Interviews: Derek Yaniger (May 2013)
Derek Yaniger Interview (5/13)
After a brief absence from comic book store shelves, "Transformers" relaunched in 1993 with the twelve issue mini-series known as "Transformers: Generation 2". Written by veteran "Transformers" scribe Simon Furman, the book introduced a gritty, dynamic art style courtesy of artist Derek Yaniger. Complete with tons of extra weaponry, hard angles and an emphasis on an industrial look, Derek introduced fans to a whole new way of looking at "Transformers". BWTF was lucky enough to interview Derek as part of BWTF's celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the "Transformers"!
1. Can you tell us about your art influences and background?
My art influences span a whole mess of various styles....as a snot-nosed little runt I really dug comics and always dreamed of one day scribblin out art for Marvel or DC....My favorites back then were Joe Kubert's Tarzan....The Swamp Thing....Werewolf by Night....Eerie...Creepy....Plop....and Conan to name just a fistful. Background-wise...after my college days I worked at a studio in Atlanta crankin out heaps of crap-tacular ad art for about 3 years...It was a solid drag so I gave the studio gig the heave ho and started a freelance career....Showed my portfolio to a cat at Marvel ( Marc MacClaren ) and he gave me a few Hellraiser gigs for Epic and it kinda went from there....I later went on to work with Cartoon Network and then finally, around the year 2000, started scribblin out my current style with a mid-century vibe.
2. How did you come to work on “Generation 2”?
In my Marvel Days I worked primarily with editor Rob Tokar........a right nice chap who even made a trip to Atlanta for my wedding!! Rob started me off with Toxic Crusaders and from there I went on to do some Web of Spiderman stuff. When Rob asked me if I wanted to do Transformers my first reaction was "Hells No!"......Always thought of it as a kiddie toy comic...Rob assured me that I could make it cool so after much gnashing of teeth...I agreed.
3. I think it is fair to say your art style was radically different than what “Transformers” fans had seen up until then from Marvel or any other comic book company. Indeed, your art style set the tone for Manny Galan (who took over the art chores) and even the UK “Generation 2” title. How did you decide to go with the unique style you used in those books?
Back then I was a HUGE fan of Simon Bisley's ABC Warriors...I started thinkin that maybe I could steal Biz's style a bit here n there to give it some balls....I also liked how I could get around the Comics Code by illustrating blood spatter as oil and graphic gore since it was war-torn, bullet-ridden steel instead of flesh....
I was glad to see Mr. Galan carry on that look n' feel....
4. A lot of the Transformers characters were shown in “Generation 2” with tons of extra weapons and gear they had not previously been seen with. Was this a collaborative decision between writer Simon Furman and yourself or was it an artistic choice of your own?
That's a noodle scratcher....I think it was my choice. I don't recall Simon putting anything in the scripts about artillery....again, I think it just my way of dialing up the violence and trying to make the characters more bad-ass than they were in the past....Back in them days I was in a punk band ( Dead Elvis ) in Atlanta and I was a big fan of horror flicks like Evil Dead....so I was all about gore and aggression and fire-power.....Oh, youth.
5. You are still an artist but your style has changed considerably to what I think is fair to call a “retro” style harkening back to artwork from the 50’s and 60’s. What journey took you from the style we saw in “Generation 2” to where you are now?
Yes....the stuff I doodle now has a way-solid retro vibe!! It's a complete 180 from what I used to do.....It took me a long time to figure out what I REALLY wanted as an artist...I always hoped that some day I would find a niche that was all my own....I had spent so many years drawing other people's property ( Marvel characters and Cartoon Network characters ) that I finally decided to go with a style that I had been toyin with in my spare time....I flat out turned down any and all comics and network gigs and started pushing my new obsession....I have really fond memories of my Dad's old illustrated jazz albums and cocktail napkins and art from my Moms recipe books....I love that nutty cartoon look that was so popular in the 50's and 60's and nowadays that is ALL I do...and it's worked out real swell 'cause in a lot of circles I'm the go-to retro guy....if hipsters need art for their surf band or their tiki, rockabilly, or cocktail culture event, I'm the cat they call on! Crazy, Daddy-O!
6. What projects are you currently working on? And where can fans look for your artwork now?
Just recently created some serigraph art for Elvira: Mistress of the Dark....currently workin on T-shirt art for Michele n' Todd Rundgren's new restaurant in Hawaii and just landed a gig to create some art for Southern Culture on the Skids........I'm the Retro Artist for the Stars, man!! I've slung paint for gallery gigs all over the world....just had a big batch of my prints available at FAB and now Walls 360 is about to release a whole line of my stuff! I'm hoppin like a jumpin bean on a trampoline and finally able to dance to the beat of my own bongos!! It's a real gone gasser, Pops!
You can check out Derek's current art on his web site at: www.derekart.com.