Group 12 - hari interviews Air Raid Robertson (of Air Raid Robertson)!
skoolmunkee at 11:31AM, July 11, 2010
posts: 7,057
joined: 1-2-2006
This interview is of Air Raid Robertson, whose comics are: Air Raid Robertson, A Very Long Death and others!
(interview conducted by hari!)

First up, who are you, where are you based, what do you eat for breakfast, how do you live out your days, what's your favourite flavour ice-cream?

My Christian name is Ryan M. Valentine. I am based in Salem, Massachusetts USA. My breakfast food of choice is frigid cereal and cold pizza. In terms of ice cream I tend to favor the peppermint stick flavor.

So that is actually your real name? THAT'S WELL COOL. Have you ever managed to smoothly introduce yourself as “Valentine - Ryan Valentine” ? (One of my characters' surnames is Valentine. But that's really just an unsubtle plot device - anyway, maybe you're related…)
~and peppermint, you say. Telling.

No, I've never had the opportunity to introduce myself as “Valentine, Ryan Valentine”. Ryan is, I believe, the 7th most common name in the United States. Valentine is also a pretty common surname around here. I suppose Ryan Valentine doesn't have much in the way of linguistic sex appeal should you happen to be a dirty Yankee.

I still like my name though. Unremarkable though it may be, it still has a certain ring to it.

Have you ever flown a plane? Do you have a moustache as brilliant as Ridley's?

I have no piloting skill, and I’m pretty sure one can infer that information by reading my comic. I have been known to sport of moustache though. Unfortunately, my Anglo-Saxon genetics prevent it from being as brilliant as Ridley’s.

Actually, my moustache is very “late 70’s porn movie”. Now that I think about it I have no idea why I have it.

All in all, my personal life is pretty mundane. This is probably why I don’t really document it all that often in my comics. Some people can do slice-of-life material very well, but most others can’t pull it off without coming off as boring or preachy. And, well, I ain’t exactly Harvey Pekar.

Where were you born?

I was born in pretty much the same area that I currently reside. I never moved around all that much, so my roots to New England are quite firm.

What was the first comic you ever read/drew?

My first exposure to comics was probably the funnies section of the Sunday Boston Globe. My parents had a subscription, so my sisters and I would pore over the comics every day it was delivered. My favorite strip was easily Calvin & Hobbes, but I was also fond of Non Sequitur, Bloom County, Zippy the Pinhead, Garfield, Spider-Man, and Foxtrot.
(Yeah! Calvin & Hobbes! Whoo!)

When I was very small I was laid up in the hospital on account of an infected cut. While I was there I was handed a stack of Batman comics since the character had a movie in theaters at the time. I still have a few of those comics, but throughout the majority of my salad days I was a die-hard X-Men fan. The early 90’s was a terrible period for comics in terms of quality, but you couldn’t tell my manic seven year old brain any of that.

Naturally, much of that stuff has aged as well as milk to me. Still, I can’t help but maintain a sense of sweet, nostalgic affection for it. I knew I wanted to be a comics artist the second I finished reading X-Men #2 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. That’s going to be at the beginning of my drawing history no matter what direction I go in.

The first comic I ever remember drawing was called T-Rex. Like a lot of grade-schoolers, I had an acute interest in dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. So, I guess it’s not much surprise that my earliest comics were about a small family of dinosaurs getting into a variety of Sunday Funnies hijinks.

Another comic I drew at around the same time was called Sticky. It was about these two brothers who were also super villains. They weren’t very good at being bad guys though, and most of the plots involved them bumbling some sort of evil scheme.

I held on to those characters for a long time, building up a supporting cast and storyline as I went. I last used them in an arc of Air Raid Robertson, actually. They were trying to frame Air Raid Robertson and Ridley for a terrorist bombing on the Moon.

I totally remember that. I'd say Stick and Sticky are pretty great characters for ones you came up with so young…
Which class at school did you use to doodle most in?

Most of my doodling was done in Study Hall, since that’s where everyone else was doing it.

What's the first gig you ever went to?

My first concert was Tool during the Lateralus Tour. Tomahawk, a Melvins side project, was the opening act.

Have you ever been to Europe?

No, I’ve never been to Europe. I haven’t even left the confines of the continental USA, actually. (I’m a bit bummed by that, honestly)

(You should come over, it's pretty awesome here.)

The delicious world of comics
In both air raid robertson and indeed many of your other projects you reference the PAST, great literature, and many other comics from bygone ages. What comics and books and eras would you say influenced you most? And what are your favourites?

Yeah, I do make a lot of references in my comics. I would like to tune that down a bit and make more personal statements. Reference-heavy cartoons like Family Guy really piss me off, and I definitely don’t want Air Raid Robertson to turn into something like that.

Of course, I’m going to be influenced by other creators whether I like to or not. There’s definitely a lot of things stewing in my brain . It would be a bit tiresome to list absolutely everything.

The core of my artwork is, I think, very indebted to Silver Age comic art. I remember reading some Jack Kirby issues of X-Men as a nine year old and being blown away by how hyper-kinetic and powerful the art looked. I also really liked the sense of motion I saw in Steve Ditko-era Spider-Man and Frank Miller-period Daredevil. I like lots of modern artists too, but most of them also have a heavy Silver Age polish in their art. (Bruce Timm, Mike Allred, etc.)

When I was in high school I got very heavily into alternative and underground comics artists. Evan Dorkin, Jim Mahfood, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, and many others entered my comics vocabulary in a rushing torrent. My absolute favorite artist, however, was Robert Crumb. I imitated his dazzling cross-hatching technique to a degree that was absolutely shameless. I even tried to draw some comics while I was stoned just because I heard that’s how he produced the material in Zap. (Both my comics pages and my drug use were terrible ideas that I abandoned quickly)

In my early twenties I developed a very powerful interest in the comics work of Will Eisner. I enjoy the innovations he did in The Spirit, but I think they pale in comparison to the work he did in all the graphic novels he produced from the 1970’s to his twilight years. My favorite of the lot is easily Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood. The amount of planning and ambition in that series of interconnected vignettes is truly staggering.

Both in terms of creating and consuming, I prefer the lighter and funnier stuff. I also tend to like dialogue-driven material better than sight gags, grand gestures, or cathartic explosions.

Like a lot of people I think Citizen Kane is a great movie, but I prefer Casablanca because it’s funnier, has snappier dialogue, and possesses more likable characters. I like Shakespeare just fine, but I’ve definitely reread Huck Finn and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy more often. I possess and enjoy a great deal of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, but Parliament-Funkadelic speaks to me in a way that Wagnerian fervor does not.

And so on…

Oh intriguing. I do enjoy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… (though probably in more general terms a bit more of a Shakespeare/Tchaikovsky girl myself.)
&! If you could have been born in an era that wasn't now, when would it be?

I don’t know about being born into another era. I like the time that I’m currently living in just fine. Sure, it would be a hoot to hang out with F. Scott Fitzgerald while checking out Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club. However, I also like having a polio vaccine and blimps that aren’t injected with hydrogen.

If I had to pick another time to be born in, I guess I’ll have to go with sometime in the distant future. Like a lot of readers I often skip ahead to see where everything ends up.

Okay BAM you're stuck on a desert island.
You're only allowed one book, one comic book, and an endless supply of ONE kind of food. What would they be?

Ah, the desert island question. These are always fun.

For my comic book, I’d probably bring my Locas collection by Jaime Hernandez. I think Jaime is the absolute best comics artist living today. Plus, his stories are filled with great characterization, natural dialogue, and a magical sense of introspective realism. Never have I read a comic and believed more that the fictional characters within were real people.

Also, the Locas omnibus is my biggest comic, with over 700 goddamn pages inside. If I’m going to be on that island for a while I should probably have something with a bit of heft. I could also use it to break open crabs for sustenance should the need arise.

For my prose novel, I would probably choose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. This is another one that is hefty in page count, but the main reason I choose this book is because of the enchanting nature of Chabon’s writing. He’s wordy, but it’s done in a way that is warm and inviting. You can open any page and there’s probably one or two clever turns of phrase. Plus, he does a fantastic job of making the reader care about characters that other writers would have a difficult time projecting empathy for. I’m always filled with a sense of admiration and envy whenever I tackle one of his works, but none more than this one.

My food product would likely be something with a lot of protein in it. Maybe tofu or chicken, depending on the materials available for cooking. In addition to their unique sustaining properties, both of those items absorb the flavors of other ingredients very well. So, I would be able to prepare a wider variety of meals than with something else.

Let's say you're also allowed ONE character from Air Raid Robertson with you on the island, who'd you bring with you?

Well, Fantomah’s fantastic and nigh-endless powers would definitely come in handy. However, she’s not exactly the most pleasant person in the world to be stuck on an island with. Also, she may not count as a ride-along since she’s a public domain character I adopted rather than someone I created all by myself.

I guess I’ll go with Ridley. I always seem to give him a clear head no matter what the circumstances. Plus, he probably also has a lot of survival skills considering the company he keeps.

Then again, Air Raid Robertson has a knack for walking between raindrops and dancing between bullets. One can’t overlook that.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:43PM
ifelldownthestairs at 6:20PM, July 23, 2010
posts: 432
joined: 7-4-2007
Hey, Non Sequitur! Wow, that brings back memories.. and I saw Tool on the Lateralus tour too, except King Crimson opened for them then.

….funny how you talk about all these obscure comics in explicit detail and all I can contribute is “I remember reading Non Sequitor!”
you know why birds don't write their memoirs? because birds don't lead epic lives, that's why. who'd want to read what a bird does? nobody. that's who.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:57PM

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