Comics Anonymous

March 2, 2012, 7:29 am
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , ,

Following on from our Mark Millar and Frank Quitely Q&A, the CA-Gang also managed to get along to the Bryan Hitch Q&A session as part of the Glasgow Film Festival. We caught up with Bryan afterwards to delve a little deeper. Check out some of the highlights from the Q&A and our interview after the jump.

Drawn to the Glasgow Film Festival by the temptation of introducing (but probably more so watching) a new edit of the original Superman film, Bryan Hitch also stopped by the Glasgow CCA to answer some questions from host John McShane. Past experience has taught us that artists are not normally ones for talking themselves up, or going into as much detail as a writer may, but Hitch was definitely on form.  He told us about his new project with Jonathan Ross and stories spanning his entire career.

Introduced by John as “being published by Marvel at 18” (and quickly corrected by Hitch that he was actually 16) it’s clear that Bryan has always had a strong love for comics from a young age. Starting from the around the age of 7, he became a little “obsessive compulsive” about comics.

“I could tell you about every artist who drew every book. My mother used to despise me when I would bring the suitcase full of comics downstairs, because I would make her pick out comics and get her to tell me what the issue was and I could tell her who pencilled it, who coloured it, even who lettered it.”

As DC comics were the only books available from his local newsagent (“I didn’t even know Marvel existed until much later”) it was Superman that Hitch responded too most as a child, specifically the “naturalistic style” of Curt Swan’s artwork at the time. However there came a point where he had to make a decision on who to follow – Superman or God? Briefly flirting with the idea of becoming a Catholic Priest, he instead “counted the days until school was over, and sent samples to the editor of Marvel UK” – and the rest is history, as he said “I’ve quite honestly never been out of work since”.

Hitch went on to discuss in a lot of detail what he describes as “two very different careers”.

“There was the one where it was a head long obsession with ‘must draw comics’, doing it for free. As long as I’m drawing comics it didn’t matter. That lasted up until the late 90’s and I was really dissatisfied, I really didn’t like what I was working on. It was very unsettled, I didn’t like the writing at all and I certainly didn’t like the drawing I was doing. I wasn’t getting the work that I wanted to do. I was certainly getting work and that was nice – I wasn’t ungrateful for that. “

To try and help him move his career out of comics and into the likes of film design or storyboarding he decieded to take on jobs for 6 months to get some money behind him, one of which was “to dig Stormwatch out of a hole in terms of deadlines” which led Hitch to working with Warren Ellis for the first time:

“I got sent the first script, or the first part of a script by Warren Ellis, which was was the first appearance of Apollo and Midnighter in Stormwatch. For a few months I was doing part issues of Stormwatch because they knew the book was dying and Oscar Jimenez, who was drawing it before I came on board, Warren didn’t like his work. He was so late that the book was ridiculously behind. But the scripts from Warren just made great sense, it would fit with the way I wanted to tell stories. I loved what he was doing, I loved the attitude, I loved how he clearly understood the visual needs of the story and also the visual needs of an artist.”

This was really the turning point for Hitch, where he knew he couldn’t leave comics and gained hope that there were were writers out there that could produce exactly what it was he wanted to draw. Obviously Warren and he had a good working relationship, one that Warren wasn’t prepared to give up so quickly:

“I got a call that they wanted me to work on a project they were developing just for me written by Scott Lobdell. I told Warren about this and the very next day Warren rang me at some ungodly hour for Warren (so it was pre-9am) and said <in a very good Warren Ellis voice> ‘I can’t let you do it! You can’t work with bloody Scott Lobdell! I’m going to write you a new fucking book!’ and that was it.”

This of course lead to The Authority, what Hitch describes as the “start of my career as I see it, not the stuff that happened from between I was 16 to 28, it was the stuff that happened after that”. He’s happy to admit that there are probably only three projects he is genuinley proud of working on, The Authority being the first, then The Ultimates with Mark Millar, and the third (in 25 years) his newest project with Jonathan Ross – America’s Got Powers. Talking about the concept of the new book, Hitch is keen for readers to think of it more “like the Colosseum in ancient Rome rather than X-Factor”.

“It centres around the idea that an event 17 years previously, a mysterious event, gifted an entire generation of children in the San Francisco Bay area with superpowers. The government didn’t know what to do with them, and through various circumstances they end up creating this TV show, but as a form of national service. It’s mostly about this one character Tommy whose brother has been killed in the final of the previous year. Tommy is the only child in all of that group who hasn’t ever had any super powers – he’s the only zero in the whole group, in the grading system. It’s really a story of how he finds his way through his own life and out of this almost ghettoised situation, obviously by means of huge city-smashing action set pieces, but none the less if I talk about it as a modern day Spartacus you might get the idea of the heart of the story.”

Both Jonathan and Hitch are understandably keen for the book to do well, adding that although it’s an initial six issue run, they do have a much bigger story to tell, but “we’ll leave it there if that’s what the market seems to suggest that we do”. What’s sure to help is the reports today about the change to the planned double shipping of issues 1 and 2 in April – instead these will be combined into a single massive issue, but for the same price as the originally stated price for issue 1 – thanks guys! They’ve clearly worked hard to get to this point though:

“Jonathan keeps joking that he’s written 180 drafts of the first issue, but I’ve actually drawn it twice. We’ve changed a lot from our initial ideas. I first drew 20 of the first 22 pages of the first issue, and we scrapped the whole thing because it wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do. So we went back to it and got it right and I have to admit it’s one hell of a first issue.  I don’t like throwing away a month-and-a-half’s worth of work, but it was worth it because I would prefer the project was right rather than just out.”

After the Q&A we managed to grab Hitch for a few extra questions – check out the video below to see what else he had to say about working with Jonathan Ross and what he has planned for the future:

Make sure you’ve got your pre-orders in for America’s Got Powers – and remember you can get 10% off when you mention “Comics Anonymous” if you pre-order from Red Hot Comics.

Craig @hastiecraig

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