Ian Cullen recently interviewed British comics writer Rob Williams for SciFiPulse.net and has kindly given us permission to re-post the interview here on downthetubes…
British comic book writer Rob Williams latest endeavour is the creator-owned series Ordinary, drawn by D’Israeli – the first issue is out now from Titan Comics (read our review). He’s also the writer of The Royals: Masters of War for Vertigo Comics and a regular writer of “Judge Dredd” for 2000AD, including the hit series’ ‘Titan’ and ‘Trifecta’.
He was also one of the writers on the Into The Light official tie-in comic for Namco Bandai’s Dark Souls II computer game.
His previous comic credits include “Low Life”, “The Ten-Seconders” and “The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azreal” for 2000AD; Ghost Rider, Daken, Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Force, Captain America and The Falcon, and Revolutionary War for Marvel; Adventures of Superman, Legends of The Dark Knight and Madame X for DC; Indiana Jones And The Temple Of The Gods, Star Wars: Rebellion and Star Wars Tales for Dark Horse Comics; Robocop, Robocop/Terminator and Miss Fury for Dynamite; Ghostbusters for IDW and Cla$$war for Com.X.
Thanks to a little help from Titan Comics we were able to catch up with Rob and ask him a few question about the book and some of the other comics that he has been working on, which happen to include Titan’s new Doctor Who comic, which focuses on Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
Ian Cullen: How did you find you way into writing for comics?
Rob Williams: I was a journalist who had slipped into making corporate videos. That had me writing scripts for visuals, and I’d always been a comics fan, so I figured I’d try writing a script. That was Cla$$war #1. I had no idea what to do with it but a friend told me about a new British comics company starting up – Com.X. I gave them the script, fortunately they loved it and agreed to publish it, and when Cla$$war came out that led to work with 2000AD and it went from there. Over time my journalism work became less and my comics work increased.
Ian: Your new book ‘Ordinary’ has been released recently as a three part mini series through Titan Comics. Where did the idea for ‘Ordinary’ come from?
Rob: It was inspired by the raft of superhero movies that are currently everywhere, more so than comics. In all these origin tales there’s a basic superhero premise – in an ordinary world, one person becomes extraordinary. I thought it’d be fun to flip that on its head. A plague gives everyone on the planet superpowers, apart from one poor schlub, the most ordinary man alive. That makes him the ultimate underdog in an action story. An easily relatable lead in a very colourful world where any visual is possible. It struck me as having a lot of potential as a comic.
Ian: For Ordinary, you worked with artist D’Israeli who seems to have a unique artistic style for just about anything you can throw at him. How did the working process between yourself as writer and D’Israeli work?
Rob: Well, we’ve worked together for a good few years now on “Low Life” for 2000AD and part of the drive for doing Ordinary was knowing how well we work together and how, I think, we play to each other’s strengths.
D’israeli does body language and the ‘acting’ of characters fantastically, but he’s also superb at big scale widescreen moments. Part of the fun of Ordinary is in the reactions of Michael, our lead, to the crazy stuff happening around him, just as much as it is giant baseball players knocking the top off the Empire State building. I know, with D’israeli, that if I write a small, silent emotional beat, he’ll convey it strongly on the page, and that opens up your writing. He’s a treat for a writer to work with.
Ian: Ordinary is only a three issue mini series. Are we likely to see another series with the characters or does the story resolve itself after the third issue?
Rob: The story resolves to an extent in issue three. It’s Michael’s journey to rescue his son and to see if he can find something extraordinary within himself. For all the super-powers, it’s really a story about a man coming to terms with being a father. But there’s a world out there and we could do more if the demand is there. As with anything creator-owned, it’ll depend on how the book sells.
Ian: One of the many things that stood out for me about Ordinary was your witty dialogue. The first issue where the old lady is talking over the phone, for example. I found myself laughing at that because my late mother would spend an awful lot of time on the phone talking to people, often having the same conversation over again. How did you go about finding the voices for your characters?
Rob: Thanks. With Ordinary, the voices really leapt off the page for me. That’s not always the case with every script, but the characters spoke really easily, for want of a pretentious way of putting it. I think it may have had to do with the freedom and excitement of this being my first creator-owned project for years when the bulk of my work is work-for-hire. There was a real feeling of energy about writing the book.
Ian: On your blog I spotted a number of things. One being a series of historical fiction style comics titled The Royals. For those not familiar would you mind telling us a little about these books?
Rob: The Royals: Masters of War is currently running through Vertigo Comics. It’s an alternate take of World War 2, where the only people with super-powers are royalty around the globe. They’ve signed a truce to not get involved in the wars of commoners. But when a Prince in the British Royal Family can’t take London being bombed any more, he intervenes, and that brings all the royals around the world into the war, which escalates it wildly. It’s a fun book, mixing my interest in the period with super-people, and it’s beautifully drawn by Simon Coleby, with a lot of attention to detail.
Ian: You also have your Eleventh Doctor Who comic coming out in the near future, which I’m looking forward to. Could you perhaps tease us a little with what we can expect?
Rob: It’s the Matt Smith Doctor in a period where he didn’t have Amy and Rory with him – he went off for a few hundred years in the show. So we’re introducing new companions with their own story arcs. It’s a lot of fun and a big thrill to write The Doctor. I’m co-writing with Al Ewing (Loki, Mighty Avengers) and Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante) is on art.
Ian: While on the subject of Doctor Who, we have the new one in the form of Peter Capaldi, which I’m excited about. I’m just wondering how you think his portrayal will play out and how it will eventually transfer to the comics book medium?
Rob: I have no idea, but I’m excited about it too. Capaldi’s a very good actor and it’ll be good for the show to have an older Doctor again after a couple of younger models.
I know Titan have the Capaldi Doctor comics on the way and I know who’s writing them. But I’m sworn to secrecy. None of us have seen Capaldi’s take on the characters yet, so we don’t know what to expect. But I’m told the scripts for the forthcoming series are very strong.
Ian Cullen is the owner of scifipulse.net, which also runs the SF store at www.scifipulsemerch.com. A wannabe musician, Ian says he’s a legend in his own mind and when not working on the website host the hugely successful SFP-NOW Podcast he can be found skulking around empty corridors. A longtime fan of genre television and movies, Ian was also a producer on the Reality On Demand web-series and has even been published in the official Star Trek Magazine.