BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Charlie Adlard already has a hit on his hands with the Robert Kirkman
written Image Comics
smash series, The Walking Dead
. However one of the busiest pencilers in comics (he's working on two monthlies along with a few other projects) is hoping to strike gold twice with the Marvel
. Written by comics newcomer Greg Pak
, Adlard told us this comic features " ... without giving too much of the plot away - it's another Warlock but there's also plenty of familiar elements to him as well - so we're not out to alienate all the purists out there." THE PULSE: Why Warlock?
The reason I accepted Warlock
- was basically the fond memories I had of the Gil Kane
period. It was a time when I was personally devouring comics by the bucket load [in the late '70s early '80s - mostly Marvel UK reprints] and Warlock
was one of the few that stood out.If you asked me who my favourite characters were - Warlock
though would not be among them - purely because he didn't register enough on my youth to be THAT big an influence. This isn't a contradiction - it's just there were even bigger characters that grabbed my attention first - but Warlock
remained locked in my memory somehow.
So anyway - when I was told about how the character was going to be explored this time - it got me more interested and I decided to say "yes" even though I'd never read a thing that Greg Pak
had done. But I put my trust in the editor that he knew what he was doing [he had the sense to employ me after all!] and thankfully it's paying off in spades.
Greg is an excellent writer and he's taking Warlock
down a very interesting and untrodden path - something which I'm keen to follow him down.THE PULSE: It seems as if new series don't seem to do that well - most not even lasting 12 issues before being canceled. Why do you think that's been happening?
Well, it just seems to be the nature of the market. At the moment it's the combination of BIG names on BIG characters that get the attention ... so new series without those factors have a guaranteed up hill struggle.
It's very rare a smaller series breaks through properly - The Walking Dead
seems to have that ability - so I'm lucky to be on that one ... hopefully Warlock
will have the same.
The promotion goes more into the bigger projects as well - but I can't complain because if I was in charge of a comics company, I'd do exactly the same. You obviously spend a larger amount on the things you've spent more money on and have a higher profile, and you hope that the smaller projects are successful by more word of mouth - Hollywood's exactly the same. As much as I'd like to see something like American Splendor
get as much promotion as Spider-Man
- it'll never happen, it's the nature of the beast.THE PULSE: What do you think is the "it" factor that's going to make Warlock stand out from the comics crowd and survive its freshman year?
We are different - don't expect another retelling of your usual cosmic Warlock
- we're coming at it from another angle - hopefully an angle that'll make people take notice. I'm sure that's what everybody says about their new comic but this IS trying to tackle the character in a new and refreshing way.
It'll be interesting to see if She-Hulk
lasts the course - personally I think that comic is trying to do something different and more power to it - because not only is it different, it just happens to be really, really good too! If that succeeds - I think we'll have a better chance because it shows the market's out there for more interesting takes on old characters.
Like I said - we just need that good word of mouth!THE PULSE: Did you develop and design the new Warlock costume? What influenced you?
Unfortunately - the design for Warlock
was down to our cover artist JH Williams
- so I really had no influence on the basic design at all, I came onboard after the design had been approved.THE PULSE: Ah, thanks for the information. So just how familiar are you with this character? Did you know anything of him beyond your Kane memories? Is this even the same Adam Warlock we've seen before?
Like I said before - I remember the Gil Kane
stuff primarily. I'd forgotten the [Stan] Lee
and [Jack] Kirby
had actually created him - but my editor [Cory Sedlmeier
] kindly reminded me of that fact! So - yeah - I feel pretty familiar with him. My editor then sent me loads of reference, so I could bone up even more - and, it brought it all flooding back! Man-Beast, the High Evolutionary etc - I'd forgotten about all those characters.
And without giving too much of the plot away - it's another Warlock but there's also plenty of familiar elements to him as well - so we're not out to alienate all the purists out there.THE PULSE: What kind of research did you do for the art on this project?
I wanted to go for a more specific open look with Warlock
. Because of the hi-tech nature of the series - I wanted to dispense with my trademark blacks and go for a more linear approach. I haven't dispensed with the blacks altogether - but I've given the strip a lot more space and somehow it looks "cleaner" - which works with the sci-fi feel. I'm using a brush pen on the figures a bit too - which makes them feel more alive - especially against sterile hi-tech backgrounds. I think - because I'm juggling so many projects in the air at the moment - that I'm putting more thought than I usually do into how I approach each one art-wise, so they slightly differentiate from each other which also keeps me more interested because I'm not using exactly
the same techniques each time.THE PULSE: A lot of the preview art has a very sci-fi feel and look to it. What do you enjoy the most about working in that genre?
Yes it is pretty sci-fi - at least the first few issues are ... It's not a genre I normally see myself doing but that was part of the attraction for me. I like to challenge myself - so the opportunity to actually DO something that people wouldn't expect is a big plus. And it's SO opposite to TWD that it's nice to have the change very few weeks - and working at the pace I do which can be very intense and waring - it's nice to have the variety. I also like the sci-fi genre - don't get me wrong, just because I'm not really associated with it in comics doesn't mean I don't like it - it's great just to dream up crazy machines et all!THE PULSE: What did you know of Greg Pak before beginning work on this project?
I must admit - I'd never heard of Greg before Warlock
. But I trusted the good taste of Cory that he'd be just right for this series - and of course he was right! THE PULSE: How is Pak stacking up to a lot of the other writers you're working with?
He's turning out just fine - the first two scripts are really well constructed, leave the reader wanting more, and add to the previous Warlock
stories of the last four decades. The plot outline for the first six issues is extremely exciting - and, like I said, approaches Warlock
from a as yet unexplored angle but also keeps the original stories in mind - so there's continuity. THE PULSE: How are you hoping to make this project different from your other art assignments?
I tend to tailor my art to suit each project and Warlock
is no exception. So Warlock
has the more open "slicker" approach compared to The Walking Dead's
darker sketchier look, to Savage's
brushier work, to Rock Bottom's
open line work etc ...
And of course thematically they're all different - which I like. The only real connection is that everything is very character based - if the characters weren't strong in any of my projects, I really wouldn't be interested. There's no point in an action book, for instance, if there aren't real characters... there's nothing worse than a boring action comic - and that would be one where the characters are purely just cyphers for the "plot" - that's if there is one!THE PULSE: What's coming up in the first arc?
Well - it's basically the origin of our Warlock
- and how he deals with the vast powers that he's been given. But what I find REALLY interesting in this arc - is the fact that it also deals in what's it's like to be almost a god [which is how powerful Warlock
's been made] and how hopefully he's put on the path to learn to become human. So there's a nice combination of serious action and real good character interaction. THE PULSE: How is working on this different from the horror series The Walking Dead?
Well there's obvious stuff like Warlock
is sci-fi-drama and TWD
is horror -drama - and changing between the two is a nice refreshing change of pace.
The other difference is that Warlock
takes longer to draw than TWD. TWD
takes about two weeks to pencil and ink - I do it really fast, and that's not to dismiss the book because I get it done really quickly - it's "feel" lends itself to a more "gritty" sketchier style and it's speed lends itself to the urgency of the story.Warlock
on the other hand - because it's more sci-fi and "cleaner" - lends itself to a more precise style which takes slightly longer - and, again, I think the story benefits from that.
And it's always interesting working with two different writers concurrently - seeing how they approach the plot in different ways etc ... for instance, Greg is more precise in his page layouts and Robert is more precise in his actual panel descriptions - neither is a better approach, it's just different ...THE PULSE: You've worked on a mix of projects over the past few years. What have been some of your favorites?
My favourites have been the creator owned projects I've worked on - because they've on a whole been done for the love of it and certainly not the money. Primarily White Death
is the pinnacle of my professional career so far - since the whole thing was conceived by myself, then aided by the brilliant writing of Robbie Morrison
, was put together by a group of friends calling ourselves "Les Cartoonistes Dangereux" and put out on our own - it was also myself at my most experimental art-wise. The whole thing was a personal success ... Codeflesh
is also another favourite - again Joe Casey
did a wonderful writing job, and another proud moment in my career.
It's also the most pleasurable when you're working with good writers who are friends too - which tends to mean there's more communication between each other during specific projects - so the best times have always been with people like Robbie, Joe, Larry Young, Ian Edgington, Stephan Petrucha, Robert Kirkman
... etc.THE PULSE: Which did you just do to pay the bills?
Well - since I'm not [yet!] in the enviable position to pick and chose projects - I tend to be in the position where sometimes I take whatever is offered because there's nothing else around at that time. So it could be argued that most of the stuff I've been offered in the past 12 years I COULD have turned down if I had the choice, but that's not to say that I've never enjoyed them when I started to work on them.
There's some worth in most of the stuff I've done - some spark that makes the drawing of it pleasurable. The stuff that didn't have any worth tended to be the ones that had truly atrocious scripts attached to them ... and I WON'T be naming names!
If it's a good script - in whatever genre [and I've tackled most] - it's worth drawing.THE PULSE: What do you consider as some of the biggest pros to being a comic book creator right now?
It feels good to be part of this [albeit small] renaissance of the industry, it is nice to feel a bit more vindicated for what you do than before - though we've got a LONG way to go - especially in the US and UK.
And Hollywood love us!
There does seem to be a greater variety of stuff to work on as well now - not all of it very well paid - but there IS that variety. I mean - just look at the two series I'm working on at the moment - a high tech superhero comic and a dramatic soap opera style [with zombies] comic.
The opportunities a few years ago might not have been there.THE PULSE: What, if anything, do you view as the cons to being a creator right now?
Well - that's the usual stuff! The cons are the same as they were when I started in this industry... mainly trying to survive as a freelancer. And - although the industry does seem to be on an up - it's still on shaky ground, consequentially we're all scrabbling for the work when there's not enough to go round. When I'm busy, somebody else isn't and when I'm looking around for work, that same person is probably snowed under.THE PULSE: What keeps you wanting to make comics?
I think virtually everybody in this industry is a comics fan first - so most of us do it for the pure love and enjoyment of the medium. Personally - doing what I do is a dream come true - I could not imagine myself doing anything else. I know there's higher paying forms of illustration out there - advertising, film work etc - but I'd rather work for less and do comics than do any of the others. It's because I love comics and have done since I was about six. Also - what other medium do you have total control of? If I worked as a story-board artist, for instance, how many people would be sticking their oar in over my work ...? It's a very attractive position to have - and it must be one of the overriding things that attract big name Hollywood types to work for comics - 'cos it ain't the money!
I see myself doing this for the rest of my life, and that doesn't worry me - I think that shows how much I enjoy working on comics and how much I want to keep doing them.THE PULSE: Was there ever a point when you got tired with all the behind-the-scenes comic stuff that goes on and considered quitting? What happened?
There have been a couple of "slow" periods in my career - one was after the X-Files
where the work slowly dried up, and the other was, funnily enough, last year - but I never got to a point where I literally had nothing coming in from somewhere - so there was always hope! The time after the X-Files
, I vaguely considered what "might" happen if I couldn't work in this industry - but it was never really a serious consideration.
The more "dry" periods I have - the more philosophical I become about this whole game - and I find I can accept these more as I get older. My wife always tells me that something'll happen when I start to get down about it - and she's always right! And the fact is, I know I'm good at what I do - so something WILL happen - you just have to make it happen and be positive ... and tell me an artist who hasn't gone through slower periods in his/her career.THE PULSE: How often do you get creative blocks when you're working on projects and what do you do to overcome those?
I never actually get creative blocks - I've been very lucky in that respect. I can get up in the morning, sit at my drawing board and just start. I suppose it all adds to my reputation for speed - the ability to just get it done.
Mind you - we artists are lucky, at least we have something to start from, i.e. a script ... It's the writers who I feel sorry for, they have to start with the real blank page - now that would give me creative block!THE PULSE: How did you develop your artistic style?
I've never consciously developed a style - I've always tried to make it flow naturally. When I've been influenced by a certain artist or whatever - I just let it be assimilated into my own style without trying to think about it. I see far to many artists who've seen another artist they like and have tried to adopt that specific style - it never works - it always looks awkward and is obviously never any better than the original.
The only thing that does dictate how my style my change are the tools I use for each job - I like to experiment. From the charcoal and chalk of White Death
through to the pen and ink slickness of my mainstream Superhero work - I still think it all looks like me, even though the tools are radically different. At the moment - juggling four projects as I am - I'm using slightly different equipment and approaches to all of them. Warlock
is closest to my traditional mainstream work - though I've introduced a brush pen into the mix, The Walking Dead
is gloriously fast work with pens and thick brushes, Savage
is a lot more brush work, and Rock Bottom
[with Joe Casey
] for Planet Lar/AiT
is pure line work [with pens] with NO black whatsoever.THE PULSE: As an artist do you view yourself as constantly evolving or are you at a point where you have a style and are just going to stick with that? If you're always trying to do something different why do you think that's important for a creative person?
No - I see myself as constantly evolving. When I look at art from just a year back, I can see improvements and changes to my style - I don't really want to stand still. Even if I've reached a point where I've said "yeah - that's a good place to be at" - I then naturally go beyond it - whether it's to everybody's taste is another argument altogether - but I feel I'm constantly improving, and I hope to keep doing so until I retire.
It's also good to push yourself creatively and to constantly challenge yourself - it's what makes you feel alive! I think my best work comes out of it that way. People who just draw what they feel "comfortable" with - I can never understand - don't they want to give themselves the challenge? Working like that must get awfully boring.THE PULSE: How much experimentation has been involved with the implementation of your art style?
ADLARD: White Death
was probably my biggest experiment - it was certainly my most radical, I don't think anyone was expecting me to do something like that. The good thing is - it's still my proudest achievement yet. So, yeah, I do experiment a lot... Obviously how much
depends on the nature of the project - if it's a commercial one, too much experimentation would probably not be a good idea [though, it's still good to try the odd "interesting" thing here and there] - you don't want to alienate an audience. Rock Bottom
might be my next White Death
- I'm pushing my personal envelope with the style and I'm really pleased with the results so far. If I can say that I'll be as proud of Rock Bottom
as I was of White Death
- that'll be the next stage in my artistic journey - and it also helps that Joe has written a most phenomenal script, something which I couldn't refuse to draw!THE PULSE: When you have the chance to get involved with a new comic project, what factors influence whether or not you accept the assignment?
WHEN I get the luxury of accepting the assignment or not - the main factor has to be who's writing it. I've already mentioned my friends and favourite writers - and they'd be my first choice on a project. I'd actually prefer working with someone I know and respect rather than a big name writer who I don't know - simply because I'm used to working with these guys, I know their ways, and I obviously like what they do. So the character would be secondary to the writer - though it would still be an influence - it really depends which character [that's if I'm not creating one from scratch] I'm asked to draw. Lastly - there have been certain editors I've enjoyed working with and that's good if someone I know from the "other side" is on the book as well. Larry Young
, for instance, I'd do anything for ... within reason ....
Keep checking back to read part two of this interview where we discuss his work on The Walking Dead
and a few other projects.
You can read the entire first issue of Warlock
at Mile High
.YOU can read PART TWO of the interview here