This interview was conducted in early 1998 and was probably published in Meanwhile…‘s fourth issue not long afterwards. It was the first, and only, time I interviewed the very talented Troy Nixey although I had known him for a bit as a really interesting local artist and comic store regular. Troy was a good sport and helped me out by agreeing to be interviewed early on in Meanwhile…‘s life, sitting down with me in my living room late one afternoon and chatting about his very particular brand of storytelling which, I’m pleased to say, has only grown more sophisticated and interesting with time.
Going over the text while prepping it for posting I couldn’t help but be pleasantly surprised with how well it still reads after all this time. I’ve never been a big fan of the quick in-and-out-press-junket-promote-your-product kind of piece and I tried to avoid doing it whenever I could. I think the following interview succeeded in that goal as I feel it manages to paint a fairly decent portrait of a young artist at a turning point in his career.
Lastly, reprinting this conversation with Troy has been kind of a treat for me since it is one of a handful of interviews of mine that have been entirely unavailable, online or off, for over 15 years. Having it up and out there again is satisfying. I hope you think so, too.
Although you probably haven’t heard of him before, Troy Nixey has been slugging away at his craft for the past eight years on books like Bill the Clown for Slave Labor Graphics and Deadworld for Caliber. After years of being ‘that guy’, Troy’s work caught the eye of then Dark Horse Presents editor, Bob Schreck, which quickly led to a five-part story Troy wrote and drew called Trout.
Now, Troy is working once again with friend and editor, Bob Schreck, under the newly formed Oni Press and getting the slightly higher profile he deserves. His strange two-part tale of terror about a sailor named Bacon, and genetic engineering gone awry, is currently running in the pages of Oni Double Feature, and an upcoming story with Neil Gaiman should ensure that this ‘hot young turk’ doesn’t stay an up-and-comer for long.
When he can find the time, Troy also does covers for Slave labor’s Murder Can Be Fun, and is the president and founder of the Bob Schreck Appreciation Society. For anyone wondering, one of the last two statements is false.
MIKE JOZIC: Let’s talk about your most recent project with Oni Press, Bacon.
TROY NIXEY: Well, it’s two fifteen page chapters in Oni Double Feature numbers three and four. I’ll be sharing the book with Paul Pope in the first issue, and Bill Sienkewicz [in the second], which is pretty cool because I admire both their work very, very much. Actually, I kind of laughed when I first heard who I was going to be with because you’re so used to reading these guys’ work, and looking at their work, and then you’re going to sort of be alongside them and…
JOZIC: Riding their coattails? [laughs]
NIXEY: Well, yeah…riding their coattails, sure. [laughs] I mean, nobody knows who I am right now, so in essence maybe a little of that, but that’s okay. Maybe after this, a few more people will know who I am. Eventually when I’m ninety, then lots of people will know who I am. [laughs]
JOZIC: So, with a title like Bacon, should we expect something a little out in left field? What’s the story about?
NIXEY: Well, it has nothing to do with pork products at all. [laughs] It’s about a sailor and his name is, of course, Bacon. Maybe it’s a little like Popeye on acid. Bob Schreck, the editor and co-publisher there, described it as the Ground Zero of Weirdness, and maybe that’s an apt title for it. It’s about a sailor who is bitten by this strange clone-like thing, and has a strange reaction to it. He eventually ends up in a doctor’s office and has a whole bunch of tissue samples taken from him because of the reaction that he had, and his tissue is then used to create even more strange genetic abominations. It’s just fun. You’re not going to learn anything from it. [laughs]
JOZIC: Your typical mad scientist meets rugged sailor story.
NIXEY: Yeah. There’s other things that I’ll do down the line that maybe you can get something from.
JOZIC: Where did the idea for the story come from?
NIXEY: I don’t know. I’ve had it in my head for a couple of years now, and it’s changed over the years. It was originally named Chicken. [laughs] No, it was actually a much longer story. There was going to be some subplots thrown in and stuff like that, but because I only had thirty pages, I could only do one aspect of it. I think it worked out fine. I don’t think it really needed to be a story that was too complex. Like I said, it’s been kicking around for a couple of years, and when Bob started his own company, I sort of approached him and asked, you know?
I think Bob is the greatest. If I had my druthers, I’d work with Bob for the rest of my life.
I shouldn’t say that though, because Jamie Rich, who’s a friend of mine over at Dark Horse, I enjoy working with him just as much. So I shouldn’t say I’d just work for Bob. [laughs]
And I do have stuff coming out [from] Dark Horse. For Dark Horse, again, I did a series in Dark Horse Presents – this was last year it came out – and actually I have a short 8-page story coming out in DHP 130 or 131, I can’t remember exactly.
JOZIC: And what’s that one going to be?
NIXEY: It’s just a short story called “Boogie Picker”, [laughs] that’s about this little boy who captures all the night creatures, like the Boogie Man. That’s why it’s called “Boogie Picker”. It’s got nothing to do with picking your nose. [laughs] It was a good name and he’s captured all these creatures of the night and sort of mythological…well, not mythological creatures, but fantasy creatures and…
JOZIC: Monsters under the bed.
NIXEY: Yeah. Stores them in this big armoire that he has in his room.
JOZIC: Kind of a poor man’s Ghostbusters?
NIXEY: Yeah, it’s just a short story. I guess it could go on to other things. I do have a story for him in mind – Whitfield Rooster, that’s the kid’s name – and I haven’t done anything past just thinking of the story idea for him.
But like I said, I can’t remember what number that’s in. It’s 130 or 131. It’s one with Dave Cooper so that’s pretty cool. So that comes out next month with the fourth issue of Oni Double Feature.
JOZIC: Another thing you did for Dark Horse, was Trout.
JOZIC: And that was serialized in five issues of DHP.
NIXEY: Five issues, six pages an issue. Yeah, that was Bob giving me a really big break because, at that time, I was still doing really, really small projects for companies and learning. But, I mean, I’m always learning. Especially then, I was really, really learning. And he helped me out quite a bit, and it was a really big chance that he gave me. He worked with me a lot along the way, as he still does. I don’t profess to know everything, so that was a real learning experience.
I had fun doing it, but it was really stressful. I wasn’t too comfortable with my art style, and inking was still giving me a bit of a problem, and it wasn’t until I started doing Bacon that…you know, now I’m a lot more comfortable with everything, and it’s fun now. You enjoy going to work. You know it’s not going to be a big headache when you walk into your office and look at what’s siting on your desk, or what you have to do.
JOZIC: So that was the first time that you had to deal with a story that size in a limited time frame?
NIXEY: Yeah, because when I worked for the smaller companies, it was sort of one shots here and there. I guess when I worked for Caliber there was some deadlines, but they weren’t as severe. But working for a bigger company, they don’t want their books to be late, so you have to meet their deadlines. That was kind of an eye opener, too. I mean, it’s still hard for freelancers to do that. A lot of guys who’ve been working in the business for years and years still have a hard time with their deadlines. It’s just one of those things.
JOZIC: The books are being published through Dark Horse and Oni, but you still retain ownership over the characters, is that correct?
NIXEY: Basically how it works is, you do retain rights. You can basically do whatever you want with the character. The way I understand it – and maybe I don’t understand it at all [laughs] – is that if there’s any kind of film or licensing rights and it’s dealt with through the company, I think they get a small percentage of that. But they don’t retain ownership of your character. Like they can’t say, ‘No, this is what we want to do with your character.’
And you have a lot more freedom. I mean, it’s your character. You can basically do what you want, unlike a lot of the other characters for the bigger companies; the established characters, or the super-hero guys, I guess. When a creator comes on that, they’re given some freedom, but there’s also a lot that you can’t do with them. They’re going, ‘No, that wouldn’t be right for that character.’ Whereas I could make my character do whatever I wanted and it`s a very good feeling to know that as long as you’re not doing something that’s complete crap, and the editor’s willing to publish it, you can do what you want.
It makes me laugh – giggle, in fact – every time I come to work and it’s like, ‘Wow. This is great. I get paid to use my imagination.’ It’s a very good gig.
JOZIC: So, being a freelancer, did you have to shop Bacon around, or were you approached by Oni to do something for them?
NIXEY: Well, Bob told me his first book was going to be Oni Double Feature and he was looking for contributors, and I actually approached him. He hadn’t asked me because when he started [Oni] he didn’t know who would be willing to work with him. And I was like, ‘Yeah. Of course I want to work with you, you’re Bob.’ And he said, ‘Okay, great! It’s two fifteen page chapters, come up with something.’
And I did. I came up with a story [but] it wasn’t Bacon, it was something else that I was going to do first. And then I sort of looked at it and thought it was a little more involved to do in thirty pages. So I said, ‘Well, I have this other idea.’ He says, ‘Okay…great. Send me a plotline for what you want to do.’ I sent it to him, and he said, ‘Do it up!’ and it went from there.
I really appreciate working with him because he gives you that freedom to do what you want, but in the meantime, to make it good, he helps you out here and there without trying to take anything away from what you envisioned. Other than my parents, I think he’s probably the person who’s encouraged me the most.
JOZIC: Your second biggest fan.
NIXEY: Yeah. It sounds like I’m a charter member of the Bob Schreck Fan Club, but…[laughs]
JOZIC: Do you find working at Oni different than anywhere else you’ve worked before?
NIXEY: Not really. It’s different in some respects that [Bob] gives you a lot more…you feel like you’re working with a friend instead of a company. Like when I go through Previews and see ads for my comics or stories, I’m just not used to that. Basically, for the other people who are doing work for him right now, I’m at the bottom of the pole for being known and my ads are just as big as anybody else’s ads. He gives me the same amount of exposure as he’s giving anyone else, and definitely not every company is like that.
JOZIC: So, regardless of whether it’s Dark Horse or Oni, for you, it’s more like you’re working for Bob than for those respective companies.
NIXEY: Well, working with Bob and the other people there. The other people there care about the company just as much as Bob does. Working with Jamie Rich at Dark Horse is great too, because I’ve become closer to him and it’s the same sort of thing, but he’s working for a much larger established company, so it is a little different in that regard.
JOZIC: I’ve heard a lot of creators comment that they don’t see it as working for the company as much as working for a particular editor that they like.
NIXEY: Yeah, and that’s exactly it. You find people you enjoy working for and you work with them as much as you can, unless you’re approached by someone else to do a project that you think is totally cool. But if you’re doing your own stuff, I don’t really understand why you’d shop it around a bunch of different companies. Stay with the people that you enjoy working with, because you know that it’s going to come out as high quality as the last thing you did for them. And working with Jamie and Bob and everybody else…they’re all in Portland too! [laughs] Working with everybody there has been a lot of fun.
I mean, I don’t close my doors to work for anybody else, but right now, with the projects that I’m working on, for the foreseeable future they are with Dark Horse and Oni.
JOZIC: Right from the get-go, Oni has been able to brag a considerable stable of talent with Frank Miller and Simon Bisley’s Bad Boy, Paul Pope, The Pander Brothers and Grant Morrison and Paul Grist’s St. Swithin’s Day. Do you find that there is a lot of grass roots support for Oni?
NIXEY: Yeah, there is.
JOZIC: I mean aside from the cult following that Kevin Smith and Clerks has. [laughs]
NIXEY: Yeah, and that did huge for him. I mean, that’s great that Kevin Smith’s working for them. It seems that Bob has a relationship with everyone that he’s working with. Bob knows absolutely everybody, and I don’t think he had to twist too many arms to get people to work with him.
JOZIC: I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between Oni Double Feature and Dark Horse Presents. Basically, that Double Feature is totally like DHP, so why do we need another DHP out there?
NIXEY: Well, I think a lot of that is because Bob was DHP. He made DHP what it is, and with Jamie coming in, they sort of have the same vision where they want to put something that’s a little quirky and not so well known, and put him alongside someone who is really, really popular, which I think is the right way to do it. So, Bob, having that same sort of mindset, of course it’s going to be the same in Oni Double Feature. And I think other anthologies look at what Jamie is doing over in DHP, and what Bob’s doing now in Double Feature, and they see that that’s the right way to do an anthology. I’m not saying that they’re blatantly copying them, but I think it’s the right way to do that and they realise that.
JOZIC: If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
NIXEY: Exactly. A few years ago, maybe someone wouldn’t have given me the chance. ‘Well, we can’t stick Troy Nixey with Paul Pope,’ or ‘we can’t stick Troy Nixey in with Bill Sienkewicz. Not enough people know who he is to stick him with these guys.’ And our work is so completely different that there’s no way that anybody would stick these two polar opposites together. But now, Bob showed that yeah, you can. That the way to do an anthology is to stick a bunch of different stuff together and it floats. And some people get into the mind set where they think that everything has to be the same, or look the same…
JOZIC: Everybody gets to do one Predator story.
NIXEY: Exactly. And there’s some of that licensed stuff thrown in sometimes in DHP, but a lot of times Jamie’s busting his butt out there getting people to do stories in DHP, and make them realise, why do a big book if you have a short story? Just do it here. And it’s the same with Bob.
And it’s fun doing something chaptered. If you have a story that you maybe can’t flesh out to a full book, to be able to just do a short story.
JOZIC: Considering a lot of people missed Trout when it came out, and the fact that you’re getting a little higher profile through your Oni work, is there any chance we’ll see a collected Trout anytime in the future?
NIXEY: I don’t know. I think it’s kind of too early to say anything about that. I don’t know if Jamie’s going to do that later on down the road. Maybe after I get a whole bunch of stuff done, maybe then they’ll collect some stuff. I don’t know, I haven’t asked them. [laughs]
We just started talking about the next stuff we’re working on, we don’t plan on what we’re doing with the project before…
JOZIC: Just keep going forward.
NIXEY: Just keep going forward. And if that comes up where people like Bacon, then maybe he would think about it.
JOZIC: Now, I heard that you’re also currently working on a story with Neil Gaiman…
NIXEY: Yes. With Neil Gaiman, and P. Craig Russell is involved with that. That really makes me giggle. [laughs]
JOZIC: How did that particular project end up on your drawing board?
NIXEY: It started off at another company. I think they approached Neil, and they sent a bunch of artists packages to him, and my work was in there. Neil picked my stuff out as the person he wanted to illustrate the story. And the editor got back to me and asked if I was interested, because at the time I was doing a lot of my own stuff. So he asked if I was interested and I said, ‘Yeah. I’m always interested in…everything.’ And he said that [the writer] picked my stuff out, and when he told me who it was I just about dropped the phone.
But for one reason or another, it didn’t work out at that company, and Neil and I were talking and trying to decide if we should shop the story around when I said, ‘Well, do you know Bob?’ And he said, ‘Of course I know Bob.’ And it ended up that we didn’t shop it around, we just sort of took it to Bob. [laughs]
So that’s running in Oni Double Feature numbers six, seven and eight, and after that, they’re going to collect it in colour.
JOZIC: On most of your work, you handle both the writing and the art yourself. With this story, you’re doing just the artwork. Did you find this awkward, not having done that since…well, probably your early Bill the Clown stuff…
NIXEY: With Bill the Clown, how that worked was Dan [Vado], he gave me a break, too. He was one of the first guys to sort of see in me, yeah, this kid can draw or will eventually down the road know how to draw.
JOZIC: The Shinnin’. [laughs]
NIXEY: Yeah…’He’s got the shinnin’!’ [laughs] So, we would sort of hash out a story idea, and I would thumbnail it out and send that to him. I mean, I was still really, really raw then , so we had to go over everything to make sure that the stuff was…you know, readable. So we would do that and then I would draw it and he would actually script it afterwards. We did three issues of Bill…
JOZIC: Only three? I thought it was more than that.
NIXEY: I know. Amazingly, only three issues and people are still bringing it up to this day. ‘Yeah, you drew Bill the Clown!’
Yeah, like, five years ago I drew Bill the Clown! [laughs]
But that’s okay. I’m not embarrassed by Bill, it’s just something that I did a long time ago. I wish people would say, ‘Yeah, you did that thing that you’re working on now!’ I wish they knew what I was working on now, but…it was a one trick pony. He was mad, and he blew stuff up. I mean, it was nothing more than that.
JOZIC: But that’s what a lot of people go for, these days. I mean, I can see a Bill the Clown video game, but Bacon for the Playstation?
NIXEY: Dan and I were actually talking about that. We think it would be a good video game. So, anyone out there who makes video games, give us a call. They can phone Dan Vado at Slave Labor Graphics.
JOZIC: While we’re on the topic of Slave Labor Graphics, you had the privilege of being the artist on their one and only licensed comic book…
NIXEY: Yes, Fishmasters! That was awesome! The way most licensed stuff works is they give you a lot of guidelines of what you have to do, and these guys didn’t at all. What it was was this Public Access show that they did, and it was basically two morons going fishing and, of course, they never caught anything. Dan approached them to do a comic and they said, ‘Yeah, sure, great, okay.’ So, they sent me a whole bunch of photos of themselves and sent me the tape of the show and Dan wrote the story and I drew it. It was only one issue and it was lots of fun, actually.
JOZIC: But I digress. You were talking about your writing.
NIXEY: Yeah, so…anyways, that’s how that started off. But even now with this Neil Gaiman story that I’m working on, it was a short story. It wasn’t written for comics, it was a short story.
JOZIC: A prose story.
NIXEY: Yes, prose. So, that was turned over to P. Craig Russell who did the breakdowns for it. He did the layouts for it, so I basically got thumbnails and I’m working from those.
JOZIC: Was he originally supposed to do the whole story?
NIXEY: He was only ever approached to break it down. Neil, not really knowing who I was didn’t know if I could break it down or not – and rightly so – turned it over to someone who he knew could. So, that was P. Craig Russell’s end of it. And I’m going to start on that when I’m done Bacon in five days.
JOZIC: So, now I have to ask, what is the story about?
NIXEY: It’s called “It’s Only The End Of The World Again”, and it’s a werewolf story. It’s about a guy who’s in a small New England town…I don’t want to give too much away, I just want people to read it. It’s just kind of a quirky, crazy story that actually…a lot of the visuals that are in it, the stuff that’s in it, are things that I enjoy drawing. There’s a lot of weird sea-octopus tentacle things that just fell in my lap. I mean, I love drawing stuff like that.
JOZIC: Was that kind of coincidental or…
NIXEY: Yeah, it was totally coincidental. So, I appreciated that. I saw these pages that P. Craig Russell had done, and I was like, ‘Yeah, allright!’ [laughs] But it’s just how these three people know that he’s a werewolf.
I’m sorry. I’m really bad at describing things.
JOZIC: Did you find it awkward working off of breakdowns, again, this not being your usual way of doing things?
NIXEY: No, because I’m not drawing it in P.Craig Russell’s style. I can’t draw it in P. Craig Russell’s style, he’s the only one who could do that. I mean, the layouts are basically just little stick guys, they’re not like anything more than that. They’re not full drawn pages or anything. I don’t think it’ll be difficult. It’ll probably make the work go quicker. I’m not putting as much into the inking as I did with the Bacon stuff, where there’s a lot of shading because, obviously, I can’t. Because it’s going to be coloured later, and that just doesn’t work at all. So, I have to leave stuff a little more open, maybe put some more blacks in it. But other than that, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult at all.
JOZIC: And you could do a lot worse than P. Craig Russell.
NIXEY: Yeah, exactly. I could have Joe Schlobodnik, or something.
JOZIC: You keep saying that nobody knows who you are, so why don’t we take the time to get to know you a little better. For starters, what got you into comic books?
NIXEY: What started me into comics? That’s a good question, because I ask myself that every day when I get up.
JOZIC: [laughs] Because I’ve noticed that you like to play around with three dimensional pieces and multi-media rather than just straight pencil and ink work.
NIXEY: And I think that’s because, to be honest with you, I’m not really into comics. This is going to sound really weird because I don’t read a lot of comics. Every once and a while, I’ll go and pick some stuff up that’s cool. Like, there’s artists out there who’s work I enjoy and I pick up their work, but I go into a comic shop maybe once every three or four months. They really don’t inspire me. It’s not really comics that I get inspired by, I get far more inspired by reading books and movies. I think I have a very cinematic approach. I know people hate that and say comics aren’t movies, but I have a very cinematic approach to how I lay out a page, and I get that because I love movies. I get far more from the old painters and the illustrators like Arthur Rackham, and I’m a big Toulouse Lautrec fan. I just get far more visual stimulation from…I don’t want to say real artists, because comic artists are artists as well.
JOZIC: More traditional artists.
NIXEY: Yeah, more traditional artists, more traditional art. Norman Rockwell. I love Norman Rockwell.
JOZIC: Everyone loves Norman Rockwell.
NIXEY: True enough. But just…people like that. I love looking at stuff like that.
I’m reading The Grapes of Wrath right now. [laughs] Books you had to read in school. I’m a big Hunter S. Thompson fan. Ralph Steadman, who most people will make the connection with. He’s manic. I love his illustrations. Just stuff like that I get off on more than I do reading comics.
JOZIC: Are you reading any Melville?
NIXEY: Actually, I’ve been looking for a copy of Moby Dick, but do you think you can find one in a bookstore in this city? No. Everyone says they’re sold out, which means they probably haven’t had a copy in for two years. But, yeah, there’s some of that. I just found in a used bookstore a reprint of Sailor Dennis Dorgan. It’s a sailor character that Robert E. Howard wrote for the old pulps, and it’s a collection of those. And I had no idea that he wrote this stuff, and I picked it up.
I’ve read the first short story and it’s funny because the writings just…like you can tell he just sort of dashed the stuff off. But, in the same regard, it’s hilarious. It has like every stereotype that you could possibly think of. It’s just so cheesy it’s great.
And I do look at Hergé. I’ve always been a big fan of his. I’ve always read the Tintin books, and I always will. I read them and reread them, and that’s actually one of the few things I collect. I don’t really collect very much stuff other than dust. [laughs]
JOZIC: I noticed a lot of fantasy elements and some Dr. Seuss in Trout.
NIXEY: Yeah. I’m a very, very, very, very big fan of Dr. Seuss. And if you look at Bacon there’s some Dr. Seuss stuff in there. That’s how I learned to read. I knew how to read before kindergarten where kids usually learn to read. And that’s how I learned to read, with Dr. Seuss, and still to this day, I still hold him up as the person where I probably got my greatest source of inspiration from. The guy was brilliant. I think he was totally brilliant.
In one project I have that we don’t totally know what to do with yet called Sourbelly, it’s sort of written in the same way as a Dr. Seuss book, and I approached it that way on purpose. I’m not going to say I came up with this brilliant way of writing because I didn’t. You know, lots of people have done it before me, and it’s almost a tribute to Dr. Seuss. It’s going to be fun when we get around to doing something with it, once we figure out what to do with it.
JOZIC: Would you ever take it and make a bound book out of it?
NIXEY: Yeah, that’s actually what I’d like to do with it. You can’t really do it as a children’s book because there’s some suicidal aspects and…just some pretty heavy duty aspects to the thing. But when we figure it out, we’ll let everybody know.
JOZIC: I was always under the impression that your first professional, or semi-professional, work in the field was Bill the Clown, but…
NIXEY: Yes, we fooled you. [laughs] The work that no one knows about.
I sent copies of it out to Jamie [Rich] because he wanted to see it, and he laughed and laughed…It was a project called Prey. Three issues that I wrote and drew, or attempted to write and draw it. It came out from Monster Comics, and was just really, really bad.
JOZIC: They gave you free reign to write and draw the whole thing?
JOZIC: That’s not a bad deal.
NIXEY: No, it’s not. How it worked is I sent out a bunch of sample packs of my work, and I was in that high school stage of life. I never played Dungeons & Dragons, but you know, you like that whole Conan thing – big guy, carries big sword – so that’s the kind of stuff you draw. And I did this story with this character called Prey, and I think they were more sold on the painting I did of him because at that time I was a far stronger painter than I was a comic artist. And I think they were more sold on the painting than they were on the work.
JOZIC: You snookered them. [laughs]
NIXEY: I snookered them good! And I got this letter back about a month later saying they wanted to give me a contract to do this three issue thing and I was jumping up and down. I wasn’t intimidated by it at all, I just though, ‘Wow…WooHoo! This’ll get the ball rollin’.’ So, I did this thing, and it came out, and it was bad, and forgotten about.
JOZIC: All three issues came out?
NIXEY: Yeah, all three issues came out. I’m sure there’s people out there that have copies of it, because I know that copies of it were in fact sold. I think actually a thousand copies were sold of the first issue, so…that’s not too bad.
JOZIC: It was the cover, man.
NIXEY: Yeah, it was the cover. It was the painting. It was totally sold on the painting. I mean, I still enjoy Frank Frazetta’s work very much, but he was especially influencing me at that time. You could tell by looking at the stuff. But, I mean, it in no way looked like his work. I mean, I was eighteen, and he’s Frank Frazetta. He knew how to draw, I didn’t.
JOZIC: Is that a conscious thing in your work? You’ve just listed off a very large list of influences, and they’re people who have very distinctive storytelling styles. Do you make a concerted effort to pay tribute to them, but not copy them?
NIXEY: When I was starting off, when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing at all, it was almost like you were reaching for a comic at every angle. Like, ‘Oh, how do I do this, how do I do that?’ But it’s not like that at all, now. Your influences are there subconsciously and the stuff creeps out but your not mentally thinking about it. You just do what you do and your work progresses from how you started. And as you learn, you get better. Everyone should be a knowledge sponge. Just take in everything they can and if they do that, if they open their minds to that and take the criticism by the people who know what they’re talking about, then they’re definitely going to get better.
I put in my time. I’ve put in seven or eight years into this before I reached a level now where I can make a living at this, and things are starting to happen for me now. That’s probably something that everybody is going to do, but stuff doesn’t happen overnight to everybody. There’s guys out there who it has happened to, but that’s very, very rare. But, even then, you say, ‘Wow! This guy really came out of nowhere’, but he probably put in a few years of work before he got anything, too. So, don’t be intimidated kids. [laughs]
JOZIC: How long was it before you got what you considered to be your big break?
NIXEY: I considered my Trout stuff in DHP my big break. I always sort of knew that I wouldn’t be working in the super-hero genre for the big companies. That wasn’t my bag. That wasn’t what I wanted to do.
JOZIC: Would you ever try it? If someone came to you and asked you to pencil Daredevil full-time, would you do it?
NIXEY: I don’t know. I don’t honestly…there are some characters that are visually interesting that I would have fun drawing, but I don’t know.
JOZIC: You could probably pull off something for Vertigo.
NIXEY: Oh yeah. Vertigo for sure. I mean, that’s…
JOZIC: Still mainstream, but not mainstream.
NIXEY: Well, I sort of look at it and see the same kind of concepts…I think I could do a Vertigo thing. I’d love to do like a Sandman thing, although I’ll be honest, I haven’t read it.
NIXEY: I am familiar with the characters and what has been done. I’ve looked through he Sandman books and I think it’s right up my alley in doing something like that.
But I basically look at Vertigo as a totally different line from the mainstream DC.
I mean, Paul Pope just did a Batman short story. I never saw it, but people said that it was really, really, really good. It was really interesting, the twists that he did on it. And Batman is a character that I’ve always thought was visually interesting, but I don’t think I can add anything new to it. I don’t think there’s anything I can add to that genre at all, so I can’t see myself working in it.
Give me an offer. See if I refuse. [laughs]
JOZIC: You’ve mentioned that you don’t read a lot of comics, but occasionally you do pick some up. Which ones do you occasionally pick up?
NIXEY: I enjoy reading Paul Pope’s work, Bone‘s cool, Hellboy, Hellboy, Hellboy, Hellboy, Hellboy. Hellboy can do no wrong. [laughs] What else did I just pick up…
JOZIC: Oni Double Feature? [laughs]
NIXEY: Well of course, Oni Double Feature. And I read Jamie’s book, of course. I read DHP. Dave Cooper’s doing some really cool stuff in DHP right now.
JOZIC: What sort of story is he doing?
NIXEY: Really weird stuff. [laughs] This story now, you got to just look at it. It’s great. It’s bizarre. I just read the one chapter, I don’t even know if it was the first one. I read it at Bob’s house when I was visiting them in Portland, and it’s just really crazy stuff. I love his style. He’s a great painter too. He works in other fields too, I guess, although I’m not too sure about that. But I know he doesn’t just do comics.
That’s another guy that I think people should know about. There’s a lot of really talented people that are working that I think are doing the best stuff in comics, but people don’t really keep an eye open for anything where the guy doesn’t have an S on his chest.
JOZIC: You mentioned Dave Cooper doing work outside of comics, and I’ve noticed that there are a few creators over the years who’ve had no great love for comics, but worked in comics and eventually went on to other things outside the field. Do you have any aspirations to try stuff outside of comics?
NIXEY: My thing is that I love doing comics, but I also have great interest in other things. I think I’m capable of storyboarding commercials or movies and stuff like that. And I sculpt and I paint as well. There’s just so much more out there than just doing comics.
I was going to work for an animation company until they couldn’t get their shit together and I didn’t end up working for them, but I was going to do design and layout and background stuff for them. Character design. I was pretty excited about that until it kind of fizzled out.
JOZIC: Would you ever take any of your existing work, like Trout or Bacon, over to animation?
NIXEY: I think that Sourbelly – the project that I mentioned earlier – was going to be an animated film. Like a half hour in 3D animation like Toy Story as a Halloween special. It’s totally suited for animation. But, yeah, definitely. I love animation, I think it’s great. I share a space with a buddy of mine, Paul Dutton, who’s a very good animator and…
JOZIC: Do you want to plug the studio?
NIXEY: Yeah. Rough House animation. Guys, contact Paul Dutton at Rough House animation in Saskatoon. He’s a great animator and we work so differently, but I see the things that he’s done and it impresses the hell out of me. ‘Cool man. He’s making guys move!’ [laughs] And I don’t have that ability. He thinks that I could probably be an animator, but I don’t know if I could or not.
JOZIC: I think it takes a lot of discipline.
NIXEY: Yes. He’s very, very disciplined as…I can’t say as every great artist is, because not every great artist is disciplined. [laughs] A lot of them aren’t in fact. But, it’s a very interesting area.
JOZIC: So, you’d never ditch the comics, you’d just leave occasionally and come back to them?
NIXEY: I love challenging myself, doing new things. It’s probably bringing more work on me than I need, but that’s the way I am, and that’s probably the way I’ll die, so I guess I should get used to it. It’s like I said, there’s just so much out there that I’d like to try my hand at. But no, I’d never ditch the comics. I love doing it, and the people I’ve met doing it are great and I’d never want to sever those ties of having a working relationship along with a friendship.
JOZIC: I usually ask everyone if there’s anyone they haven’t worked with that they’d like to. Seeing as how you work primarily on your own, I wondered…
NIXEY: Yeah, there is. You know, writing my own stuff and having so many stories in my head that I want to do, this Neil Gaiman thing is just a boom for me. I love that I’m doing that. Of course, any other artist out there would want to work with him, and for me to be given this chance is really…Like I said, I’ve been working for a while but I’m just sort of getting the ball rolling now, and I feel really lucky that I’ve been given that chance.
But, there are guys who I’d like to work with. I would like to work with Matt Wagner. I love Matt Wagner’s stuff. Always have. He was one of the first guys who I sort of latched onto and went ‘Wow! It’s not just a comic, there’s guys that draw this stuff too.’ And Frank Miller, of course. Everyone wants to work with Frank Miller, but it’s probably never going to happen because he’s probably busy `til the year two million. [laughs] Dave Cooper, the guy I mentioned earlier, he’s a great painter and I’d love him to colour something of mine. He just has a great style that I love.
I don’t know. I can’t really think of anyone who I’d like to see ink my stuff. Kevin Nowlan, I love how he inks. That would be really cool. There’s always people out there, too, but who knows if it’ll ever happen.
JOZIC: A jam piece would be pretty cool.
NIXEY: Yeah it would. It would be fun. I like working with people, you know? Sort of finding out how other creative minds work. I’m pretty isolated up here in Saskatoon which is one of the reasons I have a strong urge to – as long as I’m moving my career along – put myself in an artistic community where there’s other like minds out there. People you can bounce stuff off of. A been there, done that sort of thing, where there’s no one here to do that with.
I’m just up here in the frozen tundra by myself. [laughs]
Well, I shouldn’t say by myself. Tom Grummett lives here to, but although we’re in the same field, we’re both in totally different areas.
And I know there’s people who I’m forgetting now that I would like to do stuff with.
JOZIC: Would you ever consider self publishing?
NIXEY: To put it succinctly…NO! [laughs] I just don’t need that headache. There’s other people out there that can have that headache for me. Sometimes I think I’m living in my own world a little bit, where I don’t have to worry about mean scary things like that. I just send off my stuff, and it comes back as a comic to me later on. [laughs]
But there are people out there who swear by self-publishing , and more power to them. But, like I said, the people I’m working with, I have all the faith in the world in them that they’re going to do me right. That they’re not just going to take my stuff and go ‘Ahhh…do whatever with it!’ And there are people out there who know better than I what a book should look like so, where do I come off going, ‘No, that’s not how I want it to look.’ They’re doing it the right way.
I have never been…well, maybe once or twice I’ve been less than happy with how something came out, but that’s…you just have to expect that. And that was early on in my career, and I made no waves about that because I was just lucky and happy to have the work and it was just a matter of doing elaborate paintings and then them cutting big chunks of it off kind of thing that I was going, ‘Ah, I wish they would have had the whole thing in.’
JOZIC: It happens to the big guys too.
NIXEY: It happens to everybody. But, I’m usually very, very happy. Like I said, they know more about the publishing end than I do.
JOZIC: Do what you know.
NIXEY: Yes. Do what you know. Plus, I have the freedom of doing what I want, anyways. Bob is very open to let it be the creator’s vision that comes on the pages and not him trying to bone in and put his stamp on it. That’s not how Bob works. Or Jamie, as well. He’s like, ‘No, it’s your story. Your punctuation sucks. That’s what I’m fixing.’ [laughs]
Believe you me, there’s a lot of red marks on my scripts when they come back. [laughs]
JOZIC: Do you have anything in the works that you want to leak?
NIXEY: Well, I got stuff in my head that I can do for the next three hundred years, but realistic projects? There’s a few things I’m talking to Jamie at Dark Horse about now, about something that I’ve actually wanted to do for a while, and it looks like that’s going to happen, but there’s nothing concrete yet.
But, definitely more work with Jamie and with Bob. And, actually, I would like to work with Karen Berger. I hear she’s a nice lady. I’d like to do some work with her. So, that’s what I’ve sort of got on my slate.
I basically know projects that I’m working on for the next year and a half, and that’s a good feeling to have because it wasn’t always like that. There used to be times where it was months inbetween me getting any work, and then the work that I got wasn’t really substantial money-wise. If I didn’t have great parents then there’s no way I could’ve done that. I’m making a living at this now and it’s a cool feeling to have to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a comic book artist’ because that’s, in fact, what I am. [laughs]
JOZIC: Are you planning to revisit Trout or Bacon any time soon?
NIXEY: I’ll keep pushing forward now. Trout I definitely want to go back to. I’ve got more Bacon stories too. I don’t know how people will accept Bacon. It’s…
NIXEY: It’s eclectic, but it’s definitely not going to make you put down the book and think. It’s just entertainment, which I guess is what all comics should be. I love doing it, and like I said, I have more stories, but I have a lot of stuff that…because I am doing this so much now, I’m learning a great deal as I’m going along. And I think there’s so much more that I have to learn, and I’m not about to try and write the Great American Novel.
JOZIC: Or Graphic Novel.
NIXEY: Yeah, because I don’t know if I’m capable of that yet but, I guess you don’t know unless you try. I do have longer stories in mind that I would like to do, maybe a little different format. But, just keep pushing ahead and it’s just very exciting to be working in the field now. It’s not dead like a lot of people think it is. It’s leveled off. It’s not as big as it used to be, but it’s a lot healthier than it used to be.
It seems that – and this is just my personal opinion, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes – but the really good, exciting stuff to read, the stuff that I would hold up and say, this is really good, isn’t being done in the normal four-colour comic world. It’s being done in what they call the alternative, although that’s such a bogus term. That’s where all the good work’s being done. The guys that put their blood, sweat and tears into stuff.
Look at Chris ware and his ACME Novelty Library. That’s amazing in the fact that he knows he’s killing his sales by making the stuff in varied sizes. Because if it’s not comic sized, it makes it very hard to ship the comic, shop owners don’t want to order it, and Chris Ware knows that. But he’s doing it because that what he wants to do. And I look at that book and I can’t imagine doing that. It’s amazing to look at that.
And the really fun stuff is being done by the guys that are writing, drawing, and inking it all themselves. Or guys where it’s not an assembly line production book, it’s a few guys working on stuff. You know what I’m trying to say?
JOZIC: Basically, there are good super-hero stories, but there are also great comic books outside the mainstream.
NIXEY: Yeah. And I can’t say that…I mean, Alex Ross. What he’s doing with super-heroes right now is amazing. To be honest, I haven’t read anything that he’s done. The few comics that I do read…
JOZIC: You just look at the pretty pictures. [laughs]
NIXEY: Yeah. But Alex Ross has some very pretty pictures, that’s for sure. That guy definitely knows how to hold a brush, let me tell you.
I’m not knocking super-hero stuff. I’m not saying that guys working in that genre aren’t talented because they are, in their own way. But, I just think the best stuff is coming from the people that aren’t working in that genre.
JOZIC: The independents are where you actually get to see change in the industry, because the super-heroes never do.
NIXEY: And I see it. It’s happening a lot more now where people are starting to pay attention to what’s coming out, and what people are doing. And I think a lot of creators are going towards that end of things because of the freedom that they are given to do what they want.
JOZIC: Any closing thoughts?
NIXEY: I’m very, very happy with Bacon. I think it’s, by far, the best stuff that I’ve done, and let’s talk about something else. [laughs]