What have you done in comics so far that you’re the most proud of?
That would be “Catalyst Island” by far. It’s more ‘me’ than anything else I’ve done.
How did Killfrenzy come about? How come only photocopies remain? What do you think of it now?
Killfrenzy was my second job with Marvel UK. Halfway into drawing the strip Marvel canceled most of its UK business leaving Killfrenzy unpublished. I have the originals all lettered here in a cupboard. About a hundred pages. It never saw print and won’t be printed in the future. It’s turned into a myth, which I can’t complain about.
How satisfied are you with your work in 2000AD? What did it allow you to do? What would you still like to do in comics that you haven’t?
2000AD has been good to me. They’ve allowed me to develop my own characters, they’ve given me strips tailor-made for me like Shakara, and they’ve given me a steady stream of work with no breaks between jobs. I’m very fortunate. I’ve a few things I’d like to do, I’m working on something now that I intend to publish online for free.
How did your career in comics happen?
Bought issue one of 2000AD in 1977, age 7. Loved it. Started drawing comics in its style. Landed a gig with 2000AD during the early 90’s when the talent left for America leaving a gap for me to fill. Haven’t looked back.
Can you give us comic book history up till now as seen by you, in one paragraph?
Me, do a history of comics! Are you sure? Okay, here we go…
Funny stuff about drunks. Adventure stuff. Circus guys in capes. Funny animals. Horror. War. Jack Kirby. Asterix. Sci-Fi. Viz. Graphic novels from the 80s. Manga. Digital. Then Enron giving it all away for free. Is it Enron?
What current comics are you interested in?
I’m into weird stuff. Stranger the better. Reading some Michael DeForge stuff at the moment.
In what circumstances did you join Aces Weekly? What did you get from it?
Luckily I had the strip half drawn when told about the project. It gave me the incentive to finish it. Aces Weekly sounded like the ideal place to put the story as there’s no contract and I’m able to retain ownership. Everyone in the business knows that contracts are there to protect the publisher not the artist so it feels good to work in an environment of trust with fellow artists.
“Catalyst Island” is available in Aces Weekly volume 2. How did it come to you? Did you choose from several possible settings and concepts?
I’ve always been interested in prehistory. Humans have been around for 200,000 years but our history only starts from around 12,000 years ago with the ending of the last Ice Age. Reading up on new archaeological finds in prehistory your imagination tends to run wild, filling in gaps with speculation. Half the internet is speculation as the facts are so few and far between. “Catalyst Island” is my attempt at filling in one of those gaps with my own speculation, be it fanciful.
How was it realized graphically?
I bought a book on monoprinting and worked out a quick style that relied mostly on texture so after my day job could produce one or two pages in an evening watching TV.
Were you influenced by some specific types of esthetics? Oceanic art? Polynesian art?
Yes, African face masks, Easter Island stone heads, along with inspiration from black and white lino print illustrations from the 50’s and 60’s. Those largely inspired by Picasso.
Sometimes areas of your drawings become geometric, simplified symbols (the owls, the fish, the waves, silhouettes, objects, buildings, geographical features…). What is gained from this?
It gives the impression that this is a story being handed down by word of mouth through generations. I wanted everything to be unreal and distorted and the artwork to be naive as if the story was so old a proper way of drawing hadn’t been invented yet.
Pure narration, no dialogues: how do you feel about it?
The story is told in a present tense narrative. The survivors are children and children live their lives in the present so instead of writing, “He picked up a stone”, or even “He picks up a stone”, I changed it to “He is picking up a stone”. This I found gave an innocence to the story. I had to choose either narration or dialogue. I didn’t feel I could use both as it’d be too messy so I abandoned dialogue.
One gets immersed in the images: the way nature is rendered, the black and white contrast, the illusion of teeming detail… In what other works of yours can we find the same characteristics?
None. I enjoyed this so much I’m itching to do more. The first opportunity I get I’ll be getting the ink out and throwing it around.
Would you agree that the story is fit to be read very slowly, about five minutes per page, so that the words can sink in and the panels can be contemplated? One could almost see them start to move. Digital publication also makes this easier, as the pages appear on a framed screen.
Nice of you to say. It’s difficult reading your own work. You keep stopping to think how it could be made better.
“Catalyst Island” is obviously an allegory of human societies: ancien regime and revolution, capitalism, socialism, fascist dictatorships, religious states. And it works in a circle. What point does your story make? That it’s all hopeless?
In the story there is a repetition of events. Every new idea had by the islanders is followed by a catalyst which in turn is followed by the destruction of that idea. The destruction of the idea determines the nature of the next idea and so it goes round and round in an ever decreasing circle. Not to give too much away but the story ends with a breaking away from the circle, we’re given the chance of freedom, escape and hope. Yes, it could be seen as hopeless but equally there is a chance we could get it right next time.
What are you working on at the moment?
Alongside my work for 2000AD, Judge Dredd mostly, I’m also working on something for myself. I couldn’t describe it as a comic but it would make sense to call it one. To describe it would give it away so I’ll keep quiet for now.