Andy Bloor is a graphic designer and comics artist who collaborated with a number of high profile writers. Ahead of his appearance at the Birmingham Comics Festival this weekend, Tom sat down with Andy to discuss the writer/artist collaborative process, his comics inspiration, and his recent Andy-Thology.
T: Your art style is bold, striking but also alluring, possibly where it combines some incredibly strong line work with those beautiful soft complementing tones. How did this approach develop?
A: I’m not quite sure in all honesty, I remember experimenting with a style many years ago that was very clean with hardly any spotted blacks. I think as time progressed I introduced more black into my work and as I started to use the computer to add some extra tone in my work I decided early on that a more ‘flat’ simple style of using the tone works so much better than overly rendering the images (add to the fact that I can’t really colour like that even if I wanted to). I think with my work being very detailed a more simple approach to toning works well.
T: I think the visuals also offer an enticing and engulfing gesture… there’s very clearly been a significant amount of effort and time that’s been put into it and even though a reader might glide over it at some speed while they read, at some level we can’t help but acknowledge the effort behind it. How long does the process take?
A: Too long! I admit I’m not the fastest guy out there for producing work. I wish I was. I marvel with envy at the talented artists out there who are not only incredibly productive but also incredibly good! I can normally do a page a week (on a good week) but this is working in the evenings and some lunchtimes at work. As I work full time and have a family I don’t have the time to spend on it as much as I’d like really. All depends on motivation levels, as sometimes it’s very hard to get anything done with a busy life.
T: You’ve worked with quite a few writers now, what do you look for in a script? And how do you approach then making that visual?
A: I’ve been very lucky with the writers I’ve worked with. Most of the scripts are quite detailed and very specific in what they want, but like all good writers in comics they realise the process is one of collaboration and are open to me changing things or finding a different way of doing it.
T: There seems to be mutual appreciation from the testimonies in your Andy-thology, a publication that features some incredible writers like Kieron Gillen, John Reppion, Leah Moore and Mo Ali. It’s also quite a nice way to collect things together, you have your pin-ups from various projects in there as well as old and new strips. What gave you the idea and how do you find the process of putting it all together?
A: I was faced with having nothing new for my table at Thought Bubble last year really. I had the idea of putting together a compilation of my older strips a few times but did nothing with it. Once I decided that it was a good idea, I contacted Dave West from Accent UK (where most of the strips originally appeared) and asked if he minded I reprinted them. He didn’t and I did the same with the writers too to see if they were fine with the idea. Lucky for me they not only agreed but also agreed to write me an intro (from Kieron) and afterward (John) which I was made up with. Looking back on old work you always looks at it and cringe but I did resist the temptation to re-draw bits that I didn’t like – what I did do was to re-letter all the strips, as I felt the original lettering to be a bit amateurish really. To top it off John and Leah wrote me a new Doctor Diablo strip and Mo Ali did a nice Midnight Man piece that perfectly captures what the character is about. Not an easy task in two pages! Putting it together was quite easy, I work in design for a living so it’s nice to be able to do something for myself that no-one will change 🙂 The final printed book is lovely and full credit must go to Rich Hardiman at Comic Printing UK for doing such a super job.
T: I mentioned Mo Ali… what about Midnight Man, which you two worked on together, how did that come about?
A: I’ve known Mo for a while now, and we collaborated on a strip called ‘Skin Deep’ that originally appeared in Accent UK’s Predators anthology (since reprinted in my Andy-Thology book) and we worked together really well on that tale, and talked about doing something bigger, more substantial. I had this idea for a character for years but did nothing with it. I passed it to Mo and he came back with the most insane but original pitch I’ve ever had. Without Mo the book would never have happened. Mo is a fantastic artist himself so he writes very visually and he’s a joy to work with.
T: What kind of influences have you looked up to in the past? And is there anyone out in the small press realm you would recommend?
A: I grew up reading 2000AD and Eagle, strips like Mannix and Doomlord struck a chord with me. Really great black and white artwork that I think got me going with comics. Like most artists at the time I wanted to paint like Simon Bisley (when Slaine: The Horned God came out) but over time it was the black and white art that I came back to. The UK small press scene is so vibrant and full of talent. This list could go on forever, but mainly Vince Hunt (Red Mask from Mars), Shaun Dobie (Descending Outlands), Mike Garley (Kill Screen, Samurai Slasher, Dead Roots), Adam Cadwell (Blood Blokes), Alfie Gallagher, Gavin Mitchell and the guys from Accent UK.
Thanks as ever to Tom and Andy for the interview. Andy-Thology is available to buy now. You can hunt down more of Andy’s work at his website, andrewbloor.blogspot.co.uk. He is also on Twitter @andybloor. Andy will be appearing at the Birmingham Comics Festival this Saturday 23rd April.