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Home ¦ Features ¦ Steve Yeowell Interview Part 2

Steve Yeowell - A 2000 AD Review interviewPART 1
3rd February 04

Your work on Zenith and latterly on the Red Seas is often taken as an example of how black and white work still has a place in 2000AD, and indeed in comics in general. Do you have a specific preference for colour over black & white - or does it depend on the subject?

Steve Yeowell - The Red Seas from 2000 AD
Red Seas
I have a deeply felt love of cheaply produced comics, particularly those I read growing up in the seventies. Although there were obviously things with higher production values around (TV 21, Countdown, Look And Learn), for some reason the comics I preferred were those printed on newsprint and I would read anything: girl's titles, adventure titles, anything. Although I occasionally bought American comics, I was much keener on British weeklies because there'd be a new issue in the newsagents every weekend when I got my pocket money. These I supplemented with countless IPC pocket war monthlies which I mostly bought second hand from a stall on the local market. So, most of the comics I read were black & white on cheap newsprint or indication coloured in primary hues on cheap newsprint.

I'd sit and draw on my own in Biro (usually on light blue or yellow paper I remember, rarely white). Never reached for a coloured pencil or a felt tip or anything like that unless prompted by a teacher or in a burst of enthusiasm when I'd been given some colours for Christmas or something. The only extended bouts of painting I ever did were on Airfix kits and the colours always had the advantage of being "right" straight from the tin. In fact I still don’t like mixing colours and have never got the hang of watering down tube colours to a comfortably usable consistency. What I’m trying to say in a round about kind of way is that I don't actually have a preference for black and white over colour (or vise versa), but, as I believe Graham Greene is supposed to have said, your childhood is the pool of inspiration from which you draw from the rest of your career. Or something like that.

Steve Yeowell - Zenith from 2000 AD
Zenith has arguably become one of the highest points in 2000AD's history, and is among many people's favourite 2000AD series. You’ve become heavily associated with the character, which arguably made your name in comics. As you've not worked on the character regularly for many years, are you still happy with this association?

I’m happy with the association with Zenith. And it’s nice that editors remember it fondly...

Do you ever think you'll go back to Zenith, or another collaboration with Grant Morrison for a longer run? Can you see Zenith as a crumbly rock star with his own reality TV show in the future?

I'd like to think I’ll collaborate with Grant again sometime. And well, John Lydon's on "I’m a celebrity get me out of here", so...

There have been a heap of rumours concerning alleged Zenith collections sitting in a warehouse dues to copyright issues. Can you shed any light on this or is this just Internet nonsense? And will we ever see a collection of Sebastian O?

There are indeed copies of a new edition of Zenith Phase One sitting in a warehouse that are waiting for legalities to be sorted out. A couple of dozen actually sneaked out into the market place when Titan, under the impression that everything was about to be resolved, sent some out for a signing. Funnily enough at Dreddcon I signed a copy someone had bought on Ebay. They are at the moment genuine collector's items and I myself have two that Titan sent me at the time (as I believe does Grant).

Steve Yeowell - Sebastian O
Sebastian O

We're currently talking to DC about the Sebastian O reprint.

The Red Seas has hit at a time when pirates have suddenly and unexpectedly become cool. What do you see as the main appeal of Red Seas? Is Rebellion rush-releasing a collected version of the first strip?

Actually, Red Seas predates "Pirate Cool" by a considerable period as Ian pitched an earlier version to Archie Goodwin at Epic years ago, that Phil Winslade was going to draw. Anyway, perhaps it's not really for me to say where the main appeal of Red Sea lies being one of the creative team. Hopefully it's because it's a classically structured, well written adventure story in a setting people either aren't familiar with or at least haven't seen for some time and so has that sense of the exotic. That and the fact that history is the new Rock and Roll.

There are plans, I believe, for a collected version of the first series to be released sometime this year.

How much research did you undertake for the Red Seas, and was this different from the research or preparation you normally do for a new series?

There was much more library, bookshop and internet trawling than normal. Researching a series that has already appeared in 2000AD is pretty easy in that it’s just a case of referring to back issues which the office can provide if you don’t have them yourself. Ian and I talked over common likes (we're both big adventure movie fans for example) and came up with list of source material, some of which I had or could get and some of which he had and, in an absurd act of generosity, gave to me. The first series was inspired by amongst other things: Tales Of Pirates And Buccaneers by Howard Pyle; Treasure Island as illustrated by NC Wyeth; The Sea Hawk; Marilyn Manson; Ray Harryhausen; Night Of The Living Dead; Moby Dick; Time Bandits; Ron Embleton’s pirate illustrations for Look And Learn and Angus MacBride’s pirate Illustrations for Osprey.

Steve Yeowell - The Red Seas from 2000 AD
Red Seas
What can we expect from Red Seas: Twilight of the Idols?

I’m going to skirt around this question as by the time anyone reads this Twilight of The Idols will be more than half way through. However I can tell you that the third series will probably see our boys back in England and probably down on their luck again.

Ian and I have come to realise just how many story possibilities the Eighteenth Century has to offer, a lot of which we can shoehorn in to Red Seas in some way. Mistress Merril, for example, is descended from a family of English emigres to The Virginias, half of them rebels during the War Of Independence and the other half loyalists who left for Canada after the war was over (as did a large percentage of the US population, for you history buffs)

Go to part 3

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