The Boys & Darick Robertson - With Exclusive Preview

Talking The Boys With Darick Robertson

Yesterday, we spoke with Garth Ennis about The Boys - where it is and where it’s going.

Today, it’s time to hear from the artist on the Dynamite series, Darick Robertson.

As mentioned yesterday, Ennis and Robertson have slowed things down a little in the latest arc, “I Tell You No Lie, G.I.,” allowing for the character of The Legend to fill in the backstories of the world they live in for Hughie (the newest member of The Boys), the escalation of the antagonism between Billy Butcher and The Homelander (leaders of The Boys and The Seven, respectively), and just show the utter corruption of the military-industrial-superhero complex and The Seven.

It hasn’t been a pretty picture. Well, figuratively speaking. A little more literally, Robertson's art continues to add a beautiful yet gritty flavor to the series, showing off his nearly unmatched flexibility as an artist in comics today.

Speaking of pictures (and one of the clunkiest segues ever), let’s talk to Robertson. Plus – rotate on the images to the right for an exclusive preview of issue #22.

Newsarama: First off Darick - generally speaking, how are things going with The Boys? Are you and Garth where you expected to be on the series by this point, not only in terms of the story, but also in terms of the audience and response to the series?

Darick Robertson: The audience response to the series has exceeded my expectations. I knew I was illustrating a great story, but I thought that it would be a slower build in audience, like Transmetropolitan was. I’m thrilled and humbled by the reaction we’ve gotten, achieving what I dreamed would take years after the whole thing was published in the first two years, with an Eisner nomination, a film option, celebrity readers. It’s all been pretty cool.

NRAMA: Through the move to Dynamite and the issues that have followed, you've remained exclusive to DC, with The Boys as a carve-out to your contract. How has that pace been for you?

DR: Hectic at times as balancing the two has required almost all of my time, and put strain on us all. But it’s been worth it. I barely have time to answer these questions as I’m trying to finish 9 pages of inks by tomorrow as I type this! I’m penciling and inking an issue on an average of every four weeks at this point, with my DC work included, and we’re trying to get to a point where I can draw the Butcher mini series as well.

At this point it’s unclear if I’ll be taking a hiatus from the monthly to do that story or not. We’ll know by around issue #30 if I can get even more art finished in time to accommodate the schedule Dynamite and Garth have in mind.

DC has been great about allowing me flexibility in my schedule and the cooperation has been terrific. I’ve no regrets about choosing to stay under contract with them.

NRAMA: Again, staying with the larger focus, you created the looks for these characters, and you're, in many ways, their second "father." That said, does Garth still, or ever give you something that causes you pause with them, in that you're not sure how they'd show an emotion or act in a particulate situation?

DR: Yes, at the heart of our collaboration is my willingness to go back to the drawing board and try to get Garth’s satisfaction with the final art in terms of nuance and storytelling. He wants definitive ideas at times, asking me to go in closer or pull out of a panel or amp up or tune down a character’s reaction. With Transmet, I had more freedom to just go with what I saw in the script, but with The Boys, I’ve made it my goal to bring to the page Garth’s vision as much as possible. There’s a lot of subtly to the Boys’ interactions, often their expressions and body language will tell you more than the word balloons and I put a lot of effort into achieving those moments.

NRAMA: Lately in the series, specifically in "I Tell You No Lie, G.I." there's been a major emphasis on exposition, resulting in many conversations between characters...as we always hear, for some artists, such scenes are the kiss of death, but you seem to groove on them. What is it about those scenes that you like, and how do you approach them? Are you one of those artists with a mirror at the table, miming out the expressions as they come in the script?

DR: I have a mirror, but I usually use for foreshortening and hands reference. The expressions come pretty freely at this point. I love conversation scenes because it’s a different opportunity to turn the mundane into the dynamic. I have a deep love and respect for artists like Will Eisner, Wally Wood, Frank Frazetta and Milo Manara that can create powerful images with nothing seemingly happening. Brian Bolland, Alan Davis, Kevin Maguire and Adam Hughes have that same flair.

NRAMA: Going back to challenges from Garth, the latest arc has had some heavy moments in it - the pathos of Lamplighter, decapitated soldiers, not to mention the parallels to 9-11 in #21. Do the scenes that end up come across as gut-punches, emotionally, to the audience hit you the same way when you read the script and even after you've drawn them?

DR: Sometimes, yes. Issue #21 was a very powerful read for me. It made my stomach go into knots when that kid gets swept out the door. I have two small boys myself, so I couldn’t detach from that. Often I try to stay in touch with whatever feelings hit me when reading and try and bring that to the page. Garth actually wanted that scene played more for comedy, a “whoops” moment, so I redrew the panel and tried to bring that element to it, but I was surprised how many readers still felt the impact they way I did, and respected that the cover emphasized the tragedy.

NRAMA: By this point in the series, who do you still have trouble with in terms of drawing reactions, emotions, etc? Conversely, who can you draw in your sleep at this point?

DR: Butcher and Hughie still remain my biggest challenge, Butcher has to walk this fine line of being sinister, yet funny and likeable. I want the audience to feel like they’re in on the joke with Butcher. With Hughie I have to remain faithful to my homage to Simon Pegg, but Hughie’s his own face now too and I am learning his range of expressions without going back to the ‘Simon Pegg well’ as it were, for inspiration. Honestly, doing a monthly book, pencil and inks, I just have to trust my instincts most of the time.

The Frenchman came pretty naturally once I understood his personality. I originally saw him as aloof, Garth sees him as unassuming. They’re all memorized at this point and my consistency in the pages with their range of emotions is starting to gel. It takes a while. I’ll probably be getting them just right about the time the series is ending.

NRAMA: Speaking of the characters, and specifically Hughie, Simon Pegg wrote the intro to volume 1, and seemed to be a good sport about being the model for Hughie - have you had any other contact with him about how you draw "him" each month? After all, there's being a good sport, and there's sitting through what happened in issue #17 without raising a fuss...

DR: Simon has been nothing but an enthusiastic and supportive fan of the series, and completely awesome about the whole project. He seems content to just enjoy what we’re doing and knows that we’re not doing anything to ‘him’, but that wee Hughie is his own character now, that is an homage to him, my dream casting in action.

Simon and I have some e-mail exchanges, keeping in touch mostly. It’s all been very friendly and fun, and I can’t say enough how cool that has been. I really thought at the time it would slip under the radar, that maybe he’d see it and get a chuckle, but never the endorsement he’s been so generous in giving us. When I saw his character in Spaced (now available on DVD in region 1! Get it now!), it was clear to me that he must love comics. His whole persona was a struggling comics book artist who works in a comics store and all the references assured me he was one of ‘us’. It was a gut instinct that with his sense of humor that he’d be that person in reality and appreciate the whole thing, and it was right.

NRAMA: Are there any characters that you wish you were able to draw more?

DR: I’m going to miss Tek Knight.

NRAMA: It's been a while since the news that Neal Moritz & Columbia had picked up the film rights for The Boys. Are you involved with that at all? If you're not involved yet, do you plan to be?

DR: Yes, I’m somewhat involved, as is Garth, and we’re kept abreast of the developments. Of course I can’t really talk about it in detail at this stage and what’s public now is about all there is to share at the moment.

NRAMA: In October, Dynamite/Dynamic has The Boys trading card set coming out, and the variant covers start...how are you with this increased attention/merchandising?

DR: It reminds me of the feeling I had when I dropped my son off at Kindergarten on his first day. I had to just let go the control and hope that the school knew what they were doing and trust that it will all be fine.

My original vision for the series was that Garth and I would do the whole thing and just our two names would be on it, we’d have this great run of sixty issues, all would be collected, all of it would be my stuff, pencils and inks, and it would be this great complete work. But that all had to change when we left Wildstorm. I have a hard time letting go of something once I imagine it. I have to recognize when to let the thing be what it’s going to be. I just have to do the best I can on the parts that are mine to control and recognize that it’s already bigger than me. I have to get out of the way of this thing called “the BOYS” now, and let it be all it can become.

I had this experience with Transmetropolitan, watching Spider become part of the zeitgeist, this image from my head suddenly in my hands in three dimensions, walking around at conventions and on Halloween, artists like Moebius, and Jaime Hernandez drawing my character. It’s all a bit surreal and yet so awesome.

NRAMA: So what's coming up with the October arc?

DR: Get ready to meet G-Whiz. It’s a lighter arc than “I tell You No Lie G.I”, more laughs.

Related:

The Boys Ends at Wildstorm

The Boys Lands at Dynamite Entertainment

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