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Kendal Calling: An Interview with Comic Writer Kieron Gillen

Kieron Gillin. Photo © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Kieron Gillin. Photo © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, continuing the series with an interview with award-winning comics writer Kieron Gillen.

Kieron Gillen is a British comic book writer and former computer game and music journalist. He is known for his creator-owned comic Phonogram, created with artist Jamie McKelvie and The Wicked+Divine, published by Image Comics, and for numerous projects for Marvel Comics, such as Star Wars: Darth Vader, Journey into Mystery and Uncanny X-Men.

Gillen has written for both print and online comics. Since 2003, Gillen has collaborated with artist Jamie McKelvie on a comic strip for the official PlayStation Magazine UK, entitled Save Point.

His 2006 project, described by Gillen as “my first real comic” is another collaboration with McKelvie, the pop-music urban fantasy Phonogram. Veteran comics writer Warren Ellis has dubbed it “one of the few truly essential comics of 2006.”

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Kieron Gillen: 2015 has been a somewhat hectic year. I’m writing The Wicked + the Divine for Image, who are still putting out Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl and will be doing the Ludocrats in 2016. I’m writing Star Wars: Darth Vader for Marvel, which is also ongoing. There’s Mercury Heat and Uber for Avatar – we’re taking a break on Uber, and bringing it back in 2016, but I’m still writing it. I’m writing this back in July, and just finishing 1602: Angela Witch Hunter and SIEGE, which will be coming out for Marvel, and probably in trade by the time of the festival. Also smaller bits and pieces. I suspect by the time the Lakes drops, I’ll be at work on my 2016 projects, which I’m still deciding. It’s a busy year, but a transitional one.

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Phonogram Singles Club Volume 2

Kieron: If you go for a single volume, I’d say Phonogram: The Singles Club, which is a Rashamon-styled folded narrative set in a single night in a single night club. It came out between 2008-2010, and is still available in collected trade from any and all book retailers and comic shops.

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Kieron: I have a structure to ensure I know when I’m breaking it. Abstractly it’s do my first draft pages in the morning and do everything else (including polishing stuff) in the afternoon. That’s a big “abstractly”.

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Kieron: It’s basically magic.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Kieron: It’s basically hell.

Art from The Wicked + Divine

Art from The Wicked + Divine

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Kieron: The Internet and human emotions. Sadly, I’m addicted to it.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Kieron: Depends how you define published. Comics’ great advantage is that you can just get a pen, paper and do it. Self Publishing has never been a scarlet letter. If there’s the will and the ability to steal someone’s photocopier when the back is turned, you can be a published creator. It’s certainly how I started doing it. If you mean “in the industry” I actually think it is easier, just as there’s more venues now, with so many more different styles.

Is it easier to have a career doing it? That’s a different question, but we live in a world that’s been enriched by the manga explosion, the move of collected editions into bookshops and the glory of the web. It is a good time. I look at the British scene now and compare it to when I was starting in the early 00s, and it’s like a renaissance has happened.

Darth Vader #8downthetubes: 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?

Kieron: I have. Last year, about this time, when I was driving back from my Brother’s wedding. We decided to spend a few days. It was basically beautiful. I got my Wordsworth on, even though I’m more like grumpy Coleridge.

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Kieron: The first response which leaped to mind was “Kirby.” Let’s go with that. It was too late before I even was into comics.

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Kieron: Putting aside boring practical answers, it’s the humanity of it all. Comics is a lonely business in many ways. Less so now, due to social media, but it’s still isolated. It shows that there actually are people who read the books, and it’s not just some enormous elaborate practical joke being played on you by editors.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Kieron: Depends what job they’re looking for. If you mean creatively, self-publish (either in print or online) and get good. Don’t worry about breaking in. Love comics and do it.

Being good is a far bigger problem than breaking in, and if you’re not good enough, why the hell do you want to break in anyway?

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Kieron: This question always makes me stop, as there’s so many incredible comics being published right now, choosing a favourite is the sort of thing which leaves me bewildered. I’m going to say Sex Criminals – a book about two people who stop time when they orgasm, and use this ability to rob banks. And despite that, it’s a sensitive and perceptive book about sex, love, death, depression and everything. It’s available via all bookshops, and has two collections out.

• More about Kieron Gillen athttp://gillen.cream.org or follow him on Twitter @kierongillen

• Buy books by Kieron Gillen from amazon.co.uk

Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival featuring Kieron Gillen:

Graphics to Games… and Back Again
Saturday 17  12.30-1.30 pm  Brewery Arts Centre Screen One  Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS

Keiron Gillen is also appearing in the Comics Clock Tower

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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