"I don't think he steals teeth because he wants to, but because he is driven to." An interview with Nightmare the Rat creator Rafer Roberts.
This Halloween we’ll be throwing a massive party here at Fantom Comics, featuring among other things the launch of the Nightmare the Rat collection by Rafer Roberts (aka plasticfarm... even if you don’t care at all about comics, follow his Tumblr. It’s full of cats). The party is going to be epic, so if you’re in or around DC next Friday, you should stop by! There’ll be all-ages fun during the day, and alcohol and whatnot after hours–more details here.
We’ll start off with the softball questions: could you introduce yourself?
I’m Rafer Roberts, the creator of such comics as NIGHTMARE THE RAT and PLASTIC FARM. I’m also the artist of a number of backups in various Valiant comics, a few TIGER LAWYERS, the DR. GRAVELY AND BILLY series, and THANOS AND DARKSEID: CARPOOL BUDDIES OF DOOM.
Could you tell us a bit about Nightmare the Rat? It’s like a twisted version of an old timey newspaper strip. How’d you come up with the concept? What were your biggest influences?
Nightmare the Rat is a tooth-stealing demon who torments the fine people of Hell City. His enemies include the Hell City Police Department, dentists, and Morningbreath the Owl (an adorable little owl that poops in people’s mouths).
Nightmare came about a few Christmases ago when I was drunk and watching old crappy holiday themed movies. “Babes in Toyland”, an old Laurel and Hardy movie, took place in what was meant to be a wonderland of nursery rhyme characters but instead was 90 minutes of nightmare fuel. One of the intended to be cute but was actually horrible creatures looked like an inebriated monkey dressed up in a mouse costume. I started drawing that creature in my sketchbooks and, with minimal design tweaks, eventually he turned into Nightmare the Rat.
The first real Nightmare comic was done for the DC Conspiracy’s MAGIC BULLET newspaper. Since the idea behind MAGIC BULLET is that each comic is a tabloid-sized page, I looked at early 1900’s comic strips for inspiration. The two biggest influences were LITTLE NEMO and KRAZY KAT. [You can read Nightmare the Rat online for free here!]
For a protagonist with such ambiguous motivations, what do you think makes Nightmare work as such a long-running character for you?
I like that you describe his motivations as ambiguous. I don’t see him as good or evil, but rather as a force of nature. I don’t think that he steals teeth because he wants to, but because he is driven to. If in collecting teeth he ruins someone’s life or stops the apocalypse, those things are secondary to Nightmare the Rat.
I think that he works over the longrun because he has such simple and pure motivations. You know exactly what he is going to do. The punchline to every NIGHTMARE THE RAT comic is always going to be the same: he steals someone’s teeth. The fun part, and the most challenging part, is coming up with different setups to that eventual punchline. As the strip progressess, and as the more obvious situations (battling a dentist, for example) get used up, the comic gets weirder and weirder. And that’s the fun part for me and, I hope, fun for the reader as well.
So what’s the collection you’re launching at our Halloween party?
The collection is a 28-page tabloid newspaper, the same format as the MAGIC BULLET newspapers, collecting every NIGHTMARE THE RAT comic to date, including the full color Morningbreath the Owl story and a brand new comic done specially for the collection. I’ve already picked them up from the printer and they turned out wonderful.
Your creepy, shaky art style lends itself to horror, even when you’re drawing something very un-horror and superheroey like X-O Manowar, but there’s always a bit of humor intertwined with it as well. How do you approach your art style, and how do you hit that balance?
I’ve taken to describing my art as either “chunky” or “crunchy” which I’m not sure even makes sense. I sometimes describe it as a collection of mistakes that all seem to work together. I think my style comes from a desire to entertain myself. Not just from seeing the final product, but from the act of drawing itself. Some lines are more fun to make than others.
Despite my style falling more on the cartoony side, I do make conscious effort to make sure that I set the right tone for the story that is in front of me. The fun stuff, the Valiant stuff or Tiger Lawyer or the Dr. Gravely and Billy shorts, I tend to push the facial expressions and character acting more. The horror stuff, the FUBAR stories or the short I did for CANAAN CULT REVIVAL [which has a Kickstarter campaign going on right now!], I’ll over-emphasize shadows and do a lot more cross-hatching. NIGHTMARE THE RAT (and PLASTIC FARM, for that matter) fall pretty much right in the middle of my funny/horror spectrum.
You’re based out in Hagerstown, Maryland, but you’re pretty involved in the DC comic scene through DC Conspiracy. Could you talk about those guys?
The DC Conspiracy is a loose knit collective of comics creators. There’s really no requirement to be a member other than to come to meetups and participate in our endeavors. (For example, helping out with distributing the MAGIC BULLET newspaper, or promoting events, etc.) Living out in the sticks I don’t make it to as many meetups as I would like, so I try to help out by running the DCC Tumblr.
What else is on the horizon for you?
I’ve got a couple of projects in various stages of production.
Things that don’t exist yet: I’m working with artist Giles Crawford on a pitch and it’s probably too early to talk about that, except to say that I hope it gets picked up. Jeff McClelland and I did a short BLACK TERROR comic a few months back and we’re talking about doing more of those. Ryan Ferrier and I are in agreement that we should do more comics together when our mutual schedules align and Justin Jordan and I will be doing more THANOS AND DARKSEID comics.
Things that are drawn but haven’t been released yet: I’ve got comics in both RISE and CANAAN CULT REVIVAL, which are currently running Kickstarter campaigns. Sean Frost and I have done two DR. GRAVELY AND BILLY short comics, one appearing in the upcoming IMAGINARY DRUGS anthology from IDW and the other backing up SHUTTER #8 from Image. Justin and I have backups in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #25 and BLOODSHOT #25, which are both coming out real soon. I’ve got a page in the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM massive anthology, and I’m about halfway done drawing PLASTIC FARM #25.
We hear you’ll be in full costume for our Halloween party. What will it be? Will you compete in the donut-eating contest?
I think Esther wanted to be surprised, so you can put this under spoiler test if you want.
I’m renting a shitty Easter Bunny costume, like the kind you would wear to a daycare or old folks home. I hadn’t heard about the donut-eating contest but I am a fat guy and could probably put up a good fight.
What’s your all-time favorite spooooky/horror/Halloweeny comic?
I don’t know about all-time favorite, but FREAK SHOW by Bernie Wrightson and Bruce Jones is probably up there. Does HELLBOY count? Ennis’s HELLBLAZER run is one of my favorite in all of comics and had a pretty big impact on me as a kid, so maybe that? The old Simon/Kirby horror shorts that DC reprinted in BLACK MAGIC are nuts though too. Does anyone remember SOMEPLACE STRANGE by Ann Nocenti and John Bolton? That was creepy and trippy.
Thanks to Rafer for the interview! Hang out with us this 31st, if you will. Either way, you can buy his comix at Fantom anytime!
Valiant Central Podcast Ep 55: Hanging out with Rafer Roberts - All-Comic.com
This week, the Valiant Central Podcast is proud to present you our interview with Rafer Roberts, indie writer/artist, and the creative genius behind the upcoming A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong. We talked to Roberts about his creative process, what we can except from the…
Plastic Farm likes to meander. From issue to issue the focus shifts from chronologically disjointed flashbacks to subtly related side stories, and I couldn’t help but feel a little motion sick trying to keep up. Art that evokes burnt out drug imagery and doodles sketched in the borders of textbooks, and mutating panel work promises that these vague characters with vague motivations will deliver compellingly weird diversions, but unfortunately the main thrust of the plot itself stays out of focus for almost fifty pages. Sprawling narrative, disjointed storytelling, and a lack of concern for the reader’s attention span leaves an impression that there could have been some judicious editing.
Rafer Roberts has launched a kickstarter to help with the printing cost associated with the newest Plastic Farm collection. He has plenty of wonderful rewards, including a custom sketch card ($5…I have one of these from a previous campaign and it’s such a wonderful little thing for only $5), a PDF of the book ($10), physical copies of the book or past collections ($20), custom 9"x12" sketches AND the physical copy of the book ($60), framed original pages AND a physical copy of the book ($150), and even something that I think is pretty danged cool - for $500 he’ll pencil, ink, and letter your four-page comic, give you the original pages and unlimited publishing rights, publish it as a backup story in a future single issue, and send you BOTH Plastic Farm collections ($500).
Rewards aside, Rafer’s a great guy with a great book. I personally think he’s one of the hardest working guys in comics, he’s wonderful to talk to, and he’s only trying to raise $2000 for the printing. So get on it. Go.
WFMU has been one of my longest relationships. The radio station has been a part of my life, in some form or another, for longer than I’ve known my dog, my children, even my wife. Most of my t-shirts come from there. A world without WFMU would leave me half naked and alone. What would I have done at that illegal telemarketing job I had in 1992 without the WFMU “record the station ID” call in line to keep me sane? I probably would have taken more illegal PBA donations is what, and another dozen people would have waited patiently by mailboxes for PBA decals that would never arrive.
But Eric, what is WFMU?
WFMU is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station. It’s the longest running free form station in the United States. What that means is, every DJ plays WHAT THEY WANT to play. Every DJ is free to explore and evolve. There are no corporate playlists. There are no set genres. And because WFMU is listener supported every year they raise money to keep the station afloat. If the money doesn’t come? The station goes away. There’s no net to catch them.
FUN FACT: I have never met a person with a WFMU t-shirt or bumper sticker that I didn’t like.
Where but WFMU would you have heard this?
Cool. But what does this have to do with you?
So this year I wanted to give something extra along with my pledge. In 2013, I saw my friend artist/writer Rafer Roberts (plasticfarm) tweet about giving away comics to anyone who pledged to the station. I thought this was a great idea and wanted to be a part of it. So now, not only will a PLEDGE TO WFMU get you any of the awesome WFMU swag, but you ALSO get a PDF of Rafer’s excellent comic Plastic Farm: Seasons of Growth in the Fields of Despair AND you get a PDF of Deadhorse, Book One: Dead Birds. And these books are BIG too, and I don’t just mean the titles. That’s hundreds of pages of comics for doing something you should be doing anyway.
2) ONLINE PLEDGES: Take a screen shot of your receipt from an online pledge (blackout or hide any personal details you don’t want shared, we just need to know you pledged)
PHONE PLEDGES: If you call into a show take a photo of yourself while you’re calling in. That should be enough right? If you really go that far to get a free comic there’s something wrong with you as a person.
Pledge60 dollars, pick me from the rewards, and get a black and white (and probably grey) 9" x 12" commission by me. The project is already funded which means that for sixty bucks you get a guaranteed piece of custom original art in house for pennies.
I just dropped off the files at the printer, so I figured it was a good time to remind folks that they can pre-order their copy of PLASTIC FARM #23 at the DC Conspiracy Distro. Included in this issue:
Chapter 35: The Thixotrope Talks Religion. Chester does a lot of drugs and the Thixotrope keeps on talking and talking.
Chapter 36: Chester Goes to the Bathroom. Back in the Nameless Airport Bar, Chester takes a bathroom break leaving the rest of the patrons to talk amongst themselves. Secrets revealed! Mysteries unfold!
Holmes is no longer a supplier to Petco stores, the company said in response to a users comment.
Petco stores were ordering and receiving animals by the hundreds from Holmes Farm, even as the USDA began its inspection, the group claims.
Their screams could be heard across the room, a report by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims.
Since the scathing report was posted, Petco has tried to explain itself on Facebook.
In short, we hope youre happy to learn that we have ended our relationship with Holmes Chinchilla Ranch.
@waynepells : “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
[do your dogs sleep in the house?]
@amber_marshall_farm : yes all the dogs sleep in the house at night, remi and china stay outside during the day unless it’s too cold. riley goes in and out all day, but is learning to spend longer periods of time outside.
[what’s riley sitting on? looks like plastic.]
@amber_marshall_farm : it’s a wooden bench.
[very artistic, riley! do you feed the dogs once/twice a day, or can can they eat as they please?]
@amber_marshall_farm : riley eats 3x a day since she is still a pup. remi eats 2x a day and china has a bowl full all the time in her own “area” since she likes to graze. i’ve tried to put her on a meal schedule but she does better when she chooses to eat. china usually only will eat in the night.
[how old were you when you and shawn started dating?]
@amber_marshall_farm : i was 21, and shawn was 22.
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Yesterday on the farm we planted artichoke, cilantro, and garlic around the perimeter to deter moles. The planter is a hexagonal design, which made it easy to make a mini greenhouse out of reusable plastic material. #organic #permaculture #farming #gardening #permaculturedesign (at The Farm On 277th)
Now taking pre-orders for PLASTIC FARM #24 (expected to ship around 6/1/2014)
Written and drawn by Rafer Roberts, featuring art by Andrew Cohen and a backup story by Jeff McComsey.
Chapter 37: People’s Choice (part 6) - Andrew Cohen takes over art chores as farmers George and Otis visit the hippie commune and dark plans start to take shape.
Chapter 38: Practical Applications of Lysergic Philosophy - The Thixotrope continues teaching Chester about the true nature of the Universe and about the secret knowledge Chester has locked inside of him.
There are two ways you can pre-order PLASTIC FARM #24:
The Patreon Subscription way. Go to my Patreon page and choose a subscription level. You can get just the new issue, or you can get add-ons. You’ll automatically get each new issue as it comes out so long as you remain a subscriber. Your name will be printed in the issue and, at all subscription levels, you’ll get a downloadable pdf copy. You’ll also get early access to PLASTIC FARM news and updates. You’ll be charged when I send files to the printer in a week or so, and the new issue will ship as soon as I have it in my hands. You’re in this for the long term. Easy.
Yesterday on the farm we planted artichoke, cilantro, and garlic around the perimeter to deter moles. The planter is a hexagonal design, which made it easy to make a mini greenhouse out of reusable plastic material. #organic #permaculture #farming #gardening #permaculturedesign by skattaskat https://www.instagram.com/p/BBAugY3RJeo/