Interview with Rob Anderson, creator of Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit

The Comic Crusaders had the opportunity to chat with Rob Anderson about his upcoming creator-owned project for IDW, Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit. Here’s what

CC: WHAT’S YOUR ORIGIN STORY? HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH COMICS? HOW HAS THE PROCESS BEEN?

side-cover-cc01 RA: I’ve been reading comics my whole life — I somewhat learned to read from comic books and newspaper strips. And I had even been trying to make comics (awful writing + awful art) as a kid. But I didn’t get serious about making them until I took Andy Schmidt’s inaugural online version of “Intro to Comic Book Writing” over at Comics Experience. That was back in 2009, and I took several more classes after that. I became friends with Andy over time, and a couple years later, I worked with Andy on creating the CE online community, the Creators Workshop, where Creature Cops, and all the upcoming creator-owned projects from IDW and Comics Experience Publishing originate. It’s a pretty cool place to get feedback on your work and learn about the industry and I’ve met some of my best “real life” friends via Comics Experience.

CC: WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO WORK A COMICS VETERAN LIKE ANDY SCHMIDT?

RA: Back in 2009, when I took that first class, it was just intimidating. In that first class, I pitched a 5-page story concept for what later became “Creature Cops,” and even at that early stage, his comments were very insightful. It’s funny, but even after having worked with him so closely over the last 5 years — including a stint for a few years as General Manager of Comics Experience — I was still amazed at how helpful his comments were on this mini-series. Even when we reached the lettering stage, he suggested some minor tweaks that I think really helped the overall story. One thing I think is really cool about Comics Experience is that it gives a newbie the chance to work directly with seasoned professionals–that’s a pretty amazing opportunity if you really want to study and develop the craft.

CC: THE CONCEPT BEHIND CREATURE COPS IS CREATIVE AND UNIQUE. WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE STORY?

RA: The underlying foundation is that I’ve always loved monster or creature stories, in any medium. But more specifically, it was two things. The first was a news story, circa 2000, about a performance artist who convinced a geneticist to create a “transgenic” rabbit, by injecting a rabbit egg with jellyfish proteins. The white rabbit, named Alba, glowed green when exposed to green light. I found that both fascinating (on the science front) and shocking(in terms of my love of animals). It didn’t feel like that would lead anywhere good in the long run.

The second big influence is that, for a number of years, I volunteered at an animal shelter, from walking dogs to helping them out with some business issues. So I ended up learning a bit about the industry, and the combination of “Alba” and that exposure to the “animal control” side of things, got me thinking about the concept of Creature Cops. In general, I think Animal Control Officers have a thankless job, in which they are often overworked and underpaid — but how much worse would it be if they were dealing with, oh, say something that looked like a griffin?

CC: AL KAMINSKI IS A GREAT CHARACTER WHO SEEMS TO TAKE HIS JOB VERY SERIOUSLY, BUT HE OBVIOUSLY HAS A VERY COMPLICATED PAST. HOW CLOSELY CONNECTED WILL THE EVENTS OF THE MINISERIES BE TIED TO HIS PAST EXPERIENCES?

RA: This first arc is definitely driven by Kaminski and his past. He’s the type of guy who “gets the job done,” no matter what it takes, but it’s taken a toll on him and his life. While “Creature Cops” is an ensemble-style cop drama–meaning we get to meet all the officers in the precinct and see the sort of challenges they face–we’ll learn the most about Kaminski in this first series. He’s the “heart” of the precinct in so many ways, even if a lot of people also think of him as a burned-out screw-up.

CCSVU_01-560x350CC: THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT ANGLES YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN WITH THIS STORY, WHY GO WITH THE POLICE PROCEDURAL?

RA: The story itself really came together around the concept of Animal Control Officers, and as soon as I started imagining the story, I got really attached to the characters, especially Kaminski and the rookie Marita Vasquez. If you’ve got “animal cops,” and you want to tell stories about them, then that leads pretty quickly to a focus on incidents or cases…but I’d say the book is kind of a hybrid of police procedural and the older ensemble-style cop drama.

CC: WILL WE EVER LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EVENTS THAT LEAD UP TO THE MINISERIES OR WILL YOUR MAIN FOCUS BE ON THE SVU?

RA: I won’t rule anything out at this early stage, but most likely the events that led to this world will just be filled in in the background. I did include a piece in the first issue that gives the highlights of how they got to this place–the historical highlights–for those who like that sort of explanation, but I don’t have current plans to tell that background story as a mini-series itself. That would be a story more focused on politics, science and business.

As far as the characters go, though, we will learn more about the past of some officers in this mini-series.

CC: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE SERIES GOING IN THE FUTURE?

CCSVU_02-196x300 RA: Well, I have a ton of stories I’d like to tell about these officers and the creatures that inhabit this world. The initial three-issue mini-series is definitely a complete story, and has a full-stop ending. But I’d welcome the chance to return to the universe. I’d love to do a series of mini-series, if possible.

CC: WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT CREATURE COPS I EXPECTED A QUIRKY, FUNNY STORY, BUT THERE ARE VERY SERIOUS THEMES AND ISSUES TACKLED IN THE BOOK. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A NEW READER TO ENTICE THEM TO TRY THIS BOOK OUT?

RA: You’ll see funny moments in every issue–I mean, how serious can a mischievous panda dog be?–but like any cop drama, it covers a range of situations and emotions. I hope some people will check it out for the police procedural/cop drama aspects; I hope others will check it out for the freakish (or cute, or mythological) beasts. But I hope anyone who tries it out will actually be hooked by the characters–both human and animal. So, if you like any of those things, I hope you’ll give it a try!

You can follow Rob Anderson on his blog and on Twitter. If you’d like to read some of his work now, check out Rex, Zombie Killer from Big Dog Ink.

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