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Home ¦ Features ¦ Charlie Adlard interview part 1

Steve Parkhouse - A 2000 AD Review Interview
13th February 05
2000 AD - Charlie Adlard
Ed Berridge as a zombie - by Charlie Adlard
Interview by Edward Berridge

Charlie Adlard has been a freelance comic artist for more than a decade. Born in Shrewsbury in 1966, he began his career drawing ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘Armitage’ strips for the Judge Dredd Megazine. Since then he has gone on to work on a variety of titles: Mars Attacks and The X-Files for Topps; The Hellfire Club and Warlock for Marvel; Green Lantern & Green Arrow and Batman: Gotham Knights for DC; White Death for Les Cartoonistes Dangereuse; Blair Witch: Dark Testaments and Codeflesh for Image; ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘Rogue Trooper’ and ‘Nikolai Dante’ for 2000AD; Astronauts in Trouble for AiT/Planet Lar; and The Establishment for Wildstorm, amongst many others.

He is currently working on Savage for 2000AD, The Walking Dead for Image, and Rock Bottom, an original graphic novel written by Joe Casey.

Edward Berridge: What, if anything, would make up an average working day for you?

Charlie Adlard: I’m very disciplined, and I think if you’re going to pursue a career as a freelancer in any form of whatever job you want to do, it’s basically essential to get the work done as if it’s a day job.

It helps that I’ve got a child, so he’ll get me up if I don’t get up. I’m normally at work around nine o’clock, work through till lunch, have an average lunch break, get some other stuff done, get back to work for a certain time for the afternoon and finish about six/half-six, depending on the work. I very rarely work evenings, and I very rarely work weekends, so I think the discipline of the day keeps me quite productive. So in general terms it’s a nine-to-five job.

EB: Do you find that it helps with your productivity, that you’ve got this discipline?

CA: Definitely, because I am so disciplined, and in normal life I’m quite a ‘rountiney’ sort of person. Not obsessively, but it helps that I do three hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. It also helps that I set myself personal goals as well, so I’ll say to myself “Well, I aim to get x number of pages done either today or in the week” and if I don’t meet those goals for myself I’ll end up getting really pissed off with myself, irrelevant of editors or somebody else wanting the pages. Obviously, if I’m working to a deadline anyhow, it has to be done within a certain amount of time…

EB: But you have your own scheduling.

CA: Yeah, I definitely have my own scheduling. Again, it’s all these little factors that have influenced my speed as well, which is what I’m kind of renowned for, I can get a lot of stuff done.

EB: Well, various editors have said that you’re actually one of the few artists who actually get pages in early.

CA: [Laughter] Well it’s that and it’s also a little trick I’ve learnt over the years: you always overestimate when you’re going to turn in the pages as well, so you always give yourself a bit of leeway. So as long as an editor’s cool with the time factor, if you’ve overestimated it you generally get the pages in earlier and impress them even more!

2000 AD - Charlie Adlard
White Death

EB: So what’s your routine when you receive a script?

CA: Again, I think it’s another thing that does help with my speed, because I read lots of interviews with other artists and they say they do thumbnails and then they’ll start cutting up pages, and they won’t actually get the finished page done for ages.

Whereas I’ll just read the script once, and then I’ll sit down with a blank sheet of paper and pencil it on the second reading and then ink it straight off from that.

I’ve never done thumbnails; I’ve never cut up the page, or done anything like that. With me the best idea always seems to come first anyway. If an idea hasn’t come into my head within the first couple of minutes of looking at the script, or whatever the page needs to be, it’s a case of ‘it never will’, and thankfully (generally) it does come straight away. I just start from top left-hand corner and work all the way to bottom right-hand corner, and that’s the same for inking, and there’s hardly any deviation from it, unless I’m doing a cheat page or I need to put in stat panels or something like that.

I literally just work really, really methodically. And it could be said that, if you define a natural (I don’t want to sort of ‘big myself up’ here) but I think I am quite a natural guy at doing stuff like this.

EB: You feel at home with it.

CA: I feel very at home with it. I never get artists block; I’ve never had a problem with a blank page. I’ve never sat there and thought “What do I put on it?” It’s never happened. But having said that, it’s not like you’re creating a bit of artwork right from the beginning, because you’ve got a script.

I’d feel more scared as a scriptwriter, because that’s when you’ve truly got the blank page, because all you’ve got is the idea. I’ve got inspiration, I’ve got a script, I’ve got something telling me what goes on that page, so that’s as good enough for me to get started as anything. Whereas with a writer, they’ve got nothing, so it’s more impressive. I can understand why writers get writers block, but to be honest, from my own personal point of view I can never understand why, say, an artist ‘loses his mojo’, or whatever!

[Both laugh]

2000 AD - Charlie Adlard
White Death
EB: You’ve never been tempted to, say, try writing something for yourself?

CA: Only the once, and it never actually came to fruition. It’s when I was doing Mars Attacks – I had an inkling for a story, but it just never came to be because I left the title before I got the chance to do it. The X-Files just took up all my time, and that was it.

I’ve never had the inspiration, to be honest. I’m an artist not a writer. I accept my limitations, and I haven’t got ‘the burning story’ to tell or anything like that. I did a three panel strip for Les Cartoonistes Dangereux once, which was the group of people who produced White Death. We produced this fanzine primarily to go out at Angouleme. I did a three panel thing, just a little ‘jokey’ thing for that one year. Lot’s of people used to say “Oh you should write stuff, this is really good!” but that’s the only idea I’ve ever had!

[Both laugh loudly]

It’s a bit hard to write something else when that was your only idea. That was it: my big idea!

EB: Well you never know, if you wait another thirteen years…

CA: Well you never know, something might come!


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