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Missives from the Nebula: ‘An Interview with Robert Roach Pt. 1’

I’m not sure if I had ever met the talented Writer/Artist/Publisher Robert Roach in person before I ran into him at  San Diego Comic Con in 2005 or so. More than likely, I first saw his name on the now defunct but classic website and message board, BlackSuperHero.com and Herotalk. Robert was instrumental in turning me from a wannabe comic publisher into the writer that I’ve become today. Below is a brief discussion we had.

Andre Owens: Robert, give me a brief background on what inspired you to become a comic creator, and specifically a Black creator?

Robert Roach: It’s arguable that I’ve always been comic-ally inclined. In general, I’ve always wanted to be an artist and I’ve always drawn super-heroic subject matter. After my mom passed away and we cleaned out her storage unit, my sister came across pseudo-comic books I created around 5 or 6 years old. My mom had saved them for decades. Illustrations of giant Cyclops standing astride volcanoes as they fought Olympian gods and the like. Specifically speaking, tripping across Goodwin & Simonson’s Manhunter/Batman story, “Gotterdammerung” blew up my little boy mind and first made me think, “Wow! You can get paid to do that?!! Then, meeting up with my favorite artist from the 70’s/80’s, Mike Grell, sealed the deal. Didn’t think of the “Black” part of the question until years later. And observing the industry.

AO: What convinced and inspired you that you could make comics independently?

RR: I’m still unsure that I’ve “made it” in the comics independently. Nonetheless, I think “drive” may be a good way to define the initial “independently creating comics” impulse. I didn’t see things in which I was gut-deep interested or that reflected the realities in which I’ve lived. A desire to see such creative commodities drove me to create as I have.

Comic book creator/ writer Robert Roach at a convention.

It’s both for fortunate and unfortunate that Milestone Media has its extraordinary history. “Fortunate” because we—as Black consumers—desperately needed it. And because the broader industry/fans needed to witness a successful Black-run business, full of Black—and other ill-represented characters. “Unfortunate” because both we and “they” fixate on Milestone as if no other creative stories by and about Blacks and other “other-thans” exist.

While at the impromptu wake for Dwayne [McDuffie] years ago at Golden Apple—2 days after his passing, a number of us who knew him all agreed that the best legacy to be left for him would be to continue to create and to expand boundaries.

I published independently because even as late as the early 2000’s, Black stories remained an anomaly to major and mid-major publishers. A BUNCH of the “new” artists and writers-folks “suddenly” blowing up at the top 5 or 6 comics publishers—have been toiling for decades. They deserve the love they’re now receiving. We all deserve such love. As to why I’ve tended to execute all elements of m books’ art, storytelling and such, that was simply out of necessity. I couldn’t pay someone else to work on my comics and diligently as I was. And as a professional artist and writer, the work fell to me.

Thus ends Part 1 of my 2 part interview with Robert Roach. You can find more about Robert here. Look for Part 2 in my next column where we’ll discuss his comics, Menthu in particular.

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Andre Owens is the creator of the comics Force Galaxia and The Bovine Leauge, as well as the screenwriter of the forthcoming Screen Gems, feature film Reparations. He is a former Director of Photography who has been hiding out in Los Angeles for the past 22 years. His company website is at www.hirounlimited.com.

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