¦ Features ¦ Steve
has now been working in the comics field for twenty-five years, beginning his
career with Marvel Comics Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D in 1969. Since then,
he has gone on to work for a variety of publishers, such as IPC and DC, and was
one of the founding artists on the groundbreaking British anthology comic Warrior,
where he co-created ‘The Bojeffries Saga’ with writer Alan Moore.
He was the longest serving writer on Marvel UK’s strip for Dr. Who Weekly,
co-created ‘Big Dave’ with Grant Morrison and Mark Millar for 2000AD,
and has worked on a vast number of titles, including The Invisibles and The Sandman.
Murders (written by Joe Casey) has just seen print from Dark Horse, and is about
to imminently release the original graphic novel Angel Fire with long-term collaborator
Chris Blythe, whilst next year sees the arrival of ‘Tiger Sun Dragon Moon’
Who, or what,
would you say were your influences, both as a writer and artist – MAD magazine
and Alex Toth seem like obvious examples? Were you influenced by British humour
artists like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale at all?
Mad Magazine, yeh...for
sure. Yes, Alex Toth is a personal demigod for me. Though I've often said I'm
more influenced by European artists I'd be hard-pressed to name them. It's more
of an attitude. There's a generic feel to the European style that I admire. Victor
de la Fuente is a case in point - and Palacios, the Spanish artist who had many
aliases, I understand. Their work is very mature, very accomplished. It's not
in your face all the time.
It's not always demanding attention. It serves the story rather than trying to
dominate the page. Many more contemporary artists, especially in this country,
are so insecure they feel they have to make every frame a
masterpiece. It's a waste of energy and subsequently they exhaust themselves by
the time they're twenty three.
As a writer? Nobody
that would be immediately apparent. I'm more of a natural writer than artist;
so I'm happier working in my own style. Yes I've been influenced by the likes
of Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale. Those guys
taught me my trade. They were masters of British comics - along with good old
Paddy Brennan and Dudley Watkins - the Leonardo and Michelangelo of the funnies.
and Blythe's Future Shock
I believe that
when you were working for IPC you told Kevin O'Neil to never learn how to letter,
as he'd get swamped by freelance lettering jobs. Dave Gibbons has also credited
'looking over your shoulder' as the method he used to learn lettering. Having
most recently lettered the Future Shock 'The Shape of Things to Come' (prog 1404,
written by Chris Blythe) what is your opinion of letterers and lettering today?
I'd better be careful what
I say, because I'm married to a letterer. They're the salt of the earth, obviously
- the unsung heroes of the industry. You'd be amazed at the trials and tribulations
the letterer has to face at the
hands of unthinking artists. And most artists are unthinking! There are artists
working today who still don't know the basic rule of drawing characters in the
sequence in which they speak. It's pathetic. I like letterers. I am one! It's
a tough job - and good lettering is a joy to read. I've enjoyed digitising fonts
both for myself and my wife, Annie. It's made life a lot easier.
You've said previously that you see lighting as a very important point when
coming to illustrate a script. Do you see yourself in a similar way to a cinematographer
does in film?
Yes. It's a little
game I play to make life more interesting. It gives me a sense of power. The right
lighting creates a much stronger mood, which contributes to the emotional resonance
of a story. It increases the credibility of the characters. It also demands that
the drawing is basically sound, which further enhances the realism of the scene.
I'm currently moving from a linear approach to drawing, to a more sculptural approach,
concentrating on the broader masses so the atmosphere is sustained. It makes the
balance of black and white a lot easier to deal with as well. Drawing is an ongoing
thing, when you stop learning you may as well give up.
How did you
come to be the first UK comic creator (along with Barry Windsor-Smith) to get
work in America, with your work on Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D in 1969?
and BWS on Fury
Sheer fluke. Barry and I
met at art school and he gradually persuaded me to write some stuff for him. He
was determined to get to New York - so by the time we left college it seemed natural
to start his campaign in tandem. He was the driving force. I was much more interested
in mainstream illustration and graphics. I was also a natural cartoonist, so it
seemed an obvious development to get into comics. Marvel were doing some cartoon
books at the
time. And Mad Magazine was just down the road. Basically, we invaded the Bullpen
and didn't shift until Stan Lee talked to us. I liked him immediately. He's been
criticised heavily over the years, but he was incredibly generous to us. The company
hired lawyers to help us get working visas. Stan was always charming and affable
and surprisingly self-effacing. Jack Kirby, by comparison, was a miserable old
How did you find working at IPC on humour titles like Whizzer & Chips and
Probably the best
time I ever had. The management at IPC were so spectacularly incompetent that
I spent three years playing table tennis, office cricket, conkers, ummm...Subbuteo...
and a lot of dope was smoked. And very very very little work was done at all.
In the end I just got bored and drifted away. But I did learn how to write a script.
And I got to see some beautiful artwork. And I met Annie.
worked for House of Hammer on 'Kronos: Vampire Hunter', written by Steve Moore?
What are your memories of the magazine?
I didn't do myself
any favours during that period. I was trying too hard. I think I was a fish out
of water. There was some magnificent work being done by the likes of Paul Neary,
John Bolton and Brian Lewis. There was no way I could compete. I was also going
through a very difficult time in my personal life.