Monday 2 April 2012

B is for Boo Cook

Boo Cook is a renowned comic book artist, famous for co-creating strips such as Harry Kipling and Asylum, as well as for his work on such titles as Anderson: PSI Division and Elephantmen.

I've never worked with Boo myself (at least not yet) but his meticulous drawn style, carefully-coloured by computer afterwards, has really grown on me over the years. I even have a framed poster of Harry Kipling in my office.

I was delighted when Boo agreed to be interviewed for Artists' Month on my blog, and so without further ado, here's what he had to say in response to my questions.

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?

I did my time at various art colleges, doing a foundation course in Plymouth and a degree in illustration at Cambridge, but frankly that process all but killed my desire to create art. It wasn't until about 5 years later, after touring with various bands that my passion for sci-fi started to overwhelm me once more and I began cranking out space images and doing trial strips for 2000AD - all consequently rejected by then editor David Bishop.

2. What was it that gave you your big break and led to what you are doing now?

Disheartened, I eased off on the submissions to 2000AD for a couple of years until my friend Andy P. (check his stuff at reminded me of my purpose and told me to get submitting art to the new editor of the comic, Andy Diggle. He seemed to like my stuff, gave me a future shock to draw and it all kicked off from there...

3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?

For me it's not as much a case of what medium/style suits me as 'What medium/style suits the story?' For example my work on the flashback
Elephantmen story Wartoys 2: Enemy Species was a grim, gritty, dirty mega battle set in the wilds of Northern Asia, so I went for some really heavy, dirty pencil work with my 8b graphite stick to capture the feel, and painted over that in Photoshop. In direct contrast, something like Dredd, which is set in a clean shiny future city, would probably suit some slicker digital inking and a more airbrush-y approach in Photoshop. Also, keeping things varied means I never rest on my laurels creatively - I'm constantly, stylistically problem-solving, which I hope keeps things looking fresh.

4. You have created all manner of famous (and infamous) comic book characters. Which are your favourites?

I'll always have a soft spot for the characters created by Rob Williams and myself for Asylum, my first major strip - Marshall Holt, Belly and Skunk et al were great fun to draw and had plenty of emotional clout to boot! I'll also fondly remember working on Si Spurrier's good ol' Harry Kipling, the lovable zombie and god-killing toff of the future. More recently, a new character has come to light in the world of Elephantmen called 'Razorback', Richard Starkings and I co-designed the character at my house and in terms of the look and the idea behind Razorback, everything fell into place perfectly. Razorback is currently kicking major arse in Elephantmen monthly.

Razorback concept art

5. How much fun is it drawing Cass Anderson and Judge Dredd?

Frankly, it couldn't be 'funner'! I've grown up loving these characters and it's a thrill every time I put pencil to paper working on these guys - especially when I'm drawing the little black marble-esque knuckle duster thingies on the back of their Judge gloves - don't ask me why, I've just always loved them so drawing them really brings home the fact that I'm working on my comic heroes, I guess.

6. What’s it like working with the likes of Si Spurrier, Alan Grant and John Wagner?

Well, these guys are legends of the comics writing world, without whom the comicscape would be a much duller place as I'm sure many would agree. Working with them is a thrill and an honour, although I have to hold my hands up and say that I've yet to actually work with the king of the Dredd-verse Mr. Wagner... hint hint!

7. Of which piece of work are you most proud?

I'm not exactly a very prideful person, but happiness and working in comics go continually hand in hand. I'm chuffed to have worked on various things for various reasons - my first Future Shock as it got my foot in the door. ABC Warriors as they were the first major characters I tackled. I'll always be proud to have been part of Dredd's continuing saga too.

I was very happy working on Asylum 2 with Rob Williams as I felt it was a very emotional story with as much anguish as action - the same can be said for Si Spurrier's amazing writing on Harry Kipling's tear jerking story arc Something for Nothing - a real highpoint for Harry.

I'm also proud to have done several issues for Elephantmen monthly. Richard Starkings is an incredible writer with a fantastic and ever-expanding vision for his characters and their world. He also knows how to really write for a particular artist and throw exactly what I love to draw into the melee each time. I love drawing 'heavy hitters' and the world of Elephantmen is chock full of 'em. I've really enjoyed all my massively varied covers for Elephantmen too - you never know what's gonna come out of Rich's head next! But covers wise I'd be lying if I didn't say I was mighty proud to have done a Wolverine cover for Marvel comics.

8. Is there anything you’ve worked on in the past that you’d rather forget? ;-)

There're always gonna be 'stinkers' in anyone's comic career at some point, but I wouldn't want to forget them as such, as that's where you learn the most. Strips that I'd rather forget have taught me I need to clarify my storytelling, improve my figure drawing etc, so without them I wouldn't be where I'm at right now.

There's certainly strips that have moved me less than others, which is largely down to thematic preference, or emotional engagement with the script/characters. While it had it's moments, I think my least favourite project to date would probably be Dead Men Walking for 2000AD. I enjoyed drawing some of it, and it wasn't particularly bad as such, but perhaps aimed at a younger audience so it didn't tackle any themes that I usually like getting my teeth into: sex, drugs, violence, characters with emotional depth etc. (Actually it was pretty violent...)

9. Is there any character you haven’t drawn yet that you would still like to?

My all time favourite characters are Strontium Dogs Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer...

11. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Draw, draw, draw - all the time! Be passionate about the things that really turn you on; draw them all the time and you will ultimately get gigs drawing what you love. Don't sit around waiting for it to happen - fire off as much of your best stuff to as many different editors as you can - providing they fall within your fun zone! (Even if they turn you down, they should tell you why at least, which will help you hone your craft.) If you get a creative block, bury your head in some of the incredible comics out there - they will fire you up in no time.

On a more technical note, almost all comics feature humans. Being able to draw these convincingly is the crux of much comic work, so focus on getting as good as you can at drawing people. It's also about storytelling - you should be able to look at one of your un-lettered pages and know exactly what's happening from panel to panel. Anything can happen in comics, so it's safe to say that you should also be able to draw anything - be it from memory or reference. Keep things varied on the page - mess with the angles, bust things out of the panel borders, blow the reader's mind!

Thanks again to Boo for taking the time to answer my questions. You'll notice there's no question 10 and its associated answer. You'll find out why later in the month when I hope I'll be able to publish the awesome scoop Boo gave me then!

In the meantime, you can check out move of Boo's work at the following sites:


Kallie Greenly said...

He is very talented.

Thanks for sharing.

Konstanz Silverbow said...

Very cool interview. Thanks for sharing!

Konstanz Silverbow
A to Z c-host