Tito W. James: How are you liking FanExpo Boston?
Rob Guillory: It’s been really, really great! Boston kinda has a special place in my heart because the very first Chew trip I took in 2009 was to Boston. I’ve always felt kind of connected to this area. It’s the first official convention I’ve done since my new book Farmhand came out. People seem to be really digging it.
TWJ: Farmhand is interesting because it has some cartoony stylization but it’s also pretty creepy. What was the impetus for doing a hardmix direction for the book?
RG: I think it’s just a mix of all the things I’m interested in. I grew up with Looney Tunes and Alfred Hitchcock simultaneously. It just makes sense that I’m walking this line. Stylistically, I think I lean towards humor. Even as a person, I’m naturally self-deprecating.
The good thing about the style I use is that it’s flexible that way. If I want to do something emotionally potent, like a family drama, I can pull that off. But I can also do zany comedy or something really scary. I have a lot of different interests and this allows me to explore all of them without limiting myself to just being cartoony.
TWJ: Doing a hardmix is rare in comics. Usually if it’s cartoony, it’s silly or if it’s hyperrealistic, it’s dark. Being able to bridge the darkness and the cartoony exaggeration is really unique.
RG: I think it would be foolish of me to limit my audience to the people who like funny stuff or the people who like scary stuff. I want everyone to read my book. Most people have more than one interest.
Look at a show like Stranger Things, It’s definitely creepy and scary but there’s a Sci-Fi edge and a family element. All that stuff’s there. You’re going to catch a lot more audiences like that. So I’m doing the same thing with Farmhand, really.
TWJ: Is there anything that stands out to you from contemporary comics culture?
RG: I honestly don’t pay that much attention.
RG: I’m kind of a hermit. I was really active on social media for a few years. It was really like a cancer that ate at me. It made me really anxious. In the last few years, I’ve really pulled away from all of it and just focused on what I’m interested in.
I know there’s tons of cool stuff coming out. The only comic I’m keeping up with honestly is Paper Girls. I pick up a few things in trade and I have a giant shelf of stuff which I haven’t read.
But I’m more interested in where we are going as a medium. Are floppies [single comic issues] going to be around in ten years? The sales of floppies are declining. There’s more content than ever and people want to pay less for it. We’re seeing that in TV too. Everywhere I go, I’m talking to different comic creators who are all thinking the same thing.
TWJ: I’ve spoken to many creators as well. Maybe we should go digital. Or we could follow the European comics model where publishers actually pay creators an advance and the book gets collected as a classy hard cover.
RG: Honestly, before I decided to go with Image for Farmhand, I was playing around with self-publishing and doing a subscription model. I feel that my strength is that I’m able to connect really well with my audience. I’m reachable. If you email me I’ll email you back eventually. So I was thinking, could I just get my people, and have my subscription model? Like a Netflix for comics. Maybe we’ll get there one day.
TWJ: In terms of your influences, what are your interests outside of comics?
RG: I think I am more influenced by television than I am by comics. I grew up with serialized television. Quantum Leap, Dark Shadows, and Lost was pretty huge for me. There’s also Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul; serialized character-driven stories is the heart behind everything I’m doing.
I don’t actually read that many comics. What I read tends to be about bigger concepts like “Where do ideas come from?” I watched a lot of documentaries about GMOs and organic food which I think all filters into Farmhand.
TWJ: Both Chew and Farmhand are unusual comic book concepts. Do you have any advice to future creators about fighting for their vision?
RG: You gotta start by knowing what you like. You don’t want to be the next “Jim Lee” because we’ve already got a “Jim Lee.” You have to be like, “You.” People will come to me and hire me to do art because they like the way I do art. It’s about finding what you like, what your strengths are, what sets you apart as a creator.
You need to know what you care about. With Farmhand, I didn’t care about doing any other stories. I had lists of other ideas, and I could have gone to Marvel or DC, but this was the only story I really cared about making. Know what you value, know your strengths and weaknesses, and just do what you love doing.
I’d like to thank Rob Guillory for taking time to do this lengthy interview. His comic Farmhand is on store shelves now.