My Interview With David Lloyd
It has been my pleasure to talk to David Lloyd about his varied and interesting career. I found all of answers to be incredibly thorough. They were all full of detail and never dull. The artist of V for Vendetta certainly deserves our attention. Yet he is so much more than just an artist now.
Paul: Thank you for your time David. Can I just start by asking what were the first comics you recall reading and enjoying? Or perhaps the first comics you bought for yourself?
David: There's a problem that arises when I get questions like this at times. Does “comics” include newspaper strips? Beloved strips in anthology comics? Or is the interest being shown in the question just in the accepted “comic” form as seen in the US context?
David: Unless the borders of interest are limited to such ' comics ' I can say I enjoyed the Garth strip in the Daily Mirror and Andy Capp when I was a kid, even though I don't know quite where the entire area of the ' kid ' is that I can cover accurately enough. I guess from 8 to12 re comics as the ' thing ', I probably saw some Batman issues and a few Superman, but I never got hooked on them despite their exotic flavour - I was actually more excited by the Batman film serial. I was enjoying Mad magazine and doing tracings of George Woodbridge and Jack Davis. And enjoying the Brit anthologies of US horror and fantasy stories, Mystic and Spellbound. I did get a comic regularly as part of our usual newspaper home deliveries but it was The Victor, which I hated, because it was war and sport mostly, no fantasy stuff to stir the imagination away from boring reality. I guess I could have asked for another comic, but I think I knew the cheaper ones were those they could afford, and I think I was getting enough of a buzz from movies and tv to not worry about getting more of that from comics. ' Boys World ' in ' 63 changed all that later with the strip that most inspired me to do strips myself - Wrath of the Gods, drawn by Ron Embleton. Around that time I bought the first amazing Amazing Adult Fantasy, which featured the second most important influence on my work - Steve Ditko. So, that covers the ' kid ' area, I think, in the accepted use of the term!
Paul: That is a fabulous answer. Thank you. You’ve been incredibly thorough….Were you interested in becoming an artist before being exposed to comics? Or did comics specifically determine you career choice?
David: Yes. I was an artist bound to do that as a job, too, I guess, because it was the thing I did best, and, if we're lucky, we all end up doing as a job the thing we do best. I might have become something else if fate had taken another turn and my other strengths had been developed, but they weren't. But I wasn't driven to any particular form of art before I was inspired by Wrath of the Gods, and even then it was an unconscious nudge to a possible future not a determined path. I did know way back in primary school that I exactly wanted to be a Commercial Artist of some kind due to a ' careers info ' section on a childrens' tv programme. In this section, a bunch of possible career choices that a child could aim for was depicted by actors being shown in that profession : e.g. a deep sea diver was shown in his suit, etc. For ' commercial artist ' they showed a guy sitting on a high stool at a drawing board with an angle poise lamp attached to it. Seemed very cool to me, and a good and easy way to earn a living that I figured I could do without too much trouble. It proved so : ) Comics art only became my preferred career after I realized it had a hold on me as my true love and it was clearly the thing in art that I did best, had a total flair for, and most enjoyed doing. I pursued it from then on, with bumps along the way.
Paul: Can you recall your very first published work and how it came about?
David: You're in need of adequate qualification here, as you were in that question about ' comics '. Published in what? Fanzine? Professional established comic?
Paul: I meant essentially paid professional strip work.
David: First, fyi, my very first published work, and all following for some years, is in a bibliography section on lforlloyd.com! It was a strip in The Magician - one of those tv show annuals that UK readers know about but those abroad are completely unaware of - from the tv show with Bill Bixby about a stage magician who fights crime on the side. Not a good tv show, really, and the strip I did for it wasn't good, either. No rabbit out of a hat. I was totally unaware of having first-job nerves when I did it, but it must have been something like that that made the work so dead and lacking in essential energy. It was weird, because I was very pleased with the trial sketches I did of the character and which got me the job. The work was bought and paid for, but the editor knew, as I knew, that it was a work of failed potential. But he was a great guy that editor, name of John Barraclough, and I sent him more samples afterwards which led to him he eventually giving me another chance - an occasion I rose to - with the Logan's Run annual. Did all the strips and illos in that, and I'm pleased to say the work in that still stands up now. It began my career as a full-time comic artist, because it helped show what I was capable of on a professional level.
David: The date of Magician was 1975, the date of Logan was 1977. And I got the Magician by just constantly sending in samples to anyone publishing comics over a period of 4 years before it, when I was working at different part-time jobs.
Paul: Can I ask did you know Alan Moor personally before you began work for V For Vendetta?
David: Yes, we ' met ' on Dr Who work. He'd been commissioned to write some scripts and his first story was Black Legacy, which I was the assigned artist on. I'd had the habit of phoning Steve Moore on his scripts, with suggestions or questions, and I did similarly with Alan, discovering that we'd both been contributors to the same fanzine before finding paid work. He'd written pieces for it and I'd done illustrations for it. We met in person after that lots of times via the various comics events all our contemporaries met and drank at. We got on well, were on the same wavelength creatively, and were influenced by many of the same things, which I guess is why we ended up doing good stuff as a team.
Paul: So moving onto V for Vendetta did you have much input into the general plot or storyline, or did you just influence the themes of the book?
David: Oh, great... now the long, long answer... : )
Paul: Sorry, but it has to be asked.
David: Well, boring though it is to begin with, I firstly have to direct everyone reading this to an article in the back of many differing editions of the V graphic novel - in English and other languages - which accurately covers how the series began and the influences leading to it.
David: Beyond that, the working situation between myself and Alan became this : from the beginning, Alan would write a synopsis of the planned Book of V we'd be working on ( as you know, V is divided into ' books ' ) and then he'd send it to me. We'd talk about any of that needing talking about generally, and then talk about anything I thought might make it better, and change that or not. This was never a combative situation, just me doing what anyone who collaborates with a creative partner has to always do, not only as the creative partner, but also as the first barrier to the reader that the partner encounters.
David: After a ' book ' was happily agreed on - which was most of the time - Alan would send the script of its first chapter. Then I'd do the same as I did on the book, except any suggestion of changes would usually be to add panels and similar, because on scripts we'd be in the ' comic art visualization and pacing ' territory, that always needs more of the comic artists' storytelling eye. Occasionally it would become more, but not often.
David: It's important to note here that most of V was done at just 6-8 pages a month, with an easy work-pace that allowed for thoughtfulness in creativity, time for experimentation, and time for an organic growth in the development of the story, which was in large part made up as we went along. The last 3 issues of the DC series was done to a much more restricted work-schedule, with all issues written ahead in one chunk, without the room for collaborative discussion we'd had before, because Alan was much busier than he had been in the early V days, and the DC publication schedule had no wriggle room for the slow development that had marked it then. I had no input into that last part of V as I had in the first, but it all worked out okay, and it's no surprise Alan wrapped it up into the great thing we all know it turned out to be : )
Paul :Can I ask about the Horrorist with Jamie Delano. It is an unappreciated gem in your career. Do you have fond memories of the project?
David: Yes, but fond memories are not what creating comics are all about for me - it's about whether they're successful or not, creatively and commercially! We did our best in the promotion of it, suggesting DC fund a tour of comic stores in the UK, which we did, so you can see how much we believed in it. You may be right about it being underappreciated, but there is so much product pushed out in this industry that many things are that deserve more! It's the nature of the business. I know some people love it, and I certainly enjoyed doing it, though in hindsight I felt I made a creative mistake with it in not using solid blacks in it to weigh it darker. I wanted the colour alone to do the job of portraying the varying atmospheres, places and moods, which was an approach that worked, but it left the art unsecured to a consistent anchor, if you can understand what I mean.
David: Anyway, that's just my artists viewpoint on it, which may have had no effect on its appeal or otherwise! There's another noteworthy thing to say about it that may not be widely-known - though there's no reason it should be - and that's that it was done via the ' Marvel method '. I won't describe what that is fully here, except it basically entails the writer breaking down the action page-by-page and then the artist setting the panels, and then the writer coming back with the final script on it. Jamie's the only writer I've worked with using that method ; in fact almost every job we've worked on together was done in that way. Its value is that it gives the artist greater freedom in the pacing and visual flow of the action.
David: That's how we did the Horrorist - underappreciated or not. It's a fabulous piece of writing from Jamie - uncompromisingly political and tough, as most of Jamie's stuff usually is, with that ghost of the third world coming to punish us for all the wrongs we've done to it. I hope it has been more appreciated than you think, but if it really isn't, then that's what sadly often happens when you don't just do the usual stuff in a business largely dedicated to the usual stuff.
Paul: Oh, for the record I adore it....... I feel I must ask. You worked upon James Bond. Was that a character you enjoyed?
David: Yes- Bond! Big fan of Bond as Connery. Thought there only 3 good ones, but I relented on Thunderball, after a while, so now there's 4. None of the rest - none - are the real McCoy, or any good for me. The opportunity to do a strip in the Dark Horse collection for their Bond license line was attractive in light of that, but, for reasons I can't recall at the time, I didn't want to take the length of time it would take to do an adventure of two full books for it, so I asked one of the great artist colleagues I knew at the time - David Jackson - to come help with it if he was interested.
David: The grand plan was for me to do layouts to enable the action narrative of it all, then leave the b/w art to David, and then come back with the colour work, which, at that time, was only possible using a system approximating to blueline ( you can clue your readers in to what that usually entails ). I was happy the way it eventually worked out in the practice of producing it, but, as in so many situations where the reproduction facilities are relied on to make the most of an artistic endeavor, it failed to give the best results. It was a good attempt at doing something good, though, and that's the most I can say about it.
Paul: May I please ask about your work on ESPERS. It is what I may humbly describe as a great comic classic that ought to be rediscovered. Can you say anything about your experiences upon that project. I genuinely liked Espers and have the book proudly on my bookshelf
David: Espers was another bad reproduction experience, but that's no way to start a story on it!
David: Jim Hudnall called me in the hiatus between V ending in Warrior and resuming at DC. He wanted to do a story about ordinary super-heroes - not dressed in Lycra - who were going to form a kind of Magnificent Seven to fight a special cause. He was a big fan of strong manga action stuff like Crying Freeman, way before manga hit big in the West, and he sent me copies of some of it with translated balloons. His idea was one that Eclipse, his employer at the time, didn't want to finance wholly. So, committed as he was to wanting his story made real, he paid for a lot of the production himself. I helped him facilitate a color repro system here in the UK via my colleague in the biz, John Freeman, who was working for a printing company at the time and enabled a ' blueline ' system for us that we could use. Again, this was the non-computer-color world we were living in...
David: Dondie Cox was the colorist, and a great one, but the printing always let us down, with weakened colors on least choice paper, so I ended up fiddling with some of the colors after Dondie did them but to no real avail. Anyway, it was a great story that I enjoyed doing. Jim was, and is, one of the least-appreciated writers in comics, who was cursed too much I feel by following his own path and his own strong views, always wanting to do what he thought was good and not toe the the line for the sake of a quiet life. He wrote a great book on how to get the best out writing for comics for anyone who thought they already knew!
David: Two side notes: my Dad first voiced to me the Magnificent Seven comparison I mentioned earlier, though of course it was evident. The reason it was valuable to me when said by him is because it was the first thing he'd seen of mine that resonated with him. He was a western fan and someone who didn't connect with the generality of general comics content as we all know it to generally be. His endorsement and implicit approval was thus a very good thing, even though I was way past the age where such a thing should have meant so much for me to need to hear...... And secondly, in a comics world where the word 'adult ' in a sensible form of realistic representation was becoming accepted amongst the readership of comics in a realistically ' mature ' manner, I figured a back-view shot of the lovely Maria Rivas stretched out on her bed, naked and reading, would be ok. But no. Jim had to break the news to me that he'd been asked to ask me to put underwear on her, and, for the sake of all the usual repressive, repressed, suppressed and scared of those who were in charge of the suffocated world of US mainstream comics at the time, I did.
Paul: Would it be fair to say you have stepped away from the drawing table a little towards being an editor and even a mentor for some with Aces Weekly?
David: Yes, not drawing anything anymore except for the quick sketches I do at events that are free bonuses for anyone buying samplers of what you've just mentioned, Aces Weekly. For anyone still unfamiliar with it, is the fabulous, exclusively online comics art magazine I publish and edit. Massive anthologies, published every nine weeks, delivered in seven weekly parts, and featuring top talent from around the globe! And all for a subscription of just £1 per week!
David: I don't mentor anyone with it, just give space to those who want to tell the stories they want to tell with as much freedom as we can give them in the most convenient, easiest to maintain, and easiest to deliver space for comics storytelling that the 21st Century can give us. All the info you need to read on Aces Weekly is at www.acesweekly.co.uk. And if you're smart you'll become a subscriber!
Paul: So my final question is simple: What does the future hold for David Lloyd? What are your ambitions at this stage of your career?
David: The immediate future is just running Aces Weekly with the usual but difficult aim of finding the answer to raise its subscriber levels to what they deserve to be. All the time I see great creators, old and new, desperately looking to make their way on the taxing toll-roads of paper and print in an increasingly more expensive and difficult journey when they'd have no need to in a saner world. To me the situation resembles the tyranny of the automobile. As everyone knows, the world will be better if it's less dependent on them - for the sake of the economy, and their own health, and the planet's health, it will be better, but this won't happen when most people are hooked on them. They've grown up with them, and expect to have them, and feel they must have them in the way they have always had them. Doesn't matter that the world, the society, and its future will benefit without so many of them. And so it goes...
Of other clear ambitions I have none, other than those any other abandoned and lost dog always desires to achieve as it looks for scraps in a world it finds hostile to it : )
Paul: That’s a great final answer. Thank you for you time David.