Gordon Robertson and Cuttlefish are two brave talented men. They are the geniuses behind the webcomic Arse Cancer where they chronicle Gordon’s battle in a funny, profound, poignant way. Both men have suffered from cancer and both men have come out of it unscathed.
Maybe this is why this team works so well together. Alone, they both have a variety of projects. Robertson is the founder of GLoW (Glasgow League of Writers) and Cuttlefish is a big part of the Paper Jam Collective where both groups meet, discuss comics and have both put out anthologies in some form or another.
Geek Syndicate (GS): Gordon Robertson, Cuttlefish. Welcome! You both have created the critically acclaimed webcomic, Arse Cancer. Can you tell us how this project came about?
Gordon Robertson (GR): While I had cancer, I thought about writing a blog, or a diary of my cancer experiences, but there are some truly amazing cancer blogs out there. Ones that break your heart and others that make it soar. I looked at my slightly surreal take on it all and it didn’t seem to fit in. As an avid comic book reader it seemed natural to give that a try and when I did, it clicked.
I spoke to a few artists about working on it, the original plan was to have a different artist for each script, but some people were horrified that I wanted to make fun of what happened, while others were scared of tempting fate in someway if they got involved.
One Friday evening, Cuttlefish posted on twitter that he was looking for something to draw, I messaged him and so it began….
Cuttlefish (CF): It was a bit haphazard really. I was looking for an interesting script to illustrate and Gordon had some great ideas. I think it was via the internet. When I found out it was about cancer I would have fought Satan himself to do it. When he showed me the first script I would have fought Satan’s mother-in-law too.
GS: You both seem to have an almost symbiotic relationship together, feeding off one and other. How does the creative process work between you?
GR: I send down some mildly humorous scripts and Cuttlefish takes them to a different level altogether. Don’t let him say that’s not what happens – it is.
It’s truly amazing when someone gets it and you don’t have to explain stuff. I’m very much a minimalist in writing, believing that you get more out of an artist if you allow them scope to interpret the script. That may just be an excuse for being lazy, but it works with Cuttlefish. I honestly believe I could send down a couple of sentences and he would turn it into an awesome comic, because when it comes to ArseCancer, he totally gets it.
CF: Gordon’s scripts are a dream for an artist. They’re sparse but exact and leave plenty of space to develop ideas. We both wanted to do something different about cancer and we were totally on the same wavelength. That is key. We both want to tell stories about cancer and our experiences that people may not have seen elsewhere. We try to keep everything enjoyable, even if some of the subjects aren’t. I do wish he would put more nurses in his scripts though.
GS: What first inspired you two to create comics?
GR: As a kid, it’s all I ever wanted to do. The first book I borrowed from the library, aged 5 was a Tintin book. From that moment on I was hooked. Later I moved into prose and TV and Film writing, but comics where my first love.
CF: I’ve always wanted to draw comics, specially 2000ad. Old school black and white. Aliens, future wars, big-chinned lawmen, mutants, mental robots with huge firearms and middle-aged bald blokes. It was only after my brush with cancer that I got involved with Paperjam and I really went for it.
GS: What type of storytelling do you two like?
GR: A good story well told.
CF: Errr. I don’t know, what types of storytelling are there? I try to draw the scripts in an enjoyable and clear way.
GS: Where do you see Arse Cancer going in the future? Could we see it as a collected volume?
GR: Watch this space – we’re working on it.
CF: Yeah a collected volume would be excellent. As long as it’s fun and doesn’t feel like real work I’ll do it.
GS: You both are working on many other projects too. Can you both tell us a little bit about them?
GR: Aaargh I knew you where going to ask this! I live in a perpetual fear of hubris and hate talking about projects publicly before they are finalized and definite.
So, without giving anything away, Cuttlefish and I are working on a part of what promises to be the biggest UK comic event of the next 12 months.
I have another four major projects bubbling away nicely, but you’ll have to wait for those.
CF: I’m doing a couple of projects about robots one with Gordon and the other with Paul Thompson (Tales of the Hollow Earth). I don’t know if they’re secret or not but if I pretend they are it makes me feel important.
Also doing one with lots of zombies in which may or may not also be secret. I’m also keen to work on a steamy nurse-packed Arsecancer special with Gordon, although he may not be aware of this yet, as I haven’t told him.
GS: Gordon you are the founder of GLoW (Glasgow League of Writers) and Cuttlefish you are apart of The Paper Jam Collective. Can you tell us more about each one of them, and what they are about?
GR: The Glasgow League of Writers is a writers collective. We meet to support, network and workshop with each other. GLoW has been meeting for just over a year now and has been successful way beyond any hopes I may have had for it.
There’s something happening in UK comics at the moment, and the talent that GLoW has amongst its members is really quite amazing. It genuinely is something special.
CF: Paperjam Comics Collective is a group of comic lovers who meet in the dungeon under the Newcastle Travelling Man shop. We indulge in vaguely comic-related hi-jinks, write anthologies, organize events and enjoy a good drink.
GS: To any aspiring creator out there, what would you say is the best piece of advice?
GR: Do it. Write. Draw
Every day put one word after another. Don’t get hung up on structure, don’t stress about method. Just write. You’ll find your voice.
It’s like everything else, the more you do it, the better you become at it.
CF: Just make comics. As many as you can as often as you can. Don’t get too precious about them. It’s easy to over-analyse and redo every panel repeatedly but don’t do this. Get honest feedback and just keep going.
GS: Where you would like to be in 10 years time?
GR: At a Morrissey gig.
CF: Still alive, everything else is a bonus.
Reporter: Luke Halsall