Round the table with Fabry, McCrea and Pugh

The 12th and 13th of October were the Stripdagen at Breda. Unlike most years there weren’t many artist and writers at the con. Luckily Professor Ich had a surprise for the comic lovers. They invited the Brits Glenn Fabry, John McCrea and Steve Pugh to Holland. In-between their busy schedule of booze and sketches they found some hours to talk to the editors of 'Nuff Said about their work and the comicworld. As you can see in the interview the 'three amigos' had a lot to tell and they opened a book about England's largest publisher. We thank Professor Ich for making this interview possible.

Seated at a table in hotel Brabant (were a breakfast wasn't available, but coffee was) we start our conversation. In the interview GF means Glenn Fabry, SP is Steve Pugh and JM stands for John McCrea.

Gentlemen, welcome on this early morning, could you please introduce yourself?
After about half a monthy python sketch about three men by Steve Pugh, John McCrea starts answering. Glenn Fabry sits quietly behind a glass of water.
JM: I'll start. I was born on August first 1966 in Belfast. I'm Irish not an Englishman, although I live in England.

GF: My name is John Glenn Fabry. I was named after the astronaut John Glenn. This has to do with my year of birth. That's 1961. My cradle was in the village of Islington.

SP: Just like John I'm born in 1966. In Marsden Green. In my passport they’ve got my birthplace as mars. If you don't believe I'll get my passport!!

That isn't necessary! Lets continue with the next question. How did you get into contact with comics?
SP: My father worked at the railroad. If a train was at the last stop he walked though it to get all the newspapers. He brought those home. I read all the comics that were in the papers. I loved them. I swore that that was the job I wanted to do. And that doesn't mean getting the papers from the train.

JM: When I was four I started reading comics. That were English magazines from Fleetway. At a certain moment I discovered my first Marvel comic. I tried some and was hooked. It's a pity that most Marvel comics nowadays aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

GF: Sorry but I have to pass. My youth is a long time behind me. Next question please.

But Glenn, can you tell us something about how you started as a pro in the comic field?
GF: Off course. When I was still in school I used to make my own fanzines during classes. Among the people who saw those were Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons. When I tried to get work with 2000AD they remembered my old work and got me in.

JM: Can I answer that question to? My first work was also for Fleetway but not for 2000AD. It was published in Crisis. You never guess with who I worked then. Garth Ennis! We made the story Troubled Girls, it's about Belfast during the war.

SP: That leaves me. Contrary to Glenn and John I started for an American company. Flint Henry used to draw Grimjack. Because he was busy with the graphic novel Demon Wars, First needed a replacement. That was me.

What we always like to know is what you used to like. That can be both comics and creators. John would you like to start?
JM: No problemo. I grew up on the classics. Spider-Man and Dr. Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. These are the best examples how a superhero story should be, both text and drawings. My other favourites from those days were the EC comics from Kurtzman and Davis. Nowadays I enjoy Mike Mignola's Hellboy and Dave Lapham's Stray Bullets. The superhero comic I like the most at the moment is Gen13. And I shouldn't forget the work by John Paul Leon.

SP: My great heroes were Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Star Lord was one of the best SF comics of all time. The Star Wars comics by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson were (and are) also great. John Byrne nowadays isn't the John Byrne of then. He puts to many Kirby influences in his work. The only one who did that very good was Kirby himself.

GF: The people I like nowadays are the same I liked in the past. My taste doesn't change much. You want to know names? Well, Moebius, Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben and Hunt Emerson. What I start to like more and more are cartoons. It's difficult to make a good cartoon. Many people think I'm a big fan of Boris Vallejo. That isn't true.Off course he makes beautiful pictures, but there is no emotion in it. Do you know how he works?

Tell us.
GF: When he gets an assignment he invites some friends. I think all his friends are body builders. He poses them like the painting is supposed to look, with sword, spears you name it. He just copies something. The man hasn't got any creativity.

All of you work with Garth Ennis. Are there are other people you want to work with?
SP: Of course. I worked with John Ostrander on Grimjack, but I would love to do something else with him. English people I want to work with are Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis. But what I really would love is making a Deathlock series like I think he should be. Deathlock is the hero from my youth and I would love to bring him back to the top.

JM: I would like to do something with Cindy Crawford!!!!!

That's isn't very original. Joe Quesada already said that to us. What do you have with Cindy Crawford?
JM: It's a pity but I've got nothing with her. About comics (although that's less interesting) Alan Moore is at the top of my list. Further favourites include Mike Mignola and Grant Morrison. I would give my left arm to ink Mignola.

SP: John, we could call Grant (Morrison, ed.). Maybe he has got something for us.

JM: Yes, we should do that. Who else is there. That's difficult. Ehh, pff, Jesus...

GF: Yeah, that a good choice. I would love to work with Jesus.

SP: The only problem is he only has one story to tell. hahahahaha.

Gentlemen, the last of the easy questions. What are your hobbies outside of comics?
JM: I compensate my drinking with some active hobbies. I like snowboarding and weightlifting.

SP: I like to play video games. And I love to watch my girlfriend.

GF: I try to lift weights. But I'm not that strong, so it takes quite some time before I have lifted one (everybody laughs). I haven’t got much time for other hobbies.

All of you are Europeans working for the American market. Could you tell us the difference between those markets?
SP: One of the biggest differences is the lack of humour in most American comics. Although they've got lots of violence.

GF: Steve is right. He only forgets that the Americans also have a big hang-up about sex.

JM: I can show you the truth behind Glenn's words. In an issue of Hitman the body parts are flying around without anybody at DC objecting. In the same issue Tommy is with a girl in bed. You could see a curve of the ass of the girl. DC immediately let somebody draw a blanket over it. In Europe that would never have happened. Indian Summer by Pratt and Manara was also heavy censored in the States.

At one side there is the American/English market, at the other side is the European market. They are standing apart from each other. The only one who crossed over is Don Lawrence.
GF: Don't forget Colin Wilson.

JM: I know the work of a lot of Europeans. Bilal, Manara and Pratt make great stuff. I can't read it but it looks wonderful.

SP: I can't say much about this. I don't know much European strips, although I would like to know more about them.

Luckily, we brought two of the most popular European strips. Would you say something about them.
We give them an issue of XIII by Vance and Van Hamme.
JM: Great. This guy knows how to draw. It makes me think about the old (and best) episodes of Modesty Blaise.

SP: Sure. I love adventure comics and this looks wonderful. I would be it if I could read it.

GF: I'm not a big fan of this style. It is very good by somebody who knows how to draw but it's not my style.

The second comic appears. An issue of Quest for the Timebird by Loisel and Letendre.
JM: I know that one, it's great.

SP: Again John answers for me.

GF: This is what I like.

JM: I knew that before you looked at it.

GF: Fantastically drawn in a style that I love. Is the story good also?

JM: Yeah, a real 'killer'.

Europe is a good connection to our next question. Isn't it difficult living in England and working for Americans?
SP: No it isn't. FedEx is a gift from God. Packages from London to New York arrive just as fast as packages from LA to New York. And all our editors are in new York.

Ok, that are the editors but how about inkers?
SP: That's even easier. I ink all my work myself. The only time I didn't was on Doom 2099. It was a disaster. I am egotistical and arrogant about my own work. I think I'm the only one who can ink myself. Everybody else should keep his hands off my work. I would even like to forbid any word balloons in the drawings because they ruin them.

JM: The same goes for me. Everything that has been inked by somebody else I didn't like. A lot of that was for British Marvel. After that I inked everything myself, except for the Demon Annual #2, because of a deadline. I would like to colour my own work, then it's really all by me.

SP: That's a good point. I would like to choose the hues that enhance the situation.

JM: I would like to get back to editors if you don't mind.

Not at all, what do you want to say John?
JM: I want to say that I don't have any problem with American editors. They call you when your work arrives, give you feedback and pay you on time. I hate English editors. Especially those at Fleetway. They never paid me on time. I'll tell you something about them. Somebody at Fleetway asked me to do a story for them, but they needed it soon. I worked like crazy and made their deadline. After giving them the drawings I waited and waited and waited. I called that editor and asked what happened and where my money was. He told me he didn't like my artwork, he didn't use the story and so I didn't get any money. He didn't have the decency to call me and tell it to me. I was overcome with rage. I never did anything for Fleetway again.

GF: Your story is typical. American editors are more professional. They pay you more and they pay you on time.

SP: Fleetway has more of those tricks. If you don't collect your artwork in time (yes they don't send it back), it disappears. Sometimes they give it away to people ho work there, sometimes they sell it to art-dealers and sometimes they just throw it away.

JM: If they try that with my work, I would kill somebody.

GF: I know a story from the sixties. Russ Heath came in the office and an editor called him over. The editor (who shall remain anonymous) said he didn't like Russ's work and to stimulate him he ripped the pages in two in front of him. can you imagine that, destroying a Russ Heath page.

JM: Again, I would kill the person who tried that with me.

Now a question for Glenn so you and Steve can relax a bit. Glenn, can you tell us why you're making covers nowadays?
GF: A very earthly reason. Money! I paint about a page a week. That gives me $500. A cover also takes a week but that's $1250. I started doing covers when Garth asked me to do them for Hellblazer. I read the script, made about seven sketches and faxed those to DC. They choose one. And you won't believe this, but they always choose the worst one. With Preacher I also read the script but I stopped after issue #7. I take something I like and make a Preacher cover about it. Simple as that.

JM: I make my own covers for Hitman. I decide which cover it'll be. DC has nothing to say about it. It's always the best to put large figures on the cover. A cover should attract readers on a shelf. Large figures and primary colours do that. A good example of that is Hitman #5. It really leapt at you.

GF: Yes John is right. I made that kind of covers to, like Preacher#16 with Tulip on it. It wasn't the most difficult but readers remember it. Covers with lots of faces are difficult. I made a Hellblazer cover with a burning body and an angel above it (Hellblazer #64, ed.). To do justice to the flames I stared for three hours in a fire. But I think it was worth it.

JM: You can say that! It's one of the best covers I know.

Something else. All of you work with Garth Ennis. He is the 'boy wonder' of the comic writers at the moment. How is it to work with him?
GF: Garth is our God! He ordered is from above to make pictures of things he writes and honour him on our bare knees. But seriously, working with Garth is very nice. He can inspire you, so you make your best work for him.

SP: I'll agree with that. I heard Garth talking to Grant (Morrison, ed.), and Grant said that Garth always worked with the best artists, and with him those artists disappeared after a couple of issues. Garth said that he had been a fox-terries in a previous life. If he found a good artist he didn't let him go again.

JM: Garth works the same way with everybody. He give complete scripts and we draw a story with that. There are a lot of artists who want to work with Garth. Do you know why?

No, but you do!
JM: Yes. Garth is one of the best selling writers at the moment. If he writes something it sells lots of copies more than when somebody else writes it. As an artist you get a fee per page, but you get royalties when they sell more than x copies. That attract a lot of artists.

While we’re talking about Garth something else comes up. Do you know why so many English people work for Vertigo?
SP: The answer is a name Karen Berger. She went to Britain to scout artists and writers before Vertigo started. She is very good in talking to people and got a lot of people to try doing something for Vertigo. It's harder to get a job for the DC universe than it is to get a job with Vertigo.

JM: I already work for the DC universe. Next to that I want to do something for the Marvel universe.

GF: It's easier to get a job with Vertigo then with an European publisher. I almost had a job with them. I would draw a second Storm series next to Don's (Lawrence, ed.). But due to my other projects I couldn't make their deadline. I would have loved doing that!

Alright gents, the last one, what are your future plans?
GF: I'm going to do a story for the new Gen13 series. Writer will be Harlan Ellison, who is, by the way, an idiot. Of course I'll keep doing the Preacher covers. And I'll do a story for Penthouse comics and I want to publish something myself next year. But that will have to stay a secret. The highlight should be the Batman/Judge Dread hardcover.

JM: I hope they will give you the credit for that one. A lot of people still think all those stories were by Simon Bisley. I think your style and his look very different. Simon Bisley’s work looks like it's great, but when you look very good you'll see all kinds of mistakes and errors. He is the master of illusion.

SP: Yes, Simon Bisley always gets all the credit for Slaine, but Glenn did it before him. It was Glenn's work that made Slaine so popular. Glenn's work on Slaine was what Bolland's was on Dredd.

GF: And they didn't paid me very well for it. Only 250 pounds per page.

JM: Get lost! Do you know how many times those were reprinted? Each time they reprint them you should get 15 pounds per page. You should go to court.

GF: Let it rest, it's the past. I don't get any work from 2000AD and I've made enough of a fuss about it in the past.

OK, back to our question. Steve and John what holds the future for you?
SP: I'm also going to do something for Penthouse. I love it. Drawing naked ladies for a lot of money. What more can you ask for. Next up is an arc for 2020 visions, together with Jamie Delano. We'll do the romantic piece. That should suit us! hahaha

JM: They won't let me do a Penthouse story. Dave Elliot (Penthouse editor) is a real shithead. With Garth I'm going to do a reprint of an old story at Caliber. It's called Dicks and is about private eyes. Most of what I'll be doing will be Hitman. I want to do another hundred issues.

Alright, that was about it, you'll have to get back for the signing. Thanks a lot for the co-operation. GF: No thanks

SP: We liked doing it, it was nice meeting you.

JM: Yeah, it's cool to talk to people who aren’t English or American about comics. If you've got any more questions, don't hesitate to ask us. If we've got the time we’ll answer them.

We'll keep it in mind. Thanks and have fun!!
together: Thanks, where is the bar?

The last thing we saw of the three Bruits was them walking at the con, each of them with a pint of beer. And that's a last look that shows them as they are!