QUICK QUESTIONS WITH John Robbins
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO COMICS?
I’m John Robbins (aka Sean MacRoibin). I write and draw self-published comics.
WHAT COMIC ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I mostly have no tangible proof that I’m working on my next comic The Well Below, but I have evidence that I continue to letter Carter’s Column at The Birmingham Mail’s Speech Balloons site and that I have just completed a lettering gig for Gumby Comics.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
It’s not particular to making comics, but I like it when a chiefly-unearned, transcendent storytelling element suddenly, magically materialises to elevate or save the work. In my comic Inside Outsiders, a speech balloon clumsily redirects the reader toward a necessary transition but is partly-obscured by Skeletor’s raised Havoc Staff – essentially I’ve added an intentionally-jarring moment-to-the-read in order to sidestep an unintentional one. I love that shit.
WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
The frustration of not having the skill or talent to match my ambitions. And again it’s not particular to making comics.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER COMICS?
In the summer of ’82 the Alan Class comics titles appeared on my radar; I was heartbroken from losing primary school friends to a variety of secondary schools, and the likes of Creepy Worlds and Sinister Tales spoke to my sense of abandonment and despair.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
I think Alan Moore will always be a ghost in the machinery of my creativity, even if there is little evidence of it in my actual work. On a more practical level the problem pages of Patricia Redlich in The Sunday Independent have provided the guts of many a comic strip of mine. However, I think that influences on my working are more important – the likes of Andy Luke, Phil Barrett, Kieron Mullens and Richard Barr have been – ahem – oiling my machinery for years.
WHAT TOOLS OF THE TRADE DO YOU USE?
In the absence of the drawing ability to properly realise the writing, I’ve recently been using photographs and screenshots extensively, ably aided by tracing paper, a PITT pen and Photoshop. This method narrows the scope of imagination I have to play with when penning a story but succeeds in limiting the kind of damage my drawing would otherwise inflict on the writing.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE WORK OF WHICH YOU ARE MOST PROUD?
Probably my collection of one-page strips, Negotiating The Beast. Not one for comics purists, certainly, but I like to think it’s an affecting read.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
From Writing A Novel by Nigel Watts: If your story is going wrong, see if you’ve missed out a stage of the eight-point arc…
Stasis (once upon a time)
Trigger (something out of the ordinary happens)
Quest (causing the protagonist to seek something)
Surprise (but things don’t go as expected)
Critical Choice (forcing the protagonist to make a difficult decision)
Climax (which has consequences)
Reversal (the result of which is change in status)
Resolution (and they lived happily ever after – or didn’t!)
WHAT IS THE WORST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
“All things have two handles. Beware of the wrong one.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT IRISH COMIC SCENE?
The Irish Comics Wiki (and now ICN) has brought Irish creators into focus, but my exposure to the actual work is limited. From the perspective of a fellow-creator and enthusiast, I admire and am encouraged by the material I’ve seen. But, as a punter outside the bubble of mutual adoration – and as a social misfit uninterested in vanity-based connections – I’m not going to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments; much of the work needs work.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN IRISH COMIC IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
The addition of a large audience to the scene would be nice.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN COMICS IN GENERAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
I would like imposed on readers (of any age) a five-year limit on buying superhero comics.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU?
The other day I came across a Forbidden Planet link to a 15-page 24-Hour comic (http://occasionalcomics.com/muppet-thor/?pid=1) which looked ridiculously lovely, and with fully-integrated hand-lettering. A little part of me died.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING THEIR OWN COMICS? (And don’t say DON’T :) )
Think any way you want when creating your comic, but think small when publishing it.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Yes and no, but mostly no.
John Robbins is a Dubliner and pioneer of slice-of-life comics sub-genre, mortal tedium, hes publishes comics and short stories under his own Downright Bockedy imprint. Titles thus far include Negotiating The Beast, Vacancy For Satan and The Monkey-Head Complaint.