Monday, 19 August 2013

INTERVIEW: Dan Boultwood IT CAME! comic book launch at Forbidden Planet Megastore, London

I spot Dan at a distance. As ever, I can see he’s dressed for the occasion; the comic book creator is standing out, looking groomed and suited with vintage august, throwing a signature cheeky wink to his industry counterparts where casual is the prevailing trend.

We’ve only minutes before kick-off of his launch party at the flagship fanboy Mecca. Dan goes and readies himself behind the signing table as tannoy announcements are hailed and a crowd gathers to welcome another name to the establishment’s hall of creatively-minded honour.

A departure from his catalogue of work on such titles as Conan-Doyle inspired The Baker Street Irregulars, Eagle nominated terra-celestial Hope Falls and neck piercing drama Harker, IT CAME is Dan’s debut as all-round creator, capably turning his talents to both sides of the writer-artist coin. The vivid new 50s B-movie inspired title is a double-feature of stylishly framed form and humour, jam packed with moreish British quirks and snappy wit. The cover alone pops off the shelf, not least because of the giant killer robot (for the creature-feature fans), with its poster paint palette, akin to the Golden Age of the pulp print.

Launch complete, fast forward to our interview held at a location nearby, Dan, especially candid, animatedly discusses the treacherous pitfalls of working in comics to his unrelenting drive, with bounding excitement and hope for his latest enterprise.

Grab your favourite pipe, let your teapot scald and settle in to your trusty club chair as Dan Boultwood's adventures of Dr. Boy Bret and peppy assistant Doris unfold...

IT CAME Issue #1
GG: What was your ‘in’ to the industry? Can you pinpoint the moment when you could say ‘look ma - I’m actually doing this for a living!’

Dan: Well, I’ve never felt like that! I can pay the rent so I suppose that’s good [laughing]. My in, so when I felt like it was a viable career choice? Well I’ve been illustrating for thirteen years, straight out of Swindon College. To be honest, it’s only been recently that I’ve thought this might have some legs. I started off being a concept designer for comics, which I loved as I could draw anything, and get paid, but I think I was a bit spoilt by getting a job straight out of education. I worked in a pub and a shoe shop for a year, which is why I hate the smell of children’s feet [pulls a face of disgust]. They have an incredibly unique metallic smell which just makes me feel sick; like bags of copper, just horrible.

I was a flash animator for a few years doing online games, but comics were always there, behind the scenes, I don’t want to say a hobby as I always wanted it to be a job, then when I was working with Tony [Lee, writer] we did stuff that was viable and were getting paid by book companies, it’s all about the Benjamin’s [laughing, making monied hand gestures] and all that sort of stuff, but I wasn’t happy, so it didn’t seem viable. Also the workload I was taking on was just horrendous, and it broke me. But it’s only in the last year I’ve figured out a business plan and grown up a bit and figured that I need to run myself like a business, like Frazer Irving [2000AD artist on Necronauts] does. It’s that thing of hitting your thirties and suddenly things start to get better because I’m not in my twenties anymore and so I’ve stopped being such a d***.

I started doing IT CAME at a point where I didn’t have any work so is became a cathartic thing, a thing that saved my sanity and has become the viable career choice, so to speak.

Dan Boultwood and pipe at his comic book launch of IT CAME

GG: Siegel & Schuster, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby; all great writer-artist duos in comics. You’ve worked with (DC/ Marvel/Doctor Who) writer Tony Lee and (Alex Rider, Midsomer Murders) author Anthony Horowitz amongst others – but how important is it to strike up a writer-artist partnership to get anywhere in publishing?

Dan: I don’t know if I’d say striking up a duo is conducive to getting noticed, but I think it’s good to work with lots of different people so you get the experience of working with lots of different scripts. Getting a working relationship with someone is good, as you get used to their work, so you can crank out something quickly and professionally. But I would say its better to expand your experience so you get all aspects. I’ve worked from a Kieron Gillen script and compared to Tony’s it’s completely different. Tony writes very movie-esque type scripts; very planned with viewpoints and panel instructions. While there is freedom to change it, it is written down how he wants to see it. Whereas Kieron’s one was open to a lot more creative freedom. I hadn’t worked from a script like that so when I first saw it I s*** bricks as I didn’t know what to do with it, which is why I think it would have been better to get experience working with a lot of other people as it was great working with Kieron, and with more experience I wouldn’t have been caught so off-guard.

I’ve found it very different drawing and writing now. It’s different as I was part of a writer-artist duo for so long, but I also think that gave me more trepidation going in to writing as I was so used to being just the artist. When I say ‘just the artist’ I know the job is just as important as the writer, but there was a lack of confidence doing both as I am now being judged from both angles – so if someone was to say ‘oh the art is nice but the words aren’t’, I could turn around and say ‘oh that wasn’t my fault then’. But with IT CAME I’m solely responsible for the product, which is frightening.

GG: How do you establish a balance to create a product you are both equally happy with?

I do as I’m told [laughing]. It sounds like a joke but never a truer word has been said in jest. Lots of the books we worked on, the Sherlock Holmes ones for example [The Baker Street Irregulars] weren’t my idea, not that I’m trying to distance myself from it, but it was more ‘do you want to do something like this?’ and I go ‘yes that sounds alright’, as long as it was more of a period drama as I don’t really like drawing modern stuff.

GG: What/ who is your favourite thing to draw? Grurk the robot by any chance?

Dan: That robot is an effing beep, how much can I swear? [Laughing] Its changed so much as he looks great from certain angles and other angles just don’t work, so annoying [through gritted teeth, seething facial expressions]. The robot in theory is very simplistic, yet it’s not; it’s the simple shapes that don’t work from certain angles, so prove very difficult.

What I really like drawing is period clothing, from the 1930s to the 1950s. I love drawing guys in suits and ladies in period dress.

"I fear arrogance like nothing else, I’ve seen a lot of it in life and I always think arrogance and comics just shouldn’t be associated"

GG: How important are signings for you as a creator? What do you get out of them?

Dan: Cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea today! This is the first time I’ve had so many people turn up. I always suspected that the ones I did with Tony [Lee] people only turned up at as he’d worked on Doctor Who, which was awkward. In all honesty I was feeling a bit down earlier but the signing was fantastic, I am so happy IT CAME has gone down well and that people seemed happy about it. I fear arrogance like nothing else, I’ve seen a lot of it in life and I always think arrogance and comics just shouldn’t be associated, they’re a form of entertainment; it should be fun, so I find the arrogance detracts from that.

Forbidden Planet Assistant Manager Lou Ryrie walking past, interjects: Can I just say that that is the biggest turnout for a comics signing we’ve ever had here at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore.

[For a moment, Dan is lost for words.]

The ART of storytelling

GG: IT CAME In association with Titan books is a 4-issue 1950s B-Movie style mini-series – ‘a knowing throwback to the heyday of low-budget Sci-Fi cinema’ – what brought about the project?

Dan: About a year before I did IT CAME I had three jobs on the go at the same time, so working solidly on four hours of sleep a night for nine months gave me a nervous breakdown because no one could maintain that level of work. It happened, I’m not going to lie about it; it’s not something I think you should lie about. I basically worked myself to madness. I then didn’t get work for a considerable amount of time afterwards which I thought was probably because I didn’t make a good commodity.

When I first started drawing comics I didn’t want to be a comic artist, I wanted to be more like a cartoonist, to sell my own stories. It felt like I’d lost that somewhere along the way and just become an ‘art monkey’; which I absolutely hate the terminology of. I like writing and I hadn’t done it for a decade and I’d been working on a project on and off for years that was going anywhere so I scrapped it and said to myself ‘what do I actually like?’; it was that thing of write what you know. I love B-movies, my absolute favourite genre of film, I know my s*** on B-movies without even having to research, plus I like comedies, comedy B-movies especially. I didn’t want to be doing something that everyone else was doing already and I’m not really a fan of superhero comics,  so I had a look around and couldn’t find anyone else doing something along those lines, so I thought id do a British B-movie. I love stuff like Quatermass, so wanted to bring the American B-movie feel to the English theme. I know there have been comparisons to Hot Fuzz which is fair enough as they are in a similar throbbing vein of comedy, and it went through a lot of incarnations before IT CAME became what it is. Originally it was going to be something like in the first Quatermass. There was a mind controlling alien, then I realised it was just Quatermass, someone’s already done that, but then the robot came – who doesn’t like a big robot?  Then my girlfriend is in it as Doris, Boy Bret [the lead character] is her granddads name, and it just developed naturally. I had a vague idea of what was going on in it but I didn’t write scripts, it was more off the cuff as I’m professionally hilarious [joking, laughing at himself].

GG: Now you’ve ventured into writing, has it changed your perspective of the creation process? Has the way you write affected the way you draw and vice versa?

Dan: I now draw differently as I hated where I was going a couple of years ago as it was always rushed and formulaic. I like where it’s going now, I’m really happy. I think my drawing has developed naturally and independently from the writing, I don’t think the writing has effected the drawing, it’s more that I want the art to be something I can look at and say ‘I don’t hate that’.

IT CAME Doris and Dr Boy Brett, illustrated and captioned by Dan Boultwood

GG: IT CAME has an strong injection of very British humour – I love your front cover of issue one that reads:  ‘Something is coming round for afternoon tea – and it isn’t the vicar!' Is this a trait – a Dan Boultwood signature?

Dan: It’s just my humour. This is the thing I was quite worried about - I’ve worked with other peoples humour in the past but not mine. I’ve always thought my sense of humour is hard to get across through typing because you can’t convey the inflection or tone – my humour is very dependent on delivery. I’m happy with the art but there is a lot of me in this book, I’ve held nothing back, this is entirely my sense of humour. It’s not necessarily what I would think of as funny, but it is my sense of humour and that frightened me. It’s humour in the face of adversity. I’ve got quite a dark sense of humour too, but I kept that element out of IT CAME. Less the misogyny, the characters come out with a lot of what I would actually say. But I’m glad it seems to be going down well.

GG: How do writers compare from artists in the comic book industry, seeing as you have seen it from both sides?

Dan: I think writers are better at self-promotion, very much so from what I’ve seen. It’s that thing of how long does it take to write compared to draw ‘thirty people walk down a street doing all sorts of stuff’. I think artists are seclusive by nature because of the workload, not that I’m cheapening writing at’s just, different.

GG: In this digital age do you feel like you have to be a brand, to sell yourself as it were?

Dan: Yes, but I have a massive problem with that and have had for a long time. I really resent social media because I think it’s really antisocial. You have to make a persona; I don’t want to be a persona – I just want to do my work, for people to like it, and then be left alone - that’s the lovely balance. I’m learning that you don’t have to make yourself a brand per se, but you do have to market yourself to a degree, but my personal business is my own. It rests uncomfortably with me, but I am learning to deal with it in a way that I am happy with. I don’t like it when you feel a brand is overtaking the work, it’s upsetting. I hate Twitter but I’m on it (@_cogs) because everyone in the industry is on it. I use it really intermittently, I’m not very good at it, I lose as many followers as I get, but then I hate the term ‘followers’ – to me it screams arrogant resumption. I always said it should be ‘vaguely disinterested people who glance at what I say every now and again’; but that’s quite long winded. The only reason I have a Facebook page is because I need a ‘likey’ page which I barely use because I don’t understand it. I’m a social recluse. I’m very sociable, but when I go home I want to be left alone. With Facebook, 80% of what I see is pictures of people’s dinner. As long as I don’t see a photo of it the morning after, I don’t care what you are having for dinner! I actually think social media has made people less able to be social in real life. This has just turned into a giant rant but I hate social media [Dan stresses this with amazing facial expressions], but I have to do it. The social networks make people too familiar, I don’t know my Twitter followers, I don’t have five hundred or whatever actual friends, and I find it very weird that if I say something, people can see it. [Dan turns and refers to friends standing next to us], I am awful at keeping in contact right? [Immediate reaction of agreement], but on Twitter hundreds of people can see what I’m saying. I find it bizarre.
B-movies that inspired
Dan's new project, IT CAME

GG: How do you develop a character, something original through your artwork?

Dan: It depends, if the character has been written for you, you can grow their appearance from the character descriptions that’s been given to you saying something like ‘they should be wearing this sort of thing’, but for IT CAME I basically just drew my girlfriend and she was both equally horrified and happy with that [laughter].

GG: Did you get her to pose for all the facial expressions?

Dan: No I worked from pictures of us. With Boy Bret he took a bit of getting used to. I knew what I wanted him to wear but I had to work on things like his chin, his mannerisms… I didn’t want him to be this young, square jawed type, so he’s got a bit of a double chin every now and again plus lines and creases, because in the 50s that didn’t matter, experience comes with age, it’s only now we’re obsessed with looking young. Originally when I drew him he was quite young but it didn’t feel right at all. I know I keep saying Quatermass but when you look at Quatermass or any B-movies, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Land Unknown, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Giant Claw, Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Killer Shrews, Night of the Lepus, Robot Monster anything like that (I know millions of them), it’s older guys as the lead.

GG: What one thing would you love to do, to fulfil as an artist?

Dan: It sounds really clich├ęd and corny but I’m doing it. I’m actually kind of worried for the future as this is the book I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m getting to do it. What I’m planning for next is a couple of kids things that I’ve had an idea for, and I’d quite like to do a noir, Dieselpunk story if anyone would take it. Because IT CAME is a combination of hard times and what a lot of my future career is pinned on, this is almost a make of break for me because I’m putting myself out there for judgement and hoping the art is up to scratch. There is hope for a sequel to IT CAME called The Lost Valley Of The Lost, as I’ve always pitched a series with the same characters in all, but acting differently. One of my favourite films is The Land Unknown, a Dinosaur Valley story; worst man in a T-Rex suit ever, it has a plesiosaur that wears flippers that move awfully [Dan does a rediculous impression for me], it’s brilliant, so I always wanted to do a Dinosaur Valley one next. For IT CAME I made a flying saucer, and for the next one I want to make dinosaurs, take pictures of lizards and Photoshop spikes on and all sorts. So the full series will be IT CAME, The Lost Valley Of The Lost, and then possibly Rocket Into Space. I’d like to do other things obviously, but I’d like B-movies to become a genre. I know there are Mars Attacks! and Saucer Country comics, but there’s no cheap B-movie fodder.

"In every illustrator there are a thousand bad
drawings before you get to the good one"

GG: Do you have any words of inspiration for artists?

Dan: Don’t have a nervous breakdown [laughing], no wait that actually really help me because I drew and I got better, so do have a nervous breakdown and stop drinking so much. For artists I always say to just draw a lot as that’s what I was told and that has served my in good stead. Years ago my old college tutor said to me ‘In every illustrator there are a thousand bad drawings before you get to the good one’, so just keep drawing.

'Signing today' The original 'Doris' Copies of IT CAME selling fast
The crowd gathers Spiffing! IT CAME cupcakes
Dan meets his fans Signing IT CAME! Issue #1 Happy customers

IT CAME is available to purchase from Forbidden Planet online and in store >>

Some more of Dan's work at Forbidden Planet >>

Dan Boultwood's work on Amazon >>

Dan's inspiration - The Land Unknown film trailer: 

Posted by: Geek Girl Kerensa Creswell-Bryant
Geek Girl, Updated at: 22:22

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