Evan Dorkin has been the The Daily Cross Hatch’s white whale since we launched, back in February. That same week, we ran into Dorkin at the New York Comic Con, which he was attending with his wife and fellow comics purveyor, Sarah Dyer, and their daughter Emily. I kindly inquired as to whether the artist might be inclined to sit down for an interview for our scrappy little upstart comics blog. “Sure,” he answered, only, you know, when he wasn’t so damn busy.
Since then, I’ve periodically made a point of bothering the Milk & Cheese creator with the same request, and have been greeted with the same friendly, if unfortunate reply.
We ran into Dorkin again at the MoCCA festival, a few months back, to which the artist naturally issued the same familiar response. I asked him about the book, I Love You Beth Cooper, sitting on the House of Fun display table, proudly boasting a cover immediately recognizable as a Dorkin original. He then gladly gave me a full synopsis of the book, which, I nearly hastened to point out, was an awful lot like the beginnings of an interview, but Dorkin’s arm was in something sling-like, from having punched somebody with his wrist or been punched in the wrist (or, even more likely, given his propensity toward fanciful asides, some combination of both), so I decided it best not bother him any further. I bought a copy of the new issue of Dork and went merrily on my way, mentioning our encounter in the Cross Hatch MoCCA rundown, which itself became fodder for Dorkin Livejournaling, becoming the friendliest and most short-lived flame war ever to hit the Internets.
It was on one uncharacteristically cool late-August night in New York City that we finally caught up with Dorkin. He warned us about his tendency toward long winded interview—he had gone all Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the last time he was interviewed by The Comics Journal, nearly killing a transcriber in the process. And with that, we launched into what may very well become the Hatch’s first-ever 27-part interview.
Yo Gabba Gabba.
What language are you speaking?
The thing that you’ve been working on.
Oh, well we’re done.
This is the end of your involvement with the program?
Well, we’re done with the first season. If there’s a second season and they decide to bring back the segment that we worked on, I think they’d probably hire us back.
It’s a series of vignettes?
We’re developing the animation and characters and backgrounds for the “Super Martian Robot Girl” segments, which were originally a series of live-action shorts, based on the “Spider-Man” segments from the Electric Company, if you’re old enough to remember that—or old enough to rent it now. Easy Reader would be reading a Spider-Man comic, and then they’d push in on the comic and show what’s in it, with a live-action segment. For Yo Gabba Gabba, they were doing that. We designed the Super Martian Robot Girl costume and the comic book that she’s in. They wanted it to look like one of those $1.50 Marvel Treasury books from the 70s, which was pretty cool.
The segment was killed by Nickelodeon—they didn’t like the live-action. It was going to be talking animals and monsters, with some cartoonishly dressed people who would then call the superhero character to come and save them. The show was for preschoolers, and I think they thought the segment was a little off-putting and creepy. Some of it looked a little like homemade 70s theater—cardboard sets, purposefully looking very theatrical. It didn’t work, but they wanted to save the segment, so they did it in Flash animation and asked us to adapt it. They had audio tracks for eight or nine segments. Long story short, we ended up doing a pilot segment, and Nickelodeon liked it and wanted more, which consisted of redesigning all off the characters, from all of the material that was shot, redesigning all of the background, and then doing a bunch of limited animation poses.
It was the first time I worked with Flash animation, so it was really interesting. People seemed to enjoy it, and we had always liked the show, because we knew one of the co-creators, and he sent us the YouTube pilot from wayback, and it looked like something [Dorkin’s daughter] Emily would like to look at. She doesn’t really care for anything else I do. She watched the characters get designed—she doesn’t know anything about production, so she thought the characters would show up, like 20 minutes later.
Overall, it’s been a really nice experience. And the check cleared.
So you want to keep working in animation?
Well, we’ve done—I think this will be our sixth show, but this is the first show that we’ve done artwork for, that actually ended up onscreen. We designed for all of the segments, except for one, because we we’re strapped for time. They used our designs for the main characters, but all of the ancillary characters were drawn by someone else, in my style. But this was the first thing where we designed all of the art. We normally just write for the stuff that we’re involved in.
Space Ghost, I think we did 13 shows that aired and two scripts that didn’t make it. We did four episodes of Superman, we did one Batman Beyond, we did about eight rewrites for Shin Chan—two were thrown in the garbage, because they forgot to tell us that we were fired, and they just let us keep working. Beautiful, beautiful people. And then we did the Eltingville pilot. I did a lot of work on it, but it wasn’t my actual artwork that made it onto the screen. It was cleaned up by other artist, and in Flash, they just took the drawings and moved them, which is pretty wild to see. And then there was another pilot that I blew, because I was taking way too long.
We’ve been pretty involved in animation. I did Turtles boards, back in the 80s, but I usually couldn’t get up in time, because I was always hungover. We did some rewrites for Cartoon Cartoon. We’ve jumped around and done some work which no one’s seen. But we don’t have an agent or manager. We like doing it, but we’re not hot to do it, because we live in Staten Island, which is not a film capital, by any means.
It must pay better than doing sporadic comic books.
It depends on who you are and what you’re doing. We definitely don’t make as much in animation as Jim Lee or Frank Miller make in comics or Dan Clowes or a certain amount of people who have a following in small press. To be honest, the most money I’d probably be making is if I was getting more regular work at Mad. That’s where you get the highest return, if you want to look at it that way. Again, we don’t have anybody representing us in any of our work. You don’t need it in comics.
I get work at places like Mad and Nickelodeon. I get calls from people who must’ve read my stuff when I was prolific, doing a lot of issues of Milk & Cheese and Dork, and doing a lot of stuff in anthologies, back when they were more…I guess “mainstream” alternative anthologies that I was involved in. Now it’s usually a collective of people and they’re all friends, and kind of exclusionary, kind of like Mome—or however you pronounce it. I’m not qualified to be in those kinds of things.
There are a few things I’d like to do, but I tend to go where the wind blows me in my career, which has not been working so great recently. With a child you have certain responsibilities, and now we have to buy our own health insurance, for the first time—well, before we didn’t have insurance. So it’s tough to do fun comics that make $142.
[Continued in Part Two.]