Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interview with JG Jones

This is an interview I did a couple of months back with one of my favorite artist JG Jones, and this is what he had to say!

1 You're best know for your work at DC, do you feel more of an affinity with their characters or would you be as happy drawing at Marvel?

I grew up a Marvel kid, and hardly ever read DC Comics until I was a teenager and discovered The Kirby Fourth World stuff.  I was an instant fan of that world and characters: Kamandi, The New Gods, and, especially, Mister Miracle.
I loved working at Marvel, but I have been very happy with DC for many years now.  I've explored the DC Universe more thoroughly in the past ten years (52 was a big help), and they have an amazing group of characters, not to mention some terrific writers delivering the goods.

2 Your art is incredibly detailed. Do you find it a challenge to do entire body's of work like Wanted or Marvel Boy?

Yes, this is why I do mini series rather than ongoing books.  I like something with a beginning, middle, and end, so I can see the finish line and pace myself appropriately.
Final Crisis was difficult to finish for a number of reasons, many of which I've not discussed before and many of which I'll not get into. There were a few internal issues that presented problems, but there were also problems in my private life that cropped up unexpectedly. It also turns out that I had an undiagnosed chronic condition that left me constantly fatigued and fuzzy headed. I simply didn't have the energy to finish FC.
I have spent the past year and a half getting my health issues sorted out, and I'm on my way back now.

3 Over the years you have built up your name as a top artist. Ever feel the urge to write your own scripts?

Funny you should ask.  The first pages I ever showed Jim Shooter, the ones that got me my first job in comics, were from a book I wrote with a friend.
I've always written stories and ideas down over the years, just waiting for the right opportunity, but then I'd get so busy with whatever project I was working on, I never found the time.
Well, all that has changed recently.  I've decided to stop sitting on the writing sidelines, and jumped in whole hog, as they say down home in Louisiana. 
I have been writing a graphic novel with Phil Bram, a buddy of mine, and we just got the green light from the publisher to begin the artwork.  It's a major chunk of work, so will probably take me about a year to draw (since I need to keep my cover gigs to pay the bills).
On top of that, the publisher liked my writing effort on the graphic novel, and asked me to do some writing for an ongoing monthly series.  It's for a character that I love, and I've been having a ball with that, as well.
I'm not going to announce what these projects are just yet.  I'll wait until I get the go ahead from the publisher to tout my new writing efforts.  Stay tuned.

4 You're on record as saying Grant Morrison is your favorite writer to work with, can we expect similar plots from your own creative mind?

Hahaha!  Please, I'd be an idiot to try and do anything of the sort that Grant handles with such aplomb.  I still have the training wheels on, at this point, and I'm trying to stay within myself and just write good, tight scripts, at this point.
My one credo is “write something you would want to draw.”  Keep it fun.  Keep it interesting.  I'm sot ready to tackle Morrison territory.

5 With the success of Wanted, are you writing your projects with film adaptations in mind?

You know what?  I think too many comics creators are writing with the idea of cashing in on the Hollywood money train.  They are now giving out film deals based on a three page pitch.  It's ridiculous.
Would I like to create something I felt was worthy of being filmed?  Of course I would.  Am I writing with an expectation of a film deal? Please, I'm not sure there's any film money left, now that Mark Millar has gobbled it all up.  I hear he's using his newfound wealth to build his very own Heli-carrier. 
Right now, I'm just trying to do work that I find interesting, and I hope that comics readers will enjoy.

A New Frontier

I was asked to write a short piece about my own contribution to Irish comics for the convention fanzine Drink Tank which I did and this is what I came up with.

A New Frontier

Storytelling is rooted deeply in Irish culture and even more importantly in our very fabric. Who we are today and
how we see ourselves stretches back centuries, before television, before radio, before theatre when the only
means of communication was the spoken word and tales were told across the land of brave men and women
heroes and villains, gods and demons. Tales of a mythical Ireland, filled with magic and bloodshed.
Some of these heroes have survived over the centuries and their names remain somewhere in our consciousness
dormant, but not dead. Heroes waiting for their chance to come back to into our lives. Waiting for the
mist to lift and for us to see clearly again beyond the trappings of the modern world, waiting and hoping that one
day soon we embrace our past and our culture and learn again how to connect with our heritage and how to
understand who we are and what we are capable of.
This need to know ourselves is inherent in all walks of life and all societies. As we told tales of Cu Chulainn and
Finn Mac Cool, other heroes came to life across the globe. Baba Yaga in Russia, Sigmundr in Germany and
Kibuka in Africa. All with one common goal, to know ourselves by expressing our deepest fears
and our greatest hopes in the form of mythologies big and small.
But as society moved on, the magic of old, lost its wonder and the dark forests that held so much fear and
fascination were cleared to make way for a new world, one made of steel and concrete.
This new world had little time for the stories from old. People left in their thousands in search of
freedom and prosperity, leaving behind the shackles of religion and monarchy. There was 'gold in them there
hills' and land waiting to be claimed.
America's first real mythology appeared in the shape of the cowboy, presented to the American public by journalists of the time as
rugged, courageous men with a high moral fibre. The perfect representation of what America was supposed
to stand for. This image spread over time with the introduction of mass media.
One of the most popular forms of entertainment of the time being the frontier melodramas and none were more effective
than those presented by Buffalo Bill Cody in the form of Wild West shows. These shows toured America
and Europe right up into the early part of the twentieth century helping to create the cowboy myth worldwide.
As the image took hold, cowboy characters began to appear in dime store novels, no longer herding cattle
they now took on the even more romantic image of crime fighters, saving the damsel and righting wrongs even
though they themselves, more often than not, were operating outside of the law.
Two of the most enduring and relevant characters to emerge from this tradition (even though created a lot later)
were the Lone Ranger and Zorro.
Their popularity proved so great, their adventures were serialised in TV shows and made into motion pictures
increasing their popularity and more importantly exporting the image of the American hero around the globe
on a scale never before seen.
These two characters may have been the bridge between America's first and until recently, it's most identifiable
mythology, the cowboy and its modern counterpart, the superhero.
And over the next three decades, the American public were witness to a plethora of new heroes, each one
representing the time and place of its creation. Superman, an alien from a far off land, finding a new home in
the new world, the ultimate immigrant. Captain America, champion of justice, fighting the Nazi horde in a
blaze of patriotic propaganda. By the 1960s things had begun to change again and this was reflected in a
new wave of heroes most notably, Spiderman. A shy teenager with real, human problems, his powers
reflecting his hidden potential unseen by the rest of society. Or the Uncanny X-Men, mutants feared and hated
by the world around them, they can be seen as an attempt to highlight the racial tensions of the 1960s. Like all
myths, these characters helped their readers to understand the world around them and how they themselves
fitted in to it.
America had finally created its own myths in the shape of those colourful do-gooders, gods for a modern world.
A world that spread its message across the globe, affecting millions of teenagers and how they themselves
viewed society around them.
And while there are still great merits to those wild adventurers from a foreign land, there is also a price to pay.
Over the years our own myths have been forgotten and with such a constant influx of stories in all forms of media
there seemed to be no need for new heroes of our own.
It is this lack of Irish characters in the comic medium that has been on my mind for some time now, and
I am hoping over the coming years to help turn the tide in my own small way by introducing new creations

along with breathing new life into heroes long forgotten.
Some of Atomic Diner's new titles due for release are Roisin Dubh, a young woman living in Nineteenth Century
Ireland who has the world torn from beneath her and is forced to become a champion against the oncoming
The League of Volunteers is a World War 2 adventure book and centres around a Government sponsored super
team called in to keep the balance of neutrality during one of our country's most interesting periods.
And then hopefully later on in 2011 or early 2012, Jennifer Wilde, Glimmerman and The Emerald Scorpion.
I'm not so deluded as to think these characters will have the same kind of impact as their American counterparts
I'm simply happy to be involved in creating an Irish alternative and hope that somewhere along the way, these stories
if not inspire, at least entertain.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A recent interview with David Lloyd.

You are very active in and supportive of the comic medium in  general. How did you get involved with projects like the cartoon  classroom?

Cartoon Classroom - - was kind of  unfinished business related to my involvement with The London  Cartoon Centre, which, at it's height, was the only full-time evening  school of cartooning and sequential art that Britain's ever had.  The  LCC grew from a series of creative workshops - including one I ran -  that a charity called The Portobello Project started in the mid-80's to  help inner city unemployed folks get some useful training in arts- oriented occupations. 
Despite various valiant fund-raising efforts the LCC ran out of cash  after some years and had to wrap up it's operations, but a small  amount of raised funds came in late from Oxford's Caption group.   This could have been used to pay for one last short-run class, almost  in tribute to the memory of the LCC.  But one of the LCC's ex-tutors,  Steve Marchant, had the great idea that it could be used to set up  something which would be of more lasting value than a short-run  class, and which would still, in a real sense, be a kind of continuance  of the LCC's work.  The idea was a website that aimed to centralise all  the information available on the study of cartoon and comic art in the  UK and Ireland : a site that would direct anyone interested in those  arts to places that were - unlike the LCC - still offering training  through books, associations, art college courses, and other means.   The site would also direct libraries and schools to tutors who  specialised in teaching these specialised skills.  So, it was created  and launched last October.  I helped put material into it and I add more when it's needed.
The biggest problem we have with it is simply getting the word out  about it - because simple time-saving comprehensive lists of email  addresses of schools, art colleges, libraries, etc, are just not readily  available unless via marketing organisations at a high price.  And  we're a non-profit resource.  But we keep trying and sometimes  succeeding, and hopefully we'll reach all those areas we need to  reach before very long.
Why do I get involved in such things?  Because I think that what we  do in the area of cartooning and sequential arts is undervalued, and  it's an art form that is under-represented by those with it's best  interests at heart, and badly represented by those who don't really  care about it's place in the cultural landscape.  I want to help change  that situation if I can, by becoming involved with any organisation  which professes to have the same views as I do in that regard.
The Society of Strip Illustration, Cartoon County, and the re-jigged  Comic Book Alliance are other examples of such organisations I have  tried to help with, or am trying to help with now.  For my sins.  

2 I really enjoyed your novel Kickback and personally feel it would  make a great ongoing series, do you have any plans for a follow up?

Well, if enquiries had been followed up, and overtures been  capitalised on in attempts to initiate a movie of Kickback, then it  would have been clearly in my best interests to follow up Kickback  with a sequel, because there's at least a book's worth more to be said  about our vulnerability to corruption, and I'm sure I would have  enjoyed finding a way to portray it.  But without the guarantee of the  wide readership a movie incarnation would elicit, it would be too  much of a gamble to spend another 18 months to two years on a  sequel that might struggle in the constricted retail and distribution  market that non-superhero stories have to tolerate.  Of course, a well -publicized sequel would direct folks to the first under-publicized  original, and fix the problem you're aware I've been having for years  of trying to make people aware of it - so there is that to take into  consideration.  But I really can't say I'm enthused to do a sequel right  now.  I'm really glad you liked it so much, though : )

3 Would you be interested in seeing Kickback turned into a movie or  TV show considering it seems perfect for that type of interpretation?

A movie, of course.  An episodic tv show, I'm not sure of.  A serial  drama, sure.  Dark Horse have the options on all that until August of  next year.  I hope they make the most of the time they have left on  their contract to get something going.   

4 Kickback is quite obviously not a super hero book, do you feel the  market as a whole needs to look beyond capes and tights if it is to  survive in the long term?

I don't know if the market feels it needs to, which is the important  thing.  I hate the way the superhero has become the dominant genre  in the industry, but the major publishers are happy to keep them in  that position, and the concept alone of the ' superheroic ' figure is still  a popular one - look at the movie adaptations.  And Heroes and  Smallville.  Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim.  Not conventional spandex,  but still ' super ' power.  In a different wrapping is all.  Are  superheroes a serious liability for the major publishers of comics?  I  don't see any signs of that.  And they won't shift their course until  there are such signs.
There is a widening of the character base in comics, though.  There is  a wider range of stories and subjects for stories, which is good, and  it's good to see that things like Losers and Walking Dead have  benefited their creators through movie adaptations, etc.  So you don't  have to be a licenced lycra type to be adapted for the screen.  That  fact by itself will mean that new creators of sequential art will feel  freed of the need to jump on a superhero bandwagon.  More  Cowboys and Aliens rather than more masked musclemen. 
But what I'd like to see happen in the publishing of strips as a whole  is a determined attempt to widen the readership of ' comics 'as a wide  entertainment medium ( by that I don't mean getting more people to  accept and read superhero comics, which is the only move industry  execs seem to have considered ).  But this can only be done by a  major investment in market development, and this can only be  financed by a big company.  And as no big company I know of in the  business looks like it has the desire to invest in such a thing, I doubt it  will ever be done. 

5 How do you think the industry has changed over the last 20 years  and  do you feel its for the better?

Well, freedom from the Comics Code should have freed the industry  to explore it's power to expand and mature, but this has not  happened.  What Vertigo did has been great but hampered by it's  place in an industry which has limited retailing and distribution  capabilities, and limited aspirations in terms of it's market and it's  artistic values.  So, too much time has been invested in making  fantastic characters ' real ' and not enough time has been spent in  making ' real ' characters fantastic.
Good things have happened - especially in the quality of reproduction  - but in general, in the main, we can say that it's much the same as  before except different.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bryan Talbot interview

Over the last 17 years of selling comics and the last five years of writing and publishing them I have been lucky enough to meet lots of wonderful people in this amazing industry of pictorial story telling, so the idea hit me recently to make good on the relationships I have built up and interview these fine people and help show the world why they are so important especially in these times of mainstream conformity. Over the following months I will be talking to creative people who question the confines of our society on a multitude of levels who bring us on journeys of the mind and heart. Starting with the  very English and very lovely Bryan Talbot.

Bryan you are well known for your unique story telling and original ideas. Do you feel the industry as a whole needs more creators who are willing to step outside the comforts of the mainstream and experiment with their own ideas?

BT: The area of the comic industry that’s growing and reaching into the REAL mainstream, not the comic book mainstream is graphic novels. There’s now a large body of quality work that is sustaining this growth. There are more and better comics being produced within the graphic novel form than ever before but there’s still a need for a  range of individualistic material in all genres. I’d encourage any superhero artists and writers to move out of the confines of their relatively small niche market and produce books that could appeal to the general public, an increasing number of whom are reading GNs.

Correct me if I'm wrong but most of your work seems to be centered around a romantic vision of Britain, how do you feel the real Britain lives up to your expectations?

BT: I see what you mean but I wouldn’t exactly agree. In Arkwright, the UK is under a totalitarian fascist dictatorship, produced at the time of the rise of the far right, with Thatcher in power and the National Front marching on the streets. The Tale of One Bad Rat is partly about  homelessness in London. Even Alice in Sunderland deals with things like the Peterloo massacre, Victorian poverty and disease, the BNP and asylum seekers. I admit that I do produce a lot of work that is UK orientated. I think it makes it different from the vast majority of Anglo-American comics.

You have often been referred to as the godfather of modern British underground comics. In an industry dominated by mainstream American books what would you say was the defining difference between British and American comics.

BT: Ha! I’ve also heard “The Godfather of British Graphic Novels”. I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference between them, depending upon what comics you’re talking about. There’s a world of difference between UK kids’ weeklies  comics from US kids’ comics, the British sense of humour and the stylistic tradition are different, but if you compare material such as in 2000AD and the strips in Clint, there’re of a pretty similar ethos. Of course, there aren’t really that many UK comics.

Your latest book Grandville Mon Amour is due this December can you tells what to expect from Inspector LeBrock in his second outing?

BT: Although it contains the sleuthing, humour and action elements of the first book, I think it has quite a different atmosphere. It’s set a month later and sees LeBrock hunting down an old adversary and urban terrorist, literally a mad dog serial killer. Grandville Mon Amour has a certain poignancy as LeBrock tries to redeem himself for the death of Sarah. The first book had definite Tarantinoesque moments. This one is decidedly Hitchcockian.

How did you find it working with your son Alwyn on Grandville Mon Amour and can we expect to see future collaborations?

BT: I hope so. It was nice to work with him for the first time. Alwyn is a brilliant illustrator and computer game concept designer ( He really helped me out by colouring the last three pages as I was right up against the deadline.

Watch the Grandville trailer!
This blog is intended as a place where I can talk about both the Sub-City comic book store and the comics industry in general, Atomic Diner publishing and my own interests IE comics,movies and books, maybe even politics if the mood takes, bigger than Twitter more direct than Facebook. I also intent to publish my interviews with industry professionals each week as well as keeping a record of the progress of various comic projects I'm working on like the league of volunteers, Roisin Dubh, Jennifer Wilde, Freak Show and a few others. OK introduction done, thanks for listing.