Part Two of an Interview with Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford
Continued from Part One here.
UB: Daniel, in terms of your artistic style (at least in Robot 13 and KING!), what influences are you willing to admit to? I can see elements of Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola. Would that be a fair evaluation?
DB: Totally. Mignola’s Gotham By Gaslight got me back to reading comics after a very long departure. I studied graphic design at the University of Arizona and during that time my artistic desire involved package design and page layout. I was all about Bau Da Design and David Carson (see an illustration from a Carson-designed architecture book in Gallery below). After I graduated I found myself wandering into a comic shop, found Gotham By Gaslight and went right back out to find more books by Mignola. I remember talking to the shop owner and asked him if he could point me to all the Mignola books and he showed me Hellboy. As much as I love his current work, however, I’ve gotta say that a special place in my heart is reserved for his earlier, more Kirby-reflective work.
Mignola aside, Stephen Gammell has been an even larger influence since I was six years old when I picked up my first copy of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” at the school book fair. You wanna talk about horror art, holy crap the man makes some frightening images! You can almost smell the rot wafting from his pages. And from a children’s book no less. One of my favourite images has always been “The Big Toe” (see below) that depicted a small farm boy squatting down in front of the most disgusting toe sticking out of the ground. Blech! Awesome. If I am ever able to own some of his originals from that series, I will die happy. And buried with it. I can’t think of a better fate for Gammell’s work, buried and clutched in the arms of worm-eaten corpse.
UB: And Thomas, do you have anyone you would cite as an inspiration, from whom you’ve learned the art of comic storytelling? Who inspires/has inspired you as a writer?
TH: I have always been drawn to emotional storytelling, and with writers who know how to bend words to do their will. I love the way Edgar Allen Poe paints a picture with words, and the way he phrases his dialogue. I think Flannery O’Connor’s work is equally amazing and dark and hopeful in a strange sense. How there is almost an optimism in facing the most horrific things, that surviving something can be a victory even in defeat.
I read a lot of poetry — e.e.cummings, Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins — people who use images like some kind of lyrical crystal meth. You just get lost in the visuals and in the musical quality of the sound of words. When I write for Daniel, I think of the images he will eventually draw, and I try to find opportunities to give Daniel to do something equivalent with his Art. I like the idea of something which has symbolic significance happening “literally” in a comic and not explaining it. I never use narration if I can help it, too. I think that is such a crutch — it’s almost better to have someone puzzle a bit over an image than to give them too much. It kills the lyrical aspect of the flow of images…
As for Comic book writers — I do have a few that I love. Grant Morrison has been huge for me. I read an interview with him once and he said he thought his first priority as a writer was to give the artist something cool to draw. I know that sounds simplistic, but what he meant was it’s a visual medium, so if the artist can read the script and be really excited to get to draw it, that energy will explode on the page. I totally believe in that. I also love Neil Gaiman, but then again, who doesn’t right? That’s almost like saying, “I like ice cream.” You and a million other people. But Neil does develop his characters like nobody else. He really deserves the praise he has gotten for his work.
Aside from those two, I love Atomic Robo with a passion. Brian Clevinger won’t get his due with a lot of people, but he has written some fine comics — they are funny and they have alot of heart and a real point of view. And he is never in a hurry. You never see Brian use one panel when a slower sequence of four or six or ten panels will let the action unfold in a better way. It takes a trust between writer and artist to do just that, but they nail it. I never miss an issue.
Steve Purcell is another favourite (see images below), as is Larry Marder (see images in Gallery below). Both of them are more known as artists, but they write their own stuff and they have a very fine sense of phrasing dialogue and with coming up with inventive situations. Now that I have done a fair bit of writing and re-writing comic scripts, I see first hand how difficult it can be, so I appreciate the little things more. It’s not just filling in word balloons — everything that happens has a scripted component, and you have to think what will be visually dynamic and what will work with the artist who has to follow your script. Knowing Daniel so well helps, but it’s still a difficult process.
UB: You may not want to answer this question, or at least not in detail, but what mythological monsters can R13 look forward to tussling with in future issues — and where is Robot 13’s search for his past likely to take him?
TH: For this first story arc, I give you a preview, sure. The next issue will feature Robot 13 in a crazy aerial battle with a Phoenix … not that Robot 13 will be flying, but the Phoenix will try carrying him off and our Hero doesn’t like that one bit. It’s going to be a real crazy one. The third issue will feature a Cyclops, and will bring into play one of the series’ recurring characters other than our Robot. After that — I have some very strong ideas. I have one story with Robot 13 that I absolutely want to tell and some very specific creatures for that, but that won’t be the very next story. As I mentioned before, I think giving Daniel something he is excited to draw is my first priority, so part of the process in choosing those elements will be seeing what he is feeling. In Greek mythology, the creatures all symbolize something. They aren’t just fanciful inventions — each one represents something that the Greeks believed about the world, and the tales surrounding those creatures were conveying very specific lessons tied to their appearance and actions. I want to be sensitive to using that to our advantage, so depending on which creature Daniel really wants to draw, the plot of the story will follow a different path an order. But I think it’s safe to say that nobody is going to walk away disappointed. We have many stories to tell, and a great many Monsters to choose from. Each Monster will get their fifteen minutes of fame, I can assure you.
TH: Right now, the best way is for people to go to us directly. We are in the process of talking to different channels of distribution, but from the feedback we have been getting, people can’t wait. If you want to buy a copy directly, starting Monday, June 8th our website store will be open. Go to http://www.blackliststudios.com and you’ll find our store. Those of you outside the US, please email us before you order at email@example.com because we can’t account for every shipping variation in our automated web store. We’ll work something out with you & make sure you get a copy.
As for store owners: again, your best bet is to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask about our dealer discounts. We have already be approached by a few stores, so we’ll be getting our books to them starting the week of June 8th as well. And if you want the book from your local shop, bug them. Tell them about the book, and have them contact us. That will mean more to your shop owner than anything, because they know if you are hot enough on a book to get them to go out and find it, there must be something to it.
Beyond that, if you check in with our Blacklist website, you’ll see any news. We will announce further distribution options and all as they unfold…
UB: Thanks for giving so generously of your time guys. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of you!
TH: Thank you Robert! That was a lot of fun.
DB: Yeah, thanks, Robert. Really enjoyed this.