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COMIC BOOK FOCUS: 10 Questions with PJ Holden

July 31st, 2016 by Mark McCann Comments

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10 Questions is a feature in which I look at the most influential Creators in comics and ask them 10 questions.

PJ Holden got his start in the small press with Fantagraphics and later FutureQuake (he’s still a passionate supporter,) but today he’s known as one of the most prolific and some would say best contemporary Dredd artists.
A regular 2000AD alum, Holden has dabbled in Future Shocks, The 86er’s and Rogue Trooper usually with his regular collaborator Gordon Rennie, (his co-creator on Dept of Monsterology.) His other works include Fearless for Image Comics along with the aforementioned Dept. of Monsterology, Gunsuits with Paul Tobin, Number Cruncher with Si Spurrier and Battlefields with fellow N. Irish creator Garth Ennis.
PJ lives in Belfast with his wife Anette and two sons Nathan and Thomas.

Below are PJ’s 10 Questions

FTN: You started off in Indie Press comics like Future Quake and Holy Cross and have continued to champion the smaller distributors on the comic book circuit. How important do you feel the Indie Market is regards its influence on the mainstream for injecting something fresh into the mix?

I think there’s a pretty clear stream for someone wanting to make comics; you work at home with a friend, you find some others interested in comics, you widen that net out to more people further afield, and the contacts you build now are probably the most important you’ll have over the remainder of a proper comics career. I don’t really look at it from the pov of what the small press can do for the mainstream so much as, well, if there’s such a thing as a career progression in comics it usually goes: small press/indie/pro level work.

“I’m pretty sure even if I wasn’t being paid to draw comics I’d still be drawing them, but the motivation to get my backside on a chair remains knowing I need to get an invoice out.”

FTN: Your most prolific work has been on fascist law man Judge Dredd in his heaving, dystopic Mega-City One. What is it about Dredd that compelled you to want to draw him?

Haha, he makes me laugh. Honestly, while I absolutely agree with your description of him what most appeals is how funny a character he is. Whether that’s laying down straight lines to offset the crazyness of mega city one (which is dystopic, but at the same time has people encased in Boing! Bouncing around, people so fat they have to wear belly wheels and people who have plastic surgery to look uglier) or whether he’s just being a fundamental hard ass telling other judges to shoot him as it’s their only hope for survival. He always make me laugh (or at the very least punch the air).

FTN: Stylistically who are your greatest influences when you sit down to draw?

Probably Steve Dillon, there’s some John McCrea in there, probably a whole lot of early British war comic artists (like Joe Calqhon(sp?)) that I never knew the name of (credits being scan in those days) and I TRY and bring influence in of Kevin Nowlan, Adam Hughes and more, but I pretty much fail at it.

FTN: What’s your biggest motivation in drawing comic books?

I have two kids, and one job: drawing comics. If I’m lucky (and I mostly have been) I get to draw things I like drawing, and I’m pretty sure even if I wasn’t being paid to draw comics I’d still be drawing them, but the motivation to get my backside on a chair remains knowing I need to get an invoice out.

FTN: What is the key to translating a good script for an artist? What constitutes a bad one?

Luckily I’ve only had good scripts, or if I’ve had any bad ones I’ve expunged them from my memory. For me, it’s about translating the story the writer is trying to convey into images – sound easy, but sometimes that means figuring out what mood the writer is going for over what image they’ve asked for. It means figuring out that this line of dialogue will work better if a character is in silhouette, or this scene needs to be shown from a distance to establish the relationship between characters JUST before this next sequence. You’re figure out a puzzle, but the puzzle is pretty damn complex.

(Continues after pic)

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FTN: If you could travel through space and time and replace any artist on any run in comics to give it your own personal spin, who would it be. Why?

Oh, that’s tough, by it’s nature the stuff that sticks with you is the stuff you love the art on. But I DID get to do a tale set during the Block Mania period of Judge Dredd, written by Alan Grant, which was pretty damn cool and probably the closest I’d ever get to actually travelling through space and time.

FTN: When your sons grow up would you encourage them to follow their dreams if they wanted to be comic books artists/writers, or would you suggest a different path?

I’d encourage them, but I’d be pragmatic about it. With hindsight to, I think I’d suggest to him that a career in comics can be had in parallel with another career, and that would give you the freedom to pursue comics in ways that being a page-rate-slave wouldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t discourage him, but comic creators are weird; ultimately nothing puts us off, it just delays us.

“But I DID get to do a tale set during the Block Mania period of Judge Dredd, written by Alan Grant, which was pretty damn cool and probably the closest I’d ever get to actually travelling through space and time.”

FTN: What type of story have you never drawn, but would love to take a crack at?

I’ve always avoided fantasy, but having gotten in to Game of Thrones I feel like it might be fun to do something in that milieu. Or it might be a terrible idea.

(Continues after pic)

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FTN: Have you any plans to do more written work in the vein of Terran Omega?

Nothing firmed up, I’m afraid. I have been toying with something called the Night Watch – a comedy noir set in a futuristic Alaska, where vampires/werewolves and frankenstien’s monster all exist and they run a detective agency. But it’s literally just notions in a sketchbook at this point.

FTN: What are you currently working on and would love people to know about? Pimp it hard?

Can’t tell you what I’m working on, but right now you can go and catch up on my Dredd work in 2000AD and if you haven’t read Dept of Monsterology  then you should definitely go read that!

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I came here in a time machine from the 1980s. The time machine was called childhood. I'm getting back there at all costs! (I also live, love, write, lift & pet cats wherever I may find them.)

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