We’re double dipping here at Panel Bound (wait, is that the term I wanted to use?) Anyways, less than a month after interviewing Atomic Robo creator Brian Clevinger we are bringing you a little Q&A session with the book’s artist Scott Wegener.
Scott is an immensely talented artist who, since the inception of Atomic Robo has been bringing the wild, Nazi-busting visions of Brian Clevinger to life on the page. If you are an aspiring artist, Scott has more than a few lessons to impart, chief among them, well, see question six.
I caught up with Scott via the magic of the Internet to talk about creator-owned projects and the not so final design of Atomic Robo’s titular “Robo.”
How did Brian get you onboard to draw Atomic Robo?
I think someone pointed him at my old website. I was looking for a long-term project that would allow me to start making comics full-time. I had a few offers, but Atomic Robo was the one that really appealed to me and felt like it had the legs for a good long run.
If someone approached you and asked you to draw their story, what would convince you to draw their comic?
Brian and I have got a really good thing going here. Creatively we play to each other’s strengths, we share a common vision of where our book will go, and we’ve become good friends. There is a very short list of people who are not Brian whom I would like to work with some day.
Creator-owned work is intensely personal. There is so much of who Brian and I are in these stories and characters that in a way, it’s almost offensive to me when people approach me to take on other projects. I’ll do short stories for friends when I can, and the occasional small project for a larger publisher from time to time. But in general I’m not interested in working on anything else.
What’s the best part about being a professional comic artist?
Working at home, drawing all day, creating characters, telling stories, meeting fans and fellow creators. There’s actually a whole lot about this life that is pretty amazing.
The worst part?
How did you arrive at the final design for Robo?
Who says I’ve arrived at the final design for Robo? Haha!
Robo changes subtly from volume to volume, and sometimes even from issue to issue. But I know what you meant . . .
I went through a pretty grueling design process for Robo. Dozens of different bodies, and probably over a hundred different heads. The version of Robo you see in the comics is actually the third “final design.” We thought we really had him nailed down in 2006. Then I worked on another project for a month or two, and when I came back to Robo I had a bunch of fresh ideas.
With any character, you want their physicality to tell you who they are. Robo is tough, headstrong, stubborn, and often kind of foolish. The version of him you see in Atomic Robo #1 tells you none of that. I think it was a good look, but as I learned more about my craft, he has changed. Back then he looked like a short guy in armor. Now he looks a bit like a beer keg with gorilla arms. I miss the simple cuteness of Vol.1 Robo, but his current design does it’s job a lot better.
How do you recommend aspiring comic artists start getting their work out there?
USE THE INTERNET. MAKE IT FREE. THE END.
Do you believe a comic artist should always be paid upfront for their work or possibly draw the comic with the promise to get paid once it gets picked up?
Did Brian tell you to ask me this? Because this topic is one that sends me into an instant frothing rage.
It depends. There are dozens of exceptions; projects with friends, kids still in school collaborating to make comics for fun, etc. Working for nothing on your own project is fine. Its a labor of love and, more importantly, it belongs to you. If it’s any good there is the potential that it will some day earn you money. You can also use it as a kind of on-going portfolio in order to get paid work along the way.
Working on someone else’s project for free? Hell no. I mean, okay sure, maybe you draw a few pages on spec to help sell an idea to a publisher. That’s a few day’s work invested and could possibly help get you a nice fat contract somewhere.
When you work for other people for nothing, you devalue yourself, and you devalue the work that we all do. You are saying, “My art is not important.” It sends a message. A very bad one. The chances that whatever comic you are drawing is going to get popular enough to be comfortably profitable, or optioned into a movie, are astronomical.
Some writers will try and convince you that even if the book fails the “exposure” will be good for you, and what great “experience” you will gain (oh boy XP!!!) Baloney! Assuming this person is halfway competent as a writer it took them a few days, maybe a week, to write this comic. It is going to take you weeks, and maybe months, to illustrate it.
I like to tell writers about this great idea I’ve got for a novel. I will draw the art for the dust jacket and I’d like them to write it for me on spec. If it get’s picked up I’ll split everything with them 50/50. That sounds insane, right? Because it is.
Any last minute advice for anyone looking to break into comics?
Do your own thing! Do you want to be the guy who created Batman, or do you want to be one of the largely forgotten artists who have worked on Batman?
Start digital and worry about making a physical book later on.