Here’s another in a series of “Meet the Creator” interviews conducted by Morgan Spiceman with the writers and artists involved in The77 comics anthology.
This time out, it’s a chat with writer and artist Mal Earl, who lives in the remote and beautiful wilds of West Cumbria, creator of “Prodigal”, which will debut in Issue 1 of The77.
What is The77?
Mal Earl: An anthological comic magazine harkening back to the creative vision responsible for the likes of 2000AD, Starlord, Action and the kind of rousing storytelling that inspired us all in the glory days of the 1960s and 70s.
How did you get involved?
Mal: Ben K Sy approached me, having seen my work dotted around the web, and having been introduced briefly at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival a couple of years ago.
What is your story about?
Mal: “Prodigal” takes place on a future earth where the kingdoms of Dark Fae, fed up with man destroying the planet, have mounted a successful invasion and extermination plan. Three hundred years on, the remnants of humankind abide, subservient to their faerie masters, oblivious to their previous history but awaiting the return of a legendary figure, who will ultimately free them from their bondage.
It will hopefully be a freewheeling adventure, with undertones of the Planet of the Apes concept, but with the Fae replacing the apes.
Who are the characters?
Mal: The main protaganists are Ygraine, a slave to the Fae royalty, who may be more than she at first appears, a plethora of magical faerie realm beings of all designs, and the Prodigal himself.
The title character is based on the likeness of the actor Graham Mctavish, who very kindly gave permission to use his onscreen persona to inspire his onpage adventures.
Where did you get the idea for the story?
Mal: Like most of my concepts, the initial idea bears only a passing resemblance to the final article.
To begin with, the story was a simple vigilante tale, inspired heavily by Bill Savage and his struggle against the Volgans in Pat Mills seminal “Invasion” for 2000AD… in fact, the initial splash page to “Prodigal” was a huge tip of the hat to Jesus Blasco‘s opening to the 2000AD strip!
What are your hopes for The77?
Mal: It would be nice to see the 77 become a platform for new talent and new tales. The whole, mainstream jungle just feels so stale and uninspiring nowadays, it would be satisfying to have a title available that sparked the kind of reaction we oldies had in the days when the newsagents shelves were filled with titles.
How long have you been writing and drawing?
Mal: In all honesty, I don’t recall a time that I wasn’t. I peaked, in output, somewhere in the late 1990s, and then took an extremely long sabbatical from comics until 2010, when I was persuaded to take part in a couple of conventions.
Through these I met up with the likes of David Lloyd, for whose Aces Weekly I’ve produced over 100 pages, and my work steadily become more and more recognised as I built a fresh portfolio.
At Kendal in 2013 I met Kermit Leveridge and produced the ‘graphic poem’ Lies and Other Fools, which is possibly my best known work to date.
Who are your favourite writers and artists?
Mal: I am inspired mainly by the European masters such as Moebius, Toppi, Mattotti and the magnificent Jose Munoz, in whose company I spent a riveting couple of hours one rainy Kendal festival. Plus, Brian Lewis, Alan Moore, Frank Bellamy and Mike Noble.
Also, Ted McKeever, Steve Parkhouse and Mike Mignola have been formative in my understanding of style and rhythm in sequential storytelling. Howard Chaykin, Matt Wagner and Mick Mcmahon… Alex Toth, Osamu Tezuka… the list is pretty long and I get something different from them all.
What are your favourite comics?
Mal: Sinner, Night Raven, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, American Flagg, Murmur, Airtight Garage, Rocco Vargas, Eddy Current… again, I could go on forever.
What or who are your influences?
Mal: Pulp novels from Bulldog Drummond and Richard Hannay, through The Shadow and Doc Savage to the Piccadilly Cowboy westerns like Edge and Herne the Hunter.
British television of the 1960s and 70s. I’m a huge fan of shows like The Prisoner, The Avengers, Callan, Public Eye, the plays of Harold Pinter and Dennis Potter, everything Smallfilms and Gerry Anderson, Quatermass and the ITC back catalogue generally.
Perhaps it was the audience appreciation of these programmes at the time, but even childrens shows like The Tomorrow People, Soldier and Me and The Owls Service entertained in a way that educated and entertained simultaneously, without pandering to the lowest common denominator or talking down to their respective audiences… Or perhaps I’m suffering from nostalgia virus!?
What characters would you love to write or draw?
Mal: [Marvel UK’s] Night Raven.
Who would you like to work with ?
Mal: Steve Parkhouse, on a relaunch of Night Raven.
Steve created the character back in the 1970s with David Lloyd and it remains to this day my personal favourite comic character.
What advice would you have for upcoming writers and artists?
Mal: Build a portfolio of work. Don’t produce ten images, however superb they may be, and expect the appreciation to flood in. Retain your own vision, and do your work for the love of it. If you constantly sit, expecting the phone to ring with multi million pound offers you will kill your desire to produce the work in the first place – because I promise you, it will not ring for a long time, if ever at all.
But if it finally does… I would personally set my sights on producing a Night Raven book with the legend, and all round decent bloke, that is Steve Parkhouse!
The77 gained full funding and more through Kickstarter and the first issue will be launched at the Lawless convention in May and will be available worldwide in June
Interview cross posted with thanks to Morgan Spiceman