THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Dexter! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist?
Dexter Cockburn: Thanks for having me, Dan! I’ve been into art from as far back as I can remember, and have always wanted to be an artist – not necessarily skilled, but an artist nonetheless. When I was five, my Mum would bind together wallpaper samples so that I could draw on the backs of them, and it just went from there.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Dexter: I did a piece back in high school of Fortunate from Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”. It took me ages – it was all done in pointillism – but it looked fantastic when it was completed. It ended up being used as the title plate in our yearbook for the Arts section. I sold it to a local theater director who ended up hiring me to do a poster for him for his production of Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Even though I was primarily doing comics, it was at this point that I hoped to get into the field of commercial art and make a few bucks at it.
TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Dexter: Oooooh, loads of them! Edvard Munch and Aubrey Beardsley… Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, and Wally Wood… Robert Crumb, Rand Holmes, Jay Lynch, and Skip Williamson… Milton Knight, Jr….. Right now, one of my favourite artists is Aaron Lange, but I’m slightly biased because I publish him.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Dexter: I’d say there were two events, practically over 40 years apart. The first was when I was living in England. My Dad took me out for lunch in a pub that was close to the Beeb studios. I was sitting there, picking at my ploughman’s lunch (with lemon squash instead of a pint of bitter), when the door opened, and this incredibly tall man strode in. He immediately looked at me and smiled the broadest smile I’d ever seen. It suddenly hit me that it was Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor – of course, at the time I forgot all about ‘Tom Baker‘… this man WAS The Doctor! He came over to our table, and his voice boomed as he said: “I recognize you. I’ve seen you hiding behind the sofa!”. He then signed a beer coaster for me, and vanished into the back room. The second event was more recent. I received a photo of director John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS, HAIRSPRAY) at Atomic Books in Baltimore, holding a copy of Aaron Lange’s CASH GRAB #2, a comic that I’d published. It wasn’t a true personal interaction but, considering that Waters is one of my favourite directors, it definitely weakened my knees when I received it!
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Dexter: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Whovian, so The Doctor is definitely my favourite tv character. My favourite comic book character was always Nightcrawler, with Spidey running a close second. My favourite movie character would be Alex from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – more so for Malcolm McDowell’s acting, than his escapades.
TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?
Dexter: Well, I’m not at the stage where I can make a living doing what I do, but it is a nice little earner – in the meantime, I’ll keep my full time job. My stories and characters are very Underground, so coming up with new ideas for them is probably what I enjoy the most. Drawing my character, Pippa Creme, is certainly fun.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Dexter: I draw whenever I can find the time. When my kids are at school, or after their bedtime, I’ll pick up the pens. Weekends are touch and go. Plus, I work 5 nights a week, so the muse is already asleep before I am. I’m quite prolific, though, and can churn out a number of pages per day – not to the level of Alcala or Kirby, of course, but I put in a good innings.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some artists use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Dexter: There used to be a fella named Jack Pearce in my hometown of Belleville, Ontario, who ran these small comic/card shows. I loved to go to them when I was a kid. He’d always find some comic artist from the 50s and 60s to appear as a guest – I seem to remember that Carmine Infantino made an appearance at one of his shows – as well as local comic talent. Peter Quaife from The Kinks used to have a table at the shows. At that time, he was going by Peter Kinnes. He’d moved to Belleville years after leaving the Davies Brothers, and was drawing comic strips for The Community Press. The last show I was at was VanCAF in 2018. I tabled with Carrie Q. Contrary, and got to meet a lot of new artists. Fun times!
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Dexter: I enjoy talking with artists who are just starting out, as well as seeing all of the cosplay characters – people can get really creative at these things. As for what I can do without? Puritan attitudes. I draw and publish comics for adults. You’ve got to be 18+ to look at them, or buy them. No exceptions. At shows, I keep my work covered to prevent kids from seeing what I do, but they’re not the issue. There are a few adults per show who definitely have the need to stand at my table and pontificate how I’m morally corrupting youth by bringing my ‘filth’ into a comic book convention. Explaining to them that “comics aren’t just for kids” seems to incense them even more. Eventually they leave, but they do love to put on a show when I’m their captive audience.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Dexter: Wherever Robin Bougie’s table is. I also like to wander around and see what new small press comics and zines are on display. You can find some great stuff that people are producing on their own.
TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing?
Dexter: I am. I’m definitely backlogged with commission work right now, so I’m not taking anything new on until at least late July. Plus, I have my online store, and am always trying to get new books out that I self-publish. Right now, I’m working with Aaron Lange on a BEST OF collection for his (now out-of-print) titles ROMP and TRIM.
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
Dexter: I don’t mind people passing the hat around. Personally, it’s not for me. My satisfaction comes from scraping the cash together to put my books out. I’ve also seen my fair share of crowdfunding nightmares. There was one artist who started a crowdfund to put out a comic, and then he got all pissed off that the people who backed him weren’t showering him with praise and gratitude after he’d sent them the finished book. It was quite embarrassing to see him throwing his toys from the pram on social media…
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Dexter: As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got Aaron Lange’s BEST OF ROMP, BEST OF TRIM, and WORST OF TRIM in the pipeline. I just put out DIRTY DERANGED DOODLES #2 with Robin Bougie, and I’m working on completing a few more issues of my GOOFY FUNNIES series, along with a couple other books that can’t be named on a SFW page such as this…
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Dexter: I use social media to the best ability that a 50-year old dude like me can muster. I’m not on Instagram, because I don’t own a phone, but I am on Twitter, DeviantArt, Hentai-Foundry (adults only, NSFW), and Facebook. In the near future, I’d like to put out a newsletter that I can email to my customers. I’ve also started getting my books into some great comic shops – Quimby’s in Chicago, and Atomic Books in Baltimore – so that could attract a new fan base.
TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?
Dexter: Shoot me an email if you have any questions about commissions, comic orders, etc. I’m at: thecomixcompany [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also check out my online store (it’s ADULTS ONLY, though!) at: thecomixcompany.ecrater.com
TCC: Thanks, Dexter, for your time!
Dexter: My pleasure, Dan! It’s been great having the opportunity to answer your questions!
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