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Home ¦ Features ¦ Richard Elson Interview Part 2

30th March 03

Interview by Chris Weston Click on pictures for larger versions


CW: I believe you worked on "Sonic the Comic" with Mike McMahon and Nigel Dobbyn. Talented company indeed. However, I've detected an innate snobbery in the industry towards artists who do "kiddies' comics". Have you ever been on the receiving end of that?

SonicRE: It's not just kiddie comics. Organised fandom in this country is really only interested in American comics (with the possible, grudging, exception of 2000AD). We always had the best attended signings at the UK conventions for Sonic, but were still shoved in a corner on the last two hours of the final Sunday. I remember the whole Sonic crew doing a signing on the landing at UKCAC one year where our tables were literally pinned against the wall by hundreds of kids; meanwhile further down the landing the likes of Joe Kubert and Alan Davis were signing for orderly queues of twenty, or so, fans. The organisers always seemed to be slightly embarrassed by this rather than encouraged. As if they thought the kids were ruining their 'serious' comic convention. I don't think that much has changed.

The truth of the matter is that the best selling comics in Britain, by a bloody long way, are Viz, The Beano and The Dandy; followed by a bunch of other 'kiddie' comics; followed by 2000AD and, some way back, all of the American imports. And yet at any British convention the indigenous titles are, at best, marginalised or, at worst, ignored.

SonicI thought it was hilarious last year when The Beano printed an Eagle Awards voting form and subsequently cleaned up at the awards ceremony. Some of the embittered and frustrated comments that I heard reported from 'serious' attendees and creators made the admission price worthwhile.

CW: What was your experience of working on "Sonic"?

RE: Great. Not that I have any particular fondness for the character; but, the friends I made, the quality of writers and artists that I worked with (and alongside ), the atmosphere of creativity, the editorial latitude to create and tell stories of an enduring nature within the constraints of the format; all of these things contributed to making it a wonderful and inspiring time. Due to the limited number of creators and the editorial consistency, there was a real team spirit on Sonic that lead to the production of some terrific comics.

SonicCW: The next time I saw your work in 2000ad was on the Dan Abnett strip "Roadkill." I presume Andy Diggle brought you over from "Sonic", right?

RE: Yeah, Andy took over as editor of Sonic for the last six months, or so, before it went all reprint. Like most British comics people, Andy had little interest in the title when he arrived. But, I think, under his editorship the writers Lew Stringer, Nigel Kitching and I, produced some of our best work on the title in our seven year run.

I was getting four colour pages a week in to Andy on Sonic, so he knew that I could hit a Deadline. I assume that's why he gave me a call when they needed a quick turn around for Roadkill.

Dredd & DeathCW: You then had a good stint on "Judge Dredd" in the Megazine. Drawing a Dredd strip always filled me with... er... dread, mainly because the character comes with so much visual baggage and partly because I know I can't do him better than past artists like Bolland, McMahon, Cliff Robinson, Ian Gibson and Cam Kennedy. Were you similarly daunted? (For the record, I think you did a great job!)

RE: Brendan McCarthy's Dredd stuff is still my all time favourite 2000AD art. Judge Dredd 16, the (now deleted) Titan collection of much of Brendan's Dredd work, is pretty much my comics bible. I totally understand the intimidation that you feel regarding the weight of history that the character carries. I couldn't hope to compete with the work of McMahon et al. Luckily the time constraints on the stories I did meant that I didn't have the luxury to dwell on it. It was a real sink, or swim, job.

For me, it is a great thrill and an honour to be asked to draw a Judge Dredd strip. Having said that, other than the one-off Alan Grant strip (Leaves of Grass) I don't think that I've managed to do myself justice (arf, arf) on the future lawman, to date. I'd love to have another go at Dredd. I know that I've got a good Dredd strip in me, itching to burst out: like a hi-ex from the back of a perp's skull. Dredd is such a great comics character. It amazes me that John Wagner is still able to write such brilliant satire into these tales; he still has me laughing out loud on many an occasion.

AtavarCW: Was "Dredd" the first time you used a computer to colour your own work? What were your initial reactions to using what is, in historical terms, a new medium?

RE:I first used the computer about five years ago, on Sonic. The day I got a scanner was the day I started computer colouring my regular strip. I thought it would save me a lot of time, but after the first couple of rushed attempts, I'm not sure that that has turned out to be the case. The learning process was, and still is, great. I do almost all of my colouring in Photoshop and I still learn something new every time I colour a page. It's a terrific tool and I would be lost if I had to return to hand colouring.

Go to part 3

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