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Home ¦ Features ¦ Richard Elson Interview Part 1

30th March 03

Interview by Chris Weston Click on pictures for larger versions

AtavarRichard Elson has got to be one of the industry's best kept secrets. He has worked for the Galaxy's Greatest Comic for over a decade now, regularly turning in artwork that is dynamic, imaginative and atmospheric. More recently, on strips such as "The Scrap" and "Atavar", we have seen his his talent blossom into something rather special. Damn him! This job is hard enough already without talented gits like Richard cranking up the
competition! Still, he's definitely one of my favourite artists currently working for 2000AD weekly and I think it's about time we all found out a bit more about him:

Chris Weston: Hi, Richard. Let's get the boring one out the way first: what on earth made you want to become a comic strip artist?

Richard Elson: It was the only way I knew that I could make money. I built up my comics collection as a kid by selling Hulk drawings to a school friend's dad. I'd use these funds to top up my measly pocket money in order to buy the latest Kirby masterpiece. Many years later I sold my first pro strip to Sounds (the music weekly), as a seventeen year old (Alan Moore, Brendan McCarthy and Savage Pencil were regular contributors at the time). After short periods of regular work, long periods of unemployment and four years at art college I didn't have the imagination to think of another way to make a living. I suppose it was inevitable really; having loved comics since I first saw a Kirby Sub-Mariner drawing as a six year old.

Sin DexCW: Looking at your artwork, I'm guessing your influences are Brendan McCarthy, Jack Kirby and Moebius. On the money? Anyone else you would add to that list?

RE: How did you guess ? Actually, I'm not that fond of Moebius' Sci-Fi stuff, but I love his Blueberry work. Herb Trimpe was a big influence (I'd spend many an hour painstakingly recreating every detail of Trimpe's Hulk covers, as a kid), Steve Ditko (especially Doctor Strange ), Barry Smith (along with my Kirby and McCarthy comics, Smith's Weapon X has a prominent position beside my drawing board, at all times ) and Carlos Ezquerra. I'm pretty much in awe of the talents of Mike McMahon and Jamie Hewlett, but these guys are on a different planet and their influence doesn't really translate into my drawing style. Kirby, Ditko and McCarthy are the main guys.

Outside of comics, I look at Titian and Goya a lot and am a big fan of the Disney animators: Bill Tytla, Milt Karl and Glenn Keane. Aside from the above, Yasushi Nirasawa, Takayuki Takeya and Keita Amemiya are probably the biggest current influences on my work. Oh, and the films of Kubrick. Oh, and Hayo Miyazaki.

CW: The first time I ever saw your artwork was on "Shadows" for 2000AD, way
in 1990. Was this your first ever job? How did it come about ?

ShadowsRE: I'd done a couple of very poor Future Shocks prior to Shadows. They must have been short of artists at the time, because there was no way that I was competent enough to draw a full series. But, for some inexplicable reason, Richard Burton and Alan McKenzie thought they'd give me a shot. I imagine they later came to regret their decision when the finished pages arrived. I was quite in awe of Pete Milligan ( the writer of Shadows ) at the time and was destroyed when he returned copies of the opening episode with copious border notes that could basically be condensed to: this is shit, do it again, properly! Which is exactly what Richard Burton subsequently asked me to do.

When Shadows saw print I felt physically sick. It was meant to be in black and white, but, I assume in an attempt to revive the lifeless art, Richard Burton decided to get it coloured. Unfortunately he handed it over to Tim Perkins who coloured it in felt pen onto blue line copies of the original art, which were then printed with the black line superimposed above the blue line. The result was probably the worst art job ever to see print in 2000AD.

It took me a good five, or six, years to get over this traumatic introduction to the world of comics. But, to be honest, I still harbour a lot of fury, hate and rage towards all involved :)

SonicCW: It wasn't that bad, Richard! If you wanna see really crap "early" artwork, check out my Dredd strip, "Crazy Barry, Little Mo"! Ugh! After Shadows, you seemed to disappear for a while after that. What happened?

RE: I persevered because I didn't have a clue what else to do. I eventually landed a job on the Eagle which led ( via the editor, Barrie Tomlinson ) to a two year stint on the Mutant Turtles. Editors tend to typecast their creators and for the next seven, or so, years I was only offered funny animal work, so managed to learn a lot of the craft of comics out of the 'limelight' of the mainstream.

Go to part 2

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