One trade that a lot of people are looking forward to is From The Pages Of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ Harker, which goes on general release in November. We recently caught up with the art team of Peter David Douglas and Neil Van Antwerpen who gave us some fantastic insight about their part in producing ‘The Art Of Harker’. As you can see below, both South Africa based artist had much to share about their working process.
SciFiPulse: How did you both become involved with Harker, and what about the project appeal to you as artists?
Peter David Douglas: We had just finished working on Starship Troopers War Stories, written by Cy Dethan and we were supposed to work on a super secret project for Harry Markos, when I chatted to Tony Lee and found out he’s doing a graphic novel called Harker for Markosia. They had an artist in mind so I didn’t bother to ask if we can give it a shot. Later I read on Tony’s ‘He’s only a writer” column that they are having problems with the artist and I thought this could be our shot at greatness. We only had a couple of days to pitch for the book, so we did some concept sketches and they liked it enough to give us the project, which meant we had a 112 page full color book to do in 7 months and since we both had full time jobs it sounded like an impossible task!
Neil Van Antwerpen: As far as the attraction to the story goes we had to do it. It’s a classic second to none and to be part of this legacy was a great privilege, especially with the stamp of approval from Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great grand nephew.
SciFiPulse: You’re perhaps the first team of artists that have done a comics related Q&A with. How does your creative process work as in what sort of process do you both undergo as a team in order to bring the art work to fruition.
Peter David Douglas: This was really our first graphic novel so our Starship Troopers style had to be adapted to work as a gothic horror piece, almost like going from doing a Superman book to a Vertigo book. We knew the style had to fit into the Dracula mythos since it’s a sequel. We also had time constraints so we needed to create a style that we would make the deadline with and I never colored a book before!
Neil Van Antwerpen: Peter-David and I have a very fluid process. Being close friends it makes it easy to relate ideas and offer advice, as well as criticism. Peter-David has a good feel for the project as a whole while I’m more a nuts and bolts guy; getting stuck into the details is my forte. Plotting responsibilities was shared. I would then jump into the penciling, creating very finished pages which were then scanned, digitally “remastered” after which Peter would colour it, again digitally, after having added ink washes for that hand made feel. It’s quite a unique and subtle method which was tailor-made for “Harker” and I think it’s what gives the book it’s graphic appeal.
SciFiPulse: Obviously you have both been fans of comics for most your lives. Which artists would you say has have had the biggest impression on you creatively.
Peter David Douglas: I’m a bit of a walking comic’s encyclopedia, so there are a lot of influences ranging from John Byrne on Superman, Keith Giffen on Legion of Superheroes, and Simon Bisley on Slaine. Probably the biggest influence would be Dave McKean; the way he uses multimedia to create art is just phenomenal. His Sandman covers, Arkham Asylum, Mr Punch and even going into Mirrormask is just amazing.
Neil Van Antwerpen: I can’t say that one particular artist influenced me, but rather aspects of their art. I also believe that artists are, to some extent, made legends by the stories they illustrate. My earliest memory of an artist would have to be George Perez on Teen Titans. Then there was Alan Davis on “DR and Quinch”, Steve Yeowell on “Zenith”, Steve Lightle on “Legion of Super Heroes”, Kevin Maguire on “JLA”, John Byrne on ”Alpha Flight” and so I can carry on. But these guys were great then and they still are to my mind.
SciFiPulse: Out of curiosity what type of comics do you have in your native South Africa that would be worth a mention?
Peter David Douglas: That’s an interesting question since we don’t really have a comic book culture in South Africa. We have a lot of political cartoonists like Zapiro, Myndred Vosloo and Dr Jack. Our books have a sort of cult following like Bittercomix who comment on the darker side of South African society. Our most commercial book is a soccer comic, distributed by the Sunday Times called Supa Strikas, almost a modern Roy of the Rovers strip and has spawned a animated show on local television. Funny enough we never could publish our own books in our own country.
SciFiPulse: Having seen much of the artwork in Harker I have to say that it is very true to the period and its obvious you both put a lot of work into making sure it had just the right sort of look and atmosphere. What if anything caused you both the most headaches with the art work.
Neil Van Antwerpen: Reference, reference, reference. A lot of the locations from the book exist and those which don’t had to still seem as if they could. Then there is the fashions of the time, interior and exterior architecture. These HAD to be true to the period or it would interrupt the suspension of disbelief. I hope we were successful.
SciFiPulse: Was there any character in the book that caused any disagreements between you both on how he or she should look.
Neil Van Antwerpen: Not really. Peter-David trusted me enough to carry on and do my thing and I think I got it right most of the time.
Peter David Douglas: Nope not really Neil was spot on all the time, since he based Dracula on my celebrity chum Tony Lee, how could he go wrong!
SciFiPulse: As artists who have been doing comics for awhile. What sort of things should a writer be aware of when scripting a comic for artists.
Neil Van Antwerpen: When writing a comic they should keep in mind that that is what it is, part visual and part literary. Don’t try to over-write the story, allow the artist fill in the gaps and complete the experience. This is something that possibly comes with experience, something of which Tony has oodles.
Peter David Douglas: Its quite simple just tell the story, write to your artists strengths but also challenge him to bring out the best in him.
SciFiPulse: For Harker you had chance to work with Tony Lee. Who is one of the most respected writers in the industry. How much of a collaborative experience was it for you and what sort of cues did Tony provide you with for the art. Was there anything that Tony insisted on being in the book.
Neil Van Antwerpen: We received a very final script and took it from there. He was very specific on his feedback to us as we sent through the proofs. It helps when the writer knows his material.
Peter David Douglas: Tony is a consummate professional and has a clear cut way of writing books that works for him but we could convince him to do a couple of changes to fit how we tell the story.
SciFiPulse: One of the things have enjoyed about the trade is that its not overly gory. There is enough left to the imagination. Was this a deliberate thing on your part.
Neil Van Antwerpen: Peter-David and I actually discussed this issue a few times. I wasn’t going to shy away from gore but at the same time I didn’t want to create a splatter fest, the story needed it to be done with some style.
Peter David Douglas: For me the scariest part is what you don’t see, the bit that you leave your imagination to.
SciFiPulse: How did you both get involved in comics, was their a particular instant in your lives that made you both say, ‘We have to do this as a career.’ or did you just sort of fall into it.
Neil Van Antwerpen: I pretty much fell into it kicking and screaming. It’s very daunting trying to break into this industry and I still can’t believe I’m actually doing this stuff. It’s great and one day I might wake up and realize that has become a career.
Peter David Douglas: It’s been a life long dream for me. My brother and I started collecting comics since we were about 4 and 6 years old, when my dad, a teacher, brought Thunder Agents home from school. We were hooked! Since then we have a massive collection of over 10 000 comics. It was John Byrne’s Superman that made me finally decide that this is what I want as a career. Flash forward a couple of years later Neil and I decided to start living our dream and we worked to hone our skills, while I used the internet to network. I emailed Norm Breyfogle, who did Of Bitter Souls for Markosia, almost a shot in the dark and the great guy that he is hooked me up with Markosia and later Harry Markos. The rest is history. Thanks Norm!
SciFiPulse: How did you approach the work in Harker. Did you use the old fashioned method of pencils and ink or a combination of both this and digital.
Peter David Douglas: The process is a complete collaboration between us. We wanted to create a fine art feel, almost like a coffee table book, which suited the story. Basically we took the script and broke it down in thumbnails, Neil then went and penciled the pages afterwards we would scan and print them. I then took the printed page and ink washed it. Then it was rescanned, leveled and colored in photoshop. It’s quite a process since we had a tight deadline, so we cut out traditional inks completely.
SciFiPulse: Is there a particular writer or comic that you’d both like to work on in future. If so who is it. What’s the comic and what about it appeals to you both.
Neil Van Antwerpen: Tough one. I will have to say that there are certain writers I would work with no matter what the title, like Mark Millar, Jim Krueger, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. Then there are titles I would do regardless of the writer. Any of the big guns like Superman, Batman, Flash, Captain America, Daredevil, Hulk and so on. But I’d really like the opportunity to re-invent some golden oldies. Any takers?
Peter David Douglas: I have to agree with Neil on this one as there are a couple of great writers we would want to work with, guys like Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Robert Kirkman and Alan Moore. We would kill to work with Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey on Jonah Hex. As an inker I would definitely want to work with Carlos Pacheco and Tony Daniel.
- Lastly on Harker, please order it from Diamond, see details below! Its Diamond Order Code is SEP09 0564 and it can be found on page 186 of September’s PREVIEWS Magazine. ??Alternatively you can use ISBN-10: 1905692358 or ISBN-13: 978-1905692354.
By Ian M. Cullen