The Leeds Thought Bubble Convention is probably the best convention in the world. And, realising this, 2000AD’s editor Tharg decided to launch an annual art competition at the festival – with the winner winning the chance to have their artwork appear in a future issue of the magazine. 2012 saw artist Will Morris win the contest, and therefore win the right to have his work published. Today is the day that story is published!
Written by David Baillie, Will’s artwork appears in one of Tharg’s Terror Tales – and (mercifully) Tharg permitted me the chance to have a chat with Will about the story, and what’s it’s been like working for 2000AD!
Steve: How did you first hear about the competition? Have you always been a fan of 2000AD?
Will: Through the Thought Bubble website, I saw Tharg’s challenge whilst taking a look at the programme and answered the call. I was actually a relative latecomer to 2000AD, but have since discovered what I was missing out on. The diversity of the stories, its pace, clever writing and spectacularly broad artwork are unique as far as I can tell.
Steve: When you approached this competition and read the script, how did you prepare the story? What’s your artistic process like, to ask a slightly vague question?
Will: It was a great challenge. In my other comics work the pace of storytelling has been more leisurely and so really investing time into the layout roughs was crucial to make sure that the narrative was delivered effectively and that there was still a little room for flair. Once I was happy with the layouts, I continued onto the pencils, the line-work with a fine-liner and finally the washes using watered down Indian Ink.
Steve The comic industry is based on rejection or success, and there’s no middle ground. Is it difficult to come back from a ‘setback’ like 2010 – or does it push you to develop and push your artwork forwards?
Will: I think if you have a light dusting of self belief and a willingness to take on critical feedback and to develop your work then no experience is ever entirely a set-back. Even having won the 2000AD portfolio competition I got some great advice from the team, which has influenced my drawing since.
In 2010 I entered the Northern Sequential Art Competition [also run through Thought Bubble]. After coming third, Blank Slate Books saw my entry and from there I got the opportunity to create my own book.
Steve: Let’s talk about the story itself, which is one of 2000AD’s Terror Tales. What can you tell us about the story?
Will: It’s a really enjoyable slice of high-octane horror writing, from the excellent David Baillie. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but you’d be amazed by the effect a song can have on otherwise well balanced people.
Steve: Is it easy to get into the style of 2000AD when laying out pages? The stories tend to be hyper-compressed, and very fast paced. Is that easy to adapt to?
Will: I think it really stretches you as a comic artist as there’s absolutely no fat in the script. Every panel has to propel the story forward without leaving the reader in its wake. Detailed planning and careful consideration for how to lead the eye were really important to the process.
Steve: What have you most enjoyed about the experience of coming to 2000AD?
Will: 2000AD is brilliantly diverse. When the script arrived in my inbox it literally could have contained anything, which was very exciting. Once I’d read it the visual ideas started spilling out and I can’t think of any other word to better describe some of the panels I got to draw than gnarly. What’s more the script lured me into rediscovering my long neglected thrash metal collection.
Steve: How was it collaborating with writer David Ballie, who wrote the story?
Will: I wasn’t actually in touch with David until after writing the script. It would have been great to work more collaboratively, but frankly the script was so clearly written and well described that I don’t think the story lost anything in translation.
Artwork from Will’s competition entry
Steve: How important are conventions like Thought Bubble to comic creators and artists, in terms of networking or opportunity? Do you think the growing convention circuit has made it easier for likeminded creators to link up and collaborate?
Will: Hugely so. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had so far without them and it’s wonderful to catch up with the folks you admire. It’s a great chance to gather a bit of feedback as well, something I’d really recommend.
Steve: You also released your own work through Blank Slate earlier this year, as mentioned earlier – The Silver Darlings. What’s the book about, and what inspired you to create it?
Will: The book is about a young Scot setting out for a week aboard his dad’s fishing boat. He has his own ideas about the superstitions of the local community, but discovers that perhaps not everything is as black and white as it may seem. I was inspired by an information board in Dunure, a small fishing village in Ayrshire, which described the local superstitions. Never before had I realised the peril that comes with calling a salmon by its name.
Steve: What else do you have coming up in the immediate future? Is there a chance we’ll see your name in 2000AD sooner rather than later?
Will: I’ve been working on a collaborative comics project for the Lyon comic festival in France, which should be posted at the following link in the very near future – http://www.webtrip-comics.com/en/.
On 2000AD – I wouldn’t dare to anticipate Tharg’s grand plans, but I’d certainly love to have the opportunity to work on future stories.
Many thanks to Will for his time! And thanks to Molch-R, 2000AD’s interview arrangement droid. You’ll be able to find Will’s story in this week’s issue of 2000AD, which is prog #1836.