Milk & Cheese Creator Evan Dorkin Talks About His Weird, Brilliant Career In Comics | Gaming
Evan Dorkin can’t stop, won’t stop making comics. Or talking. In both instances, we are all very lucky that this is the case.
Covers for three of Evan Dorkin’s projects. Image: Evan Dorkin and Veronica Fish (Dark Horse Comics)
After I got off an hour-long phone call with Dorkin last week, the creator of Milk & Cheese and Beasts of Burden sent me a short email:
Hope you can make some use of my rambling. I’m just someone who is unable to answer questions even with notes in front of me that say things like, “just answer the question.”
The insistent, unfiltered energy that comes out when Dorkin speaks has been all over his comics pages for three decades.
It’s there in Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad, a new trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics that pulls together the chaotic, breakneck gag strips featuring his cult favourite creations.
Even Beasts of Burden – the cute, vulgarity-free comics series focused on a group of animals, who also happen to be paranormal investigators, that Dorkin creates with artist Jill Thompson – has characters who channel the ornery vibe of Dorkin’s ethos.
His newest series Blackwood, co-created with artist Veronica Fish, revolves around students who suddenly learn that the dark forces they’re studying are a much more imminent threat than they’d thought.
Beasts of Burden and Blackwood feel like a synthesis of everything Dorkin’s done in his career so far: Strains of comedy and occult dread run through the action and drama, which are populated with personas that lean more towards sincerity than cynicism.
As part of a career that’s spanned animation, creator-owned work and corporate comics, it’s kind of a weird place for the veteran cartoonist to wind up.
The edited, condensed but still sprawling conversation that follows charts, in part, how Dorkin’s arrived at where he is now.
My earliest contact with your work was Milk & Cheese, Instant Piano…
Evan Dorkin: The ’90s.
Right, in the ’90s. With Milk & Cheese, when I was reading those books, I would read a whole collection in a day or night. Just inhaling those one-page, two-page gag strips for hours.
Dorkin: Yeah, that’s a mistake, though. One of the reasons, I think, I get really bad reviews on the trades, the collections, is because they really weren’t meant to be read in one thick chunk. I mean, the same people who say that, a lot of them are reading 500 pages of Batman or something, which is always going to deviate.
But I meant to put something in there on the Dark Horse collection that was like, “Yeah. Put this on the can. Don’t read all of it at once.” I think reviewers such as they are in comics are stuck reading this crap in like, three hours. It’s overwhelming. It’s not made for that.
I should have put in some kind of apology in there, or something, but fuck it. People either like it or they don’t, but the only people I know who’ve sat there and read the whole thing are reviewers because they have got to get their review out.
But I’m not saying its review-proof. They could have read it over the course of a month and still disliked it.
The cover to the new Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad collection. Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Comics)
After huge jags of reading Milk & Cheese, I’d feel buzzed. There was a lot of speed and intensity in your early work. What fuelled that?
Dorkin: Milk & Cheese was an attempt to do something that wasn’t detailed. Didn’t have any reference. That were meant to be a lot of fun.
It wasn’t a strip; people suggested to me I try to do them as a strip when I was just drawing them on backing boards at conventions. Kurt Sayenga from Greed Magazine and Steve Niles, I met them at a convention, and Kurt was like, “If you did comics with those two little characters, you’d have something.”
I was just drawing them on backing boards for kids saying “Burn your comics” or “Comics will kill you”. Dumb stuff like that.
People enjoyed having these little two characters insult them. Kurt had a magazine going and he said, “If you do a two-pager with them, I’ll print it.” And I’m like, “Huh, comics with them, why didn’t I think of that?”
So I did this pretty awful comic and they ran it and people, I guess, were doing a lot of drugs those days, or something, because I got all these requests from all these comics anthologies starting up to do them a couple pages.
But they all folded before I could run anything. So I had a bunch of pages sitting around and I asked Dan [Vado] who was publishing Pirate Corp$ – they would love these. I think I did one other strip for Dave Sim – God help me – because, at that point, he was doing one-page strips for the back of the Cerebus reprints. Well, shit, 200 bucks for a page? I need that.
The first page of Milk & Cheese strip “No Feelings”. Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Comics)
I mean, the thing that fuelled it? You’re young, you get a ton of work out, generally, and you’re in better health. Or at least you don’t care about your health. You stay up 18 hours working on shit and you’re angry at the world, or at least I was, and I guess that hasn’t changed much.
But, you know, you’re pissed off about something, you want to make fun of it, and eventually, a bunch of people go, “We’ll pay you a couple bucks for it.” So I ended up with clients like Deadline and Deadline USA, Negative Burn. They did a strip for my then-girlfriend, now wife. And I just accumulated them all and put them together.
They’re very jerky and quick: One, two punch, search-and-destroy things. You put a lot of them together, and it’s kind of exhausting, I’d think. But when you’re a kid you can also sit there and listen to the same punk records over and over and just nod along to the same angry Black Flag, Circle Jerks songs, or whatever.
For me, something I understand when people say, “Oh, I used to really love that.” I mean, I get it. I know. I don’t find it as an insult, it’s something you need to grow out of. And I think Milk & Cheese is definitely one of those things that people can grow out of.
Do they haunt you nowadays? Wish they were gone?
Dorkin: No. Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. They’re my kids. I love them. I still draw them. I’m doing commissions with them these days. There’s a bunch of unfinished strips that I’d love to get back to, but I can’t do these for free any more, you know? That’s the promise of collecting them.
It took me a long time to face up to the fact that the kind of books SLG and Fantagraphics put out back in the day – the pamphlet, the stapled comic of gags – was dying. Everyone went to doing books, or webcomics, and I’m sitting there working dinosaur jokes in a dinosaur medium in a dinosaur format. And I didn’t stop doing that until I went to Dark Horse.
I was always meant to finish Milk & Cheese. I always wanted to do it. And I still want to do it, and I still get asked to do stuff. But I can’t sit down and do 22 pages all night, you know?
Page two of “No Feelings”. Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Comics)
That’s like trying to record all your punk 45s when you’re older. I mean, some people could do it, sure. But this isn’t that one, two, three, found done in a minute. I find strips harder to do now because I don’t like to just pick out a topic and have them hit each other over the head. I do more drawing.
If you look at any of my collections that Dark Horse is putting out, you see some really, really shitty work I did at the beginning. And then it’s basically the history of the cartoonist trying to get better towards the end.
I was telling a kid at Heroes Con, I was showing him the opening pages of Dork and Milk & Cheese and Eltingville, and was like, “Look at these!” I couldn’t even do eyeballs inside glasses. I didn’t connect lines here. My lettering was horrible.
It’s not really a self-deprecation like it used to be, it was “Look what you can do even when you stink.”
I was in my 20s when I did all that stuff and now you see people on the internet every day who kick your arse, you know? And they’re like 15 years old and they’re doing beautiful work in a variety of styles. There’s the most amazing artwork out there, suddenly. And I try to make my peace with my artwork. It doesn’t always work, but I made my peace with my old work.
I got in at a time when there was a lot less people in the industry. Everything you saw was in print. And with the craze of post-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, black-and-white boom, lots of people got in.
And even though my stuff sucked, unlike lots of people, I managed to get my foot in the door and get my fingers in there and stay. And I got better. So, you should buy my books just to see how that works. Even if they hate the book, drop the 20 bucks. You’ll learn something else.
The one-page “Hate-Wave” strip. Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse)
But yeah, the earliest stuff, it’s beer, it’s extra energy, it’s no responsibilities. Just making comics all the time and jerking around. Because at the same time I was doing stuff for Dork and Hectic Planet, I was doing zine stuff, magazine stuff, anthology work, illustrations, and stuff for ska.
I don’t know how I did all that. I don’t know how anyone continues to do all that. People are like, “Hey, I had an hour, I did this drawing” – I was like, “Oh God, that would take me a week.” You know?
I have a thing on my desk like, for me to speed up a little bit. Don’t be so precious. But I can’t quite do that.
I work the way that I talk. It gets out of control. And I try to clean it up and explain it, but, you know, there’s a lot of white ink in my house. You’ve asked two questions and I’ve talked for five hours. I’ve been trying for 30 years to stop doing this.
My writing and my art have the same bad patterns. Vomit it up and keep going. Clean it up as I go.
Let me pause here. From what I know about your personal life, you grew up in Staten Island. Am I getting that right?
Dorkin: Umm… I was born in Brooklyn, I moved [to Staten Island] when I was 13. I’m still here. God. God hates me. And I’m a loser. I hate it here. I’ve always hated it here.
So, it seems like you grew up reading comics. Big Two superhero stuff, Mad Magazine…
Dorkin: Marvel. Only Marvel. Once I could have had every DC book for free because my father on Sundays would buy us every comic that was new, because it was easier to buy us stuff than to hang out with us and talk with us. But I refused to buy DC out of that baby fannish stuff some people refuse to ever outgrow.
I only bought Marvel, and I only bought superheroes. No Conan, you know? Guys who wore outfits, no guys who took their shirts off. A little too alpha male for me. So, no Conan, no King Kull, none of those caca guys from Robert E. Howard. Rarely things like Son of Satan or Doctor Strange, because they would bore the shit out of me most of the time.
But yeah, every Marvel and my sister’s Harveys and Archies, but why wouldn’t you get the DC? I could kick myself now. I could have had all the New Gods shit. I was a big fucking baby.
It’s hilarious to me, because we fast-forward a few decades and most of your work for the Big Two, it’s for DC, right?
Dorkin: Yeah, I guess. But the thing is, like a lot of people, I dropped out of comics for a few years. I really got heavy into animation. Which is, like, you know being really into scrimshaw. It’s a bit like, “This scrimshaw stuff is bullshit, I’m going into robbing cemetery headstones.” I got really crazy for animation and it was what I wanted to do for a long time.
In high school, two friends of mine were always trying to get me back into comics. And the comics that they finally got me to look at were New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, because I loved Perez as a kid.
Full-colour tomfoolery for a Milk & Cheese board game. Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Comics)
At that point, I read anything, and soon after that, Jim Hanley and his partner opened their fantastic store near my school, and that was it. That was when I started learning about The Spirit, everything. They had Raw, they had Love & Rockets, and I ended up working there. By that point, every comic was something I wanted to look at.
Everybody in this industry, of my age, even if they did the littlest comics or the least-selling comics, got some job doing at least one cover or one something at DC.
Marvel, like, never acknowledged anybody. When you did a Marvel job, they wouldn’t even look at your credits, you know? It’s like if they hired Will Eisner, they wouldn’t talk up The Spirit in interviews. They really wouldn’t.
With DC, even if you put your books there, they’d say, “Eh, this guy did something cool,” and Milk & Cheese, they’d just put it in there. They really didn’t care.
I found that the people at DC in the early ’90s, late ’80s, they read comics. They really were into old newspaper strips, a lot of them. They liked manga, some of them, they liked oddball comics – they were conversant in what was going on.
But Marvel, forget about it. They would have introduced Frank Frazetta in 1991 as a new, hot artist. No credits. You know what I mean? “You’re gonna love this guy!” They wouldn’t put his DC credits in there, even.
Marvel was so fucking uptight it was one of the reasons I ended up leaving in ’93 in one of my stupid stances, I now call them.
But yeah, DC was the place. And I wanted to do comics because that’s all I ever wanted to do, since I was a little kid. I wanted to draw Spider-Man.
I don’t know about your actual training…
Dorkin: I have no training. Yeah, I’m self-taught and a shitty teacher. Yeah.
I took some animation classes when I was around 13. I got thrown out for my bad behaviour. Which was justified. I was screaming and yelling at people. I was stupid.
I didn’t get into School of Visual Arts when I was applying for colleges, it was where I wanted to go for several reasons. I knew a couple people who were there and I was familiar with the building because I had gone into that summer animation program.
My mother always said that, if I got a scholarship, I could go to SVA, because SVA was in arts and talent. My mother didn’t realise I had any shot at making a living at this.
Years later, I got some work at Penthouse from my college friend who ended up editing there. Even when I got a job with a big magazine like that, I couldn’t get a job on the main magazine. I got a job on the badly run magazine. But it had the word “Penthouse” on it so, on the other side, I was drawing jerk-off comics, and she thought that was great. Because that was real.
My mum was divorced in the ’70s and, if you’ll excuse me, was not a prude. So she thought, “Wow, I know what pornography is, I know what tits are, I know people pay for that,” so, there you go.
I wound up at New York University and ended up realising I loved comics more than animation. Because I wanted to tell complete stories and not draw segments, or work in segments for extremely little money. I love animation to this day, I respect it, but that’s because I worshipped Ralph Bakshi and thought he was brilliant, and was wrong.
Why do you think you were wrong about Bakshi?
Dorkin: Oh, he’s terrible. His films suck. And he’s a garbage person. And I remember in NYU. Fritz the Cat is OK, but he stole the character from Crumb, though his ex-wife.
Wizards, which I fucking adored as a kid, is just a terrible rip of everything Wally Wood and Vaughn Bode and not an especially good movie, either. It’s got some interesting things for the first time a kid like me saw them, but it’s Frankenstein-ian nonsense. It’s just garbage, you know?
And his rotoscoping kicked in around then, I guess, which never looked good. I was a fan of Lord of the Rings because it was the only one there was. It was just really that; as a kid, I saw it tons of times and I can’t even go back to that thing, because, it’s terrible.
Hey, Good Lookin’ – he destroyed the ending with rotoscoping. That was an interesting film he patched back together. Heavy Traffic is interesting. But American Pop? It’s terrible.
Everything he does is just a bunch of scenes. And he does it on the cheap. I didn’t think Mighty Mouse was fun. And, let me tell you, I’m not in the camp who thinks John K. was ever funny. I just don’t go for any of that shit.
And Bakshi is just someone I worshipped as a 13 to 15-year-old, and then I grew up. Like a lot of things, you go, “Jesus Christ, Charles Bukowski’s an arsehole,” you know?
A lot of the stuff that you read in college or you’re into as a kid, you grow up and it starts to fall off, like clothes that don’t fit any more. You know? You just outgrow that stuff. Then you grow up and you learn about the world, you learn about people who actually told better stories and did better work.
“This is the panel on why you people are idiots!” Image: Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Comics)
I mean, these breaths of fresh air that hit people, you know, there are certain people who stick around after they burst in, you know? They make a point and they continue to put out good music or good comics or good books or good films, and then there’s the people who are like, “Wow, I never saw this before, this is amazing…” And you actually find out it’s a culmination of this person’s interests you just haven’t encountered yet.
You know, it’s like the Grant Morrison joke about the American writers all stole from Stan Lee, the British writers all stole from books. And that’s why people are so impressed with them.
But that’s why people were so impressed with them in the ’80s. They were like, “These things are adult. They’re not using captions!” Or captions with big words or whatever the fuck.
Well, let’s get back to your own evolution. With the Eltingville comics, it seemed you were ramping up your storytelling ambitions a little bit?
Dorkin: Yeah, they’re little geek tragedies. Milk & Cheese have acts in a way but, really, they’re just in-and-out. The Hectic Planet stuff was all storytelling but it wasn’t very good.
The thing about my work is that – it may not be technically great, I’m not the best wordsmith, artist, or inker – but my work, I think, is emotionally honest. That’s how I put it. I think you get a real story and you get real characters and the reactions are true to those characters.
If there’s a point, I try to get that point across. And if there isn’t, I try to get a joke or story across that has an emotional aspect to it. I think a lot of people fail at that.
I would like to be a better artist and a better writer, but I’m glad that I know, at least, if I’m going to do an Eltingville story, I’m going to wring out every bit of depressing comedy in I can. Smack these characters around as much as I can. And hit as many subjects under that umbrella, as I can. Especially in the last two stories, where I closed it all out.
You mentioned the emotional honestly and wanting to locate in your stories – how did that calculus work for you working on corporate-owned stuff like World’s Funnest?
Dorkin: A lot of people thought that was just me doing parodies. If you read World’s Funnest, it’s not a serious book. I’m not saying this is man’s inhumanity to comics.
In a very basic, superficial way, I love Bat-Mite. I read a Bat-Mite comic when I was 10 years old, it was the only DC comic I liked. I was sick and a friend lent me a comic, it was Bat-Mite vs. Mxyzptlk, and I thought it was adorable and fun and cute and I thought Bat-Mite was hilarious. You know, you’re 10.
The cover of the collected edition of World’s Funnest. Image: Brian Bolland (DC Comics)
Years later, I got thrown out at DC once by Robert Greenberger when I was talking about Bat-Mite. I was trying to get work up there, and he just kind of semi-seriously threw me out, but I was thrown out. And he went on a semi-serious rant about how Bat-Mite will never be in a DC comic again, and that always struck me as just such a big problem that DC has always had since Marvel overcame their sales.
DC seems embarrassed by what they do and always had to qualify it. Because they have these Greek gods – this pantheon of Greek god characters who are incredibly one-dimensional.
They’re always smiling and one’s fast, and one thinks good, and one does everything, and one’s a woman who does everything. You know what I mean? There’s a Martian who does almost everything. The guy who swims and talks to the fish. He shoots arrows good, whatever.
And then they all have a friend, and they all have an imp. And they have a horse or a car named after them.
The first page of World’s Funnest. Image: Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)
There was no emotional honesty in DC Comics until Marvel came around and forced them to react to that. Once you have artists and writers flipping back and forth all the time, you get me reading George Perez over at DC, and that started to become a benefit.
But then all these professional fans started to spin out to Marvel and Marvelise DC. Which is great in some ways, but, Green Lantern – the guy with the ring who if you hit him with a yellow thing, he’ll fall – started with something where [the previous Green Lantern was] a guy who gets hit with wood and falls down. If you hit him with wood, there goes Green Lantern. That’s fucking ridiculous.
And they have never known how to get away from that, you know? Marvel has always been more angst than DC, because Marvel started with these losers. Right off the bat, their first four characters are fuck-ups. You know? They fucked up.
And then their next character is a total fuck-up who can’t cash a check and lets his uncle die and doesn’t know how to sell all the amazing technology he comes up with in one night while he sews the costume.
They don’t explain all this shit, but DC has so much more to atone for. How to explain the two worlds, they fucked that up back in the day – so DC’s always been more embarrassed about this shit.
And it’s always stayed with me. Like, I can’t believe a guy in a fucking place that’s publishing Superman is literally yelling at me about Bat-Mite.
Page two of World’s Funnest. Image: Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)
Do you think it was a bubble that he was operating in, a lack of self-awareness or…?
Dorkin: The fact is this business is stupid and arbitrary. Because, of course Bat-Mite comes back 15,000 times, and of course they make an evil Bat-Mite and a druggie Bat-Mite, it’s all stuff they have to do to keep the copyrights going, so it’s easy to get upset about any iteration of these characters.
You’re a maniac to get upset about a red pair of underwear not going on a guy, because they will change again.
And so Bat-Mite was kind of a revenge comic. It was like a joke idea I had.
Basically, the book is about two things: My love for jerky comics, you know, comics should be fun – Captain Marvel is Captain Marvel, Superman’s a goof – and the tortured ways DC has changed these characters over the last however many years.
I poked holes in some of the silly eras of DC Comics and I kind of said, “I think things like modern DC are kind of awful.” I tried to get a joke across with each era of how silly, goofy, interesting, cute I felt they were.
You know, when Bat-Mite shows up in the normal world, no one knows who he is and they all look like criminals, because that was edgy bullshit in the ’90s.
And nobody seemed to get a lot of the jokes. They didn’t realise I was basically getting paid to say, “I like Captain Marvel comics,” “I like Bat-Mite”.
Page three of Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest. Image: Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)
I don’t think Bat-Mite should just be a thing that gets thrown in a box somewhere. Everybody should have comics and all sorts of comics, not just “Everyone is Batman” – “Everything is blood.”
And the fact that you can put as much blood and sex in these comics as you want, you are never going to escape a Bat-Hound. You’re never going to get rid of him. It’s always going to be there, and it’s always going to be more popular than what you’re doing in comics now, movies aside.
I didn’t see the Bill & Ted movies but I knew what the characters meant to the fans, and they were an uncynical, unsarcastic, loving pair of characters.
So, you find the root of the characters, and I find I really enjoyed writing them because they were some of the only non-cynical characters having adventures in comics in the ’90s. So, I still haven’t seen the movie, but I enjoyed working on those characters – in fact, I’m working on a commission with them as we speak.
It’s interesting, because, that provides a segue to my next question, which is – did you ever see yourself making the kinds of comics that you’re doing now? Because to me, Blackwood and Beasts of Burden – especially Beasts of Burden – there’s like a core of really wholesome sincerity to it that I would never have thought the Evan Dorkin of the 1990s would make.
Dorkin: Did you ever read The Mask series that I did in the ’90s?
No, I didn’t.
Dorkin: To be honest, The Mask series is not a great piece of comic book literature. We did the best we could, but the Mask is a tough character and I won’t use that as an excuse. I found myself flailing to tell an eight-issue story.
I wanted to tell a story. I’m a very story-conscious writer. As much I love the art in comics, to me, unless you’re doing it yourself, I don’t like to read a comic where it’s like, “We’re going to knock ’em out with the art every three pages” – and that’s what’s going to carry it. You know?
Using art as a special effect has its uses, but, I think it’s abused. I care about the story of the comic I’m drawing or writing, I care about story, I care about character, a lot.
The Mask, if you read it, it’s uncynical. It’s about a lot of the things I’m interested in and I love, but it’s about a father and a daughter. And it might not be incredibly effective or whatever, but if you read that you can see the inkling of Beasts.
I actually like good guys more than bad guys, even though I love to draw bad guy characters. I’m a fan of them. But I’m not intrigued by gangsters. They are criminals that suck. I grew up [in someplace that was essentially] segregated. When I saw Goodfellas in Staten Island, it was a comedy for people in the audience.
It was kind of terrifying at what they laughed at and what they booed. It is a big thing now to have people who love Superman and Captain America but, for some reason, never paid attention to what they stood for.
I understand why good doesn’t triumph. I’m a very cynical person. But, to enter comics where people are constantly… I just don’t understand DC and Marvel’s aesthetic over the last 10 years – “k.e.w.l.” cool and bloody, and edgy and like, nobody ever seems to actually accomplish anything or achieve anything or connect.
And if they do, it’s all very superficial and it’s changed and nobody can really make anything concrete, because it will be mixed again either next issue or in six issues.
So, once they start slaughtering characters left and right, I just – really – and I like violence, you know? I like fictional violence. Milk and Cheese are incredibly violent. A lot of my comics, like Vroom Socko, are very violent.
But when it comes to superheroes, I’m a bit of a purist. I want the violence to be more like Hong Kong martial arts violence, you know? Good guys can lose and good guys can die, but this torturing of your characters to me is just pointless. You know, that’s for another genre.
All of DC’s comics in the last few decades seem like horror comics with heroes in them. You know, Judge Dredd and Marshall Law are hyperviolent but I like when you pull out the iconic ideas of these characters, like in Watchmen, or whatever.
There’s always a guy like Batman, one who’s like Superman, one who’s like Wonder Woman, and they torture the crap out of them. And I’m like, I’m fine with that. We know what’s going on, here. We know that’s the Blue Beetle, the Question and Peacemaker, or whatever.
In general, these stories that go too far, after a while, it’s just diminishing returns. In wrestling with pornography, in horror movies, in horror comics, you always end up reaching this point of no return. So you have to do three women getting their heads cut off, or five guys stitched together into a centipede, or whatever the fuck.
And when you save the Earth and everybody dies every three months in Marvel and DC Comics, where do you go from there? You can’t have bank robberies any more. Everybody goes bigger all the time, and nobody cares about what’s going on with anybody other than the top five wrestlers.
It’s a problem I just totally want to avoid. I’m going all over the place again. Don’t yell at me, Evan, don’t yell at me. Don’t yell at me. Don’t yell at me.
Last question: I don’t know if you have kids…
Dorkin: I have one daughter.
What is her relationship to comics? Do you try to steer it in any way?
Dorkin: No. No. Never tried to. But she grew up in a family where her parents worked on the Warner Bros. TV shows a bit, and we had statues from the company. So we had Superman, the first superhero she noticed. She really liked Supergirl.
When she was little, we’d keep certain comics away from her, for sure. She never read Beasts of Burden. She saw the artwork as I was going over the lettering, and there was an incident; she’s blamed me for killing a cat ever since and she won’t read the series.
Biblical stuff starts raining down on the heroes of Beasts of Burden. Image: Jill Thompson (Dark Horse Comics)
How old is she?
Dorkin: She’s 13. She cosplays at conventions; my wife and her work on outfits. She really loves manga and anime and comics, and she’s read a lot of my comics multiple times. She’s read the first two Fantastic Four omnibuses that I have, and I haven’t even read all of those. She’s read them twice.
She likes newspaper comics, she’s read all the Schultz stuff, all the Popeye… Cul de Sac, Prince Valiant, Barnaby.
She and I go to the library every Wednesday, and I think we have 150 books out right now. We have two shelves of manga, and she loves Jack Kirby stuff. She’s read a lot of the archives and masterworks. She just reads everything. She’s not into horror comics. She hasn’t expressed interest in that.
The main character of Calla Cthulu, co-created by Evan Dorkin, wife Sarah Dyer, and their daughter. Image: Erin Humiston (Calla Cthulu website)
But she’s read and written comics. When we went to the Billy Ireland [Cartoon Library and Museum], we both agreed we wanted to live there. We just wanted to be cops and security guards at the Billy Ireland.
I think her interest in American comics is waning, right now? She likes manga, but she really liked Kate Beaton’s two books. She takes things out on her own; she grew up around comics and just started picking up what she wanted to look at.
Seven years from now, she says, “I want to make comics.” What do you tell her?
Dorkin: [Deep sigh.] I dunno. I wouldn’t tell her not to. I would tell her if she gets a scholarship to SVA, she has talent and she can go there. You know, she did some flatting on a Simpsons story we did a few years ago. She came up with the idea of Calla Cthulu and there’s a story we actually all co-authored, all three of us, and we just never got to do it. But she has good ideas and she’ll say stuff.
But I don’t think she has interest there. I wouldn’t dissuade her from it. In fact, she can see all the pitfalls just by looking at her father’s career and the state of our house. She can see comics is a terrible place to work, but a lot of fun to do.