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Kendal Calling: An interview with Author and Comics Writer Antony Johnston

Antony Johnston

Antony Johnston

Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event. We’ve run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event this coming weekend (16th – 18th October), concluding today with an interview with author and comics writer Antony Johnston…

Antony Johnston, who lives in England, is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of graphic novels, video games, and books, with titles including Wasteland, The Fuse, Umbral, Shadow of Mordor, Dead Space, The Coldest City, ZombiU, and more.

He has also adapted books by bestselling novelist Anthony Horowitz, collaborated with comics legend Alan Moore, and reinvented Marvel’s flagship character Wolverine for manga.

Antony’s work has been translated throughout the world, and optioned for film and television.

Fuse #14

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

Antony Johnston: Right now I’m just wrapping up the third story arc of The Fuse, my ‘cops in space’ series; that’s running right now, and will finish early next year.

I’m also launching the first volume of my new ‘modern pulp spy’ book Codename Baboushka – Issue One is on sale now.

There’s a whole bunch more stuff besides, including some videogames I’m writing, but I can’t talk about most of it, which is frustrating but necessary.

Anyone interested should go to http://antonyjohnston.com and follow my work journal, where I discuss everything I have coming up and being published.

Codename Baboushka: Conclave Of Death #1

Codename Baboushka #1

A page from Codename Baboushka #1

A page from Codename Baboushka #1

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

Antony: This is always a tough one to answer, because the work I’m most proud of is, inevitably, the last thing I worked on — because I’m always trying to improve and get better!

But as an overall piece of work, I’d have to say Wasteland, my epic post-apocalyptic story. It ran for 60 issues over nine years, and is now available in eleven paperbacks or five hardcover collections (the “Apocalyptic Editions”). There’s more information at http://thebigwet.com and you can buy it anywhere comics are sold.

Wasteland Apocalyptic Edition Hard Cover Volume 5

The latest hard cover collection of Wasteland is on sale now

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

Antony: I work fairly standard “office hours”, 9 till 6, with breaks to walk my hounds (which also helps me clear my head!)

I like to write new script pages in the mornings, before my mind has been polluted with all the mundanities and niggling problems that the real world throws at us. Then in the afternoons I’ll do work that isn’t so focused on raw imagination, like script revisions, panel descriptions, proofing, editorial scheduling, and interviews like this one 😉

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

Antony: The complete freedom to create and write anything I can imagine — coupled with the rush of delight when I get pages back from an artist, and discover they’ve multiplied it even further than I could have imagined.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Antony: Editorial scheduling and deadlines. I have an easier time with that side of things than most, as I worked in magazine publication for many years, but it’s still a drag.

Art from The Fuse #14, on sale now

A page from The Fuse #14, on sale now

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

Antony: The glib answer is of course “the Internet”. Online distraction is only ever a click away.

But the real answer is actually fear — the fear all creators have, of failure and irrelevance. It’s very common for writers to convince ourselves that we’re rubbish, and nobody is the slightest bit interested in the story we’re telling. And when you fear you’re doomed to fail, you find other things to do, so you won’t have to face your own limitations. That can be a hard one to break.

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

Antony: Six of one, half dozen of the other. On the one hand, there have never been so many outlets, with such an enormously low cost of entry, for comic creators — especially artists. The Internet has been an absolute boon to any young creator looking to get their work seen.

The flipside of that is, there are more young creators doing precisely that than ever before, so they’re competing in an enormously crowded field.

But overall, I believe quality will always win out on a level field — and the Internet is a great leveller.

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?

Antony: I’ve been several times, both for holidays and to the Festival last year. Considering I only live about 70 minutes drive away, I feel bad that I haven’t been more often, to be honest!

I think it’s a great area, full of natural beauty and amazing landscape. My favourite thing in the Lakes is to go for a long valley walk with my hounds. The dogs are pretty keen on it, too!

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

Antony: I wish I could have met Jean ‘Mœbius’ Giraud properly. I’ve been very fortunate, in that most of the creators I grew up admiring are still working and so I’ve been able to meet them at shows. But I never met Mœbius, not even just to shake his hand and say “Merci”.

Wolverine: Prodigal Son, scripted by Antony Johnston, is a complete reimagining of Marvel's classic character as a shōnen manga.

Wolverine: Prodigal Son, scripted by Antony Johnston, is a complete reimagining of Marvel’s classic character as a shōnen manga.

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

Antony: I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s about meeting my readers, and hopefully expanding my audience by turning new people on to my work.

The socialising and networking with other creators is fun, of course, and I love seeing old friends at festivals. But my priority and obligation is always to the audience. Without them, I’m just a weird guy typing to myself in a darkened room.

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

Antony: One: Never give up. The moment you give up is the moment you fail.

Two: Create the stories you want to read. Don’t follow trends, or try to guess what “the market” wants. Make the stories you believe in, with commitment and passion. That passion will be evident in the work, and *that* is what audiences want to see.

Three: Be kind. God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

Four: Never, ever, give up.

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

Antony: An incredibly tough call, there are so many good comics being published right now. We truly live in a golden age of comic stories. Revival; Stumptown; Velvet; Bitch Planet; Thief Of Thieves; Copperhead; Kaijumax; Lumberjanes; Roche Limit; Injection… there are just so many, I know I’m forgetting another dozen just off the top of my head.

But I’m going to have to go with The Wicked + The Divine, by my old friends Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. It’s a privilege to see such talented people working at the peak of their powers. Every single issue delivers something amazing, often innovative. I love and hate them for it in equal measure.

Find out more about Antony Johnston:

Web: antonyjohnston.com
Twitter: antonyjohnston
Facebook: facebook.com/antonyjohnston
Tumblr: antonyjohnston.tumblr.com

Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival featuring Antony Johnston:

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 

Antony will also be 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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