Comic Creators Anonymous – Fraser Campbell

I first caught up with Fraser’s work in the exceptional Sleeping Dogs and when he followed that up with the equally impressive Alex Automatic he became an indie writer to watch for me and many others.

What was the first title you worked on?

Now you’re asking! I think my first comic was a Media Studies college project in 1990, where I happened to be in the same class as Iain Laurie. We had to make something for a graphic design module and ended up making our first comic together. Iain, myself and some other pals make Xerox ‘zine style comics for a while afterwards that thankfully virtually no-one ever saw!

I think the first “proper” comic I did was again with Iain when we did Black Cape together – that would have been around 2007 I think. It was a strip style comic about a community of unemployed Superheroes who’d all lost their powers, but ages ago, so the drive for the story was never finding out how or why or anything, it was just the daily mirk of their lives. That got picked up by Alan Grant’s adult themed comic Wasted in 2008 and we were published in that for a while. After that I did another web comic with Iain called Mothwicke before coming back to comics fairly recently with Sleeping Dogs in 2015.

How has your work changed since then?

Hopefully I’ve got a bit better. I’m happy for the older stuff to be seen and all that but I don’t think I was very sure I could do it back then. I was at least in small part trying to keep stuff low-key because I was busy with other things and also because I maybe wasn’t all that confident. Going to Thought Bubble was a huge kick up the arse for me. Seeing other people in the small press do amazing work really gave me a nudge to at least try to I think it’s true that if you write regularly, you build muscle. You learn and you get better. By the time I came to do Mothwicke, I was far more confident I could do something worth reading. Of course, it helps if you’re collaborating with someone like Iain, who’s just so talented and full of great ideas.

I think the older stuff I did was drawn mainly from observation tinged almost always by a heavy dose of cynical humour. The stuff I’m doing currently tends to be more about looking inward and trying to marry that with fun, pop culture ideas.

Who are your main influences?

I think my stuff is probably influenced the most by the fact that British TV and comics always had a more kitchen sink feel to it, but we had that and a lot of the more glamorous American shows too. I saw stuff by Alan Bleasdale, Mike Leigh, Barry Hines etc. at the same time as I was watching slicker, more overtly fun US stuff like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Incredible Hulk. Likewise with comics the Fleetway stuff I read growing up seemed much more grimy and real world than the more colourful and flamboyant American comics. But I loved them all, so I think it’s kind of natural they ended up blending into a combined influence if you like.

If we’re talking comics and you want some names there’s a couple of runs that really influenced me when I got back into reading comics in my later teens. Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright was a huge eye-opener. It seemed to me to be more madcap and literary than even the more celebrated stuff of the time by the likes of Moore and Miller. I’ve re-read it a lot and always pick up stuff I missed. Another one was Ann Nocenti & John Romita Jr’s run on Daredevil, which I started picking up on my first trip to an actual comic shop. Absolutely epic, intelligent superhero comics. I’d never seen an ongoing mainstream book done with that kind of panache before, with a real commitment to expanding and reinterpreting a familiar character. It’s been done a lot since of course (and a few times before I’d later learn) but it really made me realise what I’d been missing.

What comics are you reading just now?

I’m about half way through a re-read of Eightball by Daniel Clowes. I loved this comic when it came out and I think I expected it to be of its time and not to stand up too well but it’s just as sharp and brilliant now as it ever was. I’m also about 6 volumes into Lone Wolf & Cub by Kazuo Koike and Gosheki Kojima – top-level stuff. Brutal, beautiful and the artwork is just sensational. I’d highly recommend it.

What’s the best thing about creating comics?

Getting the chance to work with and get to know other creators you admire and just being part of the small press community. There are so many great, talented people around. A fun lot to hang around with.

What are you working on just now?

I’ve just finished the script for the next Alex Automatic called “Bokeh’s Machine” and James is beavering away at it as we speak. We should have it ready for Thought Bubble in September. Other than that, I’m writing a short for Alfie Gallagher and I have some stuff I’m excited about that’ll appear soon in the Comichaus Monthly Anthology.

Where can we see you next?

I’ll be at the Glasgow Comic Con on July 1st.

You can catch-up on more of Fraser’s work through the Alex Automatic Facebook page & keep track of what else he is up to on Twitter.


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