Interview: Evan Dorkin Pt. 2 (of 7,318)

Categories:  Interviews

Evan DorkinIt bears mentioning again that The Daily Cross Hatch had been attempting to score an interview with Evan Dorkin since we first launched, the same week as the second annual New York Comic Con, back in February. Mind you, Dorkin has been incredibly nice about putting us off—assuring us that we would in fact be able to sit down with in, as soon as he was slightly less ridiculously busy.

All of which brings us another important point: Evan Dorkin is, in fact, incredibly busy. It may have been a good four years since we’d last seen an issue of his flagship series, Dork [before the recently release 11th issue], but that certainly doesn’t mean that the artist is spending the day in between, you know, editing his own porn tapes, or anything.

When you’ve got a wife and a young daughter and home in a hot spot like Staten Island, you’ve got to pay the bills, and as has been established time and again, for all but about five people in the universe, putting out black and white comics for a small press like Slave Labor isn’t the most effective method for keeping the ConEd man from shutting the power off again.

In the second part (of 7,318), we delve a bit further into Dorkin’s second (or third?) career as a TV writer.

Someone must have attempted to option the rights for Milk and Cheese at some point.

Sure. Even now I still get a business card tossed my way, at a show, but it’s died down since I haven’t put out an issue in…ten years. The characters don’t really support a tremendous amount of issues. But there will be an eighth issue, if I have my way—if I have my druthers, whatever that means. I don’t really know if I want druthers, but if I have them, I will do another issue. I have various bits collected from various sources. I used to have people ask me to do them more often.

They’re taking me much longer than they used to, because I’m paying more attention to the art, for better or for worse. I’m cramming a lot more stuff into them than I used to. That’s just the way it is. I have a three pager that I’m trying to finish up. It used to be that I had a monthly gig, and I’d do a little every month, and after a couple of months, I’d have an issue’s worth. I’d have a few in punk ‘zines and some small press magazines, and after 18 months, I’d have an issue. Same thing with Dork. That’s where Dork came from—I’d have stuff pile up, and I’d ask Dan at Slave [Labor], if I could do my own stuff, and he said, “yeah, sure.”

Now that people aren’t really asking me for anything—they aren’t as interested in my work as they used to be, of whatever the reason is. They think I must command high, high prices, after 20 years. It’s hard for me to say that I’m going to just work on Milk and Cheese for the next six weeks or whatever. I can’t do it. I have other work to do. Sarah and I have to make some money. I need deadlines, and sometimes even that doesn’t work. It’s a lot harder to do work for free when you’re 42 than when you’re 22. At least it is in my case.

Prior to Yo Gabba Gabba, what’s the furthest you’ve gotten creating your own animation project?

The [Welcome to] Eltingville pilot. We did a pilot based on the Eltingville Club. The pilot was great. Usually people complain about the network changing things, but in this case, I guess you can blame them for not changing it. It’s popular on YouTube, which is nice, it’s being seen by people who never read my comics.

I really had a part in everything about it. I designed the background and the characters and all of the props. It was a very involved process, but to me, it was like doing my comics. I wasn’t do it for the money. Some people seem to think that if you’re on TV in any capacity, you’re making amazing money, but you’re just not, if you’re on 11:00 on a Sunday. I’d make more money writing a monthly book for Marvel, which people complain is terrible money. I can live on that.

But we did a half hour pilot and they aired it, and now you can catch every once in a while on rerun. It bombed. It was a very, very tough experience. Then we started another one, which was much less realistic, and I was really excited about it, but I lost confidence in it and dragged my heels. It lagged in preproduction long enough that they shelved it. They must have just been sick of waiting for me.

They may have just hated me—it couldn’t be Sarah. They must still like Sarah. But now I’m kind of afraid to talk to the Cartoon Network. I just wasn’t feeling confident and I didn’t make decisions and I waited too long. And they just didn’t have time or the budget—which is probably why they’re doing live action now. My two shots were both utter failures [laughs].

The Cartoon Network is great. I’m just upset that I should have been more proactive with the second one. I just kind of sat on it, and wasted months and months.

Do you spend so much time on all of the small details because you’re the kind of person who is afraid of losing creative control of your characters?

No, I wasn’t afraid of losing control of the characters. They gave of so much control on Eltingville, and they didn’t control out scripts on Space Ghost. It was really like working for a small press comics company. They really trusted your writing and your art. We know we’ll never hit that kind of combination again, if we work for Warner Bros. on superhero stuff. Though Yo Gabba Gabba seems really minimal, in terms of control. You kind of know, don’t put heroin needles in there or any signs that are pro-genocide. No nudity of cursing. That’s a given.

Eltingville was kind of weird, because it was one of the first things for Adult Swim, so we had some problems there. We didn’t know how far we wanted to go. The language was weaker than it would have been, if it were made a couple of years later. That sort of thing. I would have worse language and violence. Things would have become more disgusting in the pilot script—more like my Milk and Cheese work. I look at it now and wonder why I was hesitant to do that.

I’ve got a self-defeating gene. And it’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time working against, and in this case I lost, big time. I hestitated too long. I’ve always been real hesitant at dealing with stuff, even now. I’m not the most confident person. My books seem confident, and I seem confident in person, because I ramble and tend to be insulting, sometimes. But if people read my work, they’ll see that there’s kind of a fight between my being expressive and wanting to hide.

I would say that, versus a lot of other comic artists I’ve met, you’re one of the more social. They tend to just be an awkward lot, in general.

Yeah. Some come off as social, and I’m in better shape than some of them. It takes a pretty messed up person to do this. You spend a lot of time in a room. But we’ve got a new generation who sit in a room with a partner. We’ve got so many comics interested couples. And I hope that will makes things better.

How did that effect you, when you got married to someone in the same field?

Well, we’ve been together for a long time, so getting married didn’t change anything, but I don’t know—If you’ve read Dork 7, a lot of that stuff is in there. Some is hidden and some is overt. Sarah didn’t save my life, but she saved my ability to live better. I still have problems, but she put a lot of work into helping me get my act together when I kind of fell apart, and if nothing else, I have a lot more work in color than before. I’m a terrible colorer and I don’t know how to use a computer. We’ve been able to do a lot more work as a team than I was able to do as an individual. I had to go find someone to color my work and clean it up on the computer. Any of the stuff we do for Mad or the TV work, we do together. Some work we do better together, and for some work, we need to be apart.

–Brian Heater 

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