Part two of Sequential's interview with DYLAN HORROCKS

“Dylan Horrocks discuses copyright, intellectual property” / Sequential / David / October 31, 2010

In Part 1 of our interview with Dylan Horrocks, we discussed his connections with Canada by way of Guelph’s Black Eye Comics and later, Drawn and Quarterly. At the end of that part, we started to discuss his journey into the world of superhero comics and how he suddenly felt lost artistically within the corporate structure of DC.

In part two, Horrocks expands on his sentiments and we focus on the development of his ideas regarding copyright and intellectual property. This is closely related to his DC experience, about which he is quite open and honest.

The time at DC for Horrocks comes across as one that provided opportunities for learning and introspection, and we explore the copyright side of that here.

So the intersection between art and commerce complicated your artistic vision?

Yeah. Suddenly it was a job, and it was a job that I wasn’t as good at as I thought I might have been (chuckles). So that was difficult, I found that difficult. That affected the comic I was doing for Drawn and Quarterly, which was Atlas. It was probably the main reason there was a three year gap between issues one and two. Then another couple of years before the third issue of Atlas. It was partly because I was spending so much time writing for DC, but it was also because I was becoming increasingly lost.

That kind of ties into your views on copyright and intellectual property. And that for you, you shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, that it’s about self-expression rather than trying to pad the bank account?

It’s not that I think people shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, I think that’s absolutely fine- a lot of art I personally like is done for commercial reasons, and I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with that at all. But I think I learned that I shouldn’t do it for commercial reasons, that it’s not healthy for me.

So there’s that. Writing for vertigo, I had a lot of trouble trying to get on top of writing a comic that worked in that setting. Once I was writing Batgirl, that became much more difficult. I had never been a superheroes comics enthusiast. I had an appreciation for superhero comics, but they were not like the Batman comics being published under the umbrella at the time. If I had been a different kind of writer, I’d have gone into Batgirl saying, “OK, this is how I’m going to do it”, and if they don’t like it, fine I’ll quit. And a lot of writers go into it that way and it works and it sells comics. So I’m thinking Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, guys like that. They shake it up, and they do it their way. But I’m not that kind of person. Still, I went into it thinking that it was just a day job, let’s try and work at it and do these things, and that was a terrible mistake as well.

So really, the Batgirl stuff was a low point for me personally as a writer and there’s some things about those stories I’m fond of too, but overall I think it was a mistake for me to do it the way I did.

The thing I learnt writing Batgirl particularly that even applies to Vertigo—a lot of people think Vertigo comics are much more like indie comice, but they’re kind of not. Vertigo comics are still part of the corporate structure. And though there are some lovely editors there, and a lot of creative stuff goes on, there are still corporate pressures as to what the corporation wants to get out of the comics.

Writing for DC, what I learned is that DC really doesn’t exist anymore to create great comics. It doesn’t even really exist to sell comics. The primary existence of DC now is to serve as an intellectual property platform for Time Warner. That’s why the movies are such a big deal. The movies make money. And the movies make the brands massive. So the comic books aren’t just there to provide product for the movies either, they are the origin of the brands. Batman is a brand. Superman is a brand. Wonder Woman is a brand. Sandman is a brand, and so on. The comic books provide new brands but most importantly they maintain existing brands.

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