Ian Stopforth Stops Traffic With His Art!!

Ian Stopforth Stops Traffic With His Art!!

Ian Stopforth is a refreshing breathe of fresh air for the UK comic industry. He has provided a great deal of his obvious artistic talent to several issues of the incredible comic The '77. I recently took the opportunity to ask him about his career as an artist so far..... BUT as a student of comics I have a sneaky feeling that the very best is yet to come from this incredible creator. Ian was also kind enough to mention that his favourite movie is The Empire Strikes Back. So, quite clearly Ian is a man of exceptional wisdom in addition to being a truly sublimely gifted artist.

Paul: Can you describe how you first discovered comics? What may have been the first comics that you enjoyed? How old might you have been and where were they from please?

Ian: Well I’ve always been interested in how people make art really. Since I was a small child I was always captivated by that other worldly aspect of image making, and like most kids who latched on to make believe, art for me was a part of that. I first became truly hooked on comics when I was 11. My friends elder brother had some 2000ADs lying around. I picked them up and it was Judge Dredd that captured my imagination. It was a chance encounter really, I just saw them and I wanted what he had! I discovered Dredd in the summer holidays of 1985, shortly after I started senior school and again, by chance, came into contact with kids who held the same fascination and we basically became life long friends as a result.

Paul: Would you describe yourself as a cover artist or a comic strip artist? Which label, if you had to pick one do you feel more comfortable with? I'd personally describe you as the UK's excellent answer to Alex Ross perhaps, but that is only my opinion.

Ian: Well firstly, thank you for your kind words! I’m a huge fan of Alex Ross and I wish I could agree with you on that assessment. Regarding how I see myself as either a cover artist or a comic strip artist, that’s a great question! I think that’s a head vs heart thing for me at the moment, insofar as I find covers easier to do, by and large.

Ian: I think covers can easily tap into that sense of drama or theatricality. However I find the “project” aspect to strip work and the sense of storytelling within a collaborative process, much more rewarding and more akin to an artistic statement. However I feel I’m less of a natural storyteller and find comic art more difficult. So weighing up all of that, if push comes to shove, I have to say I’m more naturally a cover artist. But my aspiration is to develop and learn as a comic strip artist.

Paul: The collaborative process between a writer and an artist is always unique. Some writer's scripts are concise and to the point and leave the artist to their own imagination. I am told this is the case with John Wagner. The other extreme might be Alan Moore whose scripts were famously incredibly incredibly detailed. In your experience what works best for you?

Well I do like information when receiving a script. I’d rather be asking to take information away rather than asking for more context. That said, I wouldn’t ever want to feel bombarded, so I’d lean slightly more to the Moore model, however this may be down to my relative inexperience with sequential art.

Ian: Aside from one occasion, I always provide quite detailed pencil drafts and I ask for the writer to tear the drafts to bits as I want to get things resolved and serve the writer’s vision as much as I can. There is definitely a collaborative process though, so I invariably I make the odd proposal, typically about the way of telling the story visually. I’ve always had a good rapport with writers so I’ve never had any disagreements. I like to come at all the scripts I get as a grown up, so I ask for honesty, especially in draft form as that’s where I can really try to gain improvement from any feedback given to me. It’s all about the story and communicating, so my artwork must serve that objective.

Paul: You mentioned storytelling as being a skill for a comic strip artist. Could I please ask who might be your favorite comics artist? I mean specifically an artist and their ability to tell a story?

Ian: Well for solely for specific strip work, if I had to pick 1 artist, it would have to be Brian Bolland for me. It’s very difficult to whittle it down to one artist and there is a list of others that inspire me from a stylistic standpoint, but with Bolland, I’m left in no doubt as to what it is he’s trying to convey. He’s a genius. He’s so skilful and meticulous and there’s never a line out of place. And he’s such a nice guy, I’ve met him once.

Paul: Could I ask please how you discovered The'77 ?

Well, I was aware of The 77, but basically didn’t have the guts to put in a portfolio submission. But I had a lot of help, initially from non other than Steve McManus, who was very kind about a Dredd sketch I posted, so I plucked up the courage and asked him for some feedback. He was so helpful and extremely generous with his time. He gave me a fantastic one page strip, which I obviously threw myself into, I mean I’d just received a script from Tharg! So I was pinching myself, and I was a tad overwhelmed I must say, but Steve was such a nice guy.


 Ian: So I submitted the page and after some feedback, he suggested we should aim to get it published and he told me he was going to speak to Ben Cullis at The 77. I was thinking, that would be it. But when I saw the open invitation for submissions I made contact with Ben and he suggested I sent in a portfolio. I was expecting to receive some feedback and get told to try again in a few months, but within a couple of hours I had a reply asking me how long would it take me to do a page. Within the space if a day or so, I was speaking to Paul Goodenough. I’ve been really lucky working with The 77, they’re extremely supportive and have really invested themselves in my learning and development.

Paul: Could I ask if you would describe yourself as a fast artist? For example how long would you say a cover image might take you? 

Well I would say I’m a fast artist! At least when things are working for me! I reckon if I’m “on form” I can get the general gist of a cover down within 90 minutes and I try to keep a spontaneity and looseness to my work. I am a bit of a gambler and I take a very experimental approach to what I do, I enjoy the element of risk when making images. I would say I’m fast in one regard, as I tend to work quickly once I’m warm, but I’m also slow as I don’t get the hours to work as a full time artist, as I have a day job.

Paul: In researching our interview I came across this excellent image. I am curious how it came to be. Can you tell the story behind this terrific portrait of Tom Baker's Doctor?

Ian: Well it was a private commission, I was asked to choose between 2 other characters and surprise the person. It was a joy to paint, it took me about 3 hours, I really got into it

Paul: Given your choice of Tom Baker I am cuious if you are Doctor WHo fan in general. Would that be true? Do you have a favourite Doctor? Would working on the Doctor Who comics appeal to you?

Ian: Well I’m not sure especially if I am a Dr Who Fan although I must stress I’ve always wanted to watch it! I’ve just never got around to it. I tend not to watch much telly at all! In fact I’d now need help from my kids putting the TV on! I tend to get into whatever my wife and kids watch if it grabs my attention, I think that’s why I’ve never really gravitated toward Dr Who. I was however big on Dr Who when I was a kid, and I am talking about 6 or 7. I was gutted when he regenerated into Peter Davison. So to contradict myself a little, Tom Baker is my Dr Who. I also thought Christopher Eccleston was great too, as he was a kind of “no frills” Dr in terms of appearance. He is such a good actor.

Paul: Has the advent of digital comics altered your reading habits? Do you enjoy reading on a tablet or a laptop or do you prefer the traditonal paper options?

Oh I’m very physical with regards to reading, I love the tactile quality of anything that’s in print. I’m not one for tablets. I like the comic as an object. In fact one of the few things my wife and I would ever disagree on is my acquiring more and more books and comics. I could quite happily turn my home into a library. My wife has a kindle- I don’t.

Paul: Part of a comic artist's job is attending comic conventions and meeting fans. Have you been to many, and were they fun? 

I love them. I’m relatively new to that part of the role But they are real highlights for me. It’s great to meet creators and fans face to face. I’ve been to about half a dozen. I’ve met some amazing people, creators and fans alike. I’m at Lawless this year and LICAF so I’m really looking forward to them.

Paul: Have you found yourself in "awe" yet meeting any creators you admire? Also do you have any fun convention stories you're allowed to share?

Oh I’ve found myself in awe plenty of times. My first convention was Thought Bubble 2021. I was there with Paul Goodenough and he was a star, he went around and introduced me to some stellar people, including David Mack, who is one of my favourite artists, I was in complete awe on that occasion. But he was such a nice guy and was very kind about my work, as was Ram V and Zu Orzu, who’s work I have a real appreciation for as a result of discovering them.

NOTE: Above is Ian and celebrated comic writer Ram V 

At Lawless last year, Steve Bull introduced me to Brian Bolland and effectively represented me by showing him my work. He was a very nice man and took time to speak to me. Bolland is an artist I’ve admired since I was a child and it was a bucket list moment meeting him and having him actually look at my work. I was extremely nervous and had Steve not been there, I doubt I’d have had the guts to speak to😂. I’ve also met Mick McMahon twice and John Wagner and John Higgins both briefly.

 Note: Ian with writer Paul Goodenough and letterer Filippo Roncone. Plus Ian shaing his potfolio with Brian Bolland

I did have a great experience with my youngest son, Tom, who accompanied me to a London Comicon back in Feb 22. Tom is a keen artist and much more gifted than me, and it was a thrill for us both to be drawing together on Shifts table. We were very grateful that Adrian at Shift gave us the opportunity.

Paul: What does the future hold for Ian Stopforth? What might you be illustrating in perhaps five years time? Are there ambitions to illustrate any specific title or characters for Marvel or DC for example? 

Well, that’s an interesting one. I must say that it is a real pleasure working with The77 and Shift. It taps into that joy I had when I first discovered comics as a kid and all involved are so passionate about what they do it’s impossible not to be swept along with it. It’s given me such a positive view of the comics industry that my first objective is to stay in that creative environment. With regards to any long term plan, I would obviously be open to anything that really challenges me. I’m currently working on a story with Paul Goodenough which is really pushing me into new visual territory, so I’m always pursuing that creative buzz.


 Ian: My heart very much rules my head in that regard as I simply look for what excites me. It’s difficult to divorce any realistic ambitions from my dreams, so the opportunities I’d daydream about may not be the opportunities I’d ever get! Dredd is an obvious dream gig, and especially Judge Anderson, but rather illustrated through a more sensitive lens depicting of her humanity and world weary state of being, such as the way in which Arthur Ranson depicted her. Imagine being given a script like Satan! I did paint Batman once for fun and a gothic style incarnation of him would also be a great experience. Back in the real world, I’m just very eager to tackle anything new and thought provoking.

Paul: It may sound daft but there is a fun question I try to ask anyone that likes superhero comics. If there was one superpower, or the abilities of a specific character, what or whose abilities would you chose to enjoy and why?

Paul:: My final question is simple. Is there anything you are working on currently, or that is coming out soon that you would like to shamelessly promote? 

Ian: Ha ha! Oh of course there is! I’m illustrating a fantastic story written by Jo Heeley called The Lodger in This Comic is Haunted. The comic is currently on kickstarter and is on its second issue, so I would love to see that in print, there’s some wonderful creators on board for this publication. Also as a heads up I’m currently working on an Extinction 2040 prequel story with Paul Goodenough for the 77’s second annual. The latter will be out later in the year, but I’m fully immersed in this story and I’m very excited to see this in print. Paul is very inspiring to work with and he’s really delivered the goods on this latest story!

Paul: Ian, I thank you kindly for sparing me so much of your valuable time. It has been a pleasure.

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1 comment

Ian is not only a fantastic artist he is a wonderful person, kind, helpful and extremely funny. He deserves the recognition his talent as an artist is outstanding

Patricia Crimes

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