Denver Comic Con Spotlight:

Robin Herrera of Oni Press

 

Want to meet the people behind the comics your kids read? Denver Comic Con is the place! That’s where we caught up with Oni Press editor, Robin Herrera, to discover more about fun, offbeat comics like Invader Zim, Do-Gooders, Booger Beard, and Mermin. Here’s what she had to say…

 

The Interview

 

PopFam

 

Let’s start off talking about you. How did you first discover comic books?

 

ROBIN HERRERA

 

So my first discovery of comic books was when I was 13 and I made a new friend in high school. She was obsessed with comics. Her name was Paige. We’re still friends today. Hi Paige!

 

She took me to the comic book store and showed me all the comics she’d been reading, which included Blue Monday and Hopeless Savages [both published by Oni Press]. Those were the first two that I really got into, and from there I started reading webcomics. We were both poor so we couldn’t afford many comics, so webcomics were this whole field for us—free comics on the internet that we could read at our leisure! That was how it started. And then from there gradually, especially as I got a job and was able to make money, I was able to actually buy comics. But it started with that.

 

PF

 

What are you working on right now that gets you excited about your job as an editor at Oni Press?

 

ROBIN

 

There’s a lot of super-fun stuff! Obviously the big thing I’m working on right now is Invader Zim. It’s a lot of work because it’s a licensed comic. There’s lots of approvals involved, but at the end of the day it’s so worth it when the pages come in. They look so great, and I think fans of the show are going to love the comic. It’s a little bit different from the show but in that kind of evolutionary way, where like, this is the show if it had really taken off.

 

PF

 

In your opinion, why are comic books good for kids?

 

ROBIN

 

Ooh, I like this one. I think comic books are good for a lot of kids because children love to read. People don’t think so, but they do love to read. You know, when kids first learn to read, they’re reading everything they see. Comic books are a good intro into reading. They combine pictures and text, so a kid can pick up a lot of context from the picture and that will inform the words in a text box or in a word balloon. I think it really helps with reading and understanding.

 

I also really like comics because I really like art. I think a lot of people will probably agree that art is kind of underrepresented in schools. I think comic books are a really good way to bring that in. You show a kid a comic book and this is like, here’s something you could do with art. It’s one of the many things you can do if you draw. But here’s something you can do and make a living off of.

 

PF

 

Agree or disagree? Comic book stories should be agents of social change, not just entertainment for the masses.

 

ROBIN

 

I’m going to say disagree. I think they definitely are instruments for social change, but I think they can also jus be for entertainment.

 

PF

 

So how does that work out when you are acquiring and editing Oni Press comics?

 

ROBIN

 

Hm. I’m trying to think of books I’ve acquired recently.

 

PF

 

I noticed that you guys are doing you’re think where you’re taking open submissions right now. And as I was looking through the writer’s guidelines for that, I noticed that all the editors at Oni Press are looking for comics that can also be agents of social change. It seems like that’s a strong editorial philosophy for you. So how does it work? I’m curious.

 

ROBIN

 

Well I don’t think comics shouldn’t be agents of social change. I think they don’t just have to be agents of social change. Which is what I interpreted your question as. If you meant it as could they be, then absolutely. Should they be always? Not necessarily.

 

PF

 

So when you’re working on something, are you thinking about social issues, or are you just thinking, I want a good story?

 

ROBIN

 

I do actually think of both. I read it and I think, this is a great story. And I think to myself, you know, what’s the cast like? What is happening in this story? Are people well represented in this story? And sometimes, you know, the answer is no, and that’s unfortunate.

 

PF

 

Do you turn that down then?

 

ROBIN

 

Not always. Sometimes we can work with the creators and kind of come to a middle ground and say like, how about more representation.

 

PF

 

I don’t want to challenge you, because I love Oni Press, but what you’re saying now seems different than the answer you gave to the agree/disagree question. It seems like using comics as agents of social change is a high priority for Oni Press. Is that true?

 

ROBIN

 

It’s a high priority for us right now because we’ve noticed that a lot of comics, our comics, do not really have a whole lot of diversity in them. So that was something we wanted to actively change and work toward. It was something that was kind of missing in our line. And we do have books that are very well representative, I think, of the world around us. Wet Moon is one of them that’s really great. You know, it has characters of color, has disabled characters, it has gay and lesbian characters, and bi[-sexual] characters.

 

PF

 

So, agree or disagree? Comics should be agents of social change, or not?

 

ROBIN

 

I still disagree because they don’t have to be all of the time.

 

PF

 

OK, moving to a different subject: Some level of violence is necessary in any action story. For Oni Press, how do you guys decide what’s too violent, and what’s appropriate violence?

 

ROBIN

 

That’s a good question. I’ve not worked on a whole lot of really violent books, or excessively violent books. I’d say the most action-packed story I work on right now is Letter 44 and that doesn’t really have any gratuitous violence. Some people get punched, some people get shot, but there’s no gore about it. It’s not like, it’s not gratuitous.

 

PF

 

Explain what you think would be gratuitous.

 

ROBIN

 

Hm. Probably if somebody got shot in Letter 44 and then it immediately cut to you know their blown-up face. I feel like that could be gratuitous.

 

PF

 

So you want to communicate without overwhelming, is that what you’re saying?

 

ROBIN

 

Yeah. And I think, like in Letter 44, the point of it is not the violence. It’s a very well-plotted story and you don’t want to distract readers from that by showing them these grotesque scenes. So I think it’s the right choice for that book.

 

PF

 

So for you, if I’m hearing this correctly, what would be too violent would be gore, or violence that has nothing to do with the story, that kind of stuff?

 

ROBIN

 

Yeah, that’s too much for me. But to be fair, we do have a book called The Auteur. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but The Auteur is insanely violent. But, that is kind of the point of it. It is grotesque and it is over the top so it doesn’t really distract from the story it actually adds to it.

 

PF

 

Some moms from religious backgrounds distrust comic books. They see too many comics that are politically preachy, demeaning to women, insulting to religion, violent, and hyper-sexualized. What kind of advice would you give to the religious mom who’s not sure what to do with comic book culture?

 

ROBIN

 

Hm. There’s definitely some comic books out there that are clean enough for an especially religious family to share with their kids. If they have something that’s maybe kind of troubling, I always think that’s a really good opportunity to talk to their children about why something is disturbing, or why something doesn’t work, or why something isn’t right. If you have this really weird representation of women in a book, you know where a woman is treated like property, that’s a good time to bring up, you know, this isn’t really right. How would you feel if you were this character? That kind of thing.

 

PF

 

So you would recommend talking about things? Parental involvement, actually reading the comics your kids are reading?

 

ROBIN

 

Absolutely. I always think parents should read what their kids are reading. And I know it’s hard to do that because parents have so little time as it is. They definitely can’t monitor every single thing that their child is doing. They can try, but there’s always going to be things that they don’t know about with their children. But as much as they can, to be involved in their children’s reading and watching life, you can have great discussions about that kind of stuff.

 

PF

 

Thank you very much, Robin!

 

--MN

 

All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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InvaderZim
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Mermin150px
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RickAndMorty150

Image Credits:

Denver Comic Con

Oni Press

John Allison

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