¦ Features ¦ D'israeli
Interview Part 2
Along with some
other independent artists, you worked on Batman during the highly publicised No
Man's Land event. What was it like to work on such a high profile character as
part of a big company event? Would you ever like to go back to the character?
gets into a tight squeeze
That was so bizarre!
The first half of 1998 had been a real work drought, I had one month when I only
earned 30 quid by drawing a private commission, and I only survived at all because
DC lost some of my artwork from the previous year and had to pay me compensation!
So I 'm getting
to this point where I'm not sure any more if I'm an artist with a lot of time
to lie on a sofa watching Godzilla movies, or a fat bloke who lies on a sofa watching
Godzilla movies who thinks he's still an artist, when Ian Edginton rings me and
says "How'd you like to do Batman?"
It turned out that
Ian had been pitching for work at DC, and had sent in a graphic novel we'd done
together called Kingdom of the Wicked. This had done the rounds at DC and someone
at the wonderfully-named Bat Office had decided we'd be good as a team for a No
Man's Land segment.
So in due course
I get a call from the wonderfully-named Jordan Gorfinkel (henceforth "Gorf")
- it was a good thing Ian had tipped me off or I'd have presumed it was a practical
joke - and I was booked to pencil and ink one episode, with two months to do the
work. After some negotiation, I managed to wangle the colouring too.
must have been a problem with one of the other segments because soon after, we
were asked if we could do two issues worth, so by the time I started on August
30th 1998 I had two months to pencil, ink and colour two episodes plus one cover
- that's normally three people's work. The only reason we got through it was because
Ian and I had a long-standing working relationship - essentially we worked out
what we were going to do and then bullied poor old Gorf into approving it.
So for two months
I did almost nothing but work on Batman, from 6am each morning to 10pm each night.
I remember I had the whole job broken down into segments in order to get through
it, so at any time I knew to 1/135th part where I was! It all got a bit crazed
towards the end, I started looking like a panda-eyed Morlock, plus I'd have these
panics every morning when I woke up. You see, when work is thin, as it had been
up to then, I become haunted by convincing dreams that I've just landed some huge
job which will really save my bacon, so each morning I'd wake up in a cold sweat
and dash through to my work-room to check that the pages really were on my drawing
Overall, I'm still
pleased with what I did, especially given the time I had to do it in. Credit really
does have to go to the separators at Digital Chameleon though, who did a beautiful
job; they made it look like I put a lot more work into the colour roughs than
I actually did!
Penguin holds court
The really big
surprise in working on such a high-profile character was how laissez-faire the
Bat Office was. My previous experience with DC had been working for Vertigo, and
they were lovely people, but they really did edit you to smithereens; if you got
away with four corrections a page you were doing well. With Batman I had one set
of corrections from Gorf at the pencil stage and another set from the approvals
committee at the end (mainly to do with giving Batman a slimmer waistline (!).
I remember counting and the total number of corrections came to seventeen over
forty-four pages. Bliss.
I'd love another
pop at Batman, perhaps some Legends thing, and I did have hopes at one point,
as Gorf had been very enthusiastic about my work, but then he left not only DC
but comics editing altogether. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory once
an established artist for many years, you've only started working for 2000AD relatively
recently. What tempted you to join the fold? How does working for 2000AD compare
to working for bigger companies, like DC or Dark Horse?
I like that - "tempted
me to join the fold" - in fact, the way it's worked for me is that I've grabbed
desperately at whatever work I could get for most of my career. I read 2000AD
as a child and it was always an ambition to work for them. What I realised early
on was it was going to be a long haul to get in. In the late 80's and early 90's
2000AD went through a phase of using work that relied on spectacular surface effects
but was perhaps not so strong on the storytelling. I was always much better at
the nuts-and-bolts storytelling than the spectacular image, especially back then,
so it took a process of years for me to build up my skills and for 2000AD to return
to its roots.
I got in originally
because they were moving over to computer colouring to save money, and I was among
the first wave of artists in this country to invest in the technology. That was
under David Bishop.
A couple of years
later, when Andy Diggle took over, I was getting burned out as a colourist, so
he suggested I write and draw some Future Shocks, having seen a one-off comic
called Consequences that I'd done for a small outfit called Autocratik Press the
I then spent a
couple of years away from 2000AD, doing a project called Scarlet Traces for an
online comics publisher, Coolbeans, with Ian Edginton. When Coolbeans folded,
we got the rights to Scarlet Traces back, and sold it as a reprint to Alan Barnes
at the Megazine. From that, Both Alan and Matt Smith offered me new work (XTNCT
with Paul Cornell and Leviathan with Ian again), and at that point, I feel my
career as a 2000AD artist REALLY started, in that I was not only working for 2000AD,
but doing stuff that was getting a real, positive response from the readers.
Would you like
to make a return to Lazarus Churchyard? Or create another series with the now
in-demand Warren Ellis?
I loved working
on Lazarus, and I'd be delighted to do more stories. When I did the extra pages
for the Laz collection back in 2000, it was a very nostalgic experience; the seven
years since finishing the original stories fell away and I started drawing in
the way I had back in 92. It was like putting on a comfy old pair of shoes.
the last time I heard Warren talk about this, is that he wrote Lazarus as a young
man, based loosely on himself, and he feels he's changed so much that he can't
write the character any more.
I certainly would
like to work with Warren again, on Lazarus or anything else; every so often seems
to pop back into my life with some new opportunity, so I wouldn't dismiss the
possibility, but given how busy he is, I don't pester him for work.