Image Comics were at Thought Bubble en force this year. So they needed two panels of show off the writers and artists they'd brought to the UK's finest comic con amidst the mist of Leeds docklands…
To a packed room. Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson first presented a panel of artists, Lisa Wood (Tula Lotay), Jamie McKelvie, Emma Rios. Jason Latour, Charlie Adlard and Sean Phillips.
He talked about how he saw the guests as split into two groups, artists who work with one writer primarily and those who work with many. Sean Phillips self-identified as being Ed Brubaker's artist and was asked for the benefits of this arrangement. Sean talked about how he basically trusts Ed to write him the good stuff. A long ongoing relationship between two such creators had Charlie Adlard talking about how scripts can get sketchier, with more trust given to the artists, as time goes on. However, they did bemoan not getting to experiment with other writers… the similarity between such arrangements and long term marriage was noted more than once. And Charlie took the opportunity to mention the long delay from the writing side for his Passenger graphic novella with Robert Kirkman, asking Eric Stephenson if he wouldn't mind prodding Kirkman with a sharp stick since Eric is nearer to Robert than Charlie is.
Jamie talked about the way he and Kieron Gillen work together, not that his scripts had gotten any shorter, they are still very long, but they feel they understand each other. "We talk every day, even if we're not in the same room" and recalled how it began, back in 2003, when Gillen first met McKelve and instantly said "I've got this comic called Phonogram, I want you to draw it. The first thing he said to me."
Jason Latour draws and writes, and works with many other writers. But a series of unfortunate incidents let him "the point I decided I wasn't going to work with another writer. But then Jason Aaron got serious about wanting to do Southern Bastards, and it all came together… For better or worse I'm not married to that guy…. I enjoy the collaborative aspect of it all. And makes me more sympathetic when I'm in the writing chair."
For Emma Rios, the language barrier was an important issue. "I come from a small press environment in Spain, the easiest way to get in is through Marvel and DC… art is a universal language." She worked with Kelly Sue DeConnick and from the beginning they talked about doing creator owned work. "But I was lucky with my collaborators, I was able to make lots of changes… no one told me not to do this…. But Pretty Deadly is much more organic.
Lisa Wood, who runs Thought Bubble. talked about meeting with Eric Stephenson, showing her portfolio and being challenged to draw comic books. Eric put her in touch with Warren Ellis, with whom she bounced off ideas before Warren decided he wanted to rework Supreme. He told her that he didn't think she'd like it, as it was a superhero comic, "but I read the script and loved it." She also teased she has new work coming with Warren. Something that in his official newsletter, Ellis confirmed as being
Her story getting into comics felt rather familiar to me. "My dad used to take me to the local market which sold comics about to be pulped, cheaply". Twenty pence got her four comics, including the likes of Daredevil and Judge Anderson. She talked about how she suffered from dyslexia, and how comics helped her to understand text – that her comics work is entirely self taught through comic books and that her love of comics artwork stayed with her.
Jason Latour talked about how he only saw his dad read one book in his life, and that was about sniper rifles, but he also had a box of comics in his loft. Half of which were DC horror comics that scared him, but the other was a mix of Marvel and Looney Tunes titles, especially drawn to Machine Man #1. And his mother decided that comics would get him to read, "unlike my father." Jason lionised local comics store Heroes Aren't Hard To Find store, and talked about taking a portfolio of work to Heroes Con from the age of 12, going to every creator to get comments and taking a Marvel Portfolio review at the age of 16. It only took him 18 more years to get published…
Eric Stephenson asked how the artists were responding to digital comics creation advances. Of the artists on stage, only Charlie Adlard and Emma Rios created their work with pen an ink, with Sean Phillips fully moving over with his new book Fade Out – and that he taught himself how to do that, something he wouldn't recommend anyone try. Sean is even selling his old pens and boards if anyone is interested, though he is potentially planning to draw his new Criminal comic with Brubaker on paper, He's also noted that digital is not actually faster for him than working on paper, though Jamie McKelvie praised the lack of scanning it affords him. However McKelvie does finds it too tempting to zoom in and obsess over little details and so has deleted his ability to zoom in so far…
Charlie Adlard keeps working on art boards for The Walking Dead because he can sell them for huge sums, but he plans on working digitally for a new European comic he is planning. And no, not Passenger…
Jason confesses that, when inking on boards, he once tried to CTRL-C an aspect of an image, and Jamie similarly stated he once tried to vertically flip a ink sketch while drawing it on paper.
Questions and answers saw the artists asked "how much is too much from a writer?"
Lisa talked about how, with Supreme, Warren explains simply in a sentence and lets me get on with it. Working on two monthly titles, Supreme and Bodies for Vertigo with Si Spencer, she noted how different Spencer is. "He's so different, he explains everything and I find that difficult. It's difficult when you have to draw everything that's described for me."
Charlie Adlard, talked about the freedoms Kirkman gives him, but expressed seemingly mock-aggrevation over The Walking Dead, with a doule page splash somewhere between the 70s and 80s issues, with the zombies assembling in Washington, D.C., before the horde attacks Alexandria. "He had the gall to say. Make this the best panel you've ever drawn in your entire life." Then of course, he did.
Sean Phillips, expressed a similar issue with Kirkman on Marvel Zombies, being told for a scene featuring two hundred heroes to "have fun". The wording of which he quibbled with as that "fun" took two or three minutes to write, but two or three days to draw.
Time to hear from the writers… if they turn up.