The Magical Arts: an interview with J.H. Williams III, part2.

Part2 of our exclusive interview and J3 tells us how it was to work with Alan Moore on the fantastic Promethea series.

Wellington Srbek: Promethea is being published here in Brasil at last. It is no doubt the best mainstream comic book of the last ten years. Could you tell us how the working process on this book was, from script to colors?

J.H. Williams III: The work on Promethea was very exhaustive. Much more so than any of us had anticipated. The basic process was this: Alan and I would talk on the phone about ideas he had and things I wanted to do or try to do. He would then write a script based on that conversation. Early on I didn't have much input into the ideas until I would start drawing. However, Alan saw what I was doing with layouts and design and sort of ran with it. He changed the way he thought about structure based on what I was doing. As time went on I quickly realized how much we could experiment and began to give him more ideas to work with and in turn he would give me challenges in his scripting with even more ideas. This really became more evident on what I call the Quabbalah Quest issues with all of the style changes. We would talk about what sort of style I wanted to try depending what the basic story was and then he wrote a script based on those ideas. I would also communicate closely with Mick on the inking and with Jeremy Cox on the color and with Todd Klein on the lettering. Providing notes for everything based on Alan's scripts. The scripts for Promethea were extremely detailed and required a lot of attention to the smallest detail. The content and subject matter was very specific in regards to many things. As an example, all of the colors, particularly on the Quabbalah Quest issues, were very subject specific. Alan's scripts were very exacting and detailed in this regard and I had to convey that information correctly to the colorist. It was very challenging for all of us. It allowed us to try things that you normally would not see in most comics.

WS: Alan Moore once said that he had the idea for the entire 32 issues since the beginning. But I have the feeling that Promethea #1-12 have been planned as a story in itself: the tale of Sophie Bangs becoming this demigoddess from Immateria. Thus, if anything went wrong with the ABC line the book would be closed in #12, leaving the readers with a complete and satisfactory story. Am I too wrong?

J3: Well, from my memory there really was no planned ending issue. What I mean is that Alan wrote the series on a day by day basis. There was no planned number of issues or no plan to end on issue 32. Not that was conveyed to me anyway. Early on we all were willing to work on the series for as long as possible, and the way we worked on it was proof of that I think. In lot of ways the series was written and illustrated with spontaneous motion. Quite often I would be working on pages of an issue, let's say pages 10 and 11 just as an example. But I had no script for the following pages, 12 and 13, so I would call Alan and ask him what was on the next page, so I could better plan the current page I was working on. And he would say something like: "I don't really know what the next page is going to be, Jim, because I have not written it yet." So he was very much writing this series on a day by day basis with very little planning involved, with very little thought into where it was headed in the beginning, other than that we knew it would be about magic. I had to basically draw the pages I had script for and then make the next pages fit to what I had already done previously. It was all very tricky. It is amazing when looking at the completed material that it seems so perfectly planned and orchestrated. That shows the brilliance of Alan's talents I think. Probably the most pre-planned section of the series was the issues leading up to the ending because by that point he had decided that the series should indeed end with issue 32. The way this series was constructed, from the writing, to the drawing, to the final colors, I feel was very much an exercise in metaphysical creation. Which is sort of the point of the series.

WS: Talking about Promethea #12, the background artwork on every single page begins where the previous page ended. The whole thing is like a giant comic book strip. Technically and materially how did you work it out?

J3: It was a challenge for sure but one that was easier than you might expect. Basically after finishing a page I would put the next blank drawing artboard next to the finished one and just continue the drawing from where I left off. There really was no easier way to do it, especially when the series was being written as described in the answer to the previous question. It was all very free and flowing.

WS: Beginning with Promethea #13 we have what you call the “Quabbalah Quest issues”: a wonderful journey to the realms of Kabbalah and the Occult Arts, which is also a delightful experience to the eye. Each issue and cover has a different art style: Van Gogh, Dali, Mucha, Kaluta... So, any favorite or especially difficult one?

J3: They all presented their own unique challenges and exercises and I very much love each one of them for different reasons. I'd say my favorite might be issue 21 with the chunky wood block print styles. That one has a really interesting feel to it and is graphically appealing to me. The big challenge with that one was how the color was applied. Because it needed to look like the different sections of the drawings were printed using different color choices, much like you would see with sophisticated wood block prints. Drawing it in way that would make visual sense and be clear to the eye after the color fix were done. So basically we had to make sure the color was taken into consideration when designing the drawings. That portion of the issue has this sort of religious feeling of stained glass, or something primal and archaic. Very appropriate to the subject for that issue I think.

Next: More on Promethea, and some words about working with Grant Morrison and a "secret DC project".

2 comentários:

Gustavo Carreira (requiem) disse...

Parabéns pela excelente condução da entrevista, Wellington.
Apenas possuo os primeiros #12 de Promethea (o #10 é, para mim, um dos melhores comics de sempre) mas fiquei com muita vontade de ler o resto.

Wellington Srbek disse...

Teremos ainda a terceira parte na quinta (em inglês) e sexta (em português), Gustavo.
Também gosto imensamente da n°10! É uma HQ brilhante, bela e única. Uma das que mais gostei nos últimos 10 anos.
Não deixe de ler também meu texto especial sobre toda a série Promethea, que postei há alguns meses.