Interview about getting into the comic industry

When and where did you graduate? In which subject?

I graduate in 1979 from Stourbridge School Of Art with a Degree in Fine Art

How did you become an artist of comics

Before going on to my Degree course I did a local Foundation Course in Halifax, Yorkshire. This was between 1974 and 1975. Half way through the two year course Stephen Baskerville (he has inked for both Marvel and DC Comics) joined and we became friends. I told him that I had an old collection of comics (mainly horror ones) and I said that I thought that the standard of drawing was generally better than in the old Superhero ones I collected as a kid. He educated me to the fact that the same artists, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Gray Morrow were also creating the Superhero stuff and I then got introduced to Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing. That inspired me to try my luck and the very first clumsy effort at 19, “The Apprentice”, was published in a British Fanzine, Comics Unlimited. I believed that this was it for me. I am now 50 and waiting for my big break still?

Can you briefly describe the process of creating a comic?

Story always comes first. It’s pointless slaving over a thing of visual beauty if, at the end of the day, it says nothing. I’d rather have a semi-decent drawing supporting a solid story than the other way around. The process is different depending on the type of story although there are still similarities in the process. For example, if you are writing a 6 page horror story then you start from that final panel and work back to how that shock ending came about. Start to flesh out the characters and pace the action so it never drops. Then, wham! The reader is left satisfied. Similarly writing a longer continuing piece still requires the pace, the action, the change of scenes and, if it is to continue, the cliffhanger that replaces the final, final scene.

What was your first comic, how was the feedback and how much did you earn from it, if anything?

The first story I created was “The Apprentice” about a young man who worked for a bullying butcher. One night, in the finest EC tradition, they are working late together and the apprentice decides to kill his tormentor. He bones the corpse out and grinds him into burgers distributing them around the town. One night in panic he runs and finds himself hungry. He eats one of the burgers forgetting the origin and suddenly starts to convulse. A woman hears screams from a dark alley and runs down to find the apprentice lying there with two arms ripped out of his stomach strangling him. The final text read, “Bob’s stomach was settled!” I went on to create a professional 6 part series for Harrier Comics called Shock Therapy in 1986. I was paid in the region of £300 for writing, editing, drawing most of it and designing a 4-colour cover. It was distributed to America and Canada. I’d love to re-draw some of the stuff but I suppose it stands as testimony to what my work looked like then. I was able to give Stephen Baskerville work and also the first work by Andy Lanning, again who moved on to Marvel and DC.

What past projects have you worked on,

My work appeared in Pssst!, Knockabout Comics, The Alternative Headmaster’s Bulletin, Graphixus , Shock Therapy and The New Funk Times. I have also produced album covers for American Funk artists, related to P-Funk, such as Bootsy Collins, Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey and Mallia Franklin. I most recently designed the cover for a dance track, “Sunshine Daze”

What are you currently working on and what is your current earnings?

 I am currently working on a long-term project called “Soul Man” which mixes fiction with facts and is an attempt to tell the story of Soul Music through the eyes of a benevolent spirit of Soul City, USA…Soul Man.

I have also been asked to develop some cartoon similar to the Gorillaz group for a new label as well as more work for Jerome Brailey with a project he is working for a Miami artist, Buddha Gonzalez.

I can’t really say what my earning are as a comic artist as I work when asked

Any advice for people wanting to enter the comics field?

Well, following on from that last answer, explore all possibilities, stay with what you know best and never give up. Comics are a unique art form, a hybrid of visual art and the written word. Over the years the field has expanded and evolved. There should be work for everyone, but as in all fields there isn’t. The beauty of it is, though, you can create your own. That way you can cut your teeth, learn how to edit, write, collaborate, distribute. It isn’t easy and sometimes you take a different direction totally unexpectedly. As well as art my other passion has always been Black American music and I was brought up listening to funk and Motown. I answered an advert in a music paper for a fanzine coming out of Germany about P-Funk and I sent them a sketch of George Clinton and Prince. Thayt led to a regular comic strip which led to doing some album covers. It almost lead to Marvel Comics commissioning a P-Funk Graphic Novel but Marvel cut down its operations and scrapped its music based comics. Ironically the try out they gave me to do was to write a synopsis around one Ozzy Osbourne. Ah, if only…..