Friday, July 22, 2011
DTU Q&A: Shaky Kane on Elephantmen
This week saw the release of Elephantmen #33, another stellar installment of one of the best-drawn monthly comics going. The big ticket for this particular issue was the presence of artist Shaky Kane, a post-Kirby punk-art maestro whose career has miraculously revived itself after being left for dead in the wake of the early-90s Britcomics boom. There are a lot of things to enjoy about Elephantmen #33. The semantic thrill of seeing that Kane's work has enough currency these days to get him hired onto an ongoing mainstream comics series for an issue is the subtlest. The most obvious is that this is exactly the kind of comic that Shaky Kane draws the living daylights out of: a nasty little post-human horror story set in a dystopian future Los Angeles. Richard Starkings' script whips through interspecies murder, cultural criticism, third-world exploitation, and a sloshing stew of plastic surgery disasters that Jello Biafra himself would be proud of. As drawn by Kane, it's everything a single issue of a comic book should be, a screaming hunk of something new and wild, self-contained and impossible to shake. I asked Shaky a few questions about it; being the all around Great Guy that he is, he gave with the answers, as well as the drawing up top.
MATT SENECA: How did this gig come about?
SHAKY KANE: David [Hine, Kane's writing partner on The Bulletproof Coffin] had known Richard [Starkings] for a number of years. Since British Marvel was around. It was Active Images [Starkings' publishing house] who put together the hard-bound Strange Embrace. Richard was really into Bulletproof Coffin, his design team pulled the whole thing together. I met Richard for the first time last summer at Bristol Expo, we all went out to dinner and the idea came up to do something for Elephantmen. I imagined a couple of pages, but after seeing the Bulletproof work, Richard wanted me to do the whole book. Bulletproof Series 1 wound up at the end of the year so I wanted to do something else before starting on Series 2.
MS: What makes the Elephantmen universe interesting to you?
SK: Art-wise, all the people you like are in there. Richard mixes it up. Its a great concept that's expanded out to define its own universe, just as you put it.
MS: What was the difference working from a script by Richard as opposed to David Hine? Your layouts on this comic were pretty different from Bulletproof Coffin, did you approach this story differently?
SK: This was a different project all together. Once we'd ironed out the premise of Bulletproof, David would send me detailed script pages. Number of panels on a page, suggestions of mood and pretty much the dialogue as it appeared in the final book. That's what David's so good at.
Of course being a joint project I was free to add my own suggestions and even dialogue ideas, The Destroyovsky quote in particular was something I had on hand from my shoe-box of ideas, but mostly it was unnecessary. It was all sewn up.
Richard's script was much looser. It was written as a narrative piece. He would give me directions as to what would appear on mostly double page spreads. The Tokyo Plaza cityscape [above] I drew over the holidays, before I'd even seen the first drafts! I was into drawing it. Richard loved the picture and worked it into the story. Of course a lot of the detailing was already established by Ladronn, but I gave it a Shaky spin. It was up to me to tell the story, working across the pages. Like I said I was really into it. That's what I do.
I was particularly keen to let someone else work on the coloring. And what a great job [Gregory Wright] did. It's slick, but not overwhelming. Its got a Tintin vibe to it, fairly flat but still reader friendly. The way I like it to look.
MS: A lot of the images in this comic were either really blown up or shrunken-down looking; did you construct it on the computer or with an analog (ie, photocopying) technique?
SK: That's the only way I know how to work. Take the double page cityscape again as an example. I drew up the basic structure of the entrance to the turnpike. Then I spent the best part of a week drawing up all the details, working evenings as they came into my head:- The Ripley's truck, The Cap'n Howdy hoarding, the retro cars. I plastered on the detail by scanning them in and layering them onto the page. There's no actual piece of artwork with that image on it.
I own a box full of maybe 50 various sized drawings.
I stopped using photocopies because the line deteriorates and gets to look second generation. Steve Cook actually showed me how to scan in bigger than A4 when he came to visit, a breakthrough! I'm starting to work in a more logical way. or should I say commercially viable way. Just finished a piece for a show at Orbital Comics in London. [image at top]. Here it's all drawn on one sheet of card. In a way the line weight holds better. But what can I do? You figure these things out as you go along.
MS: Two part question to close things out: if you had to sell this issue of Elephantmen to someone what would you tell them... and if they bought it, what would you want their reaction to be?
SK: Again this is a unique book. If you like books about pneumatic bust-lines and implausible cosmetic surgery, preformed by a ringer for the guy out of Human Centipede using kitchen appliances, drawn by a guy with too much time on his hands... then this is definitely the book for you.
You want people to like what you do, appreciate how much you put into it, that's it's real reward.