A brilliant artist from cover to cover: an interview with Brian Bolland, part1.
I will buy a comic book just because it has a Brian Bolland’s cover. Really! (I’ve just done that with this new Animal Man series.) Since I first saw his work on The Killing Joke I’ve become a fan. After that came his amazing covers to Animal Man and other works that assured him a place in my personal comic book Olympus. In this 3-part interview, Mr. Bolland talks about his early works, the Judge Dredd stories, Camelot 3000, his fantastic covers for DC and more. Enjoy!
Wellington Srbek: It’s a real honor to be talking to you, Mr. Bolland. Let’s begin with a biographical question: where and when you were born, and how the art of comics entered your life?
Brian Bolland: First of all a plug for my book The Art of Brian Bolland in which I've answered that question in about as thorough and lengthy a way as I possibly could. So, to summarize: Born March 26th 1951. I have the same birthday as esteemed artist José Luis García-Lopez and biologist and atheist Professor Richard Dawkins. Near the English town of Boston. That's the original Boston by the way. American comics started being imported into Britain in 1959. I first took an interest in them in 1960/61 when I was 10. I started drawing my own childish versions of these round about that time.
WS: You have a background in Arts and graphic design, but at the same time your comic book pages and covers display a profound understand and a true love for this art form. Which comic book artists most influenced your view and your style?
BB: I spent 5 years in various art schools. Comics hadn't penetrated into the art school world. I spent that time studying the whole of modern and contemporary art. Some of it I liked. Some of it I didn't. I was never very keen on the Impressionists. I liked Salvador Dali and René Magritte while still at school. I was impressed by Ingres.
WS: I’ve got here a couple of American reprints of the Powerman strip you, Dave Gibbons and others produced for the Nigerian market. I believe that that was your first paid job with comics and also an opportunity to learn the craft, is that right?
BB: That's correct!
WS: Then came the Judge Dredd stories and the covers to 2000 AD, which made people really pay attention to your work. How did you get the job, and how it was to work on 2000 AD?
BB: Way back in the second half of the 1960s there were comics fanzines. People like Dave Gibbons and my friend from near where I lived, Dave Harwood, were active in all that. In 1972 quite a few of us met up at a comic convention in the Waverley Hotel in London. In 1977 one of my friends from fandom, Nick Landau, was working as the editor on 2000 AD and he asked me to draw a Judge Dredd story to replace an artist who had dropped out. I had the same artists' agent as Dave Gibbons - the one who got Dave and me the job on Powerman. He had already fixed me up with cover work on 2000 AD. I loved working on 2000 AD. All the people involved were enthusiastic about this new hit character. The stories were great - and funny. We were very impressed by Mick McMahon's work. Unfortunately the company who owned 2000 AD wasn't treating its freelance artists very well.
WS: I believe that you were the first British artist to work for the American market in what is usually called “the British invasion”. Please tell your Brazilian fans how that came to be.
BB: Another of my friends from the fanzine world was Richard Burton. (Not the actor!) He knew Paul Levitts, another ex-fanzine person from New York. Paul used to put out The Comic Reader. Now he was something important at DC Comics. In 1979 Richard heard from Paul that US artist Joe Staton would be staying in London for a convention but would need a table to work on while he was here. He was drawing Green Lantern at the time. Joe and his wife Hilarie turned up and I watched him draw on my wife's drawing table which she wasn't using at the time. When Joe heard I'd been a Green Lantern fan since I was 10 he phoned up Jack C. Harris, his editor, and said he was in the flat of this English artist and how about letting him draw the cover on the current issue. It was a risky move on Jack's part. He probably saw my work on Judge Dredd which had only been seen by a few enthusiasts in the US. At the time, before fax machines or e-mail or computers, it seemed difficult to work across the Atlantic Ocean so it was a few years before we worked out the logistics of things.
WS: Camelot 3000 was your first major work for DC, and it is also your biggest work in terms of length. What can you tell us about this 12-part series / graphic novel?
BB: Well, regular work didn't come for me from DC right away. It took them a little while to work out what to do with me. Then editor Len Wein and Writer Mike Barr pitched the idea of Camelot 3000. I was chosen to draw it. I was whisked off on the publicity bandwagon to the San Diego Comic Convention and places. I'd never been treated so well before. It was American comics' first prestige "maxi-series" printed on better than usual paper I think.
Next: The Killing Joke!