British comic book writer and editor Adam Cheal talks to the Spooky Isles’ ANDREW GARVEY about his work and inspirations, collaborating with artists and why modern horror films are rubbish.
ANDREW: You’ve been working as a writer for a few years now. What made you want to write? Who and what inspired you?
ADAM: I had never really intended to be a comic book writer. I had enjoyed some comics growing up and Judge Dredd was my favourite character. He was hard, uncompromising and I loved the violence. However, I was always much more interested in movies as a kid and with 80s horror movies being my pleasure of choice. There’s just something darn satisfying to see a bunch of teenagers brutally murdered in new and gruesome ways.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic now. I knew I wanted to write a movie but it always seemed like an unobtainable goal. Then one day everything changed for me. I read the book Watchmen for the first time and it absolutely floored more. I then realised the scope which you could take the medium of sequential storytelling to and also the fact that comics weren’t just for kids. I immediately read the Alan Moore collection and knew this was something I wanted to do and also something that could bridge the gap between film and literature.
So just in to my early thirties and the comic writing bug hit. I started with one simple goal; to have a single comic book one-shot out there that people could order online. Since then, I have pushed my goals and not looked back. My ultimate goal is still to create a comic series or stand alone script that goes on to become a movie or TV show. This is something that is now within reach.
Writing comic book scripts is quite a technical process isn’t it? In terms of words per panel, describing the action etc.
The one main thing about writing scripts is that there is still no clearly defined industry accepted standard. Sure, there are rules you need to follow but the best advice I ever got was from Ron Marz (American comic book writer) who said, “Just keep it simple and easy to read. Make sure the artist can understand the script clearly.”
Ultimately, the script has one purpose, to instruct the artistic team how to bring the writer’s vision to the page as closely to the intended version as possible. A script can be as technical or as simple as you wish as long as the finished page is great. For my own writing style, I tend to start with a lot of detail and slowly start to simplify as the story goes on. By that point, the writer and artist should be working in tandem and know what is expected.
So is it more of an ongoing collaboration and revision or a straightforward ‘right that’s the script written, let’s see what they come back with’ sort of thing?
I guess this totally depends of the type of book and publishing arrangement. For many independent creators, you will be closer to the artist for the process of the making than the book than you were to your mother for the first few months of your life. When something is that personal to you and especially if you are footing the costs, it has to be perfect.
For me personally, I love to work closely with the artists. Working with artist Russ Leach on Terminus at Fenton’s Green was a real highlight for me and he is such a professional artist and has heaps of talent too. I love to see works in progress and sketches and how the whole thing is shaping up. Once the entire book is complete with artwork, I will revisit the script and do a final draft so it flows as well with the art as possible. Quite often, things look good on the script and plain suck when you see the final lettered page.
Your work is very horror-focused. I’m guessing you read/watch a lot of horror. Is that the case?
I read some horror fiction and I’m a fan of Stephen King. Well, his early stuff anyway. I do watch some modern horror but let’s be honest, most of it sucks. When modern horrors started shying away from the gory violence and worried more about getting audiences by lowering the age ratings, that all went down the toilet. I much prefer to re-watch classic horror films.
As far as comics go, I try not to read too many. I like to feel like I’m being original and reading other books could influence my own style. Maybe I’d be a better writer if I did read loads of comics, but I’d feel proper bummed out if I saw a great idea that was similar to one of my own. This way, I can write what I want and don’t need to worry about it. I do enjoy reading comics from independent creators as they always feel fresh and different.
You’ve written several graphic novels, have a couple of ongoing series’ and you’ve edited two volumes of the British Showcase anthology. You’re a well-respected figure on the independent British comics scene. How would you rate the quality of British indie comics these days? And which horror titles and creators should people be looking out for?
Wow, thanks for the compliment. I never really thought about it terms like that, I’m just another independent creator carving my niche in a very saturated market.
In terms of British comics, I absolutely love them and in the few short years I’ve been involved in the industry, I have met so many amazing creators and made a lot of good friends. Some of the people I started out with have now gone on to do great things and are getting some really high profile work. The quality I see out there is just getting better and better. There are so many great books out there so it’s hard to list them all. I follow about 100 comic creators on Twitter and they are all doing great work, so check it out!
Back to your own work, what are you working on right now and what can we expect from you in the next couple of years?
Having just released the British Showcase Anthology 2 and my own graphic novel called Redemption Heights with new up and coming artist Adam Brown, I plan on promoting those books for a while. As well as that, I have been working on a six part miniseries with artist Amrit Birdi called Borough of Churches. We have completed issues 1 & 2 and will shortly be running a Kickstarter campaign to complete issue three. I would say this book contains some of my best work and most likeable character to date, so please keep an eye out for this one.