2000AD has plenty of fans and forums and one of note is the 1977-2000AD Facebook Group created by Ben K Sy, which features a number of 2000AD creator interviews, conducted by various writers. With Ben’s permission, we’re re-presenting some of them here on downthetubes, beginning with the most recent, an interview with artist Ian Gibson, mind probed by Steve Bull.
While his credits are many, including creator owned work such as art for Alan Grant and John Wagner’s The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad, first published by Marvel UK, Ian is probably best known for his work for 2000AD, especially as artist on “Robo-Hunter” and “The Ballad of Halo Jones“, as well as his long run on Judge Dredd. He’s also worked in the US comics industry, on various Star Wars titles, among other projects, and is also a comics and feature writer as well as artist, with a long term project, Lifeboat, seeking a home…
Steve Bull: Why Comics? Was it always the dream?
Ian Gibson: An accident! This could be a very long and convoluted answer, that goes back to the age of seven, my college days and my time in computers – so I’ll stick with the ‘accident’.
Steve: Intrigued, I guess we’ll expand on that one another time. Everyone remembers their first time! So… do you remember the first art you were ever paid for?
Ian: I think it was for a magazine edited by Steve Moore. And it featured World War One planes. Probably rubbish. Probably not paid well!
Steve: Can you name a few strips we’d have seen your work in before you reached 2000AD pages? Any favourites?
Ian: My favourites were the Bionic Woman annuals I did for Brown and Watson in the mid 1970’s. But they’re not really ‘strips’. Before that, I was writing a girl’s adventure story for the Swedish market.
[Ian worked on both the 1977 and 1978 Bionic Woman annuals, with stories possibly by Steve Moore, and talks about the project in a bit more detail in this 2015 interview – Ed].
And before that I was working on Pocket Chiller Library for Star Publications. The silliest one I recall was called “The Finger”. You can imagine how ‘dramatic’ that was!!
Steve: There’s a few people I’d like to give that comic to! John Higgins spoke to us about walking into the 2000AD offices back in the day with his portfolio and securing work. How did working for the title come about for you?
Ian: I’d worked with John Wagner on Valiant, doing a cover and some episodes of “Death Wish”. So he knew me and I chatted with him and Pat while they were plotting their 2000AD ideas. I’d always wanted to do sci-fi and had been writing my own stuff. So my agent showed them some of my old pencils from around 1971 and they said: OK.
Steve: As a regular reader of 2000AD back then, it felt special amongst all the comics from the era. Did you feel this as a creator or was it just another paid gig?
Ian: As I said, I’d always wanted to do sci-fi, but in the early 1970s there was none on the British market. So I’d been grinding away on horror comics and love stories, which is maybe why I tend to be good at drawing the ladies. So it was more a relief to be able to open up my imagination.
Steve: Can you explain a little of the process back then, in terms of being paired with a writer or just given a script to draw? How did they choose you to do that early Dredd work for instance?
Ian: No clue! I wasn’t privy to the editorial decisions about how what and where. But once John had seen my robots in the first “Robot Wars” story, he dreamed up Robohunter to suit my talents.
Steve: Women and Robots! I’m a big fan of both and you’re pretty incredible at drawing both. So what’s the most fun?
Ian: It’s a close run thing, as when you’ve designed a robot that works well for the part in the story you feel satisfied; with ladies, you don’t have the same ‘leeway’ as far as design goes, unless you are doing weird alien ladies, and I don’t recall having done very many of those. So it’s a matter of getting it right so she looks like she can walk without falling down and smile without her face splitting open. Simpulz.
Steve: Simpulz!Robo-Hunter is almost the perfect showcase for your robots – but Jose Luis Ferrer got the original gig? Any idea why you weren’t the chosen one from the start?
Ian: I was busy on the Moon with “Luna Marshall Dredd” and “Elvis the Killer Car”. So, in their wisdom, the editors decided it was time to run the Slade story and they figured that Jose would be a perfect blend with my style. John had written the story for me. So I really don’t understand their thinking. But they did phone me up and say “Oops!”
I said, “No worries. Just throw the pages away and we’ll start over!” and they said “No can do! We’ve paid for this ‘stuff’ so can you ‘fix it’?? I said “Give me two intro pages to set the style and I’ll do what I can with the rest.” Editors, huh?
Steve: I love “Elvis” … er …I digress. Dream Team! In your career, which one writer did you feel you most connected with on stories? Can you elaborate?
Ian: I think it has to be John Wagner. I love him as a writer and as an elephant impersonator. He has that important ‘personal’ touch. Like instead of writing ‘crowd scene’ he writes ‘One of your crowd scenes’! And he used to call me up to discuss ideas, which didn’t always work. In the “Day of the Droids”, he talked on the phone about these enormous Mafia tanks, but I didn’t recognise them in the script when it arrived. So I missed the chance to play with the idea of mega versions of the old gangster cars of the 1930s. My bad.
But when he called to ask where we should host the Olympics, our minds were much more aligned…. and as a result the “Return of the Taxidermist” was a lot of fun.
Steve: Other Comic Artists… Who’s your favourite ever?
Ian: That’s a really tough one!! I’ve worked with Jesus Redondo, who is an absolute master, as well as being a wonderful person. I had the honour of sitting with Al Williamson at Norcon, as we drew pictures for charity and chatted about paper stocks and inking styles. Beautiful man and beautiful artist.
I had a fun time sketching with Esteban Maroto at a convention, where his wife christened me ‘Santa Claus’ because I had my DC bag full of pens, pencils and materials for him to play with. And boy, did he play!
But the one artist that I rate most highly is Victor De la Fuente. For his perfect design, his ease and fluency with all manner of men, women and animals. And his imagination!
Steve: Outside of comics, do you have a favourite traditional artist?
Ian: At last, an easy question. Though I was blown away by seeing Turner’s sketch books of the Greek Islands, which make all abstract modern artists look stupidly inadequate, I have to go for Lawrence Alma Tadema.
Steve: What’s your opinion on digital art?
Ian: I have no opinion. I just avoid it.
Steve: What’s your Kryptonite? What do you not like drawing?
Ian: That’s easy – animals. I drool over Ron Embleton’s books of animals and charging cavalries etc., and the mad dogs he used to put into the “Wicked Wanda” strip. I was drawing a sci-fi fantasy story I’d written and the main characters were crossing a river on horseback. And my girlfriend of the time (back in 1970) said quite clearly, “You can’t draw horses!” … I was crushed!
So there have been very few occasions where I’ve included animals – once, in “I was a Teenage Tax Consultant”, once where I drew my cats climbing over my artwork on a self portrait, and once where I drew horses drawing the Royal Carriage for Charlie and Diana’s wedding issue of 2000AD.
[The cover, planned for Prog 223, wasn’t used – but as noted here on the Imagination of Ian Gibson Facebook group, it did appear in a later 2000AD publication, the royal couple replaced with Burt and other droids!]
Steve: What was your worst job outside of comics?
Ian: ‘Loppin’ brocs’. I was 12 and working in a green grocers, quite illegally. And apart from having to carry half hundredweight sacks of potatoes – sitting in the back room with a knife sharp enough to split atoms and trying to trim the leaves off cauliflowers without damaging the heads or losing any fingers.
Steve: Do you have a page/piece of artwork you are most proud of?
Ian: None that have seen print. I’m pretty happy with some of my Lifeboat pages. But only some.
Steve: Is there a comic strip/character you wished you’d had a chance to work on?
Ian: Not really.I was kind of hoping that when Frank Bellamy left us, that I’d be able to pick up the Garth gig [for the Daily Mirror]. But that would have just been as homage to Frank. And I got the chance to salute his work for the format of the daily strip, when I was asked to do “Judge Dredd” for the Daily Star. So, even though the money was the other side of pathetic, I wanted to pay my respects to legends of the genre, like Al Williamson and Frank.
Ian: I’m amazed and delighted. After all – I was just trying to make a living!
Steve: Thank you Ian, that was great.
This 1977-2000AD interview with Ian Gibson was first posted 7th July 2019 and is re-published on downthetubes with permission from Ben K Sy.
2000 AD © Rebellion Publishing Ltd. Lifeboat © Ian Gibson