Alan Holloway is without a doubt a charming chap but he is much, much more than that. He is also clearly a very kind and considerate person. He was generous enough to provide me with a little bit of information about himself before we talked about comics. He explained to me;
"I was on the crystal maze series 1 1990. I sing karaoke. I won £1000 as Meatloaf"
Below is the Crystal Maze link just in case evidence was required::
Paul: My first question is simple. How did your relationship with comics begin? What may have been the first comics you enjoyed? How much did they cost? How old were you? ....and where were they from?
Alan:I started reading comics early, as I was a keen reader soon as I could comprehend words and the like. I started off with the Beano and similar like most people my age. Mum would get me two or three each week, and on Saturday they'd be picked up with her magazines and the Radio Times. They were pennies, I suppose, but pennies went further in those days. (Yes, I do remember when this was all fields.) I never read war comics, and my first 'grown up ' comics, aged eight, was Issue one of 2000ad. I still read humour comics but that was a quantum leap in attitude that has meant I've read every issue ever since.
Paul: How would you describe yourself? A fan? A writer? An artist perhaps? The comic community is so versatile and life is full of labels but if you get beyond labels how would you define yourself?
Alan: First and foremost I'm a fan. I never stopped reading comics and never will. As I have zero artistic talent my main other label is a writer. I love creating stories that others enjoy. I'm just a guy who enjoys reading good stories and writing what I hope are good stories. If I had to lose one it would be writing.
Paul: What was your first published story? Could you tell me about it and how it felt?
Alan: Owen Watts did a comic called 'Doctor WTF!'. It was stories of future Doctors and I wrote a one page silly thing where The Doctor shoots Davros in the head. That was the first one I ever wrote. It felt really cool to actually be in a comic. The Doctor has foiled another evil plan, and Davros goes on a rant about how he'll escape (as usual) and soon his Daleks will be the supreme rulers of the U-NI-VEEERRSSEE!!!! The Doctor considers this. Pulls out a gun and shoots him between the eyes. Then he walks off, thinking 'Should have done that years ago' Very nicely illustrated by Darren Stevens.
Paul: Could you tell me about your first published story over a page in published length please?
Alan: That came soon after, via Owen Watts again and The Psychedelic Journal Of Time Travel. I did a three or four pager about a man with a fear of water. He is regressed to a past life and finds out it was because his past self , a boy, died on the Titanic. He then trains his mind until he goes back and stops the boy from getting on the ship. When his psychic self returns he's strapped in the electric chair because the boy lived a long life and never reincarnated as our subject, so his own life went on a darker, more murdery path.
Paul: Let's change subject a little? You have recently been involved in an excellent book, but before miving onto the book itself, could you share any memorires of Dave Evens who is better known as Bolt 01.
Alan: You know, I can't remember how I first became aware of Zarjaz and Dogbreath. I sent a Strontium Dog script in, it was a very dark one based on the idea of Nazi hunters, and it was accepted. I moved on to Zarjaz as well and had quite a few in, with more in waiting. Like many, my contact with Dave was mainly through emails, mostly him telling me to cut a page or more from my scripts! I met him a couple of times at conventions and found him to be friendly, knowledgeable and good company. I was less so as I was not so confident back then. His advice helped me to be a better writer, no doubt about it. It got to the point where my scripts were always accepted. It was nice and allowed me to use different characters. It was a challenge to vary the Zarjaz line up, and of course everyone loved doing Dredd the most.
Paul: This a hard question to ask. I believe the Bolt 01 book donates profits towards a suicide charity. Are you in a position to comment upon that choice at all?
Alan: We thought the best way to decide a charity would be to ask his family. Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) was their suggestion so that was a no brainer. I've had my own struggles in that way, still do, so it was important to honour Dave and give to a charity that may remind people of what can be left behind. I usually give comic money to cat charities but then I love cats lol.
Paul: Before moving on and for clarity am I correct in thinking the gentleman took his own life? A tragic yes or no is all that is required?
Alan: Yes he did.
Paul: Could you describe how the book in Dave Evan's memory was created?
Alan: It was Ed Doyle's idea, these things usually are. We wanted to do something as it was a year since he died. We checked with Owen Watts and Richmond Clements, two if his closest friends, to see if there was any objection (we thought they may have been thinking along the same lines) and none were forthcoming. After that I contacted Danni Evans, Dave's eldest, via Instagram and got the family's blessing, which was very important to us. Danni did a very nice pin up and also wrote the introduction, which is very moving. So many talented people came forward, and as well as new strips we got unpublished ones from Futurequake, one of Dave's titles, which Dave had edited and lettered. It was quite emotional to see them and we're so glad they've been shared now. We would have absolutely loved to have included unpublished Zarjaz and Dogbreath strips as well, but Rebellion said no. Dave Broughton did a marvellous cover that had Dredd and Johnny Alpha on it with Dave but because we're good lads and showed it to Rebellion it had to be changed. Personally, I was disappointed that Rebellion man Michael Molcher, who knew Dave well, declined to take part in any way.
Paul: Could you tell me a little bit about how the book came together? I gather from Ed Doyle the Page count kept increasing a touch.
Alan: We simply put out a call via social media and waited. We gave ourselves a year to get it done so we could launch at Lawless, a wonderful convention that Dave had a close connection to. Many people came forward and we were able to use most, only leaving a few out as all our scripts had been allocated. The majority had done stuff for Dave in the past and so really wanted to bring their A game. Spoiler: They all did. We then waited for strips to be completed, occasionally got latecomers or complete strips, and it slowly came together. Nothing was left out, we figured we'd just go with it as we only had one chance to honour him so we may as well go all-in.
Paul: I asked Ed Doyle the same thing. Is there any chance of a second printing? or a sequel? After all it it is produced in the old school ANNUAL format?
Alan: No. It was a lot of work, for one. Very stressful. Secondly, it's a tribute, and in my view would be cheapened if we did any more. If Owen and Richmond do something that would be a different matter and if they were amenable we would give them our full support. Maybe one day we could do something similar, again for charity, but not in Dave's name, it just wouldn't feel right.
Paul: Moving on respectfully can we chat about comics in general?
Paul: What comics do you read and enjoy these days? Which writers or artists impress you?
Alan: Oh course I read 2000ad and Judge Dredd. I recently read 'Harley & Joker: Criminal Sanity', an origin reworking for both that was a very good read with astonishing art from Gabriel Piccolo. Unlike many, I tend to follow writers rather than artists or characters. I've read everything by Garth Ennis and Mark Millar, and Millars current output is great fun. Ennis isn't so productive, but I loved Marjorie Finnigan: Time Criminal ' and the excellent 'The Lion & The Eagle' with PJ Holden. Really looking forward to meeting them at Enniskillen this weekend. I am a fan of Brian Bendis, who does awesome dialogue, and Tom Taylor, who has done some great Batman and the best 'Injustice ' volumes. There's plenty of good writers out there, though, just not enough time to read them all.
Paul: If Marvel or DC ever came calling for you is there a dream project you'd love to write?
Alan: I'm not really sure, but I'm not really a superheroes guy unless its something different, more edgy like 'Injustice' was. The Punisher is one I'd like to do, as Garth Ennis showed that he's more than a guy who shoots mafia guys. No idea what I'd do with him, but it would be dark.
Paul: Writing comics is a collaborative process. Is there one artist you'd love to work with?
Alan: Haha, so many artists! Paddy Goddard is one of the best black and white artists out here and would be a pleasure to write for. I'd love to do something with Steven Austin, too. It's always Brits with me, I love British Comics and creators, so give me Dan Cornwell, Mike Dory,, PJ Holden, Richard Elson,... I really don't mind. A couple of my best strips have been with Andy Lambert and he's also doing my Technofreak short. One of the best out there, for sure, but never been published by any of the big boys.
Paul: I have a question I try to always ask. If you could have the powers of any superhero who or what superpower might they be and why?
Alan:The obvious answer is Superman, he does everything! If it was one power, though, I'd like to be able to fly.
Paul: That sound like an answer from a man that gets irritated driving.
Alan: It would just be awesome to leave the earth behind and chill in the clouds
Paul:Do you enjoy digital comics on a laptop or tablet, or do you prefer a paper comic?
Alan: I read digital, but prefer something I can touch.
Paul: What do you make of the UK comic scene as it stands currently? For example do you enjoy SHIFT and The '77?
Alan: The UK scene is mostly underground, and that's where the real creativity can be found. I do like Qunatum, which will hopefully pave the way for similar publications, and Shift is very good though more adult. I don't read The 77, but am impressed by their commitment to bringing out new comics and building a fan base. We are a small part of it, but the fact we were there early in the current crop and have a unique product is something to be proud of.
Paul:I argue you should read The '77, for purely selfish reasons. My final question is all yours. What does the future hold for Alan Holloway? What might you be doing in five years time? Is there anything you would like to shamelessly promote?
Alan: I imagine in five years I'll be doing pretty much the same. I'm happy to write for anyone, I enjoy making comics over making money for them. Sentinel is ongoing, and I can't see it stopping any time soon, maybe slowing down a bit. I'm going to write a new issue called 'Something Is Killing The Cats' that I'd love the talented Morgan Gleave to illustrate, plus a space pirate story for Paul Spence. We've also got a sequel to 'Dark Matter' being drawn by Ian Senior (featuring former Britain's Strongest Man Terry Hollands) and 'Rover The Barbarian' that Dan Goodenough is working on.
Note: Alan on the BBC quiz show Impossible.
Alan: Our next issue, 'Heartbreak Spotel' will have a painted cover by Keith Robson, who did loads of Starblazer covers, and I'm very excited about that. I'm a music journalist, so that takes up some time, but writing comics has become a real pleasure for me. Myself and Pete Howard have written half each of a nature readers horror comic called 'Splatterpunk', and I'm looking forward to seeing that come together. I have mo illusions of making a living from writing comics, I just feel blessed to have discovered a talent for it that I have been able to use. Thanks to BOLT-01 I'm an editor as well, so it's all coming up Millhouse! Thanks to the readers for taking the journey with me, I hope I never let you down.
Alan: It has been a pleasure.