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Interview with Liam Sharp
By Owen Jones (2005-11-14)
4.) Is there a difference between the styles of European comics and North American comics?
LS: Oh huge! And personally I love the European approach. Even in Europe, though, they break it into two categories 'strips, (or Grande Design)', and 'comics', which are generally US imports. They don't see it as the same thing, which is a little pretentious in my estimation! The European albums tend to be more adult orientated, like the Metal Hurlant work. Westerns are big, as are science fiction stories, and some contemporary crime type work. They're very much not superheroes. They tend to be 40 page hardbacks and are often hand coloured. It can be really exceptional work as the artist will often take up to and over a week on each page, and sell, particularly in France, around 200,000 copies of each book. A VERY different audience!
5.) You've commented recently on comics being '90% about the writer' is this discouraging artists or making them choose work more carefully?
LS: I personally don't think it's good for the medium. Variety is incredibly important, as is creativity. If an artist doesn't have a forum for the kind of work he's most comfortable doing you're not going to get his best work, and he's going to end up pretty disillusioned! Also it doesn't expose the audience to artistic possibility, and it can get complacent too. There is some GREAT mainstream work out there, and many wonderful artists in gainful employ on big mainstream books. That's great, and it isn't my issue. The point is there are some incredible artists whose work doesn't get seen because it's too quirky or unusual for today's artistic pallet, today's comic consumer. It's hard to get people to be open-minded and look at work with an un-jaded, unprejudiced eye. They simply don't know how to look at it, or they don't get what they're looking at. It's hard to imagine now Bill Sienkewick's Electra Assassin being hailed as once was! That's terrible!
6.) Has the internet made a big difference to your work? The Mam Tor homesite is pretty incredible as is your own, was this part of the overall vision?
LS: Thank you! Actually I have no idea beyond the fact that I have a really wonderful forum with very talented, warm people on it. So in that sense it's great to be able to share your industry stories and feelings with other people, making it less of a vacuum to be working in. In terms of processing work, though, it's made a HUGE difference. I now email all my pages to the US rather than sending the actual art via the post.And Mam Tor has been able to receive all files either through the internet or digitally from all over the world.
7.) Event Horizon has been called 'Punk rock on a page', explain that idea to us if you would?
LS: In its time punk came from the street, from the ground up. It was 'we're going to do this whether you like it or not' and Event Horizon is like that. Traditionally anthologies don't sell. Traditionally science fiction, horror and fantasy doesn't sell in comic form. Everything about what we were doing was none-conformist, rebellious and done for the hell of it, not for commercial reasons. And one look at it reveals the musical quality of the book:
It's gothy, rocky, punky - our figurehead is a Viking Zombie Elvis! It's uniquely designed and it's kind of giving the industry the finger. I love that! I love that we just got on and did it, and that it came out so well! We're actually producing related music now too, so keep an eye out for Zombie Elvis and the Vikings online!
8.) How does the meshing of prose and illustration work in a single volume?
LS: I think it works wonderfully well. It balances the fast telling of stories through art and prose, with the more immersive experience of reading a pure text piece, or an illustrated text piece. It gives the book more depth and volume. You can take your time with it. From a personal point of view I love it as it gives me the chance to work with illustrators, even do some straight illustration myself. And I'm an avid writer too. I've always loved science fiction and fantasy prose and am a big fan of the short story format.
Owen Jones © 2005