Your comics seem to appear all over Aces Weekly (volumes 4, 6, 9, 13,19&20, so far). What does your relationship with the magazine bring you?
Well, as someone who has mostly worked as part of an art team in pro comics (specifically as an inker), Aces is fantastic because it gives a home to all the solo stuff I’ve a created over the years which is either long out of print or never saw print in the first place.
There’s constant humor throughout your work. How does it reflect the way you view the world? What do you have to say about the sense of the ridiculous?
On one level, humour between characters is a great shortcut to intimacy, suggesting a depth to that relationship that we seldom have the space to actually show. Plus, humour can add a level of naturalism– which may seem slightly counter-intuitive. But just take a walk down any street and watch people interact with one another. The thing you notice is how everyone punctuates their sentences with laughter– even when it’s not always apparent to the outside observer what the joke is. I firmly believe laughter is the ‘glue’ that binds real relationships, so why not use it to make fictional relationships seem that bit more authentic?
Then, of course, there’s visual humour– -the ‘gag’ seems such a fundamental part of the roots of comics that it just feels right to use. I particularly like bathos, where pompous characters, like Jim Dandy, are made to look ridiculous– not that he ever needed much help in that respect!
Does Jim Dandy represent a certain human type you’ve observed, or is he just a way for you to let loose verbal flights?
I don’t think I’ve ever really moved in the kind of circles that an upper-class ‘toff’ like Jim Dandy would frequent. But guilty as charged on the second part of your question as I do particularly enjoy writing Jim’s dialogue– pretending to be a spoilt aristocrat is a lot of fun.
Do you take class differences more seriously in real life? Is there really such a thing as social classes?
Being British, class difference is our national pastime, so naturally I do take the subject seriously in real life. Jim Dandy was originally intended as a diatribe on the British class system, with the comedy and sci-fi elements thrown in to sugar the pill. But it would be very dull if everyone in the story was either poor and saintly or rich and despicable, so I let the characters begin to take on lives of their own. As a result, the ‘class war’ may have been watered down to the point where it reads like a ‘jolly old romp’– but to me it’s still about inequality of wealth and opportunity, colonialism, sexism– all the fun stuff!
There are quite a few connections between your art and popular music. How much influence does rock n’ roll hold over your comics?
Sometimes, playing with musical references can be a useful creative exercise that, through lateral thinking, can take you somewhere unexpected– like Tex-Mex, a music genre, led to my story Tec’s Mechs, about a police detective (or ‘Tec) whose deputies are all robots (Mechs). Other times, an album title– like Marc Bolan’s A Dandy In The Underworld— just says everything I need to sum up an idea. It really doesn’t matter if anyone ‘gets’ the reference, of course– how many people are aware that Mega-City 1’s Judge Dredd was inspired by the 70’s British reggae artist Judge Dread?
Is the Jim Dandy character related to Mandrake? How important are Golden Age 20th century comics to you?
I think the only thing Jim shares with Mandrake is a moustache. His real antecedents are British film actors David Niven, and in particular, Terry-Thomas. As far as comics influences go, I’m more of a Silver Age (1960’70’s) fan. If I had to single out one series that influenced Jim Dandy more than any other it would have to be Steve Gerber’s Howard The Duck. Working with incredible artists like Gene Colan and Frank Brunner he created something that just worked on so many levels. Satire, slapstick, super-heroics- what’s not to like?
What kind of effect are you looking for when you compose a page?
Actually, as all the stories I’ve had published in Aces Weekly so far were originally drawn in the ‘portrait’ format of traditional comics, and re-jigged to the ‘landscape’ format for Aces, it’s not so much composing a page as trying to make the pieces fit.
How different is it to work for video games? I find the possibilities presented on your site fascinating.
I tend to look on everything I do as ‘drawing stuff’, so in that respect, as a concept artist, working in videogames isn’t that much of a leap from working in comics. The main difference, thanks to ever-changing game mechanics and client input, is probably the amount of artwork that you can produce for a videogame that never gets used. In comics, it’s practically unheard of for a publisher to pay for artwork that doesn’t get published. In games, it’s par for the course. And even if your concepts are used, the in-game art will consist of 3d models and environments which may or may not bear a passing resemblance to what you created. And creators of games are nowhere near as well-known as those who work in comics– so if you have any kind of ego, games may not be for you. On the plus side games are probably less of a slog than comics– you don’t have to draw the whole thing from start to finish– and if you’re lucky, you get to work on an amazingly wide variety of ideas and genres.
How do you view your place in society as a comic book creator?
Hey, I’m not looking for any special privileges! I know how lucky I am to work in the comics biz– which doesn’t mean to say that I think ALL comic creators are treated with the respect they deserve. Too many brilliantly-talented comic artists and writers never get a fair shake. Here in the UK we have a creaky old ‘honours’ system where the ‘great and the good’ get knighted by the Queen– which is just about as ludicrous as it sounds. But SIR David Lloyd sounds pretty good to me!
In your opinion, what part do comics play today, with their still images and slow reading pace? What advice would you give young comic readers?
I’m not really sure I could give advice to young comic readers– if they’re already comic readers they’ll find the stuff they like without my input. And if they’re not comic readers already, any intervention could be counter-productive, as no one wants to be told what to read. When I first fell in love with comics it was because, having read various UK & US comics that didn’t grab me, I saw Gene Colan and Jack Abel’s art on an issue of Iron Man, and was completely hooked by the evocative lighting and the incredible sense of peril which perfectly captured the drama of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas’ script. (There’s a limit to the number of times you can be suckered into believing that Iron Man will die if he doesn’t recharge his chest battery– but that first time for me really seemed like a matter of life and death). Now other comics fans will have their own epiphany, so there’s no point saying “read this comic, it’ll change your life” because most likely it won’t. I’d just like to see the medium survive long enough, and be so easily available that kids get the opportunity to see the wide range of stuff that has been produced over the last century and find something that unlocks the pleasure to be had in reading comics. So if I was to say anything to new readers it would be this: “Read them slowly and appreciate the artwork– or read them fast and enjoy the visceral rush of time fast-forwarding. And never forget that a handful of people just like you with some pretty basic tools created what you’re reading. That’s the kind of magic that‘s far more impressive than the most state-of-the-art CGI you’ll find in any movie or videogame. So find YOUR ‘Iron Man moment’–there really is something for everyone out there. And ACES WEEKLY, with the range of stories we have available, is a really good place to start!”