Avril Brown Presents:
Rob Osborne's talents first came to notice when he won the first-ever Isotope award for mini-comics excellence for his series 1000 STEPS TO WORLD DOMINATION. He later went on the create the critically acclaimed graphic novel SUNSET CITY for AiT/PlanetLar and has recently been self-publishing his book THE NEARLY INFAMOUS ZANGO through his own Absolute Tyrant label. CWR's Avril Brown recently read and reviewed ZANGO for the site and was so intrigued with what she saw that she asked Rob to be the subject of her first feature interview for the site.
RO: I didn’t consciously pattern any of the characters after friends or relatives. I may know someone who enjoys his TV and couch time a little too much, but certainly that doesn’t make this-guy-I-know the inspiration for Lord Alfred Zango, Jr.
All of the main characters have a familiarity because they are based on villainous archetypes.
Lord Zango is the evildoer-in-chief, but his increasing lethargy has stymied his infamy. He reminds me of Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe. When I was a kid watching the old G.I. Joe cartoons and reading the comics, Cobra Commander was the ultimate work-from-home villain. He’s ambitious and insatiable, yet he’s unwilling to personally take any action toward achieving his goals. Instead he insults, cajoles and threatens his henchmen into doing his bidding.
I wonder if Ben Stiller might play Lord Zango in the live action motion picture.
Deacon Dread is the stoic mad scientist and right hand man to Zango. Because Dread is losing body parts at an alarming rate, he may soon be referred to as Zango’s left hand man.
RIP Van Freako is largely inspired by Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men. I’ve not read the book since junior high school, but the spirit of the character is captured by the words, “Can I pet the rabbit, George?” Appropriately, Van Freako plays with a rabbit in the first issue.
Lady Nebula is Lord Zango’s daughter. If the four main characters from The Nearly Infamous Zango were on Seinfeld, that would mean that Zango is Jerry, Deacon Dread is Kramer, and RIP Van Freako is George Costanza. In this scenario, Nebula is Elaine. But in Zango, she gets together with Kramer instead of Jerry.
AB: So we have a picture of the stars of the book. Now, as for some of the 'villians,' we have an assassin gorilla cyborg and killer fruits and veggies. What prompted the ideas for these off-the-wall antagonists?
RO: These probably come from consuming too much political news and sugary cereals.
AB: What can we expect in issues to come? And when may we expect them?
RO: Issue 4 of The Nearly Infamous Zango has officially been cancelled. Absolute Tyrant won’t be publishing this issue. I can’t say for sure when or where or in what form new Zango content will appear. That’s still in the works. I can tell you that I will finish this story. I want to see what happens when Lord Zango finally leaves the house and faces the Iron Ox.
The facts of life about self-publishing and indie comics are what they are. It’s difficult to succeed in the direct market as a new publisher with a new title. I’ve gotten plenty of email from readers who crave the next installment of Zango, but there just aren’t enough retailers ordering the book from Absolute Tyrant to make the math work out.
I’m looking at a few options regarding what to do next with the series. There may be a new publishing home for The Nearly Infamous Zango in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve taken on a couple of new projects and I’m biding my time.
AB: Well, quite frankly, that sucks fans have to wait an indiscriminate amount of time for more Zango. Obviously this is a difficulty in surviving in the indie world. What are some of the other obstacles you have to face?
RO: I’ve found my patience tested. But it’s ultimately rewarding to see your work published and being read. Getting to write and draw a book like Sunset City is incredibly rewarding. I’m grateful that Larry Young and Mimi Rosenheim at AiT/PlanetLar were willing to publish such a book. I mean, it’s a story set in a retirement community. The main characters have grey hair and do water aerobics at the community pool. That’s an unusual story for comics, even for indie comics.
I’ve not gotten rich from indie comics yet. That’s a major obstacle. I mean, everybody knows that comics makes you filthy, stinking rich. Show me the money and all that.
Regarding The Nearly Infamous Zango, I’m distraught that there wasn’t more time to grow the audience, while being published by Absolute Tyrant. However, readers have responded to the book. The future is bright.
You can still get you hands on the first three issues of Zango. Diamond may be sold out, and you can’t find the book at your local comic shop. But you can get a smoking deal over at the Tyrant Store. The first three issues for seven bucks. Go. Buy. And love Zango.
AB: Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Getting a bit personal here: what are five words that describe you? What are five words that describe Zango?
RO: Me: Hungry, furious, sleepy, haughty, pants-less. For Zango: Lazy, inept, malevolent, conflicted, agoraphobic.
AB: Guess that was pretty personal. In terms of your writing, you’ve done mini-comics, web-comics, and now comic-comics. Which do you prefer?
RO: Undoubtedly, I prefer comics-comics. It’s so gratifying to see my words and pictures in floppy comics form. I got my start in mini-comics, and I’m proud of that work. Mini-comics is a fun, relatively inexpensive way to share your stories with others. I like the do-it-yourself approach of mini-comics, where you get your hands dirty and get busy solving how to get your book printed and stapled and into the hands of your readers.
Web-comics have a bright and glorious future. When I first decided to take The Zango to the net, it was because of the immediacy of it. There’s no lead time, there’s no printing costs. You just start posting pages to your website. That’s what I did. I began posting the stories of Zango, Dread, Van Freako and Nebula onto my website in small increments.
I was determined to see The Nearly Infamous Zango in comic stores as a comic book. Not as a graphic novel, but as comics. When I learned that Diamond wanted to distribute my book, I was thrust into this self-publishing venture. Like my mini-comics experience, once I was in, I figured it out as I went along.
AB: Were you into comics as a kid? Which ones? What was the first comic book you ever bought?
RO: I fell in love with comics as a kid. When I read How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, I began fantasizing about making my own comics some day. Back when I first started reading comics, you could find them in the wire racks at the grocery store checkout. I think the very first comic I bought was G.I.Joe #5. Tanks For The Memories. It was my gateway drug into the Avengers and X-Men. Next thing you know, I was demanding that my parents take me across town to the comic store.
AB: Definitely feeling ya on that X-Men love. As evident by anyone who's read 'Zango,' you obviously have a wicked sense of humor. Who are some of your favorite comedic writers? Which non-comedic writers do you like?
RO: I’m a big fan of sitcoms, and I still watch Seinfeld regularly. It’s like my Ambien. If I want to relax before bed, I’ll turn on an episode of Seinfeld, which is always waiting on my DVR. So I’m a big fan of what Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David did with that show. Deviating a bit from the writers and toward comedy programs that I like, The Office is golden. It’s a nice mix of gut-wrenching humor and heart-rending drama. Entourage is a fun and funny show. I recently discovered It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and I’m loving its deranged absurdity.
Back in the day, I fell in love with Calvin & Hobbes because of Bill Watterson’s humor. Perhaps, there may be a bit of Calvin in Lord Zango. That rant-driven dialogue, that insatiable drive, that venom that Calvin has, it’s so funny. I wonder what Bill Watterson is doing now. I miss his work.
AB: I loved Calvin & Hobbes! The snowmen Calvin built were absolutely hysterical. It is definitely of one my favorite comic strips, right up there with Gary Larson's 'Far Side.' What’s one piece of advice you could give to aspiring writers of any form?
RO: I love Far Side!
So for writers, may I suggest you write more. Drink more coffee. Write faster. Get some strenuous exercise. Don’t pull a hamstring. Think happy thoughts. Believe in yourself.
AB: Who is your favorite character ever?
RO: James Bond, maybe. I can’t wait to see Daniel Craig as Bond in Quantum of Solace. It’s time to kick some ass.
AB: True that. And speaking of kick ass, you were recently exhibiting at the Alternative Press Expo, also known as APE, in San Francisco, correct? Can you tell us what it is like to be a part of APE? What is your favorite thing about APE?
RO: It’s the first time I’ve exhibited at APE, and I had a ball. On Saturday it poured rain, but that didn’t keep the droves of indie comics fans away. APE is the grassroots of comics. The show consists of an eclectic mix of genres and styles, lots of mini-comics, people striving to get their creations out there. This is a show for people who love and support the medium, and aren’t superhero sycophants.
Though much of the show consists of writers, artists and micro-pressers, you’ll also find bigger publishers there like Oni, Image, Top Shelf and AiT-PlanetLar.
My favorite thing about APE is getting to talk with other comics people. I had stimulating inside-comics discussions with Javier Hernandez, Michael Aushenker and Ted Seko. Chatted with Becky Cloonan, Matt Silady and Jason McNamara. And to conclude the name-dropping, I got to enjoy the company of my pal, the creative and charismatic Ryan Yount.
AB: In conclusion, I shall ask the random question of the day: what’s your favorite board game?
RO: Man, I love Risk. And Stratego, though it’s been years since I’ve played. And Apples To Apples, though there’s no board involved. Ooh, and Balderdash.
AB: Excellent choices. My family and I used to play Balderdash and we always had a blast.
Rob, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about 'Zango' and sharing a bit of yourself with the readers of CWR. For more information about Rob Osborne and his creations, visit www.robosborne.net and www.absolutetyrant.com. Fingers crossed we'll see 'Zango' back on the shelves someday soon, and in the meantime we'll keep our eyes open for more zingers from Rob Osborne!
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