A little while back, Comic Book Resources welcomed Alex Robinson to a chat with our members. Below is a transcript of that chat, where there was a good deal of discussion about Robinson’s acclaimed “Box Office Poison” as well as his new release, “Tricked.”
Brian Cronin: Welcome, folks, to the Alex Robinson chat!
Alex Robinson: Hey everyone!
Jellobay: Hi Alex, so what projects do you have coming up?
Alex Robinson: I haven’t started a new graphic novel yet, but I’ve been keeping busy.
Alex Robinson: I’ve been doing some back up stories for John Kovalic’s “Dr. Blink.”
Brian Cronin: You attended The Festival International de la Bande Dessinee, right?
Brian Cronin: So, did you receive your award in person?
Brian Cronin: Was that trippy? Do you speak French at all?
Alex Robinson: It was very trippy, since I really didn’t think I stood a chance.
Alex Robinson: I don’t really speak any French, but they had a translator on stage to assist.
Alex Robinson: I was really shocked, especially since my name wasn’t even on the guest list or anything.
Brian Cronin: That’s crazy
Larry V.: Were there any French cartoonists that were jealous an American won?
Alex Robinson: The French cartoonists I talked to were very nice, but a couple of French people grumbled.
Jellobay: Som how was it having Eisner as a teacher?
Alex Robinson: Eisner was a really nice guy, but I think I was really too young to fully appreciate what he had to offer.
Alex Robinson: When you’re 20 years old you think you know everything, or at least I did.
Alex Robinson: It was kind of sad in a way because most of the people in the class didn’t listen to him at all.
Alex Robinson: This was around the time Image exploded so everyone just wanted to be Liefeld.
Larry V.: Eisner must have been a hundred when he taught you!
Alex Robinson: He was pretty old, that’s true
Alex Robinson: This was 1990-1992 or so.
Brian Cronin: Did you read Eisner/Miller?
Alex Robinson: I skipped around in it.
Alex Robinson: I also read Sim’s interview with Miller in “Following Cerebus.”
Jellobay: I am guessing you don’t want to be Liefeld now. 🙂
Alex Robinson: I’d want his money!
Brian Cronin: You kidding, Jellobay? “Tricked” is all in the style of Liefeld!
Alex Robinson: I learned everything I know about anatomy from Bob.
Brian Cronin: What was the French festival like?
Brian Cronin: Was it like an American convention?
Alex Robinson: It was amazing.
Alex Robinson: The whole town turns into a comics love fest.
Brian Cronin: Haha
Alex Robinson: Even businesses that had nothing to do with comics, like banks and supermarkets, had comics in their windows.
Brian Cronin: That is crazy.
Alex Robinson: And I think something like 300,000 people came, so it’s bigger than anything in the US
Brian Cronin: Wow. That does sound like the whole town turning into a convention
Alex Robinson: I’d never been to France before, so to have that be my first trip was incredible.
Brian Cronin: Was it a really diverse crowd then? That many people, it must have seemed like comics were almost… (gasp)…mainstream!
Alex Robinson: Angouleme was a very diverse crowd.
Alex Robinson: The audience was split, genrewise, and you even had old people and little kids.
Brian Cronin: Awesome.
Jellobay: On your web site what is that wood carving your standing next too?
Alex Robinson: The wood carving is at a miniature golf course in Montauk, NY.
Alex Robinson: I think it’s a sea captain or something.
Larry V.: About “Tricked”- who do you relate to more, Ray Beam or Steve?
Alex Robinson: I usually say both, but frankly, I think it’s Steve.
Alex Robinson: He was very easy to write.
Brian Cronin: Here’s what I don’t get…the book was translated, right? So how did all the pop culture stuff get translated? Did the translator put in French references? I mean, it just strikes me as odd that a book that seems so couched in American culture would be a hit in France.
Alex Robinson: I know, it shocks me, too!!
Alex Robinson: There was a Spanish translation of the book and the translator sent me a bunch of questions about that stuff.
Alex Robinson: “Who is Linda Lavin?” etc.
Brian Cronin: Oh, okay…like, “What can I fit in here?” type of things?
Brian Cronin: “What Spanish actress would apply?”
Brian Cronin: Or do they keep stuff like Linda Lavin in their translation?
Alex Robinson: Well, the Spanish people had sort of a glossary in the back, explaining it all.
Alex Robinson: I told them they could use Spanish people or references if they wanted, but they didn’t.
Alex Robinson: But other than some footnotes, the French edition was straight up.
Alex Robinson: They had a footnote saying who Oprah was, which surprised me because I thought she was more famous.
Brian Cronin: That’s funny, what with the recent flap with Oprah in France.
Alex Robinson: Sadly, I picked up very little in France, mostly because everything was in French and I can’t read it.
Alex Robinson: It all looked beautiful, but I’m a story guy.
Larry V.: What other languages are your books translated to?
Alex Robinson: So far “Box Office Poison” has been in French and Spanish, with an Italian version in the works.
Larry V.: MOLTO BENE !!
Alex Robinson: CIAO! FRANCESCO RENALDI!
Alex Robinson: The French are also doing “Tricked.”
Jellobay: Did you have any signings while you were there?
Alex Robinson: I just signed books at the festival.
Brian Cronin: Did you sell a lot while you were there? The award hopefully helped 🙂
Alex Robinson: The award definitely helped.
Alex Robinson: This was the first comics show I’d been to where I had a line.
Alex Robinson: I pretty much stayed at the table signing books the whole time, which shocked my French publishers, since I think most of the cartoonists there only put in a short time at the table.
Jellobay: For someone who hasn’t read your work, which would you recommend first. “Box office Poison” or “Tricked?”
Alex Robinson: I’m not sure which of my books to recommend.
Alex Robinson: I think I like “Tricked” better because it’s more recent, but “Box Office Poison” is definitely what put me on the map, I guess.
Alex Robinson: “Tricked” is cheaper.
Larry V.: I think starting with “Box Office Poison” would ease people into the darker waters of “Tricked.”
Brian Cronin: Since BOP was a collection of strips over a decent amount of time, do you see a big improvement from the beginning of the book until the end?
Alex Robinson: I definitely see a difference from the beginning of “Box Office Poison” to the end.
Alex Robinson: I can’t even look at the early pages.
Alex Robinson: It’s embarrassing.
Brian Cronin: Really? Ha.
Alex Robinson: Mark Evanier said that if you can look at pages you drew ten years ago and not wince it means you aren’t improving.
Brian Cronin: And was that anything that helped inspire doing “Tricked” in one big shot, so as to control the complete product?
Alex Robinson: That wasn’t really a factor in releasing “Tricked” as one book.
Alex Robinson: It happens a little in “Tricked,” for instance Phoebe looks very different when she first appears, but it’s sort of unavoidable if you’re doing a long book.
Brian Cronin: Why did you release Tricked in this format?
Alex Robinson: Mostly it was Top Shelf’s idea.
Alex Robinson: They thought that releasing it all at one time would create a bigger splash.
Alex Robinson: Rather than selling a reprint collection.
Alex Robinson: I thought it would be an interesting experiment, so I agreed.
Larry V.: Would you have wanted to do it differently?
Alex Robinson: It definitely took awhile to get used to, but now that I think about it, I think there are stories that might not work as well serialized and this might’ve been one of them.
layne: To follow Brian’s question, was the protagonist switch from Sherman to Ed planned, or did you just find yourself writing Ed more and Sherman less over the course of the story?
Brian Cronin: Oooh…good question.
Alex Robinson: I didn’t really plan it or see it as a dramatic shift.
Alex Robinson: Their stories were sort of meant to parallel each other.
Alex Robinson: Some people were mad that Ed got to have the epilogue
Alex Robinson: So, I didn’t plan it and I admit I was surprised how much I disliked Sherman at the end of the book.
Brian Cronin: What I found funny was that Sherman got so much crap by the end of the book that, even though he was such a dick, I still felt bad for the character!
Brandon Hanvey: So has the Earth-2 Caprice question been asked?
Alex Robinson: We haven’t discussed Caprice.
Alex Robinson: But I think I know what you’re going to say!
Brandon Hanvey: Ah. Good. So can you explain the differences in Caprice from BOP and “Tricked” since the epilogue in BOP is different than what happens in “Tricked.”
Alex Robinson: Yeah, some people have taken issue with that.
Alex Robinson: What happened was that I wanted to use Caprice in the new book, but as I worked on it I realized that certain things had to be changed, like her fate as discussed at the end of “Box Office Poison.”
Alex Robinson: Terry Laban once had a similar situation in one of his comics and he told the audience to just think of it as the same actor playing a different role.
Alex Robinson: But, to cover my ass, Caprice could still meet the destiny she describes at the end of BOP.
Brandon Hanvey: True. She could leave Boyd and go to work in film.
Alex Robinson: The events in “Tricked” could happen after BOP, but before the fate she describes.
Alex Robinson: RIGHT??
layne: “The Alex Robinson Players.” There’s a concept with some awesome possibilities…
Alex Robinson: She tagged that.
Alex Robinson: Who do you think Jane has the affair with at the end of BOP?
Alex Robinson: Oops: SPOILER!
Brandon Hanvey: Ha. Thought so.
Brandon Hanvey: Do you write a full script before drawing or work from a loose plot?
Alex Robinson: I work from a very, very loose plot.
Alex Robinson: I don’t write any of it out before I start.
Brandon Hanvey: Marvel method, eh?
Alex Robinson: I write and draw one page at a time.
Larry V.: What was the last good comic you read?
Alex Robinson: Ummm…”Streen Angel.”
Alex Robinson: “Night Fisher.”
Lex: Mr. Robinson, do you use people you know as the visual basis for the characters you draw?
Alex Robinson: I will sometimes use real life people as inspiration.
Alex Robinson: Ideally, the characters take on a life of their own and move away from the model person.
Brandon Hanvey: Was “Six Degrees of Separation” an inspiration for “Tricked?”
Alex Robinson: I never saw “Six Degrees.”
layne: Were the one-on-one Q&A pages (Sorry, I don’t know what to call them) done in continuity, or as inspirational/creative exercises?
Alex Robinson: Both. I did them as I went along, though the order they’re in, in the book, was not the order I did them in.
Alex Robinson: At first they were definitely a good way to get to know the characters, for the reader and myself.
Brian Cronin: Does it ever creep you out that you write such dark books?
Brian Cronin: Like, “Wait…I’m not a dark person, where is this coming from?
Brian Cronin: Unless you are a dark person.
Brian Cronin: In which case, sorry, hehe.
Alex Robinson: Not really. I pretty much know I’m a dark person!
Alex Robinson: It’s funny because I guess I get most of it out in my work, since someone met me and was shocked at how “jolly” I was.
Brian Cronin: You should have gotten pissed.
Alex Robinson: I did get pissed!
Alex Robinson: I stuck a shiv in his ribs!
Brian Cronin: Nice!
Brian Cronin: That learned him good, I bet.
Alex Robinson: “Who’s jolly now?!?”
Lex: So writing can be kind of therapeutic?
Alex Robinson: I don’t find writing to be very therapeutic, actually.
Larry V.: Would you like to see your books made into movies or TV shows?
Alex Robinson: I would love to see a movie or TV show made.
Alex Robinson: I have absolutely no faith that anything good would be made, but the money would be nice.
Brian Cronin: “Box Office Poison” is such a great name. I would see a movie called “Box Office Poison” easy.
Brian Cronin: I don’t even need to know the plot. Just the fact that they gave it such a cool name would be enough for me.
Brian Cronin: I remember reading somewhere that “Tricked” initially had another title. I can’t remember the title, but I remember loving it. What was it?
Alex Robinson: The original title of “Tricked” was “Sophomore Slump.”
Alex Robinson: But Top Shelf didn’t like that.
Brian Cronin: “Sophomore Slump!” That was it!
Alex Robinson: They pull the strings.
Brian Cronin: What a great name that is.
Brandon Hanvey: I bet Chris and Brett have a lot of pull with Alex.
Alex Robinson: Anytime you work with a publisher, it’s a give and take, but they’re pretty good about leaving me alone.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, I mean, losing a cool name is not that big of a deal.
Brian Cronin: So long as it isn’t interfering with the craft itself.
Larry V.: Do they edit?
Alex Robinson: Once I finished “Tricked,” Chris gave me some notes on ways he thought it could be improved, but he also let me know that I was totally free to ignore his advice.
Brian Cronin: What was the problem with the name, by the by? Too meta?
Alex Robinson: I think they just thought “Sophomore Slump” didn’t have any zing.
Brandon Hanvey: Wasn’t that a title of a Grandaddy album?
Michael Pullmann: “Slump” doesn’t sound like a very good word to use in a title; very unmarketable.
layne: Who or what are you reading now? Prose-wise, I mean.
Alex Robinson: Right now I’m reading Jordan Raphael’s bio of Stan Lee.
Alex Robinson: Next I’ll probably read Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton bio.
Brian Cronin: Hamilton is such an interesting subject.
Alex Robinson: My brother loved the book and got into Hamilton in a big way.
Larry V.: There are moments in “Tricked” where Steve looks like Theodore Roosevelt, is that just a coincident?
Alex Robinson: I have my limitations as an artist.
Alex Robinson: I basically have a bunch of head shapes and nose shapes and eye shapes and when I need a new character I just rotate them around.
Alex Robinson: Like a Mr. Potatohead.
Alex Robinson: For instance: in “Tricked,” Richard, Phoebe’s dad is basically an old version of Sherman.
Brian Cronin: Ha
Brandon Hanvey: Heh
Alex Robinson: Lily has Dorothy’s head, Sally (Sherman’s ex)’s nose.
Brian Cronin: What non-comic works do you think have been influential in your work? TV shows, etc.
Alex Robinson: I usually have a movie in the DVD player when I draw, so movies are a big influence.
Brian Cronin: What’s been in the DVD player recently?
Alex Robinson: With “Tricked,” I watched “Casino,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Royal Tennenbaums,” “This Is Spinal Tap.”
Alex Robinson: “Magnolia,” of course.
Alex Robinson: Larry: I did put myself in the new book.
Alex Robinson: I’m the greasy fan Steve meets outside Ray’s house.
Alex Robinson: When I started the book I was originally going to be the Steve character, but I vetoed it.
Brandon Hanvey: Why would you make yourself Steve?
Alex Robinson: Well, originally, the character of Ray was going to be much more John Lennonish.
Alex Robinson: The John Lennon from Albert Goldman’s vicious biography
Alex Robinson: I actually believe Goldman’s book is half true.
Alex Robinson: So it was this convoluted thing: Alex the creator would be assassinating Lennon’s character, while Alex the assassin was killing this, uh, Lennon character.
Brandon Hanvey: You are obsessed over Lennon?
Alex Robinson: I’m not really obsessed over Lennon, but I love the Beatles and really admired him.
Brian Cronin: You gave the 24-hour comic thing a shot, right? How did that go?
Alex Robinson: I did the 24 hour challenge twice.
Alex Robinson: The first time I really enjoyed it, but the second time I didn’t make it. Brian Cronin: That’s too bad.
Alex Robinson: It was a great experience, though, and I recommend it to every cartoonist
Alex Robinson: (trying a 24 hour comic, I mean)
Brandon Hanvey: I’m scared of doing a 24 hour comic. I think I would go insane.
Alex Robinson: Brandon: You will go insane if you do a 24 hour comic, but it will be worth it.
Larry V.: What other books have you written besides “Tricked” and BOP?
Alex Robinson: None.
Alex Robinson: I’ve written some other short stories and stuff, but no other books.
Larry V.: Can I buy originals from you?
Alex Robinson: I’m not selling my originals right now, except at shows.
Alex Robinson: But I do take commissions, which you can find out about on my website.
Brian Cronin: Oh right, site plug! – http://members.aol.com/ComicBookAlex/
Brian Cronin: I thought Nick was a really interesting character in “Tricked,” because he was such an odd character.
Brian Cronin: Where did you come up with him?
Alex Robinson: Nick was probably the hardest character to write.
Brian Cronin: It really seemed that way. He was so odd.
Alex Robinson: I liked the idea of doing a character who was a gifted autograph forger because it’s not a skill that has a legitimate application.
Brian Cronin: True.
Alex Robinson: What do you do if you’re best talent is criminal?
Alex Robinson: But I didn’t want to make him an outright criminal.
Brian Cronin: Thinking about it like that, I can see how Nick’s personality developed.
Alex Robinson: I liked the idea of trying to do a bad guy who was sort of ambiguous, from a reader sympathy point of view.
Alex Robinson: So, it was a tightrope, trying to make him a jerk, but not so much of a jerk that you’d hate him, at least until the end.
Brandon Hanvey: Nick seemed to slowly go from being an okay guy to a criminal.
Brian Cronin: So that was something that differed from BOP to “Tricked,” though, right? I mean, in “Tricked,” you had definite character arcs in place, no? That wasn’t present in BOP, was it?
Alex Robinson: Well, I always knew the ending of BOP, even if I didn’t know exactly how I would wind up there.
Alex Robinson: “Tricked” required more planning in that sense, since the ending had to be so tightly matched up.
Alex Robinson: It got hard near the end, because I had to make sure everyone was in their proper place
Brandon Hanvey: Alex, have you ever worked for Marvel or DC? And if not, would you want to?
Alex Robinson: I’ve never worked for Marvel or DC, but I would like to try it.
Alex Robinson: My problem is that I’m not very good at coming up with exciting pitches.
Brian Cronin: I thought you were always big on steering clear of superhero comics?
Alex Robinson: I don’t have any problem with superhero comics; in fact I’m working on one now.
Brian Cronin: Really? I would not have expected a superhero book from you.
Alex Robinson: I just don’t like reading most of them, and have a hard time writing “normal” superhero books.
Brian Cronin: Oh, you mean the book is sorta like “Superfuckers?”
Brian Cronin: That I could see easily.
Alex Robinson: “Superfuckers” would probably be closer to what I would do than anything mainstream
Alex Robinson: In the superhero stories I’m doing, I’m trying to show the main character using her powers as little as possible.
Alex Robinson: It’s sort of the opposite of a lot of superhero books (or at least the way they used to be): instead of big fight scenes with little character stuff, it’s all character stuff with no fight scenes.
layne: Dagnabbit, I’ve been plotting out the same thing, heh!
Alex Robinson: Someone from Marvel invited me to pitch some ideas for their books and I just couldn’t think of anything.
Brian Cronin: I can see you doing a great “Spider-Man Unlimited” story.
Brian Cronin: They give you a lot of freedom on that book.
Brandon Hanvey: Yeah. Make Peter the focus.
Alex Robinson: A friend of mine is taking me to task for doing my superhero stuff, since he said the market is glutted with alternative takes on superheroes.
Alex Robinson: “Superfuckers,” “Superior,” “Big Head,” etc
Brian Cronin: It does seem to be one of those “cultural synchronicities.”
Alex Robinson: The thing is, as much as I’d enjoy doing a book or story for Marvel, I’m not excited enough to go through all the bullshit.
Alex Robinson: Cave City was inspired by a visit to White’s City, just outside Carlsbad Caverns.
Brandon Hanvey: Do workers in bookstores tell you they love BOP because you capture their lives?
Alex Robinson: I’ve had a lot of bookstore people tell me they liked the book.
Alex Robinson: It’s actually turned out to be a good marketing strategy.
Alex Robinson: Since they recommend it to people and always make sure it’s in stock.
Brian Cronin: Ha.
Brandon Hanvey: You should get “Do you work here?” shirts printed.
Brian Cronin: Oh, plug the B&N appearance!
Alex Robinson: Right: for those of you in the greater New York City area, I’ll be doing a signing at Barnes & Noble.
Alex Robinson: The one on the corner of 6th Ave and 8th St. on November 16
Brandon Hanvey: If only I was in NY.
Brandon Hanvey: Would you be coming to APE 06?
Alex Robinson: I will indeed.
Alex Robinson: The first time I’ve been to APE since 2001.
Brandon Hanvey: Cool. See you there.
Brian Cronin: Do you think the settings are important at all to your works?
Alex Robinson: It depends on what you mean by settings.
Brian Cronin: I mean, is there anything significant about them being in NYC, or can it be “any city?”
Alex Robinson: I think it can really be any city.
Alex Robinson: Some people say that BOP captures the spirit of NYC or whatever, but I don’t see it.
Alex Robinson: I hate drawing backgrounds!
Brian Cronin: Haha.
Brandon Hanvey: I don’t think there is a comic artist alive who likes drawing buildings.
Brandon Hanvey: Do you favor narrative storytelling or plot focused? Or a combination or the two?
Alex Robinson: I would definitely say I’m narrative focused.
Alex Robinson: I like starting off with some characters and just seeing what happens.
Brian Cronin: The slight changes in your art from BOP to “Tricked,” was that just as result of “growth as an artist,” or was there any mechanical changes in your style?
Brandon Hanvey: Yeah. You seemed to switch to a cleaner line style with “Tricked.”
Alex Robinson: With “Tricked” I started using different inking tools, so that had an effect.
Brian Cronin: Oh?
Brandon Hanvey: What tools did you use?
Alex Robinson: For BOP I used Penstix, which are essentially like fine felt tips pens.
Alex Robinson: With “Tricked” I switched to these Japanese brush pens
Brian Cronin: That would do it. 🙂
Alex Robinson: As a result, there’s very little crosshatching in “Tricked.”
Brandon Hanvey: I’ve never tried brush pens.
Alex Robinson: I really like them.
Alex Robinson: You get the line variation that you get with brushes, but with more control.
Brandon Hanvey: Do you hand letter?
Alex Robinson: No one has ever asked me if I hand letter: usually the sloppiness of my lettering gives it away!
Brian Cronin: What is the oddest comic genre that you would like to work in?
Brian Cronin: Sci-Fi? Horror? Romance?
Alex Robinson: I haven’t really worked in too many genres.
Alex Robinson: I did a Sherlock Holmes story once, and I did some bad sci-fi comics in high school.
Alex Robinson: I would really love to do a good fantasy, D&D type story.
Alex Robinson: I’m eager to read some fantasy that has good character stuff, but I have not been able to find anything.
Brandon Hanvey: I’ve found that Manga is a better source for D&D type comics.
Brandon Hanvey: They got the whole “Final Fantasy” thing going on.
Alex Robinson: I haven’t really read any Manga, sorry to say.
Brandon Hanvey: Why do you prefer slice-of-life fiction?
Alex Robinson: I think I prefer slice of life type stuff, creating it, at least, because I like characters and it’s easiest to avoid the clichés.
Alex Robinson: For instance, if you do a western, it pretty much has to end in a gunfight.
Alex Robinson: I think it’s the problem with any genre.
Brandon Hanvey: Most genres have their clichés. You just have to avoid using them.
Alex Robinson: It’s very hard.
Alex Robinson: If you’re not going to have a gunfight, why make it a western?
Brandon Hanvey: Because you like to draw cowboys and horses.
Alex Robinson: True. I am having fun doing this superhero thing, even though there’s no fighting.
Alex Robinson: I find the most enjoyable part is just coming up with new characters.
Alex Robinson: With the superhero comics, I mean.
Alex Robinson: Is it a physical award?
Brandon Hanvey: Not really.
Alex Robinson: More importantly, is it a cash award?
Brandon Hanvey: I guess I could buy you a drink in SF if you win.
Alex Robinson: Awesome!
Alex Robinson: When will I know if I win?
Brandon Hanvey: The finals are in two weeks. The winners should be posted by the end of November.
Brian Cronin: What’s the last Marvel or DC book that you read?
Alex Robinson: Hmmmm
Alex Robinson: I borrowed that Richard Corben “Hulk” comic from a friend of mine.
Brian Cronin: The Azzarello one?
Alex Robinson: Maybe. The one where Banner is trying to kill himself.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, Banner. Azzarello and Corben.
layne: That’s it. It’s good, eh?
Alex Robinson: I thought that was pretty good.
Alex Robinson: I know it’s not Marvel or DC but I loved “Top Ten.”
Alex Robinson: At least when Alan Moore did it.
Alex Robinson: Actually, I’ve been picking up the reprints of John Byrnes “Fantastic Four.”
Brian Cronin: Byrne’s “Fantastic Four” was awesome.
Brian Cronin: They just solicited the next one for this January.
Alex Robinson: I think they’re my all time favorite super hero stories.
Alex Robinson: But I think that has a lot to do with nostalgia since I read them when they first came out.
Brandon Hanvey: What were some of your favorite book when you were starting out doing comics?
Alex Robinson: I’ve been doing comics since I was in eighth grade, so may tastes have changed over the years.
Alex Robinson: I loved Claremont’s “X-Men,” Wolfman and Perez on “Teen Titans.”
Brian Cronin: Stern’s “Avengers,” Simonson’s “Thor” or Miller’s “Daredevil?”
Alex Robinson: I was never really into “Avengers” or “Daredevil,” but Simonson’s “Thor” was great.
Larry V.: There was an article about “The Watchmen” in Entertainment Weekly, are you a fan of that?
Alex Robinson: I loved “Watchmen.”
layne: I was originally introduced to BOP via “Wizard” magazine, of all places. From talking to fans in the past, how common would you say this phenomenon is?
Alex Robinson: Actually, a lot of people found out about my stuff through “Wizard.”
Alex Robinson: “Wizard’s” plug actually saved BOP from being cancelled when it was serialized.
Brian Cronin: Wow. That is great.
layne: That is awesome.
Brian Cronin: Talk about a plug for Wizard!
Alex Robinson: Yeah, a lot of people badmouth “Wizard,” but they’ve been really good to me.
Brandon Hanvey: What do you think of Diamond’s current treatment of Indie comics (ie sales limit)?
Alex Robinson: I haven’t been following the Diamond story.
Brandon Hanvey: What did you think of MoCCA this year?
Alex Robinson: For me, I usually judge a convention on sales, so MOCCA wasn’t too good of a show.
Alex Robinson: It was right before “Tricked” came out so no one really talked to me.
Brandon Hanvey: Interesting. I heard a lot of people did okay this year.
Alex Robinson: I’m sure they did, but since I didn’t have anything new to sell, things were pretty flat for me.
Alex Robinson: It was about three weeks before “Tricked” debuted at San Diego.
Brandon Hanvey: How were sales at SDCC?
Alex Robinson: It was such a relief to have a brand new book out.
Brian Cronin: Four years between major projects can be pretty scary.
layne: What is your opinion on comics journalism? Your take on “The Comics Journal” was hilariously spot on in BOP, and “Wizard” does more for the industry that some folks’d like to admit. What about on-line journalism, or the comics blogosphere?
Alex Robinson: To be honest, other than message boards, I don’t really read much comics press
Brandon Hanvey: Do you sell more books at comic shops or other markets such as bookstores?
Alex Robinson: I’m not sure about where we sell the most books.
Alex Robinson: I think the initial orders are probably comics shops, but bookstores might catch up in the long haul.
Brian Cronin: So then do the bookstores generally get the second printings?
Brian Cronin: “Tricked” is almost sold out of the first print, right?
Brian Cronin: (Congrats on that, by the by)
Alex Robinson: “Tricked” is almost sold out of the first print.
Brian Cronin: If someone has finished collecting all of your work, are there any other “lesser known” comics out there that you would recommend, if people liked your style?
Alex Robinson: Terry Laban was a big influence on “Box Office Poison.”
Alex Robinson: I think Fantagraphics might have some collections of his in print. One’s called “Love’s Not A Three Dollar Fare.”
Brian Cronin: Cool
Alex Robinson: There’s Tony Consiglio’s excellent “Double Cross!” of course, which you can also pick up at the Top Shelf sale.
Brian Cronin: What percentage of the stories in BOP and “Tricked” are true stories, swear to god? 10%? Less, more?
Alex Robinson: BOP definitely has more stuff taken from my life, but I can’t break it down to a percent.
Alex Robinson: Ed was based on a friend of mine, I worked in a bookstore. I had a roommate who inspired aspects of Dorothy’s life.
Alex Robinson: The landlady was totally taken from real life.
Larry V.: Ed was my favorite character in BOP. Although he needed to be , mmm sexier.
Brandon Hanvey: Ed was sexy in his own way.
Alex Robinson: Ed got the girl in the end!
Alex Robinson: The funny thing about Ed is that, as I said, he was based on a friend of mine. I tried to disguise this somewhat by giving Ed a goatee and shaved head, which my friend did not have.
Alex Robinson: Life imitated “art.”
layne: What I thought was great about Sherman and Ed was how they were two sides of the nerd coin. In the end I could relate to both of them 100%, but for different reasons, and not feel conflicted.
Alex Robinson: Well, like I said earlier, Ed and Sherman were really on similar journeys.
Alex Robinson: Sherman meets Dorothy at the same time Ed meets Flavor.
Alex Robinson: Sherman meets Caprice, Ed meets Hildy.
Alex Robinson: The key difference is that Sherman sticks with Dorothy and dumps Caprice, while Ed leaves Flavor and lives happily ever after with Hildy.
Brandon Hanvey: So, Sherman would have ended up happier if he went with Caprice?
Alex Robinson: I don’t know.
Alex Robinson: Knowing what I now know about Caprice, I’m sure they wouldn’t have lasted.
Brandon Hanvey: Heh. Can’t deal in ifs? Only what happens?
Alex Robinson: In this case, I can’t.
Alex Robinson: Things change when you actually write a character.
Alex Robinson: When I first introduced Caprice, she was only supposed to be in that one chapter. She was supposed to quit the bookstore that day, to show Sherman that it could be done.
Brandon Hanvey: I’ve noticed you have a lot of female readers. Do you write with women in mind?
Alex Robinson: It sounds sort of cliché, but when I write my female characters I don’t think of how I’m writing a female character. I’m just trying to write a well-rounded character, male or female.
Alex Robinson: Maybe that’s what the chicks like about it!
Michael Pullmann: It’s cliche because it’s true
Brandon Hanvey: Do you let your wife “edit” your work?
Alex Robinson: My wife proofreads my work, but she generally doesn’t offer any changes in the story.
Brandon Hanvey: Do you know a lot about the US Presidents?
Alex Robinson: I probably know more about the presidents than your average American.
Brandon Hanvey: So, do you really have a book about Taft in your head?
Alex Robinson: I have half a book about Taft in my head.
Alex Robinson: He was a big fellow.
Brian Cronin: Did you see any Sherman’s or Ed’s in France?
Alex Robinson: It’s funny, Sherman is a common type here, but I don’t recall seeing any of him in France.
Brian Cronin: Do the French have their own “geek?”
Brian Cronin: Their own stereotypical look, I mean.
layne: Sherman’s too waspy for the Gallic temperament, I think.
Larry V.: Did you know what was going to happen to Ray Beam before hand?
Alex Robinson: You know, I can’t remember with Ray. At one point he was going to die, but I don’t know if that was still in my head when I actually started the book.
Brandon Hanvey: I know you said that people think of Dorothy as the villain in the book, but you do not think that is the case, correct?
Brian Cronin: I’d be hard pressed to consider Dorothy a villain.
Alex Robinson: I don’t think of her that way.
Alex Robinson: But a lot of people seemed to love to hate her.
Brandon Hanvey: I don’t think Dorothy is a bad person. But Sherman was only going along with her user personality.
Alex Robinson: Well, they were a good match in that sense.
Brandon Hanvey: I would blame Sherman more than Dorothy for the way they ended up.
Alex Robinson: Sherman needed someone to take care of, Dorothy badly needed to be taken care of.
Brandon Hanvey: He had many outs, but never took them.
Alex Robinson: A friend of mine said what makes Sherman so sad is that he winds up miserable for doing the right thing.
Brandon Hanvey: Codependency can make relationships sometimes.
layne: A villain needs a victim, like Brandon said about choices, almost every character is responsible for their own problems.
Alex Robinson: The only character I could describe as a villain in BOP was LeBlanc, the Zoom Comics publisher
Alex Robinson: I don’t know if I would go so far as to call him a villain, but I would definitely call James, Sherman’s pal, an asshole.
Alex Robinson: He’s fairly close to villainy.
layne: Really? I kinda considered James as being the secret hero of BOP…
Alex Robinson: I enjoyed writing him, and he definitely has his partisans, mostly because of his self-confidence.
Alex Robinson: Hitchcock said that if you want the audience to like a character quickly, make them good at what they do.
Alex Robinson: Everyone loves confidence.
layne: Mister Mako was a real asshole, though. Great name, too
Alex Robinson: True.
Brandon Hanvey: Was he based on any real person?
Alex Robinson: No, he wasn’t based on anyone.
Brandon Hanvey: How about the book store managers? Any of your former bosses?
Alex Robinson: The manager who comes in at the end was loosely inspired by a guy I worked with, although some people thought it was supposed to be Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
Brandon Hanvey: Back to “Tricked,” when Caprice has her “aha! I love Boyd!” moment why wasn’t Sherman pictured in the guys she went out with? Was it because she didn’t feel she was in a relationship with him?
Alex Robinson: This will be the last question: I don’t know why I didn’t include Sherman, offhand.
Alex Robinson: I think part of it was that I didn’t want to be too heavy handed with the BOP references, but also, Sherman never dumps her to her face, so it wouldn’t have worked as well in that montage.
Alex Robinson: Okay, then, thanks a lot for being such a great audience, everyone!
Brandon Hanvey: Later, Alex. Thanks for the chat.
Brian Cronin: Thanks a lot for stopping by, Alex! This was a lot of fun!
Alex Robinson: Goodnight!