Woodrow Phoenix is one of the two editors who compiled Nelson, a 250-page anthology featuring work from over 50 different writers and artists. The idea of Rob Davis, the Blank Slate-published anthology tells a single tale, as told by a variety of different artists and writers. Amongst the incredible range of creators involved are people such as Roger Langridge, Paul Grist, Kate Brown, Posy Simmonds and Philip Bond.
I caught Woodrow by surprise and cornered him on the morning after he found out Nelson had won Best Book at the British Comic Awards, to ask him a few questions about the book and how it came together.
Steve: Last night Nelson won Best Book at the British Comic Awards!
Woodrow Phoenix: We’re very pleased and thrilled that people whose opinions we respect have seen fit to bestow this honour on us!
Steve: What first inspired yourself and Rob Davis to create Nelson?
Woodrow: Rob had this idea which I thought was a great concept I’ve never seen before. Nelson tells a complete story, as written and drawn by a series of gifted creators. It’s an anthology with just one story. It was such a great concept that I immediately thought ‘we have to do this’! I work as a designer as well as an illustrator, and I knew that something like this would need a strong sense of design, so I felt that was something I could bring to the project.
For example, I designed the cover for the anthology – we wanted something that would stand out and have something immediately compelling. Rob sketched the character, I did the type treatment, we put them together and we literally had the cover design in only a few hours.
Steve: How did you go about finding writers and artists to work on the anthology?
Woodrow: Between Rob and I we know a lot of people who we think are doing different, interesting things in comics, and we reached out to them. We also wrote a list of people who perhaps hadn’t done as much experimental, different stuff, and we wanted to challenge by inviting to work on Nelson. We picked people we wanted to see work, and then emailed everyone on our lists to see if they were interested. We thought it’d take a long time, but surprisingly, almost immediately everybody said “yes!”
Steve: With the now award-winning success of Nelson, are there perhaps now plans for a sequel project?
Woodrow: When we first finished, I vowed to never do something like this again! It was complicated and tiring, but enough time has passed that I’m thinking maybe there is something we could do. Something which would have some of the same features to it. It’s exciting to do something as ambitious and wide-ranging, and I’m considering trying it again.
Steve: Do you have anything else coming up on a personal level? Any other projects on the horizon?
Woodrow: I’m working on something else – a silent comic, where each page is a metre wide. I won’t be finishing it for a while!
I’ve reached a point now where I feel I’ve got all these crazy ideas, and it’s time to start trying them.
I think it’s important for the comics medium that we don’t keep doing the same things all the time. If you think about what we could do, you realise that there are a million subjects and styles we can work in. Rather than confining ourselves to capes we can do whatever we want, and I think we have to start taking that freedom to make work which isn’t predictable, doesn’t rely on old concepts, and isn’t always the same thing. We’ve got nothing to lose! We can afford to just try things out and be different.
Many thanks to Woodrow for his time! You can find more from him on his website, or on his twitter @mrphoenix. Also, if you google his name, you’ll see a picture which reveals he has the most suggestive eyebrows since Roger Moore. True!