From Eltingville to Beasts of Burden, Evan Dorkin Talks Dark Horse Presents

Evan Dorkin, the creator of Milk & Cheese, Beasts of Burden (with Jill Thompson) and House of Fun, [...]

Evan Dorkin, the creator of Milk & Cheese, Beasts of Burden (with Jill Thompson) and House of Fun, is a great conversationalist. Personally, I'm a chatty guy. As a consequence, we got exactly two questions into our interview in promotion of next week's House of Fun story in Dark Horse Presents #12 before we got so far afield of the topic that it only made sense to the two of us. Therefore, mostly for humor's sake, I'll be presenting Dorkin's interview as a Q&A, just like the two other Dark Horse interviews (one with Matt Kindt and a second with Mike Baron & Steve Rude) we've done this week. While a lot of creators might feel pinched in an eight-page story, you've been doing a lot with less for years--Milk and Cheese was almost never more than two pages. So is this really right in your comfort zone, contibuting to Dark Horse Presents? Nothing's in my comfort zone--but I do like working with short stories a lot more than extended stories because I feel like it's a shorter drive: there are less chances for accidents. With Beasts of Burden Jill and I are dealing with an extended storyline, but it's getting chopped up into all of these shorter chapters so I write every Beasts of Burden to work on its own as best as possible. So you can pick up any issue of Beasts of Burden and you might not know who everyone is or what their motivations are but you can understand their story. It's just good versus evil. Almost every story lays out their parameters and what's going on.

With the House of Fun stuff—like a lot of cartoonists I suffer from OCD, and I can fill a page. I've been doing this for a while--since when people were putting more on the page. I grew up with guys like Kirby and Perez and John Byrne, who had a lot of stuff on the pages. With Milk & Cheese, it started with something that was not time-consuming and not a lot of work and just a lark and over time it became kind of, "How much stuff can I cram into these pages, to make people feel like they get extra pages out of the material?" In all of my work I've always tried to tell a complete story, something that begins, that there's a reason for it—not just a bunch of characters talking or a cool visual with a script around it. I don't know if these are complete stories but they're stories, and I've always enjoyed when guys I like would give you eight pages of a complete story rather than just filling an issue. If you give me two pages, I will give you as much as I can on those two pages usually, unless it's not called for at all for the story. It's hard--sometimes I'll write something for Bongo and they really can't use 14 panels on a page when I'm writing for someone else to draw. Working with Jill, it's tough because of the watercolors. In general we try to keep it to five panels at most on the page--which if you look at my other work is not at all what I can do. It's hard to go from ten panels to five so that Jill can breathe and not send a hitman from Chicago to come kill me. In an eight-page story we usually have something like 45 panels but that's less than I would do myself. So, to answer your question, yes. It seems like it has to be a great time to be working at Dark Horse--every week for like two months they have some crazy, exciting new thing going on. Is it a little different from how it's been before, since you've worked for every iteration of Dark Horse Presents?

It's a kick to be in a book with a bunch of people whose work you like, and whose work you grew up on—it's an odd feeling to get a book where your name is on the same list as Howard Chaykin, or someone like that. I was a huge American Flagg fan. But these days there is so much big news in comics and everything is such a big deal that almost nothing seems to be a big deal. If these Dark Horse Presents issues were coming out five or ten year ago, readers would have been super-excited. Even though I think $8 for 80 pages is a good deal, anthologies just started dying out in the mid to late '90s. Not having Deadline or Deadline USA or Dark Horse Presents' first iteration and Negative Burn and all these places that were taking my stuff, that all died out and that's how I was building my books. Personally, I'd like to be in every issue of Dark Horse Presents. I like the idea of having material coming out every month or every two months but I haven't been able to do that in a long time and it's nice to see what's in there. But it's easy for me to say, I'm not paying eight bucks. Still, I keep bringing some of my comps into my local store, and it went monthly, and they keep grabbing new people, so it seems to be doing well. They're not just using old farts like me—there's been some new blood. It seems Carla Speed McNeil is doing Finder every issue, which I think is really cool because that gives stability and character to it. The next issue is my last and I just hope they ask for something else from me. I can see why the anthologies are dying out, though. I love pinball, but I understand why it was crushed and why it's a niche—an even smaller niche than comics. You can't go back to that time anymore, I guess, where you can just throw back-ups into the books and have annuals and specials and treasury editions that are cheap on cheap paper. Comics is like TV shows now—if it's not big right out of the gate it's dead.