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Glenn Fabry By Dan Epstein
Glenn Fabry is widely respected throughout the industry as one of the best artists out there. With his work gracing the covers of Preacher, Hellblazer, Outlaw Nation, and most recently Steve Gerber's new Howard The Duck series, Fabry's been keeping busy. Now, with the news of a secret Marvel project on the horizon, Slush spoke to Glenn about his career.
Dan Epstein: I understand you are a doing a full comic of The Authority with Garth Ennis. How did that come about?
Glenn Fabry: I think they had somebody else in mind for it. I donít know who it was but they blew it. John Raymond, who was editor of Wildstorm at the time, phoned me and told me, ďYou could do it, Glenn, you could do it. Give it a go, try it out.Ē
I had six months worth of work on the Authority covers done, but they decided to bin it because the storyline was about a madman blowing up New York. The only offer I had at the time was to do black and white interior artwork again which was the first time in about twelve years. I decided to do it and keep my fingers crossed and hoped it turned out all right. Everybody is pretty happy with it.
DE: Would you have done it if it wasnít Garth Ennis writing?
GF: Oh yeah, weíre not joined at the hip or anything. I do like Garth and Iíve known him for twelve years now. Heís a great author. The fact that it was Garth was a bit of a bonus. Itís one of those things; you have a tendency in comics to get sort of typecast as you do anywhere else. So names like Steve Dillon, John McCrea and Glenn Fabry get attached and I was the one who got the job this time around.
DE: What was the last black and white interior art you did?
GF: The last I did was for a character called Slaine for 2000 AD. The only other interior art I did was Slaine again after Simon Bisley left the book. I was doing the character in black and white and Simon did the character in color. After he left I was asked to come back. I also did a fully painted Judge Dredd/Batman book.
DE: A lot of people compare you to Simon Bisley because he was in America before you. But you were working way before him.
GF: Yeah, I started work about 1984 and Simon first got printed in 2000 AD in 1987.
DE: You did a little Lobo.
GF: I did two covers for Lobo. [For the mini-series Loboís Back]
DE: Has it been a good thing being connected with Simon?
GF: Well, at the time, a lot of English artists were brought over to America and thereís only like three or four of us who knew how to paint. Simon and I will phone each other up drunk late at night and rant about stuff.
DE: With all the covers that you do, who decides how they should look?
GF: Well the covers Iím best known for are probably the Preacher ones. I was doing Hellblazer before that. I would fax three or four ideas to the editor and they would generally choose one I wouldnít like. The only character on Preacher that I ever invented was the dog Jessie had.
DE: Did Steve Dillon ever say he wanted to do a cover?
GF: No, he was quite happy to let me do them.
DE: I read on your website that youíre a big Howard the Duck fan and thatís why you wanted to do the covers for the new miniseries.
GF: When I was sixteen years old and really into comics the one that really used to get me excited, not in a sexual way of course, was Howard the Duck. When Forbidden Planet opened in London I remember just going up there and buying all the Howard the Ducks I could find. At the time, nobody had been doing anything like that, that I was aware of. It was like a comic strip version of Monty Python. Mad space toilets and a talking duck.
Phil Winslade, the artist on the new Howard book, and Stuart Moore convinced Steve Gerber that he could write Howard the Duck again if they could just get over some character design things. Marvel was legally contracted to do a specific Duck design from Disney Studios. Disney: the worldís favorite litigation organization.
DE: Heís got to wear pants or something. [Disney sued Marvel over similarities between Donald Duck and Howard the Duck].
GF: It wasnít just that. It was the big foam rubber mouth that had to stick on Howard. But Steve found ways around it. But itís 25 years later and there I am talking to Steve Gerber. Itís a childhood dream. If you had told me when I was 16 that I would talking with Steve Gerber I would be like, ďYeah Iíll be shagging Kate Bush next.Ē
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DE: Do you pick and choose what covers you want to do or do you take whatever work comes along?
GF: After Preacher I had quite a few offers but what I needed was steady gig. So since I was working with Vertigo, Outlaw Nation came up and I said I would do it. People phone me up and ask me Iím interested in doing something and Iíve been quite lucky.
DE: How did you first meet Garth Ennis?
GF: It's going back a long way. Fleetway, who published 2000 AD, at the time was putting out a magazine called Crisis, which broached sensitive political issues in comic book form like racism and sexism.
One of the big problems in the country back then was Northern Ireland, so they wanted to do a book about that. They decided the best way to go about that was to see if anybody in Northern Ireland was writing and drawing comics and ask them to do it. John McCrea and Garth was who they came up with. I was having lunch with Steve McManus, then editor of Crisis and 2000 AD, in a pub in London. I came in with a painted cover for the magazine. I thought McManus was going to be talking to American guys and I heard these accents. We got on really well.
DE: Any good stories?
GF: Well, we were off to this one island. It was Liam Sharp, Dave Gibbons, Darick Robertson, Matt Hollingsworth, John McCrea, me and a couple of Garthís friends. We all went on this ferryboat across the water called the North Atlantic drift between Belfast and this island. We get on the ferry, and have you ever seen that George Clooney movie, The Perfect Storm?
GF: Itís like that! In this little boat thatís going up and down. People are throwing up, things are crashing and Garth is laughing like a maniac because he thinks itís funny. We get off at the island and thereís sheep, a hotel, a pub and thatís it. We spent three days drinking there and weíre doing it again soon.
DE: I saw that you model for a lot of your covers.
GF: Yeah, basically what I do is try to make them up as far as I could go and then I need some reference. Like hands and stuff like that. One of the most frustrating things in the world is doing a big close-up of somebody and their right hand is quite big in the picture. You have to draw and look at your hand at same time so I decided to take some Polaroids instead. As the years progressed I looked at all the Polaroids and wondered what the hell I was doing so we put them on my website.
DE: Youíve been pretty critical of Boris Vallejo. Why is that?
GF: Iím not critical of his stuff. Heís a great technician and a bodybuilder. His work is great but it doesnít quite ring my bell like Frank Frazetta or Richard Corben. When I use photographs I use them as a reference point to jump off of. I donít sit down and replicate the photograph.
I suppose Iím just jealous of Boris because I donít know anyone fit enough to pose for me. These fit women hanging from chandeliers. My stuff is more like Frazetta.
DE: What are some of your favorite covers?
GF: Thereís one I did for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ages ago which had Michelangelo fighting a bloke with a hockey mask. The best one I did for Preacher was the cover of the second trade paperback, Until the End of the World. I also liked the black and white family group one as well [Preacher issue 9].
DE: Who are your favorite fine artists?
GF: My favorite fine artists are all dead Americans. [One is ] JC Leyendecker, who did covers for the Saturday Evening Post. I liked Norman Rockwell as well. Norman Rockwell was almost like a stalker for JC Leyendecker. I also like a lot of the impressionistsí stuff because of how they used color, like Monet. But I think my favorite artists are sculptors like Rodan and Alfred Gilbert [1854 - 1934, British sculptor and metal worker].
DE: Are you going to be doing any Judge Dredd stuff again in anticipation of the new movies?
GF: Well, what happened with that is that there is this company called Rebellion, that does computer games. It turns out that a lot of the people who worked for Rebellion are now lousy with money and took over 2000 AD when it was in financial trouble. They decided to do a whole package with Judge Dredd movies, radio programs and computer games.
The only thing Iíve done for them is having gone to a party in London at the Ministry of Sound, a big very noisy nightclub for people half my age. Simon Bisley and I were going to go and Simon bailed. I ended up going and there were 2000 AD pictures everywhere in the club. I ended up having a good time because there were all these people telling me how much they loved my stuff. Iím sitting up there with my head swelling but I didnít get offered any work.
DE: Howís the Marvel project going?
GF: I still canít talk about it to anybody at all.