As a team for the past eight years, writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matt Wilson have pushed the boundaries of what can be done in comic books. Whether it’s their early work together on Image Comics’ “Phonogram” or their award-winning series “The Wicked + The Divine,” the trio inject their books with pop art sensibilities and pop music attitudes. And with stunning art by and design by McKelvie and colors by Wilson that jump off the page, their various comic projects always manage to stand out on even the most crowded shelves.
Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson recently sat down with CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland at New York Comic Con to discuss almost ten years of working together, their favorite covers from “The Wicked + The Divine,” whether or not there are plans to change up their design sensibilities, the recent remix issue of “WicDiv” and their hopes for its TV adaptation.
In the first part of the conversation, artist Jamie McKelvie discusses the iconic covers for “The Wicked + The Divine,” any plans for future covers, what inspires his layouts and more. Also, writer Kieron Gillen, colorist Matt Wilson and McKelvie talk about their favorite covers from the series thus far.
On whether or not they plan to continue the iconic, headshot covers for future issues of “The Wicked + The Divine,” and where they draw inspiration from:
Jamie McKelvie: No, no, no, no, we’re going to do something else new entirely. So, doing a lot of research and stuff.
Matt Wilson: Mostly feet, this time.
McKelvie: Yeah, moving down to the feet … We try and feed off music magazines and fashion magazines and that kind of thing. So I’ve been spending a lot of time doing research and seeing what the trends are now, and all that kind of thing. So, hopefully, something as — I don’t want to say iconic about my own work, but [Laughs] something as recognizable with that kind of thing.
Wilson: Well, and the first covers, they carried a lot of weight of identifying the characters, because like four or five of them were out before the book was in anyone’s hands.
McKelvie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and as a result we had like cosplay before the book came out because of the covers and stuff. It was really cool.
On their favorite covers from the series:
McKelvie: Actually, I really like the latest one. With the latest art, rather than the heads, we’ve done … as if it was a magazine photo shoot, but kind of cutting off the head. Not literally, as may happen in the comic, but the shot of them.
Wilson: [Laughs] That happens inside.
McKelvie: And the last one we did was Sakhmet, where it’s like — which is not out yet actually. We drew it a while ago, but it doesn’t come out until a couple months. And it’s very desaturated apart from the gold that she’s wearing, and I think it looks brilliant. And that was Matt’s idea. I just handed it over and said, “Color it how you want to cover it,” and he came back with this. And it looks so great.
In the second portion of their conversation at NYCC, Kieron Gillen compares and contrasts the themes between the team’s two books, “Phonogram” and “The Wicked + The Divine.” Matt Wilson then talks about the role his coloring plays in both comic series and the trio’s long-standing relationship. Gillen also calls out how significant a role Wilson’s work played in issue #14 of “WicDiv” (as he affectionately refers to the book), which only featured panels from previous issues re-arranged to offer a different take on the story thus far.
On the overlapping themes between “Phonogram,” “The Wicked + The Divine” and their other projects:
Kieron Gillen: The weird random stuff is — like there’s a [Christopher] Marlowe quote at the end of the third issue of “Phonogram,” and I think I wrote all of “Phonogram” #3 — apart from some of the b-sides — before I even did “Young Avengers.” So this is — you know — “Phonogram” dates from there. In fact, there’s a scene in the next issue which actually is — was meant to be a scene in “Young Avengers” homaged the scene in “Phonogram,” because we eventually planned “Phonogram” before “Young Avengers.” In which case, there was a scene — so people finally see the scene and, “oh, that’s what they were referencing.” So, the idea that the influence appears after the creation. So there’s weird stuff like that. That is, kind of, the soft stuff. But the big stuff? No, it’s kind of all planned.
I’m kind weirdly conscience of — I think we’re over-conscience. We’re kind of like over-analytical and kind of wanky is the word. [Laughs] So there’s surprisingly little. But I do like the — I suppose the differences are more that come to mind. In my head, that’s how weird “Phonogram” is and how relatively tread, comparatively, is “WicDiv.” “WicDiv” is a weird book in many ways. And you’re an issue behind, you said, so you haven’t seen the Woden issue? The Woden issue is as weird as anything being published this year. But it’s still in this larger narrative structure, which I don’t think is unfamiliar from comics. And the story structures have weird angles, but they’re not like, for example, “Phonogram,” which gets weirder every issue and I have no idea how the story is holding together … “WicDiv” is essentially genre fiction that splits to the side because I’m trying to cram too many ideas into it, whilst “Phonogram” is like weird literally autobiographical fiction trying to pass as genre fiction.
In the last part of their conversation from the CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con, Matt Wilson discusses coloring “The Wicked + The Divine” and selling the action and emotion in Gillen’s scripts. The trio then talk about the recent, brutal death of a character in the book and address how they plan on treating the design element of the book when adapting the series for television.
On their involvement with the “The Wicked + The Divine” TV show:
McKelvie: I mean, the way it’s working we have the option to be involved in everything we want to be involved with in some level. I think we try and treat it as the same thing though, because there’s this stuff in the comic that’s designed specifically for comics. But, certainly, yeah… it’s a design-led book and I’d like to have that kind of aspect to it, definitely.
Gillen: If someone was choosing to adapt “WicDiv,” you look and say, “what’s important? What do I want to keep? What’s actually interesting?” And I would be very surprised if — “oh, that stuff” — that’s something that immediately is circled — the look and feel of the thing. And it’s tricky. How you choose to, that’s entirely open. I would be surprised if not to take that. You know, in its own way, our book is the best looking book on the stands — or at least monthly book anyway.
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