This month, we are starting a new feature on the SDGS page, as announced late last year. We are running a monthly ‘Hotspot’ feature, to showcase some of the hidden gems and talents the South West has to offer.
This month we are kicking off with a special double feature:
We would like to introduce to you GNASH Comics and Graphic Novels, and also local comic artist and illustrator, Lee O’Connor.
So let’s continue with Lee O’Connor:
1) Please introduce yourself and your business to our readers
Hello, I’m Lee O’Connor and I’m a comic artist and illustrator. You might have seen my artwork in an Image comic, Heavy Metal magazine or the ‘Power of Five’ graphic novel series from Anthony Horowitz and Walker Books, or any of the other anthologies or indie titles I’ve been involved in.
2) When did you first start doing this? What led you into this area of work?
Easy. I started drawing when I was one year old. I didn’t stop. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I wondered about whether to go into animation or illustration for college and plumped for the non-moving artwork choice because it seemed easier to get things finished. Plus comics were cool man! You had to go to a special shop or a convention to get them back then!
3) Give us one unusual interesting fact about yourself.
If every single project that I’d been attached to as artist got off the ground, past the pitching stage, or finally made it to the printing press, I’d be some kind of folk hero, possibly with a globe-spanning reputation rivalling that of Kim Jong Il. But that’s just how it works when you’re a freelancer or Work-For-Hire artist! (And I hope I don’t sound bitter or anything here, it is an amazing line of work!)
4) Do you have any plans or special events coming up that our readers would want to know about?
After many years of talking about it but not really producing anything serious, I’ll be starting to write my own long-form graphic novel soon!
5) if you weren’t doing what you do, what do you think you might be doing instead?
If I couldn’t tell stories with pictures, I’d have to tell them with words; I’d be a writer. Maybe even a comic writer, heh. Full prose would be a bit intimidating, but maybe I could have been a journalist. Either that or help put on decent comic conventions!
6) Who is your favourite superhero or character and why?
(Brace yourself here because I’m about to sound even more pretentious than I do normally:) I’m not really into Superheroes… Growing up, I liked Batman (Azrael and the Knightfall saga), read the ‘Death of Superman’ story and liked the Spider-Man comics in the local newsagents. If he qualifies as a superhero, I’ll go for Nemesis the Warlock by Pat Mills from 2000AD: an alien wizard whose goal is to defeat the evil human race! (While zooming around the galaxy in a spaceship that’s the same shape as his head!) If we’re allowed super-teams, I’ll go for his compatriots The ABC Warriors: seven disparate war-droids out to save civilisation! In terms of straight super-heroes, it’s probably got to be Marvel’s ‘The Silver Surfer’: Stan Lee under the impression he’s writing Hamlet in Space and gorgeous artwork from John Buscema. I was first turned onto this character by being into the French comic artwork force that is Moebius, he drew a great standalone story called ‘Parable’ with artwork so good you could put it into a capsule, shoot it into space and convince Galactus to not destroy our planet.
Oh and there’s a really good Batman short story in ‘Batman Black and White’ by Katsushiro Otomo (he of ‘Akira’) called ‘The Third Mask’ which is pretty much the only Batman story ever to actually play around with – and alter – the Bruce Wayne/Batman identity thing to a really startling result. I think the best superhero stories are the short and interesting ones that almost happen by accident and unrepentantly try and do something out-there with the character.
7) What is your guilty pleasure?
In terms of comics? Oh man. Many. I’m gonna say that there probably shouldn’t be any guilty pleasures in comics because every comic creator has pulled themselves up by their own collar to the point where they’re good enough to see their work in print, so comics as a medium can’t have any turkeys in it. The ‘Tenjo Tenge’ manga by Ogure Ito (“Oh Great” onomatopoeically) could qualify though: it’s like the Bash Street Kids only with kung-fu, martial arts, loads of unnecessary T&A, pointless things happening in the story just because they’re cool… And’s it’s really well drawn.
8) Who do you most admire and why?
I think I have to harken back to my previous answer a bit: anyone and everyone in comics who’s seen their work in print. Every single one of those people has put so much hard work into their artwork or writing (or colouring, or lettering, or editing!) off their own back over the course of years (years!) to hone it and we’re all the richer for it. Comics doesn’t really run on pots of cash, but the sheer love and passion that people have just pulse around the comics scene like some kind of excitement-filled bloodstream.
I should also shout out all of the artists that have inspired me over the years – there’s loads of them – I can pull a few names out; Eduardo Risso, Dave McKean, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz… But that’s just the very tip of the arty Iceberg.
Meanwhile, I also need to express my admiration to the local artists around here; Jock, Dom Reardon, John Spelling, Lee Garbett, Henry Flint, Ron Tiner, Rob Cross… and more, we all live in a fantastic place for comic art and I have truly benefited greatly from the inspiration and companionship.
Lee can be found on the usual social media or http://www.leeoconnor.com