John McCrea has been drawing comics for 30 years, perhaps best known for his work on Hitman for DC. But he’s also worked on Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk for Marvel, Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Superman for DC, Mythic for Image comics, The Boys for Dynamite Entertainment and Judge Dredd for 2000AD.
Recent credits include Uncanny X-Men #12 and a five-issue Yondu mini-series for Marvel along with a series of covers, including The Punisher, Conan, Star Wars, Death’s Head, Crazy and more.
John’s new creator-owned Image project Dead Eyes, written by Gerry Duggan, has completed its first arc, with the trade papwerback released earlier this year. But there’s no slowing him down: he’s now ramping up the launch of a must-have crowdfunder collection, the first of four volumes with the umbrella title, The Mighty World Of McCrea (British Marvel fans will immediately spot the reference).
An incredible 200-page collection of John’s 30-plus years of creator-owned work, the first volume will include The Atheist (with Phil Hester), the Tosspot Four (with Garth Ennis), Dinosaurs Rool (with Nick Abadzis), an all-new story, Rocket Station Charlie (with Gerry Duggan) – and many other stories.
But that’s not all. As a kid, one of John’s favourite things at Christmas was getting the British annuals, be it Marvel, the Beano or The Six Million Dollar Man! These annuals had comic strips, but loads of other things too – puzzle pages, interviews, articles, prose stories and more! And that is what The Mighty World of McCrea is going to have, too… Volume One has an article on Belfast’s first comic shop, Dark Horizons, which John helped start and its connection to Belfast’s punk scene in the late 1970s / early 80s. Also included will be an interview with Gerry Duggan and an all-new Dead Eyes prose story written by Gerry, with all-new illustrations by John.
But, wait, there’s more – short comics by some of John’s fantastically talented friends, like Hunt Emerson, Laura Howell and Martin Hand.
Along with the aforementioned puzzle pages and more, it’s a wonder how John and team can jam it all into 200 pages… so, intrigued, we had a chat about this exciting project and his career…
So… 30 years in the comics industry. That’s impressive, and your career has spanned so many different aspects, retail as well as creative. Do you think the comics industry is better than it was when you started out, in terms of creator rights, and if not, is self-publishing the way forward?
John McCrea: I think the industry is much better off as far as creator rights go, due to companies like Image or Vault pushing that as their model- when I started there was very little, Deadline in the UK, some others that came and went – however, self publishing for most is an incredible option now due to crowd funding. Someone with no name in the industry can build themselves up a great career without having to risk so much as in the pre internet days.
Dave Sim is responsible for bankrupting a bunch of people due to his insistence that you could have a career and a comic like Cerebus if you just took that leap of faith – but having to pay to print and ship and store all your comics at the sharp end to only discover that the industry didn’t want your comic… very tough. At least the TMNT guys put some money down and funded comics upfront, even if, in the end, it didn’t work out.
Which brings us, of course, to your own crowdfunder The Mighty World of McCrea, assembling so many great projects in one planned series. What prompted your decision to try this route?
John: Well, it was a confluence of a couple of things, one I cannot talk about, and the other being Covid – so suddenly there was this yawning chasm of nothing ahead of me, except this book. My friend Lee Bradley had suggested it to me one day about a year ago, while he was round working in my studio, drinking tea and talking comics and it had been sitting percolating away in my noggin since. Then, disaster times two… so, I pulled together a great team of people to help me get this out. And that’s the thing, it’s the rare person who could do this on their own, and I’m pretty damn common… so I have Kat, who is my campaign manager, Rian Hughes doing the design and my wife Rachel doing the finance…. and so many others have helped with advice. Thanks, folks!
What kind of funding target are you seeking, initially, to get this off the ground?
John: £7000. If we hit that, we can make a small profit, and everyone gets their books! More would be lovely, of course!
Is there a comic project you’ve worked included in this project that you most want to see back in print, or one you dearly want to complete?
John: There are two: Warpaint, which you know pretty well John, since you edited STRIP Magazine where it appeared. And also Progenitor, which originally appeared in David Lloyd’s excellent digital only Aces Weekly. Both these stories were written by Phil Hester too…. Poor old Phil, someday we’ll finish something! Luckily, since this is four volumes, we may have time!
You’ve been busy over the past few years with so many great projects, for the US majors but 2000AD, too – and, most recently, helped revive classic British character The Spider. Is he a particular favourite of yours?
John: I loved Vulcan, which reprinted “The Spider” back in the 1970s, so yes, I was a fan, and he’s a villain, and they are the most fun! He’s just a brilliant looking character too…
And are there others you’d like to take a crack at?
John: I love the “Leopard of Lime Street”, I would kill to have a shot at him – PJ Holden and I wrote a great seven-page intro story for him for fun one evening when I was round at his place drinking tea and talking comics…. Keith Richardson or Oliver Pickles at the Treasury of British Comics, if you’re reading this, geeza job!
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
John: At the moment, with three kids at home, there is a lot of working round them, which is why I’m typing this at 11.00pm. But I draw up a list of tasks, prioritise them and then work my way through them…
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
John: You can work your own hours.
And the worst?
John: You can work your own hours!
Harking back to our opening questions – do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
John: Oh, much easier, and they can find their audiences much more easily. But there is so much competition, and so many incredibly talented writers and artists about. It’s terrifying how good some of them are, quite frankly….
What do you think the major challenges of crowdfunding a project are? Anything you’ve taken advice on?
John: Figuring out how to budget so that you end up making money – there are so many variables to consider. Also, give yourself a really good run up time to launching.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
John: Christ, I’m too old to be qualified to answer that. But, outside of the draw/ write/colour good advice, I’d say understand social media (I really don’t), learn to colour your own work if you’re an artist, always look out for the next generation coming up, engage politely with your fans. Oh, that’s four things….
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
John: I’m currently re-reading the fantastic Scott Pilgrim, because my daughter is re-reading it – so we can talk about it, which is great. I think it’s available pretty much everywhere…
downthetubes: John, thank you very much for your time and the very best of luck with The Mighty World of McCrea – a truly great-sounding new project!
• John McCrea is also online at www.johnmccrea.co.uk
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.