With the Kickstarter for The77 Issue Four now live and breaking crowdfunding records for the title, here’s another in our series of “Meet the Creator” interviews conducted by Morgan Spiceman with the writers and artists involved in British comics anthology. This time out, he chats with comic artist Andrw Sawyers – and no, that isn’t a typo.
Andrw, who’s drawing “The Cell”, written by Bambos Georgiou for The77, lives in leafy suburbia in Surrey and describes himself as a proud 45 year old father of two, who works full time and “generally gets under the wife’s feet – much to her chagrin!”
“I’m a self confessed ‘Coffee Addict’ and enjoy reading,” he continues, “not just Comics either.” He’s also “a huge fan of films, history as well as music, although most of it is pretty heavy, but there’s a few in there that’d surprise most
“When time permits, I currently spend any and all spare waking hours at the drawing board,” he says.”I think I’ve cut back on sleep to draw more, that’s what coffee’s for, right!?”
What is The77 to you?
Andrw Sawyers: The77 is a brand new anthology comic, featuring established and new creator talent.
It’s featured predominantly Sci Fi, Horror, Fantasy and Action strips, but has alternative left field stuff drawing from other genres such the Skate Punk DIY scene too, that counter culture really adds to its credibility.
It’s definitely in the vein of things like 2000AD, Action, Battle, Starlord, Scream etc – but has a really cool underground feel to it, like Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink Press, or Redfox. Any underground comix stuff certainly wouldn’t be out of place here, and I think if we could go back in time, it’d stand proudly alongside that stuff.
It’s definitely got an aesthetic that’d appeal as much to readers of Warrior as it would Deadline, too.
Some have countered it’s not really retro, but I don’t think that’s a rule it uses as a byline per se – it’s more what like what a retro comic would look like if it came out today!
Whilst it initially had its or has its target audience, it would appear it’s captured a whole new audience amongst today’s generation of readers, too.
How did you get involved ?
Andrw: Editor Ben Cullis approached me very late 2019, early 2020 – initially it was for a strip which appeared in Issue One of The77 but I couldn’t meet the deadline. Undeterred, he put me under the stewardship of Deputy Editor Steve Bull, who’s been an enthusiastic guide, supporter – and basically, he twinned me with Bambos Georgiou on “The Cell”, which made its debut in Issue Two.
What is the story you are drawing about ?
Andrw: It’s set in the distant future within the confines of a vast complex called The Cell, which contains part of the world’s populous – in what seemingly appears to be a a form of a custodial institution.
It was originally intended as a “one shot”, but the story and characters sufficiently resonated with me that I approached Bambos about writing and exploring the world more and so we set about creating more characters, back story and plot lines …
It’s really grown and taken on a life of its own and ironically, whilst unintentional, become quite prescient and reflective of contemporary times.
Who are the characters?
Andrw: the two leads who will soon take centre stage with our main story are 5T3V3N and 8AR8RA (spelt alpha numerically) – there’s supporting characters such as Lt. 73V3N and VALKRY53, too, who will all have a part to play as the story unfolds…
What are your hopes for The77?
Andrw: I hope to see it long continue, and as I’m sure it will become an established entity much like it contemporaries and forebears – which I’ve no doubt it will!
Ultimately, I’d like to see it move away from the Kickstarter model when practically possible and see it in comic and book stores everywhere and available as subscription-based service, too.
How long have you been doing art?
Andrw: I’ve drawn since I was a very young child, right up through academia before quitting around about 19-20. I threatened to get back to it for years but, distracted by work, family and other endeavours, I never quite got around to it.
Fortunately, the good guys over at the Everything Comes Back 2000AD started Drokktober, their annual Dredd inspired ‘Inktober’ event in late 2019. As a huge Dredd fan, I had to take part and this was just the jumping off point I needed to get back into it!
This nicely segued on from a reignited interest in comics post the Dredd (2012) film and much of the work Jock had done over the last two decades.
In turn, Drokktober led to some commissions and art for Vertical Noise, a Nottingham-based band’s EP. Shortly thereafter, I got offered work for The77… I’ve been short on sleep thereafter (laughs).
Who are your favourite artists?
Andrw: It’s quite an exhaustive list! Right off the bat, I’d say Mick McMahon, Steve Dillon, Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy, Alan Davis, Bolland spring immediately to mind – that solid core of artists that pretty much carried 2000AD artistically from around Progs 200 to 500, its “Golden Era”, are of no end of inspiration.
I’m a huge Alan Davis fan, particularly of his stuff generated for Stateside publishers such as DC and Marvel – but artistically, as an influence, we are worlds apart. I’ve amassed a fairly extensive collection of most of, if not all of his work.
McMahon and Dillon I’d consider having more of an indirect influence on my own stuff. Dillon’s panel construction and sequential storytelling are always a compelling “how to” guide – and McMahon’s style has a raw hewn energy to it that’s really relatable.
Next Generation artists such as Colin MacNeil, Kev Walker and Jock are also big influences – Jock’s deconstructed style really has caught my eye and it’s something I continue to experiment with. I think that perhaps has a lot to with why I also admire McMahon’s art so much.
What are your favourite comics?
Andrw: Growing up, absolutely 2000AD, particularly from Prog 200 to 500.There was just a raw gritty power to those issues – even today, they hold up against any contemporary comic book.
Essentially, Judge Dredd is a highly personable favourite comic character. He’s been with me since I was a young child. I frequently reread many of his stories, time and again, and they have neither dwindled or diminished with the passage of time.
Otherwise all the classics such as Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock (the Kev O’Neill stuff) and Sláine.
I remember a halcyon time though, when comic books stores and book shops stocked a plethora of stuff – both UK and US books. Back then, I was introduced to a lot of cool alternative stuff, and I hope to finally catch up and read the Hernandez Bro’s Love and Rockets and have fond memories of being exposed to stuff like The Last American, Marshal Law, and The Light and Darkness War, as well as Bill Sienkiewicz’ work on Elektra and Moebius’ work on Silver Surfer.
I’ve got to mention the Judge Dredd Eagle Comics reprints, I’m obsessed with those and now own a minimum of three to five copies of the entire run.
Jock and Scott Snyder’s Wytches is probably the most compellingly different thing I’ve read of late, but certainly, Watchmen and The Dark Knight also spring to mind.
Claremont and Davis’ initial run on Excalibur was a huge draw for me on release, too – as was his run of Captain Britain with Moore and Delano.
Oh – and I’ve got to give a shout out to Jerry Parris – his stuff is amazing… and, nearly forgot, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes!
What are your influences?
Andrw: Aside from many of the above artists mentioned, I’d distill down to three main artists – McMahon, Jock and Dillon.
Mal Earl (creator of “The Prodigal” for The77) has been invaluable with his support, intuitive advice and constructive criticism – I value his years of experience and value that as much as I do his friendship.
Otherwise, I draw a lot of influence from music, it’s attitude really that DIY aesthetic from many of the groups I’m a fan of …
Stuff like Pantera, Biohazard, Agnostic Front, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Bolt Thrower!
Television and film – tone and color wise – is a great source of inspiration, however, as pretty much all my spare time is taken up drawing “The Cell” I’m behind on a whole bunch of stuff. 1980’s movies though are a huge draw for influence, Verhoven’s Robocop, McTiernan’s Predator and Cameron’s Aliens are all on the playlist when I’m at the drawing board.
Otherwise – the coffee is always on!
What characters would you love to draw?
Andrw: Pretty much Judge Dredd. I’d like to, well, at least try and bring back some of that power, art wise, from the 1980s,,that’s missing today.
Stuff like “Block Mania”, “City of the Damned”, “The Apocalypse War”, “Cry of the Werewolf”, or the standalone stories like “Alone in a Crowd” (Dillon) or “Firepower” (MacNeil) is something I’d like to work on.
My younger self would of probably said stuff like Wolverine, Batman, Daredevil maybe but I’m pretty much more open minded as to what I could work on. There’s some stuff that’s so strongly defined by its original artist. I’m just not sure I could bring anything new to the character or make it sufficiently my own however.
Who would you like to work with?
Andrw: In an ideal world, I’d like to continue to work with Bambos, he’s easy going, open minded, very encouraging and supportive and very easy to collaborate with – it’s an enjoyable process and I trust him and value his experience.
John Wagner would be hard to turn down f’sure …
What advice would you have for upcoming artists?
Andrw: I’m possibly not in the best position to answer this. I’m still learning, and I’ve a long way to go… but, draw every day, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes.
Look at how others tell stories, position their characters and backgrounds. Don’t be afraid to experiment, be brave and adventurous with your art and look back at what you’ve previously drawn – keep skills you’ve learnt and works – and ditch what doesn’t.
But, most importantly – have fun!
Oh – and buy The77!
Andrw, thanks very much for your time and the best of luck in all your projects.
The77 Issue Three features a stunning cover by Ade Hughes featuring Anat from ‘V’ | Available for priced £6.95 for 64 pages in oversized format.All editions and back issues, posters and other merchandise available from Get My Comics here
Contributors include Dave Bedford, Conan, Conor Boyle, Steve Bull, Joe and Jeremy Dunn, Phil Elliott, Sinclair Elliott, Anna Evert, Filippo, Bambos Georgiou, Morgan Gleave, Dave Heeley, Ade Hughes, Kek-W, Hal Laren, Mac, Leonardo Manco, Sarah Millman, Michael Powell, Jon Roydon, Andrew Sawyers, Neil Sims, Lew Stringer, David Thomas, Dan Whitehead, Brendon Wright
Variant 1 cover by Paul Williams; Variant 2 cover by Neil Sims
The77 is also available from these UK comic stores: Atomic Comics, Bath; Calamity Comics, Harrow & Hatfield Castle Bytham; the Community Village Store, Lincolnshire; Gobsmack Comics, Horsham; Heroes, Isle of Wight; Krackers, Taunton; Mega City Comics, Camden, London; Millennium Comics, Northwich; Not Just A Comic Shop,