¦ Features ¦ Dom Reardon
Interview by Sue
Reardon is the co-creator of Caballistics Inc., a partnership with Gordon Rennie
which has produced one of the best strips to come out of 2000AD in recent years.
He is known for his edgy black and white artwork on this strip, but has plenty
of colours to show with new projects in 2006.
Here he talks about
being chased by Doomlord, hitchhiking to Scotland with Jock, past work, Caballistics,
black & white & colour, conventions and The Hub…...
Were you a comic reader as a child and did you doodle?
My Dad was a big fan of
'The Eagle' and passed this passion on to his children. Being the younger of two
it was really bought for my brother whilst I received 'The Beano', but it was
'The Eagle' I was looking forward to every week. I actually had nightmares about
being chased by Doomlord; an experience which I feel has made me a better person.
In my opinion all parents should frighten their young children by exposing them
to scary comic beasties.
the Eagle ceased to be, Bren (my elder brother) started to get '2000ad', I thought
'This is what I want to do'. I didn’t get into American comics until much
By the time I went to secondary
school I was doodling pretty much all the time. This didn't generally go down
particularly well amongst the Teachers; although I remember Mr Dunkerly being
quite chuffed with the caricature of him he caught me drawing on the cover of
my Maths exercise book. My art teacher was also fairly sympathetic when I used
to draw pictures of Joe Pineapples instead of bowls of fruit like I was supposed
leaving school did you get trained as an artist or is it all raw talent?
I think I managed about
three months of a general art and design course before being politely asked if
I'd like to leave. I wasn't disruptive or anything like that, just mostly absent.
So there wasn't a great
deal of formal training for me but there was definitely a lot of training. It
was at this time that I met Jock, who had just moved to the tiny town where I
lived and became my first mate that was into all the same stuff I was, so we did
our training together learning by looking at comics and art books. In fact we
still do this now, learning, helping each other, getting excited and inspired.
It's good to have a drawing buddy.
You've worked for
a number of companies in the fantasy game playing market. After working with the
Wizards of the Coast, you worked with Nightfall and Atlas Games in illustrating
role-playing game books. How did you get the work and do you prefer drawing comics?
I met the Nightfall guys
at my first convention. Jock and I had hitch-hiked all the way from Devon to Glasgow,
determined to get some work and we did! Nightfall was a great company, they were
making fantastic role-playing games, Karen McNeil (then Karen Newis) was part
of the Nightfall team and she kind of took me under her wing and helped me get
work in the role-playing industry so the Atlas games stuff was through her.
To be honest I
became a bit disillusioned with 'Wizards of the Coast', I feel that role-playing
games are good things which encourage imagination and creativity. Collectable
card games, by comparison, seem to me to be rather cold and focus mainly on getting
kids to spend all the money. That said the individuals from 'WOTC' with whom I
had contact were all perfectly charming.
Working on role-playing
games (if they're good ones) is great. I remember working on a source book for
Nightfall about these lizard-like creatures called Shaktars, they gave Jock and
myself the whole book to do between us, basically they just sent us the entire
book (and all their other books set in the same universe) and said 'Do whatever
you want'. So we got to create not only an entire race but an entire planet! Creating
worlds is what I like best, whether it is in games or comics.
work in 2000AD was a pin-up of Slaine in a Sci-Fi Special. How did you manage
to get this opportunity and what do you think of it, looking back?
I got this job from Steve
MacManus at the same Glasgow convention. Jock and I showed our portfolios to Glenn
Fabry and he told us to 'Piss off and make some money'. There was a lovely atmosphere
at that con, people seemed to be really helpful, perhaps it's because I looked
so bewildered. Later in the bar we heard that Steve MacManus wanted to see us!
With hindsight I probably
shouldn't have based Slaine's hands on my own hands as his long bendy fingers
look really silly.
After this your
first major contributions to 2000ad were the Tharg's Terror Tales. Did you enjoy
the variety of the tales and do you have a favourite?
Sure, I loved doing
them all, I forget what it was called but the one written by Al Ewing was my favourite,
Al is a genius.
What can you tell
us about your work for Rebellion Developments?
This is about the Judge
Dredd card game right?
Basically it was
a bunch of young guys with an idea which they really tried to make a go of but
it failed. It was nothing to do with rebellion apart from the fact that they'd
given it the go-ahead. I don't blame anyone, these guys put in a hell of a lot
of work and ended up with nothing, a lot of the artists (myself included) never
got paid (I feel I should stress at this point that it wasn't a case of not being
paid by Rebellion, it was a separate company), it was a bummer, but it was just
one of those things.
Having worked with
four writers in 2000AD - Gordon Rennie, Gary Simpson, Al Ewing and Gary Wilkinson
- do you have any preference in the types of script you receive?
Having worked with Al and
the two Gary’s on such tiny projects and having done such a bulk of work
with Gordon I can't really compare. Gordon's scripts are very open, the panel
descriptions are brief but concise and I'm often left to decide where the page
turn comes, some writers will almost do the panel layout for you, which was helpful
when I was starting out, but seems unnecessary nowadays.
receive a script, what does your working day entail? How do you keep to the deadlines
and what tools or techniques do you like to use?
With Caballistics I'd say
about half the time is spent on the planning stage, pouring over the script, working
out camera angles, designing panel layouts, Google image searching, taking reference
Deadlines are always tough,
no matter how much time I get for a project there's invariably a mad rush at the
end. I'm not someone who can work 9 to 5, some days it's a colossal struggle just
putting pen to paper other days I can work for 12 hours without realising I'm
Lately I've found that
certain times of day are more productive and better suited for certain tasks,
for instance I try to do inking in the mornings now, inking is the most stressful
part for me whereas farting about on the computer can be quite relaxing, so if
I've done a good amount of inking by lunchtime then I tend to feel quite happy
about the day.
As for tools I favour a
Rotring fine art pen and a pentel brush pen. With Caballistics I don't use much
in the way of tricks and techniques, I try to find the simplest clearest way to
create the right atmosphere.
You've done a lot
of painted artwork as well as black and white line work for comics. Do you have
a preference between the two, and does each method require a different way of
When I was learning to draw
comics I imagined that I would paint them, but I'm really pleased that I've worked
solely in black and white for so long. You have slightly different priorities
when working in black and white, particularly if you don't use any hatching or
mid tone, there's nothing to hide behind, so if the drawings a bit dodgy it really
Caballistics is taking
a break for a while and it looks like I'll be working on a fully painted project
which I'm very much looking forward to. It's going to be totally different to
anything I've done before. I think it's vital if you're illustrating a story that
you find a style that fits, looking back at the work I've done on Caballistics
there is a lot that makes me cringe but I think I used the right style for the
is predominantly black and white, pen and ink; did you enjoy doing the 1447 cover
and slapping on the colour?
I had a fantastic
time doing it; it was great to be working in colour and on the cover. Getting
to do a cover is one of those little thrills.
Talking of Caballistics
you have been the sole artist on the story since its inception and have defined
the look and style of the characters. Which is your current favourite character
to draw and why?
I'm extremely fond
of the whole team. Jonathan Brand was my favourite I think. Recently I've particularly
enjoyed Inspector Absolam and Michael Magister. I also love the old Q department
team, Rothchester was a delight to draw as he had such an iconic look with the
flying hat and goggles, the moment I drew the hat the character was intently defined.
Having now drawn
over 200 pages of Caballistics do you continue to strive for the perfect page?
I try to make each 5 page
part better than the last, this doesn't always happen but so long as it continues
to improve I'm fairly happy. I don't believe in the perfect page, so long as you
keep learning then you'll always be able to see fault with what you've done in
So the perfect page is
only perfect to you before you've done it, once it's done if you can't see how
to improve from there then that's it for you... you're done for and there's no
point to any of it anymore.
I used to think
that Duncan Fergredo's work on 'The Enigma' was pretty much beyond reproach until
I heard Duncan picking fault with it... there's always another level.
How did it feel
to get an award for your work and where did you place your Tripwire award for
Best New Talent (British Comics Awards 2004) after taking it home?
It was brilliant to get
that award but you have to remember that there aren't that many people who actually
vote in these things. I remember a few years back when they gave out voting slips
in 'The Beano' and of course 'The Beano' picked up most of the awards that year.
So there's no point getting egotistical about it. The other thing to bear in mind
is that I was very lucky to get Caballistics as the project people associate me
with, I don't think I'd have received that award if my big break had been Bison.
Laurence Campbell is, as
far as I'm concerned, better at drawing than I am but no-one gave him an award.
That said it was another one of those little thrills.
It's actually in a box
at the moment but it has been on the mantelpiece and perhaps one day it will again.
As I say I was thrilled to get it but I do feel a little bit of a tit putting
it on display for all to see.
you make of comics conventions? Are they a good place to get pissed, soak up fan
adulation and collect awards, or are they scary places filled with creepy overweight
He he, definitely both!
I look forward to them all year. They are the one time when my own private reality
becomes the dominant reality. It's a wonderful thing for comics creators and readers
to all get together and laugh insanely at stupid things, where else could one
witness the Biz doing 15 squats with Henry Flint on his back?
What advice would
you give to fans (or creepy nutters) looking to become a comic artist?
The small press seems to
be really strong lately; there is some very high quality stuff out there, so approach
them first. If you can't get anything into the small press then you're unlikely
to get any paid work.
Take a portfolio to conventions
and show it to as many people as possible without pissing anyone off, if an editors
waiting to get served at the bar they're unlikely to want to look at your work.
Show your work to other artists. DON'T argue when you get criticism, that's not
going to get you work and it's not going to endear you to anyone.
Keep working. Without deadlines
it's difficult to be productive so it's difficult to improve, if you find it hard
to be strict with yourself then take on as much small press work as possible so
that you are constantly creating. Submit samples regularly but not too often and
not too many pages. A 5 or 6 page sample script is ideal, if you submit some work
of a high enough standard to 2000ad then you should get sent a sample script,
if you can't get a sample script then you can probably get a 5 or 6 page small
press story to do.
If you get feedback from
an editor then listen to it, if they want to see more then send them more as soon
as possible, if they don't want to see anything else for at least six months then
spend that six months improving rather than just waiting and then sending something
of the same standard.
are not putting ink to paper what do you do and is there anything you want to
tell us about 'The Hub'?
'The Hub' is a
Band consisting of myself and three brothers, so it's a bit like Hanson really.
It's a good British rock band with some great material (I can say that 'cos I
don't write it), I play the Fender Rhodes which is an old seventies stage piano.
I'm also writing
a rock opera on the accordion, it's going to be the delightful tale of a boy with
no legs and his love for a zombie named Hugh. I watch a lot of DVD's, horror and
Science fiction, I love Joss Whedon's stuff, I recently bought 'Firefly' which
is just totally ace. I also like tracking down older more obscure stuff, I was
delighted to find the old TV series of Alan Garner's 'The Owl Service' on E-bay,
the acting's fairly comical but if you can handle it it's worth it.
I also play a lot of computer
games, my recent addiction is re-discovering old spectrum and Amiga games, there
where some amazingly good games on those machines.
Sometimes, at the weekend,
I go for walks because my girlfriend makes me.
Caballistics Inc: "Going Underground" going on release in February,
a new run of Caballistics in 2000AD and hitting a milestone birthday all in the
same year, are you going to sit back and smile or finally get round to bringing
to life 'Reality Investigators'? Café investigators using bad puns will
How the hell did
you find out about the 'Reality Investigators'? I thought that only existed in
my mind! I'd like to return to this idea one day, but not just yet. The basic
premise I suppose would be a bit like a cross between 'The X-files' and 'Waiting
for Godot'. I'm not sure that the nature of reality requires any further investigation
I'd love to write my own
stories, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet. I've got a full colour
project with Rob Williams in the pipeline which I'm really excited about.
looking forward to putting paint to paper for the Future Quake Horror special
'Something Wicked' and will there be lots of blood and gore?
It's done now,
but yes, I was looking forward to it and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I think
I was trying to be a proper artist or something, which is rarely wise, but on
this occasion I seem to have gotten away with it. Not much gore, it's actually
quite a sad little tale. I got to work quite closely with Ed sending E-mails back
and forth discussing what we wanted the story to be and how we were going to present
Do you have
any plans to try and parlay your Horror-bound success with Caballistics, Inc.
into a reckless bid for American success on something like Hellblazer or Lucifer,
or are you happy enough where you are now?
I'd like to have
a go at the 22 page monthly format. The story telling and pacing has to be pretty
quick and condensed when your working with 5 page chunks of story, Caballistics
allows itself more breathing space than most 2000AD stories but it doesn't often
get to linger for long on the little events. In 'Strange Bedfellows' I managed
to devote an entire page to Hannah flicking a cigarette of the edge of a cliff
and I was really pleased with the result. That was a 10 pager, had it been only
5 pages I wouldn't have been able to do it.
that I'm knocking the weekly format, it's a great format but it's hard work, you
can spend a long time designing a location only to discover that next week it
gets blown up.
we expect from you in 2006 beyond Caballistics?
I'm currently working
on a six page black and white thing for the Megazine. It's set in Megacity so
it's got judges in it and everything!
After that, as I mentioned,
a full colour project with Rob which I think I'll probably paint with actual paint...
we'll see, I imagine there will be a pen and ink element with painted colour.
Thanks to Dom Reardon
as my first interviewee (victim?). Thanks also to Gavin Hanly and Ed Berridge
for contributing to the questions and pointing me in the right direction.