Robert Wilson IV, artist on Heartthrob from Oni Press, Bitch Planet from Image, co- Knuckleheads from Monkeybrain Comics, and artist on the 2013 Kickstarter book Like a Virus sat down with Susan Lundberg early in the C2E2 con day Saturday April 7, 2018, to talk about his art career.
The Pullbox: I’d met your co-creator on Heartthrob, writer Christopher Sebela, at the first O Comic Con in Omaha in 2015 and started searching out things he’d written after the Con. I was at the convention alone, and he was a little scary, but I felt I’d been rude not to chat with him or buy any of his books at that time.
Robert Wilson IV: Oh, I love him so much! I was invited to that con, but wasn’t able to go for some reason. Brian Winkeler was there – he wrote my first full-length comic (Knuckleheads) that was first available on Comixology through the Monkeybrain imprint when Chris Roberson was doing that, and then IDW collected it into a trade. That was my first published work.
PB: Was that your first paying gig?
RW4: I was doing freelance illustration and design because I’d been laid off from a job in 2009. I slowly transitioned from doing design to doing illustration to illustration in comics. It’s really been in the last five years that this [comics creation] has become my full-time job.
PB: Have you always been a comics fan?
RW4: Oh yeah, ever since I can remember. When I was 10, my family did a lot of road trips, and my mom got me one of those three-packs of comics from Toys-R-Us. It was the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee adjectiveless X-Men issues 1, 2 and 3, and I remember being just gobsmacked at how awesome it was. Everything about Jim Lee’s work was just so rad, so cool. I read all three issues through a few times and recognized that the names were the same in each one, that the same people created all three. I remember being in the back seat of our Buick LeSabre and realizing that this guy Jim Lee drew this whole thing and if that could be a job, that’s what I wanted to do. So I had that in the back of my mind since I was 10.
PB: If you had an opportunity to work with any characters from any publisher other than what you’re doing right now, what would you want to do?
RW4: I’ve always loved Star Wars stuff and the character Ahsoka from Clone Wars/Rebels, so I would love to do something with Ahsoka. I also love that Asgard verging into cosmic stuff for Marvel, doing something with [Lady] Sif or Thor. I like Kamandi and Zatanna [from DC], the slightly weird stuff. Working on the X-Men or the New Mutants would be a treat.
PB: Heartthrob is set solidly in the 70’s, and music is a big part of the story. Since you are too young to remember the 70’s, do you listen to the music of that time while you work, or what kind of references do you use to nail the look of the times so effortlessly?
RW4: I listen to just about anything. I love 70’s music like Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie, but also listen to a lot of hard music like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Every Time I Die, along with contemporary music and podcasts. A lot of the locations in Heartthrob are real places, so it’s a lot of research. I also have a couple of books that are nothing but Sears catalogs from the 70’s that are SUPER helpful.
PB: What can you say about working with Christopher Sebela?
RW4: Me loving Chris is probably the most pertinent information about Heartthrob! We are super different people but we work and get along so well together. His scripts are pretty specific in terms of the content of the panel, but he almost never calls shots, which I appreciate. Also, Chris and I are pretty close so if there’s anything I’m having trouble with we just talk about it and find a new solution. We’re just tight bros.
PB: What do you have coming up that our readers should know about?
RW4: I finished Hearthrob Season Two, and I’m about to start drawing Season Three. After that, I have a few things that are in the works, but that’s all that has been announced.