BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Liam Sharp newly exclusive to DC Comics, is working on one of WildStorm's biggest releases, the adaptation of the critically-acclaimed gaming epic Gears of War. Sharp's working with writer Joshua Ortega, who scripted the sequel to the popular game. Even though Sharp hadn't played Gears of War before getting this opportunity, it didn't take him long to see why this award-winning game was turning so many heads and had sold millions of copies. Sharp spilled some details on the first six issues and mentioned he's also working on a Batman story as well ....

THE PULSE: Congratulations on your DC Comics Exclusive! What was it like to get this offer from the publisher?

LIAM SHARP:
Well I've been mainly with DC for a long time now, since The Possessed in 2003, and then I had two and a half years on Testament, Lord Havok after that, so it seems kind of a natural progression. Good to feel wanted! LOL!


THE PULSE: What made you want to be exclusive to any one place right now?

SHARP:
The thing you hear ALL the time in the UK is how tough it is with the exchange rate, which halves the dollar our end. Being a UK artist working for the US is pretty hairy right now, and with the business more competitive than I've ever known it - meaning even seriously great artists can find themselves without work for literally months at a time - anything that offers a little security is to be welcomed. But as much as anything else, it has symbolic worth - it's good for the spirit to feel that a company would want to secure your services for a time, and not want anybody else to have you. It lays a few demons to rest, and all artists have their insecurities!


THE PULSE: I know a lot of our readers appreciate the projects you released through MamTor, does the exclusive prohibit you from working on your original works?

SHARP:
I can't draw or write anything comic related for other companies, but we continue to publish, and we're putting out my first novel very soon - well, it's really a novella and a bunch of related stories either set in the same world or thematically relevant - called "God Killers". It's quite possibly the most exciting thing for me ever, as I've written all my life but never had the chance to really show what I can do there. I'll have a limited amount of preview copies at the Birmingham con in October. James Johnson's Erth Chronicles (PULSE readers can learn more about it here: www.erthchronicles.com) book one, The Enemy's Son is going to it's second edition now, and has been getting great reviews. More and more we're becoming a regular publisher, but the comics are still a big part of Mam Tor, and we're continuing to produce the Time Out comic with Mother Advertising. We never know what we're going to be doing next really, until we see it...

THE PULSE: What is Gears of War -- I mean most people know it's a video game, but what's the story behind it?

SHARP:
It's I think the second biggest game ever, selling five million copies and winning a ton of awards. I recently heard it described on the Millarworld forums as "a cross between Starship Troupers and Hellraiser" - and that's a pretty good way of putting it. The world, Sera, has been invaded by killing hoards that come up through the ground called Locusts, of which there are various types. Unable to defeat them, the humans blow up their own cities, leaving behind this ravaged land. The main guy, Markus Fenix, is a disgraced soldier, and the story is how he gets the chance to redeem himself by taking out, ultimately, the Locust underground lair. The monsters are great, and the soldiers, to use that wonderful US term, are seriously badass. But what's most spectacular is the environments. Sera was a beautiful world full of amazing architecture before it was destroyed.


THE PULSE: Why do you think this is a video game that's going to translate well to comic books? It's tough to catch the action of fighting and war type games in sequential art ... what makes this a good fit?

SHARP:
It works fantastically well. To me it's like the classic 2000ad strip Rogue Trouper, but it also fits my style really well - it looks a lot like I designed it myself; gritty, dirty and detailed. I think of it as a barbarian strip with guns, and I've long been one of the go-to guys for monsters! In the comic we link the original Gears one classic to the upcoming Gears two. The game is so furious there's no time to really get into the story, so the comic offers a unique perspective on that world, where we see inside their heads - sometimes literally, but that's not what I meant! - and get to know the characters on a more personal level, as well as introduce some new ones.


THE PULSE: How familiar were you with the Gears of War franchise before getting the chance to bring this world to life at WildStorm?

SHARP:
Other than that intense "mad world" ad, I knew nothing. I'm not a game player, I didn't even have a consol before now! But the more I researched it, after Ben Abernathy from Wildstorm ran it past me - and I'd also talked to Joshua Ortega a year earlier about doing a short - I realized what a good fit it would be. It was your classic no-brainer in the end. I'd have been nuts not to give it a shot!


THE PULSE: If you hadn't been into the game before, but got to play it and learn about the GoW universe, what were some of the things about that franchise that surprised you the most?

SHARP:
I think it was the level of detail, the sophistication of the architecture, the "old Europe" vibe, which stunned me the most. But I like the monsters too!


THE PULSE: How is your art here going to be akin to what players of the game expect? Is your style reminiscent of the game or more in line with modern comics? How did you decide the proper way to illustrate this series?

SHARP:
The guys at Epic who produce the game are detail nuts, and they love heavy shadow-play too. A modern linear style wouldn't work. Much like the game itself which looks to Europe, so too does my art. But the last few years has seen me really find my feet stylistically. I've got something I can call my own - it's only taken me 20 bloody years! Sure, you can see all the influences, but it's much more cohesive. I've not really looked at other work when doing this job, it's all been based on the Gears ref I have. I've got to say, though, it's AMAZED me how much fun I've had doing it. I've never really been into hardware, so I was scared stupid at the outset that I wouldn't be able to do it. But, y'know - I like a challenge!


THE PULSE: For fans of the game, you're illustrating a pivotal story -- what happened between when the first game ended and the second game begins. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced working on this initial six-part arc?

SHARP:
Ah, you see, that would be telling! But in truth I don't know the whole story yet, I'm still in the early stages of it. I also don't know what's coming in the new game, so I'm entirely in the hands of the writer there, Joshua, who also wrote the new game. I'm trying to be pretty clear, almost old-school, with the storytelling - let the detail do the work, and trust in the writer. I'm not doing any flash artsy stuff! But regarding challenges, the hardest thing is working with a product so fully realized and heavily detailed - all the hardware, vehicles, guns and so on. But that also is the thing that makes it great in my eyes.

THE PULSE: Since this is based on a very popular property, are there a few more eyes on the materials before it's published? Is there a different approval process for the art in this, than usual comic works?

SHARP:
Of course that's bound to be the case. Ben Abernathy is my first port of call, then the epic guys get to look it over. That could be a very frustrating scenario because if you stood a bunch of guys around ANY comic and asked them to go through it page by page you'd have a stack of notes at the end, but it wouldn't necessarily mean it was a bad comic! Thankfully the few notes that have come back have been about tiny details, or my not getting a gun quite right, or the nostrils on the Locust swarm - tiny stuff that's really just about matching up the products. Mostly they've been really enthused, so the notes have been as much, if not more, positive commentary. I've done books that weren't licensed that had far more frustrating editorial input in the past. But regardless, I was prepared for that setting out. You have to be magnanimous, it's their baby after all!


THE PULSE: How does working on this part of the game give you a greater appreciation for what's being done in the actual video game itself?

SHARP:
What's great is when I draw one of the vehicles or guns I don't have to make it up. It's been designed to death, really worked on by teams of people. In a comic you might have a couple of hours only to come up with a vehicle or gun that will remain in the story however many issues or panels, so there's no way it's going to have had that attention. It lends a solidity to the work it wouldn't otherwise have I think. So yes, it's the effort that goes into the design that you really begin to appreciate. Gears of War is micro-detailed!



THE PULSE: How do you think this comic is going to appeal to comic fans who might not have heard of the game?

SHARP:
Absolutely. Why shouldn't it? There's great characters, great monsters, amazing detailed environments. Joshua has written a solid buddy/war movie kind of script that's really kinetic. There's a road movie here too, and as I said earlier, it's like a barbarian book, AND a western. There's a lot on offer I think.


THE PULSE: How many issues do you plan on working on this series? Is it one you'd like to be on for the long haul or are there other characters at DC that you'd like to get a chance to illustrate?

SHARP:
I'm on the first six issue run. Right now I can see myself coming back for more, because the series is ongoing. We'll see what happens! But I have got a Batman story with Marc Andreyko that I REALLY want to do too. I've drawn a bunch of pages for it, pencils through to colours, and would love to see that get off the ground...


THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?

SHARP:
We've got four novels in the pipeline, two more Time Out comics. We're going to be doing the Chris Weston artbook when he can find the time to compile it, and I'd like to put a new artbook together too as we sold out of my first one. Things have never been so busy or exciting really!




The first part of Gears of War should be in stores this October from WildStorm. You can learn more about Liam Sharp at his official website here:
http://www.mamtor.com