Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, continuing the series with an interview with Charlie Adlard, a terrific comic artist I’ve known since his days at Marvel UK (where I battled to persuade Paul Neary to draw Warheads for Overkill, among other things), who is now best known for his work on The Walking Dead.
Charlie has been a “veteran” of the comic industry for over 20 years. He originally wanted to be a rock star and after three years successfully studying for a degree in film and video, he headed to London’s bright lights to see if he could find fame and fortune in the film industry. His time in London was not a success and he realised that his degree had been useless at providing him with the skills to get into the film industry (even though he could play the drums!)
So he headed back to Shrewsbury and realised he should try to work in his third career option – drawing comics. He began building up artwork for his portfolio and eventually found his first work at Judge Dredd Megazine in 1992; he hasn’t looked back since. He has spent the majority of his time since 2004 working on The Walking Dead for which he has received many industry awards.
In his time as a cartoonist he has worked on many other projects as far reaching as Mars Attacks, the X-Files, Judge Dredd, Savage, Batman, X-Men, Superman etc. as well as creator-owned projects closer to his heart like Astronauts In Trouble (now published by Image), Codeflesh, Rock Bottom and White Death, which formed part of an exhibition of war comics at last year’s Festival.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Charlie Adlard: Oh, the usual Zombie nonsense… The Walking Dead keeps coming out every month. Aside from that, I’m about to embark on my next French bandes dessinees – Vampire State Building – which is a two book series for Soleil/Delcourt and should see the light of day late next year.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Charlie: White Death will always have a special place in my heart. Aside from Robbie Morrison’s brilliant script, it was my first foray into creator owned books and was my first tentative step towards where I am today.
I’ve never been more experimental with a project before [or since] as well – it was exciting to get away from the usual pen and ink and go for charcoal and chalk on grey paper. I have the bad times on The X-Files to thank for that…:-)
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Charlie: Very simply. Kids go to school – I start work. Then stop for dinner. Very 9 to 5. I’m an early riser, so I like the days and daylight. Quite often, I’ll get up in weekends at 6.00am [I find I’m at my most creative then] – work for a few hours – then have breakfast. Then I can still spend the weekend with my family uninterrupted.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Charlie: Enjoying every minute of this so-called-work… I get to play all day.
downthetubes: And the worst?
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Charlie: Procrastination before I start work. Once I’m working – I don’t stop.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Charlie: Swings and roundabouts. It’s definitely easier to get your stuff out there with blogs, social networking etc… but harder to actually get to meet the people who matter, generally due to tighter budget constrictions on editors etc. It was the other way round when I was trying to break in.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it?
Charlie: I’ve been a regular since it started and together with Thought Bubble in Leeds, it’s my favourite convention. I love the Angouleme Festival in France and Kendal aspires to be like that – an all-encompasing comics Festival.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Charlie: Probably Uderzo… god knows what I’d say to him, though…
Asterix was my first ever comic [together with the UK’s Mighty World of Marvel] and is still a stunning example of everything a great comic should be. Near perfection.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Charlie: I think it always helps to meet people face to face. It’s easy nowadays to remain in your bedroom drawing funny books and never seeing another soul. But you can’t beat “pressing the flesh” – whether it’s as a potential new creator or just a fan. It’s great to know there’s a larger world out there…
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Charlie: Pretty much what I said above. You’ve got to get out there and meet people – real people. Obviously it goes without saying that, if you really want to succeed, you have to believe in yourself and never give up.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Charlie: I really like Lazarus. I tend to pick up stuff because of the art first – and Michael Lark’s one of the best. But Greg Rucka’s world building is incredible – it’s rare to see something with such detail and passion.
The best comics work as a true collaboration, and Lazarus is that – it’s absolutely 50/50. Highly recommended.
• Charlie Adlard is part of Cosmic Rays who will be appearing at Ruskins Bar Saturday 17th October at 9.30pm
Cosmic Rays is a four piece original rock band from Shrewsbury. On Guitar is the “incredibly gifted” (says Charlie) Rob Mcfall (replacing comic artist Phil Winslade), on Bass Kevin Darke, on Drums Charlie Adlardand on vocals is International Comic Expo convention organiser and publisher Shane Chebsey. The band formed in 2009 and have played all over the UK and at the odd European festival. They have been played on the BBC and on Team Rock Radio. Check out some of their music here | Find them on Facebook | Follow them on Twitter @CosmicRaysBand