Saturday, July 4, 2009

Interview: ROBOT 13

When I first came across the preview for ROBOT 13 on Publisher's Weekly's comic blog, The Beat, by Heidi MacDonald, I knew right away that it was something special. The art is simple, and easy to fallow, yet speaks volumes about action, story, and designe with every panel. Fans of monster comics are sure to enjoy, along with anyone else who wants to read something fun.

Christopher Moonlight: So, we have Blacklist Studios' Thomas Hall who writes Robot 13 and Daniel Bradford who does the art. There isn't much info online about this book except some beautiful artwork. I've seen a giant octopus and a robot with a human skull. What can you tell me?

Thomas: The first issue of Robot 13 opens with some fishermen pulling up something mysterious in their nets. As they look at it and try to figure out what it is, their ship is attacked by a giant Kraken, which starts grabbing and devouring the sailors. The “thing” the fishermen pulled up from the bottom of the ocean suddenly leaps to life and defends them. That “thing” turns out to be Robot 13, and he fights the Kraken until he has defeated it. At that point, the reader doesn't know much about our Hero, and as it turns out, neither does Robot 13. The rest of the story from here on out will be for the reader and the robot to discover who Robot 13 is and where he came from. The robot wants to know those things and hopefully the readers will come along for the ride.

CM: How did you guys come to team up with each other? How did you know you wanted to work with each other?

Thomas: I saw a comic online that Daniel had done, and I wrote him an email telling him how good I thought it was. We struck up a friendship, and found out that neither of us had anything pressing to work on, so we kicked around some ideas. Daniel had a few different ideas, and I read one of them and realize that some of the things I had been kicking around in my head for a project would mesh with his ideas so we decided to take the best stuff and go from there. Both of us had a drive to do comics, and we wanted to push ourselves to really do something of quality, so we realized that working together would bring out the best in both of us. That was 6 years ago, and we are still at it, so I guess we were right in a sense.

CM: What is your working relationship like? On your My Space it says, "Thomas Hall writes comic books. Daniel Bradford draws comic books." Is it that simple or do you guys go back and forth with each other until you have the story you want?

Thomas: It's that simple, but we do go back and forth. We always kick around ideas, but since I am the writer, I guess the biggest part of my job is to collect all the best ideas and fit them together, and to figure out what the story needs from there. Sometimes, I put something in the script and Daniel draws what he thinks it should look like, and I see the page and change something down the road. That happened with issue 1 of Robot 13, where something Daniel put in there was so cool to me, that I had him put another reference in at the end of the book. That wasn't planned, but it turned out really great. And sometimes, I just come up with something that Daniel can't make work, so we come up with something new. So there is a flow between us, but basically I write whatever I think makes the best story and Daniel is free to draw it how he thinks it will look best.

CM: How did you come across Jeff Slemons, who did your cover? It's beautiful.

Thomas: Jeff is a friend. He saw something I posted about KING! And wrote me and told me how much he liked the book and that he was an artist and loved comic books. He & I struck up a friendship, and I knew him for about a year before I saw his work. One day, he was like, “want to see a new painting I did?” so I was “Sure.” He emailed me this amazing picture, and I was like, “Who IS this guy, anyway?” I was blown away. When we got around to doing Robot 13, Daniel said he wanted to do the covers for the book, and I was all for that, but Jeff offered and gave me his cover and I just knew we had to have 2 covers. Not because it's part of a trend- just both covers are equally beautiful. How can you say no?

CM: Now, you have another book. KING! Do these books tie in to each other, or are they completely separate?

Thomas: Completely separate. KING! Is about a retired Mexican wrestler who used to have a persona called “The King,” and he still kind of lives that 24/7. Now that he's retired, he gets hired as kind of a hit man on occasion. He doesn't kill people, though. He kills monsters. We did a one shot a few years ago- a very small printing- and people went wild over it, so we are re-launching the book as a mini series. The first issue will come out right around the time that Robot 13 wraps up, and it will probably be a 4 issue mini series. It's going to be crazy. Zombies, Vampires, bloodsucking monsters and the Devil himself. It's a complete 180 from Robot 13, in that where Robot 13 is thoughtful and a little deeper, KING! Is lots of crazy action and fun and more of a wild ride.

CM: Daniel, you've obviously been influenced by Mike Mignola. He's almost become a sort of house style, like with Todd McFarland, Jim Lee, and Joe Kubert. Have you ever worked with Mignola, or do you hope to one day?

Daniel : Never worked for him but, just like any other fan, I'd love to so some day. I'm more than content working with Tom, though, and we have a severely full plate on our table as it is. Working with the Big Names just isn't on my mind right now.

CM: The other day you Twittered that you drew three pages in one day. How did you pull that one off without sacrificing quality? Did you just have them planned out before hand with thumbnails, or where you just in the zone?

Daniel: Truthfully that was just my plan for the day, to draw three pages. Unfortunately I was only able to get 2 pages drawn and inked. Typically I draw thumbnails directly onto Tom's scripts while I read them so when the time comes to draw the actual page I have everything pretty much mapped out. I put on some music, zone out, and let the page flow. The only thing I intentionally sacrifice while working would be the presence of my daughters.

CM: Blacklist Studios is your venture. Right? Was this just your way of having the freedom you need to make this book, or do you intend to take on more talent?

Thomas: Blacklist Studios started out just as a way for us to promote and package our self produced work. It wasn't even going to be a “company” at first. We were just looking for some way to give our projects an identity, so that people could find us, and so that when we pitched our books to established publishers, we looked like we had our act together. We self published a promo book for Enlightenment, which got picked up by Markosia but which still hasn't seen the light of day. Then when we decided to do KING!, we did a promo one shot of that too. We found that comic fans had a strong reaction to our books, but that all the publishing “interest” was really people looking to take the rights to our properties. Some didn't even care how well the books sold. We thought- at least we CARE if our books do well & if they are any good. Let's do this ourselves and control our own destiny. As for working with other people- sure, that sounds great, but that's somewhere in the future. Believe me- doing 2 books for ourselves is MORE than enough for us in the foreseeable future.


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