Comics Artist, Rick Burchett

Comics Artist, Rick Burchett

Rick Burchett ’75 works as a comics artist for DC Comics on characters like Batman. It is safe to say Burchett has found his dream career, but like anything else in life, the journey is what made it all worth it.

Did you always know you wanted to be a comic book artist: When I was about five years old, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist of some kind. I began by drawing pictures of the cartoon characters I saw on TV. Then I discovered newspaper strips, and when I discovered comic books, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

You earned your degree from Southeast in education. Was teaching a strong passion of yours and how did you move from education to creating comics: At the time I went to college there was no place to learn how to do comics. No colleges taught courses in it. There were no schools established where you could learn the particular skills needed to become a comics artist. My parents were unsure about a career as a cartoonist. They had lived through the Depression, and felt I really needed a degree in something that would provide a steady income. Cape was close to home and, because I was paying for this myself, it was affordable. I felt that, at the very least, I could learn some art skills that would help build the basics I would need to be a comic artist.

How did your experience at Southeast impact your career: My time at Southeast was valuable to me in that it opened my eyes to a larger world. I discovered how little I knew. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about wanting to be a cartoonist was given to me by my high school English teacher. No one was able to point me in a definite direction for following my dream. I had very little, if any, support. One day, on a whim, I asked my teacher what he thought I should study in college to become a cartoonist. He thought a few seconds and said, “Everything.” I don’t think he knew how right he was.

What advice would you give to students who have a passion for art: If it’s truly a passion, follow it no matter what. If it makes you happier than anything else you do, stick with it. You’ll find a way to make it work. One of my favorite quotes is from writer Harlan Ellison, who said, “If anything can deter you from being a writer, you have no business being a writer.” The same holds true for art. Persistence and patience are the two best tools to have in your belt. If someone tells you that you can’t do it, ask yourself, “Why not?”

Who is your favorite super-villain and why: Probably Fantastic Four villain, Doctor Doom. He’s interesting because he doesn’t see himself as a villain. He’s trying to do the best he can for the people of the country he rules, Latveria. But, he has a fatal flaw. His immense ego always gets the best of him.

What do you think about the rise of the graphic novel, the explosion of comic cons, and that Southeast now offers a class on graphic novels: I was recently with some friends, lifelong comics fans, and we were talking about the proliferation of movies based on comics. One of the guys said, “Face it, guys, we won.” What we’re seeing is a group of filmmakers who grew up on comics and knew if those stories were adapted with reverence to the source material, audiences would enjoy them. The problem has been that comics have been misunderstood and misrepresented by mainstream media since their inception. At one point during the 1950s the U.S. Senate tried to pass a law to ban the publishing and sales of comics. There were public comic book burnings. All this on the say-so of one child psychologist. We are a visual society and any story can be told in a comics format. The rest of the world has known this for decades. We’re finally catching on to the fact that an art form we created is something very special.

 

Story & Illustration / April Schoen
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