Category Archives: Fractal Matter

Retro Interview #1: David Lloyd 2006

[This interview originally appeared on the now-defunct Fractal Matter website in October 2006. I remember when I suggested to my editor that I could do an interview with David Lloyd, she said, ‘Who’s he?…’]

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: Dark Horse have just published Kickback, which I believe is your first outing as both writer and artist. Can you tell us about the book?

David Lloyd: Well, I’ve written before – short stories, one-off issues (Kalgar in White Dwarf, 5 episodes, 1978; Man In the Fog in Tales of Terror #3,1985, with Bob Curran; Journal of a Space Traveller in Alien Encounters #5, Feb 1986; Vixen – early story from 1977 – in Negative Burn #6, 1993; Lasting Impression in Dark Horse Presents #86, with Siobhan Dodds; Aliens: Glass Corridor, Dark Horse, 1998; The Big Snooze in Gangland, DC, 1998, reprinted in later collection; and Internet, in Vampires, Editions Carabas/ France, Dark Horse/US, 2001) – but it’s tough finding time to write your own stuff if you’re constructing someone else’s dreams, and enjoying it, and paying the bills doing it.

Kickback was written in a quiet summer month in 1999, when I’d finished a job and the phone wasn’t ringing with another job to take its place. It was finished in first draft form and secreted away when the phone rang again with an interesting offer.

I eventually got time to interest someone in the project in 2003 – but I chose France to offer it to instead of the market I usually work for, the US, because when I wrote it, that was the market I thought would embrace it more immediately. In 1999 crime comics were not big sellers in the US apart from staples like Sin City, whereas the French market loved crime books and wasn’t clogged up with superhero stuff.

I’d worked with a great guy in France in the years preceding 2003 – Jerome Martineau from Editions Carabas – who liked my work and trusted me completely as a creator. So he ended up taking the book, and published it in France in two albums, with a compilation edition in March of this year to coincide with the release of the V for Vendetta movie.

Because I own all rights in the work, I eventually sold it to Spain and sold it to Dark Horse for publication in the US. I’ve since sold it to Germany and Italy.

The story is about a corrupt policeman in a corrupt police force and how and why he gets to change the direction of his life. But on a deeper level it’s about corruptibility in us all. We are all corruptible, I’m sorry to say. It’s our biggest problem.

PÓM: Can we expect to see you doing more writing from now on, and would you like to write for other artists, or would you prefer to do your own art?

DL: Well, I had a great chat with Dave Gibbons about that, who has written much more than me and for many artists. He’s happy with good artists doing his stuff, and he’s been blessed. I’m not sure I could write for other artists unless I had to. No-one else will ever be able to see things the way I see them – and the only circumstances in which I could be happy with what someone else had done with my characters is in circumstances where I didn’t care what happened to them. So I’ll try to stay in the position of perfect interpreter as much as I can. By the way, I don’t anticipate a rush from publishers to ask me to write for other artists on the strength of Kickback – though I would be extremely flattered if that proved to be the case.

PÓM: You once told me that you’ve never worked on superhero comics. Did this make it difficult to get work, before the growth of the non-superhero comics market?

DL: No problem getting work – I worked in the UK most of my early career, and superheroes weren’t even a factor here, though one of my early jobs was drawing a crazy superhero character for TV Comic called The Kicktail Kid, who had a rocket-powered, flying skateboard and zipped about like a junior Silver Surfer. After that, I did work on a couple of superhero characters but stopped doing them as soon as I could. I developed an antipathy towards them after I realised just how immovable their domination of the market was; and also from seeing the influence they have on the general public’s perception of what comics are all about. Unfortunately, they just represent a big hurdle for anyone who wants to show the enormous potential there is in telling stories in strips. You have to jump it somehow, in order to convince people who aren’t familiar with comics that you can do something vaguely serious with the medium. And the non-superhero market hasn’t grown that much, you know.

But I must say I do like superhero characters – and I draw them now and then in special circumstances. I did a Captain America story recently – for what I thought was going to be a benefit book and turned out not to be – and I enjoyed it. I drew him in a kind of Sixties style – in the only way I could draw him that worked for me. I’m a big fan of that period of Kirby style.

And, of course, I did the covers for MadroX recently. But then, what Peter [David], Pablo [Raimondi] and Andy [Schmidt] did with that series was not superhero as we know it. It was a believable thriller. More like that would be better for the superhero genre if publishers really want to get non-comic readers into accepting it more.

PÓM: There’s been a lot of interest in old UK comics recently, with various reprint volumes, a few books like The Ultimate Book of British Comics and Paul Gravett’s forthcoming Great British Comics. Is there any of your old work you’d like to see in print, and do you have any deep dark secrets from that time you’d like to tell us about?

DL: A lot of my old stuff is too flawed for me to want to see reprinted, but if anyone wanted to reprint a selection and wanted me to choose, I’d be happy to do the honours. Some of it still shines.

Deep, dark secrets? Don’t know what would count as such. Sorry to be a killjoy, there.

PÓM: Are you pleased with the success of the movie of V for Vendetta? Have Hollywood been knocking at your door since?

DL: Yes, I’m very pleased with the success of the movie and the response most admirers of the original seem to have to it, here, in the US, and in other countries I’ve visited since its release. Generally, that’s expressed as pleasant surprise that it’s so good, with a regret that it isn’t as good as the book. For me, that’s a good enough reason to have supported the movie from the time I saw the script and to maintain my support for it now. The creators of that film made a great film that was a creditable version of the original – and one that managed to encapsulate much of the best of the original’s value.

Hollywood has not come knocking on my door, but I’m shamelessly knocking on theirs, because Kickback would make a excellent piece of cinema; and, frankly, the way things are at this moment with the distribution and awareness of Kickback as a graphic novel, here and in the US, making a movie of it is the only way people are likely to know it exists at all.

PÓM: You are always name-checked as ‘The man who drew V for Vendetta,’ a project you started about 24 years ago now. Has the success of V overshadowed your other work?

DL: The success of V has become the bedrock of my career, and if people don’t know me for much else, it’s my own fault for not maintaining a constant presence in the market with higher profile stuff than I’ve chosen to work on since that time. But I don’t do superhero stuff hardly at all, and I only work on something that interests me instead of anything that pays my bills on a regular basis. I also have neglected the importance of personal publicity – self-publicity. That’s something I will be attempting to correct from this point on, late though it may be in my business existence to start such endeavours.

PÓM: What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to make a career of comic art?

DL: That is one of those questions that cannot be effectively answered in a general fashion because it depends on the nature of the recipient of any such advice, and the quality of their innate talent. I ended up doing it because I did that better than any other form of illustration work, and kept doing it even when I was being paid to do other illustration work. That’s probably one useful gauge to use, somehow.

PÓM: Finally, if you hadn’t been a comics artist, is there anything else you think you’d like to have done?

DL: Something easy and relaxing that paid me lots of money.

PÓM: Thanks a million for doing this interview for me, David. I’ll buy you a pint next time we meet!

DL: Thank you!

© Pádraig Ó Méalóid 2014

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Filed under 2006, David Lloyd, Fractal Matter, Retro Interview, V for Vendetta

Retro Review #1: Albion

[This review originally appeared on the now-defunct Fractal Matter website in February 2007. I’ve touched it up a very tiny amount…]

Long before it ever came out, Leah Moore and John Reppion’s Albion had a long and fascinating history behind it. All the main characters come from old UK comics, specifically those that had been published by Fleetway/IPC. From comics with names like Lion, Valiant, Smash!, and Wham! came Captain Hurricane, Robot Archie, Janus Stark, The Steel Claw, and many others. In and around the mid-Seventies, most of these comics ceased publication, and their inhabitants were seen no more. Albion sets out to explain why these characters disappeared, and what happened to them afterwards.

UK comics were always different from US comics. During their heyday, between the fifties and the seventies, they came out weekly, were generally in black and white, and were all anthology titles, featuring several different stories in each, often with only two story-pages per issue. And the characters themselves couldn’t have been more different. In the US, you had a predominance of superheroes, with the clearly identified good guys fighting the clearly identified bad guys. In UK comics, nothing was ever that simple. Many of the characters were either morally ambivalent, or just downright bad. Magical artefacts and lunatic technology abounded, and, for a nation not long out of the Second World War, and still feeling the deprivations caused by rationing, tables heaving with food were a regular feature, usually in the last panel. If American comics were aimed at adolescents, then British comics were definitely aimed at school kids, with lots of school strips, and many of the protagonists of the adventure strips were school kids, too.

If you’re a gentleman (or, indeed, lady) of a certain age, as I certainly am, then you remember these comics, and all their idiosyncratic and twisted characters, with enormous affection. You long for another look at a page of Ken Reid’s Faceache artwork, or Leo Baxendale’s Grimly Feendish. Although this isn’t quite what you’re getting with Albion, it is, by god, very definitely the next best thing.

This is what happened: After all the great old British comics died off, in and around the mid-seventies, for reasons too numerous and complex to readily explain here, the ownership of the characters shifted around quite a bit. As yet another part of the complex and complicated history of Albion, the history of the publishers is also labyrinthine. What started with Associated Press at the beginning of the 20th century turned into IPC, Fleetway, and eventually IPC Media, with all sorts of side journeys and mergers involving Odhams, Longacre Press, and Hulton, amongst others. In the end, as happens, one company bought another, and so on and so forth, and suddenly AOL Time-Warner in America ended up owning IPC Media in Britain. This meant that DC Comics and the archive of old IPC characters were related to one another. This fact struck several people at around the same time and, to cut a long story short, Alan Moore and Shane Oakley put forward a proposal to WildStorm, the subsidiary of DC that was dealing with the whole thing, and the idea for Albion was born. Moore was too busy to actually do the writing himself, so suggested to Wildstorm editor Scott Dunbier that he might be interested in giving the job to a pair of young writers called Leah Moore and John Reppion, who had already written one mini-series, Wild Girl, for them. And there you have it.

Straight off the bat, I’m going to tell you all that I loved Albion. I had a whole lot of fun reading it, not just because it is very well written and illustrated, but also because it helped me to remember lots of comics I read in my childhood, and had mostly forgotten since. I had an outrageously good time trying to guess who was who (and got it right a lot of the time!), and all in all I was intrigued and captivated from beginning to end. And the end, of course, is not really the end at all, but just the beginning of a whole new set of adventures for all these fabulous old folk. Or so I fervently hope.

The six issues tell a slowly unfolding tale of how the old comic characters were captured and imprisoned by the authorities, with their weapons and magical artefacts taken from them, and used covertly by the government. Our primary protagonist, Danny, a ne’er-do-well scouse lad, finds himself caught up with Penny, who grabs him at the trial of Grimly Feendish, and in fairly short order embroils him in her scheme to break into the Scottish castle containing all the prisoners, and free them. Eventfully, with the help of at least one very unlikely and unwilling ally, they set out to do just that. In the meantime, tempers are short and things are beginning to fall apart in the prison itself. Where will it all end? I strongly recommend you read the book and find out for yourself.

Albion teems with huge amounts of old comic characters, all drawn with obvious love and respect by Shane Oakley, who seems to have, in the last issue, tried to put every UK comics character that ever existed, along with all their toys and odd creatures, into a number of double-page spreads. If you’re interested in old UK comics, or even if you’re not, you should get a lot out of Albion. I certainly did, and it has afforded me hours of pleasure, just trying to tease out the identity of that last robot or gun or creature luring in the corner of a panel. I’ve ended up buying lots of old annuals and comics, just to see some of those old strips again. You can even get a taste of these old strips in the Albion collection, as there are several pages of reprints of old stories in the back.

If you decide you want to know more about old UK comics, then you’re in luck. There seems to be a growing awareness of what we’ve lost, and quite a number of books have come out over the last few years about British comics in particular. You could try Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury’s Great British Comics, an excellent, if perhaps over-full history of the medium since the beginning of the 20th century. Another excellent sourcebook is The Ultimate Book of British Comics by Graham Kibble-White. There have been some nice reprints from Titan of stories featuring The Steel Claw and The Spider, too. However, bearing in mind that these are skinny hardback volumes at rather elevated prices, I think I’ll quote Garth Ennis from his introduction to Battler Britton #1 (one of the other titles to come out of the IPC treasure trove) where he says,

Americans tend to look after their history a little better than the British, and the comics industry is no exception. Archive editions, masterworks, hardbacks and more, lovingly reproducing thousands of pages of classic American comics, are widely available and kept in print for future generations to enjoy. But what about us Brits?

Titan Books take note!

That’s what I’d really like to see, you know. Lots of big cheap reprint volumes of Faceache, and Galaxus, and, oh, just lots and lots of them. Of all of them.

© Pádraig Ó Méalóid 2014

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Filed under 2007, Alan Moore, Albion, Captain Hurricane, Fleetway, Fractal Matter, IPC, Janus Stark, John Reppion, Leah Moore, Lion, Retro Reviews, Robot Archie, Shane Oakley, Smash!, The Steel Claw, UK Comics, Valiant, Wham!