above title of today's blog isn't just a statement about the man in
question, its apparently a self-appointed fact. The Pirate
Club creator has been an
influential force upon the local comic book scene for a few years
now, being both a inspiration and a mentor to some who have been
trying to produce their own title in a smaller environment under
their terms. But with recent changes in his life, Derek decided to
switch focus from his characters and onto himself.
The brand new comic book entitled Derek Hunter Is A F**K makes its official debut this Friday over at NoBrow Coffee & Tea, as part of a “Draw Night” for local artists and illustrators, taking place during Gallery Stroll. The book itself is a collection of real-life stories taken from the author's experiences, showcasing him in dimmer lighting and expounding upon some of the more dickish behavior he's been known for over the years. Today we chat with Derek about the new book and its stories, the work he's done on other projects, thoughts on local and national books and some other stuff. Plus a look at some of his latest panels.
Gavin: Hey Derek! First thing, how have you been since the last interview?
Derek: I've been doing great! I'm living up here in Salt Lake now, so I spend a lot less money on gas and a lot less time down in Provo. Both are AWESOME side effects of the move. Other than that, I just keep on juggling my full-time job as a greeting card illustrator with my full-time hobby as a comic artist.
Gavin: First thing, Pirate Club is still going strong with new stories. How has it been for you keeping the series going the past few years?
Derek: Yeah, I took a few years off from the book to try new things... other comic projects. And even though Pirate Club was sort of a failure in a lot of ways, various TV and film deals falling through the cracks over the years and lukewarm single issue sales, it was still my favorite failure, dammit! So I decided I'd come back to it in Spring of '09 and it's been a lot of fun. I love these characters to death, and I see so much potential in them, so for me, writing their weekly adventures not only keeps me focused on making new comics every week, but I continue to know the characters better, develop their "world" further, and hopefully develop the series into what I know it can ultimately be. I'm still trying to find just the right voice so I can help the Pirate Club can reach its ultimate goal of world domination.
Gavin: The artwork has changed a bit and the books are now just online releases. What's your take on the changes you've brought to the series?
Derek: I was just getting tired of the chunky graffiti style, I guess. But more than that, I have grown more and more interested in doing kids comics. And I wanted to develop a style that was more suitable to an all-ages audience. Or, rather, one that I felt I would have liked as a kid. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on the change in style, but there's a few people who dislike the "manga" style. Personally, I don't see it as being a manga style, but whatever.
Gavin: How has your work been coming on the side as an artist for films?
Derek: As much as I loved working in film, the full time position as a greeting card illustrator came calling, and it was too difficult to juggle both. I thought I could do it, but film is just so fast-paced that in order to keep up on tight deadlines, I had to slack off at my full time job on the sly, and I knew I couldn't keep that up for long.
Gavin: What movies have you had a chance to work with recently?
Derek: The most recent film I worked on, I believe, was Jared Hess' “Gentlemen Broncos”. Wait--no, it was a National Lampoon movie that I don't think ever came out. I had to draw a lot of boobs and nut-sacks for that one.
Gavin: You also spent some time as a panelist on the Geek Show Podcast. What was it like for you being a part of that show, and still today as an occasional guest?
Derek: It was really fun! Those guys are just so much fun to bullshit with. And with a group of guys as passionate about being geeks as we are, we got in some really hilarious, heated and ridiculous discussions that I think made for some great entertainment. You could pretty much stick a mic in any room we're all hanging out in at any given point and you could record an episode of Geek Show. That's who we are, that's how we talk, that's the kind of stuff we care about. There's been a lot of times I'd be hanging out at Shannon's, or at Brewvies with Jeff on a Saturday and we'd stop and look at each other and say, "Dammit, where's a microphone when you need one? This would be perfect for Geek Show!"
Gavin: You have a brand new series coming out called Derek Hunter Is A F**K. How did the idea for the book come about?
Derek: I cover this a bit in the comic itself, but I love autobiographical comics. Every artist has their own voice, whether they're the writer, artist or whatever. And part of that visual vocabulary an artist uses comes from their life experiences. So I've always loved getting a peek inside artists heads. Jim Mahfood used to do some of the best stuff, and I really like Ben Snakepit's stuff too. So, anyways, I did a three page autobio thing back in '04, and people really liked it, so I've always had it in my head that I should do more. But what? My life is pretty boring. I'm not very adventurous. Then I started thinking about doing a book of past experiences rather than the ever popular "slice of life" autobio comics, and I knew what stories I had to tell. I've actually been threatening to do this book for 3-4 years, but it always seemed like such a "destructive" book so I never felt good about drawing it, even though I do think the stories are funny in a very terrible kind of way. Like, I'd go to parties or just be hanging out with friends and someone would say, "Hey, Derek, tell so-and-so about the time you broke up with a girl during sex!" And as bad as the stories make me look as a person, I suppose there's a certain charm in the way I'd tell them, and people would laugh. So I finally decided there had to be a way to tell the story without completely turning off the reader. I think I accomplished that.
Gavin: What was the process like for you in deciding what stories to use?
Derek: In all honesty, I am not that awful of a person, so the stories in the book are the worst of them. Of course, I tried to choose the ones that would make for the best short stories. Ones with a good beginning, middle and end. For example, I used to put roadkill in those big blue USPS mailboxes when I was in high school, but that doesn't necessarily make for a good story. So stuff like that was left on the cutting room floor. Also, the whole purpose of this comic was to be the ultimate "anti-biography"; I had to make sure the stories truly painted me out to be a "fuck".
Gavin: Did you change much or any of the information to prevent people from figuring out who the stories were about? Or did you just put it all out there and not bother with censorship?
Derek: I changed people's names, and combined a few elements of different stories, all involving the same people though, to make the stories work. I left certain people out and combined others. For instance, in the rotten milk story, my roommate Travis was the one who "did the deed" and I was the getaway driver. But he's dead now, so who cares? I left him out. It's not like he's gonna complain from the grave.
Gavin: With most of the content for a mature audience, are you afraid of comic book stores not wanting to carry it, or do you just not care about that with this book?
Derek: I thought about it... sure. But then I thought about it again and decided that if they don't wanna carry my book, then I don't want them to. Heh. Besides, maybe there's better places for a book like this than the kind of shop a "Tights & Fights" crowd frequents. I see this as more of a zine than a comic, anyways. I figure that any local shops that carry zines or other hand made "scenester items" could maybe even sell this book better than a comic shop could. Of course, I'd love to be proven wrong.
Gavin: Considering the personal nature of the stories, what are your feelings about the book being released for the public to buy and read?
Derek: That was a major concern before I started writing the book, but once the stories started coming together, and especially after I bookended all of the stories with the retrospect prologue/epilogue narrative, a very "playful" attitude sort of washed over the whole thing and, in my eyes at least, the character in those stories stopped being "me". And to be honest, I'm not the person I was in those stories anymore and I think that is obvious to anyone who knows me. And those people's opinions are the only ones that would really effect me anyway.
Gavin: Are there any plans to do a second book or a series of these, or will this be a one-shot book?
Derek: I plan to do a few more in this series, but only one of them will be about me being a "fuck". Trust me, I'm way more of a nerd/loser/goon than I am a fucker, there are no shortage of stories where I am the butt of the jokes. I have a few ideas. I'll share 'em with you as I get closer to finishing 'em.
Gavin: Going local, what is your take on the current local comic scene and the titles coming out of it?
Derek: I wish I knew of more of the comic artists here in Utah. Drawing comics is a pretty solitary activity though... not a whole lot of "knitting circles" when it comes to drawing comics. But, every week I do get together with a bunch of artist friends and draw, and of those, a few of us draw comics, but I know there's gotta be more "sequential artists" out there that could join us! As for the ones I know, me and Ryan Ottley (Image Comics' Invincible) draw together a lot, and a few regulars at our draw nights include other comikers like Dave Chisholm, Tim Odland, and Chris Hoffman.
Gavin: Who are some local artists and writers should people check out?
Derek: Obviously I think everyone should be reading Ryan Ottley's work on Invincible, he just keeps getting better and better. I am also a huge fan of his self-written, more goofy/cool stuff like Death Grub and Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark. I'm a big fan of goofy, fun, and expressive stuff. Jake Black is a local writer who has spent a lot of time working on one of my favorite comic properties ever, TMNT, and just keeps moving on up the ranks of the industry... you should definitely check out his stuff.
Gavin: Going national, what's your take on the comic book industry as it stands right now?
Derek: I have to be honest, I don't have my finger on the pulse of what the industry is doing as much as maybe I should. I'm not reading as many comics as I used to, and to be honest, I'm more interested in telling stories than I am in how they're told. So, for me, whether it be comics, movies, books, or television, as long as there are good stories out there, I'm happy!
Gavin: What would you say are some of the best series in print right now?
Derek: Sadly, my favorite comic series of the moment, Scott Pilgrim, just concluded its story with book #6. But there's always gonna be new stuff to discover! I'm really enjoying Scalped, Walking Dead, my buddy Shane Hillman always seems to be working on something awesome at any given time, and lately I've really fallen for the cutesy stylings of comic artist, Elio. As for regular series... I just pick up whatever looks good, or whatever comes with the highest recommendation... like Orc Stain and King City.
Gavin: Since you've started doing it yourself, what are your thoughts on digital publishing and how some books are now going strictly to that format?
Derek: What I like about doing comics online is that I'm able to get an immediate reaction to my work. Drawing comics is a very solitary process. It's one guy sitting in a room drawing comics that he wrote weeks prior, second guessing himself as to whether or not the joke is still funny, or whether the story is as good as he thought it was three weeks, three months, or even three years ago. So the immediacy of webcomics is good because you can get people's reactions right away. It's also good to have tighter deadlines. For me, it's nice to know that no matter how busy my life gets, there are people that are gonna go to my site every Monday and Thursday, and expect new comics to be there. So I have to do it.
Gavin: Where do you see the state of comics over the next couple of years?
Derek: I don't think i see comics changing all that much. We've seen a slow shift to more of an online distribution model, and there have been some really good success stories in the webcomics. What I do see changing though, or what I hope to see more of a change in, is people's ability to find new, quality comics via the web. There are so many great comics out there, but there seems to be little to no marketing behind them. You literally have to stumble upon them in order to find a new webcomic. I mean, indie comic publishers think it's hard to find readers, right? Well, at least they have the Diamond catalog to advertise, and comic stores to sell to... a single location that anyone can go to and know they'll find comics. With the web... good luck. There's just so much out there, and of course ANYONE can do it, so there's a lot of crap. But finding a new webcomic you like is quite the treat. It's like unearthing a treasure. So I hope to see more webcomic "publishers" pop up so that people can have an easier time finding the good stuff out there. I'm new to all this, I need help finding the new stuff as much as anyone! Go to my website to see a few of the titles I enjoy!
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Derek: You can pick up the book next week at local retailers. Obviously I will be updating Pirate Club twice a week on my site. I have a new Lobster Ladd mini comic that I'm working on with my buddy Shane Hillman. That should be done by October, it's 40 pages of comic, split down the middle, with each of us telling our own side of a single story. After that, I'm actually going to be working on my first big project with a writer who is not myself. Local writer, Elias Pate approached me with a six issue pitch for a really good all-ages comic that I am super excited about! It's called Bennie & The Bomber, and I've already roughly laid out most of the first issue and now I'm just doing some character designs and stuff like that. I am really excited for that one. And by the end of October I hope to have a new site online, TotallyRadComics.com, that I hope I'm able to turn into a hub for SLC-based comic creators to put their work. I'm trying to help what little community we have here, and maybe even encourage some newcomers to grab a pencil and get comiking!
Gavin: Besides the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Derek: Support local artists, musicians, bakers, mathematicians, whatever!
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