Closure is a wonderful thing.
A year ago at the San Diego Comic-Con, Superhero Hype! had a chance to talk to David Lloyd, artist and co-creator (with Alan Moore) of the graphic novel V For Vendetta, which was in the process of being turned into a major motion picture by the Wachowski Brothers, producer Joel Silver and director James McTeigue. (That Interview) At the time, he showed us galleys for his impending two-volume graphic novel Kickback which was to be published in France by Editions Carabas.
Earlier this year, the movie was released into theatres and a few days before its release on DVD, we sat down with Lloyd to talk with him about his whirlwind year, as he closes one 25-year-long chapter in his life and opens a new one with the release of “Kickback” in the States by Dark Horse Comics.
At the end of five days of work and play at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Superhero Hype! sat down for a beer and a follow-up interview with Lloyd with no reps from Warner Bros., DC or Dark Horse Comics anywhere in sight. It ended up being a three-hour conversation about comics, movies, politics and philosophy–quite surreal when you think about it–but here are the 20 most interesting minutes where Lloyd talks about “V,” his new graphic novel “Kickback” and the many connections between comics and movies.
Superhero Hype!: Now that this DVD’s coming out, do you feel like you have some closure on this whole V chapter of your life?
David Lloyd: I think it’s going to go on for quite a long time, and I think the movie and the DVD will be like the book, which has had a fantastic life since we created the character and the story in 1981. And then it got produced as a graphic novel in 1990, and it’s sold everywhere and it’s got incredible mileage, it just keeps going. I think that V the movie will have the same sort of period of longetivity. The book is about ideas and specific philosophy, and I think that philosophy is also present in the movie, so I think people like that and that’s what gives movies classic status, when they’re about ideas.
SHH!: How has it been talking so much about this book that you drew over 20 years ago?
Lloyd: Well, it’s been so good to me. It’s like a business card for me. I never have to show anybody my work anymore because everybody knows me for that, at least, and it never restricts me as an artist. People often employ me because they’ve seen “V” and sometimes, they anticipate the same kind of style they see in “V” but I never have to meet those expectations. I always do what I want to do and everybody’s always happy with what I do, so it’s never become a burden for me. Never. It’s just a great thing that I’m happy to be associated with, and it always gives me a foundation for building anything else I want to do, and it’s much easier to convince people about any new projects, like “Kickback” which is a crime-thriller that I’ve just done. So it’s a complete benefit and it’s never been a drawback at all.
SHH!: How’s Comic-Con been, being the first convention you’ve done since the movie came out? Have you found that you have a lot of new or younger people coming up to you to talk about V?
Lloyd: It’s like “V.” It covers the whole age range. I think the new thing for me really is a lot of people who are moviegoers, who are now turned onto the graphic novel, and I think that’s great. A lot of the time, comic fans go to see a movie that is made from the book, but in the case of “V”, it seems to me the clearest example of a movie actually turning people onto the book, as well, so a lot of the people who are moviegoers are now comic readers through that. I did a Warner Bros. signing yesterday and most of the people who were there were obviously to get stuff autographed for the movie, but most of them read the book, as well, and were saying “I liked your work and I liked the book.” I think that’s really made moviegoers into comic readers, and I think that’s a really great thing. If you can get over that barrier–because there’s always a prejudice against comics–a lot of people who go to a movie don’t normally read comics, but now that’s been happening.
SHH!: With that in mind, what do you think of the idea these days of doing movies that look exactly like the comics, the best examples being “Sin City” and the upcoming “300″?
Lloyd: I’ve got mixed feelings about making a film look like a comic. They’re two completely different mediums. I think what Frank did with “Sin City,” it looks interesting and it’s interesting as an exercise and a great film, but I think what cinema has to offer is so valuable and there are so many things you can do with it. I mean one of my favorite movies, which I think actually has a lot of what I would kind of call comic concepts, is “The Quick and the Dead” that Sam Raimi movie, where he uses all kinds of cinema tricks, but that movie has a comic stripy kind of flavor to it, so I think cinema itself has so many techniques to offer us, that trying to make something look like a comic book using comic technique in film is almost like missing an opportunity.
SHH!: Your art style, at least on “V For Vendetta,” is so noirish and your new book “Kickback” Is actually a crime novel, so can you tell me a bit about that?
Lloyd: “Kickback” is a crime story. It’s a police story about a corrupt policeman in a corrupt police force wanting to change his life. I’m always interested in characters who are regular guys, regular people. I’m not really interested in heroes who sort of have a black and white concept of their lives. The hero in “Kickback,” Joe Canelli, is a regular guy, so although he’s corrupt, he’s only corrupt because everybody else is. He’s just doing what everybody else does. I’m really interested in how we as a society are easily corrupted. We can be easily corrupted in political situations, in social situations, and I’m fascinated by how we do that and why we do thatâ€¦ and how we get out of it. My attitude is that if we all voted out of really humanitarian ideals, we’d have a much better world, but we never do that. Every time there’s an election comes around for a congressman or something, you say, “Well, what am I going to get out of it?” We all do. We don’t judge ourselves to be evil or villainess, but in fact, what happens when you think like that is you build a society that’s based on corrupt concepts. I’m fascinated by how that happens and that’s how society changes.
SHH!: “V” is such a politically based work. You answered my question whether politics still play a large part in your work, but is it a bit more subtle in “Kickback” than in “V For Vendetta”?
Lloyd: The thing is that the character in “Kickback” has these recurring dreams of powerlessness, but these dreams, they’re more than just a manifestation of his subconscious, because he is in effect powerless. Because he’s just doing what everybody else does, he’s not in a position to change anything, so these dreams of powerlessness is evidence of something from when he was a child. It’s a memory of something, and as that memory becomes clearer, so his actions being to change. It’s like what’s happening in his head is actually guiding him to change his life now, and that’s also interesting to me, because we’re only responsible for a small amount of what we do in life. Because a lot of it is how we’re brought up. Genetics makes us what we are.
SHH!: We’re also reacting to a lot of what is going on around us.
Lloyd: That’s exactly right! And because we’re just reacting all the time, we haven’t got time to think, “Oh, wait. I can change this.” We’ve just like “Oh, I gotta do this, I gotta do that.” But that’s what interests me. I’m interested in people, I’m not interested in situations.
SHH!: Is “Kickback” your second graphic novel for France?
Lloyd: No, “Kickback” was originally published in France in two volumes. I sold it to a publisher who I’ve worked with before. I did just a short story for them. The reason I sold it to France was because at the time I wrote it, crime was not big in Americaâ€¦
SHH!: You mean, the comics.
Lloyd: (laughs) Yeah, that’s right. Crime in comics wasn’t big. There was just “Sin City” and that’s it really, and “100 Bullets” and “Losers” and things like that, but then it was different. In France, they like crime comics, they’re big fans of noir. Even in cinema. So I thought that I’d sell it there. I sold it there, quite successful there, and because I owned the rights to it, I decided that I wanted to sell it on. I’ve worked with Dark Horse before and I really like them, so they bought it for publication.
SHH!: What did you do with Dark Horse before?
Lloyd: I did an Aliens story for Dark Horse way back and I did “The Territory” with Jamie Delano, too, which has also just been collected. That was a four issue series about eight years ago, but that’s just been collected, and I’ve done a couple other things, short stories, so I really liked working with Dark Horse. It’s two 46-page books, and in America, it’s hardback, 92 pages, comic size, and it’s going to be in all the stores August 16.
SHH!: Are you going to try to get it into book shops also?
Lloyd: That’s very important to me, and I know that hardback books have been doing well in book stores. I want it to be in bookstores and it will be in bookstores, and I want to do a tour. I’m planning a tour from August 19, starting in Florida, going to go through Baltimore and New York afterwards, and I want to try to visit as many bookstores on that tour. I think the bookstore market is really important for us in this business. “Vendetta” is in all the bookstores. It really reaches an audience that just doesn’t get to the comic stores, so I want it to be in book stores.
SHH!: Obviously, you have one book that’s been made into a movie but are you interested in getting more involved in that world like maybe doing a “Kickback” movie?
Lloyd: Well, I’d like nothing more. That would be really nice. I certainly would like “Kickback” to be made into a movie and it’s actually very “filmic.” I think it would make a very good movie, and any interest in that area would be good. As far as myself being more involved in the movie process, yeah, I’d like that as well. Basically, my stuff is very cinematic and I think very cinematically anyway. In real terms, my stuff is like a series of storyboards. I think that’s one of the reasons why “V” translated so well, because it was a cinematic concept to begin with.
SHH!: Is the story long enough to be made into a feature film or would you have to expand upon what’s in the graphic novel?
Lloyd: I don’t know. I think it would be long enough. Interestingly, when I originally wrote “Kickback,” It was planned for one book, but then the French publisher didn’t like doing one-offs so he said, “Let’s make it two books,” so I said that I’d expand it. Expanding it actually gave it more dimensions. I actually managed to put much more into it than was originally planned. The movies I really like, classic movies that stimulated and influenced “Kickback” are movies that had a very sparse script. I don’t like thrillers where people are yapping all the time. I like movies like “Bullit” and stuff like that from the ’60s and ’70s, “Dirty Harry.” People only say what they need to say, and I think that’s the key to really good filmmaking, because the picture gives you the central structure and the words back it up, which is the way it should be in movies.
SHH!: You’ve been writing a lot more in recent years. Do you consciously try to avoid that when you’re drawing a story?
Lloyd: When I do write, I generally write from a storyboard point of view. I think about what the picture is, like it was running like a movie in my mind, and then I know what script needs to go with it. I guess it’s more sophisticated than that, but if you think visually most of the time, then that’s how you tell a story. Let’s face it. It all began with silent movies, and then once sound came in, they started relying on script much more than they had before. The pure art of the silent movies was visual and then when sound came in, everybody started getting lazy, know what I mean? I think you’ve got to start with the visuals whatever you do.
SHH!: And that’s in the sense of comics as well as movies?
Lloyd: Absolutely. I think it’s absolutely the same in comics. You’ve got to start with the visuals. A lot of writers, and some good ones, too, don’t always think about the visual effects or problems sometimes. Some good writers will write a conversation scene that you could do just great if you’re pointing a camera at it or on TV, but in comics, the artist has to think of some way of making it interesting. A recent story I did, I had this long conversation scene and I had to really think about choreographing it in such a way that I could get something out of it. Some writers don’t think about that. And it’s not their fault, because they’re writers!
SHH!: It must be nice to be doing something into which you can incorporate those ideas.
Lloyd: Yeah, I must say that there’s no substitute for writing and drawing your own thing if you’re an artist and you feel like you can do it, because the freedom is so fantastic. It’s absolutely great to have that freedom. I’ve worked with some great writers–Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis–but if you’re an artist, you want to express yourself as much as you possible can, and that means you have to have complete control over it.
SHH!: If that’s the case, should all artists try their hand at writing? Obviously, not all artists have made that move so successfully.
Lloyd: No, but you do have to try. It’s very important, because if you find that there’s something you need to do, you have to do it. Some people can’t write or some people are happy just illustrating other people’s work and that’s fine. It’s a great craft to be able to illuminate somebody’s words like that, but if you feel the need to, you have to do it. Because in the back of your mind, if you don’t try at least, you’ll always have that unused faculty. Dave Gibbons said the same thing. He said that he felt he had to do something when he did “The Originals.” I mean he’s been writing for a long time, but his major work “The Originals,” he felt he had to do that to express himself. To do something personal to him, he felt he had to do it, and I’m sure he feels better after doing that.
SHH!: Bringing this back to movies–and I am playing devil’s advocate here–there’s always this danger when you have a writer/director type that there’s no one saying “Hey, this doesn’t work” or “you need to make this shorter.” Can’t that also be said about writer/artists in the same way because they don’t have the feedback of collaboration?
Lloyd: That’s true, but I think that only happens if you’re prone to self-indulgence. I think that also happens with someone who has a big hit or has been successful after not having been in the business for a long time, I figure that sometime happens in movies. But if you’ve been in the business for a long time and you’re professional enough to do what you’re doing and what the needs are, then you can avoid indulgence. That’s always going to be a problemâ€¦but you’ve gotta have a go. Look at Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane.” “Citizen Kane” is a fantastic piece of work, but when it was released, nobody cared and nobody wanted to know about it. We know it’s a masterpiece now but nobody thought it was a masterpiece back then, because he was trying so many tricks, doing things that weren’t usually done. The other extraordinary example is Charles Laughton’s “Night of the Hunter.” When that came out, it was slighted. This was Charles Laughton, a first time director, he must have felt like sh*t after that. We look at “Night of the Hunter” now as an absolute classic, a masterpiece. So you’ve gotta do it.
SHH!: What are you going to be doing next?
Lloyd: Well, the key thing for me with “Kickback” is that as many people get to see it as possible. My work now, instead of going back to the drawing board, what I used to doâ€¦ I’m a working artist. In the real sense, it’s better for me to sit at the drawing board and draw, that’s what people want me to do and I’d love to do that more. This time, because so many of the things I’ve spent a lot of work on in the past disappear. They come out there for a month and then they’re gone. I’m really concerned that “Kickback” is given as much room to breathe as possible. So my work right now is going out and trying to get people to look at it, that’s what I want to do, so that’s my work. If “Kickback” is successful, I’d like to do a sequel of it, but my job at this moment, rather than going back and drawing the next story, is to get people to see this because I’m very proud of it. It’s the first time I’ve been able to present something like this that I’ve written and drawn of such length, and I want people to see it.
In the meantime, the movie based on Lloyd’s previous work, V For Vendetta, comes out on DVD on Tuesday, August 1 (available at Amazon), and Lloyd’s graphic novel Kickback is to be released by Dark Horse Comics on August 16. It can be found in the better comic and bookshops, as well as Amazon.
Source: Edward Douglas