This week’s 20 Questions are answered by quite possibly the happiest guy in the industry, the constantly smiling Mike Collins!
1. What exactly is your job?
I write and draw comics for the UK, US and Norway. I also illustrate for magazines and books. Latterly, though my ‘day job’ for want of a better term though is providing storyboards for TV shows including Horrid Henry, Doctor Who and Sherlock.
2. How did you get into it?
How long have you got?
I always drew as a kid, I loved newspaper strips and mainly UK humour comics, though I was lucky that TV21 was the big adventure weekly when I was growing up, showcasing amazing artwork, nominally about puppet shows but they utterly transcended the source material. At school I drew my own comics- generally superhero stuff but with skits on teachers that got me into trouble. Persuaded by my folks that (righty!) comics was far too risky and frankly ludicrous a career choice, I actually read Law at University. That lasted two years. I came to realize that I was in the wrong profession, and changed my major to Politics. I had free time to work in the college Printroom, providing cartoons, posters, t-shirt designs for whatever clubs and societies need them I also wrote and drew an SF newspaper strip for the University’s weekly paper.
At this time I started work on various fanzines, writing and drawing strips with Mark Farmer on inks. We covered each other’s weaknesses- he didn’t enjoy pencilling, I was frankly crap at inking. We set about trying to get professional work as a team which -in the mid 80s in the UK- was unheard of. I think we got meetings with editors just so they could see this freakish team, like a two headed cat or a Siamese duck. Over the course of two years, we visited 2000AD about every three months, showing our latest attempts to Steve MacManus and Robin Smith who -to their eternal credit- were blunt, critical and constructive in their appraisals. They gave us way more time than we deserved.
Oddly though, our actual break came because of the fanzine work: I got to meet Alan Moore at a comic-con and he recognized my work from my Moonstone strip in Masters of Infinity and later BEM – the last episode printed had featured a massive cliff hanger. Alan asked me how I was getting out of it- I told him I’d written myself into a corner but if he had any ideas…. a few days later, a script came through the post, Alan had, on a whim, written the final (4 page) episode for me! After this, he’d pitched a parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil to Marvel UK and told editor Bernie Jaye ‘Mike’s drawing it’, from that point on, I was a published artist!
I did various art projects (including work for Games Workshop on their Golden Heroes game) and art for Rank Xerox for their training division in London. My big comics gig was though for Marvel UK- writing and co-pencilling (with Barry Kitson) a four part Spider-Man in the Uk story. Unfortunately, this was never followed up, but it lead me to doing a massive amount of work for Marvel Uk, starting with Transformers, then on to other license tie-ins (Zoids, He-Man, Thundercats, Ghostbusters and yes, Doctor Who) either writing and/or drawing. I also wrote post-Alan Moore issues of Captain Britain before Jamie Delano took over. About this time, I also finally got printed by 2000AD after all that banging at the door.
Alan hadn’t left the picture though: he showed my work to Dez Skinn at Warrior who were looking for artists for their strips which had been picked up by Eclipse in the USA. Initially trying out for Marvelman, I ended up (with Mark again on inks) drawing Laser Eraser and Pressbutton for most of the run of the comic.
DC, who had already taken onboard all the big names of UK comics, came back for a second dip and I got taken in that scoop. I’ve spent the next couple of decades bouncing between Marvel and DC, Marvel Uk and 2000AD.
3. How long have you been doing it?
4. What’s your favourite colour?
Blue. No, green. No– wait, red.
5. If you could only read one comic book for the next year, which one would it be?
6. Whose work do you admire the most, or are inspired by, and why?
(deep breath) Alex Toth, Frank Robbins, Gil Kane, Jim Starlin, Neal Adams, Alan Davis, Wally Wood, Stuart Immomen, Bryan Hitch, Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Mike Ploog, Mike Kaluta, Duncan Fegredo, Bernie Wrightson, Mike Mignola, Chris Samnee, Sergio Toppi, Enki Bilal, Jean Giraud, Russ Heath, Tom Palmer, Gerry Haylock, John M Burns, John Byrne,… and on, and on…but at the core of my art is John Buscema. A master storyteller, and someone who rendered figures effortlessly
7. Are you right or left handed?
Right, but I can layout left handed.
8. What’s your ultimate, pick-me-up, feel-good song?
In France They Kiss On Main Street by Joni Mitchell
9. What are you working on right now?
Houdini&Doyle, a new ITV drama featuring… well, guess… I’m about to start a graphic novel based on the Apollo 11 mission which I’m looking forward to, as NASAS permeated my young life and of course, the Designated Driver on 11 was Michael Collins.
10. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Trek. Always Trek.
11. What’s your favourite piece of work that you’ve done?
I still haven’t done a favourite. Too much compromise, rushed frames, incompetence. The project that I’m least critical of (though, I have issues) is my adaptation of A Christmas Carol for Classical Comics.
12. Did you cry at the end of Toy Story 3?
Yes, copiously. Don’t ask about the start of UP….
13. What comic book/novel/movie/TV show shaped you as you were growing up?
Doctor Who and Star Trek on telly. TV21 and 2000AD in UK comics. Picking up Captain Marvel#25 off a spinner rack made my brain pop as an 11 year old. Movies: Bladerunner for it’s sheer beauty, His Girl Friday for it’s brilliant dialogue and pacing.
14. What’s the best thing about the comic book industry?
Getting to create, every day.
15. What’s the worst?
Deadlines, not having enough time to do things properly. Not knowing what you’re doing next.
16. Dogs or cats?
More cats than dogs, but I do love em both.
17. Why should comic fans support independent comic shops?
Because they’re part of a culture. I got involved in comics fandom through Nostalgia&Comics in Birmingham. I may well be not where I am today if they hadn’t existed. The big shops are fine but, really – just like independent record stores- the smaller shops are home and friends, not just cold commerce.
18. Imagine it’s 20 years in the future. What do you think will be the planet’s greatest achievement in the last two decades?
Mars! People living there. The Outward Urge fired up again after being dormant for so, so long.
19. If you’re able to tell us, what are you excited about working on in the next 12 months?
My Apollo book, Houdini and Doyle (it’s a fun show) finally finally getting to write and draw my own project if I can get it underway!
20. And finally, how do you take your tea/coffee?
Tea- milk, no sugar. I had to give up coffee as my doctor informed me ‘you’ve already had your lifetime’s quota’
Watch out for my Sherlock Adult Colouring Book out the start of November, and my latest Norwegian book (if you’re in Norway) the end of November. Over the Christmas holidays I’ve got a fabulous TV double – the Christmas Doctor Who Episode and the Christmas Sherlock, both of em storyboarded by me!