Published on August 26th, 2009 | by Rob Cumiskey2
The Walking Dead Week Finale – Meeting Charlie Adlard
This interview, with artist Charlie Adlard, concludes my Walking Dead Week. I hope you have all enjoyed it and appreciate any comments you have. Click here to find out who won a signed copy of the latest volume of The Walking Dead from Sub City Comics, Dublin.
The following is a nice long interview with Charlie. It’ll take a few minutes to read, but it’s worth it. I felt a longer article would do him more justice – he’s a pretty cool guy 🙂
Having never seen a picture of the guy, I sat in The Central Hotel opposite Sub City Comics on Exchequer Street waiting for Charlie Adlard to arrive. Our meeting time was 11.30 on this sunny Saturday Morning and it was now 11.40 and still no sign of him. I asked an older looking man in shorts who had been waiting by the Hotel door for some time was his name Charlie? He was not impressed with this interaction and shuffled off mumbling something about tourists. Funny guy. Granted, it had been a pretty feeble attempt on my part.
Anyway, I spotted a fellow across the street holding a Starbucks coffee. He was talking to the Sub City guys and I assumed that it was he. Right I was.
We shook hands and made our way up to the Library Bar in The Central Hotel. The surroundings were perfect for an interview – plush furniture and many leather bound books circled us. I felt very intelligent indeed. It was bound to be pretty quiet at that hour and after some pleasantries about the night before and a few photos for the website, we settled down to talk about the topic of the day.
Charlie, for those who don’t know, is an artist from Shrewsbury, England. He’s penciled for Savage – 2000 AD, Rock Bottom, X-Files and some Batman stuff too, but most importantly for this writer, he’s been the artist for The Walking Dead since the original artist, Tony Moore left after six issues of the comic.
‘Of course it wasn’t easy to take up where Tony left, but it seemed like a good challenge,’ Charlie explained. At the time, The Walking Dead’s sales were increasing steadily, and Charlie was offered an excellent deal to take the reigns. ‘Tony had to take a much greater risk, being the artist at the very start and I was lucky to be coming into a much more secure situation with a semi-established monthly’.
It’s now Image Comics best selling comic, even ahead of the mighty Spawn (Todd McFarlane’s classic) and Charlie doesn’t forsee a time that he’s not involved with the comic. ‘I want to be involved with it right to the end’. His days as a journeyman artist are over.
The announcement of the new TV series, being directed by Frank Darabont of all people, could not be left out. He was very laid back about it all, but you could tell that Charlie’s immensely proud that this is finally moving. ‘I’m always a bit dubious of Hollywood. An earlier comic of mine called ‘Nobody’ was picked up for a pilot. I assumed that I’d get to see it when it was on television, but the thing never made it past the market research. The crowd obviously didn’t like it, and I never saw it in the end.’ He won’t be making that same mistake with The Walking Dead. ‘I’ll believe it when I see it, but if that pilot gets made, I’ll be on the first plane across to see it’.
Adlard is delighted that it’s been picked up for TV and not a movie. ‘What could you do with the story? A movie would just not do it justice.’ AMC run 13 episode long series and this seems to please Charlie. ‘We’re in a fairly unique position here, having a graphic novel adapted for television and there’s a niche there for something like The Walking Dead.’ Let’s just hope it can avoid the second season curse unlike shows like Prison Break, Heroes, or even David Lynch’s difficult ‘Twin Peaks’. Charlie agrees emphatically. What show would he like to emulate? ‘A show like LOST would be my preference. On-going television that you need to watch from episode one ideally. If you turned on LOST in the middle of Season Four having not watched it before, you wouldn’t have a clue what’s going on. The Walking Dead is just like that, and we’re also dealing with a large amount of characters dealing with a very extreme situation.’ Sounds like a good comparison to me.
We talk briefly about Darabont. Charlie expresses his admiration for the balance that he achieved with ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and admits that he has not yet seen ‘The Mist’. Comic book movie adaptations are mentioned, and unsurprisingly, Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comes up. ‘I’m not a fan of movies like Watchmen that are, word for word, the same as the book. There needs to be some degree of originality.’ Does he think that there is a risk that a person’s art can be ruined by a bad movie adaptation. ‘There is of course a risk, but at the end of the day, Alan Moore’s books are still on the shelves moving units. If it’s a good adaptation, they get praised, if it’s crap, they’re more often than not sympathized with.’ Good point. Robert Kirkman (writer of The Walking Dead) is still executive producer on the TV show though. ‘He’ll have some say on what goes on, he wouldn’t have it any other way,’ Charlie smiles.
By this stage, it’s more than obvious to me that Charlie isn’t just a good artist; he has a tremendous appreciation for culture. We both agree on many points. For example, Tranformers 2 was indeed a great heap of unimaginative bilge. ‘It made me angry. It was so geographically incorrect for starters, and there was just no subtlety there.’ With rubbish like this being released weekly, what does Charlie watch and read for fun?
‘I love a good character story, but I don’t read as much as I used to though. DC used to send me monthly comics when I was on their books, but when I left and they eventually stopped, it got harder for me to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world of comics.’ I get the distinct impression that he likes being in this blissfully out-of-touch void. ‘It gives me time to study American illustration from the 50s and 60s. I still drop down to my local comic store on a Friday too. I spend a few hours going through some of the older stuff that I can rely on.’ He cites some of Alan Moore’s classics as being his favourite comics of all time. ‘From Hell is immense, and V for Vendetta is so relevant right now in terms of questioning this culture of fear that we have become accustomed to.’ He also recommends a comic called ‘Why I Hate Saturn’ which I am told is worth getting a copy of.
So what’s next for Charlie? Robert Kirkman and himself are working on a one shot Sci-Fi project, but nothing more is said about that. This could be very exciting indeed. Another project or two are mentioned, but it’s all very off-the-record and conversation moves on in a more general direction toward the future of the industry. ‘These are very interesting times for art,’ Charlie ponders. ‘This culture of instant gratification and a real lack of any sort of longetivity gets to me.’ He thinks back to when he would wait weeks to go into his local record shop to buy his favourite band’s new vinyl. ‘You can’t replicate the feeling of holding something like that in your hand after such a long wait.’
He feels that comics are in a good state though. ‘We’re not going to have as good as it was in the late eighties, early nineties, but it’s a healthy industry thanks to the surge in popularity of graphic novel adaptations in Holywood.’
Will comics eventually move to the web exclusively? He doesn’t seem to think so. ‘Nobody wants to pay for anything on the Internet and I don’t see how it’s going to work, particularly if the big players remain relatively uninvolved.’ We’re briefly interrupted to be reminded that Charlie needs to be down the road at a signing five minutes ago. It doesn’t seem to bother him hugely. He was on roll there.
‘Do you know that there are no Indie Record stores in the area of Manhattan?’ I’m shocked, but I tell him our own story about Road Records and how the music industry in Dublin have grouped together to help keep them open. This seems to give him a renewed sense of optimism. ‘These things move in cycles anyway,’ I explain. ‘People will come back to the old way, they always do’ Charlie agrees. ‘They certainly will, particularly if broadband speeds remain as slow as they are. Maybe we’ll get to keep doing our thing after all.’ In Charlie’s case, I really hope so.