So without further ado here is a world exclusive: the first ever John Reppion interview.
Interview conducted by Eroom Nala in early February 2006.
Most interviews tend to focus on the other half of the team his wife Leah, daughter of the famous Alan Moore. For a change I thought it would be interesting to hear from John rather than Leah this time.
First of all some general background questions:
Are there any famous relatives in your ancestry?
Not that I’m aware of no, sorry.
What's your ancestry? Welsh, Scottish, Irish, English?
Well, recent genealogical research conducted by Leah reveals that the name Reppion is actually only 100 or so years old, being a variation of Reppon. The first Reppions were the children of an Irish mother and a father, who we believe may have been German, born in the late 1800s. My mother’s side of the family are English as far back as we’ve been able to trace them. Basically, I’m a mix of lots of different nationalities and races and I imagine that the further back we go the more that will become apparent.
Who are your favorite writers? Fiction, mainstream comics books. Favorite movies, music.
I’m pretty fickle when it comes to favourite anythings; whatever I’m reading/watching/listening to tends to shoot to the top of my list at that moment.
I’ve just finished reading Junky by Burroughs for the first time and I really enjoyed that. It was a very easy read in that the narrative just sweeps you along with it and all the horror and depression is kind of incidental. Like the litery equivalent of a ghost train in some respects. Leah and I are both really big fans of Richard S. Prather, an American pulp fiction writer who began his career in the 1950’s with tales of no good hoods and hot tomatoes. I basically read whatever’s put in front of me but I start a great deal more book than I finish.
As far as comics go, we famously don’t read nearly as many of them as you might expect; we’re not regulars down at our local comic shop and we don’t have a pull list or anything like that. We probably end up reading more UK small press stuff than “mainstream” American comics to tell the truth, the standard of self published material is so high nowadays that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. The best example of that has got to be Gary Millidge’s Strangehaven which is 100% written, drawn, coloured, lettered and everything by him. It also just happens to be, in my humble opinion, one of the finest comic books ever produced.
Films: I’m a bit of a horror nerd so pretty much any thing with the word “dead” in the title usually works for me.
As for music I’m kind of an old metal head really but I listen to all kinds of stuff from 1950’s lounge to Gabber.
You grew up in Liverpool. What were you major influences?
I’m still stuck here in Liverpool so it’s difficult for me to say what, if any, effect the place has really had on me. I’m very interested in local mythology and folklore but I imagine that would be true no matter where I lived. There’s this whole Capital Of Culture thing going on here at the moment with the city gearing up to this big celebration in 2008. It seems like a total farce to me; a lot of historical buildings are being knocked down and people are being moved out of their houses just across the road from us to make way for posh flats and gated properties. It’s not about celebrating any existing or inherent culture, it’s about sweeping away the realities of Liverpool life to make way for glossy, sterile consumerism and faceless global culture. Basically, I don’t hold out much hope for the future of the city.
Do you think you'll ever leave Liverpool or could you see youselves living there for the rest of your lives?
The great thing about being self employed is that you’re not tied to staying in any one place like you would be with a lot of other jobs. I’ve never lived anywhere else other than Liverpool so yeah, I’d love to go and live somewhere else for a while if I got the chance, but we’ve no actual plans to move away as yet.
Your first published work was Child of Hale Child of Hale in Fortean Times
I think that because I didn’t go to university I don’t have nearly as much of an aversion to writing articles or essays as a lot of people do. I enjoy the process of writing factual articles because it’s basically a jigsaw puzzle; you’ve got all this material and you have to draw a conclusion from it by lining it all up correctly. Working alone I much prefer factual writing, the reason that I’ll never be able to write comics on my own is that I can come up with a million ideas but I struggle with narrowing things down and making the whole totally coherent and water tight.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing alone as opposed to in a partnership? I suppose the latter would be a good cure for writers block with the two of you bouncing ideas off each other instead of having to come up with something staring at a blank page, PC screen, etc
Basically, Leah and I are two halves of one comic writer and we both fulfil very specific roles within that collective personality. Sometimes it can get a bit frustrating because we’re obviously not actually two aspects of one entity and therefore one of us might be very motivated when the other might not. It’s all a question of balance, give and take and all of that malarkey; our working relationship is basically an extension of our personal relationship.
Shortly before publishing the first issue of Wild Girl you both set up a website What prompted you to do so and what have you found most useful about having the website?
Basically, we found out that it was free (although we are in process of upgrading now that the site has become so popular) and decided to have a go since it seemed like everyone else already had a website. I think it's good to be in contact with your readers and to be able to get your own thoughts and opinions out there; it's so easy for the Chinese whispers to start on the net so it's nice to be able to set the record straight from time to time.
Why monkeys on a zebra and what book is the last one reading?
It’s just a nice enigmatic image that we both felt comfortable with using as a visual representation of our writing work. It’s humorous and it’s surreal but it’s kind of stylish and classical too. Presumably the last monkey is reading whatever we’ve most recently written.
You already do this on the website in various ways but do you have any good general advice for people trying to break into writing or illustrating comic books?
Well, I pretty much fell into doing comics so in some ways I’m probably not the best person to give advice. However, all the evidence seems to suggest that the only way to get into comics is to just go ahead and start doing them. There’s so much really high quality small press stuff out there these days and so many great resources that there’s really no excuse for anyone who’s interested not to already be involved in comics at some level. Pretty much every comics professional will give the same piece advice to anyone who’s just starting out: “Stick at it”, so I suppose that’s kind of the golden rule.
Do you prefer to work from an original idea and then create characters and plot around it or vica versa?
It really depends on the project; both Leah and myself have only been writing comics for 3 years now so we've still got a lot to learn and I think we're growing as writers with each new script. Even if we do start out with just a basic concept then I suppose the development of interesting and credible characters has to be the next thing on the list. Comics is a very character driven medium.
In both Wild Girl and Albion you have used more than one style of illustration to tell a story within the main story. Do you find this a good device for exposition?
With WG we were using J.H. Williams' painterly insets to juxtapose with Shawn's more cartoony style. The stories we told via Jim's pages were mostly our interpretations of tales from classical literature, religious texts or mythology and I think the way he handled them really conveyed the kind of magical realism that we wanted. With Albion it's kind of the other way round; the insets are essentially reveals of the ways which these characters used to be portrayed. I think that the whole suddenly switching styles thing is a really effective tool for keeping the reader interested and making the whole thing a bit more multi layered. Its like the bit in the Wizard Of OZ when the film suddenly shifts from black and white into Technicolor;
there's an extra element that's been introduced that the audience weren't
Wild Girl 1-6 makes for a good origin story. Had you plotted or developed any other ideas for future issues beyond the first 6? For example did you think to have her communicating with animals underwater, insects, mythological creatures or SF aliens from other worlds? If so do you think you could reuse them in a later series?
Yeah, Wild Girl is essentially an origin story and we did plan it that way since, in our naivety, we imagined that the series would end up as an ongoing. We do have the next part of Rosa's story already planned out but it seems quite unlikely that we'll get the chance to tell the tale. You never know though. As for reusing any of the ideas, I don't think we'll be doing so in any sort of deliberate way but subconsciously I don't see how we can avoid it.
Is 6 an ideal number of issues for a comic book series or could you see yourselves doing 12 or more issues or a continuing storyline in future?
Again, since I've only been working in comics for 3 years I've got quite limited experience. So far we've only worked in 6 issue story arcs for series so that's what I'm used to doing. I suppose that even if you're doing a 12 issue series or an ongoing then the dynamics are still pretty similar, you'd still have to break the story down into manageable chunks. It'd be nice to be able to set things up and keep them going in the periphery of a story for a while longer I suppose; a lot more opportunity for red herrings and triple or quadruple plot twists. But, I think you have to be versatile and make the best of what you've got. Sometimes you can say everything you set out to with a four page story and I'd hate to have to pad stuff out just to make it stretch to 12 issues. It all depends on the scope of the story you're trying to tell I suppose.
Not to denigrate Shawn MacManus but I'm really amazed with JH Williams pages on Wild Girl.
Could you see yourself trying to work exclusively with JH Williams on a major project in future?
Jim is a fantastic artist (so is Shawn by the way) and if the opportunity arose to do a series with him then Leah and Myself would definitely be up for it.
Do you have a wish list of illustrators you would like to work with in future comic book projects?
Far too many to list, there are so many fantastic artists out there
that it wouldn't be fair to single anyone out.
NOTE: Leah has already answered this question in this interview
Were you flattered with the annotations for Albion appearing online so soon after it was published?
Not exactly flattered, because Albion feels so much like a proper group effort that I don't feel sort of personally responsible for it (if you see what I mean), but proud and very pleased yeah. Damien's doing a fantastic job with the site, I think it's that sort of thing that shows the internet at its best; people with a common interest sharing their knowledge on a subject.
Were you even more flattered when another title appeared with the byline "from the world of Albion" whilst Albion was still only half published?
Again, not flattered exactly but very pleased yeah. Leah and I read Thunderbolt Jaxon a couple of days after it came out and we were both really impressed with how clean and straightforward Dave’s story telling is; very unlike or own style but something to aspire to perhaps.
Aside from the comics themselves what were the major research tools you used when writing Albion
(Websites books etc)
www.internationalhero.co.uk was probably the most important website in terms of research. We owe a huge debt to Stuart who created the site, without whom we'd probably still be writing Albion now. In addition to all the online research we did, we had loads of help from a lot of very nice people like Andrew Sumner, Lew Stringer and Shane Oakley (of course) who gave us advice, sent us photocopies and regaled us with tales of the British comic industry of old.
Do you have any favourites amongst all the background characters visible in Albion?
It’s a difficult question to answer legally since most of the background characters aren’t actually who you might imagine them to be. That is to say, the reader might look at a certain character in a panel and think “Young boy, spiky hair, stripy jumper, that’s Dennis the Menace”. However, as much as they are free to believe whatever they wish, the fact remains that the character in that particular panel is not actually Dennis the Menace at all; it’s merely a young boy with spiky hair and a stripy jumper.
Shane Oakley has done a cracking job of crow barring tonnes and tonnes of visual references into the series, half the time it takes Leah and I quite a while to spot them all and sometimes we even have to ask a grown up to help us with the older ones.
What do you see as the major differences between writing a comic book script and other forms of writing
Scripting a comic is a process with many different parts: research, planning, plotting, roughing and then writing (and maybe rewriting). Also, since I only write comics in conjunction with Leah all of the above has to be done as part of a team. When I’m working on an article I tend to do a little bit of preliminary research and then start the piece, reading up on relevant stuff as I go along. I wouldn’t exactly say that working on my own is easier but it’s very different. The main problem I have with my solo stuff is that I sometimes go off at a tangent and then have to edit my self quite extensively after the fact.
Are the delays in publishing issues frustrating for you as writers. They certainly are to reader/fans having to wait longer than expected for an issue.
The main frustration we feel as a result of the delays is basically the same sort that the fans must be experiencing: we just want to see how it all works out. The great thing about how comics work is that, even as a writer, you never really know what’s going to happen next. I imagine it’s very similar to writing a play and then going to see a production of it months later; you want to see what the team have made of your work.
We’re aware that the delays may have put a few people off the series a bit but I think people are reasonably used to comics coming out quite irregularly so I’m not too worried.
Next month you and Leah are both flying out to Ireland for the first time to be guests at the 3rd Phoenix Convention in Dublin. Will you be taking some extra time to see more of Ireland than Dublin?
Definitely, since neither Leah nor myself have ever been to Ireland. Mr. Pádraig O Méalóid (the festival’s organiser) has very kindly offered to put us up for a couple of days afterwards and show us the sights of Dublin. Personally, I can’t wait.
Is there a question you've always wanted to answer, but no one has posed it to you yet?
Would you like another pint of Guinness?
Let's hope Padraig is reading this interview then.
Thanks for the interview and I hope you both have a great time in Dublin
While I was conducting this interview the following news was revealed:
MOORE, REPPION SIGN ONE YEAR CONTRACT WITH DYNAMITE
Though their last work was at DC, Dynamite Entertainment today announced that the writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion have signed an one year contract with the publisher for “at least 12 issues” worth of material.
“We’ve already begun discussing our first project, and Leah and John are the perfect creative pair to paint our opening portrait,” Dynamite spokesperson J. Allen said, indicating that there was a hint buried in his comment.
When asked for further details, Allen declined to name or give further information in regards to what the two will be working on, or whether or not it involves one of Dynamite’s licensed properties.
“We’re very, very excited to be working with the company responsible for great comics like Army of Darkness, Red Sonja, and Re-Animator,” Moore and Reppion jointly commented. “We’ve read them, we’ve enjoyed them, and it convinced us to work with them. Dynamite seems to be getting more than their fair share of top notch properties and we’re definitely happy to be on their team.” The two have been writing together since 2003.
Allen: “And yes, while she is the daughter of Alan Moore, what really excited us was her and John’s take on Wildgirl at Wildstorm, and we so pursued them on those strengths. While they’ve signed for 12 issues to start, we’re already discussing the first dozen issues and other possibilities.”