Here’s another in a series of “Meet the Creator” interviews conducted by Morgan Spiceman with the writers and artists involved in The77 comics anthology.
This time out, it’s a chat with artist Brendon Wright, who’s drawn “The Tinkling Triangles” by Steve MacManus, which will debut in Issue 1 of The77.
What is the 77?
Brendon Wright: The77 is an amazing opportunity! The comic book has come back to life. It’s become fun again (for normal folks!), and the lost dreams of those kids who became grownups knowing they’d never work in comics… have now got every chance of firing it all up again.
How did you get involved?
Brendon: Somehow, Facebook became useful! It suggested to me I might like to connect with other ageing kids who read 2000AD back in the 1970s and 80s, by joining The 1977 – 2000AD Group. It was an amazing place! It brought back the fun I felt over 30 years past… and none of the toxic testosterone I’d seen appearing in the mag in the 1990’s was there. Everybody was nice to each other and enthusiastic. It was even frequented by some of the writers and artists I’d idolised.
Other Earthlets posted their freshly made fan art, even though at one time we’d all been certain we were too old for that kind of thing. We now knew we weren’t, and it was great! There were friendly competitions and we realised there were some deadly serious skills developed in the readers during the past 30 years…
Then October came: Inktober and Drokktober. My brain fried after the first few submissions and I woke up in November. There was the smell of burning plastic, though I promise those brains weren’t implants.
A whisper went around that some of the bosses of the Group were engineering some kind of coup. Some kind of comic anthology. I knew I wanted in, even though six months before I’d believed the artform dead to me. Steve Bull was my inside contact, so I tried buttering him up with rehashed versions of the strip I did when I was 18. “No, sorry,” the council of The77 intoned via my proxy. “Ya got anything else?”
So I began working on something else… and near its end the invite Came From Ben K Sy (the boss) to submit an audition page for a very special project. It paid off and I got picked for it. The third time was the lucky one!
What is the story you are drawing about?
Brendon: About four pages. This became five pages when the boss realised it was worth another 25 per cent of artwork. Who it’s by is the most interesting thing though: the tale [“The Tinkling Triangles”] is written by Steve MacManus, former alien editor of that very magazine, during the years I read it: 2000AD!
It’s an extract from his novel The Sheerglam Conspiracy, a strip written by fictional hot-shot authors. In it, an annoyingly bouncy celebrity family are the bane of a very sensible, profit conscious and opportunistic manager. How can this poor, greedy, pinstriped gent rid himself of these musical monstrosities? It’s like “The Bumpkin Billionaires” turned sci-fi.
Not only that, I finished early and the boss said “Your art has really tightened up. That one you were working on second? Redo the art and we might find some space for it somewhere.” It’s anyone’s guess when it’ll appear, but it involves a 1950’s American town on Mars. It’s got big cars, rocket skates and ray guns, giant broccoli and belligerent brains in bottles. And a staunch sheriff who enjoys a joke.
The new art on that is getting the absolute deluxe treatment. I even researched brains for this one.
Who are the characters in “The Tinkling Triangles”?
Brendon: Snuff Sourdough is the estimable gentleman in the Macmanus tale. There’s Ma Triangle, who’s ever so much like Dolly Parton, and the charismatic Pa who’s got a holographic hat. There’s Tiny Tim, who’s a teen idol the size of a thimble, and his stormy sister Tiffany, who has an attitude the size of Arkansas.
Finally, there’s the ginger headed, overweight kid brother Donut who just thinks the whole adventure is a hoot. He needs an adventure of his own, cos he’s my kinda guy.
In the Martian story there’s the Sheriff. He’s the sensible kind of guy you wished was still alive today who’s unflappable and smiles at the serious. He’d definitely see through the Emperor’s new clothes.
Brendon: I believe we’re on the crest of a comic renaissance. British comics are making an absolute comeback and I suspect the 77 will be the foremost of the new breed. The effort expended and professionalism in its production are enormous! This is a thing to be excited about, and to go on being excited about as it produces issue after issue for years to come.
What are your hopes for The77?
How long have you been doing art?
Brendon: Well, since I could grip a crayon, but I somehow ended up as a window cleaner. For 12 years. By 36, I managed to cast off life as a labourer and finished a worthless design degree… during which I took on actual clients. It has been 14 years since I became a freelance commercial illustrator.
Who are your favourite artists?
Brendon: Oy vey! So many. Historically, Brian Bolland was my first identified crush, but who doesn’t say that? In America, there’s Wally Wood, Al Williamson… so many from that era. I grew up on 1960s reprints.
These days, guys like Greg Staples blow me away completely.
What are your favourite comics?
Brendon: Asterix and Tintin are in a league of their own, but I find a lot of charm in the early US comics, especially the 1950s and 60s. I lost all patience with that world in the mid 1980s, by which time I’d been devouring 2000AD for five years. It changed everything.
Last Christmas, I started resubscribing to 2000AD after a 30 year break and it’s absolute magic! The Regened issues are beyond compare – I hope they become a regular.
Occasionally, I still dip back into a 1960’s Green Lantern or Justice League: I pretend I’m eight again, and they’re still good!
What are your influences?
Brendon: Apart from the artistic influences I’ve already mentioned, 30 years in the work force, some philosophic chats with God on how to be less of an idiot and nine hours of sleep a night have a lot of effect. Often, I’m influenced by crosstown traffic and migraines, but those aren’t ones I recommend.
Which characters would you love to draw?
Brendon: Judge Dredd, of course! And more Dredd. But a new character with a decade or two of good, fresh material would be luvverly.
Who would you like to work with?
Brendon: I’ve got my favourites but there will be others as “new” as me… it’s going to be all one big unrolling adventure. I’m happy to play with anyone who can make it good fun!
What advice would you have for upcoming artists?
Brendon: Crumbs. I certainly can’t give “keys to success” but… it ain’t helpful to believe you’re the cats pyjamas or life will take you down. Likewise don’t think you’re worthless rubbish cos that way leads to doom. Hit that middle ground of belief and make yourself a very useful engine.
Don’t drop your long term goals completely: if gorse seeds can sit in the ground for over fifty years before becoming flippin’ great weeds, your dreams are just as important and will eventually make it impossible to carry on with your day job. No matter how many times the farmer hits you with DDT and napalm.
It’s bed time. I can’t think any more.
• You can pre-order The77 now. Message the team via the title’s Facebook page or email – email@example.com to place an order. Payment by PayPal
• The Sheerglam Conspiracy by Steve MacManus is available now from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) | If you enjoy the novel, be sure to join The Sheerglam Conspiracy Facebook Group, for more on the book and forthcoming sequels
Interview cross posted with thanks to Brendon Wright and Morgan Spiceman