Tuesday, 22 April 2008

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

(Above: the cover to Fearless issue 1 by PJ Holden)

This is the second part of an online chat that I had with artist PJ Holden and writer Al Ewing earlier this month. Part one is here.

MB: How frustrating is the lack of domestic markets for new writers and artists? It feels like you've both spent a long time getting this far (for that reason).

PJ: It's more frustrating that, in the past few years, I've only been able to ramp my productivity up to a fairly steady 10/15 pages per month. There're plenty of (non-paying) markets that are non-domestic.

Al: I think to be fair it's more because I started off being rubbish, and I'm still fairly crap at pitching to people who aren't Matt Smith at 2000 AD. To be honest, I'm finding myself doing a lot of non-comics stuff; radio panel shows, that sort of thing. If I could make that pay, that would be nice.

PJ: Work is out there. It's just finding the time to do it. Image comics, especially, I'd spend a great part of my career just drawing creator-owned comics via Image if I could find the time.

Al: There's no shortage of work, it's just unlocking those doors.

MB: But you need to get paid, surely. Aren't you at the stage where you should be paid?

PJ: Well, I approach work in two ways: unpaid? I need to own it. Work for hire? Thank you, I'll take that cheque. But, I think, for the long term (and I mean, 20/60 years) I want to have built a sizable portfolio of creator-owned work, otherwise I'm just gonna be toiling in the trenches in perpetuity making someone else’s comic.

Al: I think Phonogram is probably the big success story with regards to UK folk at Image...

MB: PJ, are you hoping that one of these creator-owned comics might be the next Star Wars/Harry Potter?

PJ: Nope, but I can't help noticing that the happiest creators, the ones enjoying what they do are the ones that have created something totally new that they own - Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Warren Ellis and others. And too many comic artists spent the rest of their lives chained to the drawing table drawing Batman/Superman/whateverman.

MB: Would you prefer to be rich or revered?

PJ: Revered, but it's easy to be revered, just meet lots and lots of people, keep the ones that like you and dispatch the others. As long as I can pay my bills, I'm happy (but then I'm in the enviable position of having a well paid, part time job).

MB: Have you guys left the small press behind?

PJ: I think I've done the small press as much as I can. I don't think I'm reaching anyone new there, at least not in the UK.

MB: PJ, any more of your Image comic, Fearless on the horizon?

PJ: If there is more Fearless it won't be for at least a year (or two). Back to Dead Signal. I have to say - episode one is, I think, he first thing I've been really proud off in some time.

MB: What, in terms of your own work, hasn't been working for you?

PJ: Most of Fearless. The whole thing took too long, and the storytelling suffered because of it. Also, some really crap drawing.

MB: Al, you said earlier you were crap? PJ, you've just said that about Fearless? Why so down on your abilities, or is it to make sure you don't get complacent?

AE: I don't think I am any more. But I am very slow at the moment, which is bad. I need to increase my speed now. I can't rest on my laurels, since I've barely got one leaf of a laurel. And also because I'm being accused in the letters pages of being the boastingest boaster in Boastington Hall.

MB: Ah, our interview for the Meg’...

AE: Well, I was boasting, to be fair. It was the drink. And, frankly, there's nothing wrong with being proud of your work.

PJ: I think I've a fairly realistic opinion of my work, it's hard to be sure, but I do think I know when my art is just not as good as it could be. (And I have drawn other stuff that does look really good. I just haven't finished it yet). Also I did quite like the little Future Shock I did with Alec Worley.

AE: I'd be just as damned if I said something like 'yeah, this is a bit rubbish' because then nobody would bother to read it. You've got to develop a persona and sell it. I think what you've got to do in terms of self-publicity is just be confident about what you do and not flinch or back down from it. Which can make you look very hoity-toity to some people, especially if they don't like what you're doing.

Go to part three, four or five of this interview.

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