Deirdre de Barra is launching a new comic, Brian Boru and The Battle of Clontarf, (written by Rory Mc Conville and lettered by John Robbins) at the Battle of Clontarf Millenium Festival this weekend (Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th April) and hopefully in various shops as well. She talks about this and more in this edition of 7 questions.

What was the first comic work you did that was published?

The first substantial work is the self published indie comic Found from back in 2008. It’s a 40 pg, black & white silent comic. It was amazing the range of different interpretations different people had regarding what the comic is about. I think, because there is no text or dialogue, it left readers with the space to bring their own perceptions and associations to the story and then personalising it in ways I never imagined.

What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?

That I really don’t like inking and I’m not much good at lettering. Everything about comics, writing, lettering and images are all about telling the story. Each element has to work with the others.
If I have to letter I will, but if there is someone who can do it better, then great. I’ve also discovered that if I try to ink my own pencils I have a knack for knocking all the life and energy out of them. So now I’m experimenting with skipping the inking and scanning my pencil work straight to black. There’s a lot of trial and error, mistake making and learning but that’s part of the fun and the challenge of telling stories through comics.

What is your process for drawing a comic book?

Read and re-read the script and get familiar with the story and get to know the characters. Start doodling the characters and figuring out what they look like and do any research for time periods, appropriate dress, locations, artifacts etc. anything and everything that will help bring the reader into the world of the story. Then the most crucial bit: Thumbnails. Working out the panel layout for each page and what’s happening in each panel and leaving enough room for captions and dialogue.
It speeds the whole process up when I have a rough idea of what’s happening on each page before I start drawing. It also helps to avoid making a mess and dirtying the page or nearly scrubbing a hole through the paper because I can’t get some bit of a characters anatomy right. Also the better my thumbnails, the easier it is to enlarge them and with a lightbox use them as a guide for the finished drawings. Once the pages are drawn, scan them into to the computer and size them according to whatever format is required for printing. Tidy up the panel borders and then set to with textures and the ol’ digital crayons.

What is the biggest influence on your work?

I don’t know if there’s anything I can point to and say there’s a direct influential correlation between that thing and my work. Stories and images that have influenced me can come from anywhere, novels, short stories, poems, non-fiction books, films, TV, games, walking the dog, meeting and talking with people, standing boggle-eyed in the supermarket wondering what it’s all about…. I think when you want to draw stories you have to be a bit of a sponge and soak in everything you experience, and observe all the time, because you never know what will spark something off when you get down to storytelling. In a comics context it would be easier to mention some things that, though often very different than what I draw, inspire me. My favourite comic is 2000AD, the range of stories and the variety of artwork they’re prepared to showcase is great. I tend to lose my noodle and get all giddy when I see Henry Flint’s work, Shakara particularly gets re-read regularly, a visual feast. D’israeli also, especially his work on Low Life. I really like what PJ Holden did on Numbercruncher. Taking a quick scan of the shelves to see what jumps out… Frank Quietly is a regular mind-blower, fantastic. I’ve a soft spot for Ben Templesmith and all the artists who’ve drawn Tank Girl, special mention for Ashley Wood’s covers. A good while ago I came across Wolverine – Meltdown, gorgeous artwork by Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams. From way back, a perennial favorite is Dave McKean’s work on Batman- Arkham Asylum and also The Black Orchid. Some of my favourite drawings of Swampthing are in that comic.
Closer to home, I’d have to say that Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney and Nick Roche are pretty damn inspirational. At the moment I’m enjoying Fiona Staples work. I first came across her work in The Mystery Society, but I missed a bunch of the monthly issues. Now I’m checking out the TPBs of Saga.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m getting over a nasty dose of the flu, the fallout from a lenghty drawing frenzy (see below) and getting organised to draw a short eight pager that had to be deferred and a couple of commissions that were likewise deferred.

What do you have out now or coming out next?

Just out this week is Brian Boru and The Battle of Clontarf. It’s written by Rory Mc Conville who most recently worked on Big Jim with Paddy Lynch published by O’Brien Press, and lettered by John Robbins. It’s a 32 page, full colour comic primarily for children but granny and granddad are allowed read it too. It was commissioned and published for the millennial celebrations of The Battle of Clontarf by Levins Print in Swords. A big thank you to Leo for deciding that a comic was a good way to mark the event. Thanks also to Foras na Gaeilge who sponsored the Irish language edition Brian Bóroimhe agus Cath Cluain Tarbh with the translation by Gabriel Rosenstock. The comic will be on sale at The Battle of Clontarf Millenium Festival in St. Anne’s Park, Clontarf on Saturday and Sunday, 19th and 20th April and then hopefully in Forbidden Planet and Sub City among others.
What is your favourite irish comic?

After tea, biccies and big thinks I reckon Bob Byrne’s Mr. Amperduke is my favourite and a bit of a benchmark really, and then I’m just going to sneak Stray Lines in there while no-one’s looking… and pretty much everything by Phil Barrett. I know the question said ‘comic’, singular, but while I’m at it, Windell Comic’s Superhero Showcase is a unique comics gem.


Deirdre de Barra’s blog http://www.puredaft-delineavit.blogspot.ie/