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Home ¦ Features ¦ PJ Holden Interview Part 1

PJ Holden - A 2000 AD Review InterviewPART 1
9th March 04

Rogue Trooper
PJ's 1st Rogue Trooper
Interview by Richmond Clements

Not many new artists can claim their first work for 2000AD to be a Judge Dredd tale, and their first multi-part story to be no less than the new Rogue Trooper story....

I’ve been trying to talk PJ into doing an interview for the past couple of months, but his natural reticence always got in the way. Eventually, after some nagging, he was kind enough to invite me along to his studio, where we discussed everything from his debut, drawing Dredd no less, to his current work on the soon to be published, latest Rogue Trooper tale.

Now, if only I can get him to talk…

Could you take us through the process of creating a page?

I read the script a lot. I sit and doodle on the script, then do a thumbnail layout of the page on an A4 page. If I'm lucky, I'll have gotten it right on the thumbnail, if not, I'll end up with lots and lots of them.

I draw out my panel boarders first and make sure they're a nice shape, if they're too square, then it's harder to make what's inside interesting.

Once I've done that, I start to pencil the page. I start at top left, and work my way down to bottom right. It used to be that I pencilled very loosely, with little detail, now I pencil quite tight. That's because as I've gotten more experience, and have got better, I'm less unsure about it.
When I'm happy with that, I start inking. I ink from top right, to bottom left, and that stops me smudging the page.

I know a lot of people criticise me because I draw so much, and abandon so much, but what no-one has been able to say is that the page I drew instead wasn't better. It's not that the pages I abandon are not good, but that I was being lazy when I drew them. Sometimes I zone out when I'm drawing, and realise afterwards that it's shit. Next time I do it, I think about it, and because of that it's better.

Judge Dredd
PJ's 1st Dredd strip

How do you know if you're good?

You don't! Whenever I've done something, I think it's crap, and I redraw it. Or it's great at first and then an hour later I think it's crap. So when you think it's good, you move your goals. You think, "Well hang on, maybe I can draw as well as that all the time".

That’s why a lot of artists say that they're never really going to be good enough. Ask them what they think the best thing they’ve done and they’ll say, "I haven’t done it yet." Really good artists, not that I’m putting myself in that category, will be the sort to always say they’re rubbish.

John McCrea told me a story about when he was down with Brian Bolland, and Brian was selling him some Wonder Woman covers. Brian was going "Look at the leg on that, it's rubbish" and John was kind of: "Alright Mr. Bolland sir, whatever you say." Most artists don't really think "I am God's gift to the world." Well, I don't think there are any good ones who think that and the ones that do are never really that good. I've known a couple of guys who think like that, and you look at it and go: "crap". You don’t improve if you think "I've gotten as good as I'll ever get".

So if it's two minutes old, and I like it, then I think it's good. But then ten minutes later it’s rubbish.

Can you tell me anything about the new Rogue story?

No, I haven't read it! Genuinely.

I got the scripts one after the other, so I kind of read it one script at a time. You read it once, then you read it again to look for images, then you start drawing it.

It's like looking at an individual word, and then the letters, after a while it stops making sense. Whenever I read it again, it'll be as much a surprise to me as anyone. I just hope I haven’t mistaken anyone for anyone else, and drawn a character that wasn’t supposed to be that character… it wouldn't be the first time I did it!

Tell us about that?

It was the first script I did for Warhammer and I misread it and assumed that a character was a vampire. There was a description of her "chomping down" on somebody. The editor said, "What’s going on in that panel?" and I replied, "She's a vampire, so I tried to make it look good by drawing her leaping over him".

"The word was "chopping" down, she's not a vampire, and she's using her sword."

She was a succubus. I saw "suck" and assumed she must be a vampire...

So a good tip would be to always read the script?

Yes. Always read the script. Four or five times at least.

Rogue Trooper
Detail from Realpolitik 1
Click to enlarge

Go to part 2

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