Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the Vault - Zool(1994)

Some say they that art was all they ever wanted to do. They were called to it. Pursuing their dream with teeth-gritted determination and fiery passion - but I never set out to make drawing my career path. If i had a 'secret origin', I'd say it happened by accident.
There was a time at junior school I was convinced I'd end up working for Disney or Hana Barbera, I thought it'd be easy to do. I was very naïve to the painfully laborious process involved, I thought you'd just draw a few pretty pictures then some machine 'filled in' the rest (which has sorta come true). Didn't know anything about hand-painting cells and the thousands of drawings involved, I just loved cartoons, and wanted to make them 'when I grew up'.
Don't get me wrong, I always loved comics, started to read them around the age of 4, and started to draw my own not long after. But i just did them for fun and to pass time at the back of maths class. Then i started to grow pubic hairs and notice girls and lost ALL interest in a career or planning my future. I just wanted to muck around with my mates and Debbie Everard.
Then i wanted to be Joe Strummer or Captain Sensible, that didn't happen. Then i wanted to be Sam Raimi or Luci Fulci, that didn't happen. Was left rather disenchanted.  Felt lost and unfocused and needed some creative outlet, some way to get stuff outta my head.
...and I just started drawing again. It really gave me a powerful buzz! So much so I went and enrolled at art school
Which, other than meeting a coupla like-minded souls who became good friends, wasn't time well spent. Eventually, almost as a reaction to the bitter blinkered poseurs who attempted to teach me how to draw - and what to draw - i walked away from college and set up as a 'freelance artist'. Didn't know what the fuck i was doing, but it felt the right choice. And certainly preferable to getting a 9 to 5 'proper job'.

Then fate/uncanny good timing landed me the dream-gig of drawing Mr. X for Vortex Comics. It all happened very fast. Waaay too fast! And because of reckless stuff i was doing in my personal life - it ended just as fast. From then on my career stalled and spluttered, and often left me unemployed without a penny to rub.

Early 90's was the lowest, lowest point. I was so close to packing it all in but then along came Zool - The Alien Ninja from The Nth Dimension.

Boxtree publishing had the rights to produce a series of illustrated book adventures featuring Zool, an early video game rival to Mario. Somewhere I'd bumped into Ian Edginton (writer of Scarlet Traces and Stickleback) who dug what i did with Mr.X. We shook hands, talked old comics, and weeks/months later he called asking if i wanted to team-up on the first Zool.

I was busy moving house at the time, having a relationship meltdown, and finishing up a bunch of samples/pitches. Chaos! But hungry for a good break - i leaped at the chance!
It was mostly a nightmare: tight deadlines, working all hours, waiting for a book that sometimes arrived in chapters or a few paragraphs at a time, re-writes, re-thinks, re-draws, frequent squabbles, and an editor who thought he could write it better - which he could not.
...and getting all money owed took over 4 months of letters and phone calls, and finally an actual threat to turn up at the office with violent intent (they paid two days later). Friction with the writers and leaving an editor cowering under his desk helped lose me the follow up gig, which added new misery and disillusionment.

But, looking at it now, with less jaded eyes, I'm really glad i did it. It's a fun book, set me some new challenges and helped develop/fine tune a new, more 'cartoony' style, prepping me for Rock and Roll High School a few months later.
Here's the choice cuts...


Brian Lue Sang said...

Wow! Your journey in the comic book industry had quite an interesting start!

I know you've made it known that you have a love/hate relationship with the comic book industry and, considering what you've said in previous posts, I can't help but understand how you feel.

Now, however, I find myself thinking, that somewhere inside you there was a pull to do art - though maybe not for the same reasons as the 'I was BORN to do this shit!' crowd, but you're still here and you're still making an impression.

Thanks for sharing.

shane oakley said...

thankyou, brian - i always had 'little voices' telling me i should be doing something creative. but i think those voices had to have a real good argument.

and the LOUDEST won.

with me, i think it's down to the short time we have, and wanting to do as much as i can. but drawing always comes easiest and always rewards me the most(not necessarily in financial terms, though).

as long as there's a corner of this industry that i can work in, doing the stuff i want to do,then i'm sticking around.