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Home ¦ Features ¦ D'israeli Interview Part 1

1st December 03
Self portrait
(click to enlarge)
Interview by Richmond Clements

D'israeli (aka Matt Brooker) has recently been wowing 2000AD readers withthe double-whammy of Leviathan and Xtnct. Rarely has an artist received such a complete positive reaction from the notroriously hard-to-please 2000AD readership. Now with a body of work large enough to be considered a British comic veteran, we caught up with Matt to find more about Leviathan, Dredd and the hidden secrets of fishpaste...

To begin with, what made you want to work in comics?

Well, from my teens I've had a burning ambition to get through life without ever having a proper job. The reason I picked comics as an alternative to gainful employment is as follows:

My mum had painful childhood experiences of standing on the sidelines of freezing soccer pitches, supporting her sporty younger brother, so when I came along, she did all she could to bend me to the path of bookishness; as part of this, she bought and read me comics from a very early age.

Both my mum and dad had been into SF from back in the Fifties. By the early Seventies when I was a nipper, there was stuff like Dr.Who and Star Trek and all the Gerry Anderson stuff on TV, and comics like TV21 and Countdown which featured all that stuff, so they bought me those. Funnily enough, I didn't get into 2000AD right from the start, but I did get Starlord a bit later, and kept collecting 2000AD after the two merged in 1979.

I always drew a lot, but with more enthusiasm than skill. I must have been ten when I decided, in an uncharacteristic fit of Nietzchian determinism, to devote the six-week summer holidays of 1977 to teaching myself to draw. So I just sat down with a pencil and paper and a load of Marvel U.K. comics and started copying every Neal Adams panel I could find. I went at it pretty hard - I remember having to take a couple of days off because the middle finger on my right hand had gone numb from my gripping the pencil too hard. I still have a huge callus (what the Aussies call a "Liar's Lump") on that finger to this day.

By the time September came around, I could draw properly (after a fashion) but more importantly, I'd got the idea of myself as an artist. And that was where the rot set in...

What was your first professional work in comics, and what was your first work with 2000AD?

Matt vs Tharg
(click to enlarge)

My first professional job was as fill-in artist for Carlos Ezquerra on The Third World War for Crisis, Fleetway's attempt to do an "adult" companion comic to 2000AD. It was written by Pat Mills, whose work I'd really loved on Nemesis, Slaine and Marshall Law, so I really felt I was starting at the top, but because of inexperience and deadline pressures I did a lousy job, and they sacked me after one episode. Shortly after that I picked up a job inking Mark Buckingham on Hellblazer, but I lost that because Rick Veitch kicked Alfredo Alcala off Swamp Thing. Alfredo was on retainer at DC, which meant they had to pay him whether they had work for him or not - unfortunately, the work they gave him was mine.

So within three months I'd been hired and fired by the two biggest clients I'd ever hoped to work for in comics. It did me good though. Toughened me up, gave me a bit of attitude. I f*cked off to Deadline magazine and never looked back.

(Incidentally, a mere twelve years after the Hellblazer thing, Alfredo Alcala died. Remember that. It doesn't do to mess with me.)

As far as 2000AD goes, my first job was colouring Steve Yeowell on a Sinister Dexter Christmas story in 1998. I did two year's colouring for them, and then my first drawing job was a Future Shock, The Petition, which I also wrote (Prog 1207, 23-29 August 2000).

What entails an average working day, and what tools to you use on the job?

When I'm working, I usually get up early - sometime between six and seven am, and go straight to work. I'll go through till about eight-thirty, then stop and have some breakfast. I then work from ten/ten-thirty till one, and have a long lunch hour (sometimes till four pm). I'll watch a movie or time-shifted TV program on video and have a nap. I'll then do another work stint till about seven, have some dinner, then, if necessary, work again until about ten. Unless I'm on the final day of a deadline I try not to work any later.
More sketchwork
(click to enlarge)
I don't keep weekends free of work, though Sundays I usually don't start till 10am.

I'm a big one for night classes, so last year I was doing a photography 'A' level, Beginner's German, plus Karate lessons for physical exercise. I used to do ballroom dancing to keep fit, but I find I pick up fewer injuries with the Karate.

I live in Sheffield and my girlfriend lives in Nottingham, so every other week I'll go over to hers for the weekend. She's an university lecturer with a very heavy workload, so often I'll set up my laptop in her office and we'll work side by-side, she on Aesconius' commentaries on Cicero and me on comics about talking dinosaurs with guns; it's nice being in proximity and we can take breaks together.

That's under normal conditions; for the past few months she and I have been sharing a flat in Vienna (where she's come on research leave), which means my day is about the same pattern as at home, but it's drifted two hours later so I start at eight-thirty and finish between midnight and one am. I think it has something to do with Austrian evening television being crap (one program featured blindfolded children listening to Lego bricks - I kid you not!)

Tools of the trade:

I do everything on computer these days, a Mac G4 laptop as I need my kit to be portable. I draw on a Wacom Intuos A5 graphics tablet with the standard stylus (for those who've never seen a graphics tablet, it's like small drawing board with a lead that plugs into your computer. You write or draw on it with the stylus provided, and the marks you make appear on screen. With a bit of practice, you can use one to draw directly on computer in very much the same way as with pen and paper). 90% of what I do is done in two programs, Illustrator 10 and Photoshop 7.

The many stages of drawing Dredd
(click to enlarge)

Illustrator I use for drawing and inking; black & white comics such as Leviathan and XTNCT are done entirely in Illustrator (even down to the lettering in the case of XTNCT). I find it so useful because everything you draw, every line or patch of grey or block of lettering is a separate object which remains "live" and editable - so, for example, I can change not only the colour of my outlines with one click after I've drawn them, but also the thickness of the line, and even the quality of the line - changing "brush" lines into charcoal effect, for example. I can enlarge or reduce a drawing and decide whether or not I want the thickness of the outlines to change at the same time.

Photoshop I tend to use for post-processing (converting Illustrator files to a format and resolution suitable for print) and for colouring, since it behaves more like paint (though at the moment I'm experimenting with colouring in Illustrator too!). I'm also saving up for Painter 8, which looks like being the first version of that program that's really useful for print work.

I deliver work either on CD or direct by FTP - Macintosh provide a handy facility called "iDisk" that helps you make files available for download via web browser from a password-protected web page.

Go to part 2

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).