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Robinson, Wayne Alexander 1969- (Alex Robinson)

ROBINSON, Wayne Alexander 1969-
(Alex Robinson)

PERSONAL:

Born August 8, 1969, in Bronx, NY; son of Wayne Robinson and Irene Phillips; romantically involved with Kristen Siebecker since October, 1994. Education: Attended State University of New York—Brockport, 1988-89; graduated from School of Visual Arts, 1994.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—208 W. 23rd St., Dept. 1616, New York, NY 10011. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

Independent cartoonist and graphic novelist, 1994—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, 2001; nominated for Ignatz Award, Best Reprint or Collection, 2001, for Box Office Poison; nominated for Harvey Award, Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work, 2002; nominated for Firecracker Award, Best Graphic Novel, 2002; nominated for Eisner Award, Best Graphic Album-Reprint, 2002.

WRITINGS:

Box Office Poison (graphic novel; originally published in twenty-one installments, Antarctic Press, 1996-2000), Top Shelf Productions (Marietta, GA), 2001.

BOP! (graphic short stories; sequel to Box Office Poison), Top Shelf Productions (Marietta, GA), 2003.

Created "Bloppo the Clown" mini-comics and others; contributed short story to David Hahn's Private Beach, number 4.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

A second graphic novel, Sophomore Slump (working title).

SIDELIGHTS:

American graphic novelist Wayne Alexander Robinson, who often writes under the name Alex Robinson, grew up reading comics and began drawing his own comics as a child. He studied art at New York's School of Visual Arts, where the comics legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) was one of his teachers. Robinson began drawing mini-comics when he graduated from art school in 1994 and soon published "Bohemian Girl," the first installment in what became his 600-page graphic novel, Box Office Poison. A coming-of-age story whose main characters are two underachieving college graduates living in New York City in the 1990s, the story has been praised by critics and was nominated for several comics awards.

Box Office Poison is the story of frustrated novelist Sherman Davies, who has an English degree but still works at a bookstore for college-days wages, and his best friend Ed Velasquez, who graduated with a business degree at his parents' insistence, although he wants to draw comics. Ed works at his family's hardware store and lives at home. The two interact with Jane and Stephen, an older couple from whom Sherman rents a room; Dorothy Lestrade, a magazine editor with whom Sherman falls in love; and the Golden Age comics artist Irving Flavor, with whom Ed finally finds work as an assistant, even though his most desperate quest is to find romance. Ed encourages the aging Flavor to try and gain the rights to cartoon characters he created in his younger days. Other characters come and go, and reviewers have called this graphic novel as good as the best novels, television programs, and movies, of its genre.

Julio Diaz, in a review for Ink 19, lauded Robinson's "fully realized, complex characters," saying he "breathes life into his characters rarely seen in any medium." A character-enhancing technique Robinson uses is one-page panels in which he asks the characters an important life question, such as "Where will you be in ten years?" and lets their answers reveal depth perhaps not found in the current story line. A plot twist that many reviewers noted was that by the end of the graphic novel, the main protagonist turns out to be just the opposite of the one they thought would have this designation. Diaz observed, "It's so realistic and honest, it's almost heartbreaking.… It's by turns hilarious, tense, sad, shocking, and thoroughly gripping." Diaz concluded, "Box Office Poison is one of the most engrossing and rewarding pieces of literature—graphic or otherwise—that I've had the privilege to read."

Matthew Craig, in a review for RobotFist, compared it to "the world's best pineapple upside-down cake: layers upon layers of rich dramatic goodness." Craig thought the book would have made a better television show than most existing shows in its genre and that in the future it would be regarded "as the acme of comic book drama, and will almost certainly be a strong influence on the current generation of creators." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Box Office Poison "supplies both visual wit and dramatic honesty" and called it "a convincing, absorbing and satisfying fictional portrait."

Alex Dueben, in a review for Ninth Art, observed, "Robinson has a very acute feeling for the way people talk and movement of conversations, the way they drift and sway, and often end up accidentally revealing more about themselves than they intend." Although Dueben felt Robinson's art was not as strong as his writing, he said the art does a good job of conveying emotion throughout the book. He thought the story of Irving Flavor was not as strong as it could have been and found most of Robinson's characters in the comic book office more like stereotypes of people in the industry. However, he liked the fact that Robinson does not make Dorothy into the story's villain, as easy as that might have been. Dueben described Box Office Poison as "ragged on the edges and unfinished in places," but he said, "a lot of the sheer power and emotion comes from this rawness. It's not slick, polished and glossy. It feels real. Realism is just a genre, it's not the be-all and end-all of art, but it's hard to get right." Dueben concluded that the book "is a more than respectable debut, and it demonstrates that Robinson is clearly poised to be one of the industry's breakout talents in the next decade."

In an interview with Steve Conley of iComics, Robinson said Box Office Poison has very little autobiography, although he did once work in a bookstore like Sherman does. However, said Robinson, he does base other characters on friends and acquaintances. For example, Ed is based on a cartoonist friend, Tony Consiglio. Some of the cartoons that Ed creates are those Robinson drew as an adolescent.

Christian A. Dumais interviewed Robinson for Legion Studios, and the author said he thinks of himself as a writer who draws, rather than an artist who writes. He said the single biggest influence on his work was Dave Sim's Cerebus, but that he was also inspired by Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, the Archie comics, and Mad magazine. He described Box Office Poison as "like Archie but with cursing and nudity!" He also noted that loyalty vs. betrayal is a major theme of the novel. Robinson said he works with a loose idea of plot and lets the characters take the story where it will go. A master at dialogue, Robinson commented that readers "jokingly say I must be following them around taking notes. It's a great compliment." Robinson remarked that he enjoys picking up a character from a previous story and adding them into a new one. The character Caprice from the end of Box Office Poison, for example, will appear in his new graphic novel, tentatively titled Sophomore Slump.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 2004, Ray Olson, review of BOP!, p. 1148.

Library Journal, May 1, 2004, Steve Raiteri, review of BOP!, p. 94.

Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2001, review of Box Office Poison, p. 38; October 22, 2001, review of Box Office Poison, p. 56.

ONLINE

Artbomb,http://www.artbomb.net/ (August 19, 2003), Kelly Sue DeConnick, review of Box Office Poison.

iComics,http://www.icomics.com/ (April 1, 1998), Steve Conley, "Box Office Success: An iComics Interview with Alex Robinson."

Ink 19,http://www.ink19.com/ (July, 2001), Julio Diaz, review of Box Office Poison.

Lambiek,http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 12, 2003), "Alex Robinson."

Legion Studios Web site,http://www.legion-studios.com/ (August 19, 2003), Christian A. Dumais, "Legion Interviews Alex Robinson, Creator of Box Office Poison."

Ninth Art,http://www.ninthart.com/ (August 16, 2002), Alex Dueben, review of Box Office Poison.

RobotFist,http://www.robotfist.com/ (September 18, 2002), Matthew Craig, review of Box Office Poison.*

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