As promised, we’ve got part two of our two-fer from the team bringing Department of the Peculiar – Goes Pop to Kickstarter RIGHT NOW. This time artist Robert Wells. Part one of the two-fer featured Rol Hirst, writer of DotP.
Rob’s been on zine love before, so this makes him our first returning interviewee for the site (stealing the position at the last moment from someone else that I was slow to respond to!!).
He seems to be constantly busy drawing something and collaborating with creators whose work I enjoy, which is how I came across his work in the first place. He has really strong chops when it comes to drawing and designing characters and a lovely turn in understated snipe, so that’s been a bonus – as well as being lovely to chat to.
Over to you Rob – tell us a bit about yourself and your tastes
Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?
The first comic creator was John Byrne. I remember thinking that the art in X-Men, which he was still drawing at the time, looked similar to the art in a Marvel Premiere two-parter featuring Ant-Man (#47 and #48), then I noticed the credits in a comic for the first time and realised that people actually drew these things.
Outside of comics, I was about to give the same answer as Rol (Hirst – writer of Department of the Peculiar – see interview here) and say Stephen King, as I’ve read quite a lot of his books (probably less than half of them but that’s still a lot). Then I remembered that when I was a kid, I really liked James Bond films and that I read a lot of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books (and some written by other people) when I was at secondary school. That was probably the first time I ever saw a film or TV series and then went and on to discover the source material, which was often quite different. (I have no interest in James Bond at all now.)
Which creators do you remember first copying?
Maybe John Byrne but I probably copied things out of comics before that not knowing the names of the artists I was copying.
More generally I’d say Charles Bukowski, whose work I probably wouldn’t enjoy much at all now and may even find quite offensive, but I liked it a lot when I was in my early-20s. ‘Copied’ may be an exaggeration but around the time I was reading a lot of his stuff I started going to a writers’ workshop to improve my writing and in the couple of years I was going there I wrote a lot of semi-autobiographical short stories that often involved a lot of drinking.
Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?
I don’t know how to answer that really. I’ve hoped to be as good as a lot of creators, but I don’t know that I’ve ever thought that I would be as good as someone, not even artists whose work I dislike. I’ve certainly seen a lot of art that’s made me think ‘I could do better than that’ but that’s generally the work of amateurs who I wouldn’t be able to name. Art I tend to dislike in professional comics I usually dislike because it’s bland or conforms to some dull house style (I’m thinking of a lot of DC comics from a decade or more ago) but even then the artists involved probably have a better grasp of anatomy and better basic drawing skills than me, they are just working to tough deadlines and drawing characters who have to be drawn in a certain way.
Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?
Sean Phillips, who I still can’t believe I was cheeky enough to ask to do a pin-up for DOTP Goes POP! #1 after he told me he liked my book. Not only did he agree, he even posted me the original art.
Other than that, I can’t think of one particular example right now but like Rol I love Better Call Saul and watch a lot of TV in general, particularly US TV, and I’m sure that influences my storytelling. I also listen to a lot of music – particularly metal – while I’m drawing and that really helps me to switch off and lose myself in my work.
Which creators do you most often think about?
For comics it’s Jaime Hernandez. He was already great when I discovered Love and Rockets in 1986/1987 but he has somehow kept getting better. I often go for long periods without engaging with his work at all (I haven’t bought any issues of the current Love and Rockets series yet and because I rarely get to visit good comic shops, I haven’t even seen them) but I always pick up the collections and come back to it eventually.
More generally? Now I will say Stephen King, even if what I’m usually thinking is just: ‘Bloody hell, he’s somehow written three more huge books since the last one I read, and I still haven’t read at least 20 of the ones I picked up in charity shops a decade or more ago!’
Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?
Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?
I’m 51, married, no kids, two dogs. I live in Kent. I self-published my first comic in 1991, when I was 22, published a handful of other comics in the ‘90s, didn’t do much at all in the 2000s, but got back into it big-time in the 2010s, when I was in my early-40s. It’s only since I did my graphic novel (which even I didn’t think I’d actually finish when I started it) that I feel like I’ve developed any confidence and really got going. I’d be happy for everything I did before that point, along with the years I wasted doing things other than drawing, to be stricken from the record. I write and draw but now I seem to be mostly drawing and I’m quite enjoying collaborating with other people on comics for a change.
I’m currently working on Department of the Peculiar Goes POP! #2 (just finishing off a 3-page back-up strip but the rest is done)
About to start drawing a 6-page sci-fi strip, written by Paul Duncan, for The ’77 #3
Malty Heave #2 (with Phil Elliott). I have written most of my story for this horror-themed issue, which will probably be out for Halloween now, but Phil and I have both been distracted by other things and haven’t really got going with drawing it yet (although Phil has drawn at least two pages of his strip).
Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.
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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020