QUICK QUESTIONS WITH Alan Nolan
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO COMICS?
I’m Alan Nolan and I’m the co-creator (with Ian Whelan) and main artist on SANCHO. I also write and illustrate the monthly SKREWY SCIENCE WITH PROF BUTTERKNUT & KRONK comic strip for The Irish Times, and am writing and illustrating 6 graphic novels for younger readers for The O’Brien Press. As well as that I contribute to RiRa, the Irish language comic.
WHAT COMIC ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I just finished drawing a one pager for my old pal Richmond Clements and was up to my teeth in cartoon pirates and ex-parrots. SIX MILLION WAYS TO DIE went to print last week, so at the moment I’m “resting”.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
Writing them, designing them, colouring them, lettering them – it’s the drawing part I find hardest, mainly due to recurring tendonitis and several repetitive strain injuries! As opposed to repetitive brain injuries. Although I have some of them too. The other best thing is to see them on the shelves — the first of my Murder Can Be Fatal series for O’Brien Press, DEATH BY CHOCOLATE, is out on the 15th August and I am really looking forward to seeing that.
WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
See above. I tend to be very much a one man band and usually bite off much more than I can chew – hence the stalling of SANCHO, despite Iano having a stack of ideas for issue 6.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER COMICS?
My Granny used to work in a newsagent and brought home comics most nights when I was small — The Beano, The Dandy, The Topper, The Beezer, Whizzer & Chips, Shiver & Shake, etc. From there I moved on to the hard stuff: Warlord, Bullet, Battle/Action, etc. and then got completely hooked on 2000AD and later, Starlord. I used to go to the Alchemist’s Head in Essex Street (with my poor, long-suffering father) to buy Titan’s 2000ad reprints, most of which I still have. By that stage Moore, Frank Miller, Ennis, Gaiman et al were getting huge and Forbidden Planet had opened in Dawson Street. That’s where I came across American comics, but for some reason I never was too taken by superheroes – I loved the Hernandez Brothers, Peter Bagge and Chester Brown best.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
For art: Mick McMahon and Kevin O’Neill for their beautiful angular lines, and Guy Davis for his fluidity. I also love Mignola, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Hergé, Chris Ware (for design), Frank Miller and Henry Flint. For writing: Agatha Christie, Dennis Wheatley, Pat Mills, loads of the 2000AD crew.
WHAT TOOLS OF THE TRADE DO YOU USE?
Faber-Castell 4B pencils, Mitsubishi Unipin Fineliners of various sizes and Tesco Finest Premium Quality 100gsm A4 paper. Also an Apple iMac, a HP scanner, Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Xpress.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE WORK OF WHICH YOU ARE MOST PROUD?
THE BIG BREAK DETECTIVES CASEBOOK for The O’Brien Press. It’s a full colour 64 page book with four “cases” for our heroes to solve, photo realistic (I like to think) journal entry pages, and 4 pages of a fictional TV show. It was a LLLOOOOAAAADDDD of work, and to be honest nearly killed me, but was great fun from start to finish. I got an advance copy last week and literally danced.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Never drink and draw.
WHAT IS THE WORST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Have a pint, it’ll loosen you up.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT IRISH COMIC SCENE?
It’s in a much better place than it was 6 years ago when I started — Atomic Diner’s output is very impressive, and importantly is getting a good amount of press. Tommie’s stuff is terrific as is Gar Shanley’s, Bob Byrne’s and Archie Templar’s. I love the Longstone crew’s stuff as well. It’s great to see a load of Irish creators now working for established US and UK publishers.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN IRISH COMICS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
I’d love to see an Irish anthology comic devoted entirely to kids, a monthly Irish “Whoopee”-style publication. I think getting home-grown comics into young kids’ hands is a good way to ensure a future for the Irish comics scene. RiRa is doing this very well in the Irish language, but I’d like to see one with a broader appeal.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN COMICS IN GENERAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Alan Moore shaving his beard.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU?
The Walking Dead, when the pregnant wife is killed. Jaysus.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING THEIR OWN COMICS? (And don’t say DON’T 🙂 )
After you’ve come up with your cool character designs/vehicles/comic cover, etc., etc., etc., DON’T FORGET TO ADD A STORY!!
Sundry advice: be prepared to not go out at night for 3 months, get a good designer to put it together for you, never go with the first print quote you get, get a table at some of the UK shows – they’re good fun and relatively cheap to go to.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Yes, I’d like a bagel and a coffee.
Alan is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Bray, County Wicklow. In 2005 he created, with co-writer Ian Whelan, the SANCHO comicbook, released under their 20,000 Leagues imprint. SANCHO has been shortlisted for two Eagle Awards in the Best European Comic category. He is a regular contributor to the Irish language comic RÍRÁ as well as various UK and US-based small press publications. He is currently writing and illustrating a series of children’s books for O’Brien Press.