Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 08/20/2003
Whether you're familiar with his past comic book endeavors or just a fan of film, music or television there's a really good chance that you've seen his work. In fact, it's highly likely you've seen the final results of his behind-the-scenes work literally countless times and not realized it. Hopefully, all that will change when Comics Library International releases the first comic book adaptation of the historic film Edison's Frankenstein in two months, just before Halloween.
In the meantime, here's your chance to meet Robb Bihun [sounds like "buyin'"], an artist who isn't just good, but truly is...
Another Frightening Talent
Robb Bihun on Edison's Frankenstein 1910
Bill Baker: What's your basic background? Where did you grow up, how did you get interested in making art, and where did you get your training?
Robb Bihun: I was born and raised in northern Ohio in an area called Catawba Island, [which is located] about 15 miles west of Cedar Point. I'm sure most comic artists will tell you, and I'm no different, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I think it all started with drawing dinosaurs, then I discovered comic books, monster movies -- I'm a big Harryhausen fan -- and all that other good stuff! It ALL inspired me to draw. A couple years after high school I attended and graduated from the Joe Kubert School.
BB: For those readers who might think they don't know your work, could you name a few of the more noteworthy film and commercial projects you've been associated with?
RB: I've worked on [such films as] The X-Files, Lost in Space, Buffy the Vampire Slayer,The Ghost and the Darkness, Inspector Gadget, Blown Away, Judgment Night, and Moll Flanders, just to name some films. As for commercials, I've done some of the Jerry Seinfeld American Express spots, and all the Blue Man Group Intel stuff. I've actually done over a thousand or more TV spots for Ford, McDonalds, 7-UP, Pepsi, Dodge, Chevy, AT&T, all the beer brands -- I've done a handful of Super Bowl ones -- the list goes on and on.
I've also done a few music videos for artists such as Dave Matthews, David Gray, and Travis Tritt. The most memorable being Michael Jackson's Black or White.
BB: How did you end up doing storyboards? And was that your original career choice, or did you just seem to find your feet on that path and followed it?
RB: I was always aware of storyboards since seeing Star Wars, and thought it might be cool to do, being a movie fan. But my first love was always comic books and that's why I went to the Kubert school. After my first year of schooling, my love for movies took over and upon graduating, I packed up my car and moved to L.A. to get into the business. After a very lucky break -- probably too long of a story for this article -- I began my career. I've been in it now for thirteen years.
BB: Have you done much comics work in the past, or is this your first major project in the field?
RB: This is my first major project. I did self-publish my own comic book about 8-10 years ago called The Hoon, but that's about it.
BB: Well, how did you get involved with Edison's Frankenstein 1910, and what were some of the factors that convinced you to do it?
RB: I had a few Hoon short stories published in Chris Yambar and George Broderick's CLI anthology book recently, so Chris was familiar with my style and asked me to do it. I jumped at the chance. These opportunities, to be a part of something this historical, don't present themselves everyday.
BB: What kind of challenges, hurdles or special concerns did this adaptation present you with as an artist? I ask, because this strikes me as a bit of a "reverse engineering" situation for you.
RB: Well the last thing you want to do is fool with someone else's vision, so, first off, I wanted to retain as much of that as possible. As I looked at it that way, I realized that the way it was shot made my job much easier.
The film was shot like a stage play, a wide, front angle for every scene. My film background immediately told me, o.k., these are the "masters" of the scene, or the wide establishing shot. As long as I edit these into the sequence, I can explore and give the reader something visually more exciting, like what they have grown accustomed to with today's films. So I've left nothing out, just added things around it. Just think of this as that special edition DVD version with all the deleted scenes and stuff added back in.
BB: How did you approach visually fleshing out those scenes which are only hinted at or glossed over in the original film, and how difficult was it to create those while remaining true to the heart and intent of the film?
RB: I have to give most of the credit to Chris Yambar. His script was absolutely beautiful. It immediately brought images to my mind, so all that was left for me to do was get reference of that time period to be accurate.
BB: This all brings up a topic that's often been hotly debated, specifically the question of whether you see comics as a sort of poor man's "film on paper", or do you see them as essentially distinct and separate art forms which only share some common characteristics?
RB: They are definitely distinct and separate art forms which produce the same goal, telling a story. Each standing strong on it's own merit.
BB: How useful has your experience as a storyboard artist been for your art's growth, generally, and your grasp of visual storytelling, in particular?
RB: I remember Joe Kubert telling me at school once "It's not the quality of work, but the quantity of work you produce which will improve your art." Otherwise, practice, practice, practice. Here I am, drawing, on average, 20 to 40 drawings a day. Gotta love those deadlines. I'm forced to make a decision quickly, and then move on. After the job is done, then I can go back and see the mistakes I made, and consider those decisions for the next job. Hopefully my decisions will be better each subsequent time.
As for storytelling, my years as an artist for film and TV have been invaluable. I've learned it's not about the coolest camera angle you can create, but how to set-up/block, edit, and pace your shots in order to tell the clearest story and that's the most important thing you need to accomplish. It's funny, now when I do comic work I find myself blocking out the scene, like a movie set. I think in terms of a three dimensional space on paper and where "cameras" need to be to get the shot.
BB: Is Edison's a sign of things to come from you in the future? Has working on this book whet your appetite for more comics work?
RB: I hope so. I would love to do more comic work. How could you not want to be the director, cinematographer, make-up artist, production designer, editor, and actor on a single project?
BB: What do you get from doing this kind of art that you don't from storyboarding? How about the converse question, what does storyboarding provide you with that comics can't give you?
RB: To answer in reverse order, I get bored with drawings very quickly, so this allows me that fast satisfaction. Plus, I really love "production art" or "throw away" art such as thumbnails, sketches, or gesture drawings. I think it's such an art form unto itself. It's really taught me that it's not what you put into a drawing which will make it successful, but what you leave out.
Secondly, after doing 30 drawings a day, sometimes you just need a break, to take it slow and expand upon a visual idea, to get my hands dirty, so to speak... Although my wife will tell you I'm the cleanest and neatest artist she has ever seen.
BB: What do you hope that your readers get from this project?
RB: Time well spent reading a book that they thought was pretty cool.
BB: Any last thoughts?
RB: Yeah, why is Freddy fighting Jason? What exactly did one do to piss the other one off? You'd think they'd be on the same side, wouldn't you? Is it a turf war? An ego thing? I bet it's over a girl. It's always about a girl.
Robb Bihun and Chris Yambar's Edison's Frankenstein 1910 is offered on page 286 of the August, 2003 Previews catalogue from Diamond Comics, and can still be ordered from your local comic shop. Or you can order directly from the creators via www.yambar.com.
<< 08/13/2003 | 08/20/2003 | 08/27/2003 >>
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