I like to think of writer Owen Johnson and artist Verity Glass sitting beside a fireplace in a tumbledown castle, sipping brandy from dusty bottles while scratched records play on a temperamental gramophone. Their story The Place The Big Boys Go will be track one in our next anthology, Disconnected Vol. 3, which launches next month at the Comic Art Festival in Kendal.
Here they are, in their own words:
How did you get into creating comics?
Verity: I used to paint portraits, but I got irritated that I couldn’t properly tell a narrative with them, so I started making comics as well. I’m the poor man’s John Greenaway, in that respect. She wrote, smugly.
Owen: My grandfather Ernest gave me crayons and said I could. Years later, I created mini-comics at school and photocopied them in the staffroom. I sold them for 50p in the canteen. I attended conventions, talked to professionals, paid attention, handed them my work. I got torn to shreds, encouraged, advised. Absorbed it all and kept working. Working produced comics, and comics produced opportunities, which produced more comics. Like everyone, I over-complicated this process with impatience and needless worry instead of sitting my arse down and being productive. But it really is that simple.
What’s your process for creating comics?
Owen: I think for a very very very long time about what I could write instead of writing it. I’ve heard this is common…
The process changes with each collaboration: that’s the alchemy of comics. The consistent aspect is always that the seed is planted and percolates for a while before it starts sparking off into scenarios, scenes and characters I can’t stop thinking about.
Everything gets scribbled in a very important notebook: snatches of dialogue or whole conversations; images; character designs; themes. From there it becomes a script. The best results happen when I write with an artist in mind. I do maybe 3 or 4 drafts of that script before passing it onto the artist. Once the artwork comes back, I’ll re-write dialogue to strengthen thematic or narrative threads. I tweak again once the lettering is done… because I’m a sucker for punishment and a control freak.
Verity: Mostly I rough the entire thing out on paper in the most dreadful thumbnails you can imagine. After that I scan it and process everything digitally: pencils, painting, colour glazes – staring at the vacant sky and feeling the breathless yawning certainty of mortality – texture, and neatening everything up. It took me a long time to realise I should make thumbnails along with the script, so I don’t end up with impossible pages. No-one should be like me.
What’s your comics dream?
Owen: To work with Disconnected Press again (Ed: creep!). To improve my craft. To get paid to tell stories I care about, in whatever medium excites me at any given time. To keep learning. To not mess it up.
Verity: I’d love to work with the artists and writers I see online. Most of them even live in the UK and don’t seem to be doing much, so it’s an achievable dream for once.
With all the daydreaming and the imagining and the drifting along on Wordsworthian clouds, it’s a wonder they get anything done. Lucky for us they do:
Verity has self-published four short comics and is working on a graphic novel and illustrating a book of monster love poems by Anna Savory. Her work has been featured in a Doctor Who zine at Comicon France. You can find her short comics on Etsy and see more of her artwork on her website.
Owen cut his teeth in Accent UK anthologies before broadening out to his debut graphic novel Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?, a Victorian epic that doesn’t quite fit into the neat box called “murder mystery”. It was one of our favourites of 2012, not least because Disconnected’s own Conor Boyle was the lead artist and our lettering angel, Jim Campbell, wove his magic in Thaddeus Mist too. Owen is now working on a “gonzo sugar-bomb” called Raygun Roads. It’s about a fictional pop-culture icon who kidnaps the teenager who invented her. Of course. It comes with its own soundtrack too: have a look and a listen at www.raygunroads.com.
Owen and Verity’s story The Place The Big Boys Go will feature in Disconnected Vol. 3, which will be on sale from 19 October at conventions or through our online shop.