Villordsutch chats with comic book writer and editor Rob Anderson…
Rob Anderson is a comic book writer and editor. He is the writer of Big Dog Ink’s Rex, Zombie Killer and IDW’s My Little Pony: Spike Micro. His most recent editing gig was on Strange Nation, published digitally by Monkeybrain Comics. In his day job, he’s also General Manager of Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience.
Whilst Rob was working with a current deadline looming I thought it would be a good time to ask him a few questions on his life around bring a comic book writer…
Villordsutch: Who would you say was a main inspiration for you, someone that helped you come to the decision that comic book writing was your path to follow?
Rob Anderson: I grew up reading comics — really I learned to read from them, so all those early comics I read made me want to make comics. Steve Gerber stands out as one of the first writers I really followed. As I got older, people who were out there publishing their own creations inspired me, like Terry Moore, Robert Kirkman, and Bill Willingham. But in terms of really pursuing it as a career, no doubt, it was former Marvel and IDW Editor Andy Schmidt. His courses over at Comics Experience made me believe I might be able to learn the craft.
V: When you began putting pen to paper how difficult did you find it actually getting into the Comic Book Publishing Universe – was it a walk in the park and they accepted you open armed or where you found yourself walking the cracked concrete paving stones on many a rainy night?
RA: My first attempts at writing comics were awful. I made a number of failed attempts over the years. I had ideas, I loved the idea of writing comics…but I wasn’t actually writing them much and didn’t like what I produced. So I really struggled until I took that Comics Experience course. Then it was several years of self-publishing before I started to have opportunities to work with publishers.
V: My Little Pony Micro-Series: Spike (IDW) and Rex, Zombie Killer (BDI) seem to be worlds apart. Is this part of how you like to write, never sticking to the same world, or was this more the fridge was empty and the rent was due option?
RA: Oh, I definitely love playing in BOTH those universes; it wasn’t because the fridge was empty, although food in the fridge is good to have. In some ways, those two books may seem far apart, but they are both team-based books that feature talking animals, so there’s some similarities, too. I do like to write a variety of things, though. Recently, I was working on a science fiction story. Before that, an alternate history story. It helps keep things interesting.
V: Obviously the Ponies in My Little Pony are expected, but where in your mind the Rex, some cats and a Gorilla with a Baseball bat spring from? Was this a “Rob only idea” or did this occur with a few friends, drinks and one to many Cheesy Doritos?
RA: Anyone who knows me well sees the influences in Rex, Zombie Killer that came straight out of my own interests. I’ve been an animal nut, and a dog nut in particular, my whole life. I’ve always wanted to tell a story with a dog as the protagonist. I’ve also always been fascinated by those projects where they teach gorillas sign language–probably because I was obsessed with gorillas in comic books when I was a kid. And I’m a huge zombie fan — whether it’s in novels, movies, or comic books. So, Rex, Zombie Killer is pretty much a mixture of all the things I love, and I’m just telling a story I’d like to read myself, as crazy as it sounds.
V: As mentioned earlier you’ve had comics released through IDW and BDI. Where would you like to see yourself in five years; penning the next two years of Batman over at DC or staying with a more independent flavour allowing yourself to expand your imagination for a more diverse audience?
RA: I’d love to be doing creator-owned work, and doing some “work-for-hire” projects with the major publishers, too. I’d love a bit of both, please, if the universe is taking requests.
V: Sharing is nice so if you could part with one small piece of advice for any future Comic Book Writers out there who are struggling to climb the initial step, one that will set them off in the right direction, what advice you give them?
RA: If you want to write comic books, just start making them. In this age of web comics and digital comics, anyone can learn by doing, and you should. But also treat it as a craft and work to improve, whether by taking courses or studying books or finding a writer’s group where you can get honest feedback.
V: Can you let us in on any future stories that we should expect to appear shortly, from yourself, so we can start saving our pennies now?
RA: The Rex, Zombie Killer miniseries will be running well into 2014, and I’m also working on a new miniseries for later in 2014, but I can’t say too much about that just yet since the publishing details are still being worked out. There’s also a trade paperback anthology that just came out, called Great Zombies in History, that contains a story by me and my Rex, Zombie Killer collaborator, DaFu Yu. Our story is a mash-up of the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae and zombies. I’ll also have a short in a Gray Haven Comics alt-history anthology in 2014. The artist on that one is a talented newcomer named Angela Allen, and that story features Mark Twain. That was a lot of fun!
V: Last but not least, I’ve noticed that you’re the General Manager of Comic Experience, with other staff including Andy Schmidt (Former Senior Editor IDW and former Editor at Marvel Comics) and Chuck Dixon (Writer of Detective Comics, Robin, GI Joe etc.). Now what the heck is this and is it available for all aspiring peoples, who have a talent in comics, or is it just U.S.?
RA: Comics Experience offers online, live courses as well as an online community for people who want to learn about the business and the craft of making comics. There’s courses on writing, art, coloring, lettering, and even editing. In fact, I’m co-teaching a new course with writer Paul Allor (TMNT, Strange Nation, Orc Girl) called Making Comics: Self-Published and Creator-Owned that starts 10/30.
There’s also an online community, the Creators Workshop, where people can receive feedback on their work from colleagues and pros (like Andy and Chuck), and generally learn about the craft and the business. We have monthly live online meetings where Andy discusses all aspects of the industry, whether it’s pitching or something craft-based.
And, yes, anyone can sign up. We’ve had people join us from all over the world. Maybe I’ll see you there!
I’d like to thank Rob for taking the time to answer these questions for Flickering Myth and myself, if anyone wishes to follow Rob on Twitter he can be found @RobertEAnderson
Villordsutch is married with kids and pets. He looks like a tubby Viking and enjoys science fiction. Follow him on Twitter.