Thursday, August 13, 2015
Interview with Ian Gibson
Ian Gibson is a legend in UK comics. Not only was he responsible for many a memorable run of Judge Dredd and Robo-Hunters in 2000AD, he was the co-creator of one of the most iconic female characters in comics, Halo Jones. Born in 1946, Gibson came to prominence with his strips for 2000AD, including The Ballad of Halo Jones, written by Alan Moore. Like many others in the UK, he would draw for American comics like Mister Miracle (DC) in the 1980s, but it was not a happy experience. Since then, Gibson has kept himself busy with projects in the wings, waiting to be released at the right time.
What struck me most about interviewing Gibson is his sense of humour. I hope we get to see his new comics soon. Thanks to Kenny Chan for the link up.
1. For your longtime fans, what have you been up to? Any new comics, writings?
I'm no longer fighting with deadlines. I'm working slowly on the Lifeboat project and playing with ideas for other things I've written. But they are all big projects, so I have no release dates for any of them.
2. You have been associated with drawing/creating strong female characters. Was it intentional? (you have talked about the influence of Heinlein)
The 'female lead' aspect of my work is, I suppose, somewhat influenced by Bobby Heinlein - from Podkayne of Mars to Friday, etc. Plus I never really enjoyed drawing big muscle bound dudes.
3. You worked for IPC Girls Comics Group in the 1970s. Can you tell us about those early days of girls comics in the UK?
When I started in comics there was no science fiction being published in the UK. So I had to look elsewhere to get work in other genres. First it was horror; then it was love stories and girls' adventures, with a sprinkling of oddments in between. I don't know who the writers were because in those days we were all 'anonymous'. But one of the other artists working through the same agency was Romero doing love stories etc. I worked with Blas Gallego as a way into girls comics as the editors thought my girls were too skinny!
You see, Blas Gallego was living in London at that time while I was too. So I had the chance to go and work in his 'studio' amid the clouds of smoke from his cheap cigarrettes! He was working on a variety of girl's comics that included stories like 'Sugar Jones' as a comedic piece and some girls' drama adventures. I was doing the pencils and Blas was inking the finished art. The editors at IPC girls comics had looked at the 'test' piece I'd done for them (I think it was for Mirabelle) and they declared that my girls were too skinny for their tastes. So working with Blas allowed me to work 'under his cover' without their complaints.
The readership for these comics was all young girls as far as I know.
4. You also drew the Bionic Woman story in the 1977 Annual. Do you remember much of that story and how did it come about?
The Bionic woman stories happened because the editor asked me. I think the writer was Steve Moore. I'd worked with him on other projects and he liked to take me out to small cinemas that showed Toshiro Mifune classics. So we had a good rapport for the stories. Sadly the second annual cut the budget and as a result I had to work in just two colours for much of the scripts. I think I got the Bionic job after I'd done some work on a Kung Fu annual and then that lead on to working on the Invisible Man annual too.
5. You created Halo Jones because you felt the female characters in 2000AD then were like 'men with tits'. Has the portrayal of women in comics improved since then?
Halo doesn't seem to have changed the face of comics very much. For instance the big hue and cry over the Milo Manara Spiderwoman cover. But if you look at any of the American comics the hypocrisy level is high, as most of the time the girls are thrusting their bosoms and wearing skin tight costumes and usually posed in a provocative manner. I think Manara was pointing this out in his own way, maybe?
But despite the clingy state of the costumes there is never a nipple in sight nor, perish forbid, and sign of a 'camel-toe'!
6. What was the experience like drawing for American comics (Mister Miracle for DC) in the 1980s?
I really liked the idea of working on Mister Miracle as homage to the legend of King Kirby. Sadly the writer had other ideas and the scripts betrayed the character and cheapened the story. So I spent a lot of time changing the scripts where I could to take out the flim flam. But eventually the editor asked if maybe they could recognise the stories when they got them back from me. My response was that if the editor had been doing his job I wouldn't have to change anything. This resulted in them dropping me from the series!! Their loss!
7. Still, there was the Steed and Mrs Peel (1990) series with Eclipse and written by Grant Morrison which I like a lot.
The Steed & Mrs Peel series was supposed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the TV show. And the release date was set for that anniversary. But all of the publicity came to naught as a certain American general decided that Desert Storm would start on the same date. So nobody noticed that it was the Avengers anniversary! You could say we got covered by a cloud of sand..? All to support a 'resource war' that was as illegal and disgusting as the ethnic cleansing of the native American peoples.
But I did rather enjoy working on the characters of Steed and Emma Peel. I also had fun with the 'back-up' story by Anne Caulfield. When I saw that the script started with Emma's hubby crashing his plane in South America, I decided, even though it wasn't in the script, to pay homage to the delightful Mayan Codex memories I have of studying pre-Columbian cultures. So I began the story in the style of a Mayan Codex and gradually integrated modern comics into the mix. I had a lot of fun!
8. Halo Jones is tied up in a copyright mess. But any chance of you returning to Judge Dredd or Robo-Hunter one day?
I don't think 2000 are interested in giving me any work after I quit half way through the Samantha Slade story. I got fed up with the quality of the stories and eventually it came to a point where I just couldn't stomach it any more. I told the editor 'Alan has beaten me! Not even I can turn this into entertainment!!' I haven't heard from them since.
9. Among the many characters you have drawn, which character did you enjoy working on the most?
My all time favourite character was Annie Droid which I wrote for the Times Saturday editions. A story called Millennium Bug, at the turn of the century when everyone was in a panic about the change of date on their computers. But very few people ever saw it.
10. Any update on Lifeboat? The premise is fascinating. How did you come up with this story idea?
The Lifeboat project started a long time ago. I was helping a friend get a start as a writer, and took him down to the Brighton seafront to chat and get inspiration. There I ventured into the Lifeboat museum and was fascinated by the displays and thought it would be great to celebrate their work by writing a story about how someone decided to start a lifeboats in space facility. From there the story took various turns and twists until I came up with the current version. It's a long and convoluted saga that will take years to finish.
[In another interview, Gibson explained the premise of Lifeboat:
‘combine “What if Romeo and Juliet had had a child?” with a ‘space’ version of the American War of Independence, where asteroid mining colonies are trying to break free from the Empire. Father becomes head of the Imperium; mother becomes Queen of the colonies – child raised by aliens. And it gets more complicated from there on in!’]
11. Is there a story you want to tell and an existing character that you would like to draw?
I have a filing cabinet full of the scripts I've written; some started; some complete; some just ideas. Destiny is one of my favourites. But sadly some games company has just brought out a game with that Title. So that could be a problem. Like the Halo game that appeared 'coincidentally' just after Halo Jones was popular..?
I have so many projects that I need another lifetime to get them all done!