ZL – In my mind, Jazz Creepers is your first anthology and did amazingly well. From a personal note, I was just jealous at the fact you got Sarah Horrocks, Gareth Hopkins and Paul J Milne all in one anthology, 3 favourites of mine! Why did you decide on an anthology and what was the experience like organising contributions?
DN – The title jumped out of a conversation Paul and I were having, and after a couple of days of it rattling around my head I found myself seized by the urge to make that the title of an anthology. The look and feel of it was pretty much all there from the off, even down to the design of the cover and the idea to integrate art from the past into the comic, and it really coalesced after talking it through with Sarah Gordon, who is also in the first issue.
As an anthology Jazz Creepers has only two rules: Florid, and no autobiography.
After that I just asked people who I knew or who’s work I liked, told them the rules and let them get on with it. Of course, not everyone was available, or able to contribute, but I was extremely lucky to get exactly who I had first imagined in there in there. I knew everyone involved would make great comics, so was very hands off in terms of editorial involvement.
Organising how everything fit together was maybe the part that I enjoyed the most. There’s a specific aesthetic to Jazz Creepers: ripe fruit, velvet, the masquerade, and peeling paint. It was fun to try and preserve that in the flow of reading the comic, flitting between stories in a way that made sense, making sure everything fitted in, and making sure that the design of the comic helped the whole cohere into something that reflected the intention.
The award seemed to say that it did. Next time, it’ll be even better.
ZL – Do you remember the first time?
DN – I came to comics fairly late, though having thought about it, I keep revising the date back.
Was it Colin McNeil’s splatterpunk take on the world of Judge Dredd in Chopper: Song of the Surfer,with its splurging sunset golds and russets, violence refracted to the abstract through a kaleidoscope of colour? Or earlier, John Ridgway in Doctor Who Magazine; lines scratching into the page, nervous and febrile, pushing the TV show toward the epic? Or before that, maybe The Quest for the Gloop, with its wild flights of fancy, it’s weird worlds and textures?
ZL – You are gifted the opportunity to set up a new museum showcasing all of the creators who have influenced you from birth to now. The first show is called ‘First, Formative and Now’ who do you pick and why?
DN – It’s a grand museum this. A great sweeping thing of interlocking chambers and vaulted ceilings, a museum with weight behind it, so it’s only fitting that it should house my vast obsessions and passions.
The first chamber: A visitor walks up into an enormous blue space, like a summer sky, and there in the centre of that space is a golden column, quite thin, with a black sphere atop it. The visitor can walk around and around it, and, if they reach out and squeeze the sphere, it will make a noise.
At that sound screens drop down from the ceiling and the image of Harpo Marx flicks across them, mute, in constant motion. Running and chasing and doing impossible things. Unlike anything and utterly true to himself.
The second chamber: A green room, like the colour of a hillside at dusk, clover flowers on the walls. In great slashes of charcoal, the art of Carol Swain. Swain’s work is something that stays with me, and towers over comics in general. There’s an essentiality about it, a truth to it. Her landscapes of borderlands and between places speaks to the places that I grew up. The elliptical tilt of her stories is an angle that appeals to me.
The Third Chamber: A room full of old nitrate stock, and in the centre a candle. Old peepshow machines lining a wall, each with a different Guy Maddin film playing. I think the reason I enjoy his work so much is that it explodes the normal tools for building stories and finds new ways to say things. It takes fragments of the past, grafts them onto current techniques, and produce a glorious hybrid – something that never existed but should have. Something like his recent Seances builds a wonderful, never to be repeated experience from the bricks of lost films.
ZL – What one publication would you choose if you had to choose something for all the world to read?
DN – Under my benevolent fist, my troops will round up my people and force them to brutalist storerooms where everyone will be provided with a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away. They’d be given strict instructions to devour it, to give in to it; in short, to be the good and loyal citizens that I demand. They will thank me.
It’s a sensuous, lyrical book, tense and muscular, about the awful weight of destiny and the race to outrun it. It starts with the death of a prophet, and follows his nephew as he rejects both a religious and a spiritual life. There is fire along the way. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
ZL – If you could live for a day in the body of any creator and experience what it was like for them to create, who would you choose?
DN – I’d choose a sculptor, because it’s a medium that I haven’t really worked in, and the physicality of it, the fight and the heft of it is something that appeals. I think that Elisabeth Frink is wonderful – the textures and life that she managed to put into her work is something that seems almost channelled rather than decided upon. So, Frink then, building up one of her shattered ravens, or facing the solidity of making something real.
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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019