Gary Gray, our Senior Scottish Correspondent, writes;
For the second last talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festivals Stripped strand’s Sunday programme I’ll be honest I was starting to flag, not through boredom. But purely because I think I’d mainlined so much comic’s discussion my synapses were fit to burst with the amount of in depth thinking! I guess what I needed was a nice fun talk. And who better than Paul Cornell and John Higgins, two of the nicest guys in comics. And to make it even more refreshing the talk was chaired by Niall Walker who is Edinburgh’s Reading Champion who works with a programme to encourage children in residential care to read books.
Niall kicked off the talk by saying that one of the successes they have in the program is in getting the kids to read was via graphic novels, which was really rather wonderful and once again highlighted just how comics have broken through in so many ways and are aren’t the novelty they were just twenty years ago. Now it’s not being unkind to say that Niall was a lot younger and more nervous than most of the chairs of the talks, but actually this made it rather sweet as instead of the sometimes pseudo intellectual questions you can get, his questions were a lot more naive, fun and about stuff that people who read superhero comics want to know. In fact this may have been the only talk where Wolverine and Galactus was mentioned in the same talk the whole weekend.
John Higgins was introduced by Niall, and initially the discussion centred on the double edged sword that Watchmen had caused the artist. In some ways it had opened many doors for him, but initially only as a colourist, but after about twenty years or so that stigma had worn off and he was finding people were interested in not just his colouring, but his artwork as well. To which he was asked what character he liked drawing the most and I must admit I was surprised to hear him say Judge Dredd. But that was for other peoples characters. Razorjack his own creation has always been his favourite but he always enjoys doing a Dredd strip. Cornell was also asked what his favourite character was, which funnily enough just happened to be Wolverine the title he’s currently on. But he also said that he likes to have a balanced diet of writing other characters and his own stuff, and that yes he reaffirmed that hell or high water Saucer Country will UNCANCELLED. Keep saying it Paul, surely one day Eric Stephenson will hear you!
Niall then asked what Cornell thought about Ryan Kelly working with Kieron Gillen on Three. Cornell felt jilted as if Kelly was now his ex, but this was all in jest and it was pretty obvious that Cornell wants Kelly back for when they can do Saucer Country again. This talking about cancelled series brought Niall back to asking Higgins about his character Razorjack which he said hadn’t made any money for the 10 years he had been working on it, but now finally he had received an advance from Titan for the upcoming series they will be releasing. He also revealed he was saving himself money by hiring the cheapest colourist he could find….his wife Sally Jane Hurst.
Discussion then moved to how both produced and create comics with Cornell discussing how great it was that in comics you can keep adjusting right until publication, which can’t be done in any other medium. Higgins discussing working with Garth Ennis on Hellblazer, where Garth would set an entire issue in a phone box! Which normally would be a nightmare, but Garth’s writing was so good it was ok. Cornell was also asked who his favourite artist was and I was kind of expecting Ryan Kelly, but instead he revealed it was Jimmy Broxton who he said was capable of anything, and considering how fantastically far out their work on Knight & Squire was who would or could argue.
Cornell then continued in the train of thought of discussing artist’s and said he liked writing to what an artist likes, but especially artists who can do acting, specifically Alan Davis’s work on Wolverine. Davis was asking Cornell to put more detail in, such as Wolverine thinking one thing and saying something entirely contradictory. Now hard could that be to draw? But Davis is making it work which he loves. Cornell continued in the Wolverine vein revealing he was finding it hard not slipping some of his Captain Britain characters into the story and was consciously avoiding it as it was just too comfortable writing those guys.
Talk of working with collaborators continued with Higgins revealing (in jest of course) that working with Alan Moore was a pain in the butt! Too much detail, he couldn’t handle breaking a script down like what Dave Gibbons had to do with Watchmen. And this was of course referring to the time that Moore and Higgins worked together on some of the classic Time Twisters and Future Shocks. Now most UK comic’s creators have probably worked together on those types of strips, and Niall asked if Cornell and Higgins had ever worked together, and it turned out they hadn’t, and even I was surprised at that. Maybe after this talk we’ll see a collaboration?
Niall then asked Higgins about Before Watchmen, the much maligned Watchmen knock offs (I’m NOT calling them prequels), and it was revealed that the books had genuinely been in discussion for THREE years before any of the creators were able to start work on them. As we all know this was much denied by all parties for all of that time. Interesting, but this was very frustrating as they knew they would be doing the books but not when. Thankfully the chat moved on swiftly as those books really don’t deserve much discussion.
Now, onto the question every superhero fan wants to know. Which character would they kill off? Naturally Cornell had to go with Wolverine. Higgins surprisingly said Judge Dredd! One of the clones could replace Dredd and after all Dredd has aged in real-time and must be well into his 70’s now.
And on that bombshell I have to leave the talk as Neil Gaiman’s talk was about to start. Now normally I’d never leave a talk early, but Gaiman’s is always a nightmare to get into, so apologies John and Paul for nicking out, but not as much apologies for the super weird bonkers fanboy who was asking a question as I left. Well I say a question it was more of a diatribe about being born on the day that the Sony Playstation was released, and he continued in that vein for about 5 minutes, and I still have no idea if he ever actually asked a question! Thankfully the talk had been lots of fun before that so no one was that bothered I’m sure.