An Interview with Irrational Artist Extraordinaire, Robb
Much of the appeal of Freedom Force and Freedom Force vs. The Third
Reich lies in its art. Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich concept
artist Robb Waters has the innate understanding and true love of
comic books necessary to pay proper homage to the genre. Robb has an
uncanny ability to take character concepts and interpret them
perfectly. He understands how to bring each one alive in a way that
people can connect with. I love to walk by Robb's desk and look at
what he is working on. This guy is so talented that I literally have a
drawing on my wall that was salvaged from his trash. Kind creepy, I
know but it is a really cool drawing. I have always been curious about
what Robb does so I thought I would ask him a few questions about his
You really have the feel of these games down perfectly. How do you
prepare for your work on a game? Did you read a lot of comic books to
come up with the styles you created for the Freedom Force and Freedom
Force vs. The Third Reich or did you just know how you wanted the
games to look?
Most of the preparation I do for games begins with combing my mind
for memorable graphics, archetypes and atmospheres from a particular
period that I absorbed over the years growing up reading comics.
There are those key elements in anything that stick with you that
naturally define a period in time or subject matter. After
stockpiling these various elements, I then open up the closet and
start rummaging through years worth of bagged, aging comics to help
fill in any gaps.
If you did read comics to prepare, which ones?
I didn't really have to do any reading. I've spent too many
Friday nights reading funny books already.
How many iterations of a character do you generally go through
before you hit on the right look?
Usually I can picture a character in my head and transfer it to
paper and be fairly satisfied with the results. Once I have the first
draft down a Googling I go, looking for particular references for the
small details and garnishes that really make a character. Usually I
can hit it right on the nose with the first draft, making little
changes here and there in costume color or details.
Was it difficult to transition from the Silver Age art of the first
game to the more Golden Age style of Freedom Force vs. The Third
Not really. I love Golden Age stuff as well so it was fun and
very natural to mimic that particular style.
Which era of comic art in do you prefer in general? Why? Any comic
artists who you particularly admire?
Silver Age for sure. The quality of art just can't be touched.
I'm really not a fan of most of the art in comics today. This goes
for the new coloring techniques and paper quality as well. I much
prefer the simple block color printing on cheap non acid free
newsprint. There is just a certain charm in there that today's slick
and flashy comics just don't posses. Typically I find myself buying a
Silver or Bronze Age comic rather than something new off the
There were so many talented artists working in the Silver Age of
comics. These guys actually new how to draw and didn't have to rely on
fancy color gradients and lens flares to cover their shortcomings. My
favorites include: Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, John Buscema, John Romita,
Wally Wood and of course Jack Kirby. I do think there are a handful of
very talented comic illustrators working today such as Steve Rude,
Alex Ross, Mike Mignola, John Romita jr. and Mike Allred to name a
few. I think what these guys share is a common influence and respect
for the classic illustrators.
What are a couple of
your all-time favorite comics and why?
I think my all time favorite has been the Incredible Hulk. It's the one comic that I still pick up from time to time today, depending
on the artist. I guess I've just always enjoyed the simple visual
design of the character and found the basis of the comic to be very
interesting. Of course, what comic can deliver a better knock down,
city slamming, double page brawl than the Hulk? I've always
liked the semi-macabre titles as well such as Dr. Strange, Werewolf by
Night, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider and Tomb of Dracula. I just like the
darker brand of hero over the typical square jawed hero by day.
I hear ManBot is the
most popular FF character in the office. Who is your favorite
character and why?
I have to say I have a soft spot for ManBot as
well. He was the first character I designed for Freedom Force. I
was given the name and the vision of a man trapped in a metal suit
just popped in my head. I don't know maybe it's those sad puppy dog
eyes as well.
I also really like Tombstone from Freedom Force vs. The Third
Reich. He was a character I originally designed for the first game
but we could not fit him into the roster. Again, I've always liked
the darker heroes and I thought Freedom Force needed a spooky
character amongst the ranks. I think Ken got tired of me plopping this
character in front of him anytime we thought we may have room for a
new character. Finally I gave up and tossed him in the rejected
concepts folder. When we needed some fresh blood for the new game I
pulled him out again and tried to work him into a golden age hero
slot. He is sort of The Phantom meets The Shadow. Ken still really
wasn't fully behind the character but after suggesting I make the
vacant skull face more on the tragic side the character stuck. With
his new face Tombstone suddenly had pathos and a hook. We decided he
shouldn't be a throw away 40's character so he was placed in the 60's
so we could explore the character further.
What do you find most challenging about the job?
Mimicking the style of the Silver Age for sure. It's getting
easer for me but it's still can be very frustrating. Every time I
look to these works for guidance I get awestruck and sucked into
illustrations of masters like Jack Kirby. Returning to my drawing I
know it is a far cry from such geniuses. And I still can't quite get
those damn squiggles right!
What is the best thing about the job?
Drawing heroic characters for a living.
--- Meredith Levine