In the run up to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17th – 19th October), we’re aiming to run a number of interviews spotlighting at least a few of the huge number of guests and comic creators who will be at the event, continuing today with the hugely talented Rian Hughes.
British illustrator, graphic designer, comics artist and typographer, Rian, who I’ve known since my very early forays into the comics industry in the 1980s and who was the first artist I worked with on a professional comics project, studied at the London College of Communication before working for an advertising agency, Smash Hits, i-D magazine and a series of record sleeve design companies.
Under the name Device, he provides design, custom type and illustration for advertising campaigns, record sleeves, book jackets, graphic novels and television; he has designed more than 500 typefaces, released via his own label, Device Fonts.
For Belgium’s Magic Strip he co-wrote (with me) and drew the graphic novel The Science Service, which was published in five languages. This was followed by Dare, an “iconoclastic revamp of the ’50s comic hero Dan Dare” (as described by Time Out). Since then, he’s worked extensively for the British and US comic industries as designer, typographer and illustrator, recently redesigning the Fantastic Four and the X-Men logos for Marvel, and Batman, Incorporated for DC Comics.
Hughes is the author of Soho Dives, Soho Divas (published in 2013), an eclectic collection of intimate portraits of London’s burlesque performers and he wrote and designed Cult-Ure (2011), and edited and designed Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s (2010), Lifestyle Illustration of the 50s (2013), and Custom Lettering of the 60s and 70s (2010).
His Batman comic story “It’s a Black and White World” (both written and drawn by Hughes) was published in November 2013.
Away from comics, Rian’s work includes title sequences for The Box, poster designs for Tokyo fashion company Jun Co.’s Yellow Boots chain, the animated on-board safety film for Virgin Airlines, Eurostar’s poster campaign, a collection of Hawaiian shirts, a range of watches for Swatch, a BDA International Gold Award and Creative Use of Print Award–winning brochure for MTV Europe’s Music Awards. His advertising typography earned a Campaign Press Awards Silver in 1996 and a Merit Award from the New York Art Director’s Club in 2000, and an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts in 2013.
He’s also lectured widely at design, typography and comic events, and recently curated the Image Duplicator show at Orbital Gallery, wherein comic artists responded to the Lichtenstein show at the Tate, and contributed to Hyper-Pop at The Barbican Centre in November 2013.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Rian Hughes: After designing the map of the DC Multiverse, I’m now working on the design for The Multiversity, Grant Morrison’s latest epic at DC Comics; other than that, a follow-up to Soho Dives, Soho Divas; and logos for several new Valiant titles. Multiversity is out now.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Rian: Recently, the Soho Dives, Soho Divas book, because it enabled me to experiment with different styles and media. “The Key”, my recent on-line comic collaboration with Grant Morrison [created for the BBC’s Freedom2014 season] I was very happy with, too.
Much of my old work has been recently re-released (including The Science Service) and it’s nice to see it all out there again in shiny new covers.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Rian: Get to studio. Look at schedule. Panic a bit. Get embroiled in emails, corrections and urgent interviews (like this one). Finally get down to work around midday. Steam through the day’s deadlines, staying late to perfect a detail or try one more idea. Limp home late with a head buzzing with a multitude of new ideas. Rinse and repeat.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Rian: The degree of authorial control compared with much of mainstream illustration.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Rian: The sheer amount of work a graphic novel entails.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Rian: BBC news, email, Facebook, having to eat.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Rian: I’d say there are many more outlets if you factor in the digital, but sales are lower, so the returns, if you do break in, can be such that as a newcomer it’s hard to maintain the momentum under financial pressure.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Rian: Yes. There are lakes. It’s beautiful.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Rian: I have been fortunate enough to meet, and am friends with, many of the artists who influenced my own work or I admire – Serge Clerc, Moebius, Chris Foss, Sean Phillips and so many others.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Rian: They provide a sense of community and a vigorous exchange of ideas, which in turn encourages quality and experimentation in the field.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Rian: Be talented. Be pleasant. Be on time.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Rian: I’m liking the new Blake and Mortimer books – that are done in a perfect pastiche of the original Jacobs volumes. You can tell they’re labours of love. They’re available from Cinebook.
downthetubes: Rian, thank you for your time and see you in The Lakes!
• Find out more about Rian’s work on his official web site: www.devicefonts.co.uk
• Follow Rian on Twitter @rianhughes