Set on a mysterious island, The Tempest, possibly the last play Shakespeare wrote, centres on the banished sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, who uses his magical powers to punish and forgive his enemies when he raises a tempest that drives them ashore.
In total, he and the art team on the book — Gary Erskine delivering inks, Nigel Dobbyn providing the colouring — will be providing some 125 pages of comic art on the project, plus two covers. The book also features educational background notes on the play from the Classical Comics editorial team.
“I’m now on the last 25 pages of pencils,” Jon told downthetubes, who has been working on the book for about a year — since, in fact, we last interviewed him — if you include development time, character and scene design.
There were some specific challenges when it came to this adaptation, compared with his earlier Classical Comics work, Macbeth.
“As this is William Shakespeare’s last play and classed as a masterpiece, I wanted the book to have a beauty about it,” Jon says, “but at the same time, [publisher] Clive Bryant’s brief was to make it exciting for the children who’ll read it in libraries and schools.
“This book has been more of a challenge than Macbeth in some ways, as there are more characters, if you include the creatures, goddess’s and sailors,” he continues, “plus the main characters. There’s also the details I needed to research for the 15th century styled costumes.
“Clive helped with the ships and flags and I checked out a lot of art books from that period to get the costumes looking right.”
“Where Macbeth, which I drew, and Frankenstein, which I art directed, are dark and brooding, I wanted The Tempest to look magical and beautiful,” he expands. “At the heart of the story is a romance, with young Ferdinand and Miranda.”
While there’s still some pages to complete, Jon’s delighted with the final work. “I think this book will appeal more to girls than boys,” he enthuses, “although saying that, the boys should like the humour in the play and the creatures such as Caliban and the Harpie, and the creatures that rise out of the ground later in the play.”
“Of course, as I said, we’re still working on this book, but it’s near the end now and I can say that, to me, it’s really looking a beautiful production one that I’ll always be proud of.
Working on the Classical Comics has also been something of a welcome learning exercise. “I’ve gotten better at character acting working on these books,” he reveals.
“What I mean is, drawing superhero stuff, you work on the dynamics of the action and pace of the story and you try to make it as bombastic as you can for the reader. With Shakespeare, there are pages just of people talking so I’ve learned more about body language, faces, drawing hands to indicate sadness, joy, fear… It’s almost being like a actor or director drawing the play. It’s been a lot of very hard work but I think it works. When you see the finished book there are loads of small moments that make the whole.
“This book has it all – love, hate, revenge, joy, friendship… it’s a great play and story, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all the characters.”
As well as his work for Classical Comics, Jon has just completed some work for an animated US TV commercial, “and I’ve been drawing some new characters for a weekly online comic strip which I hope will have universal appeal, which should be launching in a few months.
“I’m also pitching for my next big job — whatever that will be!” the award-winning artist laughs. “So if there are any publishers out there that would like to use my skills who pay a decent page rate than please get in touch. I’m open to offers…”
• The Tempest will be available from all good bookshops including amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.
• Comic shops can order the books direct from www.classicalcomics.com
• Jon Haward’s web site is at: www.jonhawardart.com
• Read our March 2008 interview with Jon
• All art shown is copyright Classical Comics Ltd 2009 and is shown with permission from the publisher