Wednesday, 4 July 2012

CHRIS WESTON interview

Page from Ministry of Space
Interview conducted by smoky man via email in June 2012, on the occasion of the publication - by NPE - of the Italian edition of Ministry of Space.

For more info about Chris Weston, visit his blog.
And... watch the man at work in this stunning video.

smoky man: I know it's has been a long time ago, but considering that the Italian edition has just been published, what do you remember of your "Ministry of Space" experience? You did an amazing job there...
Chris Weston:
I remember it being a very difficult experience, but then most of my better-known books were.
Initially I was attracted to the project because the setting reminded me of Dan Dare, probably my favourite comic strip.
I remember the book being endlessly delayed, but that was just as much my fault as Warren's. It got interrupted by The Filth , which Grant Morrison had convinced me was going to make my fortune. (How we laugh about that now).
The final episode was without doubt the hardest book I've ever had to draw; I got hit by a severe case of "I can't draw!" disease. I completely lost my nerve. Each page was like gouging out my own intestines with a rusty fork.
Image were going through some company turmoil at the time, and I found it very hard to find someone willing to communicate with me. They were happy to talk to Warren so I had to rely on him for any updates, which was frustrating.
So, not a happy time. But I don't think it shows on the page. Laura Martin's colours were beautiful, and I think it's one of the few books I've drawn that wouldn't work in black and white.
And as I said, most of my better work comes out of bad experiences. I'm hoping The Twelve will be regarded in the same way. 
Page from The Filth
What about your current comics commitments? Finally The Twelve is reaching its conclusion and I saw around some recent works you did for 2000AD, if I remember well. So what is happening for you on both sides of the Atlantic? :)
At the moment, not much on the comic-book front. I've been storyboarding a lot of adverts lately, which is cool. 
I get paid well to do these and I get to collaborate with my friend Albert Hughes (the director of Book of Eli) again. I never thought of myself as a team player, but it's always fun to be part of his gang. We're awaiting the green-light on another film, Motor City, potentially starring Gerard Butler. Beyond that I have a top secret comic-book project planned...
Cover for The Twelve
You mentioned the Book of Eli and you also worked on the now "aborted" Akira live action. So, what about the pros and cons of working in the movie field?
It's very hard to find anything negative to say about my film experiences: the pay is better than comics... and, on the whole, the movie people have treated me with more respect and better manners than I've ever received in the comic-book industry.
The downside is you can work for months on a project like Akira that will end up being shelved, and that's a lot of work that will never see light of day. But I can live with that; the larger wage packet compensates for any loss of exposure. However, I still love doing comics, and I doubt I'll ever turn my back on them completely. I feel like I'm only beginning to get the hang of drawing them, so it would be madness to quit now!
On a film you have to subjugate your own ego to a greater extent; I'm there to bring out what's in my director's head, not present MY vision of the script. With comics, I have more free rein to express myself.
A Judge Dredd commission
What's your opinion of the current state of the industry in UK and USA, considering the general crisis, comics reboot, the usual crossovers, prequels/sequels... and the new supports, such as e-book or digital comics? Which are your feelings, from your privileged point of view? I mean you know pretty well both markets...
I'm sure I've detected the smell of mutiny in the air. So many creators I know are getting fed up with working for "The Man"; producing page after page of the same company-owned spandex soap-operatics that we've seen for decades.
They've seen the success that Mark Millar and Robert Kirkman have had with their thematically-diverse and creator-owned projects...  and they are thinking "I want a piece of THAT action".
I predict you'll see a wave of top flight talents risk financial ruin by producing their own books, and distributing them digitally. Some will fail, some will succeed. In the meantime, you'll see the Big Companies replace these creators with more and more talent from The Third World.
It's no secret that super-hero comic sales are on the decline, and the Big Companies will be forced to think of ever more desperate gimmicks and events to keep the readers hooked. What they should be doing is offering the creators better deals and more creative freedom. Before Watchmen may get green-lit, but would  the original series get commissioned in the current  climate...? A 32-page book, no-ads; a stand-alone story with all new characters... and creator-owned? Would a company like DC go for that nowadays? Nah.
But they should.

Nowadays the new-old word seems to be "graphic novel" (which is not, imho, a synonym of good comics). What do you think of the "phenomenon"?
I rarely use the term "graphic novel". "Comic-book" is the phrase that usually leaps out of my mouth. I don't have anything against the term graphic novel", I just never got in the habit of using it. It's been a good marketing tool, to make comics seem more respectable to outsiders who have a distorted view of what a comic-book can be. 
Page from The Invisibles
Are you planning to write and draw something in "that vein" in  the upcoming future? I know you wrote some shorts in the past...
I've been discussing doing a creator-owned, self-written BD-style book with an European publisher, which is REALLY exciting.
My mentor, the artist Don Lawrence, had always directed me to work for the European comic market, so it was quite ironic that I spent the last two decades working for US and UK-based companies. I think the time is finally right now to head East like I originally intended. Variety makes life interesting, after all... and I have no great desire to draw any spandex-clad super-heroes for a while.

Thanks a billion, Chris!


Atomic Kommie Comics said...

"I predict you'll see a wave of top flight talents risk financial ruin by producing their own books, and distributing them digitally."

Why would they "risk financial ruin"?
Digital distribution costs only pennies!
NO pre-press costs!
NO printing (even to order)!

Since the material would be creator-owned, there's NO payments to other talent.
Or if others are required for lettering, coloring, editing, etc., use fellow pros who could be cajoled to do so for deferred payment from royalties.
Or learn to do it themselves.

smoky man said...

I think he was intentionally a bit ironic (he is a British guy! :)), and also he was referring to the fact that "creating comics" is not an easy task; it's time consuming, and in that kind of "publishing adventure" you would have no safe net. No advance money for the pages (maybe...). It's like self-publishing, with the extra-risk of juggling with new technologies and tools. It's a different biz...
Just thinking aloud.
Btw, thanks for the visit! :)

Atomic Kommie Comics said...

""creating comics" is not an easy task; it's time consuming, and in that kind of "publishing adventure" you would have no safe net."

But at the same time, a "big name" has the cushion of work at the majors while they prepare their own project.
Think of how the Image founders continued to work at Marvel until their "breakout".
A beginner or even a journeyman doesn't have the luxury because they're working just to pay this month's expenses.
And, quite frankly, most comics creatives these days (including the "big names") could stand to learn a little discipline and actually meet deadlines.
Jack Kirby could do it.
John Buscema could do it.
George Perez could (and still does) do it! (legitimate health problems notwithstanding)