FERGUSON’S 7 QUESTIONS WITH… MICHAEL CARROLL
Up this time we have regular 2000AD contributor, current writer of Jennifer Blood and author of The New Heroes series. I ask Michael Carroll those 7 questions.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
Small-press: A six-page strip called “Overman“, published in the Irish Science Fiction Association’s comic Phase 2, back in 1994, drawn by Johnny Rothwell.
Professional: That was “Back to the Führer” – a five-page “Future Shock” story in 2000AD, issue 1566 (December 2007) – I was lucky enough to have it drawn by the great Gary Erskine!
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
Trust the artist! In other words, don’t overwhelm the artist with massively-detailed panel descriptions, because comics are a collaboration and not a writer-led dictatorship. The writer has to allow the artist some freedom to interpret the script in the way he or she feels is most appropriate. Occasionally an artist will get in touch and tell me, “I didn’t do it your way – I thought THIS way would work better.” I’ll almost always agree with them, because – as I see it – my job is to tell the story to the artist, colourist and letterer – it’s THEIR job to tell the story to the readers.
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
I bash out the basic idea in a paragraph or two, and send it to the editor. Most times I get the go-ahead immediately, but sometimes there’s a bit of back-and-forth: “What if you did this instead?” sort of thing. Once that’s done, it’s a matter of simply writing out the script. When I first started out, I had a really tough time getting my scripts down to the right number of pages (six for an episode of Judge Dredd in 2000AD, twenty-two for Jennifer Blood), and I’d find myself going over and over them trying to ditch a panel here and there in order to make it all fit. Now that I’ve got a little more experience I’m finding it easier to get the scripts to come out at the right length first go. Once it’s done, I give it a couple of read-throughs to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything and that the dialogue sounds natural, then I send the script to the editor.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
Artists: John Higgins, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Mark Bagley, Steve Dillon, Jack Kirby, Frank Hampson, Bryan Talbot, John Buscema, Jesus Redondo, Dave Sim, Gilbert Shelton, Cam Kennedy, David Mack… I could go on!
Writers: Harry Harrison, Anne McCaffrey, John Sladek, John Wagner, Pat Mills, Fabian Nicieza, Stan Lee, Sue Townsend, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, J. Michael Straczynski, Joss Whedon, Peter David, Christopher Fowler, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Frank Miller… dozens of others!
TV: Psych, Babylon 5, Firefly, South Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Breaking Bad… Anything with strong plots, crisp writing and well-defined characters.
Movies: Far too many to name, so here’s a few movies that I can watch over and over: Raising Arizona, The Shawshank Redemption, Goodfellas, Serenity, The Mist… But I’m also a fan of high-octane over-the-top action movies. Shoot-’em-Up and Wanted are a particular favourites!
What are you working on right now?
I’ve just delivered the first draft of my second e-novella for Rebellion. The first one – Judge Dredd Year One: The Cold Light of Day – was pretty well received so they asked for another… Yay! They’re fun to write, though very time-consuming. Right now, I’m working with an artist on a pitch for something completely new, but I can’t say too much about that, and I’m preparing the groundwork for some Dredd stories for next year.
What do you have out now or coming out next?
More issues of Jennifer Blood, more Dredd stories in 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, plus a DeMarco, P.I. strip with gorgeous art by Steve Yeowell should be appearing in the Megazine soon: I’m really looking forward to seeing that one in print!
Next year will also see the publication of Hunter, the seventh novel in my Young Adult superhero series, plus a few other things that I can’t talk about yet…
What is your favourite Irish comic?
Hmm… Tough to choose. Partly because there’s so many really good ones out there, but mostly because I’m friends with a heck of a lot of people in the Irish comics scene and I don’t want to leave anyone out. OK, if pushed, I’ll pick Jennifer Wilde. Or Sancho. Or Mister Amperduke…