Emerald City Comicon 2011: Interview with Guy Davis
Last weekend, ewoks, intergalactic bounty hunters, Ghostbusters, and caped crusaders descended upon Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon. There, artists, writers, actors, publishers, vendors, and fans banded together at the Seattle Convention Center to celebrate all things comics. It’s grown to such a successful annual event that organizers extended it to three days, and it made all the difference. Of course, I wore my best Batman shirt and geeked out all weekend.
For fans looking to score commissions and autographs, Friday was the day to go, with lines at a minimum and aisles clear to wander and take in all the sights. Sunday was busier but still manageable, with everyone looking a little weary but still pleased to be among friends. Saturday was the big day, however, with throngs of costumed fans attending panels and carrying boxes full of books in hopes for autographs. Fittingly, it was on Saturday that the biggest news of the weekend was announced. At publisher Dark Horse’s panel, longtime B.P.R.D. series artist Guy Davis announced his departure from the book that he has illustrated for eight years. The news stunned fans, and I caught up with Davis after the panel to discuss the decision and what lies ahead for him.
Guy Davis: It just seemed like the best time. Before the show, they found a new artist to take over after the B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Gods storyline, which will be the last regular B.P.R.D. series that I draw. And we didn’t want it to seem like we were hiding stuff from the fans, like there was a secret, you know? So, we figured everyone was at Emerald City, so let’s just announce it and then, you know, it’s out in the open. We didn’t mean for it to be such a big shock, but it sort of happened quickly, and we didn’t really want to have to sit on it much longer so everybody could move on. I have some other projects in the works that I can’t announce yet, along with wanting to get back to The Marquis series.
I’ve done 56 issues of B.P.R.D. in the last eight years, and I love it. You know, I love working with Mike [Mignola] and John [Arcudi] and everyone involved, but a part of me still wanted to work on my own creator-owned series. It was hard finding time for more comic work at the end of the day, so I felt it was best to stop doing the ongoing B.P.R.D. and focus more on The Marquis. I’m still around where if they have a shorter two issue mini-series, spin-off, you know--Abe Sapien mini-series--something down the road, I’d be happy to do it. I just felt I couldn’t do the monthly grind anymore.
Amazon.com: Hell on Earth: Gods will be the last book for you. Is there anything else waiting in the wings that is Hellboy or B.P.R.D. related that has not yet been released?
Guy Davis: There’s a short story I did that Scott Allie wrote [and] I’m not sure where they’re printing it. It’s about an eight-pager, the same length as the Emerald City Seattle freebie that I did [a convention exclusive], and that really is the last B.P.R.D. thing I’ve done for now. And I’m just starting to focus on getting the new Marquis graphic novel done.
We started The Marquis: Inferno with Dark Horse, which collected everything that has been printed of The Marquis so far, and I decided I wanted to do the rest of the series as original graphic novels. So the next one, The Marquis and the Midwife, we’re looking at that coming out in 2011.
Guy Davis: I don’t really want to give too much away, but it picks up right after the last storyline in Inferno. It’s more with the Marquis and his influence on the city. I mean, the first series dealt a lot with the Marquis as the main character--whether he was insane or not. With The Midwife, we’re focusing more on everybody else in the city and how they’re reacting to this devil hunter and all the murders going on, and also more of the devils who are hiding from him. So for this one, it’s not so much focused on Vol de Galle and the character the Marquis, but more--he becomes a catalyst for a lot of things happening around the city and also around the kidnapping of unborn children by the Midwife. It’s going to be sick and obscene, which is what we want from the Marquis [laughs]. It’s what I want from The Marquis [laughs]--stuff I couldn’t put in B.P.R.D.!
Amazon.com: Is The Marquis a finite or ongoing series? Do you have an ending in sight?
Guy Davis: No, definitely not an ongoing. I’ve always had an ending set since “Danse Macabre,” the first story set in Inferno. There’s a couple other stories that push the ending further back, like The Midwife, but after that there’s only two other mini-series or storylines--they will be original graphic novels. So, two more books that tell the entire story of The Marquis, and then it’s done. There’s a finite ending because I don’t want to write it into the ground, and I also want to move on to another idea after that.
Amazon.com: How did you conceive of the Marquis character?
Guy Davis: I came up with it because I was getting off The Sandman Mystery Theater--they cancelled that through DC/Vertigo. I had a great time on that; it was a pulp, action retelling of one of their superheroes in a 1936 time period. And I was typecast as only being able to draw period pieces, guys in hats, you know--talking head, mundane things. And I was a monster guy. I didn’t grow up reading comics. I grew up reading Famous Monsters and watching old movies.
So, I decided that I would come back and do everything I wanted to do in a book. I love the 18th Century, and I wanted to do something that didn’t have monsters, so I did devils. And I wanted it to be a very obscene-looking hell because, you know, it should be. It came about from me drawing just everything that I wanted to draw. The setting being set perpetually in winter seemed a different horror setting than a rainy sky, and I love winter. There isn’t a secret as to why it’s always winter; it just seemed like a cool setting, and I wanted to draw a lot of snow. The Marquis was just an excuse to do what I wanted to do.
Amazon.com: The Marquis and the creatures in the book come from such a dark, disturbing place. How or what do you tap into in order to illustrate and write this world?
Guy Davis: You know, I have to say it’s just imagination and sketching out shapes, and there’s certain things I said going into it: I didn’t want the devils to horned and cloven hoofed. I wanted them to look obscene, like twisted genitalia-inspired monsters. You know, to me, if it’s Hell it’s not going to be modest. It’s not a kid’s book. It’s not something a child’s going to want to pick up anyway. You know, it’s prose-heavy in parts, and, like you said, it’s dark and violent, but it’s not gory. Growing up, I loved the paintings of [Pieter] Bruegel and [Hieronymus] Bosch, which had a lot of bizarre devils that made no sense [laughs]…things that didn’t look like the standard Christianity Devil, or whatever you wanted to do.
Amazon.com: Going back to something you mentioned earlier: for Emerald City Comicon, you, Mike Mignola, and John Arcudi created an exclusive eight-page comic that takes place in Seattle and ties into the current Hell on Earth arc. This must have taken a lot of coordination--what did your turnaround have to be in order to get it done by this weekend’s convention?
Guy Davis: It was pretty quick, actually. We got the idea to do something special for [the convention], and we didn’t want to do a preview comic or anything, like, “Here’s eight pages from an upcoming B.P.R.D. storyline.” And with the new Hell on Earth series of B.P.R.D. stories, we thought, “You know, every place is sort of getting destroyed by monsters, so let’s do what’s happening in Seattle with some other B.P.R.D. agents.” Of course, that was all John and Mike’s idea. They wrote up the eight pages and handed it to me, and I turned it around pretty quickly--maybe a little over a week, two weeks to pencil and ink it. We weren’t coloring it with Dave Stewart’s amazing colors, but he of course did the cover. People seemed to like it; I’ve signed a lot.
Amazon.com: Were you familiar enough with Seattle to draw it or did you have to use references?
Guy Davis: I’ve never been to Seattle, so I did the cheat of Googling it. Then when we arrived in town on Thursday, I saw the Public Market and stuff, and I went, “Wow, I drew everything wrong.” I’m glad most of the stuff I drew was a monster stepping on it, so I can get away with it.
Amazon.com: I’ve read that you said you sometimes cringe when you look back at your earlier B.P.R.D. work, but in lieu of your recent announcement, what’s been a highlight?
Guy Davis: Even looking at my art and cringing at the early ways I drew Abe Sapien and stuff, I still look back at everything really fondly. I had a wonderful, just great time working on the series with Mike, John, Scott, and Dave. Everybody from Dark Horse has been great. I knew Mike and John before we started B.P.R.D.--you know, we’re friends. It’s always been a wonderful time working with friends, drawing monsters, and telling stories.
P.S. We have much more from Emerald City Comicon 2011 to come this week and next on Omnivoracious!