Colin O’ Mahoney writes for Bleeding Cool
Comic writer Neil Gibson will be giving a talk at London’s flagship Apple store in Regent St this Thursday (Nov 15th). Regular readers of the site may know Neil’s name from a recent article where Rich likened him to an ‘undiscovered Bendis’. Since quitting his job in February last year as a management consultant, Neil has been writing and publishing his way into the comic industry at an almost-alarming pace, with his signature series Tales from the Twisted Dark already in its third volume.
Earlier this week I spoke to Neil about the talk he will be giving, his work in comics so far, and his mission to ‘bring comics into the mainstream.’ He also dropped the news that he is courting interest from a US publisher for Tabatha, his upcoming series, which will be previewed on Thursday at the Apple store talk. It seems Gibson’s time as an ‘undiscovered Bendis’ might be drawing quickly to a close, so as per Rich’s advice, if you want to say ‘I knew Neil Gibson before he wrote…’ you’d best move quickly…
COM – You are giving a talk at an Apple Store, which seems something of an odd fit for a comic writer. How did that come about?
Just good luck really. A few of the guys who work there are fans of my work and when I came in to fix my laptop they made a suggestion that I do a talk there.
COM – What will be they focus of the talk?
It’s all about comics – what I do, how I do it and why. I will also touch upon my life mission which is to change the perception of comics in this country. While a lot of people now regard comics as a valid medium and art form, the majority of the population still sadly thinks that comics are for kids and you should grow out of reading them. This common opinion disappoints me and I will do all I can to change it.
COM – Up until last year, you worked as a management consultant. Did you quit specifically to work on comics?
I did indeed! Some see it as a reckless move, but most people tell me they find it inspiring.
COM – Why then, and why comics?
Why did I quit in February? Well the project I was on in Oman finished then and it seemed a logical point. I was ready to work on comics and didn’t want to start another project and leave halfway through. Why comics? I have always loved the medium for many reasons and it was a shock to discover that people liked my comic book writing. Once I realised I could actually make a career from making comics I decided to go for it.
COM – Do you have any advice for others considering working in comics?
It is hard to break in, like it is in any industry, but if you have enough passion for it, you should absolutely give it a shot – and this applies to work in anything you love. The worst case scenario is you go back to what you were doing before with the knowledge you tried. The best case scenario is that your dreams come true. If you never try you will always wonder ‘what if…’
COM – You have a mission to ‘bring comics into the mainstream’, and get the medium taken more seriously. Where does this drive come from?
Irritation! Seriously! I hate it when people ask about my hobbies and I mention comic books and their face registers judgemental surprise. I flipped out once at a fancy party when I explained to a woman who had never read comics how great they can be, despite a lot of bad examples in print. She was thoughtful for a moment and then said. I think I prefer a good book. I went nuts! “How can you say that when you have never even read a comic?!” I bellowed at the poor lady. This attitude is something I regularly battle but I have a vision when everyone respects comics as a medium and enjoys them in a manner that suits their taste.
There are actually 2 battles I have to fight. First I have to get sceptics to try reading comics – This alone is pretty hard. Secondly I have to get them to try comics that suit their taste. Imagine if you had never heard music and then the one piece of music you hear is death metal, you might be put off and say ‘I’ve tried music but it’s not for me’. Now it’s clearly silly for someone to swear off the entire medium of music just because they didn’t like one song, but a lot of people do just that with comics. They pick up a comic aimed at 14 year old and think it’s childish and not for them. They’re right, but it just means that particular comic wasn’t right for them, not the whole medium.
Wow, you asked where the drive came from and I think by my answer it is clear that I really do have a passion!
COM – Why do you think people’s perception of comics is so skewed?
See above. I think it is lack of awareness of good comics brought about because most comics are childish. I don’t blame people for this perception – I had the same opinion. The difference is I was willing to give comics a shot and try reading the recommended ones. It really changed my life.
COM – You have only started out in comics, and so far your work in the main seems to have a rather dark, psychological horror bent to it. Is this the kind of work you want to continue doing, or are there more genres you want to explore?
Oh I have a TON of genres to explore. Twisted light comes out in a few months which is very funny and The world of Chub Chub will be out before the end of the year. It is a Calvin and Hobbesesque comic which women in particular seem to like. The reason my first stories were so dark was because I found the scenarios quite interesting and as a first time writer I was cautious about writing anything that might have been boring.
COM – What are the comics that influenced you, particularly the ones that made you want to write?
Oooh. Good question. Watchmen was the first one I read which made me realise how cool the medium was. I then read Preacher and Maus. If you go to my website I have a list of comics I recommend that everyone should read. As for which ones made me want to write, I have to say none of them did. I never had an ambition to be a writer – I just wanted to be involved with comics because I love (good ones) so much.
Neil Gibson is giving a talk at the Regent St. Apple store on Thursday 15th November at 7pm. There will be a drinks reception afterwards and there is an opportunity to win a copy of his new book. His work can also be found on Amazon, or you can find his stand at Thought Bubble next week.