the best books to ever come out of Vertigo. It starred Spider Jerusalem, an absolutely psychotic yet brilliant journalist. The character designs and world building Darick did, helped make that book what it was.

From there, he worked on HAPPY! with Grant Morrisson, which got adapted for TV and THE BOYS with Garth Ennis. THE BOYS was another book that was perfectly suited for this Derrick. His art is perfect on dark, grimy, and gritty stories. THE BOYS is also being adapted for TV as well. He's set to launch a new book next month with Gary Whitta over at Image called OLIVER. It's a new take on the Oliver Twist story and is sure to be another amazing book from this celebrated artist.

COMIC LOUNGE: How did you first get into comic books as a kid?

DARICK ROBERTSON: Most of my early comics were Peanuts, Looney Tunes, Archie and Harvey comics (Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Casper) and MAD magazine. Often they were hand me downs and there was no continuity to them, so I was aware of super heroes mostly through TV and my toys, than I was familiar with the comics. 

Early on, Marvel made no sense to me, as the characters always seemed angry at each other while the DCU was friendly, and they, you know, were SUPER FRIENDS! 

So as I grew older I discovered there was a rich continuity to the stories and back issues. By the time I was ten I had started collecting titles like THE FLASH, SGT. ROCK, TEEN TITANS and discovered the newer stuff that was being released because of the newly burgeoning direct market, stuff like CAMELOT 3000 and WATCHMEN. And that was when I fell in love with Marvel titles, especially the Claremont/Byrne/Paul Smith era and Miller’s DAREDEVIL. 

COMIC LOUNGE: Who were some of the artists that have influenced you?

ROBERTSON: Early on it was Neal Adams, Jose Garcia Lopez, John Romita Sr and Jr and George Perez. Then I grew to love UK artists, especially Brian Bolland, who is still my all time favorite. In the 80’s I was all about Arthur Adams, Kevin Maguire, Dave Gibbons, David Mazzuchelli and Frank Miller.

COMIC LOUNGE: What was your first professionally published book?

ROBERTSON: The first book I ever had published was a black and white title I created called SPACE BEAVER. It came out during, what I would later understand was, a market bubble for black and white titles, and like most of my career, I seem to show up and get my shot just as those market bubbles are about to burst. It’s good though, as it pushed me into indie titles and creator owned work. 

COMIC LOUNGE: One of my favorite books of yours is TRANSMETROPOLITAN, what were some fond memories on the book?

ROBERTSON: I loved working on that series, although it was a challenge keeping it monthly, as the stories were so fantastic. I really enjoyed creating with Warren Ellis, who gave me lots of room to be creative and room to bring my own ideas. I was so fortunate to have Rodney Ramos, Nathan Eyering and Clem Robbins as my team, as they always delivered and kept the consistency, no matter how tight the turnaround was.  My favorite story was “Another Cold Morning”: because Warren shattered the myth that living forever or coming back in the future would be a fun, magical experience as most Sci Fi treated the concept up until then. It was an early issue, but it really showed me where things were going. 

COMIC LOUNGE: Where did you draw inspiration from when coming up with the design for Spider Jerusalem and the world of TRANSMETROPOLITAN?

ROBERTSON: I based Spider and Channon on two of my friends Andre and Janice Ricciardi, who were kind enough to model for me. Unlike most people’s assumptions, I never based Spider on Alan Moore. That mountain version of Spider is how my friend Andre looks to this day and he was kind enough to shave his head for me! He’s crazy, outspoken and brilliant like Spider, so he was the perfect choice. 

I lived in many different places in the world while creating Transmet. It started it when I lived in San Francisco. I then moved to Florence, Italy and traveled around Europe and then returned to SF briefly before moving to New York. I finished the series in New York. So living in and being exposed to all those cities, I was constantly inspired to see how alike major cities are and I’d put those things into the city Spider lived in, as his world was such that nothing seemed too crazy. Anything I could imagine seemed to have a place. 

COMIC LOUNGE: Another book of yours, THE BOYS with Garth Ennis, was one of the craziest comics I've ever read. What was your favorite story from the series?

ROBERTSON: I’d have to go with Butcher’s origin, my last arc on the book “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”. But I really enjoyed all the stories from that series. I was just happy drawing Superheroes and loved the allegories Ennis had written into The BOYS. There was lots of comedy and that left me room for my love for MAD magazine to create funny stuff, and that was always enjoyable. But the final story, Butcher's origin, felt like I was illustrating an epic film.

COMIC LOUNGE: When you look at the blank page, do you usually have a specific outcome?

ROBERTSON: I like to imagine a finished page in my mind but it often takes on a life of it’s own as I find the limitations of my talent and skills and what the story needs is sometimes more important that what I feel like drawing. I tend to work in service of the story. That’s what appeals to me most about comics, is the storytelling. 

COMIC LOUNGE: How do you prepare when you start on a new project?

ROBERTSON: I do a lot of research and gathering of reference materials I’ll need, so I’m fully ready when it comes time to draw and I can have that all at hand. I like to sketch my designs a lot before I get to the pages, so I have my ideas worked out and have communicated with the writer so we can be aligned when I’m working on the pages. 

COMIC LOUNGE: What has been your favorite project to date?

ROBERTSON: TRANSMETROPOLITAN has been truly rewarding, as a book that we thought would be lucky to last 4 issues, has survived to become something much bigger than I ever imagined it would be. Spider Jerusalem is out in the zeitgeist now and people, female and male of all different races dress up as him and seem to identify with him, and that’s just awesome as his co-creator. I’ve seen murals of Spider in the UK. People show me their tattoos from my artwork, and the book is still selling to this day. That’s pretty much everything I could have hoped for, and it’s still growing it’s audience. I was told from a number of sources that Robin Williams was a fan, and I met Sir Patrick Stewart, who expressed his love to for it. That’s pretty overwhelming. It really seems to reach people. 

COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any other projects you're currently working on that you can talk about or tease?

ROBERTSON: I am working with my friend Gary Whitta (who wrote a little movie you may have heard of called “Star Wars: Rogue One”) on an original co-creation based loosely on Dickens’ Oliver Twist titled OLIVER. It’s a steampunk inspired reinterpretation set in a post apocalyptic England. It launches from Image Comics this January, and will be a 12 issue run in three arcs, over the course of 2019 and into 2020. 

COMIC LOUNGE: What would be a dream project for you?

ROBERTSON: I honestly can’t say! There are still a number of superheroes I’d like to draw, for a miniseries or something, but I’ve been really lucky, in that I’ve worked with amazing writers and have had runs on WOLVERINE, NIGHTCRAWLER, and THE PUNISHER, as well drawing JUSTICE LEAGUE, SUPERMAN and SPIDER-MAN,.. back in 1995 I even got draw a Spider-Man story written by the late, great Stan Lee himself and inked by George Perez! 

My original co-creations have been hugely successful, with HAPPY! and The BOYS both being adapted for television. 

Walking around the set of The BOYS last September and meeting the cast was a dream come true in itself. When you’re on a giant set with A-list actors and meeting people dressed up in costumes based on your designs, looking at a director’s-style chair with your name on it, there’s not a lot else to dream about. That is more than I ever hoped for but something I always wished would happen. 

I guess having the time and energy to write and draw some of my original ideas I've yet to put to paper would be a dream project. 

COMIC LOUNGE: What does being an artist mean to you?

ROBERTSON: My high school art teacher, the late and brilliant Stanley Grosse, was a fine artist and he wanted me to be one too, but I was in love with comics. So he told me once “Whatever you do, Darick, be an artist first, don't be a half-baked cartoonist” and that always stayed with me. Stan and I reconnected before he passed and he was very proud of me and that meant a lot. I was happy that I hadn’t let him down. I haven’t had a lot of formal training, practically none beyond his influence when I was 15, so it’s been a strange evolution getting to where I am as I still only see what’s wrong with my work, but if other people enjoy it and I succeed in moving a person emotionally when they read my work, then I feel like that’s being an artist. Making the viewer feel something. When I tell a story well, then I feel like I’m doing my job. Like John Byrne said (I’ll paraphrase) “If the reader needs the word balloons to follow your story, then you’re not doing the work.” But I can’t control what people will see in my stuff, I can only do my best to create something I feel proud of.  

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do this for most of my life and that the things that I’ve co-created and designed have made some impact. I would have spent my life drawing in some capacity anyway, as it’s always been compulsive. I just try to create comics that I’d want to read and look at, since at heart, I’m a comics’ fan too.

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