Interview with Dan E. Burr, Artist of Economix

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to interview Michael Goodwin, author of Economix.  In this follow up interview, we get to hear from the artist of Economix, Dan E. Burr.

Lance:  How did you get into comics and what are some of your favorite past projects?

Book cover for Economix by Dan E. Burr and Michael Goodwin
Dan:  I was exposed to both comic strips and comic books from a very early age. As a small child I lived with an uncle who was older than me (but still a kid) and I looked at all the comics he bought and brought into the house. He also liked to draw (as did many of the members of my family) so I was very naturally following the example I saw.

I'd have to say I've enjoyed (almost) all the past projects I've been involved in. Some of those include:  Kings in Disguise (graphic novel), a story for Graphic Classics:  Ambrose Bierce, stories for Grateful Dead Comix #3, 4, 7, & Vol 2, #2, and stories for DC's The Big Book of Series, including Freaks, Thugs, Losers; Martyrs, Bad; Weird Wild West; and The 70's.

Lance:  What are some of the comics that you read and who has been major influences in your style and approach to comics?

Dan:  Like the music that I listen to and the movies I watch, I'm mostly interested in the older stuff, primarily Golden and Silver age titles.  Comic book artists: a lot of guys whose last names begin with the letter "K" - Kurtzman, Kirby, Krigstein, Kubert, and Krenkel,  also Wood, Williamson, Eisner, Elder, Engels, Drucker, Davis, Ditko, Cole, Crandall, Barks and many more.  Many comic strips (and their creators) have also been a huge influence such as Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Pogo, Li'l Abner, Flash Gordon, and Alley Oop.

Lance:  So what were your first thoughts when you were contacted about making a comic about economics?

Dan:  It sounded unique, very interesting and very timely.

Excerpt from Economix by Dan E. Burr and Michael GoodwinLance:  What compelled you to work with Michael (I'm presuming a pay-check is certainly always a piece of that, but anything else about the nature of the project come to mind?)

Dan:  A mutual agent brought us together.

Lance:  How did you and Michael determine the balance of word density with smoothness of reading?

Dan:  Mike had a good handle on that balance. Occasionally I did feel crowded by words and let him know and he would make adjustments.

Lance: Did this graphic novel challenge you differently from previous projects?

Dan:  Yes, but I think I'll just leave it at that.

Lance:  Was the choice to use black and white your decision, Michael’s, or the publisher’s?

Dan:  As I wasn't there during the initial discussions about the project I can only speculate on the decision and I'm assuming that, at least in part, it had to do with financial considerations. Regardless of the reason, I think the decision was the right one.

Lance:  How did that choice improve and/or hinder certain parts of the book?

Dan:  I really can't see this book being in color and I think to have produced it that way would have created an unnecessary distraction. Full color can drastically change the mood and feel of a (graphic) reading experience.

Lance:  What styles and sources influenced your particular artistic style in this endeavor?

Dan:  Chiefly I just wanted things kept simple and funny.

Lance:  Were you reasonably familiar with economics prior to this and if not, did you feel you needed to be in order capture Michael's ideas?

Dan:  I certainly know more about economics now than I did before I started the book, but I really don't think having a knowledge of economics was necessary to do my part, which is mainly to support the script with appropriate and entertaining graphics.

Lance:  What challenges did you find with the layout and design of the book as a whole?  Did you find yourself having to scrap certain approaches and styles?

Dan:  Since the important thing to me was for it to be easy to understand and follow (keeping in mind that much of the audience for the book very likely would not be comic book readers), again, I believe it had to be kept for the most part, simple. So what I tried to do was communicate Mike's ideas as clearly as possible throughout.

Lance:  Were there challenges with representing historical figures in terms of how serious or caricatured to represent them?  Did you find there were certain historical figures you could easily caricature and yet others, you wanted to get a closer depiction?

Dan:  For me, caricature goes where it will go. Some faces accommodate severe distortion more readily than others, but recognizability is still the most important component of caricaturing. I do really enjoy the evolving process of "finding" an impression of someone.

Lance:  How much nonfiction work or conceptual/content-heavy work have you done with comics and what challenges do you find with that?

Dan:  Most of the comics I've worked on have been historically based. I guess at this point I've come to think of it as my specialty.  Those challenges that do exist I enjoy.

Lance:  What was the biggest surprise in the whole experience of creating and publishing the graphic novel?

Dan:  The biggest "unexpected" was that the book grew by about sixty pages in length during the course of its creation.

Lance:  What would you change or revise in hindsight about the book in terms of art, style, etc?

Dan:  I have had some thoughts about this but, as I'm still evaluating, I would rather keep them to myself for the time being.

Lance:  Current and future projects?

Dan:  The sequel to the Great Depression era drama KINGS IN DISGUISE, titled ON THE ROPES (also set during the Great Depression,) will be published in March.

As with the first book the sequel was written by my long-time working partner, James Vance, and we're both quite proud of the end result. Those who've only seen my work on ECONOMIX may be surprised at the stylistic shift in approach to art and storytelling.

For more about Dan and his activities, check out his author bio.  To find out more about Economix, check out their website and blog.

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