In the run up to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17th – 19th October), we’re aiming to run a number of interviews spotlighting at least a few of the huge number of guests and comic creators who will be at the event, continuing today with the Rob Davis, whose amazing work spans characters such as Roy of the Rovers and Judge Dredd to stunning adaptations of classic literature in graphic novel form.
Next week sees the official release of the simply brilliant originated graphic novel, The Motherless Oven, published by SelfMadeHero, which will be on sale at the Festival, which I can best describe as “Nigel Moelsworth on acid.”
The concept – a world where parents are made by their children, not born, and where it rains knives, not water – is so bold, the art and story simply mind-blowing. It is, simply, one of the best graphic novels I have read this year, and just the first part of a trilogy. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Dorset-based Rob is also the writer/artist for the Eisner-nominated adaptation of The Complete Don Quixote (published by SelfMadeHero), which was also nominated for a British Comic Award.
He began his career in comics in 1989, self-publishing the cult classic, Slang, which led to professional work with Tundra UK, before being commissioned to reinvent British comics icon Roy of the Rovers. After a short spell drawing Judge Dredd, Rob swapped comics for illustration, working for newspapers (including The Guardian) and children’s book publishers (including Scholastic and Random House).
In recent years he’s returned to comics, convinced of the untapped potential of the medium and inspired by the resurgence of British comics. He has written and drawn Doctor Who strips for Doctor Who Magazine, and and adapted H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” for The Lovecraft Anthology, Volume I (also published by SelfMadeHero).
He has also been working on his own projects, producing short stories for Solipsistic Pop anthologies, and inventing and editing the Eisner-winning British comics anthology Nelson.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Rob Davis: I’ve finished The Motherless Oven earlier this year and, lo and behold, it will be launched at The Lakes!
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Rob: I’m very proud of The Complete Don Quixote because it seemed an impossible task to turn a 1000 page classic into a 300 page comic book. And 300 pages of comics alone seemed a lot. People ended up finding it funny and moving, it was nominated for a number of awards, what’s not to be proud of.
However… now that I finally have the first copy of The Motherless Oven in my hands, I have to say that this is the best thing I’ve ever done.
downthetubes: Agreed! How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Rob: When I was doing the long Graphic Novels that have filled the past three years, I had a simple method whereby I did a page a day every day and each day on my calendar had a corresponding page number. I worked forwards through each book and took each page from roughs to final lettered art by the end of the day. I wrote the scripts beforehand and didn’t start drawing until I was comfortable work on them was done.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Rob: I have an idea for a story and I can fill it with people who live and breath and laugh (no need for actors) I can create an artistic vision for it (no need for a gallery) I can use words like pictures and pictures like words (no need for redundant prose) and I can end up with it all in a book without having to compromise that first vision. Why would I want to do anything else?
downthetubes: And the worst?
Rob: The worst thing is is the very thing that puts the soul into the job, so it’s not really the worst thing at all, and that’s the suffering; the 17 hour days, the seven day weeks, the guilt at not spending time with your kids… That is rough, but nobody said life was supposed to be fun.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Rob: Boredom. Boredom is the enemy. The internet is there to feed off our boredom. It may seem as though it’s the internet that distracts me, but I’m pretty sure it’s just lying in wait for me when boredom strikes.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Rob: Anyone can get their work seen today, anyone can develop a readership. It’s a good thing! It’s much better than it was when I started out.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Rob: Last year’s Festival. I was very impressed. I loved the way it took over the whole town.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Rob: [Godzilla artist] Simon Gane, because he owes me a pint.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Rob: For me, it’s just nice to meet other people who do what I do and feel a little less weird.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Rob: Don’t give up the day job first.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Rob: I’m a bit behind the times, I’ve just started reading Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series. It’s ace.
• Rob Davis will appear at the following event at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014: Teen Spirit: Rob Davis
• The Motherless Oven is on sale from 16th October 2014 in all good bookshops, physical and digital. Buy it!
“￼The Weather Clock said knife o’clock, so I chained Dad up in the shed.”… In Scarper Lee’s world, parents don’t make children — children make parents. Scarper’s father is his pride and joy, a wind-powered brass construction with a billowing sail. His mother is a Bakelite hairdryer. In this world, it rains knives and household appliances have souls. There are also no birthdays — only deathdays. Scarper’s deathday is just three weeks away, and he clings to the mundane repetition of his life at home and high school for comfort.
Rob Davis’s dark graphic novel is an odyssey through this bizarre, distorted teenage landscape. When Scarper’s father mysteriously disappears, he sets off with Vera Pike (the new girl at school) and Castro Smith (the weirdest kid in town) to find him. Facing home truths and knife storms at every turn, will Scarper even survive until his deathday?
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.