October 20, 2017

 




Interview:
Evan Dorkin

By Dan Epstein




DE: Youíve said that Milk and Cheese is not the cash cow everyone thinks it is. I hope this isnít a strange question but why not?

ED: Every once in a while, someone gets the idea that M & C made me rich.

DE: For a while there was shirts, mugs and the trade paperback seems to be in print all the time.

ED: Well the mugs were self produced and I broke a whole bunch of them in suitcases taking them to England. So thatís the glamorous comic book life. Most of that stuff is DIY stuff. Bands like Fishbone never made any money and they were certainly on TV and on plenty of movie soundtracks. 

In comics, merchandise doesnít mean that much. A comic comes out and its number one in the back of that stupid catalog and its got a stupid t-shirt and a mug that ships with the first issue as though everyone canít wait to see this crap even though theyíve never read the comic. You remember when everyone had their own action figure company. They were doing comics just to make the figure. Merchandise doesnít mean youíre doing well. Somebody comes to us and asks if we want to do a card set because we were sitting next to them at the San Diego Convention. 21st century did a card set, Graphitti Designs did a flat magnet set and Bowen did a magnet because someone suggested we do a magnet as a giveaway at the retailer expo in San Diego.

Again I donít go hunting for this stuff, the lunch box came to me, the mugs we did ourselves, and Sarah and I do buttons ourselves that we sell at conventions. For a small press book Milk & Cheese does really well. But Iíve done like seven issues in ten years and I havenít done one since 1997. You donít make a ton of money off that. If I was in this industry to make tons of money I would have taken M & C to Dark Horse or something. Iíve had offers to take monthly books and thatís not a bragging thing. Anyone thatís got a computer and has been in the industry for two seconds is offered a book.

DE: It seems like people are always immediately offered X-Men.

ED: I was offered an X-Men book years ago, X-Men 2099, and $20.99 is about what I would have made off that. Iím glad I turned that down but for a long time I did not want to work for Marvel because I did not like their attitude towards small press. Lately though it doesnít seem like they are stepping on the necks of small press people anymore.

DE: What do you think of the changes in the industry? Does it affect you at all?

ED: No, because Iíve always said this because by and large Iíve always done pretty well. Sarah and I are lucky that weíve always gotten work to supplement what we really want to do. I donít hate mainstream comics; Iíve worked for them. I was a superhero fan as a kid unlike some so-called alternative guys, so I donít know how alternative I am doing humor books. As far as being someone who has worked in the small press most of my career, you donít make a lot of money so youíre not shocked to still not make a lot of money. There was no boom or bust for me. When these guys give these grandiose speeches in the Buyerís Guide about how weíre all to blame for the fall of the industry in 1992-93. I would get really pissed because most of the guys who Iím friends with or whose work I read didnít do anything but put out a bunch of books. They didnít get giant paychecks.

DE: They didnít drip silver gloss onto their covers.

ED: They didnít sign their name for money. Well you could you say that they didnít get the opportunity but thatís bullshit because some were. I was given the opportunity to do a signed Milk & Cheese edition; I could have done a signed Worldís Funnest. Again Iím not saying Iím some martyr but I donít want to do things that I think rips the fans off. As much as I attack the fans in my work and a lot of them think Iím a bastard for doing it, Iíve never tried to rip them off with a bullshit forced collectible item. The only Dynamic Forces thing Iíve signed was the Heroes book because I felt that was for a good cause and that no one was making any money off of that. I just didnít want to do a Worldís Funnest Dynamic Forces and the guy there, to his credit, dropped it. I donít know if it was because of me. I know Alex Ross signs everything he does because heís hard up for cash.

DE: He does so much stuff, it seems like heís even painting in the bathroom.

ED: Well I do too but I flush them. Some of these people really do fool themselves into believing that getting this stuff on QVC spreads the word on the industry. But if the word youíre spreading is this ridiculous high priced junk collectible what the hell is the point of that? All youíre doing is reinforcing the speculation nonsense. Which has hurt this industry the most over the past twenty years, the black and white boom, the Valiant/Image boom, the multiple covers boom, the card and pog boom. Everybody takes advantage of these things and the retailers seem to make no money after all the dust has settled. 

You should just do your books and what youíre supposed to do for the fans is sell them a book thatís decent. No one should pay for anyoneís signature. If people bought my book thatís all they need to do to get my signature. To get a few bucks for a signature is wrong. If youíre big enough want your signature, you donít need their goddamn money. Whenever I see people doing these forced collectibles that make them all that money based on the fact that people like their work, I just always hope that their star falls because I think theyíre petty. Thatís just my anger, people could say its jealousy but the way the world works is that people who like your work agree with everything you say and the people who donít like your work think you suck no matter what you do.

DE: One fan of yours told me to ask you this question. Supposedly at a convention you acted similar to the way William Shatner did in that Saturday Night Live sketch, you told them to stop reading comics and start dating girls. Is this an exaggeration of how you feel?

ED: Iíd have to know when it was and when I did. The whole point of Eltingville is that you shouldnít live for your hobby, even the professionals. And 9/10 of the professionals are geeks and I count myself as being pretty geeky. You do have to get out of the basement and clean up your life. Thereís a lot of detritus in your life when youíre into collecting stuff. Sometimes you have to look around at the plastic and realize that most of this is bullshit.

Another thing with Eltingville is that it could be sports enthusiasts, political nuts, car aficionados, film buffs or anything like that. Obsession is not good, living for your hobby is not good and unfortunately a large percentage of fandom is a little too worked up over who is wearing the Green Lantern costume and how many comics they have and how much more they know than this guy or that guy.

Not all fans are like this, there are plenty of fans who never get on the Internet, never go to conventions, they read the conics then toss them in the closet and theyíre done. Not everyone has to be a casual fan. Some people get incredibly defensive as if Iím laying laws down. I believe in doing whatever you want but I also believe in making fun of some people who do whatever the hell they want.

Iíve been a fan my whole life, I worked in a comic book store for six years, I do this professionally, Iíve been to a ton of conventions, thereís a lot of incredibly depressing and pathetic behavior and some really obnoxious behavior. One of the places where Eltingville sprung from is the fact that all these afterschool specials or Freaks & Geeks, the geeky guy is always somebody to really root for and feel sorry for, heís a misfit and goofy. 

Over the years Iíve realized that that clichť is necessarily true, a lot of geeks once given a modicum of power whatever that might be, are absolute tyrants and assholes. With a lot of people in fandom, their fanishness is their armor. Theyíve built a personality out of toys and collections, what they have or know. Not on life experiences or relating to people. To send hate mail to cartoonists because theyíve killed off a character you liked or because you donít like the storyline of a fictional superhero or a talking creature is nuts. Especially when youíre past the age of sixteen or so. Iíve sent fan mail and I know its nutty. There comes a time when you realize that if your house burnt down, you lost your collection, life must go on.


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