“Comics is a very traditional and very backward looking medium,” Dan Goldman tells me. “We love to be nostalgic.” And we must—at least to some degree. Why else would the fact that Goldman relies so heavily upon a tablet for his drawings be such a constant source of fascination among those who follow his work?
I’m certainly guilty of it, too. After all, It’s not as though I could make my way through an entire interview with the artist without steering the conversation in that direction.
You use a tablet and photo reference. Is that generally faster that drawing full pages from scratch?
I think so. I was never really good at sitting down with Bristol board and pens. It took forever to me to do that. It never really felt like my instrument. When I got my first Wacom Tablet—this was in 2002—something just clicked, and I was up all night with it. It was like I met the girl of my dreams, and I’ve been on it ever since. It was awesome.
I don’t know, I never had much success otherwise. So, I guess that’s a “yes.”
Were you really just experimenting when you first bought the tablet—just trying out this cool new toy, or did you really think it was the way forward?
Oh, I definitely thought it was the way forward. I was working at a Canadian investment bank, on the night shift.
In New York?
In New York, yeah. Right near Grand Central. I was working there when 9/11 happened. They told us every week, “you’re gonna lose the job, you’re gonna lose the job.” And that went on for over a year. It was crazy. But the money was pretty good, back then.
What was cool was, I was in the graphics department back then, putting together deal memos and stuff. My nickname with my design group was, “the logo king.” Because, in Corel Draw, on a Windows machine, with a mouse, I was able to copy EPSs of Corporate logos faster than anyone else in the group. So I was “The Logo King.”
Somebody told me, “if you did this with a pen tool and a tablet, you would be amazing at it.” I thought about it, and I was like, “yeah, I’m gonna buy one.” And, obviously I’d been working on comics for a long time. It was stuff that no one’s really seen, because it really sucked. It was really, really sloppy brushwork.
My layouts were really nice. They haven’t really changed much. I always liked diagonal lines, extreme closeups of eyeballs, and stuff. That’s all there, if you look at my old boards. But when I finished the art, it always looked like shit, because ink really isn’t my thing, I guess.
I didn’t buy the tablet in order to do the logos. I bought the tablet because I knew that I was going to be applying these things to comics. It was the repetition every night of knocking out logos as EPS files—I started off by doing free-hand drawings and inking them with vectors, instead of ink, because I could control it. But I was like, if I could do photorealistic stuff, and use models. It just kind of happened.
I have these early drawings of Red Light Properties that I did in 2002, with my first Wacom Tablet. That’s where the series was gestating, visually. I learned how to do what I came back to New York to do. After 9/11, I spent about a year and change in Miami with this stupid girl. But, thankfully the relationship was such a disaster that I wound up pouring all of my energy into my work.
So I came back to New York really hungry for it.
Do you get pushback from people who use a more traditional artistic approach?
You know, I used to get a lot of it, and then Shooting War blew up, and then everyone just kind of shut the fuck up. I wish that there was something a little nicer about that. If there was some sea change, where people were like, “oh man, I dig what you’re doing,” that would be great. But the fact I had a book come out and my art was in Wired, now I’m somebody. I remember last month, you were talking shit about me.
I wish it was a little nice than that, but that’s unfortunately the truth. I don’t get a lot of pushback now, though.
What kind of comments did people make?
“You’re not really drawing.” Sure I am. If you look at what I put down, in terms of references and stuff, and the way I build pages—you can’t just sit somebody down in front of a computer with a pen tablet and say, “make something.” Of course I’m being creative. That’s just silly.
But, for some reason, comics is a very traditional and very backward looking medium. We love to be nostalgic. I’m kind of sick of it. I hate Jack Kirby. I’m so not into that stuff. I really love stuff like Mobius-I love graceful stuff. I’m not into fight scenes. I’m into a different kind of comics. It’s funny, being in Brazil, European comics and manga—people are way more enthusiastic about those than they are about the stuff that the whole community of people in New York are all about.
And I like that stuff too. I’m not saying that I think that Jack Kirby is worthless—I don’t. It’s just not my flavor. Because the material—if Kirby did his own version of Heartbreak Soup, I think that would be really cool. But he never did. All you see are these dummies punching each other in costume. It’s just not my thing.
But I’m way off-track. What were we talking about?
Well, it’s interesting—we started by talking about the tools, and then you started discussing content. How linked are those two things? Do you think that, if you were drawing in a more traditional method that you would be drawing more traditional content?
I think it’s the other way around—you know what, I don’t think that’s even true. I think that, if you’re going to work in a superhero system—let’s be nice and call it “mainstream comics”—I think it benefits you more to work traditionally, just in terms of getting work and having less pushback. But I think the fact that I’m working with the stories that I have been telling over the last couple of years, it’s easier to get a pass with it.
I always felt like Grendel, rather than Beowulf in this business—outside the hall [laughs], lurking around and just sort of doing my thing.