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X-E Interview: Evan Dorkin (Space Ghost C2C, Milk Cheese, Supergirl, Etc..)
Matt - 08/12/00


I recently had the chance to talk with one of my favorite artists within the comic industry, Evan Dorkin. For those unfamiliar with his work - he's done the cult hit Milk & Cheese, and a whole lotta other stuff. :) He's also been involved in writing for television, and has written for such shows as Space Ghost Coast To Coast. He's definitely one of the most creative forces in the bidness...here's what he had to say...


X-E: The first question I had was about your comic book series, Milk & Cheese. I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but we're both from this landfill that only sounds presentable if you call it 'Shaolin'. Those comics to this day still have a big following here, and as it turns out - with many of our readers across the country. The thing I noticed most about the series was that it looked like you were just trying to have some fun. It's not your typical, run-of-the-mill comic. Was it something you expected to be as popular as it was? And is it something you hope to do in the future again?

Dorkin: Milk and Cheese were two characters I came up with on a drunken whim, I drew them on a cocktail napkin in a Manhattan restaurant at about 3 am after a ska show at CBGB's. This was back in 1986 or so, I'm miserable with dates and have a pretty terrible memory. Anyway, I had absolutely no idea at the time that the two characters would become somewhat popular and pretty much establish my career, they were just throwaway drunken napkin doodles that got way out of hand. As yeah, I do plan on doing another collection of strips, if all goes well I'll hopefully have an eighth issue out next year. It might be the last one, who knows, but I'll never stop drawing them in some form or another as far as I can see, I like them too much to abandon them completely.

X-E: And, obviously, most comic writers have specific influences. Were there any books out there you read while growing up (or tv shows or movies) that helped mold your sense of humor?

Dorkin: I'd bust my typing hands if I tried to list all my influences, I mean, pretty much everything is an influence, either negatively or positively, on how I write and draw, whether it's humor or otherwise. As far as my humor material goes, over the years my major inspirations/influences would have to include SCTV, Mad magazine (esp Don Martin and the 70's artists, and the original 50's artists/writers, esp Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Elder and Wally Wood), It's A Mad, Mad, World, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Your Show of Shows , Monty Python, old SNL, Ernie Kovacs, Uncle Floyd, screwball comedies from the 30's and 40's (especially Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks films), silent films (esp Buster Keaton and Chaplin), Jean Shepard, Bob and Ray, the Honeymooners, the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, and probably a batch of stand-up comedians and a ton of other crap that saturated my tv-addled childhood. And that's just the funny stuff, it doesn't include all the genre crap I've watched and read in my life, comics, monster movies, etc etc. I'm just another sad product of American junk culture.

X-E: Something a lot of our readers probably don't know is that you were a writer for the Space Ghost: Coast To Coast show, a cult classic even while in it's prime. That stuff was just fantastic. I've seen everyone from my 60-year-old father to little kids laugh hysterically at the show. How did you get started working on that? And jeez, what did you guys drink before writing those scripts?!

Dorkin: Mike Lazzo, the executive producer of SGCTC and the show's creator, called me in '93 after someone gave him the Fun with Milk and Cheese collection. The show was in it's infancy, I guess it always has been, but they were looking for writers and hge liked the M&C strips and asked me to do a tryout script. I had seen an episode or two of the show and really liked it, so I was pretty jazzed about working for them. I had some difficulties with the show's logistics and structure, or the lack of structure, and I ended up working with my partner Sarah Dyer on the script, which was the Danny Bonaduce/Branford Marsalis episode. The Network bought the script, the producers gave us another one to do, and eventually we ended up working for the show steadily for almost seven years. We've done about thirteen or so shows, two scripts we did were rejected, and we still have one unfinished script we've been asked to complete one of these days if the Ghost comes back. I loved working on the Ghost, especially with Zorak's character, but the budget restrictions and somewhat rigid format of tying the show to the same sets and including the guests in some form, became a bit tough to work with after so many episodes. The writers pretty much all suffered some kind of burnout in figuring out new ways to do the same sort of show over and over, and I think because Milk and Cheese is very similar in that regard, where you're doing a one-joke bit but spinning it differently all the time, I think that helped us do some decent shows even as they became more troublesome to write. Our next to last script was probably our best, the Lawsuit episode. To answer your second question, we weren't on anything other than Advil and Coca-Cola when we wrote that stuff. My emotional disorders allow me to come up with enough stupid crap without having to be on something.

X-E: I recall the last time we spoke, you mentioned something about pitching a new idea to a major network. I was hoping you could expand on that, tell us a little about the project and it's progress at this point.

Dorkin: I didn't actually pitch anything to anyone, I'm terrible at initiating projects and hustling for work and that sort of thing. Towards the end of Space Ghost's run our producers at the Cartoon Network approached us about adapting my Eltingville Club strips into a pilot for a possible animated series. The negotiations took over a year and a half or so, and last December we ssigned to do the pilot. I'm producing, writing and helping to oversee the pliot, the Network's giving me a lot of freedom and support, which is why we signed with them, as we had a great relationship with them during Space Ghost and trusted them. So, right now the show is being storyboarded by my friend Stephen DeStefano, Sarah story-edited my script, and we did the series bible together, and I've designed all the characters. If all goes well, we'll be going into production this September or October, and if that goes well and they like what we've done, hopefully the network will pick up the series. Right now there's no guaranteee the pilot will ever be aired, but things seem to be going well and people seem to like what we're doing so far. We'll see what happens.

X-E: You've done a lot of stuff in the comic and television field. You've written some episodes of the animated Superman Adventures, Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic (which'll get you some big brownie points with our readers), Pirate Corps, and of course the things we've already talked about. Out of everything - which work are you most proud of?

Dorkin: Probably Dork #7, which was a very personal story about some crappy stuff I was going through a few years ago, which was tough to work on but was very satisfying to finish and got a very nice response from my readers even though it wasn't a straight gag book like Milk and Cheese or the usual issue of Dork. I'm not overly proud of any of my work, I generally only see the mistakes and flaws in what I've done, but I'm pretty happy with the Space Ghost work, I think we did some pretty bizarre and funny things in the shows that hold up okay. I'm happy with the Supergirl two-parter we did for WB, and I generally like most of what I did for Dork and Milk and Cheese. I'm generally more involved with my own personal work than the jobs we're hired on to do, even if they're fun and we're left alone those projects aren't mine, or mine and Sarah's, so they're still someone else's baby if you know what I mean. I guess I'm more proud that I've been able to pretty much do whatever I've wanted to do in my comics and can have fun doing the tv work which supports the comics. It's hard for me to answer this, because I'm more proud of my career, I guess, than anything I've done in particular, I'm pretty harsh on the merits of my own work, I'm not entirely satisfied with my writing or drawing. I haven't made any masterpieces, but hopefully I'll kick out some thing pretty solid someday that I'm really proud of through and through. Or maybe not. Who knows?

X-E: I hear you're a big Ska fan. If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Dorkin: Well, they wouldn't be ska albums, as much as I love the genre I wouldn't want to listen to "pick it up, pick it up, pick it up" over and over for the rest of my days. I actually listen to very litle ska these days other than the Aquabats and the usual 2-Tone suspects, I semi-burnt out on ska a ways back and don't like listening to it much when I'm working, which is when I usually listen to the radio or my CD's. I have no real idea what my top ultimate three recordings would be, I guess I'd go for long albums and collections to squeeze out more songs. maybe the Clash's London Calling. Maybe the Replacements double set. Maybe the double X disc with Los Angeles and Wild Gift on it. I really don't know, I listen to practically everything from punk and ska to opera, hillbilly, soundtracks, surf, I couldn't pick three albums, I couldn't pick twenty easily and off the cuff. I'd ask Sarah to burn three CD's with as much stuff on it as possible to cover all possible moods, I guess, with everything from the Pixies to Cole Porter standards, the Buzzcocks to Maria Callas, Fishbone to Patsy Cline, etc. I can never answer those desert island discs kind of questions, I'm too greedy and indecisive.

X-E: Speaking of music, Napster and the overall 'piracy' of music has been a hot topic as of late. Seems like everyone's got an opinion on it. Do you feel the free downloading and sharing of music over the internet is a good or a bad thing in the long run? Do you feel it's truly a detriment for musicians?

Dorkin: In some ways it's a tough call, because in the past I've bought bootlegged albums, and like most people I have CD's and tapes made from friend's albums, etc. But the bootlegged recordings tended to be material that was never issued, like concerts and demos, and maybe that's just rationalizing my behavior, but it's still a bit different than essentially bootlegging commercially available material. Of course it hurts the creators and companies, maybe not to a horrible degree -- who knows, really -- but losing a sale is still losing a sale, even if you argue you're spreading around the work and helping promote it. Saying the bands and the labels are rich so it's no big deal isn't really a valid argument, if something's wrong it's wrong, and I hear people saying it's okay to fuck Pearl Jam over because they're big-time and corporate (and suck), so it's okay to screw them, but don't screw a small indy artists because they're cool and need the money. If it's wrong, it's wrong, really. Capitalism may be a fat, fucked-up beast but I do believe if you do the work or make the product or write the song or create the character then you deserve every dime of what you earn, end of story, whether or not I like the person or product is irrelevent. Of course the recording industry didn't collapse when people started home-taping, but Napster seems a a little more encompassing, immediate and threatening, and as someone who's work and copyrighted material have been bootlegged, I can say that it's not a small issue to see someone ripping off your work, wrongfully profiting from your work., and worse, endangering your own rights to your work. If I don't go after people who have violated my rights, I stand a chance to lose those rights. It's frustrating, because I don't want to come down on anyone like some corporate jerk, but I'm not the one screwing anyone over, they are when they copy my characters, make products with my art on them or reproduce my stuff without permission on their websites. I came out of the small press and fanzines and alternative comics, so I know what all the rhetoric and arguments are about copyrights and a free exchange of information, and it's hard to reconcile a DIY ethic with a "DIY at someone else's expense" anarchy ethic, I can understand both sides of the argument. But it really boils down to people wanting free shit, and you know, that's human but it's usually bullshit. If more people would drop the free access and exchange of ideas pretense and just admit they want free shit, I'd have a little more respect for them personally, if not politically. To be perfectly honest I've generally found that people who want a free exchange of ideas have no real ideas of their own, which is why they feel free to say the hell eith copyrights and all that corporate crap. A free exchnage of ideas is a great concept, but human reality unfortunately made things like copyrights necessary. Am I making any sense? Excuse me, I have to go put on another mixed cd my friend made me of stuff I haven't bought.

X-E: I read that you're a big collector of vintage Fisher Price toys, amongst other old collectibles like that. Same here, my house looks like a 1984 Toys R Us. When growing up, what was that one toy that you couldn't possibly live without?

Dorkin: My Topper King Ding-A-Ling robot, which I destroyed with a hammer one day for some doffamned reason I don't remember. I've since bought another one, but unfortunately can't find half of the dozen or so little robots that were part of the line. I was a fiend for toys as a kid, and I've picked up a lot of stuff I used to have as a kid or wanted and couldn't afford. The Fisher-Price collection started because people were sending me the people and playsets because of the F-P Theater strips I did in Dork, where I'd cast F-P Little People as actors in versions of books like Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men. I have a ton of crap in my house, I'm a hopeless collector of useless junk, but I love it and have made peace with my illness.

X-E: On the site, one of the major topics is cartoons of the 80s. Masters of the Universe, Transformers, GI Joe, etc. What's your fave?

Dorkin: I never really watched much of that stuff, I'm familiar with the characters but they started coming out when I was getting a little past watching cartoons and started looking to go to shows, get drunk and get rejected by girls. I think the last show of that era I watched with any regularity was Thundercats, after growing up with Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets and Gigantor I glommed onto the show's japanese look. But I pretty much stopped watching cartoons in the eighties, sorry. I'm pretty much pre-Transformers/GI Joe kiddie generation. I did like Bumblebee, though, he was the VW auotobot, right? I just remembered, my brother was little then and he had he-Man and GI Joe toys, that's how I knew those guys. I did like the stupid He-Man villains, but GI Joe drove me nuts because they wouldn't kill anybody on the show.

X-E: Who's the hottest cartoon or comic chick of all time?

Dorkin: Huh? Do you really sit around and think about this sort of stuff a lot? Jesus...I guess I'll say...(still thinking),,,Betty Cooper from Archie comics? I dunno if she's "hot" but she was drawn great in the 50's/early 60's by Dan DeCarlo.

Okay, give me a minute...

Hopey Glass and Penny Century from Love and Rockets.
John Romita's version of Gwen Stacy from the 60's Spider-Man comic.
The blue chick from the Legion of Superheroes, I didn't read the book as a kid but I thought a blue girl in a crazy black outfit looked pretty great. Another character I liked as a kid was Polaris from the X-Men, I thought green hair looked great on a girl, which is probably why I went for punk girls. What a crazy question.

X-E: Any closing thoughts? Anything you want to say to your fans (and potential fans) Feel free to plug your heart out. We love shameless self-promotion.

Dorkin: I wrote too much already and probably bored the hell out of any potential fans. I'll just do my pro-comics spiel and say that if you're reading this and don't like comics, or don't think you'd ever like comics -- there really are a lot of great comic books out there, despite the fact that you may think comics are solely about superheroes beating each other up to the delight of unsocialized fanboys and girls who make Star Trek geeks look healthy. There's some fun and nifty superhero and genre books out there, but like any medium, there's a hell of a lot more available beyond one genre, and it's a medium worth checking out. Dismissing comics as pure crap is like dismissing all music, or film, or literature as crap, unfortunately the industry does little to fight the misconception that comics are a genre and not a full medium. We have humor books, romance comics, political comics, historical, reprints of Japanese and European material, detective, crime, horror, gay, feminist, autobiographical books...as well as superheroes beating each other up. People just haven't seen everything the medium has to offer because of it's lousy distribution system and social stigma, but there's good, crazy, weird and interesting stuff out there, you just have to look for it, like old school punk singles back when it was all banished to run-down alternative record shops.


Dork #8 from Slave Labor Graphics ships in September. World's Funnest, which is Dorkin's love/hate superheroes project with art by people like Frank Miller, Alex Ross, David Mazzucchelli, Dave Gibbons, Jaime Hernandez et al, ships in Nov from DC. The Milk and Cheese bowling shirt and beer mug set ships from SLG in Novemeber as well.

I'd like to thank Evan for taking the time out to talk to us and the readers!

To check out and maybe purchase some Milk & Cheese comics, as well as other of Dorkin's work, click here!

- Matt
matt@x-entertainment.com

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