As you’d expect from one of the leading lights of Britain's new wave of young creators, the quality of Luke Pearson's work seems to develop just as rapidly as the scene itself. In a critical climate where work is often polarised into the two extremes of art and entertainment, Pearson’s latest comic, the spell-binding contemporary fairytale Hildafolk, feels just as at home in publisher NoBrow Press' visually intelligent catalogue as it does between good old fashioned yarns like Bone and The Adventures of Tintin in my bookcase.
We thought given the comic's spellbinding setting, it would be easy for us to stay on topic in the following interview. Oh, how wrong we were. The combination of our foam-mouthed enthusiasm for his work and his considered, insightful answers gave way to a conversation that refused to be contained. Moving back and forth between subjects such as his development as a creator, his perspective on comics as an auteur medium, his relationship with children's books, and the status of the British comic scene and beyond, it was a real pleasure, and one we've been looking forward to sharing with you.
I always wanted to be either a comic artist, an illustrator or an animator just because these were jobs where you got to draw fun things. I'm not sure I knew what the boundaries between those were or if I was even aware that there were any, it was all just drawing to me. Which in some ways is how I still feel about it, in that I don't just look at and think about comics when I'm making comics, I feed my knowledge of what makes good illustration and animation into what I'm doing. But in a way I arrived specifically at comics by necessity.
As a kid I thought of comics as something I could do until I figured out how to make a cartoon. But it dawns on you that it takes a ton of people to make a cartoon and only one person gets to decide what really happens in it. Since I was never going to be confident or assertive enough to be that person and I was more interested in telling my own stories than in the act of animating itself, I realised that wasn't going to satisfy my ego.
Obviously in the last few years I've become more wrapped up in and fascinated by the vast, storytelling potential of the medium and all that stuff. I'm not doing them begrudgingly because I can't make a cartoon. But ultimately comics suit me because it's the medium in which I can have the most control over the most things with the littlest input from anyone else.
It feels legitimate to say that one of the major differences between mainstream comics and indie/ small press is there's a much greater emphasis on single-author works. Do you think there's a case for stating that comics might be the ultimate medium for auteurs?
Not including Hildafolk, a fair few of my shorter comics have featured protagonists who are vague stand-ins for me and rather than having a fleshed out character of their own are just kind of vehicles to say whatever I've got to say. I haven't written anything yet that's required me to look at things from a vastly different viewpoint to my own. There's an autobio comic at the heart of everything I do.
I know that only a few years ago I wouldn't have had the opportunity that Nobrow have given me in putting a full colour book out already and getting it into shops. I've definitely been lucky in starting out at a time that's incredibly convenient for a new artist, so the best we can hope is that more and more cartoonists get to take advantage of this and that some of them are really good. I could be wrong but it also seems like more comic shops are more willing to put indie and alternative comics in a more prominent position of the store. If more and more people were to see that stuff as 'the real stuff', the main attraction (never gonna happen), then audiences would be more likely to pick up on the creators and books that are uniquely British and some kind of culture can be formed. But if you go into a comic shop and all you see is the intimidating wall of glossy mainstream booklets, independent voices get lost. The culture gets kind of flattened and generalised.
Do you think that in the Internet age, and the convergence of artists and media within social networks, etcetera, it's as important to help generate domestic comic scenes?