We talk to Jon Haward, an up-and-coming name in the UK comics scene.
Q. How did you get into the comic industry?
Way back in 1986-87 I was drawing samples and I sent work to Terry Hooper who was publishing a mag called "Preview" which had short strips. I also submitted to "Harrier Comics" which had an anthology comic called Avalon, in which Harrier editor Rob Sharp gave me a spot on a story called "Diana is the Power".
I can't remember which of the two was published first, but anyhow, Terry said I had talent and reckoned I should look for professional work.
Q. What was your big break?
My first paid comic strip work was in 1989 with "Postman Pat Picture Weekly" by Polystyle Publications, drawing and colouring Charlie Chalk, based on an Ivor Wood aminated children's show for the BBC. But I think my big break came in 1990 - when I asked David Pugh the regular "Dan Dare" artist for "The New Eagle" comic if he had a page of art for sale.
While talking, David told me the editor Barrie Tomlinson was looking for another artist for "Dan" as the comic was weekly and David needed more time for his work. Via David's encouragement I sent two samples to Barrie, and was thrilled when I landed the job. Dan Dare was celebrating 40 years and had media coverage. I penciled, inked and coloured - I was 25 years old, drawing a British icon.
Q. How come you got hooked up with Spidey
When looking for work in 2001 I put together a website (with Paul Magretson), www.jonhawardart.com. I sent cards to different editors telling them that my site would be up on the 10th of May. On that very day, I got an email from Alan O'Keefe the managing editor for Panini UK, asking if I would like to try out for Spectacular Spider-Man (UK) Magazine. I sent three pages of samples from a script provided by Alan, and I landed the gig.
Q. Have you always been a big Spidey fan?
Yes! As a child in the UK I watched the Spider-Man cartoon and live action shows. I also read my brother's comics. He bought the UK reprint comics published in B&W, and also the U.S. Marvel Team-Up and Amazing Spider-Man. My mother has kept all my Spidey drawings from when I was 12 years old.
One happy memory was getting a Spider-Man video toy where you could slot a cartridge in the hand projector and see clips from a Spidey cartoon. I played with it until it wore out... happy days.
Q. What comics do you collect and read for yourself?
At the moment, not many - I haven't got space. I tend to buy TPBs - the last two were both Mark Miller Books, "The Ultimates" with Hitch, and Spider-Man: MK with Dodson. I buy Conan, Batman, Superman, the New X-Men. I must confess I stopped collecting Amazing Spider-Man when JR JR left the title.
Oh, let's not forget "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Tom Strong's Terrific Tales". I also pick up Warhammer and 2000AD to keep tabs on the creative teams and stories - I'm proud that I have worked for those two UK titles.
Q. What artists do you admire?
So many! Growing up - U.K. favourites would include Frank Bellamy, Alan Davis, John M. Burns, Ron Smith, Kevin O'Neil, Ron Embleton, Frank Hampson, Mike Noble, John Stokes, Dave Gibbons, John Cooper, Brian Bolland. From the U.S. John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Steranko, Neal Adams, John Byrne, Frank Frazetta, Boris, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Frank Millar, Romitas (Junior and Senior), Gene Colan, Gil Kane. From my own generation, Brian Hitch, Simon Bisley, Gary Erskine, Steve Pugh, Jim Lee, Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Mike Mignola, John Cassidy, Todd Lockwood, Todd McFarlane, Eric Larson...
Well, you did ask!
Q. What writer would you most love to work with?
It's hard to pick just one. Alan Moore of course, I grew up reading his work - 2000AD/Warrior, Swamp Thing, Watchmen, and his ABC Work.
John Wagner is one of the all time great writers of UK comics, from Judge Dredd to Button Man and Darkie's Mob to the Bogie Man. Class in a glass!
Stan Lee. 'nuff said. Also J.M.S. - I loved Babylon 5, and his run with JR JR on ASM. And Mark Millar too, I love his Ultimates and his latest Spider-Man Marvel Knights run.
Q. Do you have any "personal projects" on the go?
My main focus right now is the Spectacular stories - I have to pay the rent. But I'm working on a children's book with Doug Moench and David Pugh. I'm wanting to draw "More Tales of the Buddha" when I have the time. Written by Alan Grant - very funny material.
I would also like to finish "Net Surfer", that's on my web site. I'd like to draw more hell crew, but really those need a publisher, and a page rate.
Q. How do you draw Spectacular differently compared to the regular U.S. titles?
Well, it's aimed for 7-12 year olds, so the violence has to be toned down. Also, the page count is 11 pages instead of 22 for U.S. comics.
My personal Spidey style is a mix of stuff. I like to pay homage to Kane and Romita. Also I try to make the art leap out of the page. I like to play with panels and layouts to give the pages excitement. I feel the U.S. Marvel titles look a bit bland, with too many talking heads and square boxes. Works well for trade paperbacks perhaps, but it seems short on risk-taking, and short on reader impact.
For example, if it came to a choice between the latest Silver Surfer or the classic John Buscema, then classic would win every time for me. Great dynamics, great figure work, and each issue leaving you wanting to see what happens next. I just don't feel the same about Marvel's current "grown up" titles. When I was a kid, comics were escapist, but now there's so much realism. I would just like to think the readers will have fun reading my stuff.
Q. Who's your favourite Spidey character to draw?
The Kingpin! Fisk is a great character. Romita had a great eye for character design. I just get a kick out of drawing Fisk looking so evil for the reader.
Q. What advice would you offer an aspiring comic artist?
The main thing is to learn your craft, and to enjoy drawing to entertain.
But any artist needs to understand that drawing comics is a tough, tight industry. Only a few make a living from it. The days of mega-sales and massive royalties are over - if they ever really existed. Don't think comic art is a road to fortune. Mostly it's work for hire, low page rates, long hours at the drawing board, and dealing with people who change their mind all the time - so be flexible.
Manga is hot right now, but it won't always be, so learn different styles. Always be polite to people, you never know when they'll be an editor you ask for work from. And when looking for work, you need a skin as thick as the Rhino. You'll get rejected, filed, ignored. Just keep sending your best work. Always send recent work, not old stuff. Tastes change, and you need to keep an eye on what's popular.
But most of all... enjoy yourself. That will show in the work you do. You'll need to be 100% dedicated.