Exclusive Interview with Douglas Holgate and Tristan Jones!
On of the biggest draws of a convention is getting to meet the people behind the comics, especially the local creators. Whilst Australia may not be on the comic map there are some immensely talented folk working hard to make a mark. We cornered two Australian artists to find out what they’re bringing to the table and how they got to the table in the first place: Doug Holgate and Tristan Jones.
Click below to enjoy the audio complete with Convention ambience!
G-Funk: We’re at Oz Comic-Con Perth and we’re joined by two of Australia’s comic artists. We have…
TJ: Tristan Jones.
DH: Douglas Holgate.
G: Thank you! Is it Douglas or just Doug?
DH: Either, whatever you feel like. If you feel like the extra syllable is…
G: I don’t know, we’ve got limited time. And I understand you go by ‘T-Rex’?
TJ: I go by many names.
G: Shall we make some up?
TJ: I’m pretty sure it’s already been done. You could make it up and someone’s already called me it.
G: Nah, I’m not going to do it. Tell me what kind of work you do and what you’ve got for sale here today. Who wants to go first?
TJ: I have lots of comics I have drawn, and art for sale. Right now I’m working on the Aliens comics, I’ve worked on Ghostbusters, I’ve worked on Silent Hill…I’ve worked on a bunch of comics. Probably the most recent ones, the ones most people associate me with, are the Ghostbusters, now Aliens, but also Mad Max and the Ninja Turtles. But I’ve done a bunch of other stuff as well.
G: And Doug?
DH: Currently I’m working on two graphic novels. One is a creator groaned…creator OWNED graphic novel for Scholactics…
TJ: I know the creator groans a lot.
DH: Creator does groan a lot. It’s called ‘Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race’, which will be out next year, and I’m also working on a graphic novel spin off from ‘The Lunar Chronicles’ series in America, by Marissa Meyer, called ‘Wires and Nerve’ through McMillan Books. I generally work in kids comics, young adult fiction…things like that.
G: One of the most distinctive traits between the two of you, and this may be a generalisation, but Doug – you’ve got a lot more creator owned and Tristan – you’ve got a lot of licensed titles like Ghostbusters, Aliens, Silent Hill…is that a personal preference?
DH: I don’t know, I do a lot of work for hire but probably not in comics. I do a lot of illustrated novels, which is all work for hire. Currently it’s more that I’m at a point in my career where I’m starting to pitch more creator owned stuff to various publishers. I think things are coming to a head where I’ve created a lot of creator owned stuff and it’s all out. You’ve done some creator owned?
TJ: Yeah, ‘Rebels’ is technically creator owned, I get a share of that. I did ‘Hoax Hunters’ a while back and I’m meant to get a share of that but I haven’t seen any of it. Yeah, I’ve had things on and off between licensed gigs that I’ve worked on slowly and a couple of them now have traction. It’s that they’re not out there, they’re in process, people haven’t seen them. I don’t have them here to sell. If people flick through my art, my folio, they can see art for it in there. If they hit me up on Twitter they can see snippets of those things. It’s all definitely happening, but I’ve got to do what pays the bills and for me that’s licensed comics.
G: The licensees in particular, like we said Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters…there’s a lot of 80s and 90s nostalgia going on here. Is that a big influence on your work?
TJ: It definitely influences what I choose to work on. I’m not going to work on something that I’m not interested in on some level. And there are things that I’m interested in that I’m never going to get to work on because I don’t feel confident that I’m going to do that particular property any justice or anything that hasn’t already been done better. So it depends on what the angle is from the publisher. There are so many variables to it that it’s a really hard thing to pin down. I’m doing Aliens, and Aliens is the thing that I basically geared my entire comic career towards doing. These things obviously have a major factor into it but at the same time there’s a lot of other variables to weigh in when picking and choosing these jobs.
G: And Doug, what’s your motivation when choosing projects?
DH: That’s a good question. Probably that it inspires me, something that I’m interested in whether it’s the genre or the characters. It could be anything. A lot of the time it’s a good paycheck. I think particular at the moment if I like the look of whatever the book is, if it’s something I’m really interested in drawing, if it’s a genre I like, that will motivate me. I think interesting characters, interesting story…I’m probably not going to say no.
**Brief interlude as a family buys some of the books**
G: A lot of people see comic book nerds as one collective audience, but when I look at what each of you have on offer they gear towards very different people. Do you feel like you’ve got a particular audience?
DH: I think so. My audience is more of an age group that a specific demographic of fans.
G: When you say age group, you mean which group?
DH: I work in all-ages material, so for younger kids up to teenagers and young adults. I don’t generally work in what would be considered adult material.
G: And who would you say your audience is?
TJ: It’s to hard to peg down, but when you’re drawing comics you’re subjected to individual tastes, and because most artists that are akin to what I do and most artists who have inspired that way I work have all come from horror backgrounds, or some kind of dark genre background. Most of my audience tend to gravitate towards that material because that’s an artistic preference. Because they’re seeing something in my artwork that is recognisable through other artists I’ve been inspired by, there is a particular demographical group of people or types of person who gravitate towards my artwork and they’ll tend to do the same thing to other artists who do similar things. It’s not necessarily a genre thing, it’s usually a stylistic thing, but because my style lends itself to particular genres those fans all tend to be genre fans of three sorts of genres: science-fiction, horror and fantasy. And crime. I get a lot of crime people ask me to work for them.
G: I think the pairing of you and Aliens, I think that’s a really good match of style and content. Personally I think that’s excellent. Both of you work in the Australian industry – what kinds of challenges does that present?
TJ: The fact that there is no industry.
G: That’s a big one. What problems do you face?
TJ: They’re way too deep to get into in this time.
DH: They’re complicated, but in general it’s that there isn’t a big enough audience…
DH: …there isn’t a pathway necessarily to working professional. At least, the pathway isn’t as immediately available as it is in, say, Europe, America, Japan.
TJ: You speak to any of the people working here: Doug, myself, Jon (Sommariva), Nicola (Scott)…any of the local professionals, even the writers, have come through completely differently. Because there is no set path. You go to America and you get guys who have come up through the same art schools, they all know each other and they form their studios together or they all went and became apprentices together at the same studio or whatever. There’s a rite of passage, there’s a particular narrative to how they got into comics and here it’s just not the case.
DH: There’s also the culture of comics. In Europe, in Japan, in America there’s a culture of reading comics, of making comics that I think here there’s a culture of comics that was adopted from those areas as opposed to a culture that was created.
TJ: What lacks in that is that they’re seeing in the culture is that there’s not a lot of professional development in that either. With a lot of these courses and groups in the US and Europe and these territories there’s a professional development that accompanies all of that and that’s not the case here at all. Most of the professionalism I learned in comics I learned overseas and general work ethic, but going overseas and seeing things in the business there and seeing how things work, and apply it from wherever you are.
G: You said you all came from different pathways into the industry, I assumed that like Nicola (Scott) you were all models and then went into comics. That’s not the case?
TJ: Doug was actually a high profile musician. I was an actor. But we both moonlit as models. Nicola was a model and moonlit as an actress.
DH: I was the bassiest in a prog-rock band called Banana Cake.
TJ: They were pretty good. I think I saw you guys play once at the Banana Lounge.
DH: Probably. (Laughs)
TJ: By the pool.
DH: What was the question?
G: If you could sum it up, what was your path into the industry? Because we do have a lot of young people looking for a path.
DH: I think for me all of the guys here working professionally is that we all read comics, we grew up reading comics, we grew up drawing cartoons and comics. So it’s just a natural progression. I was probably not interested, even though I was reading books by Marvel and DC, I guess my work is not so conducive to working for those two companies. I was more interested in working for book publishers and independent publishers. My pathway was laid out by the internet more than anything else. I met like-minded cartoonists and animators in the US and shared work with them on message boards and started developing a comic career through that and through my book illustrations.
TJ: I was in the right place at the right time. I was film and television…
G: Where is that place and time?
TJ: Nah, there’s no point me telling you that. I’ve said it time and time again – people ask how we got into the industry and what I say about how I got into the industry is going to be completely different to how anyone else gets in. Everybody’s stories about how they got in will be completely unique and the only common thread is that everybody had a love for comics and a love for telling stories and they found a way to do that. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. I was in film and television and I got asked to write a book just because I got bored and decided to do some other stuff on the side. What that is doesn’t matter because everyone else will be doing it differently. That’s basically what it is. If you want to do it, you’ll find a way to do it.
G: I’ve got one last question: you’ve got the whole of comics, film and TV, you can work one any project you want…what’s your dream project.
TJ: I’ve got it. The only thing I want to do know, as far as licensed gigs go, is to do a Predator book and that’s it. After that it’s all my own stuff.
G: Or even Aliens VERSUS Predator, I bet no-one’s thought of that.
TJ: Actually that’s a pretty terrible idea. I don’t know why anyone would want to read that.
G: Dead in the water already, isn’t it?
DH: In terms of licensed books?
DH: Probably B.R.P.D. In terms of the real world, probably what I’m doing now which is creator owned work. Having an original book published by a big publisher that I co-created and am drawing.
G: Sounds like you’re doing pretty well then!
TJ: I think so. We’re getting there.
G: Well, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us, enjoy your convention.
DH: Will do, thank you.
TJ: Thanks man.