Derrick Ferguson: For the benefit of those who don’t know you, tell us who Russ Anderson, Jr is, where you live and what is it your do to keep a roof over your head.
Russ Anderson, Jr.: By day, I’m an engineer for a company you’ve probably heard of. By night, I’m a husband, father, and dog owner, prowling the suburbs of Baltimore, MD, hunting for story ideas.
DF: How long have you been writing?
RAJ: Almost as long as I’ve been reading. I remember writing Spider-Man and Smurf fanfic in first grade and showing it to my mom and teachers–who, fortunately, were encouraging about it. (Sidenote: Spider-Man and the Smurfs never teamed up in these stories… but only because I never considered the possibilities!) My first published work was in a superhero prose anthology called “Truth, Justice, And…”, edited by our mutual friend Thomas Deja, which came out some time in the early 2000s. It’s been out of print for ages, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it ever existed at all.
DF: You’ve been associated with Dillon longer than anybody else except for me. How did you become involved with Dillon?
RAJ: Back in the early days of the 21st Century, I was the editor for Dillon and the Voice of Odin, which ran in monthly installments on a site called Frontier Publishing. When Frontier decided to put one of its books in print, Voice of Odin was the obvious choice. So I edited it again and did some of the pre-production work getting it ready for print. I also edited the first half of the follow-up, Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell, before Frontier closed up shop.
At some point, I wrote the script for a rarely seen Dillon comic for Frontier Publishing #1, based on a short story you’d written. Incidentally, this 11-page comic story was the first appearance of Shon and Allie Pierri.
I briefly interrupt this debriefing to inform you that the story Russ speaks of can be found in Issue #2 of All-Star Pulp Comics:
DF: What’s your favorite Dillon novel or story?
RAJ: Legend of the Golden Bell, without a doubt. I have a soft spot for Voice of Odin, but Golden Bell is as bonkers as a 1970s Jack Kirby comic.
DF: Who’s your Favorite Dillon Sidekick?
RAJ: Anybody who says anything except Eli Creed here is lying. (Though it probably wouldn’t be smart to tell Eli he’s the sidekick.)
DF: What is it about Dillon and his universe that made you want to write “Dire Learning”?
RAJ: I read Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira a couple of years back. Shon and Allie Pierri feature heavily in it, and it got me thinking about those characters again. I wasn’t a parent the first time I wrote them, and being a parent now makes the dynamic between the two more interesting.
DF: What is “Dire Learning” about?
RAJ: Allie and Shon go undercover at a private school in France in order to uncover some suspected illegal activity. Unfortunately, there’s even more going on at the school than they anticipated, and pretty soon Allie is neutralized and it’s up to Shon to both complete the mission and save his mother–while also dealing with the normal shenanigans of middle school.
DF: In reading your story I was tremendously impressed in how you depicted the relationship between Allie and Shon Pierri. What do you see in these characters?
RAJ: In a way, Allie and Shon are more fantastical than any of the other characters in Dillon… because no mother is willingly going to take her child into some of the crap Allie Pierri takes Shon into, no matter how well-trained he is. At the same time, there’s also something very down-to-earth about the relationship between a mother and a son. I liked the idea of trying to strike a balance with characters that require an enormous suspension of disbelief on one hand, but are utterly relatable on another.
By the way, when I asked if I could write this story, you gave me the option of aging Shon, but I declined. Like Dillon himself, I think Shon should never age. I just like stories about highly capable children and the parents or mentors who, for whatever reason, choose to put them in dangerous situations. I’ve probably liked that sort of thing since the first time I saw Robin leaping into battle beside Batman.
DF: How do you see the relationship between Dillon, Allie and Shon?
RAJ: I like to think that Dillon has strong doubts about Shon adventuring with Allie, but he’s always respected Allie and likes Shon too much to make a fuss about it. And anyway, he was also a child prodigy who often found himself in perilous situations. He sees a lot of himself in Shon and knows the kid has the gumption to survive and thrive.
Since Allie’s an operative for the French government, I suspect she doesn’t entirely approve of Dillon’s freelancer lifestyle. She’d like to see him put down some stakes, make a stand for a particular ideology. But as with Dillon keeping his trap shut about Shon, Allie would never say what she really thinks to Dillon. She respects him as a professional and obviously feels a lot of loyalty toward him, considering her willingness to come running, Shon in tow, when he calls.
Dillon is like Shon’s favorite uncle. He wants to be Dillon when he grows up.
DF: How much research did you have to do for this story?
RAJ: I read up on some of the terminology and grade levels for French schools, and had to find out what the guys who protect French government officials are called. And that’s about it. In other words, very little–just like I like it!
DF: Assuming there’s going to be a “Odd Jobs II” do you have any ideas for another story?
Why, is there going to be an Odd Jobs II????
DF: What do you say accounts for the success and longevity of Dillon and his adventures?
RAJ: Well, part of it is down to your willingness to keep writing Dillon stories. There’s something powerful about a single voice working on a single character for as long and as consistently as you’ve worked on Dillon. (And now you’ve blown it by letting us rubes in. Sorry about that!)
Also, Dillon has a lot of the same appeal Batman or James Bond does, i.e., he fits in a lot of different types of story. Espionage, sci-fi, crime, horror, even fantasy–Dillon would be right at home in the thick of any of them.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Russ Anderson, Jr.: Everybody should buy and read Dillon: The Odd Jobs. I hear there might be a sequel!
My Casting Call for Allie and Shon Pierri:
Allie Pierri…Katheryn Erbe
Shon Pierri…Jack Dylan Grazer