An Interview with Comic Creator Robert Lefebvre
Robert Lefebvre is the creator behind Up in Smoke, A Jagged Piece of a Broken Heart, and more. He’s an incredibly talented and hardworking indie comic creator.
We will be interviewing people at all levels and in all roles (check out a previous interview here!). If you are a comic creator or know someone who may be a good fit, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Please introduce yourself! Who you are, where you’re from, and what you do for a living/in the world of comics.
My name is Robert Lefebvre, I’m 30 and live in the state of Oregon. Specifically, the town of Carlton, a small town which is about an hour away from Portland. I am married with two children and work as a designer, designing custom dental cabinetry. Off and on for the last ten years I have written comics. Several of these short comics have been published, as well as a couple of one-shot comics.
How did you get started? What got you into comics and, eventually, making them?
Growing up I have memories of comics and occasionally reading them but I don’t think I ever would have listed it as an interest when I was younger. My mom gave me a box full of Archie comics and I had a handful of Sonic the Hedgehogs’ and one Felix the cat. All that goes to say that growing up I was aware of comics, and enjoyed them, but by no measure was I an enthusiast.
What really drove me to start writing comics was a build up of artistic frustration and some song lyrics that I heard incorrectly. I had tried my hand at writing movies and writing stories but I never found either very satisfying. At the time I was a machine operator and all the stories building up inside made it feel like I was going to explode! Two separate things happened in that period that ultimately started me on the path to writing comics.
The first was a job posting by Bungie (famous for creating the Halo and later Destiny game series) looking for a video game writer. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, but it did make me realize that if I ever wanted to do anything creative it wasn’t going to fall into my lap. For whatever reason I decided that writing comics would be a good way to get into video game writing. I naively thought it would somehow easier to break into the comics industry. I started bringing a notebook to work. Without any idea about formatting or proper scripting rules I started writing out panel descriptions, two or three words at a time between loading parts. Finally, I had found a form of writing that I enjoyed and was excited about. Since I was sneaking it in at work, technically, I was getting paid to write! As it turned out that was the easy part. I won’t go into the details of all the frustrations and disappointments that it took to get a script (not that first, second, third or fourth one I wrote) turned into an actual comic, but I will say that giving up was a very attractive option.
The second thing was a Tom Waits song called “Such a Scream.” More specifically it was the lyric “Shoveling coal, inside my dreams.” The first hundred times I listened to that song I heard, “Shoveling coal, is not my dream.” In the context of a song it may seem small, but when it gets in your head and plays over and over every time you want to give up it can make a world of difference. Shoveling coal wasn’t my dream, writing video games was. The more I worked at achieving it, my dream slowly began to change from games to comics.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of making your own works? What are some of the toughest parts?
By far the most rewarding part is seeing what the artist comes up with or how they imagine different characters and scenes looking. My writing style is such that it leaves a lot of room for artistic interpretation. Often times the artist’s interpretation is far better than what I was picturing in my head and takes whatever I have written to a much higher level. Knowing that someone else has read something that I have written is also very rewarding. They don’t always like it but it is interesting feeling knowing that somewhere around the world something I helped create is being read.
Coming up with stories is the easy part, getting those stories turned into a comic is the hard part. Comics are a very visual medium and as a writer finding an artist is the biggest challenge. Talent comes at a price (rightly so) and there are very few ways that I am aware of to get someone to draw your comic for free. Your stories may be great, even the best the world has ever seen, but without an artist the best they can do is collect dust. Artists work very hard and are extremely talented. They deserve to get compensated. In truth, ideas and scripts don’t put food on the table, especially in a world as tough to turn a profit as comics.
What are some of your inspirations and favorite works?
For me, the reality of inspiration is that it is everywhere. Sometimes it is found in a dream, or in an old idea that you suddenly see in a new way. Other times it is in a meaningless conversation that you can’t get out of your head. 23rd Century Dreamers came from a discussion with my wife, and the realization that some differences are so inherent that all you can do is hope that they never matter. In this case we were talking about travelling to other planets. The adventurer in me gets so excited when thinking of travelling to other planets that I took it for granted everyone felt the same way. The same excitement I get when thinking about living on Mars was exactly what she had found right here on earth. Luckily interplanetary travel is not something likely to tear our marriage apart, but what if?
Any advice or tips you want to share with aspiring comic and graphic novel creators?
Don’t be too precious with your ideas and give the artist lots of room to work. No matter how good an idea it looks in my head, it is always significantly better when a talented artist puts it to paper.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Comics are fantastic! The best way to transform the comic book industry and to give new creators a way to break in is to buy indie comics.
Where can we find you and your work?
23rd Century Dreamers and Haunted: Up in Smoke are both up on Comixology. Previews for both of those comics as well as quite a few short comics and some other material can be found on my website: www.ThrowTheDiceProductions.com