BY JENNIFER "Eeek! Zombies!" CONTINO
In the first part
of our Charlie Adlard
interview, we found out some details on the new Marvel Comics Warlock
series. Now we're focusing on the Image
smash sensation, The Walking Dead
. For those of you keeping score, Adlard is penciling two monthlies and a working on a handful of other projects. He likes a challenge and the artist has certainly set himself up for one! THE PULSE: What did you find the most attractive, speaking in terms of art, for The Walking Dead?
I think by now you must've gathered I like a challenge! TWD
is definitely challenging in one way - that is, because it's a horror-drama with the emphasis in favour of the characters and the drama - it's a real challenge to make a lot of talking heads look interesting. So I enjoy that aspect of it a LOT - and it helps that Robert [Kirkman]
writes such wonderful dialogue that it makes it a pleasure to draw all of that.
I also find the style of it great to draw - the speed of how I draw it - tearing through the plot at the rate I do gives me a great sense of the story and it's nice to never really get bogged down in a page or a panel and lose sense of where I'm going ... consequentially it makes the whole storytelling experience stronger and hopefully gives TWD
that unique look.THE PULSE: How is your art style on The Walking Dead different from what you're doing on Warlock?
I think that question's already been answered - TWD
has more blacks, is sketchier, and faster, Warlock is more open, "cleaner" and slower! But they also both have a recognisable "me" style - even though I've been harping on about how I'm changing styles - I feel that everything still looks like a "Charlie Adlard". I don't want to be a schizophrenic artist where you can hardly tell from one comic to the other who it is. Both comics have my strong points to recommend them - my use of facial expressions [many an editor has called me up on the strength of that - so I believe 'em!], my hopefully strong storytelling [a factor I believe is the MOST important skill in comics - if you can't do that, really, don't bother!], and my use of atmosphere [the reason I got the X-Files
gig - it certainly wasn't my uncanny ability to [not] draw Mulder and Scully's likenesses!].THE PULSE: What are some of the biggest challenges to getting both of these projects done? Are you now doing two monthlies? Do you ever sleep!?
Yes I'm doing two monthlies .... Am I just very slightly strange in the head for agreeing to do that? Probably!
To be honest - it's a [that word again] ... challenge! I used to do it when I was doing the X-Files
and Mars Attacks
concurrently - so I know it can be achieved. But over the past few years I noticed myself slowing down - I could only pencil and ink a comic in three and a half weeks - so when I got into this I wasn't sure whether I could recapture the old "magic". So I challenged myself to do TWD
in two weeks - basically to see if I could do it - and I did achieve it. So it's perfectly possible for me to do it - it just doesn't give me any free time at all! Image have been really good about it though - they've said that we can not solicit for a month if I need a breather - which is actually REALLY good to know - and Robert doesn't want any fill in artists, so he'd rather do that as well. But hopefully that won't need to happen very often at all, and I'm pretty far ahead of TWD
anyway - which also makes Warlock a bit less stressful to do and gives me just that extra bit of time to get to grips with the first few issues.
But I kind of enjoy the stress of it all - I seem to thrive of it! I always seem to do the best work under pressure - when I have time to do something - it's ultimately frustrating because it never turns out THAT much better than if I'd have done it in half the time! I can't explain why I'm so fast ... Though I think some of the secrets is I keep to a rigid 9 - 5 time schedule everyday, set myself personal goals each day, go to the gym [each day] - so I feel much more refreshed and raring to go for the afternoon, listen to decent music all the time, and start a page from the top left hand corner and just work down methodically. It also helps to know that I have a wife and child to support - so I've GOT TO get it done!THE PULSE: Do you ever get bothered or disturbed by the subject matter you're working on? If so, how do you overcome something like that?
Not really - so long as they serve the plot in a way that it wouldn't work as well without them. There's a couple of things that bug me slightly though, and that's excessive violence and swearing - but, like I said, ONLY when it's for no use other than to titillate the readers. The comics that are branded "for mature readers only" that have that excess without ANY particular relevance to the plot in any way should be re-branded "for Immature readers only" - because that's the level the writers and artists are aiming for and that's not really very healthy, is it?
The violence in TWD
, for instance, is fine because there's a reason for it and Robert never uses it excessively - when it does happen, it's brutal - but it's there to shake the reader out of his/her complacency and to show them that the world the characters are living in is truly horrific.
I've always been a fan of more subtle horror - I must admit - films like The Haunting, The Innocence, Alien
[apart from the chest burster!], and even The Thing
[it's a damn fine horror film without the effects - though they do work within the story] - and if I can, I'll put the violence off camera - it's much more scary what you're imagination can come up with than what you can actually depict, as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Don't get me wrong - I'm not a prude - I'm actually against censorship of most kinds, but sometimes this industry of ours [and we're not the only ones] should wake up to the fact that sometimes we're made an easy target because of the types of books out there. A lot of these "mature" titles are so puerile - is it a wonder that critics attack so easily? Sex, violence, and swearing is fine - just so long as it's in the right context, and I'm comfortable with that - even at the most extreme end - so long as there's a reason. There's nothing worse than a comic having extreme material because it's just "cool" and frankly I'm not interested in the fan that reads it.THE PULSE: Sorry, no I mean "disturbed" like "oh this is really freaky stuff or scary shit" and it crawls in your brain and disturbs or upsets you just a little .... maybe when it's all dark and you're alone ....
Oh - I see what you mean! Again - not really. I seem to have an "off" switch when I'm drawing ... I've drawn some fairly extreme stuff over the last 12 years and it's never affected me. I've drawn the two things which I thought would affect me and that's the killing of children and animals - but ... no, I was fine. I think by the pure act of drawing something, it's making it abstract, therefore it's obviously not the real thing and you become automatically desensitised to it.
I think perhaps the closest I came was a project with Joe Casey
that never got off the ground ... If we had done it, that might've been a fairly disturbing piece for me. Shame it never happened because it would've been interesting to have pushed the envelope that far ...THE PULSE: When you know you're working on a black and white series how does that affect the way you prep or create the art?
It doesn't really affect anything - I almost ALWAYS think in B&W even when colouring stuff myself - the colouring can still work over a heavily rendered piece, it's just got to be a touch more subtle. Look at [Mike] Mignola
- I don't really think he thinks about leaving stuff out because there'll be colour on after - but his stuff is gorgeous when the colour is applied too ... it just needs the right approach.
Now - having said all that - TWD
isn't exactly a B&W series - it's toned, by Cliff Rathburn
, so I don't have to fill in all the white space if I don't have to. Grey tones might as well be colour in a lot of ways ...Warlock
is really my first experiment with leaving stuff out for the colourist - so it'll be interesting to see how it all comes together.Savage
was interesting because from the onset I knew it was going to be a B&W strip - so I didn't want pages looking as though they needed colour. Each page, to my mind, has to work as a whole - and that was the challenge, especially with Savage
, to do something where colour isn't going to get you out of a potential hole - everything had to work as B&W - and it was harder than I thought.THE PULSE: What sets The Walking Dead apart from other zombie comics?
The fact that it's not really a zombie comic!
Well - Ok , the world has succumbed to a zombie plague and the characters are continuously having to defend themselves against the undead hordes ... BUT, it's not really about that. The main theme of the comic is how this disparate group of people, thrown together by necessity, survive this new apocalyptical world and, more importantly, themselves.
It's much more a drama with horrific moments than a straight down the line horror adventure ... which is what attracted me to the project in the first place. If it'd been just another gore-filled zombie horror affair - I really wouldn't have been interested. But when Robert described the premise - it piqued my interest enough to say "yes" to giving a go - now six issues in - I think what he's written is fantastic, so I've decided to stay on. THE PULSE: It doesn't seem humanly possible, but I know you've got some other stuff on your schedule along with the monthlies, so tell us a little about the other projects you're working on.
Well - I've already mentioned Savage
and Rock Bottom
for AiT/Planet Lar
- both of those won't see the light of day until next year [Rock Bottom
- might be even the year after] - because I'm just slightly busy at the moment! I think, though, Savage
will be done early next year, and Rock Bottom
when I have the chance. It's frustrating, especially with RB
, because I'd like to get them done and out there sooner - but even I'm not that fast - and I do want to take my time on RB
especially because I think it's going to be something special, so you'll just have to wait!
Aside from that - as if that wasn't enough[!] - I've always got various irons in the fire with other writers and editors. In this fickle industry, it pays to always be one step ahead of the game because it can always come crashing down on you - I might be really busy now ... but next year might be a different story. The older I get, the more I've learnt to be pessimistic about these sort of things - that way I'm never disappointed!
to read the first part of this interview about Charlie's work on Warlock
and the things that keeps him wanting to make comics.