Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives

Eamonn Clarke reports on artist Brian Bolland’s appearance last week at CamCreatives

Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke

Opportunities to hear the great Brian Bolland talk about his career are still fairly few and far between. Fortunately, the excellent CamCreatives collective hosted an evening with him at the Blue Moon tavern in Cambridge, and with the tickets being free it was no surprise that the event sold out quickly. Ninety keen fans squeezed into the back room of the pub for a lively chat hosted by Paul Smith, the founder of CamCreatives.

Brian discussed his personal history of discovering comics in 1961 and his early adventures drawing for fanzines before going to art college where he wrote his dissertation on Neal Adams, despite his tutors believing that he had made him up. After college Dave Gibbons introduced Brian to Barry Coker at the Bardon art agency and this led to their collaboration on the now famous Nigerian superhero Powerman.

Paul and Brian talked about his early influences which were mainly from his love of DC comics and included Alex Toth, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane and, of course, Neal Adams. He shocked the audience by saying that he was never a great fan of Jack Kirby, although this was mainly because he was only collecting DC comics in the 1960s while Kirby was working with Stan Lee, and Brian felt that at the time Marvel were a pale imitator of DC.

Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke

Brian has worked with many comics legends during his career, and he described Alan Moore as a great raconteur, and noted that his highly detailed scripts were a joy to illustrate. He also enjoyed working with John Wagner, and described his lengthy phone calls with Mike Barr while they were
creating Camelot 3000.

With his cinematic artwork on Batman: The Killing Joke it was no surprise to
learn that Tim Burton contacted him while working on the first Batman movie. However, comics deadlines meant that the self-described “late” Brian Bolland was unable to work on the film. He also revealed that he had several long conversations with filmmaker Peter Greenaway which gave us a fascinating glimpse of a possible collaboration that never came to fruition.

2023 is proving to be a great year for British comic artists’ memoirs and Paul and Brian chatted about the ten-year process that had led up to the creation of It’s About Time, a memoir in pictures and words which has just been published by Book Palace.

The first volume takes us through Brian’s family history, his favourite comics, music, and the films that have shaped his career, and uses a multitude of photos and images to tell his story but with surprisingly few examples of his own artwork. When
asked about his current projects in semi-retirement he said he was about 130 pages into Volume Two.

Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke
Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke
Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke

Paul also gave Brian the chance to talk about his own development as an artist and how he now works entirely digitally. Inevitably the subject of AI generated artwork came up and Brian was fairly relaxed about the subject, and confessed he would be fascinated to see a Bolland comic created by AI.

In response to an audience question, he noted that he didn’t use a sketchbook on his many travels but did keep detailed journals which he was using to create his memoirs, particularly while preparing for an upcoming house move which has led him to discover a treasure trove of old comics, pieces of artwork and notebooks.

During the talk a wide variety of Brian’s artwork was projected onto the screen all curated by Steve O’Connor from CamCreatives.

Inevitably several of the images led Brian into charming and fascinating diversions about the creation of particular artworks, and to discuss the use of photo reference, the difficulties of creating a beautiful face for his many Wonder Woman covers as opposed to doing a monstrous character like Swamp Thing. The slideshow also gave Brian a chance to talk about some of his own creations, like Mr Mamoulian and the Actress and the Bishop.

Once in a Blue Moon: Brian Bolland at CamCreatives. Photo: Eamonn Clarke

CamCreatives are to be congratulated on organising an excellent evening which was expertly hosted by Paul Smith, Chloe Ambrose and Steve O’Connor. Their goal is to create a community for creators to get together and discuss their work, and this relaxed event provided plenty of opportunities to chat with other fans as well as the great man himself. And Brian continued the discussion after the talk while he signed books and marvelled at some of the lesser-known comics that the audience had brought along for him.

Let’s hope that CamCreatives can attract other comic creators to future events, because this was an extremely enjoyable evening which could easily have gone on longer.

Eamonn Clarke

IT'S ABOUT TIME: A Memoir in Pictures and Words by Brian Bolland

You can find CamCreatives and details of their upcoming events on their website: camcreatives.com

• IT’S ABOUT TIME: A Memoir in Pictures and Words by Brian Bolland is available to preorder direct from Book Palace as a standard or signed, limited edition | Order the standard edition | Order the signed limited edition

• The Brian Bolland Appreciation Society on Facebook

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