An Interview With Jano Rohleder
Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve been paying any attention to this blog you know I’m a huge fan of Don Rosa, and that I’m extremely excited for the “Don Rosa Classics: Deluxe Edition” volumes that have been published by Jano Rohleder (link here: www.indiegogo.com/donrosa). They’ll be reprinting Rosa’s most well known independent comics “The Pertwillaby Papers” and “Captain Kentucky”, and a piece of my original interview with Don is actually going to be in one of those volumes! I’m not even going to pretend to be objective about this, that’s one of the coolest things ever.
While two volumes were already funded, a third volume, this one a lavish art book, will showcase his never before reprinted early comics, fan illustrations from “The Rocket’s Blast Comicollector” and other rare art. You can find the link to the donation drive here: www.indiegogo.com/donrosa-art
Jano, a longtime friend of Don Rosa and editor of all three volumes of the “Don Rosa Classics: Deluxe Edition”, agreed to do an interview with me in the last leg of the fundraiser to talk about his role in the creation of the books, his relationship with Don, and just why he’s made the effort of getting these rare classics published.
1. Jano, you’re clearly a big Don Rosa fan, I think this collection is proof of that, but what about you outside of that? I’d like to know about your background, your interests, and whatever else you think gives people a good view of who you are.
Well, I’m 26, a student of American and German literature, part-time publisher and also freelance editor and translator for the German branch of Egmont, where I’m one of the people working on the German Disney titles. This pretty much takes up most of my free time, but when I’m not working on some books, I love watching movies and American TV shows and have a pretty large collection of those.
2. So, what’s your role with Don in the context of Disney comics?
I’ve been the editor for the German edition of his works for about four years now. I had translated “A Letter from Home” in 2003, but only got in charge of his books in 2008 when we did the new edition of the “Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” one-volume collection. As per Don’s wishes, I’ve done new translations for nearly all of his stories. When a book boasts his name on the cover, he wants the story to be presented as they were originally intended by him, so the translation should match his original text as closely as possible and don’t insert additional (more or less funny) gags or anachronistic references (like on “Jurassic Park” in “Return to Forbidden Valley”). I’ve been working on the final four volumes of his German “Hall of Fame” books and I’m now the one in charge for the German “Don Rosa Collection” that reprints all of his Duck comics in chronological order and with tons of bonus features.
3. Don’s work speaks to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, and you’ve been pretty closely involved with his work for awhile now. What makes you such a fan of his comics?
I can’t tell you, really. I just like his stories, because the writing is really good, and I also like the art, even though it’s a matter of taste and certainly doesn’t appeal to all readers. I also have to say that I’m no “Rosa super fan”. I’m first and foremost a good friend of his, but I don’t see everything that he does through rose-colored glasses. I don’t say: Oh, that’s a Rosa duck story, I love it without reading it just because it was done by him. There are several duck stories of his that I think are pretty weak, especially among his last ones. And even Don knows they are because they were done at a time where he’d already started not wanting to continue his work for the Disney system anymore. His earlier works, and also the “classics” stuff that we’re now collecting in these three books, is something completely different, however, because you can see the fun he had in each of the drawings.
4. You’ve worked with Don’s compilations for awhile now, not just on the “Don Rosa Classics: Deluxe Edition”, but the German “Don Rosa Collection” containing his work with the Ducks. How did you first start working with him personally?
Well, I first met Don at a signing in Germany in 2000, but we didn’t know each other then. The first real communication related to work was in 2003 when I translated “A Letter from Home”. I later did some interpreting work for him during his 2006 and 2008 signing tours, and that was also when he suggested I should be the one in charge of his German editions.
5. What is it like working with and being friends with Don?
Well, for me it’s pretty easy to work with him because I know what he looks for in a publication of his work, so there’s never much of an argument. For the classics, for example, he only had some tiny suggestions for improvements (like “Tagdenah” being shown after “Khulan” because it’s newer, which obviously makes more sense than the other way round). And on a personal level, it’s always much fun meeting Don since he’s a pretty fun guy.
6. The Don Rosa House Tour DVD, the one that’s a reward on the Indiegogo campaign… what exactly is the story behind its creation? (And as an aside, it was amazing to watch)
It seems that fans had asked Don for some years to film his studio so they could see where he worked and what his collection looks like etc. He finally did a video like this in late 2010, and originally I was only supposed to do some editing and putting it online. The problem with it was, however, that you couldn’t see Don because he was filming, of course, and… he spent even more time than in my video looking at his duck collection (I think there were about 40 minutes). Since I was going to visit him some months later anyway, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to do a new video filmed by me so that he could be seen on screen and not just be a voiceover. This was actually Don’s idea (he liked the short clips I had shot during his German tours and new I had a good HD camcorder). I then suggested to make this a full “house tour” because even though his studio and comics vault are interesting, I thought it would be even more interesting to see how these rooms fit in to Don’s house as a whole and how he lives in general. And I think we shot a fun little film there. Of course, it’s probably only interesting to Rosa fans, but the parts about his studio and collection might also be interesting for comic readers in general.
Note from the author: You can see the Don Rosa House Tour online at the following link http://vimeo.com/channels/donrosatour
7. Don touched on your role in the creation of the book collection in my interview with him, being the person who initiated it and put it all together, but what was your reason for working to get his old comics published?
I had been looking into the possibility of doing a German edition of his classic comics for some years, but that never really came together, also due to the lack of time caused by work that was actually paid for instead of just being some “on the side” hobby like this would have been. But this year, it all happened pretty quickly. Originally, this was only supposed to be a kind of “goodie” to be sold during the signing tour. I looked up what the production would cost, and since neither Don nor I would and could have afforded to pay that in advance, I started the original Indiegogo campaign for the first two books in June, and it was an immediate success with fans all over the world. That’s when the “small signing tour project” became an international project with preorders from all over the world. I think this was also the only chance this could have worked. Any translated edition of these comics that has been published so far wasn’t a huge success from what I know (due to the limited readership), so an English edition for fans all over the world was the only way to go, I believe.
8. What exactly does editing the “Don Rosa Classics: Deluxe Edition” mean? What all do you do to put the book together?
Just putting these things out wouldn’t be hard. But since I always want to get the best possible quality when I buy a comic, that’s also what I aim for when I’m editing them myself, of course. This means hours and hours of scanning, writing, typesetting etc. The easiest part were the comics themselves because they had already been scanned by Don for the Norwegian edition twelve years ago, but the bonus features took an awful amount of work. To ensure the best reading experience, most of the old articles and interviews were “digitally restored” which means I didn’t just put a scan of a faded and smeared old print in the book, but did a new typesetting based on the original layout. I think the result was worth it, though, and I hope readers will agree.
It also means being in constant exchange with Don and other fans in order to obtain copies (or better copies than the one I had at hand) for the stuff in the bonus section, and bringing it all together in one big volume, or, better to say, two big volumes. It was a lot of work and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product!
9. And what has Don’s role been in this process?
Don helped out with copies of some of the art (like the Italian CK cover or the PP/CK bridge scene), with newspaper articles from his archive, and he also helped me get in touch with the people who have contributed introductions: Ron Weinberg, Ray Foushee, Roger Stern and Don Murphy.
10. After the first campaign ended successfully, a new one went up, this time to fund an art book. What made you want to publish a third book on top of the first two?
The idea was actually older than the one for the first two books. When I visited Don in 2011, he gave me a huge stack of copies of his fanzine illos, old comic strips and much more, about 400 pages. Since the German edition of PP and CK still wasn’t gonna happen anytime in the near future, I immediately thought about doing an art book with these illos because they are really fun to look at. I didn’t know when exactly that would have been produced, though. Then the international edition of PP and CK happened. And the success of the first two books was a good reason to dig out that original idea again since there were obviously quite a few readers interested in that old “classics” stuff.
11. Outside of the Information Center drawings, what can fans expect to find in this collection?
Don did *hundreds* of IC pages, so these illos will be the biggest part of the book. But there will also be several other stuff, like comics he did together with Ray Foushee during their high school time, a whole bunch of “fake cover illustrations” he did for the host of a local TV show (who would then show them every week during his night program), “mini comics” from school in which Don summed up recent school events in a funny way, and also a lot of political cartoons and advertising illos from his school/college papers and local papers. Most of them have never been seen before (at least not by people who didn’t go to the sames schools as Don).
12. Now this one’s just for fun… what are your top three favorite Don Rosa stories?
As with question three, I can’t really say. I don’t really have “favorites” because there are too many I like. If I had to choose, the one dearest to me is “A Letter from Home”, of course, because it was the first Rosa story I ever officially translated. Otherwise I can only give a general statement by saying that I prefer the adventure stories over his shorter gag stories. And, of course, I like “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” quite a lot, even though I, personally, wouldn’t have needed that many “additional chapters”.13. Do you have a good Don story you can share? And by that I don’t mean a comic, just a personal anecdote.
Oh, sure. His hot peppers are always a running gag when he visits Germany. There’s always a bunch of them on the signing table for people to take and he even brings plastic bags for those who want to take home even more than one. When we were in Frankfurt for the book fair two years ago, he came over to me during dinner (there were two long tables, and he was sitting at the other one) and with the words “give those out” gave me a huge bowl full of peppers which I had to distribute to the others… after each and every one got their pepper, nobody wanted to be the first one to try one, of course, so *I* had to be the one or they wouldn’t have started… (don’t tell them I knew which ones were hotter than the others and chose a relatively harmless one).
Oh, and when there are dogs, it’s also always a pretty, uh… “interesting” experience. Like Don suddenly running away in the streets shouting “Here, doggy, doggy!” to pet a dog of some stranger some hundred meters away.
“The Early ‘So-Called’ Art of Don Rosa” has seven days left on its fundraising campaign. If you want to own a copy of any of the three volumes, you can donate here: www.indiegogo.com/donrosa-art