Monday, October 31, 2011

Evan Dorkin - Cartoonist Survey #246

Evan Dorkin is a multi-Eisner Award winning cartoonist, artist and writer who was born in April of 1965. He started drawing at a young age, copying ‘Peanuts’ characters from the newspaper. He is mostly self-taught aside from a couple of artist’s anatomy classes and an animation drawing class while he was attending film school at New York University. Evan is probably best known for his alternative comic 'Milk and Cheese', the adventures of an anthropomorphic milk carton and wedge of cheese. Both characters were created and drawn on cocktail napkins while he was under the influence of adult beverages in the wee hours of the morning back in the mid-80s.

He continued to draw the characters and the first ‘Milk and Cheese’ strip ran in the final issue of Greed Magazine in 1988. ‘Milk and Cheese’ strips continued to be printed in various magazines and comics until the early 90s when Slave Labor Graphics started collecting them and printing them in ‘Milk and Cheese’ comic books. Numerous issues of the comics were released including a trade paperback that collected the first four issues in 1994.

In addition to ‘Milk and Cheese’ comics, he created the anthology comics ‘Dork!’ The ‘Dork!’ comics consist of random comics and strips that are a mix of new material and reprints from other sources. Other early comics works by Evan include ‘Pirate Corp$’ and ‘Hectic Planet’. He has also worked for the major comic companies including; ‘The Goon’ and ‘Predator’ for Dark Horse, ‘World’s Funnest Comics’ and MAD Magazine for DC and a ‘Thing’ miniseries, ‘Agent X’, and ‘Bill and Ted’ comics for Marvel. Lately he’s been writing and drawing for Bongo’s ‘Simpsons’ comics including the recent ‘Bart Simpson’ #63 for which he wrote and drew a 10-page story that was colored by his wife, Sarah Dyer.

Evan and Sarah have written for television and animation. Together they worked on Cartoon Network’s “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” for seven years, writing scripts for more than a dozen shows. Evan and his wife have written and designed costumes for the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” including the show’s Super Martian Robot Girl segments. The writing team of Dorkin and Dyer also wrote some episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series”, “Batman Beyond” and “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Evan teamed up with comic book writer and illustrator Jill Thompson for the supernatural pet epic ‘Beasts of Burden’ for Dark Horse Press. ‘Beasts of Burden’ features a heroic gang of dogs and a cat who protect the town of Burden Hill from evil forces such as canine zombies, cannibal frogs and a secret rat society. The ‘Beasts of Burden’ comics were collected into a hardcover edition last July. Speaking of hardcover editions, this coming January Dark Horse Comics will be releasing a deluxe hardcover edition of ‘Milk and Cheese’ that will contain almost every strip from 1989 to 2010.

To learn more about Evan and see more of his work, visit his and Sarah’s The House of Fun website and his blog. You can also purchase original artwork by Evan here.

What is your favorite pen to use?

These days it's a Hunt 22 nib.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?

I pencil everything out pretty tightly because I'm a very hesitant inker, I can't draw in ink, at least not to my satisfaction. I use standard pencils, 2H, 2B, 3B, 4B, sometimes plain old Ticonderoga #2's.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?

Any color comics I do are colored on the computer by my wife and partner, Sarah Dyer. I can't use Photoshop; I'm not very handy with a computer.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?

If I color a piece or a commission drawing I use colored pencils and/or markers.

What type of paper do you use?

Strathmore bristol board, usually a 400 or 500 series. I switch around a lot and sometimes buy sheets of bristol when I can afford it because the pads vary in quality and I can't seem to find anything I'm satisfied with. Paper, as with art supplies and manufactured goods in general, seems to be declining more and more in quality every year. For a long time I was able to work with a cache of Marvel and DC board that I managed to acquire (editors and publishers were much more generous with paper back in the 1990's), I really got used to that paper and haven't found anything I've liked as much since the sad day my stash ran out.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Animals, cars, people, buildings, nature, computer keyboards, furniture...anything with a deadline. I could make a long list of things I don't enjoy drawing because to a large degree I don't actually enjoy drawing. I find it difficult and am always fighting the page and what I'm trying to draw. I'm compelled to draw because I do enjoy telling stories in comics form, but most of the time I find the actual act of drawing stressful. I don't think I draw anything particularly well, sometimes I find myself hitching even when drawing my own characters, even characters I've drawn for many years. I enjoy having drawn more than drawing, if you get me. The same goes for writing, as well. I like working out the material in my head and in my notebook, executing the material is usually an exercise in anxiety. Sometimes the work flows and it feels organic and 'right" like it did back when I was young and didn't know how bad my work was, when I just did it and had fun.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?

Both, but the local art supply stores where I live are terrible and unreliable. I only go there if I need something basic that they will most likely have, although they can surprise you. No kneaded erasers, or 3B pencils, or Rapidograph ink, I've been stymied plenty of times going local.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?

I worry.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?

I listen to all sorts of music, usually I just listen to, a free-form radio station whose various deejays play pretty much anything and everything you can name -- punk, power pop, new wave, hip-hop, doo-wop, garage, electronic, hillbilly, country, western swing, big-bands, standards, black metal, soundtracks, classical, experimental, the list goes on. I like all sorts of genres and sometimes pick what I'm listening to based on what I'm working on. Sunday nights at 8 pm I listen to the Big Broadcast on, a four-hour show of mostly 20's and 30's big band music I enjoy working to. I also often like to draw while listening to old radio shows, all kinds, but usually horror and crime stuff, as well as some comedy shows. Years ago I used to only work with the television on, Jack Kirby-style, but I stopped and don't even know if I could do it again if I had to. It was good company but too distracting.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?

I followed newspaper strips, Tintin reprints in Children's Digest magazine and Marvel Comics. My sister read Harvey and Archie comics and when I was done with my Marvel comics I'd read those, as well. My favorites were Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers. The Tintin translations made a lasting impression. Of my sister's comics I liked anything with Spooky the Ghost and Hot Stuff.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Growing up it was Peanuts, my favorite current strip is Cul De Sac. I like a lot of old strips, Barnaby, Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy, Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Prince Valiant, King Aroo, The Little King, The list goes on and on.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?

“The Curious Clubhouse”, if I had to pick one. I have a copy of it although it's not the one I had as a kid. I still have my kidhood copy of “Alice in Wonderland”, that was a cherished book. It's always hard for me to pick a favorite anything.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?

I took two artist's anatomy courses at New York University, where I also took an animation drawing class. That's pretty much it. I'm largely self-taught and had a bad teacher in myself. It's a reason I believe I've always been at least ten years behind where I should be as far as my craft goes.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?


Did either of your parents draw?


Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?

My wife, Sarah.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I keep several but I only sporadically work in them. I get discouraged because drawing doesn't really come easily for me, and I'm often disappointed by the results. I also don't have a lot of spare time to draw stuff that isn't for a concrete project. I tend to use my sketchbooks like notebooks, pragmatically working out ideas, dialogue, character designs, and images for a project.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?

I've spoken to classes and groups about making comics, but I've never formally taught anyone anything. I could never teach an actual drawing class, I don't have a good enough grasp of the fundamentals, I know about as much about draftsmanship as I do quantum mechanics. I do enjoy giving talks about comics and cartooning, I don't know if I could actually teach a class, though. The talks I've done have gone over pretty well, but I don't know if I could translate that into a sustained course that students can take anything away from.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?

For me it's the latter, even if the passion is tempered these days. I have a modicum of talent, there are legions of people out there who draw better than I do, but the energy and honesty and personality I try to bring to my comics helps set them apart. I think. I hope. Passion will come across on the page even if the chops aren't always there, passion can overcome some wobbly drawing and staging. I don't believe in dismissing craft, but I'd rather listen to a compelling, messy punk band than a group of technically-proficient musicians who bring nothing to their music but immaculate playing. That being said, true talent plus real passion is ideal, I'd think. Something to aspire to.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

I used to collect a lot of things, too many things, I'm in the process of getting rid of a lot of stuff. These days I really only collect comics, almost exclusively comics with a spine, a lot of strip and old comic reprints, some manga collections, pretty much everything Tezuka-related. I get most of them for free or trade. If I had to pay for the bulk of the comics I pick up, I wouldn't be picking them up.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?

What a weird question. Felix the Cat? The original, grumpy version of the character, not the television version.

Are you a righty or lefty?

Righty. Politically, I lean left.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?

Stand-up comedy or professional wrestler, something miserable like that where you're putting yourself out there and entertaining people and the actual business is miserable and there's an element of personal self-destruction involved. Like comics, only with an audience, and a lot more substance abuse.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

A pretty nice, large room with a cheap drawing table up against one wall in-between two windows overlooking the street. The table has a battered old lightbox on it, a lamp that's almost twenty years old and not working properly, and it's covered with comic pages, layouts and reference for a strip I'm working on.

Do you play any musical instruments?


If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?

Persevere. Keep going. Work creates work, and improves the work.

Who is your favorite artist?

If we're talking comics, probably Jaime Hernandez. With a lot of folks just beneath him on the list, Jack Kirby, Yves Chaland, Tezuka, Will Elder....yet another long list.

Thank you very much Evan!

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