Ashley Wood is one of the premier cover-artists in comics right now. His dark, angular paintings are instantly recognizable on titles like Spawn, Sam and Twitch and various titles from indies to the major publishers.
Keith Giles tracked Ashley Wood down to ask him a few burning questions about his work with Bendis, future projects and what he would do if he could get his hands on Superman.
Keith Giles: What new projects are on your plate right now?
Ashley Wood: Hellspawn still seems pretty damn new to me due to all the changes we've undergone but I guess the coolest project I'm working on now is a 96 page hardcover art book called Uno Fanta. It should be out in August. I really don't have any free time anyway after the work I do for TMP.
KG: Can I ask you to comment a little further on UNO FANTA?
AW: Uno Fanta is my art book it's coming out in July hopefully in time for San Diego Con, it will be solicited in May Previews. It's a 96 page full color hard cover it features some published works for the last couple of years but the majority of it is unpublished, unseen art. It's being published by IDW. Basically if you like my covers and my comics this is the coolest thing because it's unhindered by text or lettering. It's a sans story graphic novel. Writers, who needs them?
KG: Are there any books or writers that are on your "dream list" to work with in the future?
AW: The books I would love to tackle one day would be Superman, Batman and Star Wars. If I had to collaborate, (I guess I would cause I can't write for shit), the writers I would like to work would be Brian Azzarello (El Diablo, my favorite comic of the moment), Mark Miller (I was a fan before he was big time, the Dave comic strip in 2000AD was one of the funniest ever) and David Mack (Because he underrrrrstaaaaands me!!).
KG: Can you offer some insight into what you might bring to these icons artistically? Would you want Superman to be a darker figure? Would you have Chewbacca wear chaps?
AW: With Superman I'd like to do a story which represents what a powerful figure Superman actually is, not necessarily a darker version. Regardless of how much good he does if you were standing in the room with him you'd feel scared just because of how powerful he really is. It's that feeling you get when your standing next to a cop and you know they're carrying a loaded gun. That queasy feeling, that at any moment if they so desired they could snuff you. That's my Superman.
I just want to do Batman cause I'd love to illustrate a guy who stands around on roofs and chimneys and looks cool.
I want to do Star Wars because apart from being such a damn cool universe it's actually a damn filthy universe and it would be fun to draw all of that dirty technology and machinery. Storm troopers are the best, and G-Force (Battle Of The Planets) are cool too. Isn't it weird that the fattest character was called Tiny? Spooky Japanese playing with our minds.
KG: You mention your work on children's books, how did you land this gig?
AW: The children's books I have worked on are "Googly and Friends" and "The Imposibus Rhinoceros." "Googly and Friends" was done through a small independent publisher and "Imposibus" will hopefully see the light of day via a major U.S publisher sometime in 2002.
KG: How did you break into comics? What's some of the history of your career to this point?
AW: I studied Graphic Design then went onto produce photocopied fanzines, then used those to get a magazine deal. Through the magazine I met an Australian comic artist called Gary Challoner, we collaborated on stories together, one of which appeared in Dark Horse DownUnder. In the meantime I got a job working for the Judge Dredd Megazine in England and then some Marvel editors saw the Dark Horse work and offered me the first Generation X Annual. While I was waiting for the script I was offered Ghostrider 2099 which I did from 15 to 25. By the time I got the Generation X Annual script, there was hardly any time to do it and my regular Ghostrider book as well, so I screwed the pooch and promptly got kicked out of Marvel.
Luckily after that I fell into a gig working with Garth Ennis on the revival of Shadowman for Acclaim, I then went on to do a book called Deadside with Paul Jenkins, (what a bollocksy todger), and all of this, in a round about way, lead me to work on the first Spawn Annual with Jenkins for TMP which is one my favorite comics I've ever done.
In between all of this I've done video games, movies, television, cartoons, book covers, CD covers and just about anything else that can be printed. There's too many projects to list and everyone should have a bit of fun trying to unearth them. And here I am today working for TMP and I'm in a very lucky position where I have quite a lot of freedom with the art work that I create. Sometimes it doesn't work for people, sometimes it does but at least I'm trying to do something different instead of rehashing old tunes.
KG: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What are your long-term goals or aspirations?
AW: Five years from now hopefully I'll have a run of comics that I can be proud of under my belt, hopefully created some seminal images and convince those Internet newsgroups that I'm not so evil and out to wreck comics like they think I am. I do want to kick it in the nuts a bit and see it cry.
KG: Several comic artists have made the break into films, like Timothy Bradstreet on Blade 2. Is this something you could see yourself doing?
AW: I've already done it, I've worked on stuff from Small Soldiers to Batman Beyond to unreleased classics like the new Superman movie and the once mighty lauded unreleased Cowboys and Aliens and more recently the Jody Foster film The Secret Lives of Altar Boys and of course Spawn the sequel.
KG: What are your feelings about doing the Hellspawn book with a new writer?
AW: Writer what writer? I can't recall there being a writer on Hellspawn (only joking people). Actually working with Steve Niles has been a blast, the only hard bit is trying to convince Todd that Spawn should be like the Fantastic Four and we're talking the Herbie the robot version, (the REAL Four). The coolest thing about working with a new writer is the new direction that's emerged. It's less dark and it's going to feature a hell of a lot of guest appearances, and not the ones you're thinking about, from the TMP universe. We're cribbing from classic literature, just like Alan Moore and everyone else. Alan Moore still is God. People can relax and take their fingers off of the Ash Wood flame-mail button on their computers now.
KG: Would you like to work with Bendis again down the road?
AW: Of course someone has to help his career (maybe I should help bolster that unknown comic Powers with a cover or two). But seriously hopefully we'll collaborate again some day down the line.
KG: What are your artistic aspirations, besides comic books?
AW: My artistic aspirations are just keep creating images, moving or static, like I already do. My fine art has already been exhibited in galleries around the world. As I've said before I've worked on movies and television, and hopefully I'll get better and better and finally convince my Mum that this just isn't a Phase.
KG: What kinds of materials, methods, etc. do you use for a painting?
AW: This is the million dollar question and there isn't an easy answer, and I'm not being evasive. I use everything from watercolors, oil paint, pen and ink, computers, and digital photography. I literally use it all and always in different combinations. Of course all will be revealed in my Bob Ross style videos in which I will teach you to create any of my images with a fucking giant house brush and three primary colors.
KG: Are horror type stories your personal favorites, or do you just get work in that field since it tends to match your art style?
AW: Horror is cool, but it isn't a personal favorite. I guess the majority of my art that people have seen has a horror feel to it but I also illustrate children's books. I enjoy science fiction and superheroes just as much, but I just haven't had a chance to investigate those realms as thoroughly. I enjoy most genres and I'm sure I will do them, luckily I'm still young (sort of).
KG: What of your work are you the most proud of to this point?
AW: My baby boy Maxim, it's the most fun I've ever had creating something and I didn't blow the deadline. And art wise I'm proud of my next job, the others are history.
KG: What advice would you give aspiring new artists? Should they attend an art school? Take a college art course and get a degree in graphic design?
AW: All of the above. You need the broad experience in all aspects of art.
KG: Would you like to do more sequential artwork than just covers, or are you pretty happy doing the "first impression" gig?
AW: Doing one comic every month is enough for me, but man I'd still like to do more covers cause I just love the first impression gig.
KG: What does the future hold for the future of comics, in your opinion? Do you see the web taking over the print media, or will paper comics always remain? Will spandex heroes go the way of the dinosaurs? Will we see a shift towards Trades and away from monthly single issues? How do you think any such changes to the current status quo could affect artists such as yourself?
AW: My opinion on the future of comics is that the age of the weekly 20 page comic, which essentially has the shelf life of one week, will be replaced by graphic novels and the ilk, such as the Europeans do. To make up for the lack of a weekly fix the net will step in to take it's place with a glut of online media - including what we see today ala flash comics to full screen animated episodes.
I think eventually superheroes will not be at the forefront. They will be one of many genres which will hopefully lead to an industry that reflects the choice that the movie and book industries give, where there is not one dominant genre. It won't pigeonhole itself, comics will be able to use that to it's advantage and expand it's user base.
How will this affect me? It will give me more variety in my job because I don't consider myself a comic artist or an illustrator or purveyor of fine pictures just an artist who will adapt to the market. And as always I'll make sure that I have a bloody great time doing it. Nuff said! Excelsior!