Firstly, a very important question - Batman or Spiderman or ........?
Alfred, Batman’s butler. (or is he a valet?)
How did you get the idea for Good Dog, Bad Dog?
The whole idea for GDBD came together, by necessity, very quickly. I had been working on a different strip entirely for the DFC initially when I was given the opportunity to offer something that would also run in the Guardian's Comic section. This was a fantastic opportunity but because my previous strip hadn't been devised to run in three page episodes (as the Guardian required) I needed to come up with a new idea fast. I scoured a couple of old sketchbooks for ideas and found the phrase "good dog, bad dog" scrawled in one. The phrase had occurred to me while living for a while with a landlady who had two dogs. One was an old, slow, quiet lovable old mutt, the other was a hyperactive puppy who distributed my teabags all over the kitchen a bit too often for my liking. So I’d just written down “Good Dog, Bad Dog” in response to that situation. I'd thought it was a good title, though it had no idea for a story attached to it at all at that stage.
Because I love film noir I figured making it some kind of comedy version of noir might be fun and from there I cobbled together a very short pitch to show to my editor, Lovely Ben Sharpe. He approved that and then I think I plotted out the gist of the eight episodes of The Golden Bone Of Alexandria and drew a few character sketches and was quickly told to go ahead. I absolutely didn’t know what I was doing and, beyond the very basic plotline I’d concocted I was making it up as I went along to an alarming degree but I think that gave it all a freshness that it might have lacked if I’d spent more time on it.
How would you describe Good Dog, Bad Dog to a potential reader?
Daft, funny, canine comic noir.
Good Dog, Bad Dog is the first book to be released as part of the new DFC Library. Please would you tell us a little more about this?
The DFC was a hugely brave venture heroically launched by the amazing David Fickling after many, many months of preparation smack into the beginning of the credit crunch. It was a full colour weekly comic of all new content that was very popular with those that read it but that, for a variety of reasons, still hadn’t even been heard of by most of its potential readership by the time it was cancelled. During its brief life, though, it published a lot of high quality comic stories and now, thankfully, some of them are getting the chance to be seen by a wider audience through republication in book form. I’m enormously proud to have Good Dog, Bad Dog as the first title to be released and I’m looking forward to seeing the other great titles as they come out.
Some of my readers will not know anything about the process of creating something like Good Dog, Bad Dog. How did you go about it?
Well, as I’ve said, mostly in a massive panic. I think by the end of The Golden Bone I had vaguely settled into some sort of system but I might just be deluding myself. I had some very basic plot points set reasonably far in advance but the details in each episode were made up as I went along. Sometimes I would write most of the dialogue before I attempted drawing anything, sometimes I would draw very roughly doodled pages with full or partial dialogue scribbled onto them. Either way I would eventually end up with a rough layout of the week’s episode with dialogue in place and send it to Lovely Ben Sharpe for approval. Assuming there were no major changes to be made then I would pencil and ink the final artwork, scan it, clean it up a bit in Photoshop and then, in the case of The Golden Bone, send it on to my mate Faz Choudhury to colour. Faz also saw previous stages of each strip and was kind enough to offer loads of great advice and generally provide moral support and keep me vaguely sane. With the later strips I coloured them myself but Faz was still offering the same support and advice, only this time he wasn’t even getting paid for it.
Then, when each episode was coloured I lettered them (always having left myself too little time for the task and often finding myself doing so at two or three in the morning).
What do you see as the main influences on your work?
Talking about GDBD specifically I’m not sure. There are loads of heroes and friends, loads of cartoonists and illustrators whose work I really admire, who I would expect to show as influences in my work but I don’t really see any of them very directly in the work I did on GDBD. Although, having said that, I did reread all of the Tintin books before starting work on it and, while I don’t think there’s much evidence of an influence from Hergé in particular, some people have said that the artwork has a generally European feel to it, which I’m very happy about. And of course from cinema film noir was a big influence on GDBD.
More generally I’m influenced by Ronald Searle, Jamie Hewlett, Posy Simmonds, Roger Langridge, Mark Stafford, Jonathan Edwards, Faz, Woodrow Phoenix, Edward Gorey … a whole bunch of people. I know it’s there but I’m not sure that it often shows in what I do.
What comics did you read when you were younger?
The British weeklies, never DC or Marvel as a child. I started out on humour comics,The Beano and The Dandy, Whoopee, Whizzer and Chips, that kind of thing, then progressed to also reading war stories and adventure stuff in the likes of Warlord, Battle and Action. Then eventually 2000AD came into my life and ruined me forever.
What are your favourite graphic novels?
Tintin, Isaac The Pirate, Jaime Hernandez’s Love and Rockets work, Chris Ware’s stuff, Daniel Clowes’s … I’m sure I’m forgetting a dozen others but those are the ones that come to mind just now.
Can you recommend any other graphic novels that you think will have boy-appeal?
Tintin, Bone, Isaac The Pirate, Asterix, Mezolith (out next month from the DFC Library…)
Do you have any other projects you are working on?
At the moment I’m writing and illustrating my first children’s novel for David Fickling Books.
Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of this blog?
It’s never too late for breakfast.
A big thank you to Dave for his great answers to my questions. I have a copy of Good Dog, Bad Dog that will be part of a book contest I will be running on this blog later in the month so watch this space!