¦ Features ¦ Cat Sullivan
by James Mackay
an air of mystery about Cat Sullivan since he arrived a few months ago to draw
2000AD's first-ever ongoing strip cartoon. Where had he come from? Was he a man
or woman? (Hint: the answer's in the question) The initials "RH" in
the corner of many of the Droid Life strips even sparked rumours that this was
the return of Rian Hughes. Well, we tracked the Cat to his lair, and he graciously
agreed to help clear up the confusion...
JM: How did
you come to work for Tharg, and were you previously a reader of 2000AD?
CS: When we were kids in
Liverpool my older brother bought 2000AD right from the first issue, and I always
read them after he was done. (I've just recently dug out the stack of old comics
from my parents' house and been looking through them again - Flesh, Harlem Heroes,
the first Dredds - amazing stuff.) I did drift away for a bit during the intervening
decades though. As for how I ended up working for the Mighty One, I suppose really
you'd have to ask him that (if you dared!). My impression is that he saw some
of my stuff in Viz, and then basically asked if I'd be interested in trying a
little strip for page 2.
JM: Did you
find it easy to switch from the distinctly adult humour of Viz and Smut to the
slightly more restrained 2000AD?
CS: Really the tricky thing
is switching from 20-panel to 4-panel strips. The jokes or stories or whatever
you want to call them have to be a lot smaller in scope, and if you try to develop
a situation across three or four strips it takes an entire month.
And mention of Smut reminds me - are you aware what the word "flicker"
looks like when lettered in a comic?
CS: Yeah, well... before
I delivered those I even made a point of shortening the sticky-out bit on the
"L", to make a bigger gap between the two letters... but there you go.
And for some reason the droid named Clint seems to have disappeared altogether.
JM: How long
did the strip take to develop?
CS: I think I chatted back
and forth with the editor for three or four weeks before delivering the first
set of strips. At first when I suggested centering it round Nerve Centre I didn't
know there'd already been some "Tharg and his droids" stories before
- but those ones featured people like the well-known art & script droids who
I'd never get right if I tried. So I just figured we'd go down to some basement
where all the really boring, crap jobs are done.
JM: Are there
any plans to put any of the "classic" Nerve Centre characters, such
as Mek-Quake, in future strips?
CS: No immediate plans as
yet, but depending on how long Tharg's kind enough to keep running the strip it's
JM: Why do you
sign with "RH"?
CS: Erm... let's just say
it's a long and not overly interesting story involving '70s pop singer Helen Reddy.
OK, then… Have you been aware of the strongly positive fan reaction to “Droid
CS: Erm - to be honest,
I sort of shy away from places where there might be reader comments on things
I'm doing. I mean it's nice if a stranger says they like one of your comics -
but then if you listen to him you also have to listen to the guy who thinks you're
crap and your strip's a total waste of space. Not that I'd expect the messageboards
would be overflowing with comments on Droid Life, but you get what I'm saying...
psychologically I reckon I'm better off just staying away.
JM: So you didn’t
see the successful campaign to give P14 his own page number?
CS: What? They printed a
page number? Oh bugger - now what the hell am I
supposed to do…?
Moving swiftly on…
JM: In that
regard, what are your favourite strips in this genre (e.g. Andy Capp, Doonesbury,
Calvin & Hobbes)? More generally, who are the comic artists or writers you
look up to?
CS: Well, looking
way, way up, you can't help but be in awe of Calvin & Hobbes and Pogo. I do
like Doonesbury a lot. And my lovely and brilliant wife Isabel (whom I'm contractually
obliged to mention at least once in this interview under pain of fry-pan to the
head) is very keen on one called "Mutts" by an American named Patrick
McDonnell, who has an amazing ability to turn three strokes of a pen into a totally
expressive living being.
But outside of
daily strips - I suppose I look up to anyone who can draw or write better than
me, which is a pretty wide bloody field. I'm still knocked out by the old guard
at Viz, none of whose names I actually know - they use "not as funny as it
used to be" as this long-standing joke, but they're still producing some
utterly genius stuff.
Was it reading Viz that initially got you into writing and drawing for comics,
CS: You could say Viz indirectly
got me started working for comics - by spawning the raft of Viz-knockoffs that
needed cartoonists to fill up their pages and had (shall we say) somewhat less
stringent standards - so someone without much experience could get his foot in
the door there. Basically I just drew some comics, put them in an envelope and
posted them to a magazine as blind submissions - and if I was lucky the editor
JM: Do you see
yourself primarily as an artist or as a humorist?
CS: Oog. Erm... I think
"humorists" have to be over 60 years of age, don't they? Preferably
dead with big moustaches like Mark Twain and Stephen Leacock... But I guess the
writing's more the main thing, if that's what you mean - when I was younger I
spent about three years writing comedy sketches (well, alleged comedy anyway)
for a show on local community radio, and later when I lived in Nova Scotia, Canada
for a while I did several years writing for a sort of satirical magazine there
- so the drawing's more just a means to an end, trying to get something from my
head onto paper as best I can. I think I see myself basically as someone who likes
doing silly little cartoons, and is lucky enough at the moment to have someone
willing to publish them.
JM: What's your
process for coming up with a strip?
CS: Usually sitting in the
tub with my head under water til I've got the rough
script sorted out.
JM: And, what
tools do you use (pencils, computers?)
CS: Nothing fancy really
- ordinary HB pencil, inked with Staedtler drawing pens and then scanned into
Photoshop to clean it up and muck about with fiddly details.
And finally, do you see yourself drawing Dredd someday?
CS: Quite conceivably, yes,
in the aftermath of the Great Art Plague of 2014 which wipes out everyone on earth
with even moderate artistic ability. When that phone call comes, I shall be proud
to do my duty.
JM: Cat Sullivan,
thanks very much for your time!
with Droid Life in 2000AD and find out more about Cat Sullivan on his