This time, Richard Worth and Jordan Collver, Eagle award nominated creators from The Water Closet Press and the writer/artist of the fantastic ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ take the Swansea Comics Collective’s Comic Crush Q & A…
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST COMIC AND DO YOU STILL HAVE IT?
RW: I can’t remember my very first comic. As a wee nipper my cousin worked in a comic book shop in Rhyl so I always remember having comics around. Having said that my earliest, definite comic memory is either reading the comic book adaptation of “Tim Burton’s Batman Returns” or issue 19 of the Panini UK reprints of Amazing Spider-Man. That was certainly the first comic I picked off the shelf and asked for. I remember the cover so distinctly. Spidey is wrapped in chains, screaming as Carnage rips his mask off. I think the caption was something like “ Spider-Man On Trail!”. My tiny mind exploded! Carnage knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man! And he has him in Chains! How can he possibly escape!? I do indeed still have that issue although its slightly worse for wear.
JC: I got a crummy little miniaturized Fantastic Four comic that Pizza Hut gave out with kids meals. It featured The Black Panther; I had no clue who he was but I remember thinking he was awesome and reminded me of Batman without the cape or mouth. I couldn’t even read yet so I have no idea what it was about, nor do I to this day… it has been lost in the sands of time.
DO YOU BUY COMICS REGULARLY?
RW: Money permitting yes,I also have a subscription to 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine
JC: Not as regularly as I’d like. When I’m working on a project my attention tends to be diverted from reading comics to drawing them, so most series tend to pass me by as they come out. But I keep my ear to the ground and snatch up all the things that have caught my attention once they’re collected... and when that happens, “these-are-all-for-research” is a very handy justification for overspending.
IF SO, WHEN YOU BUY A TITLE IS IT FOR THE STORY, CHARACTERS OR THE CREATIVE TEAM?
RW: A combination of all three. Books i regularly buy are usually anthologies like 2000AD which I buy because of the stories, granted it can be hit and miss but that’s part of the joy. Likewise, there are no creators whose work I will automatically purchase on their names alone but when someone says “ Hey Brian K Vaughan is doing a space opera with Fiona Staples”, that is something I want to see those two creators do. Rarely will I buy a book just for the characters and when I do its only a few. I’m not including creator-own type characters just because they kind of come as a package.
JC: Usually Story, Creative team, then Character. For example: Red Son. I didn’t buy it because it was a Superman comic, I didn’t buy it because of Mark Millar, and I didn’t buy it because of the art. I bought it because Pappa Joe Stalin was Jonathan Kent. Sold.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC YOU BOUGHT?
RW: I picked up Promethea volume 4 and the first volume of the IDW TMNT Micro-Series.
JC: Punk Rock Jesus, a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about. I had no idea it existed before I saw it as a trade paperback, and I was unfamiliar with the artist (and in this case also writer), but it sounded too intriguing to pass up. It’s radical. Kick butt art too.
HOW DO YOU PREFER TO READ, DIGITAL OR PRINT?
RW: I feel at this point we’re kind of playing a comic book version of Mister and Misses. I sure we will both answer Print, always Print.
JC:Print. I tried reading much of Y: The Last Man on my computer, but the page-to-screen ratio disparity was aggravating so I ended up just buying and re-reading all the paper books anyway (and because I enjoyed them so much).
YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST(S)?
RW: Alex Ross, Skottie Young, Paul Grist, James Jean, Rafael Grampa, Juanjo Guardino, Leonardo Manco. There is a whole bunch more, but we could be here for some time. I think the rule of thumb for the artists I like tends to be artists who don’t really work on mainstream books. Or rather, they have such distinct styles they aren’t always compatible with mainstream books. That combined with either beautiful or interesting styles and or the ability to take comics to that next level, to qualify them as art forms. As I write this Will Eisner and Craig Thompson spring to mind. Those guys made it unfair for everyone else.
JC: Alex Ross, Juanjo Guarnido (Blacksad), Paul Grist (Jack Staff), Eric Powell (The Goon), Paul Chadwick (Concrete), Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Craig Thompson (Habibi), Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman), Dave Stevens (Rocketeer), Francis Francavella, Raphael Grampa (Mesmo Delivery), David Mazzuchelli (Asterios Polyp), Darwyn Cooke (Parker)... these guys are all phenomenal. Plus there are lots of friends and fellow Small Pressers I admire.
YOUR FAVOURITE WRITER(S)?
RW: This is going to be so boring and predictable. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Brian K Vaughan, Jason Aaron, Warren Ellis. Again I don’t think that these writers are entirely flawless, they’re just consistently very good. There are some absolutely astounding books or runs by writers for which the stars aligned and everything was great. I wouldn’t want to say they’re my favourite writers though, thats like saying I’m big into The Clash because I like ‘Rock the casbah’.
JC: Most of them art writer-artists, so I’ve just made them bold in my answer above… I’m a bit biased towards the art side of storytelling while I’m reading (sorry Rich). But what True Believer can can ignore Stanley Lieber?
WHAT COMIC(S) HAVE PROVEN MOST INFLUENCIAL?
RW: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It totally rearrange my understanding of how sequential art and story telling works. Also, whilst it might not be the most influential but the most inspiring, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. Eastman and Laird basically had a dumb idea for a comic that is basically just a nod of respect to all the comics they loved, raised enough money to print a few thousand issues, and the rest is history. Those guys are small press gods. They basically did what everyone in small press tries to do and kind of changed pop culture forever. Im not saying the goal of making comics to fame and fortune but rather that it can be done.Through small press and hard work and creativity you can make something that will last forever and go beyond you and your buddy sat in a bar saying “Wouldn’t it be cool if...?”
JC: I would credit Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross for getting me back into comics after a hiatus during my short lived attempt to be “cool” in highschool. It showed me what else comics could do. Similarly, Blankets by Craig Thompson showed me what comics could be. Alot of young folk have “their album” that got them through a tough time in their life. I didn’t listen to much beyond orchestral film scores (apparently music didn’t fall under my “trying to be cool” umbrella), but Blankets was “my comic.”
|Waid & Ross's Kingdom Come|
YOUR FAVOURITE OR MOST MEMORABLE COVER?
RW: Y the Last Man 25 (I think). I remember being blown away visually, the rich greens, the scarlet snake, visually I fell in love. And after reading the issue the symbology and thematic tie on the cover just added an entirely new depth. I might add that I am also a suck for any cover that has caption boxes, speech balloons or a section saying “ also featuring”. For our third issue we are going to do an homage to the old EC Vault of Horror covers, they are just so fun and utterly rediculous its hard not to enjoy them.
|Y The Last Man #25, One of Richard Worth's Favourite comic covers|
|The other of Richard Worth's Favourite Covers: EC's The Vault of Horror|
JC: Because I rarely read single issues anymore, it’s hard for me to say. I do know that the covers you get on trade paperback editions tend to be more mundane than what I see on the comic shelves. I don’t know why that is, but it shouldn’t be. It’s like how the DVD cover is always infinitely crap compared to any of the teaser posters for a given film... I’m not sure I’ve answered the question properly.
WHO’S YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER?
RW: John Constantine.... or John Blacksad. Basically, get a guy call him John, give him a trench coat and some cigarettes and i’m in.
JC: The Goon, I think.
|Jordan Colver's Favourite Character: The Goon|
ARE YOU READING ANYTHING ELSE AT THE MOMENT?
RW: Comicwise, i jumping around, I’m reading Promethea, some TMNT stuff and a bunch of small press books like Disconnected and Afterlife Inc. As for those loser books, you know the ones I mean, the ones without pictures, I’m currently reading a book about the history of Magic in England.
JC: I picked up a stack of great UK Small Press stuff from the Bristo Expo recently that I’m working my way through: The Pride, Professor Elemental, Ronin Dogs, Razarhawks.
WHAT MAKES YOU WANT TO CREATE COMICS?
RW: I’m not sure. I think its because I love them so much. I think thats how interests work. First, its just something you like, then that grows and you start to love it. But at this point what happens it your palette becomes refined, you gain tastes and sensibilities. You begin to understand your interest in a deeper way, you start to critique it, see why and how things are done and then you want to participate and improve what you love. At conventions you meet so many people who read comics, not always the comics you like but they like them an they’re quite happy to stay on that side of the medium. They’re quite happy to receive the stories and let the editors deal with the quality and content. At the same time you meet so many people who want to make comics or already do and usually its because they love comics too but don’t feel they have enough of the book that they want to read, or represent them. You’ll get stuff like Pride or FML that have a message with them, those creators didn’t make those books because they saw a niche in the small press market, they make them because they can express themselves in the medium they love ( I randomly assume, without making any investigation into my claim). We started making comics because we like comics and thought it would be fun. We specifically made “Ladies and Gentlemen” to be a nod to the things we like in comics, the ridiculous things that we think are unique to comics. To reign this in some what, we got to the point we’re we wanted to see things in comics, things that interested us artistically, and the easiest way to do that is to make comics yourself. Screw it, in short I did it for the dollar and bitches.
JC: Comics are my favourite way of telling a story. Reading them is certainly a great way to engage with the medium, but it’s an observational role. There’s something about being on the other side of the reader-creator discourse - about participating in it - that offers a unique thrill. When I finish a book, a page, a single panel, it’s really exciting. I think it’s a more unusual experience to sit back after reading a comic made by somebody else and feel proud of it, to have a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, maybe I’m just reading the wrong books.
Creating comics also helps me understand comics. There’s alot of technical considerations that, if done right, are completely invisible to the reader. The best way to confront these and get to know them is to do them yourself and see what happens. This discovery process that occurs in the actual act of creating comics is a huge motivation for me. Again, I think that’s absent from what the reading experience can offer on its own. Instructions: Read comics, Do comics, Repeat.
HOW DOES YOUR CREATIVE PARTNERSHIP WORK? DO YOU DEVELOP STORIES TOGETHER?
RW: At first it was kind of a mutual idea that we both liked that I would take away an develop into a script. Jordan would approve or ask clarifying question then we would come together and thumbnail the stories together, then Jordan would go away and create the final artwork. I think now whilst we are still heavily collaborative we have more trust, and our ambitions have gone further. When we first started we used qualify a lot of sentence with “ you might think this is crazy but...” but more often than not the following suggestion would be something that we both wanted to see. I think now we cut out that sentence and trust each others sensibilities. JC might take a page away where we haven’t spent much time on the thumbnails but i know that 95% of the time what he is going to come back with will be solid, and untampered by my limited artistic views. It might not always be what I wanted (ask him about the issue two symbolism of Lady Liberty and how my response to that was “i think the breasts are a bit much”) but it will always be good. LIke wise i think sometimes JC has received a script or part of a script and had ask if things will work or whether they can be misconstrued but again he puts enough trust in me to know i’ve not gone off the deep end and that everything should hopefully make sense by the end. This is referring in particular to the latest story we did that has some quite heavy connotations but in the end we managed not to offend anyone (we hope).
JC: There’s a purity to creating comics as a writer-artist (Idea-to-Page) that I intend to explore at some point, but there’s definitely an element of magic injected into the process when you collaborate. You end up with something that neither one would/could have created as individuals. Rich and I operate on this premise I think. We’ve been doing comics together since we started, so our learning curve has developed in tandem. This has built up a bank of common interests, ideas, goals, and a mutual trust. Rich is a visual kind of writer so he has quite a clear idea of what he wants the page to look like, but I’ve noticed that over the years his scripts have changed to cater to my sensibilities. They’ll often include things like “You know what I mean.” That’s alot of fun because if he were to give that script to another artist, they wouldn’t know what he meant.
DO YOU WRITE A FULL SCRIPT? OR WORK FROM A PLOT?
RW: Plot then script
HOW IS YOUR ARTWORK PRODUCED? DO YOU USE TRADITIONAL TOOLS OR DIGITAL OR A MIX OF BOTH?
JC: I’m more of a physical guy, but I use a mix of both. Pencils on A3 bristol board or lightweight watercolour paper with a 0.07mm mechanical pencil. Ink over that with quill nib pen and India ink (I find this gives me a nice mid-ground between the precision of a technical pen and the fluidity and variety of a brush). Write in the lettering with a pen, (try to) erase all my scrappy pencil lines, and finally add in all the depth and shades with a brush pen filled with diluted ink. Then it’s just a matter of scanning it (in two halves, since my scanner isn’t big enough), cobbling the halves together in Photoshop, and tidying up any grotesquely erred lines. When I do add colour (which I will try to avoid at all costs) I do this either by straightforward digital painting with my Wacom tablet, or by by selecting various areas of the ink wash and adjusting the tint/hue accordingly. Voila! A comic.
WHAT ARE YOUR WORKING METHODS: DO YOU SET YOURSELF DEADLINES? OR DO YOU WORK WHEN THE MOOD TAKES YOU?
RW: I certainly try to set deadlines, being the writer is far more flexible imagine, but I try to get things sorted early so that JC has plenty of time to meet our printing deadlines.
JC: I try to draw most days for at least an hour or two after work but, hoighty-toighty artist that I am, I work best when I’m in “the mode”, in which case I can work from breakfast til midnight. This is only practical to a point, however, and the time comes when I need to follow more regular deadlines that I set for myself in between a full-time job, social and leisure activities, husbandly duties (get your mind out of the gutter), and sometimes sleep. All things said and done, one completed page takes me on average about 2 full days.
HOW DO YOU DIVIDE THE ADDITIONAL TASKS THAT SMALL PRESS CREATORS HAVE?
RW: I think its whomever it’s convenient for. If JC is deep in artwork i’ll take on some more responsibility. But we both have full time jobs, JC working 9-5 and myself random hours so its just a case of saying X needs to be done I can do it later or Y still isn’t done can you sort it.
JC: We tag team. We both manage the company email (can we call it that?) and deal with any admin that might stroll along on a “I’ll get it” basis. Right now we’re putting together an anthology with various contributors, so that side of things has been stepped up a notch as we take on editorial responsibilities, but it’s actually really enjoyable.
DO YOU GO TO CONVENTIONS? DO YOU ENJOY THEM? WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
RW: As many as we can afford, for the most part and Thought Bubble. It’s huge and its still purely focused on comics.
JC: We sure do. They can certainly be discouraging at times as you watch the hordes pass you by, but that’s made up for by the volume of encouragement we also get. Cons have a great atmosphere, and the people-watching is phenomenal, but the best part is talking to other creators and comic-lovers who share your enthusiasm for the medium. Thought Bubble (Leeds’ Comic Art Festival) was my first and favorite convention in the UK.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO SMALL PRESS/INDEPENDENT CREATORS?
RW: Honestly just doing the work. All it takes to be small press is to make a comic. It might not be very good, but you’ll get better. Forcing yourself to sit down and create is the hardest part. Don’t worry about the money, release it online for free or Kickstart it. The admin side isn’t the reason to get into making comics, make them because you love them and then get making them!
JC: Worrying too much about “making it”. Too often creators (us included) divert all their energy trying to discover the secret doorway into the esoteric Comics Industry that they forget to actually just do something that they enjoy, to the best of their abilities. The goal should be to Make Comics, not to Make It. In my mind, that’s what differentiates the Small Press scene in the first place, and it’s easy to lose sight of it. If you’re creating your own comics and giving them to other people to read, don’t worry - you’re already “in”. It’s just a matter of somebody else noticing.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS AND AMBITIONS?
RW: To one day make a wage from making comics. Also I think i’d like to produce a regular magazine that could be a launch pad for small press creators in britain.
JC: I’d like to one day own a drafting table and a light box. Attainable dreams!
TELL US ONE THING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU:
RW: More often then not I will introduce JC to strangers with the line “ This is Jordan, he is Canadian and doesn’t have a foreskin.” True story.
JC: Wow... well.... that answer just about has me covered as well.
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?
RW: Gossip and trashy magazines like Chat or Hello. I need to know whats happening with Kimye (Kanye and Kim Kadashian for the uninitiated) !Wild spurious, unresearched journalism is the most fun thing ever.
JC: I’m a compulsive picker. I pick everything. And it makes me feel good inside.
DITKO OR KIRBY?
RW: As a boy Dikto, as I’ve grown Kirby.
JC: What’s the difference? Just kidding Kirby. I prefer his posturing.
BATMAN OR SUPERMAN?
RW: As a boy Batman, as I’ve grown Supes.
JC: The Batman is obviously cool, but Alien Christian Moses all the way. It’s funny... I never would have said that before watching Smallville. It was the first time I got a real sense of the human element of the character. Now I hate Smallville (because I love Superman?)
WHICH COMIC CHARACTER DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
RW: Spider-Man (during my teen years, Black Suit Spider-Man)
AND WHICH WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE NOW?
RW: John Constantine, probably.
JC: A proportionately aged Spider-Man
WHO IS YOUR COMIC BOOK CRUSH?
RW: JORDAN COLLVER! Nah, that horrible and saccharine. A character JC and I refer to as “Hot Beth” from Y the Last Man, as seen on my favourite cover above.
I would say Raina from Blankets because she reminds me of my wife, but that’s not a very exciting answer so I’ll go with Alma Mayer from Blacksad. She’s got that sassy, strong-willed librarian thing going on. Oh yeah, she’s also a cat... but a cat that looks mostly human... Sheesh, I’ve just gone from lame to weird.
|Jordan Collver's Comic Crush: Alma Mayer from Blacksad|
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
RW: Wishing I was doing this, probably working in as a magician and part gossip columnist.
JC: Probably doing something useful and important like volunteering. I blame comics for the world’s woes.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
RW: Working on an Creator Owned book that pays enough that comics is my only job. Attending conventions and being regarded as a great up an coming comics creator. Play squash with Kanye West.
JC: I’ll probably have a kid by then! In that case I’d like to see myself as a stay-at-home-dad with a sweet studio in the house and a massive book case, drawing 9-5. Or at the very least just able to squish a few hours of scribbling on some prune-stained paper every now and then. I blame children for the comic industry’s woes.
Rik & Jordan are at The Water Closet Press