Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A chat with...PJ Holden and Al Ewing (part five)

(Above: art by PJ Holden from Dead Signal. NB: The finished strip is in colour)

This is the fifth and final part of an online chat that I had with artist PJ Holden and writer Al Ewing earlier this month.
Go to part one, two, three or four.

MB: Tell us about forthcoming projects, chaps?

PJ: I have to finish a 12-page script called IMAGO that's been on my drawing table for over a year (the shame) and do a six page sample for a series, which hasn't landed a publisher yet. And I'll be doing that when I take six months off starting from the end of Dead Signal. The baby’s due on the 11th of June, but this is our second and it's been the most difficult pregnancy, wife has been off (doctor’s orders) and unable to look after our son, so a lot of looking after both of them has fallen to me and I haven't been able to get back on top of the Dead Signal deadlines since episode 2. So I figure, meet my commitments, take some time off, regroup and start back again.

MB: Al, what are you up to?

AE: 'Odessaland', a murder-mystery set in the Ukraine, but not the one we know. That'll probably take me two years to write, followed by schlepping it around publishers. And more comics, of course.

MB: Tell us about the comics.

AE: For 2000AD... as much Dredd as I can sell, plus a putative five-episoder called 'Disaster 2010'. But that one's not even at the plot stage so by the time it comes out it'll probably be called something completely different. And it'll be about space foetuses or something.

MB: Any plans to try and break America?

AE: Yes - I reckon the best way forward is Image, and I'm freed up enough to start working on that now that I, Zombie's finally done.

MB: Anything else you guys want to say?

PJ: My column for 2000 AD Review will continue - 12 episodes in total, I've written the next couple. I thought I'd find it difficult but I've been tempted to make them a weekly feature. But 12 is a good number, gives me a year of it and then I'll bung them all into a LULU self-published book.

MB: Will that be a sort of how-to book?

PJ: Yeah, take those 12 columns, 500 words a piece, add some more, and then a little how-to, a kind of 'Drawing comics as a professional: what to do in year two' (almost all advice I've ever seen is about getting your foot in the door, this is about keeping it there)

(Above: more art from Dead Signal by PJ Holden)

MB: PJ, should we expect weirder and weirder art from you a la Dead Signal?

PJ: Well, I don't do weird - I can try, but it's just not in me. I'm not Brendan McCarthy, Bill Sienkiewicz or Dave McKean. You get cartoony realism from me. But, with that said, I'm hoping to keep up with where Al is taking us all and the weirdest episode is probably the most straightforward in terms of the way the art is drawn. (In fact, in many respects that's what makes the art in that episode weird)

MB: I'm so confused about Dead Signal.

AE: You say that now...

PJ: Well, Al, Matt Smith and I, I think we're all tentatively prepared for the reaction to be appalling. It's been good, but knowing how it's going to play out means that the only way people will get a sense of how they feel about it will be when the first episode is done and dusted. And, based on the some preliminary ideas Al has sent, if they liked that and feel comfy in that world, well... they shouldn't put their slippers on just yet.

MB: I’m intrigued. I liked the wordplay in episode one a lot. If wordplay is the right term? Debtcopter, abortron. Is wordmash a better word?

AE: 'Abortron' is a pun. If Debtcopter's a pun it's a happy coincidence. Wordplay's as good a word as any, but I'm not as into it as other writers. Si Spurrier loves words. You can tell. I know Alan Moore enjoys a good old-fashioned punfest occasionally.

MB: Al, I know that you’re into the idea of revamping old characters. Any in particular that you’d like to bring back from the Brit’ comics graveyard?

AE: Revamping things... one day I will bring back Harry Angel.

MB: Harry Angel is...?

AE: Harry Angel - a man who crashed an experimental computer plane and had the computer embed in his shoulder. The computer now drives his body, which means he can essentially fly. If you drop him from any height he can 'glide' to earth. Basically he's remembered as this dreadful character, and he's someone I'd like to rehabilitate.

MB: Where would you both like to be in terms of your respective careers in 5 years time?

AE : I'd like to have won an Eagle Award. Too late this year, but maybe next year...

PJ: A 2000AD old hand, who's working for Marvel / DC while forging completely new works for Image while drawing damn well. (Oh yeah, I want some awards too, maybe that'll be the year I win a newcomer award!)

MB: Do the Eagle Awards mean anything?

PJ: Only if I'd been nominated :o).

AE: They do to me. It'd be like winning an Oscar. I can honestly say, because I have no children, that winning an Eagle Award would be the proudest moment of my life.

PJ: Well, to this day, being told I could get some work for 2000AD (even after one child) still ranks up there.

MB: Thanks, fellas, for a fun interview.

PJ: Right, Al, now he's going, let's talk about all the mad things about to happen in Dead Signal. I loved that bit where he turns into a giant radioactive ham sandwich

AE: Hush! I hear breathing at the keyhole.

PJ Holden and Al Ewing's new comic strip Dead Signal is being serialised in science fiction comic 2000 AD now.

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