An Odd but FUN talk with the Legend Mr Glenn Fabry.
Over the space of a few days I had an enlightening chat with the 2000AD Legend Glenn Fabry. During our discussion he went off on the odd tangent but his perspectives were interesting and refreshing. His unique sense of humour made it all the more entertaining.
Paul: Glenn, thank you for your time. Could you possibly describe the first comic you recall reading and enjoying? Was it a childhood memory?
Glenn: The Dandy, with Corky the Cat. He used to come around, hang out, wouldn’t leave ‘til we’d finished reading.
Paul: How old were you? Did you buy them for yourself or was it with pocket money?
Glenn: I was always ill as a child, so I’d end up in hospital and my mum and dad, who were only allowed to visit once a week back then in the 1960s, would bring along some comic books - Dandy, Beano, Whizzer and Chips, Look and Learn, the Eagle were amongst the titles— maybe Whizzer and Chips was 70s, that kind of thing. I’d read them in a day and didn’t have any other comics, so I made my own. Generally cartoony funny animal sorts of things
Paul: Was that what inspired to start creating you own art?
Glenn: At the time, I was 5, it was just cartoons from the newspapers. I didn’t get to see my first issue of Mad magazine until I was 11, same with American comics, they weren’t there. I never copied any drawings when I was little, because kids at primary school would see me drawing, and get all competitive, and bring in their things which were evidently forgeries
Paul: Which artists would you say influenced your style as you grew older?
Glenn: First, it was the guy who invented Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Chuck Jones. I got his autobiography for a birthday present. Then it was Jack Davis from Mad magazine. (American comics were beginning to arrive in the newsagents.) Then Gil Kane, who did superhero work, but the anatomy looked convincing; then a bunch of other American comic book artists including John Buscema. The other artist I loved Gene Colan who drew Howard the Duck, Doctor Strange and Dracula for Marvel—I was always a bigger Marvel fan than a DC fan before I hit sixteen. I did my A levels a year early because I was good at art and English, so got to go to art school a year early.
Glenn: Anyway! I ended up working at the garage in Shepperton high street, making coffee, filling up cars with oil, petroleum and water, making sure the gents toilets were declogged from enormous unpleasant items. I had to pay my way through art school, I was slightly out of the district for a student grant, but because it was down the road from Shepperton Studios, I ended up speaking to loads of famous people. Just to direct them there. Most were shorter or taller than you’d expect. Then Dark They Were and Golden Eyed opened, and I could buy my missing issues from a shop up in London. That’s when I discovered Metal Hurlant, and through that Moebius and Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Druillet. Huge influences. I ended up over influenced by Moebius, but I was only 16, tons of people fell under his spell ….Then Forbidden Planet opened, and you didn’t have to deal with the guy from the Simpsons (who was based on the Dark They Were etc, Matt Groening met him a few times apparently) Forbidden Planet was more about trees.
Paul: How did you first meet Tharg and come to be an "Art Droid" legend (as you were known at the time) for 2000AD?
Glenn: I tried to get a job at 2000 on the basis of being “Working Klass.” Yes, I did Superhero the fan magazine a bunch of us made at art school. They looked at my work and said “Go away, look at some old copies of 2000 AD, and re-work at least 4 pages in the way that you would have done them” which I didn’t. Back in those days, you had to carry your portfolio around with you, big unwieldy, you’d always get stuck on the gates in the tube (up in London). I’d just left art school and my only work apart from the garage. (The most famous customer that I directed to the film studios, as far as I was concerned, was Keith Moon from The Who two weeks before he died.) I was drawing caricatures for the guy who ran Oddbins in the high street. I used to go there and buy Thunderbird regularly, he asked me what I did, I said I was an artist, he said “Could you do a picture of me?” Which I did. He put it behind his till. Before you knew it, everyone who went to Oddbins wanted a caricature or a wedding card cartoon, etc.
Glenn: There was a charity cricket match, sponsored by Oddbins, I drew a picture of Eric Clapton who asked to meet me, so I went along. Frank Bruno and Dennis Waterman (off of Minder, the Sweeney) were also playing cricket badly. So, then I had enough money to taxi it off to Staines to pick up my dole. There was no joy from 2000 AD, but a friend of mine said that PSSST! Magazine had started up and might be interested in young comic book artists, up in London again. I went up there and they weren’t interested either, but I got to meet Brian Talbot. He saw some of my drawings, and fowarded them over to Pat Mills, who for some unknown reason wanted a new artist on Slaine, despite Mick McMahon being too good to believe. (Paul Gravett was the editor of PSSST, I still see him around 👍🏽)
Glenn: So, I did some try-out Slaine sketches. Pat was interested in seeing “a British Moebius “and I was still very Moebius-ish. Originally, because of “Nez-Casse” and Lt Blueberry (drawn by Jean Giraud, who was of course Moebius.) I based Slaine on Michael York, the popular British actor with a broken nose. Pat didn’t like it; he wanted more Jack Nicholson (“Here’s Johnny!”) eyebrow action. I did a couple of drawings like that. Ukko, Slaine’s sidekick, was easy. Anyway, I got the job... So, I go up to the 2000 AD office again, but this time I’m employed. These were the days of the Post Office, xerox copies, office meetings. Even Fax hadn’t been invented. I think I showed up on a skateboard. I was twenty one? Looked about 17. It was difficult for me to buy drinks without identification. No, I was 23 . My first try out piece was a black and white pin-up for a summer special
Paul: Can you describe your experience drawing Slaine? What was Pat Mills like to work with?
Glenn: The Mighty Steve MacManus was the Mighty Tharg. Pat would post me the scripts in big envelopes packed with Xeroxes off of the National Geographic.
Paul: As a fan of 2000AD was Slaine the character you were hoping to work on?
Glenn: Easily my first choice if I was to be allowed to work on any of them. Second choice; Robohunter. Slaine all the way. I used to pick up copies from the newsagents round the corner, once I was in print, and recognised that all of the people buying it were young I thought I’d make him like a pop star. I was a punk, so I made him a punk rock star: Half jack Nicholson, half Billy idol, half me and my stupid faces in the mirror because there was no internet, and I couldn’t add up correctly. My problem was I was just after Mick McMahon, and I still think Sky Chariots is the best ever 2000 AD artwork.
Paul: Can you expand upon what Pat Mills was like to work with as a writer? Were his scripts incredibly detailed and specific?
Glenn: His scripts were detailed, most of them seemed to be an historical lecture. There were lots of particulars. We would talk on the phone on a regular basis, trying to sort things out. Slaine, as you all know, was based on Celtic Irish tales of yore, as in Cu Chulainn. The Land of the Young. The Earth Goddess Danu. Fomorian Sea Demons from Tory Island (he loved that bit.)
Paul: You eventually moved onto work for American publishers as was often the case for many of your generation of artists and writers from 2000AD. We'll get to Preacher in a second, but did you find working for American publishers a dramatically different experience to the UK publishers you dealt with?
Glenn: They didn’t want me. When I showed up at conventions, people would buy me free drinks. My Dad always said, there’s no such thing as a free meal or a free drink, but at conventions? Nothing but! The Americans hoping to find a new Brian Bolland or Dave Gibbons would always see me pissed off my tits; They were there for business, for me, it was a party.
Paul: That is very honest of you Glenn.
Glenn: It’s all true, I have nothing to hide
Paul: Can you explain if the editorial approach was different once you got your foot in the door though, and how that happened?
Glenn: Garth (Ennis) took over writing Constantine/ Hellblazer and didn’t like the cover artist he’d inherited. The interiors were by the wonderful Will “Game of Thrones" Simpson. Garth asked Karen Berger (Vertigo editor in chief) to give me a go. She said, “He’s got one try, if he can’t do it, he’s out of here.” … It was a popular cover, they kept me on for 20 years or so. I’d worked with Garth on a couple of things for Revolver magazine, for Fleetway comics a few months or years before, and we got on well.
Paul: After your success with the Hellblazer covers and with Preacher being creator owned is it safe to assume you were Garth's first choice of artist for the Preacher covers?
Glenn: He’d done some work with Steve Dillon, the first person who I met at 2000 AD who was nice. I’d deliver my artwork, they’d tell me it was shit, leave it on the table and bugger off. So, about the third time this happened, I walked to the nearest bar to drown my sorrows, and Stevie D came over because he recognised me from the office (or Thrill Emporium, or whatever) and we had a few drinks and got on. Will Simpson GOT the same treatment, and Kev “absolute genius" Walker had the same. Steve liked a drink or ten and understood what we were going through……. Anyway, I met Garth and John McCrea was at the pub near the Thrill Emporium and had a couple of drinks and we got on, okay? I thought they were important Americans because of their accents first of all (noisy bar.) We got on pretty well……. The next segment of my autobiography includes: Sex! Murder! Drug addiction! Break dancing!
Paul: Can you share any special memories of the greatly missed Steve Dillon?
Glenn: He came over to the bar after the show with ten Guinness (Guinnuises? Guinnessi? Guinnepods?) on a tray, and we were all cheered Steve! And he said no these are mine.
Paul: I have to ask where was that? And when?
Glenn: London, a couple of decades back at least.
Paul: Was it at a UKCAC?
Glenn: It was one of those Frank Plowright things.
Paul: One of the most recent developments in the comic industry is digital comics. Art is being created digitally these days, and comics are being read via a tablet or a computer? Do you have an opinion or perspective to share at all about new technology within the comics?
Glenn: My good mate Liam Sharp has done well out of it, so hooray! I’m old school, I like paper and print
Paul: But how do you feel about your art being read via tablet etc?
Glenn: I don’t particularly care, personally I’d like to have all my books (back). I’ve made a collection of loads of books over the years but some of them are in an attic in Shepperton, or an attic in Brighton, or a storage unit in Belfast, or a bin outside Ealing.
Paul: But do you like the idea of fans enjoying your art on computers etc?
Glenn: If it’s possible I’m all for it. Stanley Kubrick had a library of all the things he’d ever collected with people to look after them. All my stuff is all over the place. I miss them
Paul: Do you prefer paper books as opposed to digital books?
Glenn: Bob Monkhouse (comics fan, met him) and he had warehouses of things including Pete and Dud that the BBC had destroyed. I don’t have the space, I should have thought harder back in the day
Paul: Was Bob Monkhouse a nice man to meet?
Glenn He was okay. He was more keen on the Beano and Dandy generation than the 2000AD sort
Paul: You don't create your art digitally yet, do you?
Glenn: No, I’m shit on the computer. Karen is helping me out now. Nobody wants black and white comics; she’s getting really good….. Karen Holloway, worked with me on that Garth Ennis cover, the Battle magazine thing, and the 2000AD Future Shock by Mark McCann a couple of years back
Paul: ...and she is she is helping you go digital with your art?
Glenn: Yes, she can go where no Fabry dares to tread.
Paul: I thought you started earlier with digital art with the greatly missed Tony Luke? The Scarab covers for DC immediately spring to mind.
Glenn: I knew Tony via Pat Mills from ages back. He was into computers from an early age, and we got in contact when he was (so he said) in his teens. He wanted to be a film maker—I think he was on Blue Peter back when he was 12 or something. Then Michael Ross??? Tv programme about movies, also BBC one. He called Pat and asked him to give him my number.
Glenn: I broke up with a girlfriend and moved down to Brighton because of the law of surfer’s are cool. I was going to start a studio in Newquay with my mate. It didn’t work out, so we were supposed to go down to Brighton instead, but he didn’t (my mate, not Tony) sell a big painting so I ended up in Brighton on my own. Tony lived in Brighton, we ended up going to The Hungry Years, a goth metal club on the beach front, on a weekly basis (at least). Tony was the goth king of Brighton for a few years I can remember him showing up at one of our parties wearing tiger contact lenses, the complete Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
Paul: I remember The Hungry Years very well.
Glenn: It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to carpet it
Paul: So how did Tony come to start working with you on some of your covers?
Glenn: Via Pat Mills, I moved up to Brighton, we hung out, deadlines were tough, he suggested that computers were the future of comic book art. I said let’s give it a go, and we did.
Paul: Was it an enjoyable collaboration on those covers?
Glenn: Yes, working with Tony was great, he had all this cool stuff. Tony worked on the Neverwhere covers on the computer. At that point he’d done 2 or 3 Dominator movies for cinema and DVD. Dave McKean was going on about saying that he was the first western artist to work for a Japanese market. Tony Luke was there at Kidanshia two years before
Paul: Preacher was a great a success. You won an Eisner award I recall for one of the covers and DC eventually produced an artbook of all your various preacher work. That must have all been very satisfying and rewarding surely?
Glenn: Not that much. I think Steve [Dillon] wanted me to have a couple of quid, Garth wrote half of it. It was an anti-art book art book. I was dissing myself all the way through it. I did look pretty in the photo though.
Paul: The Eisner award must have been nice. Certainly, it must have been a form of recognition?
Glenn: Garth and Mike Mignola phoned me up from America and said I’d won it. I was at home in Brighton. I told Mike Mignola that I loved his work, and that he was the perfect cross between Jack Kirby and Mick McMahon, and he got all huffy. Both of my Eisner awards are off in Brighton somewhere in an attic.
Paul: Do you enjoy conventions, and do you like the level of fame and status you have amongst comic fans?
Glenn: What happened was a lot of my friends died in a row, like dominoes. Then I thought, I’m going to die, let’s have a look if they are offering, I couldn’t afford to fly to other countries, but my stupid cartoon drawings have sent me all over the place
Paul: Do you enjoy sketching for the fans at cons?
Glenn: Sure. If I take on a commission it must be done before I’m off. Gary Pillette, I still have your stuff, keep on bothering me, I’m selfish…. I just think of what’s got to be done today, everything else gets lost. Is that elbow right, etc
Paul: Do you have any experiences from conventions to share?
Glenn: Two, the worst Comicon nightmare was in Ireland when the Throne from the Game of Thrones was 15 feet away. People got to sit on it for photos. Every time they sat; the theme music came on…. Before that, it was the car from Back to the Future, in Canada. Every 15 minutes a man pretending to be Doctor Brown came out dancing about to that theme song by Hughie Louis and the News. Drove me to distraction. Lots of dry ice, ended up warping my drawing paper. That’s the power of love ❤️
Paul: Can I ask about Greatest Hits. Was that a project you enjoyed working on?
Glenn: Not really. The Vertigo people at that time were anglophiles, I think Shelley Bond married Philip Bond, Greatest Hits was about what if the Stones and the Beatles were superheroes. I did an issue or two. Or five. After Preacher I was like a sauce in a pudding. Then they chucked me out in the street, naked, no royalties, nuffing.
Paul: After Preacher you moved on other projects. Can you Talk us through two of them? I'm thinking firstly of Mute.
Glenn: After Preacher the next one was Thor, Vikings written by Garth.
Paul: I remember it well, but I'm particularly intrigued by the story behind Mute.
Glenn: I’d spent four years on Neverwhere. An adaptation by Mike Carey, from a Neil Gaiman novel into comic strip form. Then Duncan Jones, well known film director, is interviewed in SFX magazine. They ask him “what’s your next project?” It was just after Source Code came out. “What do you want to do next?” “I’d like to do a graphic novel “who would be the artist?” He said, “somebody like Glenn Fabry” my computer friend told me this, immediately and I thought “I’m quite like Glenn Fabry!” And tried to get in contact.
Glenn: I had a mate, The Shend, an actor and pop star who lived down the road in Saltdean [Brighton] who tried him, the SFX editor tried, and we finally got in contact. Then we met up in a pub up in London. I’d decided in my head that the last thing I’d do, was to ask him about his father. I thought he must be fed up of it, second question ever, how’s your dad etc. He asked about my father
FACT NOTE: DUNCAN JONES IS THE SON OF THE LATE DAVID BOWIE.
Glenn: My dad worked in the civil service on those don’t talk to funny looking people in parks cartoons. He worked on Green Cross Code Man (Starring Darth Vader. David Prowse of course) …..And my Proudest moment! Clunk click every trip.
Glenn: My dad worked with Jimmy Savile on a massively successful life saving campaign, clunk clip every trip, and with the green cross man, Darth Vader. We weren’t and aren’t rich, unfortunately. Lower middle upper working. My dad is 91 now, for the last 10 years if you said Jimmy Savile (of whom he was most proud) he’d start talking about the cricket scores.
Paul: I recall thinking Mute was never finished. Is that true?
Glenn: It was made into a film by Netflix. I drew 50 or so pages, some of which were influences for some of the scenes. I think Duncan needed something to show to potential backers, I was too strapped to work on it completely. I am poor! Nobody believes me but it’s true. Swimming pool scenes, homosexual robots, pole dancing androids, I’m at least partially responsible for those moments of cinematic history. If I had a DVD of Mute, I’d be able to see if I’m name checked. What I’d hoped for in my very long career, would be some sort of cash back on some of the shit I’ve done. Royalties don’t mean a thing.
Paul: The other title you worked on that was especially impressive, not to mention graphic, was Lot 13. How did that come about? Was that a fun series to illustrate?
Glenn: Yes, I thought that would be my breaker! Steve Niles was hot, because of 30 days of Night. Big hit in the comics, bigger in the movies. I spent 3 and a bit years on that. Wildstorm closed on exactly the month that that would have been a monthly. Don’t be bothered to ask me about Daredevil Bullseye…. This is getting depressing. Get an agent they say. Hang on…
Paul: Glenn, what would be your Dream Project?
Glenn: That’s what they call me. I’m going to stick with comics for the next two years…. Then I’m going to paint images from my dreams? As I get older, my dreams become a little bit indistinguishable from real life. Which at the moment, to be honest, humans you are f$#%ing yourselves up right and proper! If I won the lottery and became a millionaire overnight, I probably wouldn’t become a complete twat, but I would not necessarily bet against it. No, I’d be okay
Paul: Were you ever tempted away from Comics by the film industry for storyboarding, or the games industry?
Glenn: No, nobody liked me, I had a bad rep, unless you’d met me, we’d be fine.
Paul: Glenn, thank you very much for your time.