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Ian Rogers: The Good Idea

Adam Wilson

the following is an interview with the indie-comic evil genius behind Dr. Pork (who also happens to be an aspiring horror writer), Ian Rogers.

Adam Wilson
What inspires you? in terms of comics? in writing?

Ian Rogers
When it comes to comics, I'm inspired by the different kinds of comedy one can create - from vague film and literature references to slapstick antics.

Since my humour tends to be dark, I have to be especially careful of the line between risqué tongue-in-cheek and plain old bad taste. Even a program such as South Park, which regularly pole vaults over that line, spends equal time dishing out those clever licks that you can't simply dismiss it as juvenile toilet humour.

I find reader response to be extremely inspiring, as well. There's nothing that gets me drawing faster than knowing someone out there really digs what I'm doing. In the two years I produced Dr. Pork on a regular schedule, the comic had its own small fan base. Working in the small press especially, the ability to produce consistent work often hinges on just how many people are actually reading it and enjoying it. Although you're not writing for an audience, most writers/artists know that they're there, and I think that awareness works just as well as a good kick in the pants. It's like leaving work with the knowledge that a nice dinner is at home waiting for you.

My inspirations for writing run along much the same lines. I'm inspired mostly by the concept of The Good Idea - the germ that is the progenitor of The Good Story. I'm inspired by writers who are in love with the actual craft, the language, of writing. And I'm inspired by the readers who genuinely love books - especially the obsessive lot who shun libraries because they'd rather own books than borrow them.

Adam Wilson
Who are you idols in those fields?

Ian Rogers
Strangely, I don't read a lot of indie comics. The inspiration to create Dr. Pork came from my love for The Simpsons. Which makes sense, since I've always thought of Dr. Pork as a television series presented in comic-book format. I even refer to each series as a 'season.'

The list of writers who have inspired me is much broader. High on my list would be Stephen King, Richard Matheson, John Steakley, and Elmore Leonard. Some other authors I enjoy include: H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Ernest Hemingway, Daphne du Maurier, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Adam Wilson
What is the current indie comic scene like in Canada?

Ian Rogers
I was never really aware of the indie comic scene in Canada. Dr. Pork was a member of the community but was very much the neighbor that kept to themselves. I was aware of other comics, but many of them seemed to be indie out of choice - that is, they thrived on not being part of the Evil Mainstream. Dr. Pork didn't fit the mold of the as-bad-as-I-wanna-be comic. It was dark, sure, but not so much that it wouldn't fly in an alternative newspaper like, Now or Eye, or couldn't be turned into an animated series shown on FOX or HBO. Dr. Pork was indie because I enjoyed full creative control and because I didn't have the drive to try and pursue possible contracts with any major press. Had an entity like Dark Horse Comics come along and asked to pick it up, I probably would have agreed.

Adam Wilson
How hard is it for a person to get some recognition for their indie comic in such a small market?

Ian Rogers
It's very hard; there's no doubt about it. In the small press you can't afford to be a murky artiste who remains obscure about your work. The prosperous small-press artist is a shameless self-promoter. And I would go so far as to say that if your comic doesn't have a website, you're already yesterday's news (or yesterday's comic, if you like).

Adam Wilson
Have you ever thought about producing Dr. Pork as a comic strip?

Ian Rogers
Actually, I have. The strip was called Chuck the Wolf (after one of the other characters) because I thought the name might have better appeal to the syndicates. I produced thirty strips and submitted them to The Toronto Star and The National Post. The Star rejected it outright (I still have the letter, which was both polite and encouraging), while the Post expressed a passing interest, but nothing ever came of it. Speaking of numbers, I probably have about 300 Chuck the Wolf strips written out and waiting to be drawn.

I've told my friends (who love Dr. Pork) that if I ever succeed in writing for a living, I'll bring the comic back to life. And if I happen to achieve any kind of fame as a result of my writing, then perhaps my clout will be enough to get Dr. Pork off the ground, either as a major comic publication or as a animated series. Time will tell.

Adam Wilson
What kind of readership does Dr. Pork have?

Ian Rogers
In its heyday, Dr. Pork had a small indie following. I was recognized - by which I mean Dr. Pork was recognized - at Canzine and the Toronto Small Press Fair. I had the 18-30 demographic, the geeks and the fanboys who were more attuned to catching the obscure film and book references than anyone else. I think if I had done it in a comic-strip format, it would've been the kind of thing that could have caught on at university and college campuses, the way Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side did. To this day, people still ask for new issues: they're not fanatic about it, though; just wistful.

Adam Wilson
Have you ever had an interest from any major paying markets about Dr. Pork?

Ian Rogers
Actually, my editor recently showed the entire run of Dr. Pork to a colleague who immediately fell in love with them. This person happens to know Rob Reiner, and I'm hoping she might mention it to him - or hell, show it to him - sometime in the future.

In other words: ask me again in six months.

Adam Wilson
Dream casting for Dr. Pork: The Movie?

Ian Rogers
Oh boy. Well, if it was live-action, there would only be two human parts - Rose-Marie and Elvis. Elvis always wears a hockey mask, so they could get pretty much any child actor, while I could see Rose-Marie being played by Dakota Fanning. She's an incredible young actress, and she's got that look of innocence and tolerance that someone would need to play the part well. As for Dr. Pork, Spunk, and the rest well, that's why we have CGI, I guess.

Adam Wilson
Between working full-time and running a website, when do you find time for writing and comics?

Ian Rogers
Well, I have no social life. That frees up a lot of time. Also, I don't get much sleep. My downtime is usually no more than four or five hours a night. And I think when you want something, want it real bad, you make the time. Every minute of every day that I'm not working, eating, or sleeping, I'm working on a short story or one of my novels. Even Dr. Pork has been sidelined in my pursuit of a writing career.

Adam Wilson
How hard is it for you to balance all your ideas and keep regularly writing stories, drawing and writing comics and updating your website?

Ian Rogers - As I mentioned above, I no longer produce Dr. Pork with any regularity. Even the website is updated on a 'whenever-the-hell-I-get-around-to-it' basis. The fact that the website gets updated at all is only because it is intertwined with my writing career. It is the unabashed Ian Rogers newsletter.

Growing up I wanted to be a writer, an artist, and a filmmaker. But I knew that if I ever wanted to succeed in any of these fields, I had to focus my energy on one of them. I enjoy writing above all else, and decided to try my hand at writing novels. I figure if I'm ever able to write full-time, I'll be able to return to Dr. Pork and work on it on the side. Like Keanu Reaves with his band. :-)

Adam Wilson
What do you think of the current state of publishing in Canada? Do you think there is a market to break into at all?

Ian Rogers
That's a good question, probably because it's one that's almost impossible to answer. I am Canadian, but I publish mostly in the U.S. There is a significant Canadian audience for genre fiction, but Canadian publishers tend not to publish much of the stuff. Canadian novelists are known for producing works of contemporary fiction. You'd be hard-pressed to name ten popular Canadian horror novelists. Of course, if your writing tends to involved dysfunctional families or characters on deep, existential personal journeys, then you're in the clear.

Canadian fiction seems to be more about making a political or social statement than it is about telling a good story. Some Canadian authors get so wrapped up in the message that they forget about their primary goal, which is to entertain. Some writers, especially Canada's haughty literati, will balk at this because they don't feel they are entertainers. "Entertainer" is a word reserved for musicians and actors and hockey players and anyone else creative and talented, but it is most certainly not for novelists!

So I would say no, there is no market in Canada to break into. Not for someone who writes genre fiction, anyway. But fear not. In terms of book-buying, the Canadian market is miniscule compared to that in the U.S. For the struggling Canadian horror novelist, the decision to publish south of the border comes down to a simple matter of bodies. So to speak.

Adam Wilson
How cool was it to be recognized by Entertainment Weekly? Did you know that was going to be there?

Ian Rogers
It was very cool, and yes, I did know about it. A few months before the issue premiered (I was fortunate enough to be featured in that year's Oscar coverage issue), I was contacted by an EW staff writer who really enjoyed The Cutting Room Floor, a site I had created about deleted movie scenes. She said she liked it because there wasn't anything like it on the Internet, and she wrote a very generous review, including not only my name but that I was Canadian. What could be cooler than that?

It's always nice to see appreciation for your hard work. Receiving that particular kind of notice, from a magazine as popular as Entertainment Weekly, was very gratifying. A taste of things to come, I hope.

Adam Wilson
How many unfinished short stories/poems/novels do you have floating around?

Ian Rogers
Ah, great question! Most people aren't aware of the amount of material a writer generates that doesn't ever see the light of day. There was an article recently about the private collection of Stephen King's works, and how an archivist discovered something like ten or twelve "lost" short stories. These things are just floating around out there, like asteroids drawn in by the gravity of a large planet. Sometimes they turn into something worth showing to others, sometimes they don't.

I would estimate I have about sixty short stories in various stages of completion - from those that are nothing more than some scribble notes, to those that are almost ready to see the light of day. Enough for at least three or four good-sized collections.

As for the novels well, I think I'll keep that number to myself. A writer has to keep his readers guessing about a few things, at least. I will say that I have ideas for enough books to last a long, long writing career. I will go you one further and say I will probably never be at a loss for something to write about.

Adam Wilson
Where do you see all these projects in five years? Are there any big payoffs in your near future?

Ian Rogers
For someone working in the creative arts - be it writing, acting, singing, dancing - it's really hard to determine when (or if) you will ever see a payoff. As a writer, I'm at the mercy of the market (what people are currently buying), luck, and good old-fashioned timing. Talent plays a part, obviously, but it's a much smaller part than people would believe. So much has to happen in order to getting that big break.

Where do I see my projects in the next five years? Well, I hope to have a couple of books published by that time. And a slew of short stories, as well. I'd like to be writing for a living in five years, and I think it is entirely possible to be doing so in that time. Stranger things have happened.

I'm currently working on a project - not quite top secret but certainly hush hush - that might see my first novel published ahead of schedule. I'm reluctant to say more than that right now, but anyone interested should keep an eye on my website (www.litnoir.com) for updates.

Things will be getting very interesting very soon.


Note: Ian Rogers can also be seen at http://members.rogers.com/plastic-iguana/


contrary to popular belief, adam wilson IS still alive and working with canadian content. he can be reached at wilsonmanifesto@hotmail.com

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