¦ Features ¦ Charlie
Adlard interview part 1
Interview by Edward
Berridge as a zombie - by Charlie Adlard
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.
What, if anything, would make up an average working day for you?
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!
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
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.
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
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’,
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.
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
EB: Well you
never know, if you wait another thirteen years…
CA: Well you never
know, something might come!