If you live in the Bay Area, CA, then there is a really good chance you’ve heard of Isotope Comics in Hayes Valley in San Francisco. It’s one of the best comic shops in the city (hands down), and for good reason. Not only do they have ties with the great folks over at Comixology, but they also hold what are, in my opinion, the best events a comic book shop could hold. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, a trip to SF just to visit this shop should be in your immediate future.
I had a chance to attend their latest effort, Post Apocalypse Now, featuring East of West artist and all around bad ass, Nick Dragotta. Let me tell you right now, these guys know how to throw a party. Proprietor James Sime is one of the sharpest dressed, nicest people you will ever meet. His crazy hair and extensive collection of suits are a staple in the comic community in San Francisco. His open bar (you read that right, OPEN. BAR.) was curated and tended by the beautiful and talented Kirsten Baldock, who created new drinks based off of East of West. This woman can mix a mean drink. She even makes vodka taste good, AND she introduced me to a new (to me) version of Fernet.
I arrived at the event about fifteen minutes early. No one had showed up yet, but James opened the door for me anyways like the sophisticated gentleman that he is. I had the pleasure of talking with him and Kirsten, as well as a couple of other clerks of Isotope. As time went on, people started filtering in, and eventually Nick Dragotta showed up all smiles. He was immediately schmoozing with the guests, enjoying the drinks, and having a good time.
Eventually I found myself standing beside Nick, and he struck up a conversation with me. We started with just small talk; this and that, talking about how great the event was turning out, and about a previous signing I had seen him at a week or so before. At the previous signing, I had mentioned possibly doing an interview with him at Isotope, and he agreed, time permitting. So when I brought this up to him, he was genuinely excited and asked if I’d like to do it right then. We headed over to the drawing table, grabbed a couple of chairs and some drinks, and started chatting.
*This photo was not awkward or staged at all.*
Wolfgangg (W): Thanks for taking some time out for this. It’s is my first interview, so go easy on me.
Nick (ND): (laughs) Alright.
W: Let’s start out with some easy stuff. Seeing as how this is an event featuring drinks based off of your characters, which one has been your favorite?
ND: So far the only one I’ve tried is the Four Horsemen, but it’s really good.
W: Outside of this event, what do you like to drink?
ND: I typically drink beer, I like Stella. I’m not a big alcohol guy. As I get older I tend to feel hangovers more, and being an artist I can’t afford to lose a day. So I try not to put myself through that too often.
W: What are your top five movies of all time?
ND: Oh that’s a tough one. I don’t know if I can come up with five. (laughs) Let’s see. The Godfather I and II, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Cool Hand Luke. How many was that?
W: Three or four depending on if we count both Godfather’s as one or two.
ND: Okay. Well we covered westerns, covered the ‘70’s…The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek; the first of the Abrams one. OH! And Indiana Jones.
W: I like how you said five would be tough, and then technically gave me seven.
ND: That’s why it’s tough, I like many movies. Then take out, um, Star Trek. Yeah.
W: Do you typically listen to music while you work? If so, what is your favorite kind of music to listen to?
ND: I don’t really listen to music when I work. Maybe sometimes when I’m inking, when all the “thinking” work is done. I get distracted too easily to listen to music while I work, really. I love all music for my many different moods.
W: Who is your favorite non-superhero comic book character?
ND: Krazy Kat!
W: What about your favorite superhero character?
ND: Honestly I like to follow artists as opposed to specific characters.
W: Who would you say your favorite artist is?
ND: Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, Moebius, Otomo, McMahon, I could go on forever. So many great artists in comics.
W: East of West is a fantastic futuristic sci-fi western. Can you talk about some of your influences artistically in both genres?
ND: Definitely Toth. I get a lot of influence from old western comics, too.
Sci-fi, I’d have to say Moebius, Juan Giminez, definitely Otomo with Akira and other manga. I love Tsutomu Nihei’s work.
I like to take from everything really. Internet access is wonderful. Having so many things at your fingetips is incredible.
W: Which character do you enjoy drawing the most?
ND: Death’s Horse.
W: I love what you’ve done with that by the way. The whole design is brilliant.
ND: Thanks, I really like drawing it. I also like drawing this different locales. I’m a big fan of concept art and want to bring more of that into my comics.
W: You’ve worked with Jonathan Hickman at both Marvel and Image. Does the process differ at all at these two drastically different publishers?
ND: Marvel became a “get it done” mentality. Whatever you have to do to get those pages turned in. I felt like I had reached the ceiling at Marvel. I got put on a top book with a top writer and had a nice little run.
Image was the next logical step creatively and business wise. At Image I can inject more of myself into the story. I can add or subtract a panel, or even pages. There’s total freedom. It’s just me, John, Frank and Russ. There’s no editor, just us.
Every aspect is more fulfilling. Creative, money, control, industry education, etc.
W: Is there anything new you have on the horizon? Is there anything you passionately want to work on?
ND: Nothing (laughs), this is my life. We want to do a collection of East of West every five issues, so it’s a lot of work keeping the book monthly.
I’d love to write and draw my own comic when East of West is over. So maybe in 4-5 years. I’m committed to this at the moment.
As the questions came to an end, people started lining up to get their issues of East of West signed, and as always, Nick was happy to oblige his fans with a smile. I thanked him for his time, and then immediately got into the back of the line to get a sketch of my own, at which point Cory Ringdahl showed up (this is a whole other story in itself) and was able to snap a couple of pictures for me.
This was the third event like this that I had the opportunity to attend at Isotope, and it won’t be the last. If you ever get the chance to visit this shop or one of its events, I highly suggest it. And if you haven’t already because you live under a freaking rock, make sure and read all of East of West. It’s only going to get better and better.
If you need help catching up, you can buy the trade paperback of the first five issues at your local comic book shop. But if you’re lazy and like things delivered to you, head over to Amazon for a copy. If you’re one of those digital comics guys, Comixology has every issue for you as well.