Interview – Robert Curley, Writer/Comic Book Master
From the Fantastic Four, to Batman, the Justice League to the Teen Titans, Death to Promethea, we have spent hours lost in colourful worlds, eyes fixed on fantastic imagery, minds wrapped up in engrossing stories – we have been diehard fans of comics ever since we were small. From our first Beano Annual right up to our Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, we’d sooner go without our pints than our comic books. (Does that make us sound cool or like binge drinkers…?)
Every comic book fan has wanted a job in the career whether it be to write for the huge publishers like Marvel or D.C., draw their own amazing characters, ink the work of one of the greats. Now we know our own little comic here at the @rcade will never win any awards (we have lots of ‘Participation Medals though) but we are happy in some way to be involved in the business, partly completing our dream.
One man who has taken his dream and made it a reality is Robert Curley, the man who has helped bring Irish comics and the people behind them onto the international scene and shown that when it comes to comic books the Irish are just as talented as the rest of the world.
Robert’s work includes ‘Atomic Rocket Group 66’ ‘Freakshow’ ‘Formation Seven’ ‘Roisin Dubh’ and his latest work ‘The League of Volunteers’.
Between running his own publishing company, running Sub City comics in Dublin and writing, Robert is an extremely busy fellow but that didn’t stop him from sitting down with us here at the @rcade for a chat about his life, his work and COMICS!
When did you develop an interest in comics? What were you reading at the time?
I have been reading comics for most of my life at this stage. I came across some Marvel comics at about age 7 but even before then I was mad about all the British weeklies, but it was their American counterparts that really got me hooked into the world of spandex. At the time I would have loved Amazing Spiderman, Daredevil, Avengers and X Men.
How did you get into writing?
Writing is something that I’ve always had a desire to do but never really took the idea seriously until around eight years ago when I set up Atomic Diner. The original idea was to produce lots of Irish talent and different titles but reality was a hard mistress and it became clear pretty quickly that I could only really afford to concentrate on my own projects. At the time Freak Show was my main focus and I ended up producing twenty comics and five graphic novels of that series so not too bad really.
You have a new piece out, ‘The League of Volunteers’, can you tell us what it’s about? Where did the inspiration for it come from?
The league is a super hero adventure book set during World War 2 and based In Ireland. The idea is part of a bigger picture, one that envisions an entire Irish themed heroverse along the lines of DC or Marvel. All of the initial releases will be set in the past, Roisin Dubh during the 1890′s, Jennifer Wilde the 1920′s, The Button Men the 1930′s and so on. What I’m trying to do is establish a cohesive world of heroes that have existed for centuries in Ireland so that when we do get around to titles set today there will be a solid foundation and a history already in place. The inspiration came from a desire to create something purely Irish that we can call our own. Unlike most other countries we have no real comic culture and I’d like to play a part in changing that.
Considering your earlier work, was it difficult to get yourself started in the comic industry?
It was definitely a learning curve. I wouldn’t say it was difficult but it did take a lot of time and effort to pull it all together. But I had a lot more time on my hands then!
You established ‘Atomic Diner’ in 2004 and it has been going ever since. Was there a particular reason you setup your own publishing house?
The only reason I set up my own publishing house was for the simple fact that you need your own unique identity if you want to have any chance of making an impact and letting people know that different titles are part of that same brand. I never really gave much thought to approaching any of the big companies with my ideas as I’m happier working at my own pace and having creative control.
Atomic Diner has been influential in helping to raise awareness of other Irish artists and writers, what has it felt like being involved in that process?
It’s been great. Everybody I’ve worked with has gone on to make a living out of something they love doing. Declan Shalvey was signed to Marvel recently and Will Sliney just got his first gig with Dark Horse doing a Star Wars title so you can’t complain about that. There does seem to be a trend developing where anyone who works with Atomic Diner moves on to bigger things, so hopefully that will continue for the newest artists, people like Barry Keegan, who draws the League, although hopefully I’ll get a couple of issues out of them first!
Going back to comics, do you have a particular favourite? When it comes to characters in comic books has there ever been one that has just stood out for you?
It’s funny, my taste has changed as I’ve gotten older but lately I find myself going back to the heroes I loved as a kid, not necessarily from comics but characters like Zorro, Green Hornet and Sherlock Holmes all of which do have their own titles at the moment. If I ever was given a shot at doing a big name character I would probably like to do someone like Zorro.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring Irish writers or artists?
I think if you’re serious about doing anything you need to make it part of who you are and be in it for the long term so even if it’s not your main earner you still keep tipping away. Its not all about the glory.
If you were stuck in an Arcade for eternity, what one game would you play to pass the time?
I have really fond memories of 80′s games like Donkey Kong and Centipede. We had a shop near our school called Sweets and Things which had a counter on one side selling sweets and on the other side there were about five machines, Pacman, Space Invaders and a poker one for the adults. We used to spend our lunch breaks hanging around there. So in tribute to Sweets and Things I’ll say Donkey Kong
For your chance to meet with Robert and maybe even pick his brain (No Zombies allowed) be sure to check out @rcadeCon, where Robert will be attending as one of our special guests of honour. So if you want to get some his work signed or you have a burning question to ask the man, you now know where you can find him!