Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This "Festival Focus" for 2018 is Robert Deas, an award-winning UK comic artist and the creator of children’s SF series "Troy Trailblazer" (recently rebooted as "Trailblazers") for The Phoenix Comic.
Troy’s first graphic novel, Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen was the winner of the 2016 Stan Lee Excelsior Award Junior, voted for by young readers from over 200 schools across the UK.
Two more Trailblazers series, Call of the BioTeks and Edge of Existence were released as part of the Phoenix Colossal Comic Collection earlier this year.
As well as his creator led material, Robert has also worked extensively with Medikidz, a publisher specialising in medical comic books that explain illnesses to children using a team of young superheroes that travel inside the human body.
Robert’s early career was characterised by a string of graphic novel adaptations of literary classics such as Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth and Pride & Prejudice for SelfMadeHero.
Other clients include Disney, IDW, The Book Trust, Rubicon Canada and First Media.
Robert works completely digitally from his home studio in Lincolnshire using a Wacom Cintiq and a combination of Autodesk Sketchbook and Adobe Photoshop.
Robert, what are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Robert Deas: I’m currently on the third series of IZZY NEWTON: KID BILLIONAIRE. My new strip drawn by me and written by Phoenix Editor Joe Brady. It’s about a young science genius who owns a billion dollar company who uses her vast wealth and intellect to solve the worlds problems. I’m also in the process of writing my new series of Trailblazers, also for The Phoenix.
Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Robert: It’s got to be Troy Trailblazer, a science fiction adventure story I both write and draw for the Phoenix. My ambition has always been to write and draw my own comic and have it collected as a book and Troy has helped me realise that dream. You can catch his adventures In Troy Trailblazer: And The Horde Queen and the 96 page Biotek saga is collected inside the pages of the Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection. The recent series reboot ‘Trailblazers’ can be found inside the pages of The Phoenix.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Robert: I’m pretty disciplined, I have to be with weekly deadlines. My Izzy Newton episodes are generally 4 pages long so once the whole story has been written and roughed out I try to get a page pencilled and inked Monday to Thursday and then colour the episode on Friday. It doesn’t always run as smoothly as that but that’s the general plan.
What's the best thing about being a comics creator?
Robert: This has been my dream job since I was 5 so that’s the best thing. After that it’s being able to work from home, drawing all day and creating stories that excite me.
And the worst?
Robert: Despite drawing comics being my dream job it can get pretty intense at times. Deadlines can get on top of you and it sometimes feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Having said that, I’ve never missed a deadline in my 12 year career.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Robert: The internet! Despite finding Twitter a pretty hostile place I do spend a lot of time on there scrolling through it and everyone’s very vocal opinions. It can be a very useful tool for sharing artwork and keeping readers up to date but I do find I’m using it less and less these days.
Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Robert: There’s probably two sides to that statement. Easier from the point of view that the internet makes it so easy to create and reach an audience for your work. However the ease at which you can get your work out there means there’s a lot of competition and it can be hard to make yourself heard and get yourself noticed. From a publishing point of view I’d say that comics are going through a bit of a resurgence at the moment and there are definitely more opportunities out there than there were 10 years ago.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Robert: I have and I love it! Such a great family friendly atmosphere. It’s a more varied festival than you’re standard comic con and the one that I always bring my whole family to as there’s so much to do.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Robert: I was a guest at the Festival a couple of years back and will always regret not meeting Darwyn Cooke. Now I won’t get my chance. Such a loss to comics!
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Robert: As a comic creator you spend a lot of time isolated in a little bubble creating your work. I’ve found that comic events are a great place to meet the people that actually read your work. I always find the interaction very motivational as it really energises you to get back to the drawing board and make more comics, knowing that people are reading and enjoying them.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Robert: Don’t wait for the industry to notice you before you start making comics. Start a webcomic and get your work out there. That’s how I got my break. It’s a low cost way of getting your work out to your audience, getting used to deadlines and honing your craft. I’m always learning as an artist and a writer and that’s because I’m effectively practicing everyday.
What's your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Robert: I read some great comics on holiday this year. I love Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips and Extremity by Daniel Warren Johnson, both from Image Comics. And of course if you're after a comic for your kids, look no further than The Phoenix.
Robert, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in Kendal!
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from: www.comicartfestival.com