Steve Bull runs a facebook group about the art of veteran comic creator Ian Gibson, a creator whose art I’ve enjoyed for a long time.
When I found the group, it was nice to see a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and someone so personally welcoming. He also introduced me to the 1977-2000AD group, which, as he mentions, he admins. Both groups are fun and I enjoy going on them in part because of the group dynaimcs, as much as the actual content. I thought it would be fun to interview Steve to find out more about him and his interest in running these groups.
I should also mention that Steve is involved in the anthology The 77, and is therefore involved in publishing creators wohse works I enjoy! It closes March 1st 2020, so you maty still be able to pledge, depending on when you’re reading this.
Thanx for agreeing to an interview. How about we start with a little bit about your background? You clearly enjoy 2000AD, what is your background and current relationship with the magazine?
SB – It’s enjoyable being on this side of an interview for a change, so thanks for asking Iestyn.
I was originally introduced to the Prog by my cousin Ade at the beginning of the 80s. I’d have probably been 8 or 9 years old and my first prog would’ve been in the #200s but I can’t remember the exact one. I had been into war comics at the time so Rogue Trooper was a major factor in me embracing it straight away. 2000AD really was the perfect storm of fantasy/future/fantastic art and edgy writing. I actually read the Prog religiously through the 80s before stopping completely in the early 90s. This sudden halt was probably more down to me hitting adulthood and searching for a real-life Halo Jones but did coincide with a particularly poor period of history in the prog where it tried very hard to be a ‘lads mag’ with cartoon boobs ☹.
Recently (in the last year) I’ve returned to the prog and taken up a subscription due in part to my involvement in the Facebook groups I admin (1977-2000AD and Imagination of Ian Gibson). But also due to some solid story-telling and wonderful art.
ZL – Where did reading turn into collecting and when did that make you a fan?
SB – I’m not sure anyone can really pinpoint when they became a collector, it’s quite a natural progression and at what point does a hoarder become a collector😊. I’ve always had a bit of OCD about me, so from the start of my time with 2000AD I was surrounded by comics in neat piles and numerically ordered, so 2000AD naturally joined the hoards, although very quickly became number 1! Only 2000AD and Eagle comic were elevated to the status of being reserved at my local newsagent to be collected religiously on the day of release (complete with misspelt ‘Stephen’ being written on the spine by my newsagent)
ZL – I know of two groups that you run on Facebook, both 2000AD related. Could you tell us a bit about those groups and any others you run, just a little about the ethos behind them, the kind of content and the atmosphere that can be expected when joining the group.
SB – Of course, The main one is ‘1977-2000AD ’ I stumbled upon this group in a search for nostalgia a few years ago and was immediately struck by the friendly nature owner Ben K Sy had instilled. I go on to Facebook to enjoy myself so I really have no time for people who thrive on trolling and being vile to others. I actually got quite involved at a point when the group was growing and this growth led to the need for some trusty admin with a similar ethos to Ben. Enter Dave Heeley a great guy who is everywhere in the community and soon after Dave came myself. All three of us were strangers to each other apart from the group interactions at that point but it became clear pretty early on that we were in tune and wanted the same friendly vibe for the group. I also think it helped that all three of us had been avid readers in the golden age (70s-80s) but had lapsed soon after so had a zest to learn about what we’d missed. Whilst other groups had members who could be very informative there were also sadly members who enjoyed waving an air of superiority over those ‘stupid’ enough to ask questions. I like to think our group invites everyone to the conversation and is quick to help guide the more volatile through our hospitality 😊.
Another group ‘Imagination of Ian Gibson’ was a more personal thing. I’d grown up loving Ian’s art in 2000AD and was mesmerized (like many others) by Halo Jones. This stayed with me long after I left the prog to the point that my lovely wife let me add Halo to the name of my first born child (Scarlett-Halo). This was 14 years ago before I joined Facebook. At the time I tracked down an email address and commissioned Ian to produce a piece with Halo Jones, Toby and my Daughter in it. Ian created a fantastic full colour piece that hangs in my front room to this day (fading☹). Sadly, I had learnt that Ian has had some health issues in recent years that has affected his ability to draw to his very high standards. I felt that it would be a great thing to create a group to showcase the work from his amazing career. A number of artist groups I had come across on FB had been created after the artists had sadly passed away and this seemed like an opportunity to not only show the art but also engage the man himself with his fan community. Which I’m really pleased to say has been a success on both sides.
Last but not least is ‘The77 Page’ I know you’ve heard of it 😉. In short, we are producing a comic in the tradition of those we read in the 70s and 80s. We were constantly surprised by the level of art and storytelling our group members were capable of, to the point we decided we would create an anthology comic that we could all enjoy. This has been a labour of love and Ben K Sy has been the driving force supported by the admins of the 1977 group. The comic has grown to the point that we are producing a huge first issue that features talent that has graced some of our favourite comics including many that have contributed to 2000AD. If any of your readers want to be involved from the start our Kickstarter runs until midnight on the 1st March so give us a click and a pledge
The77 is a love letter to the comics that made us!
ZL – I’m always interested in these groups because, essentially, they seem to be the modern internet version of fanzines with commentary, ephemera and coordinated discussion. Is that what you’re aiming to achieve with these groups, an interactive version of a fanzine?
SB – In 1977-2000AD I think it’s been an organic thing to be honest. We just wanted a friendly place to chat and it expanded. There’s some very knowledgeable folk in the community who are always quick to share information to the group (looking at the likes of Burdis, Anorak and Wullie😉), Then we have a great bunch of Admins and Mods (Ben, Dave H, Morgan, Dave B,, Mick and Garry) that have in fact made the place feel like an interactive fanzine. We also have ‘Prog Talent Royalty’ such as Ian Gibson, John Higgins, Glenn Fabry, Nick Percival, Liam Sharp, Paul Williams, Steven Austin, David Pugh, Dan Cornwall, John Wagner, Pat Mills and so many more (Sorry If I missed you out I’ll beg forgiveness later). They regularly get involved in posting and conversations and that makes it a special place for the fans. I’ve had many a conversation with fans who are completely star struck but so happy that they’ve had their comments responded to by the actual creators. This is unique as the same fans have mentioned that when they meet creators at conventions it’s a real struggle to not get nervous and forget what they wanted to ask.
The Gibson group is a little different as I see it more as an interactive gallery of a special artist. It does, however still allow the fan to interact directly with the artist and Ian is always happy to answer questions and give an insight into a particular work’s history. Ian is always very honest and engaging.
ZL – Do you think that the groups help the creators or the contributors more in these situations? Just unpacking that vague notion there, as you run the Ian Gibson page and seem to be in personal contact with him, I’m just wondering whether you’ve noticed his appreciation of that page and the opportunity to get his work back in front of fan’s eyes?
SB – It’s certainly a two-way street, the fans get a great opportunity to interact and in the case of Ian he has mentioned on a number of occasions how nice it is to have feedback and even new eyes on some of his past work. I think it’s always a nice thing to have appreciation vocalised from time to time. Most of us loved the art but the artists, by nature of the job they do, have spent a lot of time in solitude producing these artworks with very little feedback lol.
ZL – I’m also wondering whether a page like that creates a sense of urgency for that work, as in – getting work out into the market again, or more of a sense of comfort for the artist?
SB – The Gibson page falls more into ‘comfort’ due to the nature of Ian’s health making future commercial art projects unlikely at present time. Although the sense of urgency for anything new is definitely something that has been experienced on the group recently with the Sketches Ian produced for charity (Cats Protection) and with the exclusive first look at ‘Lifeboat’ Book 1 and the process involved that we unveiled on the group.
ZL – Do you even consider such matters as important or is there a different driving force behind making such a page? I guess what I’m getting at is whether, when you know the person, is there a different feeling about running a group than there is when it’s something of a wider, less personality driven group like the 2000AD group?
SB – I would say we have a relationship and a group built on the foundation that I’m a fan that wanted to give something back to someone that influenced my childhood! In terms of the group I think you just create it with an idea of what you’d like to see then let it lead you organically. This is definitely the same with 1977-2000AD as that has taken lots of twists and turns as new things have been tried.
ZL – What made you interested enough in these subjects to spend the time putting something together?
SB – Nostalgia and just the notion of giving back to something/someone that influenced me through my childhood. Also, when I get enjoyment from something I want to share that with people.
ZL – Are there any other subjects you’d love to start a group for, or join in a group about?
SB – That would’ve been The77 my friend. The Page is running now though as mentioned and I can’t wait for everyone to get a copy and fall in love with British comic anthologies once again. I may have written one of the stories as well so sitting alongside some immense 2000AD Prog Talent is a fantastic thing for me personally
And as you’ve asked the question before I can confirm that Ian Gibson’s unpublished creator owned ‘LIFEBOAT’ will feature on the rear cover!!!!!
ZL – Last question, for you as a fan now, if you could get everyone in the world to read one book or series, what would it be?
Campaign finishing Friday, February 28 2020 7:00 PM UTC +00:00.
Welsh seems to be a theme in my kickstarter recommendations, can’t think why…
Anyway, this has some really clean cartooning that communicates character and emotion really well. Also demons, elves, coffee shops and Cardiff – there’s a good brew to sit down with whilst you contemplate the modern world passing you by.
Oh – and it’s mostly a collection of existing stuff, so you know it will be produced.