Ian Richardson has recently completed illustrating the science fiction comic book series Halo for Dark Horse, and took time out prior to taking part in events for this weekend’s Birmingham Comics Festival, to discuss his work at Image, Dark Horse, 2000AD and elsewhere with Paul H Birch.
Able to exaggerate larger than life scenarios and bring them down to a human level through visual characterisation, Ian’s name has been under the radar too long. You knew his work; you just took it for granted. Let’s change that now…
downthetubes: Tell me a little about your early comic book influences and what lead you to becoming an artist?
Ian Richardson: Influence wise it was all about John Buscema, John Byrne, Neal Adams and the much forgotten and under-appreciated Ross Andru for me. I guess my brain’s always been wired to the visual and to be honest, although I’d always drawn as a kid, it probably took me a long while to make the association between what I enjoyed as a leisure activity and the possibility of making any kind of career out of it.
downthetubes: Did you undertake a formal art education or were you self-taught?
Ian: Outside of junior school/high school kind of stuff, none whatsoever… And there may be those who say it shows! Lol.
downthetubes: So how did this lead to an actual career drawing comics?
Ian: I’d been working as a graphic artist since leaving school. Did that freelance/self-employed for a while and gotten really bored and frustrated with it, so just had one of those moments of clarity where you end up saying to yourself: “Why can’t I make a living out of what I love?”kinda thing.
downthetubes: You’ve worked for 2000AD, from one-off strips “Future Shocks” to the “Sinister Dexter” series and onto lead character Judge Dredd himself. What was your experience like working for the galaxy’s greatest comic?
Ian: I always enjoyed it whilst it being a slightly weird experience in a way. It was great getting to work for two of Tharg’s assistants in Andy Diggle and Matt Smith… Both very different, and very grateful to Mr. Diggle for giving me my first ever professional job. Weird because I always wondered if my more American style of drawing fitted so well in those pages and also, looking back on it, I was nowhere near good enough as an artist at the time either! 2000AD definitely fits under the category of unfinished business for me I think.
downthetubes: How did you come to work on Noble Causes, published by Image? And for those unaware can you tell us a little about this superhero family series?
Ian: Phill Hall (late of Comics International at the time) had started what was probably one of the first online comic magazines called Borderline and they had a regular New Talent column each month that I was lucky enough to be featured in. Jay Faerber (Noble Causes’ creator, plus New Warriors and Titans fame) came across the magazine, asked Phil for my contact details and it went from there.
Noble Causes is really Jay’s homage to superhero comics and soap operas. The series revolved around the Noble family, a wealthy, famous family of superheroes. In addition to fighting the usual super-villains, the heroes face such challenges as infidelity, unplanned pregnancies, and the tabloids… As you do! It started as recurring mini-series before ending up as an ongoing later in its run.
downthetubes: You also illustrated a Cowboys & Aliens book for Platinum Editions a project that also came out as a Hollywood movie. Visually was this a fun romp of events to draw and what were your expectations for the project?
Ian: Actually, my version of Cowboys & Aliens never got to see the publishing light of day. I was initially very excited by the project, but I moved on to another Platinum book at the time because… Long story short, the movie was in turnaround and a huge hurry to get the book done in a timeframe I couldn’t manage so it got passed on to a studio to finish it up. One of those I would have liked to have gotten to complete, but what can you do?
downthetubes: So you worked on other books for Platinum Editions, any of their Kiss comics? I’m aware of a number of titles that were in production that never came out.
Ian: I would have loved to have worked on the Kiss books! You know me, Paul. From Cowboys & Aliens I moved onto a book called Final Orbit… Kind of like the movie Gravity in a way in its premise, but years early. Again, it never got to see the light of day when Platinum headed into their financial troubles.
downthetubes: You told me a while back that your comic career fell by the wayside as you focussed on working in the music industry for a while. Just how serious was that choice? Interestingly, I noticed you did the cover for Welsh glam rock band Tigertailz’ new album.
Ian: Not really a serious choice as such, just opportunities that came up at the time. I wasn’t really working much in the industry and both music and comics had always held equal interest to me. One just took over from the other for a while.
Yeah, the Tigertailz guys are great and I’ve known them for a while, having played in bands with both of their main drummers, Matt Blakout and Ace Finchum. They were looking for something a little comics-related and maybe along the lines of album covers like Destroyer from Kiss, so I think it worked out well in the end.
downthetubes: You’ve been busy working for Dark Horse, illustrating Halo, based on the science fiction video game. How has that experience been for you and is your work with the company set to continue?
Ian: It’s a totally different discipline for me really I think, working on licensed properties like Halo. Its still enjoyable and creatively satisfying but a little stricter I guess, because of having to adhere to the source material. I came in at the end of the book’s run actually as it was winding down because of its tie-in with the Halo 5 game.
I think there are rumours of a new Halo book coming up at Dark Horse in the future so you can count on me pestering them for more work!
downthetubes: And what about the future? I understand you’re developing an Independent project, The Unthinkables. Can you tell us a little about its premise and who’s involved?
Ian: The immediate future… I’ve been working on a few different covers over at Zenescope to keep me busy, hoping that continues and some comics-related work for a non-comic book company that should see the light of day properly around May/June. But mainly building up pages so we can release The Unthinkables soon.
In a nutshell, it’s a story about what happens when all of Earth’s superheroes suddenly drop dead and the United Nations has to draft a group of villains and other powered misfits to keep civilisation from falling apart and… maybe… figure out why all the heroes died. And if you think you know where that premise is headed, well… there’s a huge twist that’s just too good to spoil.
Creatively, it’s the big, violent, funny, gory story baby of Paul Hanley who people may know from the like of Godzilla from IDW and many Doctor Who stories from Titan. There’s obviously myself on pencil duties with Julien Hugonnard-Bert on inks (Injustice Gods Among Us from DC and Star Wars from Dark Horse), Simon Gough on colours (currently on Ringside from Image and a ton of G.I. Joe stuff in the past too). Martin Simmonds of Death Sentence fame from Titan is on covers, too.
downthetubes: Ian, Many thanks for your time!
Ian: Thank you for entertaining my witterings, Paul… Always a pleasure!
• Ian Richardson will be appearing at the Birmingham Comics Festival’s convention on Saturday 23rd April (www.thecomicfestival.com) and on the following Saturday 30th he will join Jimmy Broxton, Ian Edginton and Phil Winslade for the concluding event of this year’s festival, the Birmingham premiere of Future Shock! The 2000AD Story at the MAC Birmingham (www.macbirmingham.co.uk) where after the film they will be discussing their own work on the comic in an interview with Paul H Birch, followed by a brief book signing session.
In his time, Paul H Birch has been an editor and writer for assorted media, on rare occasions they are comics related