Fans of Roman Dirge turned out in droves to an early afternoon panel dedicated to the cartoonist on Saturday during Comic-Con International in San Diego and were treated to some off-kilter stories, insight into a unique, artistic mind, and one very big announcement.
The panel was moderated by Comic Book Resources' own Jonah Weiland who started things off with by professing his own love for Dirge's series "Lenore." "I thought it was beautiful, I thought it was twisted, I thought it was smart," Weiland recounted of his first encounter with the series.
The discussion then moved to Dirge's recent signing with Titan Books. Dirge promised his fans that he would be increasing his output from one book a year to four. Asked why his output had been so erratic in the past Dirge said, "Video games, mainly, is what took up most of my time. Now, I've decided to use that time to actually sit down and draw."
When it comes to his work, Dirge admitted he never knows how it is going to be accepted. "I honestly can't tell if an issue is good, because something I think is funny people look at and go, 'What the hell is that about?'" Dirge then told the audience the last thing he read about himself was a Twitter post in which someone called him "successful and talentless." He shrugged it off and said he responded to the attack with a mere, "Rock on, dude." Dirge told the audience he did not always understand what other people thought was funny.
"I have to do comics," Dirge said. "If I didn't have this outlet, I would have already killed somebody." He said after many visits to psychologists his parents eventually realized he would always "march to the beat of a different drum." Dirge told the audience he spent time as a magician and a graphic design student before he began to pursue cartooning as a fulltime profession. "I hated graphic design," he said. "It was awful and it didn't teach me anything."
Dirge said he could not have been more pleased with his new art book "Taxidermied." "It's weird to me, I usually put together my portfolio right before I come to a convention, and it's like, wait, I don't have to, it's all right here." He praised the books designers, saying it "outdid my expectations."
Fans were then given the opportunity to ask questions. When asked if he kept notes detailing his character Lenore's thoughts Dirge said, "I have sketch books filled with it; her babbling constantly. You know, she's not real, it's me writing it, but I have sketch books filled with that stuff and sometimes I'll just pick out of it for random issues."
Another fan asked who Dirge thought of as artist inspirations. "I don't know," he said. "I'm sure I have a billion of them. Dr. Seuss, I guess. He was a big one for me. And Beetlejuice."
Dirge was then asked what was driving him to increase his output each year. "Paying rent, mainly. Not being homeless. I don't have an excuse anymore to be as lazy as I am with these things. Putting out one book a year? I have no excuse for that," Dirge said. "If they stop being funny, I'll go back to one a year."
A fan then asked Dirge about the aborted "Lenore" movie script, and whether Dirge would make it available for the public to read. "It was awful," Dirge said. "I would love for people to be able to read it." When probed on what exactly Dirge thought was so bad about the script, he answered, "Page 1 through 96, that's what was wrong with it. It was so cliche."
Weiland then asked if there were any producers Dirge would be willing to work with on a "Lenore" film adaptation. "One day, I cold wrote Neil Gaiman out of the blue," Dirge said. "I apparently had drunkenly sent him a script of my version of a 'Lenore.' Some people drunk tweet or drunk call, I drunk script," Dirge laughed. "He actually read it and liked it and said, 'This movie should be made.'"
Dirge sang Gaiman's praises and said what a huge honor it was for the two to be working together. "He's one of my favorite writers," Dirge said. He expressed his disappointment with attempted adaptations of his work in the past, especially "Lenore," and how excited he was to work with Gaiman. "I trust him 100 percent," Dirge said.
Finally, when asked what books he liked to read, he answered with "Groo." "I think most kids, when they know they want to be comic artists, look at some else's art and draw their stuff over and over," Dirge said. "I did that to Sergio Aragones."