Page one of Lowlife: Creation part three.
Lowlife and associated characters © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Lowlife created by Rob Williams & Henry Flint
Lowlife: Creation Part Three has been out for a week now, but this post has been held up by my scurrying to finish the final episode (part eight). It's part of the experience of being a comic creator that you find your involvement with a project ends well ahead of publication; comic projects often take months, sometimes years to complete, and if you add delays caused by publishers going under, that can stretch to decades.
Left: publication of the colour version of Kingdom Of The Wicked was held up for 13 years.
My record to date is for the graphic novel Kingdom of the Wicked, which I drew for Tundra UK between 1992-3, but which didn't see print in colour until Dark Horse put out the current edition in 2004. I think I finally sat down and read the thing through for the first time in 2007.
On that scale of things, working for 2000AD counts almost as simultaneous publication. It takes me about two weeks to draw each 5-page episode of a 2000AD story, and the comic has to go to print about four weeks ahead of the publication date. Thus the deadline for the first episode of a series will be scheduled months ahead of time, but the last episode is usually completed while the series is already in print. This can have drawbacks; if for some reason you're not happy with the way the work looks in print, it can be a powerful blow to motivation at a time when you're normally struggling against fatigue to beat that final deadline. Don't forget, even for the experienced artist, comics are a trial of stamina; I've spoken to a number of fellow artists about this over the years, and the consensus is that every project starts in a blaze of enthusiasm, and ends in a grim determination to Bloody Get It Done.
Another facet of this business that I'm still getting used to is the discrepancy between the amount of time it takes me to draw a strip and the amount of time it takes to read it. The average black & white page will be the product of two eight-hour working days, but on a first reading you're likely to zip through it in a few seconds. Even if I plant loads of background detail to draw you back, the time spent re-reading a page probably won't ever amount to more than a few minutes.
Left: a page of my pencils from Mister X, 1990. Pity my poor inker, Ken Holewczynski.
That, I think, was what struck me most forcibly when I first saw my own comics in print; my first regular job, Mister X, came in twenty-two page episodes that took me 2-3 weeks to pencil; light on dialogue, even I could zip through a whole issue in a couple of minutes. The feeling of "was that it?" was almost palpable, though not off-putting; I draw comics mostly because I enjoy the comic artist lifestyle. Having the published work has always been a bonus, not an end in itself.
These days I rarely read my own work in any depth; usually, when I get the printed object, I'll quickly check through for mistakes and printing errors, then set it aside. That's not to say that I'm not happy with or proud of what I’ve done - but for me, it's more important to focus on the next thing rather than what came before.
Twenty years on, I'm still having fun doing the thing I love, for which I'm deeply grateful. Hope you're enjoying the ride as much as I am - even if your ride's a bit shorter :-)
See you in the funny pages.