Interview with Job Dun writer/creator, Mark Hobby

Comic Crusaders are advocates for the Indie Comic scene. Based in Sydney Australia, I have had the privilege of meeting some local Aussie indie comics talent.  I met Mark Hobby, the writer/creator of Job Dun, the rotund action hero set in space. I had a chance to ask him a few questions.

CC: Thank you for your time Mr. Hobby.

MH: Thank you for having me.

CC: When did you decide that you wanted to create your own comic?

MH: I have been reading comics pretty much all my life – since I was 6 in fact – so it was a medium that I was very familiar with. Growing up, as the idea of becoming a writer slowly took shape, I had the odd notion now and then of writing comics and would draw/write my own. I recall when I was about 16 writing some really bad Thor dialogue (turns out I was writing Avengers fan-fiction) that so traumatized me that I did not try to write another comic for a good 20 years. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, as I branched off into other areas of non-comic type of writing that broadened my horizons. In my late thirties I decided to get more serious about my writing and so I revisited the comic book idea, and after putting in a lot of practice – there’s been a few aborted attempts at other stories – I got to the point where I felt the Job Dun comic was ready for the public.

CC: Where did the idea of Job Dun come from?

MH: The story was originally a three page short comic story that ended with a bad pun on his name. It was a contemporary setting – so no Sci-Fi – and was only really meant as a test to see if I could write a story with a minimum amount of pages. I sent it to an Australian anthology title that was being published at the time, but I daresay the editor rather mercifully deleted it upon reading it. Really was that bad. The character stuck with me though – an over-sized type, confident and contrarian – and once I got the idea that the story should be set in the future, it just seemed right. At the time I was going through some personal stuff that seemed to fit the outlook for the character as well, and he became, weirdly, a type of cathartic symbol for me, where I could work out a few ideas but hyped up to an absurd level. At his core, Job Dun is someone who is so outside the standard of normality that his only recourse is to create his own standard – an exceptional notion that has preoccupied everyone from Blake to Nietzsche to every gonna-be anarchist to ever wear black. Add to that the growing prevalence of social media and the slow development of virtual/augmented reality technology, it all served as the meat and potatoes to what became the Job Dun universe. Once that was worked out, I had originally intended it to be a prose story – even wrote about four chapters of it – but the more I thought about it, I felt the visual element was way too compelling for it not to be a comic.

CC: How much of yourself is in Job Dun?

MH: It’s all true that you write what you know. Up to a point. A lot of the early stories play close to a lot of my experiences and views but there comes a point when the character takes on a life of its own and begins to decide its own fate, if that makes sense. Ultimately it becomes less about personal catharsis or at least personal experience and more about story and its craft and what is needed for character development. As I said above, the character has a lot of me in it, or at least where I was at during a particular time in my life. I’ve said often enough that I could easily be Job Dun if I decided to indulge in a death-wish. He’s an extreme version of me I guess, and get me drunk enough the boy comes out full of gumption and appetite, but I’ve come to the point where that aspect of me has receded and, as the writer, its more about serving as observer to his actions, rather than participant. Ultimately I’ve learnt that in many ways ‘writing what you know’ is something of a crutch until you learn how to tell a story. Of course, I could change my mind on that. I’ve just gotten more into the craft of storytelling of late so that part is uppermost in my mind. We all have to find our own way to get the words written.

CC: Will Job Dun ever find love?

MH: He does alright for himself.

CC: Who has had the biggest influence in comics? And why?

MH: Biggest influence for me? Probably the biggest would have to be the so-called ‘British invasion’ of American comics that occurred during the eighties: Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Pete Milligan, Jamie Delano, those kinds of guys. Had a very dark and twisty view on comics that was very different for the time.

Frank Miller was also a big influence early on: Daredevil, Elektra, Ronin and of course Dark Knight Returns. I still think he writes the best Batman – or at least the version I like – demented, no BS, delusional, ridiculous humour/politics. His influence is not as great for me these days, but I still enjoy the crudeness of his satire so long as I look at it with a very intense black sense of the absurd. Then there’s Pat Mills, Alan Grant and John Wagner as well, plus Mark Millar, Simon Spurrier and Gordon Rennie. All, in their own ways, great satirists when they’re at their best. Garth Ennis is always good for a laugh, and Warren Ellis always has interesting things to say. Though not a direct influence, I do enjoy Christian Read’s work and think he very much ups the standard for Australian comics. His Eldritch Kid is ridiculously good – the pacing on it was just brilliant. That for me is the standard I am aiming for when I write.

All these guys – plus a lot outside comics – have influenced me, showing me at different times the potential of the medium and inspired me to write my own stuff.

CC: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

MH: Generally read a bunch of comics/novels or listen to music if I’ve spent a lot of time writing and finding myself a bit burnt out inside my own head. That tends to work for me, being inspired by others. Other times it involves me having some sort of experience that aids in a story or lends an insight about a motivation for a character.

I’m a pretty practical person though and don’t get too bound up in the process of writing, or looking for cheat/hacks to get me going. Sometimes all you have is the blank page and the slow creeping fear of having nothing to say. Working that bit out is part of the fun and frustration.

CC: Are there any new projects in your horizon? If so, when?

MH: Job Dun takes up most of my time, and will for the next year or two, but I am writing a couple of other things that will hopefully see publication in the future. The first is a comic biography of an internationally known, Australian based sound artist named Nigel Heyler. Its been interesting in the sense that its different to what I am doing with Job Dun, where the latter can play with time/space and absurdest ideas while the biography has to stick to a degree with the historical record.

Nonetheless, its been fun and I look forward to it being complete around the latter half of 2016. I have a bunch of other Sci-Fi stories that are up and coming (some scripted, some drawn) but its way too early to talk about those at this stage.

CC: If given the opportunity to write any mainstream (DC, Marvel) title, what would that be? Why?

MH: Weirdly a hard question. I’ve no real inclination to write for any of them, though wouldn’t say ‘no’ if offered, I’m assuming. Maybe Thor, just to redeem my 16-year-old self who rabbited the first time it got difficult. But not fighting Gods or demons or the usual stuff like that. Maybe Thor as handyman – going around repairing broken fences and houses with his trusty hammer. His business could be called Hammer of the Gods or some such, and he could run it with his less impressive half-brother Loki, who spends his time over-quoting customers and needlessly applying decorative paint finishes on Thor’s works work, just to appear relevant. Thor would rather not have him around but their father told him he had to if he wanted to take over the family business.

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I’ve always liked Dr Mid-Nite, Golden Age Green Lantern and Hourman for some reason, so wouldn’t mind writing those guys but in a 1940’s pulpy style in the vein of the JSA: Liberty Files storyline, but more with a Mike Mignola occult infused thematic and tone. Yeah, let me write that! Anyone? Anyone?

Check out Hobby’s work, Job Dun, at comixology.com or if you may see him at a convention based in Australia.

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