Comic Book Day: Getting Down to Business with Simon Bisley
By Dan Casey on September 19, 2012
Legendary Comics‘ first new title, The Tower Chronicles, is nearly upon us! It’s T-minus one week until your local comic book store is faced with the grim, steely-eyed stare of John Tower, supernatural bounty hunter by day…and also supernatural bounty hunter by night. This book has been a long time coming – we’ve previously spoken to editor-in-chief Bob Schreck and series writer Matt Wagner – so we were understandably excited to talk to one of the best in the biz, The Biz himself. Known for his work on titles like 2000 A.D., Lobo and Slaine, Simon Bisley is one of the UK’s (and the comic book industry’s) top talents, and his signature style brings The Tower Chronicles to brutal, grisly life. Just how did Bisley get involved and what else is he up to across the pond? Read on and find out:
Nerdist: Tell us, how did you get involved in the project? Did you mail Bob Schreck a picture of a robot holding a baby?
Simon Bisley: [laughs] Well, I wasn’t sure initially if I could commit myself to it because I was doing Hellblazer. It was really a fantastic gig. I wasn’t sure if I could handle another gig; that was one of my concerns. I’m not sure how it happened; I just started doing it. [laughs] They called me. That’s pretty much it. [laughs] Are you okay? You seem like you were expecting something more.
N: Oh no, that was fine. Looking at the series’ protagonist John Tower, he seems both familiar and brand new. Did you try to draw from different archetypes or make him look like he’s always been a part of the canon? Moreover, what design influences did you follow in creating the world of The Tower Chronicles?
SB: Actually, much of the design was done already. I just added my touch to it. Except that sometimes I’d add a mask or a cowl because it looks cool. Initially, there was a a shadow that would come down to his nose, kind of like a mask. I thought, “That’s kind of weird,” so we went with the hood. I pretty much had complete reign to do what I wanted.
N: What is more challenging – breathing new life into a long-running character or making a brand new character visually exciting and appealing to new readers?
SB: You know, I don’t find much of anything to be a challenge, to be honest with you. [laughs] I’ve always found it a snap; just draw what the characters would do. What do you mean making them “visually exciting?” It’s my job to make them dynamic. You have to be careful because I have a tendency to go a bit too cartoony. You don’t want to look like Mad Magazine. In Hellblazer, I had to be very careful with some of the more complex imagery. I think I do both well.
N: You’ve also been doing a bit of cover work for DC’s Deathstroke and Vertigo’s Hellblazer; how does that process compare to doing interiors?
SB: Well, it’s much more specific. Especially with Hellblazer, they need such a specific image. It’s more brief too than doing interiors. [laughs] It’s going to sell the book, so it’s something the publishers pay attention to. The difference is that you get paid more for covers. [laughs]
N: Really? I would not have guessed.
SB: Yeah, way more.
N: You’ve also been working on a book for Heavy Metal with Kevin Eastman, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first two books are already out. What can you tell us about that project?
SB: Crazy, crazy, crazy project. It’s a project I started working on with Michael Mendheim. Kevin actually came in at the end. It was me and Michael from the beginning; we’d been working on it for a while. There was a gap of a year – two years actually – in there. Lots of pressure to get it done. I’ll tell you one thing that’s interesting: how few pages there are! Considering how long we’ve been working on it, I thought it’d be a bit bigger. I really like the way it came out. The finished copy looks amazing. Seeing the burn effects, the fire and everything, they’re terrific. All the reference you need, everything you need – it was all there. It was a pleasure working with him. Matt [Wagner] too. Four Horsemen and Tower Chronicles come out around the same time, actually. People must think that I’m working day and night on these things!
N: Since there is so much geographic distance between you and your collaborators, does that impact the creative process? Do you find that it’s a challenge or easier for you to focus without being bothered?
SB: [laughs] I like to be bothered. I wouldn’t say “bother.” It’s more of a query. The main one being “when do I get paid?” I rather like it. But, I enjoy working alone. Matt Wagner – he and I, we’re of the same mind. He knows I like to draw, so he keeps me busy. When we get down to business in this field, you just get it done. It’s a back-and-forth. People are persistent when they need to be. Some people might like working in an office situation, but it’s not for me.
N: Apart from Tower Chronicles and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are there any other projects which you can share with us at the moment?
SB: Hmmmm. I’m not sure what exactly I can mention at the moment. [laughs] Let’s just leave it at those for now.
N: Well, those two titles should tide most fans over. You must be buried in comics; what are you reading and enjoying now?
SB: Well, not too much actually. I look at the old stuff, you know? New stuff, I think… is it a bad thing that I don’t know?
N: Not at all. It’s because you’re working day and night on the other books.
SB: [laughs] Well, yeah, I’m workin’ day and night on my books, but I’m still a fan of comics. I can’t think of anything in particular. If there’s an artist I like, I’ll pick it up. It’s just not a regular thing. I’ll also pick up my own stuff just to see if it came out okay, but that’s a bit self-indulgent isn’t it?
You can see a sneak preview of 12 pages of Bisley’s art now and snag The Tower Chronicles: Geist Hawk #1 on September 26th.Keep up with Simon Bisley on his official fanpage. Disclosure: Nerdist Industries and Legendary Comics are both part of Legendary Pictures, but editorially independent.