Last time we talked to Andi Ewington, the creator of Forty Five – a graphic novel in which a fictional James Stanley’s unborn child may have the Super-S gene which grants super powers. Mr. Stanley decides to interview forty five supers to answer the question of what is in store for the child, the parents and the family.
I previously asked about some of the behind the scenes effort that went into publishing this book. In this interview, let’s talk to some of the artists involved and get their side of the story.
1. What led you to choose your interview to illustrate?
Boo Cook : By the time I signed up for the project there were only a few slots left up for grabs, around 8 I think. I read them all through, and strangely the interview concerning the bad-ass junkie addicted to super pills leapt out at me. Also I was watching “The Wire” at the time, so my mind instantly became flooded with images of this brooding hoody wearing street dude.
Matt Timson: I think that a lot of the interviews had been taken by the time I was asked – but ‘Zip’ stood out immediately as being interesting for me to draw, as well as hitting an emotional note with me. I was able to put myself in Zip’s shoes and really feel that despair. I knew instantly that that was the one I wanted to do- and I would’ve been gutted if it’d already been taken.
Sean O’ Conner: I didn’t really choose the interview as such; I came on board relatively late, by which time most of the pages had already been done. Initially I was told I’d probably be given the Psychosis interview, although I was then given the choice of two others, neither of which appealed to me as much.
2. How many of the interviews did you want to do upon reading them?
Boo Cook: Well obviously they were all good, but some appealed more to my artistic style and sensibilities than others – for example, I just couldn’t picture myself illustrating the interview with the superbaby flying around the maternity ward, although the artist (Dan Brereton) responsible for that one did a wicked job! In the end I just went with the one I thought I could try and do justice to.
Matt Timson: I seem to recall only seeing a list of what was left (although my memory might be a bit wonky on that one) and I only ever really wanted to draw Zip out of that list. There was nothing wrong with the others, but that was the only one that really made me feel like I could do it real justice.
Sean O’ Conner: I haven’t really thought about this…I’m not sure really….I can say though that having now read all the interviews, if I was given a choice of any I’d go for the one I actually did; despite not having much choice – see above – it seems I ended up with the one I found most interesting…
3. Many artists might feel a desire to tweak their art to reflect what those before them had created. Did you feel that way?
Boo Cook: I think mine was one of the earlier pieces to be completed, but certainly Jock’s was already done so the bar was raised pretty high already. I definitely tried as hard as my abilities would permit, but Andi’s tactic of staying in touch with the whole group of artists throughout and showing the freshly turned out pages as and when they were done really helped to spur me on – I’m sure the other artists would agree.
Matt Timson: Heh- who doesn’t?!? Fortunately, I was way too busy to indulge myself at the time- but yeah, I saw a lot of work come in after mine that made me want to go back to it and tweak it a bit! I think that’s pretty normal.
Sean O’ Conner: No; even if I had seen any other pages before doing mine, it seemed to me that the whole point was for each page to be distinctive, to reflect a variety of styles…otherwise, what would be the point of using different artists and leaving things open ended? Having said that, perhaps I should add that I was asked to make my work a single, large image to fit with the work already done as ComX were after a specific balance…
4. Being that the transcript was left mostly open ended for you to illustrate, did your initial ideas about what to illustrate spring fully to life or did you feel a need to dwell on it?
Boo Cook: With my piece there were a few parameters set before I began, so they had to be taken into account – many of the interviews that had been snapped up by other artists were being illustrated as single splash images so Andi asked if I would mind making my image more panel/strip based. I broke the interview down in thumbnail form, the same way as I would any traditional comic script, but decided to dispense with a rigid panel layout and go for something with more organic flow in order to get the page to work as a stand alone image as well. As I mentioned before, watching “The Wire” at the time was a strong visual influence and led me to produce some amusing reference photos! The interview also contained some strong visual concepts that I was able to latch onto, such as the whole 21 second theme – I tried to cram as many 21 based visual references in there as possible, and Andi even helped with a few suggestions there too.
Matt Timson: I think I pretty much knew from the outset what I wanted to do with it. I wanted to show Zip using his powers, but also knew that the story didn’t really call for it, so that left using a picture of him running at super-speed as a backdrop for the page, with the story overlaid on top. In that sense, the background dictated what the rest of the page would look like- which is a bit of an arse-backwards way of working, I suppose. I also knew how I was going to depict the baby’s fate (trying not to give too much away here!). Sometimes, I really struggle with how a page will look- but this came to me quite easily and I like the way that it hangs together.
Sean O’ Conner: The image I did occurred to me straight away even before reading the interview; at first I was given a brief outline and the image popped into my head pretty much fully formed…it was simply a matter of doing it. I did think of adding extra, secondary panels once I read the interview, but I was asked to do a single image…
Boo Cook: I think its probably the overall design of the page that I got into the most. Also there’s just something iconic about bright red pills tumbling through space, isn’t there? Maybe its just me… I have to say, I’m rather proud to have been invited on board – a great gig, and a very unique and well put together project! cheers!
Matt Timson: The backdrop. I liked all of it as a whole, but I really enjoyed drawing the backdrop. It’s a cover for a Flash comic waiting to happen.
Sean O’ Conner: Hmmm….The colours (By Matt Wilson)! To be honest, I’m a little disappointed with what I did…I had to rush a little to get it finished, and while its ok, I felt it could have been better…
Thank you for answering these questions and thanks to Andi Ewington and Benjamin Shahrabani for helping to arrange both this and the previous Forty Five interview. Also, please visit the sites of Boo Cook, Matt Timson and Sean O’Conner to see more of their fabulous work.
Forty Five was spotlighted in the October 2009 Diamond Previews catalog (under DCD#OCT090823 for retailers). For more news about Forty Five, please visit the Forty Five comic blog and ComX.