¦ Features ¦ Nigel
Interview Part 1
Interview by Edward
Kitching first began working in the comics field, after leaving a steady job in
advertising, with work for Harrier and Trident comic companies. He worked as both
a writer and an artist, alongside the likes of Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar. He
then found better paying work at London Editions producing strips based around
a variety of licensed characters, before finding his niche writing (and occasionally
drawing) for Sonic The Comic, alongside the likes of Lew Stringer, Richard Elson
and Nigel Dobbyn. More recently he has produced work for Bulletproof comics, as
well as the recent Terror Tale Krypt in 2000AD, followed shortly by A.H.A.B, both
with Richard Elson.
caught up with Nigel, to ask him about a spiky blue hedgehog, Richard Elson, the
lack of real bastards in comics and the sharp cat claws of Billy The Cat.
To begin with, what would you say is a normal working day’s routine for
Well, at around 7:40 I am awoken by my dear wife, just before she leaves for work,
who seems to imagine that this is the perfect time to issue me with a stream of
instructions for the day. By the time I reach full consciousness I have forgotten
about 25% of what I have been told. Then it’s my turn to get the children
up in time for them to catch the school bus. My son has got this down to a fine
art – he can be up and out of the house in just under five minutes. In the
meantime I check my emails. Then I walk the dog. Get back home and it’s
time for a coffee – think about starting work.
Check my emails
again. Think very seriously about starting work. Ring Richard Elson on some flimsy
pretence and chat/argue for a while – sometimes quite a long while. Think
very seriously indeed about doing some work but just in time discover some piles
of paper that really need to be shifted about a bit. By now it’s getting
on for dinnertime and I figure I’ve earned a break so I stop and watch a
bit of TV while I eat. I now realise that I’ve pissed away the morning once
again and I’d really, really better do some work now. At this point I my
well get on and accomplish something. But then again I may find something else
that really needs doing – those piles of paper won’t shift themselves.
By mid-afternoon I’m getting quite cross with myself; if I’d got a
good start this morning I’d have been well on the way to finishing the day’s
work by now.
from Bug Eyed Monsters
So after a break
at tea-time I get back to work around maybe seven and, if I have a deadline, I
may work until 2 in the morning – I try not to go past 2:30 as this does
tend to make getting up the next day a little difficult. When I’m busy I’ve
discovered I can do three late nights like this in a row before I start to feel
it too badly. I try to work a sensible day, I really do, but it never quite seems
to happen somehow. Of course there are times when you really have got to get on
with the work otherwise you’re doomed and this does make a difference. But
a lot of the time I hate myself for not organising my time more efficiently. Annoyingly
I’ve never been a morning person but at night I feel really sharp. At 2
in the morning I feel like I could go on all night but know that would be foolish.
2ADR: What would
you say led you to want to work in comics?
N K: Somebody
gave me a pile of American comics when I was maybe four or five years old. These
included two Kirby Fantastic Fours. Basically, I was immediately hooked. My parents
spent the rest of my childhood trying to get me off the things. I think I knew
that I wanted to work in comics even before I knew what a job was. And besides
people like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had the same status as movie stars to me,
I never thought I could work for such a glamorous business. Well, that’s
how it looked to me when I was a child.
2ADR: Who are
your favourite comic book artists and writers, and which do you think had the
greatest influence on you? I’d assume that the likes of Mick McMahon, Jack
Kirby and Steve Ditko were influential on the younger Kitching? Also, were you
a fan of 2000 AD when you were younger?
N K: Kirby
and Ditko have always been at the top of my list. It’s still these two that
have the real magic for me – I can still look at certain drawings by either
and still be astonished by their genius. I don’t expect a younger person
to share my passion for Kirby and Ditko; in fact I think I’d be disappointed
if they did. I don’t think this is just nostalgia, I think that these two,
in particular, has a special and rare talent. Later I was very taken by Mick McMahon’s
work and on more than one occasion made a fool of myself trying the engage him
in light-hearted conversation at comic conventions. He had quite an influence
on my drawing, unfortunately that influence amounted to making my style less commercial.
I fancy that I was well on the way to a nice slick superhero style before Mick
got his claws into me. Years later he and I worked together on a humour strip
for Sonic The Comic. How often do you get to work with your heroes? And why did
you pluck these three names out to mention in your question? Are you the wisest
of interviewers or did you discover them from some old interview of mine hoping
that it would make you look clever?
cover (coloured by Rob Sharp)
[10% wisdom/90% attempt to look clever -EB]
Now, I actually bought the
first issue of 2000AD. I’d seen the ads on TV and got very excited at the
prospect of a new science fiction comic. Thing was when I bought it, it read like
a typical British boys comic – or at least more like that than the sort
of thing I was looking for. My curiosity was aroused by the picture of Judge Dredd,
who was due to appear in the next issue but not enough to actually buy it, I’m
afraid. It was months later when I came across it again and was intrigued by the
cover which featured a picture of the Jolly Green Giant. It was at this point
when I became hooked. I remember very fondly the first Robo-Hunter series. This
story had a great effect on me and contrasted strongly with the rather serious
and earnest American books I was reading at the time. Dredd too was great and
I really got into this series when the Judge Cal stuff started. I managed to buy
all the progs that I’d missed at quite a reasonable price.
on from the last question, I’m told that you actually discovered a Steve
Ditko strip published in Tiny Toon Adventures #4, published by Marvel UK in April
1994. Is this true, and if so could you fill in a few more details for us?
for Looney Tunes Annual
N K: ‘Discovered’
might be a little grand – actually, I think his name was in the credits.
It must have been, I think, as the drawing was virtually unrecognisable as being
Ditko. If you know you can see it but it’s subtle. I have a feeling that
this story never actually got published in the States now that I think about it.
At the time I was trying to sell (with absolutely no success) a story to the Tiny
Toons comic (this may be how I came to buy a copy in the first place) so I was
in touch with the editor of the line. During one phone conversation I asked about
this Ditko strip and she told me how it came to be commissioned. Apparently she
returned from lunch one day and noticed somebody hanging around the office. Workmen
of some description were due to do something that day so she assumed he was one
of them. Later another editor brought the man in saying he was Steve Ditko and
did she have any work she could put his way. So Ditko was given a story. When
the pencils came in they were no good, I assume his characters were ‘off
model’ a cardinal sin in the world of licensed comics. This editor was aware
of Ditko’s fearsome reputation and was worried what the reaction might be
when she asked him to correct the work. I now get to this point and really wish
this story had a stronger finish but, as it turned out, Ditko took the criticism
and redid the work “like a lamb”. Like I say the end to that anecdote
needs a little work…