by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson
David Lloyd is known for his innovative creativity drawing V for Vendetta along with writer Alan Moore. David’s use of the Guy Fawkes mask for the main character has become a political archetype that has gone far beyond the comic. In person David is a lovely man who is passionate about his art. It’s no surprise that the man who would create the iconic anarchist is at heart a revolutionary in the industry.
David’s been making comics since the late 70’s working for Marvel UK among others. Prior to V for Vendetta, Lloyd and Moore collaborated on Dr. Who stories for Marvel. He’s taken his long standing in the industry and his strong sense of creativity to play it foreword in his pioneering digital magazine—Aces Weekly. David and I share a love of pulps and comics history so I was interested to learn more. I had a chance to catch up with him at this year’s San Diego Comic Con and I’m now a fan and subscriber to the magazine.
Subscribing to Aces Weekly is the same as having a regular comics subscription once a week. The innovation is that the comics are in 21st century digital format with no complicated apps or necessary downloads. You go to the website, pay your subscription fee of $9.99, get your password and you’re in. It’s a direct connection between creator and reader without the overhead costs of print.
As David said, “What we basically do is put great comic art onscreen so it’s very simple what we’re doing. In that sense it’s no different from regular comics. The way it’s different from regular comics is that we’re using the format of the computer screen… so it’s landscape but it’s still just a page. Again that’s exactly the same as the regular comics.”
In the early days of comics there were pioneers who helped form the industry like William Gaines with Famous Funnies–reprints of newspaper comics–and my grandfather, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s use of original scripts and artwork as well as setting the size that is industry standard in New Fun, More Fun and later, Detective Comics. There have also been developments in the style of artwork and story lines along with the absorption of the characters into other media—radio, TV and movies.
David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly is in the tradition of those pioneers. He’s publishing a weekly comics magazine at a very small cost to the reader with the majority of the money returned to the artists, who own the series. In David’s words, “…the reproduction is perfect. We don’t have any printing problems. I’ve seen lots of terrible things happen to coloring and other things in my career. We never have any of that because we can scan it so it all looks beautiful. As you know the computer screen makes things look brilliant. So not only do we not have any trouble, but it all looks fantastic. And the other thing is for the first time we can make comics big. You can’t do that with paper comics.”
“And it’s under a dollar a week. That’s the truth and we can do that because the publishing that I do is not like print publishing. A print publisher sets up to make money out of comics. We’re not doing that. We’re setting up a platform—a publishing platform. The creators themselves make money out of it.”
One of the things that has surprised David is the resistance within the comics community to this format. “…a lot of the costs are borne by me personally because I need to keep this running for a much longer period than I thought I would in order to make it viable. I knew there would be resistance to digital comics to begin with but I didn’t realize how strong that resistance would be, so I need to keep at this. This needs to get on its feet.”
“I still find it incredibly surprising because I’m not asking people for a lot of money. I’m asking people for a small amount of money. Even if they really love comics in paper what’s the harm in giving me and all these creators a pound a week.”
“It’s entertaining and easily available. It’s even more art than you would normally get in a comic. All the contributors get to do what they like so plenty of them express themselves in very particular ways which is, that’s what art is all about—a complete expression of the artist.”
For me as a reader, the appeal is the incredible variety of the artwork and creativity that is available in these volumes. There are now 17 volumes beginning from 2012. Each volume consists of a seven-week subscription and each week has 6 comics either serials or a short. You can buy a subscription and go back and purchase earlier volumes, which is well worth it to read some of the serials. Included are Herb Trimpe’s Firehawks that captures the look and feel of 1940s comics as well as sci/fi fantasy genres like the scary and beautifully drawn Phoenix by Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton. I particularly liked Mark Wheatley and J.C. Vaughn’s Return of the Human, which appears in Volume 1 and 3. It goes beyond the usual comic book page and attempts to use the digital medium in a new way for comics. Mark’s strong color palette, painterly brushwork and his active lines bring a cinematic aspect to their comic. The story by J.C. is smart with fun references.
There are personal storylines like Blue Cat by James Hudnall and Val Mayerik, and laugh out loud comics like Marc Hempel’s The Love Brothers. I was especially drawn to Phil Elliot’s A Tale From Gimbley and his ironic take on the classic Golden Age of Comics. There are also intriguing comics like Catalyst by Henry Flint that go way outside the box and should more rightly be termed art that happens to be sequential.
Batton Lash’s well-known series Wolff and Byrd is an ongoing comic with clever, entertaining stories and Batton’s deft artwork. His contribution to Aces Weekly in Volumes 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, and 15 is The Gentleman of the Apocalypse and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best thing he’s ever done. The story is intriguing and the artwork is strong and spare. Not a line is wasted.
It’s inspiring to see such a wide variety of creativity in the comics genre. After reading a number of volumes I came away with a renewed respect for the work of so many people in this industry. Even if you’re a devoted comics collector you can still enjoy and appreciate the scope of what is being offered. I believe that many of the problems within the industry are a symptom of the lack of diversity and the poor treatment of artists. What better way to solve those problems than to have creators own their work and be paid well for it supported by their readers with an easy direct connection.
I asked David why he was so passionate about this project and his reply was in the vein of all adventurous souls. “It’s like Everest. When they ask somebody “why?”—they say, “because it’s there.” Why? Because it’s there. We are in the 21st century. We have at our disposal the best means of distribution so far invented by man for entities and ideas of all kinds. And it’s being used for that but it’s not being used for what we do—our great artistic medium of entertainment and education—comic art. So let’s use it, enjoy it at its full potential looking great, looking good. And you can get it anytime. It’s fantastic. And over and beyond that, I’m an artist and a creator and creators always have to try new things. They always have to go down new roads. And if you don’t go down a new road, you’re dead.”
You’ll find David this week at NYCC in Artists Alley at Table T2.