This past week, I had a chance to interview artist Dave Dorman. He is not only an amazing artist, but I found out what a really great guy he is. For those that don’t know Dave, here’s a quit bio:
Eisner, Inkpot, Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild award winner Dave Dorman is beloved by fans worldwide as a visual storyteller—an artist, creator, toy designer, and mentor in the comics industry, where he has created art for every major publisher and licensed character within the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including but not limited to Batman, Conan the Barbarian, Planet of the Apes, King Kong, Spiderman, Buckaroo Banzai, Captain America, G.I. Joe, Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, Transformers, Alien, Predator, Alien v. Predator, World of Warcraft, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and many more. Voted the #1 Star Wars Artist by the fans worldwide, George Lucas personally owns more than 90 of Dave Dorman’s original oil paintings in his private collection.
Nerdgasms: You are very involved with helping young artists. Why is that so important to you?
Dave Dorman: When I started, I taught myself how to paint and draw. I did go to one year at the Joe Kubert School and it was a great help to me, but after I left the school I went back home and stayed with my parents. I had a part time job and did art in the time when I wasn’t working. So it was a very solitary thing. I had the opportunity to go to a number of conventions and travel to NYC to visit publishers and get feedback and critiques about my work then go back home. I worked at home til I got to the point where I could start selling art and then make a living as an illustrator. I look back at those times where I was able to go out and speak with other professional artists and get that critique and get that feedback and find out where I’m going right and where I’m going wrong. It was very valuable to me. So I feel that since that helped me get to where I am, I enjoy sharing what I know in the business. What I know about art and the business of art. I think it’s important to share that with young artists, kids in school, and people looking to make their way in the art field; to have a little bit more knowledge than they did before I talked to them. Every little bit helps, so I’m glad to share what I know with anyone who asks the questions.
NG: What was your first paid art piece?
DD: In about 1979/1980 I was living in Washington and then moved to Florida so I would hop the plane to Washington, D.C. And stay with my brother and take the train up to New York. So over the course of that period of time I would hit up the publishers, I’d hit marvel, heavy metal, dc comics and some of the other publishers. I’d get my work in and then what would happen is I’d get the feedback and they’d send me on my way. One year, I think spring of 1982, I went to New York and I got into marvel, and I got in with Archie Goodwin who was publishing Epic Magazine at the time. And I got in with Larry Hama and I got in with John Workman who was director of heavy metal at the time. During that particular trip, I was fortunate enough to get a sale through Heavy Metal for a cover and talked with Archie Goodwin about possibly doing a story for Epic Magazine. The Heavy Metal cover was the first published cover and the Epic Magazine came out at a later time. A Savage Sword of Conan cover came out of my meeting with Larry Hama I think the next year.
NG: Is that the same Larry Hama that wrote GI Joe?
DD: hHe was writing GI Joe, also doing artwork and he was an editor for a few black and white magazines at the time. He’s a real nice guy, he’s still in the business, I see him every year out in San Diego. He was one of those guys real early in my career and made a friend for all these years after.
NG: How did you get involved with Star Wars doing artwork?
DD: Obviously I was a fan of the films going back to 1977 when I saw the first movie A New Hope. It influenced me in my love of science fiction and my love of film and my love of art since then. The real big break came in 1989 when I was chosen to do Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis comic book covers for Dark Horse comics. And that got my foot into Lucas Film because they have to approve all work that’s published. So when Dark Horse got the license to do Star Wars, and started out their comics with Dark Empire, I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. I was asked to do the covers for the Dark Empire series. So that really started off my involvement with Star Wars as a professional artist and I’ve been doing that for almost 25 years.
NG: Segueing into the topic of Star Wars, it was announced recently (to no surprise) that Disney would be moving the Star Wars comics to Marvel from Dark Horse. How do you think this will impact the comics?
DD: I really can’t say because I don’t know if they’ll bring any of the creative teams along with to Marvel. I think it would be smart if they did for at least 1 or 2 of the books because of the extensive fan following that the books have. Dark Horse has been very good at laying out a very cohesive 20 year run of books, building the expanded universe, of course with the approval of Lucas films, and it would be a shame if Marvel took that in a much different direction with very different creative teams instead of continuing with what the fans have certainly enjoyed. People have been supporting and reading these books that Dark Horse has been publishing. But it is a different company and they have their own creative teams that they would like to work with. Certainly they have the support of Disney and Lucas Film as well. So it’s hard to say what they’re going to do. A lot of it may have to do with tying into the new film, Episode 7, and whether they’re going to keep the expanded universe as Dark Horse created it or if they’re going to sorta create their own expanded universe. There has been very little information that has come out so far. What has come out has been very vague and unsubstantiated. So I think well just have to wait and see. I will guess that Marvel will have a very large Star Wars presence at SDCC to start promoting the upcoming January books. I think it would be very bad of them if they did not take up the books right away, if they had Dark Horse stop publishing and they didn’t publish anything for months at a time. Star Wars fans would certainly be angry about that. So I would say let’s wait another 6-7 months and see what starts to shake out. I can understand the frustration of Randy Stradley and Doug Wheatley and the other creative teams because they’ve invested a lot of time building those story arcs and those characters. Like I said, it would be very sad if Marvel did not continue those things that the fans have been very happy with.
NG: You’ve worked on a ton of iconic geek franchises. What has been your favorite?
DD: I’ve always been a fan of comics and science fiction since I was young. The natural progression of my art is doing the comics and science fiction and fantasy stuff. It’s what drew me (no pun intended) into the field I’m in, the genres I still work in now. So it does keep me young in certain aspects. Now that I have a 9 year old son that I can share a lot of this with, share what I’ve worked on, the toys, the happiness I’ve had. It’s a double whammy of happiness this career has brought me. My favorite? I really enjoy what I do a lot. Every painting I try to challenge myself with, to make a good memory of what I’m doing. If I’m doing Star Wars, I try to capture the excitement of when I saw the movie in theaters in 77. If I’m doing Aliens, I feel that excitement, that thrill of seeing the Ridley Scott film in ‘81. With GI Joe, I was a bit older when the 3.75 inch figures came out, but I played with the 12″ figures as a kid. So I was lucky enough to get to do some of the pacakaging for the figures. So I can’t say one is my favorite, but I just put myself in each piece I work on and that piece takes me on an adventure on its own. My son really enjoys the Star Wars stuff, partly because I have the 501st come over in uniform, so I get Darth Vader, storm troopers, and all these guys coming over to the house and I photograph them for reference. He really enjoys that. But he really enjoys Batman and Indiana Jones. So he is getting into it.
NG: Since you’ve started attending conventions, how have they changed?
DD: The convention situation has changed over the years just because there’s been so much crossover of genres and media at the conventions. When I was going to shows, a comic book show was a comic book show. You would very rarely find something else. You may find a guy selling some records at the table down the way or you may see somebody selling pulp magazines down the way, but it was 99% comics and comic dealers. Kids with their collections bringing boxes with. In the late 80s/ early 90s, you started getting the crossovers with other mediums. You’d get the toys, the video games, movies. Most comic shows aren’t comic shows per se anymore. They’re more multimedia shows. There are very few real just comic shows around. There’s a few ShelTon Drum Heroes in South Carolina, Baltimore comic con, and wonder con used to be primarily comics, but I haven’t been in years. That’s been the big change over the years. It’s very media driven nowadays. And I can understand that. That’s where the market is going.
NG: What has Dave Dorman been up to lately?
DD: Lately I’ve been working with the new Dungeons & Dragons relaunch. I’m doing some single illustrations for their big monster book. They’re going to relaunch I forget what edition it is, but that’s going to be coming out this summer. I’ve been working on a couple of my own projects in my Wasted Lands universe. One is the relaunch of the graphic novel Rail which I am recoloring and relettering and doing some new artwork for. And that will be out in the summer from Magnetic Press. A brand new line of books from Mike Kennedy. In tying in with that, I have a new game called Rail that will be coming out this summer. It’s a Risk-esque game that involves railroads and fighting and conquering land and being the biggest railroad barron. And that’s going to be a real fun game. It’s going to be a board game, a collectible card game, so that separates it from a standard board game. Working on that and have a number of other things coming out. We’re going to do a number of E-books…novels that are based on the Wasted Youth universe. We’ll be announcing that on my Facebook and website in the next couple months. And I’ll be working Dave Elliot at Atomica Press on doing some more Hitch stories, my motorcycle zombie, which the first story was published in Monster Massacre in the Summer of last year. So I’m looking forward to doing some zombie stuff.
NG: I’ve heard rumblings about a Wasted Lands movie. What is going on with that?
DD: Well a little bit of what happened was back in 2001 when the first graphic novel was published. I had some problems with the publisher on that and so I let the contract lapse and brought the property back to my hands so it sorta got sidetracked for a little bit during the 2000s. So about 2 years ago I decided to resurrect it. I talked to a number of people in the industry that may have interest in a film or maybe a television adaptation during that time, but nothing really developed then. However about a year and a half ago, I started rethinking the project I started to put it in motion to revitalize the rayo graphic novel to build a bigger world and tie into that, so I have a new agent out in LA. So he is excited and shopping it around to a number of places including motion picture producers. we do have some interest and there’s particular interest of possibly doing a web series as well…a live action web series. So it’s moving a lot better now that I have my head more fully into it. We can do much more with i just because I think the technology and the interest in internet product and the availability of ebooks and such that you really didn’t have 10 years ago. Those are things we’re working towards. It looks like it has a lot of potential. So I’m going to keep building that and see where it goes.
NG: What keeps you motivated after all these year?
DD: I think it’s just the level of what I do. I really love to sit down with a blank piece of paper and create a world within that canvas. It puts me inside that world I’m creating. As long as that excites me, I’ll continue to do this work. Seeing as how I have more art in my head than I could produce in a lifetime, I don’t think I’ll ever be worried about not enjoying what I’m doing?
NG: What books are you reading currently?
DD: I’ve been a fan of European graphic novels for a very long time since back in the early 70s when I started buying Lt Blueberry which was Moebius’ western graphic novels. They’re approaches to story telling and the material covered are just different, it’s very non-superhero works. It’s westerns and science fiction and fantasy and mystery thrillers. I’ve been a fan of this for years till this very day. Because I’ve gotten back into the Rail graphic novel, I’ve studied the European graphic novels for a number of things. The type of coloring they’re using, the kind of story telling they’re doing, and the rendering itself for that type of higher end graphic novel. That’s what I’ve been looking at primarily over the past 5 or 6 months. What I’ve been reading? I read a lot of eclectic stuff. I certainly read Hellboy and BPRD on a regular basis. I think the new Conan the Barbarian book Brian Wood started writing, I’ve been enjoying that. Let’s see, DC has a book called The Wake, that I’ve been reading. The art is very interesting. I tend to not read a whole lot of hero stuff because it tends to get too bogged down in history with the characters and crossovers. I’m not that young anymore that I enjoy reading that stuff. I did as a kid, but now I tend to read more self-contained mini series or single issues or graphic novels. And those tend to be in the science fiction or thriller genres. I still like reading the occasional Batman when the creative team is good, the occasional Captain America when the creative team is good. I’m buying a lot of reprints because there’s books I loved to read when I was younger, the old Sgt Rock, reissues from dcDC. Stuff like that.
NG: Since you’re in the Chicago-area, did you get to go to the Lucas wedding?
DD: No, I did not. That was a special day for them and I hope they’re very happy together as they seem to be. But no, I didn’t get to go to that. But I did post a note on Facebook. Certainly one of the high points of my career was meeting George Lucas a few times. He’s very quiet and very shy. I wanted to talk to him about Star Wars. He’s a big art collector and art fan. We ended up talking about art and history of art. The illustrators from the 20s and 30s. That was a fun couple of times we got together.
NG: One final question: what is taun taun poo like?
DD: It’s sort of I guess greasy porky. It’s those wamp rats that are running around under the snow on hoth. That’s what they like to eat, so really sort of greasy stink. Han Solo agreed with that when he sliced open the taun taun and found out what they actually stunk like inside.
NG: Anything else you’d like to pitch?
DD: I’ll be down in Pensacola for Pensicon at the end of February and certainly C2E2. I’ll be at San Diego this summer as well.
Thanks to Dave for his time. Check out his work and his sites: