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Home ¦ Features ¦ Dom Reardon interview

Dom Reardon - A 2000 AD Review Interview
30th May 05

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon
Interview by Sue Doyle

Dom 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.

When 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 later.

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 to be.

After 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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon

Your first 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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon
Once you 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 photos, etc...

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 doing it.

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 working?

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 shows.

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 job.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon

Caballistics 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 the past.

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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon
What do 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 nutters?

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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon

When you 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.

With the 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 be great.

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 just now.

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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon
Are you 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 it.

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.

Not 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.

2000 AD -  Dom Reardon

What can 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.

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