SIMON BISLEY IN POLAND: SIMON SAYS
BASED ON UTTERANCES FROM MEETING WITH THE FANS, THE PRESS CONFERENCE AND INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST
About connections with Poland
Simon Bisley (SB): I know it exists on a map (laughs). But seriously, my mom is Polish, she comes from Cracow. So I have family here, but I don’t know it. My grandfather was in Polish army during the second world war, he fought on Monte Casino Hill. After the war he and my grandmother came to England. My mom still argues with her sisters in polish, I know one Polish word – „cholera” (“damn it”). So definitely I have the Polish roots and it’s cool.
Of course I was looking for information about my family history, it’s quite interesting, especially from my mother’s side. I’m not exactly sure about the dates, but after the war my grandmother and grandmother’s sisters were taken to Siberia, and they worked in salt mine as forced laborers. Fortunately, they survived.
About impressions form Poland
SB: I like Gdansk very much, I am surprised of it’s medieval dark gothic architecture. The entire old town looks like a fortified castle. And bars, they are everywhere, on every street! There is no escape – you want or not, you end up in the bar (laughs).
Doing research for my comics, I drew attention to the Polish armours. I like Polish flag with symbol of the eagle, it’s very cool. Oh, and Polish money, they have interesting illustrations, they looks good, I like them.
About creation of his graphic style
SB: I draw since always, so probably I was born with pencil in the hand. I haven’t graduated any art school; I think that the style is creating through work. There is no philosophy, you have to draw all the time, practice, practice and it’s just getting done. The passion may help.
What I think about drawing guides? Yeah, why not? You can learn from a book how to ride a bicycle or fly an airplane, so can also learn how to draw.
About his technique of drawing
SB: When I read the script, I already see it in my head and immediately I try to convey it on paper. That’s why quite often I pass over the sketch phase. If I draw the same thing too many times, I start to get bored with it, I lose my power and freshness.
I like to work quickly and spontaneously, so one of my favorite techniques is painting. Paint allows to cover large fragments of the board very fast, so I take sprays, mix paints and just paint, sometimes I only add blood and small animals (laughs).
Practically I don’t use computer to draw, I just see no point. If I see that some frame isn’t good or compositionally does not match to the panel, I’d rather draw entire page from the beginning, than do the computer correction.
Contrary to some opinions, I’m not good at anatomy, so often I use stylizations and big muscles to hide my lack of anatomical knowledge. I’m not fixated on muscular guys, I just usually draw superheroes and I think this is how they should look like. Remember, it’s not a realistic drawing, it’s always a little grotesque, exaggeration.
About his work tempo
SB: One page in full color usually takes about 6 hours. Of course, everything depends on the used technique. If I drew Snoopy I would do a hundred pages a day (laughs).
SB: I’m not an artist, I am a worker. Like a fisherman; he catches the fish, sell it to the market and get paid. It’s the same with me. I just give the people what they want to buy. Besides, usually I work with a script, which does not give me too much space for creativity or artistry.
About cooperation with scriptwriter
SB: I definitely prefer scripts, which give me more freedom. Generally writers leave on me action scenes. They write only: “In the next four pages monster destroys the city, just draw it!”.
I really like to add some jokes in the background. It’s only comic book for Christ sake, you can’t by serious all the time.
About a favorite scriptwriter
SB: As a matter of fact I worked with only few writers so far. They were all grate, but the best was definitely Alan Grant. We have the same kind of mentality, we balanced each other very well. We both have similar, dark sense of humor and we don’t take work on comics too serious.
About dream project
SB: I would love to work with Frank Miller, we could do Batman together, oh yeah! Or we would do some Marv’s story from Sin City universe. Submariner is very cool character. Maybe Venom, oh he is perfect, Spiderman is fine too, but I do not want to draw a web (laughs).
About writing a script
SB: Oh no, it’s not for me; it’s better to leave this to professionals. Sometimes different ideas come to my mind, which seem to me poetic, but probably in fact prove to be really bad. Moreover I have no idea how to put punctuation marks. I would have to hire separate person for this; he would have a page with printed dots and commas and he would cut and paste them in the appropriate places in my script (laughs).
About work on “Slain”
SB: I worked at once on the whole panel and blackening borders. This helps to avoid the dirty paper effect, which annoys me very much. It also gave me full liberty and vigor in the composition of the board. Sometimes I cut out single frame and put it on the ready panel, so I could keep the effect of epic proportions.
About “Horned God” sequel
SB: No, I wouldn’t come back to “Slain”, it would be a step back for me. What is done it is done, there is no point to do it again. Besides, now “Slain” is drawn by Clint Langley, the guy is really good.
About “Doom Patrol” covers
SB: Actually I have not had any contact with Grant Morrison in this work. I received just scripts, I read them, and drew absolutely everything that occurred to my mind. Through this the covers are a bit surreal, but it’s good, because they fit the mood of the series. It was the work in which I could express myself artistically perhaps the most.
About drawing “Lobo”
SB: Alan’s scripts were ambiguous, open to interpretation, so usually I took just beginning and the end of original story and I did between them what I want. I add all these penguins and the gorilla by myself. Alan then just rewrited dialogues and story to be held together somehow (laugh).
Lobo is very special character for me, because he express some parts of me. He fits into my drawing style, combines comedy and violent action. A bit like the “Mad” magazine, I always wanted to draw in this style. I would love to do “Mad’s” cover once, it could be fun.
About censorship in “Lobo” comics
SB: “Lobo” is a very brutal series and indeed censorship happened. There was a picture of a guy, his guts were all over the air. For fun I put arrows to explain where his spleen, heart or liver where, but the publisher removed them.
DC censored also Lobo’s birth scene. They didn’t like the point of view, showing the Lobo’s mother with outstretched legs. Finally, the woman was covered with blanket.
There was also this fight scene between Lobo and Loo, when Lobo pull gay’s arms from ponds and I drew the blood gushing all over the place. The picture turned out too gore and was modified.
Oh, there was also the cover with Lobo’s meat-hook coming out from man’s jaw, with his tongue at the end. It looked too realistic for DC and I had to change it.
About Lobo movie
SB: Yeah, they keep talking about it all the time, but still it’s only a rumor. The only serious approach to the Lobo movie took Guy Ritche. However, finally he has chosen to do Sherlock Holmes second movie.
I imagine Lobo movie as a live action film, but in the background could play cartoony characters like Disney animated. With today’s technology it’s not a problem. Perhaps 3-D animation in the Pixar style would be an interesting idea?
About working for DC Comics
SB: Working for DC is great, we cooperate many years. It’s like in family, they look after me: pay on time and pay well, pay royalties. I have no reason to complain.
About work on “Hellblazer”
SB: This series puts a completely different requirements. The horror or magic scenes must work in the context of the Hellblazer’s world, as if they were normal, ordinary part of this world. This requires more realistic and precise graphic style, perfect form of body language, comic must look like a movie. I wanted to see if I can restrain my inflated style and do a normal story, because there is no room here for stylization or penguins in the background. It’s perfect way to professional development and to polish my technique.
Drawing “Hellblazer” is a very hard job, because I compete with artist, who use computer in their work. I have to show that I can offer a higher quality than digitally edited works. I’m better than computer, better than anyone, I rule! (laughs).
About religiosity and illustrations to the Bible
SB: I’m not a religious man, but rather consider myself as a spiritual person. Why, then, I drew illustrations to the Bible? Once Jesus came to me at night and said to me: “You will draw the Bible!”. Now I’m afraid, that when I would go to heaven Jesus would ask me for royalties. Ok, it’s joke. This album is a kind of exercise for me. Like musician, when he plays guitar, he practices on classic compositions. So it’s my practice on the material, with witch challenged many great artist before, like Michelangelo or Da Vinci. Besides, there are a lot of interesting topics in the Bible, there is love, hatred, suffering, death, life. God and Satan are like Batman and Jocker, they are elements of the same reality, they can not exist without each other.
I would like to paint a crucified Jesus in a real scale. It can’t be done like Lobo comics, it requires a perfect representation of anatomy, muscle structure. For now I don’t have time to do it, but I would like to paint this.
About heavy metal music
SB: I often listen to metal music when I work. The more severe the music, the more relaxed I am. I can’t listen to the radio, sooner or later voices or commercials start annoying me. In addition, everytime when I draw my neighbors for some reason make noise, knocking nails and drilling something! I expect that one day when I would open theirs door I will see the whole Noah’s ark, built when I was drawing! I don’t understand, do they know something that I don’t? Is it gonna rain soon or what?
I went through different phases of metal music fascination. Currently my favorite band is Type O Negative, “October Rust” album is fantastic. I also love black metal music, such as Marduk, but I ignore the lyrics. Songs about hanging Jesus upside down seems rather ridiculous to me. I heard Behemoth too, they are very cool, but I didn’t know they come from Poland.
About plying on drums
SB: I play on drums very bad. Actually, I’m not a drummer, just bang with stick in a piece of skin outstretched over the wood. On last gig of my band, the whole audience left except one guy. We thought, that only he was interested in concert, but it turned out, that he didn’t leave only because he was dead (laughs).
About friendship with Glen Danzig
SB: Yeah, we always make laugh at each other, holding hands and running hills with the wind in our hair (laughs). Seriously, we are friends from thirty years. We are very similar: stubborn and self-confident. Glen is really a regular guy, with great sense of humor.
About so-called British invasion in American comics
SB: I think that British artists have gained such popularity in America, because England and America are closely related historically and linguistically, yet mentally and culturally distinct. British writers are so little homely, while a little exotic for an American audience.
About accepting jobs
SB: I always look first at the main character and the world represented in comics, how it effect upon me. I hate to be bored while drawing, I must have fun. Of course earnings is also important. It may sounds arrogant, but that’s how it works. Besides, I am an arrogant asshole (laughs).
I don’t like projects, in which the publisher requires to do many sketches and many changes. It’s not productive for me, it’s just stupid. Oh, and I always refuse, if the publisher wants to keep the original pages.
About doing long series
SB: I’m not interested, I’d be bored quickly. I like small, short stuff since always. Besides, my work it’s not just comics, I do quite a lot of other things. So I couldn’t do long comics, I have no time for this.
About his painting
SB: Honestly, I don’t have time for painting, although I always wanted to paint landscapes in William Turner’s style, with realistic clouds and developed colors. Painting for me is not a matter of subject, but the colors relations are.
For some time I have this idea in my mind, to enter the dark studio and just paint the picture, and then burn it without looking what came out. That would be probably most honest, purest work of art that anyone has ever done, completely free of customers expectations.
About male chauvinism charges
SB: Yeah, I hear this charges quite a lot, but I don’t understand them at all. After that, Women I draw are always strong, self-confident and independent, they never wait for help of men.
About current projects
SB: I’m still working on “Hellblazer” and “Deathstroke” covers for DC. I’m also working with Glen on “Dante’s Inferno” album, which is a kind of opposition to the Bible. Album tells the story of The Devil, who falls back on earth, sits on a rock and watches people as they ruins their lives.
Soon you will see my new fully painted album about a famous monster, it will have 100 pages.
Would I made comic book in cooperation with Polish artist? Yeah, sure! Except that nobody asks me for that…
Edited by Michał Siromski