Walking Dead comic artist Charlie Adlard set for 2014 Edinburgh Book Festival events
Artist also appears with Robbie Morrison to discuss WWI graphic novel White Death
This article is from 2014.
Born in Shrewsbury in 1966, comic artist Charlie Adlard first arrived on the UK scene with work for 2000AD’s enduring monthly anthology spin-off the Judge Dredd Megazine, and has continued to work for publishers Rebellion on series in both publications including Armitage, Nikolai Dante and Savage. He has worked for the ‘Big Two’ American publishers and was the illustrator of Doris Lessing’s first and only graphic novel, 1995’s Playing the Game, but it’s as the regular artist on Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic The Walking Dead (from which the television show is adapted) since 2004 that he’s most well known.
How did you come to work on Walking Dead, and when did you know it was becoming a hit?
Robert simply e-mailed me. We knew each other previously, so it wasn't completely out of the blue, but I'd never even heard of The Walking Dead when he offered it to me. It was a very gradual progression towards becoming a hit. Every issue sold a little bit more than the previous one, so there wasn't really a ‘moment’ when we suddenly thought we'd made it. Even when it became a TV show, there was never a point where we thought that was it, success! It was such a slow process, that we went from not being a TV show to being a hit TV show almost without us noticing. But, believe you me, we're grateful!
What tone have you tried to hit throughout the series with your art? What influences your work on it, comics or otherwise?
I've always been known for ‘atmospherics’ in my drawing - I use a lot of black. For me it's a great design tool, for many others it says ‘horror’, and I think Robert saw that in my work.
I don't really style my art around a subject, I draw what I draw and I believe that whoever asks me to contribute to a project gets me for my style and not something I ape. So I approached The Walking Dead exactly the same as I do any other comic. I’m greatly influenced by the classic illustrators of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, people like Bernie Fuchs, Robert McGuiness and Bob Peak. They had a fantastic combination of great design sense and classic chops, which is something I try to bring to drawing comics. Plus I'm a big fan of European comics. The sense of place they bring to their worlds is, again, something I strive to achieve.
What's it like working on a series for so long? How does your approach to the work and the characters change?
I'm fast, and my only complaint pre-The Walking Dead was that I was never on a book long enough to really get my teeth into it. I've been on The Walking Dead for over 10 years now, so I've certainly done that! And honestly, it doesn't feel like it, it still feels fresh. I find it fascinating to see the change in my art over the years, hopefully for the better. Seeing my work on one book for that long is a great document of my progression as an artist, which I don't think an artist sees that often.
Are you involved with the look of the show in any way? Do you like how it works visually?
I'm not really involved, and that was a conscious decision. I just felt that if I did get involved, I'd be taken away from my one passion, which is creating comic books. And also, it would feel like going over ground I'd already been on. Anyway, I've been told that the show has taken a lot visually from my drawings, and to me that’s enough. It's very flattering, because they certainly didn't have to do that.
Can you tell us about White Death and how it came about? Are the pleased with the finished result?
White Death’s a moving World War 1 story set on the mountainous Italian/Austrian front, drawn with charcoal and chalk on grey paper. So somewhat different to what I usually draw. It was born of my frustration with working in the mainstream licensed comics industry, my first foray into creator-owned comics. Now, obviously, I wouldn't do anything else, but then it was a big risk. I'm eternally grateful to Robbie Morrison for writing such a brilliant, powerful story, without which The Walking Dead wouldn’t have existed. I'm still very proud of what we achieved with White Death. Of course, there are bits of art that I look at and grind my teeth, but that's because it was done nearly twenty years ago, and if I didn't do that, then I know I wouldn't have progressed much as an artist. But the book still stands as possibly the most adventurous and experimental thing Robbie and I will ever do, and because of that it holds a very special place in my heart.
Sun 17 Aug, 9.30–10.30pm, £10 (£8); Charlie Adlard and Robbie Morrison, Sun 17 Aug, 2–3pm, £7 (£5)