One of the most talented and respected artists on the comic scene, John Higgins has built his reputation working on titles as diverse and well-known as Watchmen, Judge Dredd and Batman. Having worked prolifically for 2000AD, DC Comics, Dark Horse and Marvel, he is also the artist, writer and publicist of his self-published comic, Razorjack – the story of three friends terrorised by the vicious killer, Razorjack, after they unwittingly stumble into The Twist Dimension, a sinister parallel world. Known as one of the friendliest talents in the business, I was lucky enough to meet John at London Comic Con, where he gave us the chance to pick his brain about his life, work, and what the future holds.
The one major aspect for creating Razorjack was done with the intention of taking complete creative control, making my comic world into my personal creative vision.
What were the downsides and the upsides of self-publishing?
The Hell quote is definitely a down side, which was not feeling in control. Self-publishing creates so many distractions that all need to be done to get the book finished and into the shops.
Having to do every single thing, sourcing, advertising, arrange printers and distribution, which is the fence most publications fall at. That was the one fence that drained more out of me and out of the books income, than I thought possible.
All this leads to the constant juggling act on cost while trying not to lose sight of the quality I was aiming for. But at the end of that whole process, I could look at the Graphic Novel that I held in my hand and, allowing for a couple of cost compromises I had to make, it turned out to be exactly what I had intended and I am very proud of it still.
How do you feel computer imaging has benefited comics in general? Have there been any down sides?
I have a love hate relationship with computers, Razorjack would not have existed without computers and Desk Top Publishing. Which allowed me to do everything required to produce an independent comic book. This involved CI along with all the other aspects of using a computer.
But in a broad sense I feel CI has demystified the fantasy image. Not to say CI Images cannot look impressive, wonderful and be a way of generating singularly creative ideas and artistic visions. Without sounding like a Ludditte, as I also use CI and Photoshop most days, but before computers, what impressed most people was the artists technical ability to express his ideas.
That picture of far-away worlds colliding, the medieval army pouring over the hill to rape and pillage. Every brush stroke had to be perfectly placed to achieve that final result and was usually achieved over days and sometimes weeks of concentration. That impressed me along with the idea.
Now when I look at a CI image - I am impressed in the same way as I am, when looking at a good photograph and that usually is all.
After digitally re-colouring Watchmen in 2005, are there any other legendary comics you would like to give the same treatment to?
Colouring was just a side issue in my career on both the Watchmen and The Killing Joke. I loved being involved in such great stories and considered they were a once (maybe twice) in a life time opportunity to work on such incredible comic stories and be a small part of a team made up of the best creative talent ever. So I am happy to be a colourist on those seminal pieces of work, but have no interest in colouring anything else other than my own work from now on.
I believe Watchmen created the modern Super hero and we can still see and will continue to see its influence well into the future.
What does Hollis Mason’s autobiography symbolise - is it a review of comic book history or a sign that comics have forever changed post Watchmen?
I think its symbolism is confined to the Watchmen, Alan used it as literary device to give a depth and formality to a comic story. Comics of that period, had up until the Watchmen tended to only have a history and back story that had grown up over many years rather than be specifically created to give depth to the character, and sometimes that background had no relevance to the later interpretation. Alan created a background that explored the relevance of a Super heros life within this story, that gave it an added depth unheard of in most comics up to that date.
Why do you think anti-heroes, like Judge Dredd or even Constantine, prove so popular amongst comic readers?
I think that flawed characters, such as they are, give readers a way into these characters, to identify with them as we recognize ourselves in their flaws, which then gives us a route into their weird and wonderful worlds.
Do you prefer illustrating/drawing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ characters?
Bad is always more fun, villains are usually more melodramatic, flamboyant, more visually stimulating, because they are outside the norm it allows artists to express in more detail their differences, this then gives them depth and texture and leads to a real sense of being.
One is Razorjack. I created something tailor made to my creative sensibilities, which was one reason to take such a career risk when I first self-published.
But also Dredd, I was a fan of Dredd before I ever started work on him, and I am still a fan now and feel incredibly lucky to have a career that has allowed me to work on him on and off over so many years.
I read that you’d like to draw/colour Batman – are there any other characters you would love to work on?
Probably Constantine, I suppose working on Dredd and Razorjack I feel comfortable with both their universes but know there is still a lot more I can explore and find in them. I still feel challenged with these characters which for an artist is a good thing. Constantine is the same even though I worked on him in some great stories by the best writers, I never felt I had gotten as much out of him as I would have liked.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am actively working on Greysuit for 2000AD at the moment, I tend to have two or three other projects/proposals bubbling under at any one time. But I do not like to talk about them until the contract is signed.
You’ve had an incredible career – are there any milestones you still want to achieve?
Thank you, I have enjoyed what I have done so far. A new mile stone for me, would be to raise Razorjack's profile a lot higher. I have many Razorjack stories to tell and a great pleasure for me is that Razorjack has grown so much after my first tentative steps into her world, when it was all just me.
Now I have other collaborators that have brought into my nightmare. Razorjack Reflections is a new project, were musicians, sculptors and writers came in to lend me their expertise, that project is waiting to be activated. So that is the next milestone. Michael Carroll one of the aforementioned writers has continued to be involved in Razorjack, he wrote the latest edition of Razorjack that was published by Titan comics the end of last year. I have big plans for Mr M Carroll and Razorjack after Greysuit.
What advice would you give to budding comic book writers and artists in the UK?
Go for it, commit yourself 100% to achieving your comic goals. Your first commission, first published work, first paid work! Once you achieve the first one start to work on the next one. As Confucius once said, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.
Just for fun...
If you could be one character that you’ve worked on, or have one super power, what would it be?
To be able to travel in time.
Do you think the likes of Superman would be good for world politics?
Superman would be good for half of the world.
Do you think a world full of Superheroes would be a good or bad thing?
That would just be Armaggedon. Because the other half of the world would have their Superman.
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