Brian Bolland: The Definitive Batman Artist on How The Killing Joke REALLY Ended
Sumner welcomes legendary comics artist Brian Bolland (the definitive DC Comics artist, the definitive Judge Dredd artist and the co-creator of Camelot 3000 and Batman: The Killing Joke) to Hard Agree to talk about the great British city of Liverpool (and his recent Batman-in-Liverpool cover for Forbidden Planet); Brian’s 40 years creating the definitive versions of Batman, the Green Lantern Corps, The Flash & Wonder Woman for DC Comics; his creation of Camelot 3000 with Mike W Barr; the early days of Judge Dredd for 2000 AD; working with the great Alan Moore and creating their Batman masterwork The Killing Joke (including a discussion of Grant Morrison’s take on the book and Brian’s definitive, inside-track revelation of what really happens at the climax).
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HA – Brian Bolland Interview
[00:00:00] Brian Bolland: For this special occasion, I bought
Sumner: this kind of store that’s.
That is, that is brilliant because you can see me and why wouldn’t you want to see me and be
Brian Bolland: the last conversation? You know, I was doing this because there was like a box on the
Sumner: screen that was covering, this was about 12
Brian Bolland: quid in somewhere like that.
Sumner: What do you want to talk about? And no. So, so, so actually my entire setup, it’s brilliant. What you can do in the era of zoom interviews and zoom conversations, because I set up all my lighting, mega my stand for my laptop, very inexpensive, very inexpensively by a couple of online purchases.
So it’s brilliant what you can do. Well, I want to ease into things just by talking for a second about something we’ve talked about a lot recently, which is you’re live, you’re building cover for Batman, the detective one, because [00:01:00] that’s again. Yeah, yeah. Just for me, obviously, you know that thing a mate it’s done, it’s done really well.
It’s really blown up the interest in it is very, very high level. Everybody on two levels comics funds of Batman fans have really. Grasped onto it and think it’s a beautiful piece of work, which it would, which it absolutely is, but it’s also been very much embraced up in Liverpool and that story has had real legs.
So, you know, we’ve had so far this week, the, the books of London instilled, we’ve had a bunch of people you know, ordering the books who are not normally comics purchasers. So, so really it’s achieved apps, everything we hope for it because it’s helped widen out the comics message. You know, beyond our use our usual customers, which is great.
Everybody in Liverpool loves it, the feedback
there, isn’t a single person. That’s right. Yeah. [00:02:00] Certainly not a single person is related to me. Somebody did
Brian Bolland: send me the photograph of the book. We call them books propped up in front of the statue of the Beatles.
Sumner: Yeah. Yeah. A little Batman figure as well. For sure. No, that was so that was the mighty cat Ash, Catherine Ash, who is actually the the the, the manager of of FP Liverpool.
Oh, yeah. Cat cat took those books out because there’s a brilliant in what they called go golden hour back at home. On the, on the, on the water side, there’s, there’s a brilliant hour when it’s sunset the those buildings all massively because of the aspect, really catch the sunset and have this beautiful golden glow to them.
And she took, she took the books over at golden hour and took pictures of the covers in front of the three Gates crisis in front of the [00:03:00] Beatles. That was all cat. And when she sent the pictures back the next day, we were like, man, these are really lovely, you know? So, so yeah, no, everybody’s, everybody’s really pleased.
So thanks again for doing that. I don’t actually
Brian Bolland: know these three graces you’re talking about. There is the live of building.
Sumner: Yeah. The other two buildings are that there are three buildings and they’re all, they’re all next to each other. In fact, mate, if you have, you, won’t be my head slightly. Yeah. Can you see that there, that that’s the three graces at nighttime and and so it’s the live a building, it’s the building and it’s the pool of Liverpool building.
So building ports of Liverpool building. And if you look them up sorts of from an architectural standpoint, they’re all very complimentary and w which
Brian Bolland: is the one that has the Tate in
Sumner: it. Now that’s his next question, mate? Yeah, that’s, that’s absolutely right. Tate Liverpool is in a [00:04:00] slightly different spot.
Yeah, that, that
Brian Bolland: is, I remember seeing the the statue of Jerry, is it Jerry Mazda as a step statue or one of the other.
Sumner: Famous rockers. Yeah. No, the Liverpool is at the Albert dock, which is probably where you saw it. Now I’m going to tell you an anecdote about Jerry, Jerry Marsden, who left his recently, but yeah, but I knew.
Jerry Morrison’s bank manager for Leila of all things. Yeah. And the reason I know Jerry Mazda’s bank managers cause it’s my dad. So my dad was Jerry and I used to, I used to meet Joe Miles in when I was a kid, my dad had this banking. It was he worked for the Midland bank. He worked for the middle bank at Kirkdale and Kirkdale is, is, is slightly after the town center.
It’s like on the approach road, up to where the football stadium and this, this building is still there to this day. It’s not a bank anymore, but it was very imposing kind of granite building in the middle of what your traffic [00:05:00] islands on. For some reason, it used to have a lots of like furniture accounts there.
And he used to have a lots of music accounts as well. So it, my dad was Jerry Moses, but manager. He was also at the mountain and shifted the for the Epstein family. Brian Epstein. The beats was manager. So he didn’t work with him when Brian was still alive, but he used to work regular army used to work a lot with Clive who was Brian’s younger brother and passed long passed away now, but my dad’s still here alive and kicking.
But, but he used to work with all of that, the NAMS business, the Beatles publishing stuff and all that kind of, all that kind of thing. Yep. It’s a small world. It’s a small world after all, you know? So did Jerry have any money? Did he have much money? Oh yeah. He had quite a lot of money. Yeah. And up basically there’s a couple of things because of course he didn’t have the publishing royalties on, on on you’ll never walk alone, which he famously sounded.
It was just a huge hit. And it was also adopted as the, as the Anthem of Liverpool [00:06:00] football club. And it is a massive song because it gets song several times a week cause the footsie. But of course he didn’t have that. So song from carousel by Rogers and Hammerstein. And so yeah, absolutely. It gets, I think one of the key characters sings, it might well be Billy Bigelow, the key character in carousel sings.
I don’t know it. And it’s very interesting musical carousel. It’s very McCobb. And it’s about a guy who dies in about him then watching his family from the afterlife basically. Is that sad? It’s not, it’s an American musical. Is that true musical? Yeah. It’s what, like one of those American Midwestern musicals a bit like Oklahoma was, which is by the same guys actually.
But it’s also got very famous song, which is basically interpreted by a Frank Sinatra. It’s good. And McCray who plays lead character in the movie, not Sinatra and good, and McCray’s big strapping guide, but but the song is called soliloquy. And if you ever hear Sinatra’s verse and it’s like nine minutes long, You know, it’s pretty amazing wildly off piece here, mate.
[00:07:00] we’ve got to get your subjects. And also I, I I’ve I’ve I don’t want to take a hammering for doing 90% of the talking during a Brian bullish. And I come across as a Liverpool sort of publicity to live a poop. Well, you know, a lifelong Liverpool publicity campaign, but to, to really very quick answer your question about about Jerry.
Yeah, he did. He did right. Very cross the mercy, which is a big, best song, of course. And then he spent the last 30 years of his career. He kept on touring and he regularly toured Australia once a year. And I know that that was very lucrative for him. So, you know, he was definitely, he was definitely in good shape.
You know, we of course
Brian Bolland: did the ferry across the murders. I mean, I’ve only ever once in my entire life and it was just in the last three or four years. And of course we had to do the ferry and we got that tombs. We got that pipe that as,
[00:08:00] Sumner: you know, as we’re going along. Yeah. It’s, it’s quite beautiful though.
You got it on a nice day. It’s a lovely thing to do, but
Brian Bolland: are you sure there isn’t another statue of another, yeah,
Sumner: I know exactly who you’re talking about. I’m not the one that the other person at the, yeah, I’ll tell you it was a Billy fury.
Brian Bolland: Billy fury. I knew there was another guy there. Cause that was on the way between the Tate and the live of building.
Most of the Southern stature I did.
Sumner: Yeah. Billy filler and check this out when Billy fury was discovered, he was actually, he was actually working on the ferry. He was yeah, he was. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, so he’s got a, he was, but he was discovered when he was literally working on the ferry.
He was one of the, do you know his real name? We’ll look it up. Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to look at it. What I’m looking at while we’re took. It’s one of those things I do note, but I’m afraid that the the rusted door of memory, [00:09:00] even though it’s there in my memory, it’s like the hinges rusted real names will not fury
Brian Bolland: and wild
Sumner: Marty Wilder, Billy fury, Georgie fame.
I do know. Do you know Georgie fames off the top of my head? His real real name was Clive. Yeah. It’s I say it, I do know it, but again, it was
really any of them still alive. CLA Georgie fame is, is still alive and is still performing and is still brilliant. He is amazing. Yeah.
Brian Bolland: Audience for this video is what I’m assuming is it’s not people over 70. And it’s not just for people who live in
Sumner: Liverpool. No, it isn’t. That is so, so, so quick. Two, two famous Clive Powell and and he still performs any plays at Ronnie Scott’s once a year.
[00:10:00] I’m a member at Ronnie Scott’s by the way, Brian. So when the pandemic’s over you’ve if you fancy going to see him at Ronnie Scott’s, it will be my pleasure. See Georgie fame when he does his annual residency. Is he a jazzy? Is he a
Brian Bolland: kind
Sumner: of a Jasmine heavily jazz and R and B influence? He does a lot of jazz, but it’s quite sort of R and B, but he’s in great voices and there’s voices identical to it.
Yeah. So I’ve got my computer glasses on regular
Brian Bolland: glasses. Oh, that’s better. I can see
Sumner: you’ll read glassing. I’ll also tell you that Billy fury, his real name was Ronald . Yeah.
Brian Bolland: Now what about
Sumner: covering something that people under 17 and on that very note, I’m going to back us into real conversation. That people are tuned in to listen, to tune in, to listen to an hour with Brian bollard. I’ve literally got 15 minutes on a, on 1960s music [00:11:00] and Liverpool. So sorry about that folks.
But I am of course, here with one of my all time favorite artists. I don’t wish to embarrass you Brian, but, but it’s a fact one of my two or three or some favorite artists, not an example. One of the greatest British artists of all time, one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, none other than Mr.
Brian Bolland. How are you today, Brian? Well, I’m doing very
Brian Bolland: well in it. So again, a pleasure to see you and to
Sumner: talk endlessly about Liverpool. Absolutely. Yeah, I guess this is what we do from now on now. Now that I’ve transformed you into a, a great advocates of Liverpool and, and be a man who is almost emblematic of comics and Liverpool.
The file. The file is like, I’ll take that word. Scouse file. Maybe file. Yeah, I won’t get back into my, I did take a bit of a hammering on certain areas of social media, but the amount of time in our interview, I ended up talking about the recipe.
[00:12:00] I’m not going to do that this time, but she’ll have to tell you all about a great length, all about Boston links and the fans when we’re done, we’ll have another
Brian Bolland: video
Sumner: call all about that. I love it. I am actually, I’m actually very interested in that and would love to hear about it. So, so what I’d like to do is I’d like to start by talking a bit about your career and then really focusing on some of the things that you yourself are passionate about as pertains to that career.
You’ve had talked about perhaps some artists and other than yourself, but what we taught a lot of late about different aspects of your career journal, my day job with the bin planet TV. But one of the things that I, we’ve not got to cover off. And I would like to ask you about is, is when you made your transition from the UK, from, from illustrating for 2008 day and whatnot, and you first went over and started [00:13:00] working for DC, can you tell me about the Genesis of Camelot 3000?
Brian Bolland: Oh, well, I don’t have to go through how I made the leap into American comics by that green lantern, those few green light. I
Sumner: think we’ve covered that. We definitely talked about that when we had, with that, there’s an interview which are linked to, for anybody listening to this, which is a chat that I had with both Brian and with Dave Gibbons last summer for forbidden planet CVN.
I’ll put that in the show notes to this episode. So if anybody’s interested in that story can go and check that out. Well, I
Brian Bolland: mean, back at the time I needed. You know, full-time employment. I needed regular work and my heart belong to DC comics. It has to, it has to be said to my, my first comics experience experiences were buying early, well, not early DC comics cause they’d been going since the thirties, but for me, the earliest was in [00:14:00] 61 with several of the mystery titles and Greenland and atom and things of that sort.
And I loved it. I had a great collection of DC comics and
Sumner: the American
Brian Bolland: seemed like a very long way away and all of those wonderful stars of the American comics scene, you know, Gil Kane, you know, Julius Schwartz, all. Ross Andrew and Mike Esposito, all of those artists that I loved it was absolutely wonderful to go and actually be in their presence, you know, sort of feel very honored to be with these people.
Who’ve been doing this since the Dawn of time. So then to be given a proper gig, a full-time project with DC was a big step for me. And it did mean full-time serious hard employment for me. I had to work many hours to get that. I forgot how many pages per issue, but it was a 12 issue. Many suits were getting on front 300 pages of that series.
Now, what, [00:15:00] what do you really need to know about it? We had to determine it might
Sumner: bar I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you a jumping off point for me about this. I was, I was a big fan of Camelot 3000 and I I’ve, I’ve got, I’ve got all the issues of it. Or I did until I recently sold my collection on a cancer, my mum or dad downsizing, but was a crisis that I controlled.
So, so happy with it. So, so, but I seem to remember reading at the time that you had, did some experimentation with how you actually illustrated Camelot 3000. And I remember, and this isn’t a story I might’ve read 25, 30 years ago. Something about you experimented with a different kind of pen that might’ve enabled you to do essentially a combined version of pencils and inks.
Is that right? Well, I mean with issue number
Brian Bolland: two yeah, I, I mean, this was the first time really I had. Right regularly. You’ve been just the penciler and somebody else will be [00:16:00] inking the whole thing. And I was never really very happy with that. There were times, and back in the 2000 ID days, when, because of time pressures, people, friends of mine, Dave givens, Gary leech, various people inked my judge Dredd work.
But the idea of somebody regularly in my incur was something. I was a little bit hard for me to swallow, but there was no way I was going to get that many, that many pages drawn every month. So, To begin with. They gave me a choice of two, a two, Inc. As Mike DeCarlo was one of them actually, no, I can’t even remember what he did.
And if you’re watching this mic, I apologize. And Bruce Patterson was another guy and we chose Bruce to be the regular incur for the books. But he, for some reason, he only got through the first five issues. And when, by the time number six came along, we were in a bit [00:17:00] of a crisis. And the story is that those are people inked.
Issue number six, including Dick GL, Donna, who was quite an important figure at DC comics. I’ve heard stories that all kinds of people link that issue. You know, I think the cleaner had a go at some of them,
Sumner: but it looked, or I
Brian Bolland: wasn’t one of best, but by the time we got to number seven, we took on Terry Austin,
Sumner: the terrific,
Brian Bolland: terrific artist who I think he’d been working on X-Men prior to that, he had a very chiseled style, which was it. Wasn’t my style. My my lines are very scalloped. I come to a point this, again, very technical, but his,
Sumner: People are interested in with you, but
Brian Bolland: it’s a very much chisel.
He said, I used to ink with a brush. So at all times I could. Draw a line, which came to a point or point actually, and then [00:18:00] swelled his lines were done with a pen of some sort. I’ve never really understood this pens. They use Crow Quill or something like that. So the signs were quite Sisley, but I was
Sumner: looking at one
Brian Bolland: of the recent additions of the whole thing.
And they’re so chunky. Yeah. But
Sumner: I don’t lose that. I didn’t, anything I draw on
Brian Bolland: was lost at all. It was enhanced by his really chunky. I, in fact, there’s a lot of energy and that’s stuff, you know, between me penciling and inking that I really probably wouldn’t
Sumner: be able to do today. Ah, that, that that’s so interesting.
I always thought I always enjoyed his work and thought that he I thought he also, I, cause I. I Y remember about Camelot 3000 particulars. I never really saw the invasive effect of other inkers working on your pencil. Isn’t it, the time perhaps knowing less about, you know, artwork than I do now, and not from the sense that I’m, I, [00:19:00] myself, I’m an artist.
Of course, I’m a journalist, as you know, but I do love comics and read many of them. It seemed to me that looking at it, I thought that was something to do with the fact that your pencils are so tight and I’m not in, you know, so detailed in the first place that you’re not really giving the ink as much of a margin to interpret your work.
Brian Bolland: pencil them to death. You know, those, the reason why the last two issues was so ridiculously late was because I, I was penciling, you know, every ink line was there in pencil and I’m left handed. So the paroling has had to somehow turn the page over and, and draw all those lines as if they were left handed.
Yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t very much room for them to to go wrong really.
Sumner: But I mean, that that’s, that is very interesting to me because Austin of course had a great partnership with John Byrne on the X-Men for a long period of time. And and, and I remember when Byrne flipped from doing X men to then writing [00:20:00] and doing the art for fantastic four.
And at that that’s the point at which burns started thinking himself. I was actually preferred Berman using by Terry Austin and when burn actually his own work, you know, it’s suddenly, there’s a change in the quality of it. Whereas, whereas Austen’s work on, you reminded me, I’m going to name a completely different artists now completely different thinker, but reminded me of.
When you look at your pencils on Camelot 3000, and then you look at like your pencils ink by Terry, and then you look at say Kirby on the new, on the later new gods. And then you see Kirby ink by Mike Royer does he’s he, there’s no real difference. So Roy is like, really, you know, really respecting the spirit of Kirby.
There’s no interpretation that it’s just absolute loyalism it seems to me. And that’s the kind of the, that that’s very much, it seems the relationship that Terry had with your pencils. Oh, I think so. Yeah. I don’t
Brian Bolland: really think, I think [00:21:00] I have room to improvise. You know, there were bits where I sort of left it out and said, Terry, put it, fill in that bit the way you like, you know, even, even most of the time pencil is supposed to end up black.
They leave it white. But I think if I remember correctly, I actually sort of filled the whole thing with pencil myself. So, yeah, I think he was very respectful. I think the whole thing went well. Yeah. That’s for curb and ask for Kirby. I mean, he’s such a stylist. Yeah. I mean, I suppose it’d been Nicoletta or somebody like that, Tim, you’d be able to
Yeah. Well, I think Collette is the most famous example of somebody who’s considered to sort of interfered with Kirby’s intent for want of a better description. Although I always heard that Kirby himself didn’t mind collectors, inks that much, that it was less of a Kirby issue than it was other people.
Yeah, probably. Yeah.
Brian Bolland: I was always, I was a huge Gil Cain fan [00:22:00] as a 10 year old, 11 year old. He was the artist. I was, I could, I could provide samples of my attempts to draw like Gil. Okay. And you know, those funny kind of, and I was able to, through the early sixties, through to the late sixties, I was able to see his.
Metamorphosis, almost from 30 naturalistic artists to almost like a Marvel style exaggerator of everything, you know, all that’s sort of distorted for short limbs, he
Sumner: used to draw,
Brian Bolland: And he always had Murphy Anderson. Well, he often had Murphy Anderson has hit his ink. Occasionally we haven’t felt it we’ll say green, who I was also a fan of Sid green was an artist.
He used to draw for Julius Schwartz in strange adventures. In the fifties, he drew pencil, the nature’s own work. And he always had a very strange barrel chested figures,
but his his thinking, so it was various, I don’t know quite what [00:23:00] tool he is, but I went through a phase early on in my teens when I discovered repeater groves of doing lots of little scratchy little lines. And he did a few green lantern.
Sumner: Can I edit this bit out? Yeah, of course, mate. No, I get it. I’m only going to be using the audio rather than the video, so you’re fine. You’re fine to get a glass of water or whatever. Yeah.
Brian Bolland: I think it’ll go away.
Sumner: We’ll just do it
in the wrong direction. Yep. I know exactly what that’s like. Brian,
Brian Bolland: hate doing that in cinema.
Sumner: Yeah. It’s the worst [00:24:00] you sit there trying to suppress it and you can’t and it, and it just makes things worse. Yeah, absolutely. I sort of
Brian Bolland: go in the cinema or not, I think, Oh God, am I going to be able to get through this without having a coffee? Anyway, what I was saying was Sid green did ink to fuel, well, in particular, the covers on Gil Kane on green lantern.
Only recently I was reading how somebody who was complaining about his style of he used to use toothbrush, you know, the stipple effect. I don’t know whether a lot of other artists did that, but I had a period when I tried the, the stipple effect, you know, you’ve got your load load onto your toothbrush and just splash it on the page and you’d get stars or something like that.
Yeah. I like
Sumner: sit Green’s work.
Brian Bolland: I was just going to go on to site eventually Gil Kane. He was obviously fast enough that he could, he could then say, look, I don’t really need an incur. [00:25:00] And his work was.
Sumner: To my
Brian Bolland: view after seeing homie by Murphy Anderson, who was a very, who was a very smooth inker Gil Kane’s penciling and inking in his own work liberal was scratchy to me.
Sumner: I couldn’t agree more. And I think I think for me, Murphy Anderson had, had very much had a very strong identity. So, somebody who doesn’t have a star like case, but I would say the same thing about whose work I also absolute blood is Wally worth. And while he would Murphy Anderson, whoever they, they, whoever they ink.
They would say, you can tell it worked on the page. Right. And I think that Kurt’s one’s art work never looked better than when Murphy Anderson was his incur. So that early seventies, Danielle Neil’s scripted sequence in Superman, kryptonite Nevermore, the weird kind of sand DAPL gang group Superman.
Yeah, that, that whole thing was when Clark camp becomes a a TV anchor. I [00:26:00] just think Superman Kurt’s one, Superman never looked better than it did in that. I love, I
Brian Bolland: love Kurt’s ones on Jimmy Olsen. I
Brian Bolland: liked his non-super hero stuff. So w when they were just standing around in their suits with Perry white in the office and Lois lane was there.
If he hadn’t
Sumner: had to draw.
Brian Bolland: Guys in skin, tight suits, I’m sure Curt Swan would have been a terrific like newspaper
Sumner: artist 1000%. In fact, you could say he might be too much. He missed his vocation because I think that’s a very good point. I, his, his to this day, when I think daily planet, I think the way that Curt Swan drew the Perry whites in my mind, his guts, one’s Perry white.
And as you say, it’s his lowest lane. It’s, it’s his Jimmy Olsen and it’s his car Kent w and I, I think it’s such a good point because I actually was found Curt one Superman to be relatively static [00:27:00] looking you
Brian Bolland: see, I sold my DC collection a good few years ago, but before doing so I scanned two and a half thousand covers.
Wow. So that I can look at them instantly. I was looking through a whole load. Cause you know, obviously on Facebook, there’s a sort of silver age comic fans group. And somebody was putting on this is my Jimmy Olsen collection, or this is my action comics. I’m looking at them There’s not a lot of action on those covers.
Is there, there are situations going on. There’s one where Jimmy Olsen is turning into a porcupine or something like that. There isn’t, there is none of this kind of soccer, soccer, soccer in the eye kind of action that you get from say a Kirby cup or a Marvel cover at all. It was just, you know, people standing in line.
Wait to see he was going to get to kiss Superman and that sort of
Sumner: thing. Oh yeah. Ma I, yeah, it’s great. But [00:28:00] it absolutely. The Superman you’ve hit the nail on the head. They super, I’m probably from the era of TV show, almost really until a burn kind of revived it all. It’s very static for that 25 year period.
You see? I don’t mind that cause
Brian Bolland: because my, to be quite honestly, my work is static. I mean, one of my great failings or strengths, depending on which way you look at it is it is, I tend not to adore action. I mean, I’ll get into that, but yeah. I do find that most of my people are not really moving
Sumner: very much.
No, it’s interesting. It’s interesting to hear you say that. And I would like to get into that in a second. I’m just going to segue into talking a little bit more about guilt game for a second, because there’s a particular Cain run. I wonder if you’ve if you’ve ever seen and. You know that DC in the late sixties produced a very short run of captain action [00:29:00] comics, which it took me years to figure out on the backend what the concept of captain action was.
And I, at the time didn’t have being English didn’t have any real appreciation of the fact that he’s essentially a, you know, kind of action, man, that you could dress up in different.
Brian Bolland: Remember it didn’t have
Sumner: captains. Yeah. I had a great outfit that was designed that was designed by Hollywood. I think I had a great look to him, but but the.
But the concept of the toy is that you could dress them as a variety of other famous comic book and cartoon characters. So you get, you know, you get a Superman outfit even going to eat, but some really interesting ones, like you could get a Sergeant fury outfit for captain action, stuff like that. But of course the concept of the book is that finds a bunch of, kind of a.
Super charged. Doubloons all of which give him different powers depending upon what he’s got in his pocket at any [00:30:00] one time. And the book was written, I think, but by Jim shooter, but the reason I bring it up, it was, it was, yeah, it was, it was an early and very young Jim sheets. It was nearly four eight into into licensed comics for DC.
The guy who owns captain action. Now one of the two guys who owns Capitol action now is is a mate of mine called that Cato runs the, a, there is a professor if ethic, university, he runs the Ethicon stuff like that. It’s a great bloke, but the reason I’m mentioning this is that from issue three onwards, Gil Kane took over as the penciler.
I think it is. Yes. Yeah. There’s the villain in captain action is, is is Dr. Evil under, there’s a very interesting kind of family element captain action because his sidekick action boys, his actual son, not his water, his adopted son, it’s his actual son and his late wife is figures in parts of the story.
And Dr. Evil is his father-in-law and you know, so it’s got a level of family that you cause nearly [00:31:00] everybody in comics up to that point was like an orphan. Or if they had a teenage sidekick, there’d be the award. They wouldn’t ever actually be their biological son. Cut production kind of changed all that.
But one thing that really struck me about that fight about Tyrone is the fifth issue. Is just amazing to look at. And this was DC. It was that it was, it was, it was, it was DC. And can you think of what year we’re at? Almost 68 or 69, I think. And then the final issue is basically cut production and counts as a kind of schizophrenia dictator who on one side of his personality is a Crusader for good.
On the other side, is this Oswald Mosley type figure. But that one issue it’s Gil Kane inked by Wally wood. And when I saw that, it just completely blew my mind because I thought. What you would have this trick somehow of, even though he couldn’t people you think, well, his style’s not at all [00:32:00] complimentary and yet the work he did, the one you saw, it would just look amazing.
This one issue that that’s the only example I’ve seen of Kane and by Hollywood, even if there are others, I’ve not seen it, but I just think it looks amazing. And it’s like, whenever I would dip coat, he, that Ditko would combination looked incredible as well, even though it’s very diff different from how Dick can normally looks.
I know that Cole was a big fan of working with word. And I just wondered if you you’d have you encountered that would calm. Those would combinations yourself. Did what did would draw for Warren much? Do you think he did at one point? Yes, I think that’s correct.
Brian Bolland: I mean, I had a decent collection of creepiest in areas and there were a lot of artists and now I don’t have them anymore, so I couldn’t look up and see whether, while he would was in there.
But Well, I’ve got in my cupboard over there.
Sumner: I’ve got
Brian Bolland: a, quite a few underground sixties, underground comics, and I don’t even know [00:33:00] slow death or something like that. Or big city comics. I think it was cool. I’ve got no, I should’ve had it prepared. Really. It’s got some body wood in it and it was really poor.
Sumner: A lot of big boobs, pornographic
Brian Bolland: stuff is being done by a lot of those RCC, even Neal Adams did quite a bit of it. And I think we need to throw, throw some up on the screen.
Sumner: Yeah, no, that, that, that, that, that, that it on. If we do a YouTube person, this that’s exactly what I’ll do. I think, I think you’re actually, I think you’re onto something there because because wood did a lot of stuff.
If I recall, he did quite a lot of Playboy stuff. Like he does. He do like little Annie Fanny or something like that for Playboy. I think, you know, wasn’t that wrong? Oh, no, that was
Brian Bolland: a wicked one to Ron Appleton.
Sumner: I, yeah, I’m, I’m getting, I’m getting, I’m getting mixed up though. I’m talking about Rossi. Yeah. So it was re [00:34:00] it, Russ Heath did it for a bit.
Didn’t they? Cause have you ever heard that story about receive hit some deadline and and, and basically the Haffner half gets him over to the Playboy mansion. Right. And, and he’s got to do about five days of concentrated work. So they settlement put a room at the Playboy mansion when he finishes the work.
He realizes that he’s a single guy at the time nobody’s telling him to leave. And it’s like basically parties with Playboy bunnies every night and, and food on tap 24 seven. So he just stayed there and worked from the Playboy mansion. And it wasn’t, he was there for a considerable period of time. It’s like three months or something.
When finally, you know, at some point and half, no one of his OPOs kind of go say, must what are you, what are you doing here? He goes, Oh, you know, I’ll, I, you know, I’ll move them one. I worked on that and they’re like, What have you been here ever since? And he was like, yeah. And at that point he was politely asked to leave, but not accurate, [00:35:00] apparently got full value out of everything that was at the time from living in the paper.
That’s I’m afraid. I don’t think I’ve got anything close to that. So, so Brian, when you went from Camelot, so once Camelot 3000 was complete how’s time elapsed between Camelot 3000 and the killing joke.
Brian Bolland: What are the lapse into pre scripted stories? Because I’ve told these stories a few times after, after mom.
Okay. I’ll throw in a few extra details. Maybe. We give them Take Evans and Kevin O’Neill, Robin Smith and me, and one or two others, usually monthly in pubs and some such place isn’t that and have a meal together. And Dave showed us page by page some of the work he was doing on Watchmen, which was fantastic.
And you could tell it was going to be absolutely marvelous and something [00:36:00] really special
Sumner: when he was excited
Brian Bolland: about it. But when I was finished on Camelot, which was before a little bit before then it had done reasonably well and they out of the blue they just sent me a bonus of a little bit of money.
And I, I spend that on go to China, my wife and I went to had a month or so in China and China and places like that. And coming back, I know I really needed to get back to work. And so I just rang up Dick Giordano and said, look And you might be able to recite this with me because I’ve told him yeah.
So I do now. And he said, when you can do anything you like and you know, Alamo was you know, one of the 2008 D crap. And he was clearly a very, very, he was the big thing now, of course, because Watchmen was doing so well and he was my pal. And so I said, I’d like to draw a Batman graphic novel, and I’d love, love it if Alan could Bryce it.
And so they can’t have that. And he said, [00:37:00] yes. Now I, I have heard stories that the killing joke, which comes under a bit of criticism for various reasons from people. Was it really just some Batman annual story that Alan had got up his sleeve anyway, whether that’s true, I don’t know, but the whole point, the whole Genesis of the killing joke was made.
Being told I could do anything I wanted and I could choose who to write it. Fairly, so enough to returning after a month away. I I got the go ahead for that. And I spoke to Alan on the phone and Alan said, what sort of thing they have in mind. And I liked the idea of it being a joker. It focused on the joker more than Batman, because he’s more the sort of couch I can get my teeth into.
He’s got, he’s got, almost got more dimension to him, Batman. I mean, Batman is almost like this sort of, sort of shadow
Sumner: on the wall. I don’t really feel a need to know a lot about
Brian Bolland: Batman. He’s just this kind [00:38:00] of, sort of. Well, there’s not a vampire. Exactly, but I mean, he’s, he’s a sort of a cloaked, mysterious figure.
Whereas the joker, I think there’s more something to explore there. I mean, not only that, but there’s something more to draw. There are many more poses you put him in. He’s very, he’s very much a theatrical character, as I think is the penguin. I love drawing the penguin as well. I’ve said this before, but those two characters they’re sort of almost
Sumner: Sort of pre,
Brian Bolland: You know, silent movie.
Sumner: Yes, of course. A lot more to draw
Brian Bolland: there. So I think your question was, how long was it before we got onto
Sumner: that and blah, blah, blah. The reason I asked that is purely, so we could evolve into, into talking about what you’re mentioning now, and I think it is very interesting. Your take on those characters.
I think. I think what you’ve just said. I’ve I I’m, I’m sure you’ve said it before. Well, I’ve not read, I’ve not read that before. I just said, I think it’s very interesting. [00:39:00] The fact that that’s part of your inspiration for your take on the Batman villains, other the great silent movie era villains that would turn up in the Buster Keaton movies in the, in the child chapter movies and the silent Laurel and Hardy, you know, so you get these, get those, those very cause.
Pete is that this would cast, but nowadays actors are often quite homogenized. It all kind of look like each other all were incredibly good looking, very charismatic. But back then it was, it was much more like, you know, villains where, where we’re telegraphing the villainy would that these Rondo Hatton, for example, who, by the way, mate, one of my first references, one of the first times I ever saw Rondo Hatton was when you drew him.
And judge dread. And I, you know, I was a kid at the time when I read that, I knew because of the context that it had to be a reference to some things, [00:40:00] I didn’t know what it was. And it took me a while to figure out before I actually, along with collecting these
Brian Bolland: comics, I was also a big fan collector of famous monsters of film.
There’s all those wonderful black and white, I mean, the interior pages of that were black and white people at Rondo hazard and all of those kind of black and white movie Horak, Lon, Chaney, and all of those characters. You know, I loved them and I was fascinated by what freaks actually, Todd Browning’s freaks was a bit of a fascination of mine, sort of morbid fascination, but also The elephant man, actually that came into that as well.
But Rhonda Hasson the Tor Johnson,
Sumner: you know, it was like a Swedish wrestler. Apparently. That’s
Brian Bolland: exactly what he was. It was only later in life that I discovered that the covers of famous monsters were painted by basil go Goss. I didn’t know that name at all. And the brilliance of Gogo’s [00:41:00] was that he was able to take it an entirely black and white world of the Warner brothers all have a black and white monster horror movies.
Sumner: Render them in
Brian Bolland: and literally brilliant. They never had in the first place, those issues, I don’t have the rights to throw any
Sumner: of those aspects. Those are, those are very familiar to me. And, and you’ve just explained something. I thought what gave those to me about what gave this title is incredible energy.
So until you tell me now, I never knew the name of the artist, but what was struck by his work is incredible. Yeah. And he lived till quite very
Brian Bolland: recently. He was even on Facebook recently until the last few years. I think it must’ve lived in. Yeah. Nice guy by the look of it. I’m very tired here. That’s what I was.
I never got any other drew faces.
Sumner: I’ve not seen any of his other ones. So hearing you talk about this, Brian, I mean, I used to love it in the, in those early [00:42:00] days of your career. Like when Andre, he used to introduce, you know, Laurel and Hardy, I think appear in the, kind of, the, the oxygen board episode on the moon.
And, and I remember really super clearly, I’ve actually talked to you about this before thinking about it on one of the Walter, the Woebot backup strips, he’s on some kind of, Britain’s got talent type show and there’s a variety of judges. One of whom is a well-known actress. One of whom is a mammal Monroe thing I ever remember correctly, but one of whom is his adult.
Fittler the gag is that he’s, he’s, he’s introduced as Adam Schickel Gruber. And yeah. And I used to love the way that you dropped in, in, and real life characters like that. And there are some characters from movies that I’ve always thought I would love to see you, let you just do an illustration of a cover if you will, just to stand-alone illustration.
And I’ll tell you, some of them are. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with any of these films, [00:43:00] but if you have, have you ever seen the 1947 film kiss of death? Yeah, it’s got, it’s got victim mature and it’s got Richard Widmark in it in the role that made it, made him a star and he’s, you know, fourth or fifth down the down the, the cast list, right.
In terms of his billing, but he plays a kind of snickering laughing assassin called Tommy Udo. Who’s clearly hopped up on pills and whatnot, but it’s, it’s kind of a Batman villain performance. It’s definitely one of the factors that must have influence Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Yeah. And, but with the homicidal energy, but whenever I watch that movie, I’m like, Oh man, I would love to see Brian Jordan.
I think never heard of that. Yeah. I mean, I
Brian Bolland: thought you were going to say kiss me deadly, which is the mix.
Sumner: Well, I mean, this is so funny. You should say that because I, in my hand to God’s ear, [00:44:00] that is exactly what I was going to say next. And I, I, cause I’m a huge fan of that film. And one of the things we may have, we may have talked about this.
He absolutely is. And one of the things I do on the side at Titan is I, I did Maxim in Collins, my camera novels that he completes the Mickey explains my camera novels. And I’m the editor on those books. Cause I’m a huge hammer fan, but what’s that Mike hammer and kiss me deadly easily character up.
Absolutely. And it’s so brutal. He’s incredibly bruised. Yes, exactly. Yeah. With his clients. Oh, yeah, no, for sure. And, and, and, and it’s a kind of, it’s quite an unbelievable performance actually, because how Ralph, Ralph Meeker still, you know, basically essentially Runs through that film, such a heightened peak of energy and emotion the whole time.
There’s almost, he almost shouts to everybody. He talks to you and threatens everybody talks there. [00:45:00] Even when it’s Valdor his secretary slash girlfriend, he just pushes is pushing everybody around. And the interesting thing is, is that the early hammer novels are basically hammer is his back from the war.
And he’s this vengeance fueled constantly angry character. Who’s clearly got some kind of PTSD has come back from it. Yeah. I’ve never read any, I don’t,
Brian Bolland: I don’t know the characters at all. Apart from that, I mean, I know the Raymond Chandler characters. Oh,
Sumner: of course. Yeah. Yeah, Chandler. Yeah. Mickey explain is like, literally the emotions are just dialed up to 11 the whole time, you know, and it’s real purple prose, but it’s an, it’s an amazing, very very faithful performance that Mika Gibbs.
But yeah, there are so many scenes again. And kiss me deadly.
The several kind of vignettes in that film. Robo is still w where he’s where he’s got the guy, who’s the the orchestra conductor and he’s threatening him. And he jams is his conducting hand in a drawer, or there’s a guy that he just throws [00:46:00] down a flight of stairs, or there’s the whole others, the whole time of opening sequence, which is actually what the very young Cloris, Leachman where he finds her sort of cause the film begins and he’s like driving through the Hollywood Hills and it’s nighttime.
And all you see is everything via the Know, I mean,
Brian Bolland: I mean, these films are so from so long ago, it’s probably been 30 or more years since I’ve seen these things. I don’t know whether you watch them over and over again. Do you
Sumner: the kind of brain that absorbs them? I’m not using, I wrote about films for a long time, so I guess it just keeps them at the forefront of my mind.
Brian Bolland: I think, yeah, I mean, I’m, I’m a real film buff, but I think my, I think the stuff I like tends to be a little bit more race night where I live here, we had a local film club and one of our members insisted on it only ever showing films from the fifties. And they all seem to have a Lancaster in them,
[00:47:00] Sumner: which kind of makes sense.
I thought I have made films since then.
Brian Bolland: One of my absolute favorite films was called Nashville. It
Sumner: was by Robert Hall. I love that movie. Fantastic. I love it.
Brian Bolland: Before I’ve watched that. I wasn’t really a country music fan, but I’ve since become one, but I
Sumner: love that for my love
Brian Bolland: and the fact that there are 25 lead characters in here.
All of us get equal time.
Sumner: Really? And that was something old when, of course they did. A couple of times he took that approach to a number of movies. He did, he did want to call it a wedding, which, Oh. And it was phenomenal. I saw that one. It was a kid in Crosby and Liverpool by himself in the cinema where I was the only person in the, the classic in Crosby, a matinee on a Saturday.
And I was literally the only person in this. Oh, really? Well, we’ve been, we’ve actually been to the
Brian Bolland: cinema locally here when my wife and I have been the only two people. I’ll tell you one thing. That last was it [00:48:00] last year they released tenant.
Sumner: Oh yeah, for sure. And
Brian Bolland: my wife and I were the only people in the audit in the, in the room.
And I’m afraid after an hour we
Sumner: left now. I’m glad you said that. Cause I was going to ask you what you thought of it, because I’ve got a lot of admiration for, for Chris Nolan. But I think sometimes, you know, sometimes he, he kind of almost strays into an emperor’s new clothes thing where he’s phenomenally talented, but I personally didn’t really like him to stellar that much, mainly because I don’t like the central MacGuffin, which is there’s this whole thing about like, finding that secret to like, the, the faster than light drive or what have you.
And of course that’s virtually fucking physically impossible. So the reason it’s built around this Miguel, although he loves all this science and everything and he tries to get all the theory of relativity stuff, right? He, this there’s a conceit at the center of that, which is that well, that just will never work, you know, very interested in
Brian Bolland: time.
I mean, I mean, memento was a terrific [00:49:00] idea. I thought that worked quite well. Yeah. And I could sort of see what he was doing with tenet, but I had to read about it because after an hour or so, I found the Kenneth brand very kind of Brown of being a Russia. And I just don’t know. I think I’m a little bit over
Sumner: Canada branded Holy and authentic.
I love kind Brown, but you’ve got to, he’s got to be in the right thing, man. I thought he was great in in Wallander on television through is amazing, but, but I think I agree with you completely. Your experience of tenants is exactly mine. Well, I think my problem was, I didn’t really like James
Brian Bolland: Bond. I don’t really like super spies and I just found it all a bit.
Oh, this, this whole world. And by the time they did that business with it. The truck, you know, when they had to sort of break into a truck that was actually driving my wife enjoyed it, but I found it incredibly
Sumner: staged. Yeah, I know it is. It’s absolutely a [00:50:00] set piece where the filmmakers essentially going look how clever I am the
Brian Bolland: whole idea.
I mean, I understand that by the time we get to the end of the field, we’re going to see the same film, but in reverse. Yeah. You’ve seen the whole thing. So you can confirm that. And I feel I ought to buy it from the Tesco’s or somewhere and just sit down and watch
Sumner: it. I mean, just to have the complete experience, I guess, but I D I do absolutely think that it’s my experience with it, but I enjoyed it the whole way through, but I enjoyed it the whole way through, with a huge book.
And that was the, at the end. I wasn’t really sure. What the fuck is going on. And I’m somebody who’s spent, you know, 30 years. And while I’ve watched your films for a living and writing about them, you know, not that, that means anything except to them. I’m used to watching films and, you know, getting pretty much what’s going on fairly, you know, straight swaps.
I am losing. I’m losing my [00:51:00] teacher. I watched the
Brian Bolland: film the other day called the handmaiden. Oh yeah. The Korean guy. And I’m afraid I came away from that thinking. What the hell went on in that, you know, why did he have his fingers chopped off? I mean, spoiler alert
Sumner: who was tricking ho and I think possibly if I’d have
Brian Bolland: concentrated hard or I might’ve got it, but
Sumner: did you get that one?
Yeah. I only know about that film and have not seen it. And I have to say, you’re not really selling it to me, so I’m not going to jump in at the most to watch. There’s another
Brian Bolland: Fidel, another film I saw recently that was a puzzler and it was called I’m thinking of ending things.
Sumner: Ah, now I hear good things about that.
What did you.
Brian Bolland: But at the end of it, it was a real head scratcher is what I would call a head scratcher. And I’ll actually have to go online to read what actually happened in the [00:52:00] film.
Brian Bolland: I’ve read what had happened in the film, I thought, Oh, I get it now. But I did. Yeah. It’s a little bit emperor’s new clothes.
Sumner: know, I might’ve been thinking well,
Brian Bolland: no, I suppose I shouldn’t really like this, but I won’t tell you any more because you, you will probably watch it one day.
Sumner: It’s this is so funny because I could go on about films and all sorts of, well, it’s funny, it’s one of the things I want to talk to you about, and this is a really nice segue, the concept of having to go away and look at another source to confirm what you think.
I just want to touch upon one final slice of conversation about the killing joke, because a couple of years ago Who was the chap like grant Morrison came up with his view of what is going on at the end of the killing joke. And I wanted specifically to ask you about that and to, to, to ask it for you just, you know, I had always just read and [00:53:00] enjoyed the killing joke and thought, well, it’s an ambiguous note on which it’s ending, but he had to completely on ambiguous take on what the ending of the killing joke is.
What is it to you, Brian? Well,
Brian Bolland: I have read that some of these, this conspiracy theory there
Brian Bolland: nothing in the script to, to suggest there was anything ambiguous about it. The two, the two of them just have a bit of a laugh let’s have a think. When I was drawing it, the, there isn’t, there is a sort of, I have a hand that goes between the two of them that some people think there’s some sort of death stroke of some sort.
There was no, I think there was no intention. Allen’s part to have it as a death scene. And there was no tension on my part to have it, have it as a death scene. So in that respect, it isn’t a death scene. I was just watching this thing podcasts over here with Philip Pullman. And he was saying, when you’re writing something, you know, you what is what is the word he use?
You know, you’re an
Sumner: author or watercraft or something you,
Brian Bolland: you, [00:54:00] you are, but once you’ve finished the thing it’s then. In the hands of the readers and they can interpret anything the way they want. So they may know more about that final scene than we ever intended to put into it.
Sumner: How’s that pronounced?
I think it’s a great answer because I, that the interpretation that Batman is the grant Morrison interpretation that Batman is executing the joker and that the clues being in the title the entire time, the killing joke. Yeah. I had never considered it until he said it. And then when I, when I deliberately read at the book, just from that standpoint, I thought, well, actually, yeah, you can interpret it this way because there’s an interesting thing that happens also in the dialogue on the final page where, where the Joker’s laughter stops before Batman’s does.
And a lot of people put that together to set out right. Batman’s just, Batman’s just fucking killed it. That’s kind of makes [00:55:00] sense. You know, but probably rides for me to hear you talk about it, to hear you talk about what the intent was is, is very interesting. I
Brian Bolland: don’t want to spoil things, but the intent was not that on the, either on Alan’s or my part as far as I, well, if, I mean, if it had been he would have communicated to me that I had to draw it that way, but he didn’t.
Sumner: I think there are one or two others.
Brian Bolland: Examples where they’re drawn to characters together. And for some reason there’s a hand in shadow in between the two it’s. Maybe it’s just a way I draw. I mean, there are a couple of other things about the killing joke that I only grew to love afterwards. And one of them is the fact that the cover is a lot
Sumner: more horrible than you imagined,
Brian Bolland: because it is the moment when the joker is doing the worst thing of all is because, you know, what’s on the other end of that.
If you read the story. So although it’s a very friendly and very familiar sort of iconic because we’ve seen it so often [00:56:00] image, it’s actually an image of the moment when it is the worst thing happening, but also later on, there’s a moment that I love the most, regardless of all the eras. Apart from all of these things about the thing about the final page.
I love the bit
Sumner: where the joker
Brian Bolland: draws the gun, the gun that apparently has terribly harmed Barbara and points it at Batman and shoots the Batman with that gun. And out of it comes a flag that says, click, click, click. And he says, damage him team.
Sumner: It’s just mad
Brian Bolland: madness
Sumner: to that. I mean, you, you can imagine that the joker is just
Brian Bolland: he’s, he’s like he’s playing at it.
He’s a theatrical villain in a way. Isn’t he? But the look of surprise on his face that the gun is empty, but not only is the gun empty, but it’s got a bloody flag sticker.
[00:57:00] Sumner: That’s
Brian Bolland: almost my favorite bit in the whole story. Anyway.
Sumner: Oh, that’s that that’s, that is fantastic to hear. Thanks. Thanks for your candor, Brian. I really enjoyed hearing that. And just to, to carry on talking about the joke for a second, cause we started talking about the joke earlier. Uh it’s it’s very interesting and gratifying as a fan of your work and appreciative of your work.
So yeah, how much you’d like the joker as a character, because I think some you’ve often managed to do and the history of all those great DC illustrations and covers you’ve managed to redefine the joke has looked several times over during the time, your joke hasn’t remained static in one kind of place.
I think that, I think he, you know, I think you play around with the edges of his appearance quite a bit. Well, I mean, since.
Brian Bolland: I mean, I was doing the Neal Adams joker. I think. I mean, the, the thing that really made me want to draw the joke was a story that Neil Adams drew was, it would have been down your
Sumner: nail, the one, Oh, it’s the joke is five way revenge.
Right? [00:58:00] Is that the one you’re talking about the Batman? Is that the giant saying
Brian Bolland: giant? Yes. And there is another story attached to that, which is a bit long-winded, but there’s a moment. In that story where he’s just walking along the road, the pavement, as we call it the sidewalk with his Hench persons, his henchman, I don’t know quite what his henchmen does, but he, he just thinks it would be funny to push him in
Sumner: front of a bus.
Brian Bolland: lots of, kind of dress joke, isn’t it. And I thought that’s a level of kind of comical insanity that I could imagine him at the end of the day, I’d had no say whatsoever in the writing of the collegiate tool. I had some of the say and the writing of Camelot. Yeah. Because my boss did
Sumner: ask me what I thought.
Brian Bolland: Could go on later on in the story. And I invented the mother the big, giant, mostly egg SAC, alien creature for the lesser stages of Camelot, but I had nothing, [00:59:00] I had no say in the writing of the killing joke.
Sumner: Oh, that’s interesting. Really interesting. And, and in that, in the last, I guess is I guess it must be since the killing joke, is it 30 years or so seeing that time you’ve been making well, it was
Brian Bolland: nice in 88, wasn’t it?
Sumner: a long time ago, long time ago now. So, so in your long career illustrating covers for DC, are there any that stand out as real favorites of yours? Oh, well, you have different
Brian Bolland: favorites on different days, don’t you? And I mean, I’ll draw animal though. You could probably, I mean, I don’t expect you to know everything about me cause you’ve got a lot of artists and writers in the comic world to remember, but I drew a, quite a few
Sumner: 60 odd consecutive,
Brian Bolland: Animal man covers.
And that was great fun because that was really grant Morrison, revealing himself as another special writer. I think at the [01:00:00] beginning when he arrived at DC, I mean, my theory is they didn’t want him on the big names. So let’s give him this kind of 10th rate character that has been retired for the last 20 years animal man.
And he turned him into this kind of matter. Charactered and it was, I think number four, we actually had my hand drawing him and he was in a sort of crucifix.
Sumner: Can you put that on the screen just then? Yeah, no, I mean, it’s, it’s very memorable to me. I got, I bought those issues in real time, month by month as they came out.
But I mean, I’ve got a comical. I, I
Brian Bolland: love kind of the, the, the thing you get from judge dread that often is lacking from American comics. It’s the combination of hard action. Even horror and comedy. I mean, you certainly get it with, you know, the Fink gang or whatever there, and people like that, you know, the league of fatties and yeah, yeah, it was
[01:01:00] Sumner: wonderfully horrific, but
Brian Bolland: the comical character.
And I think I was able to incorporate a kind of comical element dimension too. I mean, you know, I was on the cover artists. I mean, other people did the real hard work, Charles chalk, for instance, drew most of the early issues. And then later. Rick Veech. Was it
Sumner: various people? I think this approach is very much where you came into your own on, and it was great on animal mum, but I think, I think that confluence of kind of the macabre and action and comment, your invisibles covers are all about that.
Brian Bolland: Oh, the invisible is good, but will you see? That was when I went digital. You see, that was again, that was grant Morrison and his, his work is so psychedelic and sort of metaphysical and. Odd isn’t it that it was, and at the time I w Shelly Rosenberg, who was the who began Shelly bond was the editor of all of that.
And they let me really go wild on, on those. Some of those covers, I [01:02:00] remember the final 12 of those covers was supposed to be a countdown to the millennium. And we decided they decided to count them from 12 to one in reverse order. So that number one would occur the rush on the millennium because everything gets late and it was wasn’t finished on time, but it was great funds or incorporating the number 12, 11, 10, nine, eight, all the way back to one as some kind of elements, several, several elements, really within these covers.
I was given pretty much free range to do what I liked. I remember number one, I was especially asked to have an arm coming out of a Lake and I just took a photograph of my wife’s. I’m actually holding a gun. Oh, brilliant. Which high’s photo-shopped coming out of it. So I was really at the time mucking around with Photoshop, just, you know, Dave Gibbons introduced me to Photoshop because people were coloring [01:03:00] my line.
You know, I was trying to flash, I think as well. I know it’s probably a bit later, but a lot of the work I was doing for DC was just line work. And then Tatiana ward or a number of other colorists without the color. But then as the computer entered the scene the colorist would be using a lot of computery whizzbang effects.
And the original line work that I put down on the paper in the first place was getting a little bit swamped. And I thought if anyone’s gonna swamp my drawings with color, it needs to be me.
Sumner: Yeah. So you always kill your own covers at the moment. I do it.
Brian Bolland: I don’t remember the last time anyone ever recovered, ever color.
At the moment I produce, in every case, I produce completely full color
Sumner: work. I
Brian Bolland: also let them, cause you know, you do the work in Photoshop and you send it via some, I send it via WhatsApp, not
[01:04:00] Sumner: WhatsApp. We teach, we transfer.
Brian Bolland: And I also, I send them to the color file the best and also the lines. There’s always a line.
The line drawing itself has got to stand on its own for me because you know, we come out of a tradition. We Brits of comics in black and white.
Sumner: You know, they,
Brian Bolland: they had to work without any color. And I still like the I’m not a painter. I really can’t work with paint. And I like the drawing to stand on its own.
A good degree of line and detail and dark and shape, light and shade. So I will send the work in color and also in line so they can use that if they
Sumner: want. Yeah. I mean, I think your aptitude, a brilliance in financial aptitude, your brilliance with line is one of the reasons why your work is so popular.
And and it, this is the elements of your work. That to me as a fan and somebody probably started reading your stuff when I was about 10 It really stood out to me [01:05:00] from the get go. Particularly when I first sang, I first encountered you and Gibbons your artwork at almost exactly the same time, because I was a PE I was a paper boy issue.
One of 2008 D appears at news agents. I worked for, I bought it. I was immediately hooked and it was a big fan of American comics. That’s what I grew up on. And I didn’t read many British comics until 2008. Well read the odd one. And I did at that time, the NAB, but I wasn’t so into the wall books at that point.
But 2008 D was to me the first British comic that I had a kind of American sensibility. And for me, that ex that American sensibility was typified by your arts and Dave’s art. And then it’s the same way I felt about Steve Dylan’s art when they ultimately started doing like Nick fury, I think, and in the Marvel whole comic.
Yeah. But, but I thought you guys very much had. In different ways, had a flavor that I, as an American comics fan really, really responded to. And I think that clarity of line that you have [01:06:00] is the thing that, that I just remember your work being so impactful from the first moment I saw it remember being really fascinated by it because it didn’t feel very, it didn’t feel very British to me, even though that being British it’s part of who you are, you know, I think, I think it always made a tremendous amount of sense.
The minute you started working for DC, I thought, well, that’s the inevitable outcome for both you and Dave. I always thought that’s what would happen. Yeah. What are you seeing? The thing is before
Brian Bolland: 2008 D We grew up on wall picture library. I think my mom was particularly keen on those
Sumner: Hotspur and act, but what was the, what was the one that had hooked that had the shark action?
Brian Bolland: And a lot of those comics were drawn by Italians and Spanish artists. There was certainly not an American superhero dimension or look to any of them, but of course, Dave and I had spent two years doing this Nigerian superhero called [01:07:00] PowerMax. Because Barry Coker, we I’m sure we’ve covered all my screen’s gone blank.
We’ll switch it back on again. And so the Wilson,
Sumner: the super
Brian Bolland: heroes that have already worked, they had made the, that had been the
Sumner: spider. Yeah. You started out as a villain and then became a, I never read him. Jerry
Brian Bolland: Siegel wrote that.
Sumner: I don’t know if you remember this probably, but one of the first times that that we encountered each other was around the time that I was doing the first kind of reprints of the, I used to IPC, which is when I was the publisher.
And and I, I, I put together the first archive additions of the spider in the steel cloth, which were in fact published by Tyson worldwide. And and yeah, that’s, that’s, I used to, I used to love those strips, particularly as a kid, because for me, they played the most. Closely to the kind of American comic [01:08:00] sensibility in wheelhouse.
They did things that were, that felt to me as an American comics fan that were not dissimilar. I was, I was really
Brian Bolland: delighted by the way, with the recent
Sumner: collection of steel claw
Brian Bolland: rebel, it was it rebellion. I did the cover on that.
Sumner: It’s so lovely. It’s so it’s a bit, it’s a beautiful book. I
Brian Bolland: mean, I don’t think, I think the cover is okay because I was really trying to make it look as if Glasgow himself had drawn it.
I don’t really care how much I supplied as long as Glasgow himself is actually on the cover there. I mean, it’s under the head, I think. Well, I think probably the head I’m looking, I’m looking past you because
Sumner: I’m not attached to the wall. Oh, it’s a beautiful piece of work. And that was edited by, by Keith Richardson.
Who’s a great bloke. I hope they do
Brian Bolland: another one because yeah. And I’ve also volunteered to do the MiTek the mighty cup. Fantastic. I’ve probably
Sumner: got a much better
Brian Bolland: artist lined up
Sumner: Chris Weston or somebody who helped [01:09:00] me to do that. Westland is a brilliant artist, of course, but know. I mean, I don’t think, I think it’s pretty rich.
You’re saying they’re going to get somebody better. Cause I’d love to see. Well, I
Brian Bolland: would love to do it. I mean, Eric Bradbury was the original artist I loved as a kid in 1964. It was the DC comics, but it was also the weekly value which had all this, you know, it was such a treat really want you to know what my tech was going to destroy
Sumner: this week.
Volume was, was the cradle of all these great, all these great strips, of course. Of course, which are very close to my heart. I certainly, I hope, well, if Keith’s listening to this, I hope he will commissions you to, that might cover sooner rather than later you or
Brian Bolland: somebody else. It was probably somebody else who told me that Charlie Higson.
Of the Hixon sort of the fast show is writing the steel Chlor
Sumner: or writing. Yeah, it would, it would have been, somebody has got to be one of the rebellion guys, but he sounds exactly what I tell you. Funny enough, you mentioned Chris Western. So when I was [01:10:00] at IPC and I was involved with the, the, this is the early two thousands revival of those characters, which were published by DC and I cope obvious the Albion series with with which Dave did the covers forum was written by Leah Moore and John rappin.
And then I published co-published Dave’s Thunderbolt Jackson series, which was written by him and he did the covers and the interior art was done by John Higgins and that, and then we did a battle of Britain and who was finishing that. It was my, it was myself at IPC and DC comics while we did battle of Britain, which was written by Garth Ennis.
And the art was by Colin Wilson. So the next book that, the series that, that, that the line got canned after the battle of Britain, but the fourth book was going to be the steel claw written by Ian Edginton and and illustrated by Chris Western. And don’t, we’ve got to the point where myself and Bob Wayne, who you, you will recall.
And Hannah canals, we’d all been out for dinner in the West end [01:11:00] and in and Crescent, it was all gonna happen. And we’re all very excited about it. And it was the one I was looking forward to the most. So I was absolutely gutted when the line fell apart and, you know, Didn’t go any further. It’s always a shame when, you know, you’ve got a great book that’s in the ether and it doesn’t actually happen and must’ve been even worse for the creators.
But for, for me, it was just, I remember being gutted at the time. I was going to say
Brian Bolland: that when I first, when I started out there, wasn’t a 2008 and all of the comics before, I wasn’t sure what line of work I was going to be going into. So I tried out some DC Thompson war, two pages, you know, sort of mystery.
There was a sort of a creepy, airy kind of two pager. I drew, I even tried girls romance. There was sort of, I did even did pencil drawings for a kind of romance magazine of some sort, which I only found the other day, which I put on one of these Facebook things. So there wasn’t [01:12:00] really a suitable.
Location for my work. You know, I was trying to kind of nudge myself in the direction of drawing Napoleonic war stories and people on horseback. And I didn’t have to do that at all, but it was very convenient that well, star Wars came along. Basically. I, they say decided maybe we should try our hand again at science fiction myself.
And yeah, and I, I guess a general, I mean like a generation that included people like givens and me had grown up on Marvel and DC comics. So we knew how to do that. Kind of, we, we were, we knew about people at Murphy Anderson and Gilkey and all of those very smooth artists and that’s, those were our sort of mentor.
So I guess right from that period on 2008, he took on a slightly different look. Yeah. I mean, there were other people, obviously then David neighbor came along with this completely [01:13:00] unique style, which you’d know.
Sumner: Yes. As I asked as Dave and loads of people, again, Gibson. Yeah. It’s amazing stuff. That’s the beloved Nelly look very different from everybody else.
I felt at the time. Right?
Brian Bolland: Yeah. Yeah, it turning into an eye. This is turning into a rebellion in 2008.
Sumner: Yeah, Keith, again, if you’re listening to me, the please, you know, my address to send me a check,
I’m fine. I’m not no close out one more thing, which is, there’s a flip back to DC and account. We were often name-checked about, about illustrating the definitive version of, and it’s none of the characters we’ve taught. We talked about this far, but it’s somebody you’ve, you’ve, you’ve illustrated many.
It’s currently really straight in many of us and that’s wonder woman. [01:14:00] Everyone loves your iteration of wonder woman and it’s. So often held up as the kind of standard of how wonder woman should be illustrated. And I can’t disagree with that. I’ve always loved your wonder woman for awhile. Yeah. Yes. I I volunteered
Brian Bolland: to draw the one woman covers.
I was, I was on animal, man, I think. And pour a cup of what was it? A cup of Virgo or was it Tom Pyre? Who are the editors? I just, you know, something, I really like, yeah.
Sumner: She was, she she’s a sexy character.
Brian Bolland: I thought, well, I could do that. And the word, the one or two, I mean,
Sumner: it started with just, I did often
Brian Bolland: when you don’t have an idea at all, because I mean, I like covers that have good story suggested on them, you know, but quite often nowadays they just say, well, give us an action cover.
I think, well, yeah, but what are they doing? So quite often I’m drawing a cover without really [01:15:00] knowing what is going on in the story. So on a couple of occasions, I just did fairly iconic looking pictures of one-to-one. And one of, one of the was her standing on one leg seems to be, that seems to be an often
Sumner: reproduced image of, I, I, it really is.
I think you’re you’re wonder woman is the kind of perfect confluence of Power strength, confidence and beauty. And I think every time I see a wonder woman illustrated by you, she’s always all four of those things at once. And, and, and just the sheer power of the character. I mean, your, your wonder woman is absolutely second to no one.
And, and, and that, that that’s that extremely, she’s completely feminine, but completely powerful and in control. I think that’s a wonderful thing to see. And I think that’s something you’ve always really understood about the character. [01:16:00] Well, I mean,
Brian Bolland: I think Adam Hughes is the definitive wonder woman.
He’s such a good artist. He’s such a, such a good artist because he, he, he does manage to create that it’s not exploitative, you know, the image of wonder woman and the women that he draws. Cause I think it’s specialized and all kinds of Turner and all the other women that they’re not exploited images. I think the images of, you know, sexy, but very strong and identifiable with women, which I think even women, especially women, Nathan might be drawn
Well, I mean, back
Brian Bolland: in the early days Ross, Andrew and Mike Esposito had a long period of drawing wonder woman. And I think she was really very much in the doldrums for a long, long time. I think George Perez had a go at a good, good while. I don’t know whether he packed up or whatever, but I, I [01:17:00] stepped in and just did a few 20 or maybe 1520, I don’t know.
Sumner: No, it’s absolutely absolutely true. So what, what did you, what do you think of Gallagher dealt on screen?
Brian Bolland: I think she’s the most watchable DC super hero character. There’s something I can’t quite get my head around any of the males
Sumner: on screen. Yeah. I,
Brian Bolland: I think she’s terrific. She’s such a nice woman too.
I mean, when you see her being interviewed, she’s so down to earth and likable and beautiful. And, and when she does, then they do the action scenes. She seems to be getting into it. Yeah, I think she’s great. Yeah. Apparently she’s well-trained cause she was in the Israeli army. It
Sumner: wasn’t checked. He was no, that’s true.
Yeah. You wouldn’t want to pick a fight with her, but
Brian Bolland: she’s
Sumner: absolutely great. Yeah. I mean, she’s phenomenal. She’s almost so [01:18:00] perfectly cast that she’s one of those actors that, you know, you’d really have to, you’d really have to construct her in a laboratory for her to be that perfect for, for wonder woman.
She’s she’s she’s incredible. I think she’s just got this towering charisma as well, extremely likable charisma, supremely capable of she she’s everything you would want, wonder woman to be. And I think she’s a terrific role. I know she’s a terrific role model for people like my daughter for women around the world.
I don’t think they could have, I don’t think they could have cast her any better. And I think she was. I was just going to say that there
Brian Bolland: was a, there was a thing called international woman’s day, a few years ago. And somebody suggested that image. I drew a wonder woman standing on one leg that was suggesting wonder woman as an image for international woman’s day.
And then somebody said, no, I think possibly nowadays now that she’s on film,
Sumner: having had Gallagher doc bring her, bring her to life having made such a success of it as [01:19:00] well and having been so, so rightly embraced in that performance, I think you’re right.
I think I’ll tell you who else I re who I really like.
Brian Bolland: I really love what’s her name? The Harley Quinn character on
Sumner: screen. Oh yes. Yeah, of course. Margot Robbie, Margot.
Brian Bolland: Robbie. That’s right.
Sumner: Yes. She’s fantastic. I mean, totally
Brian Bolland: different from the, I mean I’ve drawn Harley Quinn the way she was drawn by Bruce, Tim or whoever.
But she looks completely different on screen, but I think she’s so
Sumner: funny. Oh yeah. I mean,
Brian Bolland: she seems to be the one out front. I mean, suicide squad was one of the very early showcase that brave in the bowl, number 26 or something like that back in the late fifties. And they were other sort of dull bunch of adventurism.
Yeah. So this, this crowd who are currently called a suicide squad or a bunch of villains.
Sumner: Yeah, that’s right. Well, it was, it was John Ostrander, the author, the writer in the eighties you’d [01:20:00] kind of repurpose them. So he took the concept of the suicide squad who were you’re dead. Right. Are incredibly bland.
I took the leader rip flack, and he, he put, basically turned it into the superhero version of the dirty dozen with an ever evolving cast because the villain, second, second string villains, just keep on getting killed off. That’s the point they’re genuinely kill them, you know, but I think the new suicide squad movie, the one being direct, written and directed by James Gunn looks far more in keeping with the wood, the, yeah, the tone and the quality level of the comic than the first movie was, I mean that the, the the trailer looks like it’s, it’s got that insane James Gunn energy that he brought to the guardians, the galaxy movies, but just, you know, Kicking into that whole concept of the suicides got said, there’s whole bunch of second or third string DC villains in that movie.
But it’s quite clear that not very many of them are going to make it to the end of the film. [01:21:00] So yeah,
Brian Bolland: they say, if you do something, you know, if you do this, you’re dead. If you get on the wrong side. And she says, if you’ve got a personalized number plate, you’re dead, but run over from the previous. But I did, I did like, Oh, the, the Marvel character, the one with Ryan Not Reynolds, was it
Brian Bolland: Deadpool. I thought Deadpool was
Sumner: hilarious. That’s terrific. I completely agree. I completely agree. Yeah. Deadpool is a wonderful piece of work and and again, because it kind of breaks the fourth wall so much. So many, so many gags about comics themselves. I think we were very you know, a very well-read comics fan like you are, and you’re on the inside of the industry.
It’s a lot of fun. Well, actually, I’m
Brian Bolland: not a well-read comics fan at all. Actually, I’m a very badly because I probably have
Sumner: read any of them. Oh, I think I was thinking more about your, your silver rage years rather than yeah. I’ve
Brian Bolland: encountered a lot of them. A lot of [01:22:00] who the characters are. I’ll tell you another set of characters if
Sumner: you have time.
Oh, we totally got time, bro. I love the dude, but I love grant Morrison’s doom patrol. Yeah, I
Brian Bolland: mean, I love the original doom patrol Drake and brunette. I met Arnold Drake, Brie briefly, and I love Bruno pre-meal and he was one of my favorite artists. He did the original Def control. But the The incarnation of the doom patrol by grant Morrison and Richard Case, my phone.
I love that too. And that was very, very
Sumner: of, Oh, I D I just thought, you know, when we get, when you get characters like Danny, the streets or whatever, that’s just such, such, it was so rich that series. I remember when he reset it, or I think the, the first four-part arc is called crawling from the wreckage and he kind of resets it.
And at first it’s relatively normal. You know, and then he just takes it and he just goes and goes and [01:23:00] goes, and it’s like, he’s doubled down on everything he’s learned about doing animal man. And he just goes, fuck it. I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna take this. I think that’s the joy of that. During that
Brian Bolland: period, when Simon Bisley was doing covers Oh yes.
Sumner: And when they
Brian Bolland: put the collective together, I pretty much begged to do the covers. I did five of those and and I did actually read all that stuff. You know, I didn’t always read a lot of the things I do covers four, but on this occasion, I, I pretty much bang to do those. I love the, was it Mr.
Sumner: I Mr. Nobody. Yeah, he,
Brian Bolland: he’s got an evil plan to turn every 12 inch ruler in the world.
Sumner: What better, what better moment to wrap up our conversation? We’ve got to stop. Yeah, the thing I I’m conscious of the fact that we could [01:24:00] do this for whole of the 90 minutes and what I’d rather do, Brian is different than non two minutes. Now. I’d love it. If, if we could, if you could come back and we’ll do a take two some time, not, not now, but maybe in a, in a couple of.
If we have a, we have a second storm, which by the way, this is exactly the way the conversation with Dave went. I think with Dave, I asked him one question to maybe, and then lo and behold, it was an hour plus later. I’m fine with a lot of people I
Brian Bolland: may is you ask them a question they ask, it goes on for about 15 to
Sumner: 20 minutes.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I, I fun. And I’ve got a very digressive conversation style anyway, and I’m a big fan of digressions. And I think it’s the thing, you know, if an interview, a conversation that it’s not the redundancy it’s conversation like this was literally just, I ask you a question and then you scroll that an answer to a question I’ve been asked a thousand times that would be very interesting pulling the string on the conversation.
And you end up talking about [01:25:00] Billy fury. His real name is Ronald witches. You know, that’s what I love about life, full stop, you know? So, so it’s been a real pleasure having you on hard degree and it’s been a real pleasure chatting to you as always mates.
Brian Bolland: Likewise, what can
Sumner: I say? Oh, well, that’s what I, that’s what I call a hard degree from me and a hard degree from Brian Bolland and Brian are very much looked forward.
Thank you for all your work. Thank you for the work. We began the show with where you are genuinely. It was one of those glorious times, and I wasn’t just thanking you for something that I picked up and read, but something that I had a hand in conceptualizing, which is your Batman live, we’re building cover.
That was a, I know a great pleasure for me and for Rob planets. So thank you for that. And thanks as always for being such wonderful guests. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. Yeah, well you take care. I’ll see you very soon. Okay. Bye-bye bye. Bye. All the best. Bye.