Why is it that Darick Robertson's three most popular titles all have the visage of someone smiling and being happy? Whether its Happy!'s titular blue unicorn, The Boys' Billy Butcher, or Transmetropolitan's three-eyed smiley face (or the menacing politican Gary Callahan, best known as "The Smiler") there's a perpetual grin on most all of the San Mateo-born artist's most memorable work.
So how is that translating given how well Syfy's Happy! adaptation has been received and the buzz surrounding Amazon's The Boys show? Robertson tells Newsarama it's "wonderful and validating," but at the end of the day he's still the same person and still a proud comic artist/writer.
With a new episode of Happy! premiering Wednesday and casting underway for The Boys, Newsarama spoke with Robertson about this mass media success, how its affecting him back at the drawing board, his upcoming creator-owned twist on Oliver Twist, and when - if ever - we might see a live-action Transmetropolitan.
Newsarama: Darick, you are a real TV maven now. Happy! is airing on Syfy, and The Boys is on its way from Amazon. What's this outside-comics success like for you, after all these years doing creator-owned and work-for-hire comics?
Darick Robertson: The thing with these TV projects is that it looks like big things are happening on the outside, but internally it hasn't changed my life all that much. Having talked to some friends of mine that have been through the experience, I equate it to growing a corn field; just because you see the corn, doesn't mean it's ready to harvest and eat. There's a lot that still has to happen before it impacts my experience. I'm still busy meeting deadlines, and working on new creator-owned projects as well as working with DC and Valiant.
But it is wonderful and validating to see two different properties that I've designed and co-created finding this larger audience.
Nrama: Are you able to get out from behind the drawing table and consult or visit the sets of any of these projects?
Robertson: No, not at all. The Boys is still in development and while I've been made welcome on the set of Happy!, the timing wasn't such that I could take advantage. However, the cast and crew have been very friendly and welcoming, so that's been nice.
Nrama: Let's talk about Happy! - how much of the show have you seen, and what do you get a kick out of when watching it?
Robertson: I see them at the same time everyone else does. I got to see an early cut of the pilot but this end result is wonderful. I love how faithful they have stayed to the comic and the production and cast are nailing it. It's been gratifying to see my work translated so faithfully to the screen.
Nrama: The advertisements feature your artwork heavily - that might seem like a given, but you and I know many comic adaptations pay little regard for the comic art. What do you think of that - adapting not just the story of the comic but also the visuals you so happen to have provided?
Robertson: It's pretty cool.
Nrama: Call me old, but I still remember you most fondly for Transmetropolitan. What are the chances of that being adapted, or you and Warren reuniting for another go at it?
Robertson: There's been talk, off and on, for 18 years now, but these things take time. I look forward to announcing something when there's something to announce and being able to talk about it if there's something to talk about.
I would love to work with Warren Ellis again on any project, but that isn't in my current set of projects.
I am doing the cover art for the final Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 3 which should release later in 2018.
Nrama: Are there any other projects of yours being shopped around for adaptation? Space Beaver on Adult Swim sounds like a winner.
Robertson: Man, that would be something. I have this dream of rebooting that character when I don't have to worry about sales figures and can devote myself to it. (I also have a dream of flying like Superman... so we'll see which happens first).
As with all projects, when they're in the beginning phases, you can't really talk about what's going on until they're signed off on and officially announced.
Nrama: For comics now, you're doing work-for-hire with Valiant, right?
Robertson: Yes, and Valiant has been great. I did a run on Harbinger Renegade and have stepped aside from that for a while to get some of my creator-owned work back on track and out into the world, like Oliver with Garry Whtta.
Nrama: … you’ve got to tell us more on that one, Darick.
Robertson: Oliver has been a passion project, unintentionally side-lined by some personal challenges in the past few years, but my goal is to get issues #1 through #4 out as soon as possible and I'm closing in on that goal in 2018. Oliver is an amazing story set in an alternate timeline where London is in a post-apocalyptic state and loosely involves the characters from Oliver Twist.
Image Comics has allowed me the time and space I've need to really nurture this book, and I feel it is some of the best work I've been capable of. I'm eager to share it with the world, and Gary Whitta has been amazingly supportive and patient.
Nrama: Has the success of the TV shows changed how you see yourself? Are you still a comics artist, or are you a multimedia creator, transmedia creator, or some other buzzword title?
Robertson: Do you still consider yourself a full-time artist, or has this TV success changed how you see yourself?
Nrama: Like I said before, I am very much still a full-time artist (and part-time writer). I am looking at that 'corn' breaking the ground but I am a long way from feasting. I am continuing to work daily.
Robertson: I am creating a project with Lindsey Stirling called Sparrow that I am co-writing with my friend R. Eric Lieb as well designing, based on her look, style and her videos.
Nrama: So big picture, what are your goals going forward?
Robertson: I'd like to believe these TV projects will pay off and I'll be able to continue to create new properties to launch, with less deadline pressure. I love that a couple of my properties have become bigger productions, but it has always been important to me that whatever I create or co-create that it's a good comic on its own. Only when you create something good, in its original form, do you see people willing to take it to the next level. Even if it never goes beyond being a comic or graphic novel, a satisfying story with good art is a wonderful thing to put out into the world for people to enjoy.