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Valhalla Comic’s [Mug O’ Mead] Interviews Industry Pro: Liam Sharpe

Liam Sharp is a comic book artist, writer, publisher and sometimes rock front-man. He lives in Derby, East Midlands with his wife and three children.

Sharp made his comic debut in the 1980s with the famous science-fiction magazine 2000 AD following an apprenticeship with the legendary Don Lawrence, artist on the seminal Dutch comic “Storm”. His works included such books as JUDGE DREDD, THE ORIGIN OF FINN, ABC WARRIORS, and THARG’S FUTURE SHOCKS. Sharp’s popularity rose sharply when he moved to Marvel UK, where he drew the famous mini-series DEATH’s HEAD II. After that he began working mainly in the United States on such books as X-MEN, HULK, SPIDER-MAN, VENOM, MAN-THING, SUPERMAN, BATMAN and SPAWN: THE DARK AGES. Sharp has also done work on more mature themed books for Verotik Publishing such as GOTH, JAGUAR GOD and Frank Frazetta’s “THE DEATH DEALER.”

More recently he created the Wildstorm series THE POSSESSED with writer Geoff Johns. A strip for Heavy Metal magazine, entitled “A-CRAZY-A” featuring Playboy model Tiffany Taylor - for which he provided the art and the script. Likewise for a short story in Vampirella magazine called “Winter Rose.”

In 2004 Sharp set up his own publishing company, Mam Tor™ Publishing, with wife Christina McCormack to publish the art book “SHARPENINGS: THE ART OF LIAM SHARP.” After the early success with this, Sharp saw a hole in the comic book market for alternative independent comics, and together with designer Tom Muller and friend John Bamber set out to expand the company to start publishing more work. This saw the launch of the critically acclaimed and award winning anthology, MAM TOR: EVENT HORIZON. The book featured art by such greats as Glenn Fabry, Brian Holguin, Ash Wood, Simon Bisley, Alan Grant, Steve Niles, Emma Simcock-Tooth, Ali Powers, Kev Crossley, Lee Carter and Dave Kendall.

Sharp’s most recent project is illustrating the well received DC Vertigo comic TESTAMENT written by Douglas Rushkoff.

ValhallaComics: What was your first published comic work? Who was it for? When was it published?
Liam Sharpe: Wow. It feels like a lifetime ago now, but my first published work was a few panels in Don Lawrence’s “Storm: Vandaal the Destroyer”, a classic Dutch strip. I was Don’s apprentice at the time, which was really my first job. My first solo gig was for 2000ad, a Future Shock story over three pages (I forget the title) then quite a few Judge Dredd stories.

VC: What are you currently working on and can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see from you in the future?

LS:I’m currently working on a Vertigo title, “Testament”, which I co-created with Douglas Rushkoff, a best selling author and media commentator. It’s had amazing critical success, probably the best of my career really, but it struggles to get readers. I think it’s because of the contentious subject matter. People either think it’s too high-brow, or blasphemous. I just think it’s interesting, educational, encourages you to think for yourself and actually has more to say about today than anything else.

My other ongoing work centers around my publishing company, MamTor, (www.mamtor.com) which recently published it’s first graphic novel, the “landmark” title “Worry Doll” by Matt Coyle. Seriously, the most amazing art in sequential form I’ve seen in a decade. Check out the website, there’s a lot of great stuff there, and free downloadable preview art and stories.

VC: What kind of artistic training have you had? Did you attend art school, were you taught under someone, or are you more self taught then anything?

LS: I think most artists are ultimately self-taught, as it’s all to do with the eye, and how you perceive. You can be taught technique, but not how to draw - at least that’s what I think. I met Roger Dean once, and he was certain you could teach anybody to draw and that there was nothing special about it, but there are people within whom it’s innate. I learned a lot from Don, and he taught me how to paint like him, but I’ll never be able to draw like him because we’re different people. Other than that I was an art scholar, via the pretentiously named Gifted Children Society (an organization that was around in the 1970s. I’ve no idea if it still exists or not.) At age 12, I was packed off to boarding school. It was the first art scholarship of its kind, and I believe it opened doors for many artists after me, so it may be my greatest legacy!

VC: When you set down to put pencil to paper, what are your motivations, inspirations, a singular thought that may be in your head at the time?
LS: Lord no! I carve it out of the paper, if that makes sense. I have an idea, but I have to go looking for it. I don’t see all the details fully formed. I wish I did! It would make it so much easier! Actually, I visualize better when writing, which is my other major passion.

VC: I’m sure you have a really hectic schedule, but do you try to find time to follow any particular comic book creators or artists?
LS: I LOVE Dougie Braithwaite’s work. He leaves nothing at all to chance for his colorist - what’s that guy called? Alex Ross? - to do. Every nut and bolt, every sweat bead and wrinkle is in there and he uses almost no reference at all. An incredible under-rated talent and one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. There’s also Chris Weston, Glenn Fabry, the Biz, and my MamTor compadres, Dave Kendall, Emma Simcock-Tooth, Kev Crossley, Emily Hare, Edmund Bagwell, Lee Carter - man, I could go on and on! Yeah, there are loads of guys whose stuff I try to keep up with.

VC: A lot of comic book artists branch out into different mediums and venues for their art. Other then comics, what other kind of projects have you been involved in or are currently involved in?
LS: I worked on “Lost in Space” and “Small Soldiers”. I have the publishing company I mentioned earlier. I’ve been in many bands - mostly as the singer (I’m a crap guitarist.) I have written a ton of songs, short stories, and an almost-finished epic sci-fantasy called “Machivarius Point”, which has episodes in both MamTor’s “Event Horizon” books (under the pseudonym Roger M.Cormack). We’re also making VZE (Viking Zombie Elvis), a “mock schlock rock doc”, which is REALLY exciting. Think “Spinal Tap” meets “Sean of the Dead”, and you’ll be getting close…

VC: Who are your artistic influences?
LS: Mostly 70’s guys like Corben, Lawrence, Moebius, Liberatore, Druillet, Bilal, Manara, Wrightson, Buscema, BWS (Barry Windsor-Smith.) I recently had a bit of an epiphany though. The two artists I best recall from my childhood are Michelangelo and Aubry Beardsley. Put those two together, and you get something like what I aspire to: Beardley’s subversion, love of detailed and pattern-making inks, heavy blacks, and large areas of white, and Michelangelo’s mythology, muscularity and melodrama!

VC: Any words of advice or wisdom for all those people out there trying to break into the business today?

LS: That’s hard. It’s so tough right now, even for old pros.
OK: Learn to draw EVERYTHING - even stuff you don’t like. Don’t ink it. Keep it clear and clean, and draw half again as big as a regular comic page, and on QUALITY paper. Present it well, and only show your very best - quantity doesn’t help. Don’t hassle people at cons, or upset anybody in the biz. It’s a tiny world, and you don’t want a bad rep you’ll never be able to shake. Take criticism on the chin, and try not to take anything personally. Work bloody hard every day, and don’t expect to enjoy it as much as you thought you would. You’ll mostly be drawing the stuff you never wanted to, so get used to it!

VC: Can you tell us something that maybe your fans just don’t know about you?
LS: I’m an optimistically cynical agnostic pacifist with tattoos and liberal views - despite the contrary violence that permeates a good deal of my work! LOL! I believe comics could and should go much further into new territory art-wise - something we’re trying to do at MamTor - and that it’s important to have an open mind about EVERYTHING, and to LISTEN to other people. To many people simply don’t listen to what’s being said to them, and that’s a damn good way to stop learning anything. The best advice I ever had is to “be interested, as well as interesting.”

 

I would like to take a moment to thank Liam Sharp for taking the time to do this wonderful interview for all of us here at ValhallaComics.com and that we wish him the best in all his upcoming creative endeavors.

Interviewer: Joe Vitzen

Discuss this interview on the Valhalla Comics Discussion Forum

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