Seibertron.com Interviews Lost Light Artist Jack Lawrence
Monday, November 21st, 2016 5:24am CSTCategories: Comic Book News, Site Articles, People News, Interviews
Posted by: Va'al Views: 51,829
Readers, please welcome the co-artist on new title Transformers: Lost Light, the newly renamed brainchild of James Roberts and Alex Milne - Jack Lawrence!
Va'al - Jack, we are ever so grateful to have you find some time for us, with all the new workload you undoubtedly have! You are the latest victim collaborator of James Roberts after all... but, first things first: where does the Lawrence story begin? How did you first encounter Transformers?
Jack Lawrence - Right at the start. I want to say 1984 now of course, but I can't be sure whether it was end of '84 or early '85. My brother was into them first; the only ones available locally at first were the mini Autobots.
He got Bumblebee and Brawn, and not being interested in cars, I got a Skeletor to replace my broken one. Very soon after that I saw the TV show and it all snowballed from there!
Va'al - So you started from the toys, and went into the show - but it sounds like they didn't grab you immediately: do you remember what the actual turning point was for you? Was it a later toy? An episode, a comic issue, or magazine?
Jack - I remember the actual turning point exactly. It was a couple of weeks later, and we were on holiday here in the UK. My brother had Bumblebee and Brawn with him, and another kid here had Optimus Prime.
I was still pretty unimpressed, until I saw the leaflet that came with Prime and there were the Decepticons. I'd had no idea they existed until that point. Megatron, Soundwave and the Seekers just grabbed me and the obsession began!
Va'al - Another one for the bad boys, huh? So the toys have caught young Jack's eye - which was one was your favourite as a kid? Are there any you still kind of miss or would go back to obtain if you could?
Jack - I was 100% Decepticon until the Prime TV series. That show changed the whole thing for me and I've defected to the Autobots (even got the symbol tattooed on my leg to prove it!). As far as the toys go, Soundwave was the one I wanted the most, but didn't actually get him until I bought a second hand one when I was 13 or 14. He was SO hard to find.
But it was the characters and their personalities that kept me hooked rather than the toys themselves. Back during G1, I inevitably tended to be disappointed when I got a new toy. They never seemed to live up to their box art or the Bio card. Powermaster Optimus Prime really stands out for that; the illustration of him on the back of the packaging made him look just absolutely incredible and I was so excited to get him for my birthday. Of course, we all know he's kind of a brick, and kid me was hugely disappointed with his two points of articulation!
So there aren't really any toys I want to go back and get. I tend to look ahead rather than to the past. I absolutely love what Hasbro are doing with the toys now. I'm on the lookout for Weirdwolf, sorry, Wolfwire, at the moment, and I do want a really good Ratchet. He's one of my favourites, but the only version I have is the Prime toy. None of the others have really done it for me. I'm hoping Hasbro will do a nice, chunky one soon.
Va'al - That's fascinating, I can see some of my own thoughts about toys in there, too! If the toys could leave you a little disappointed, then, when did the art and fiction love start? Was it all with the G1 cartoon back in the day, or did something later really stoke the fire (before we reach Prime, as you just said)?
Jack - It was always the bio cards that fired my imagination and kept my love for them going. The mottos alone often gave such incredible insights to these complicated characters. I loved the show, but it was hard to catch over here, so I had all the videos they released and watched them over and over. The Movie still stands as one of my favourite films; I just love it.
I got the Marvel UK comic every week from about issue 23 I think, until it ended. It kept my interest because it was Transformers, but again, it never really lived up to the seeds that were planted in those bio cards. It actually wasn't until the entire Prime universe that it finally clicked into what it had always been in my head. The two video games and the TV series are absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned.
As a matter of fact, Transformers did lose me in 2009 after Revenge of the Fallen. I did not enjoy the film, and the toys for that and the main line left me cold. The whole landscape of Transformers seemed to lack any of what I originally fell in love with. Not long after that decision, I started to see previews of Prime and a little fire reignited in me. Again, it was tough to catch over here, so as soon as the complete season DVD was released, I grabbed a copy and fell in love again.
Then, a couple of years later, MTMTE came out and was the book I'd always wanted to read, and the book I always knew James was capable of. It very quickly became my favourite comic; I actually stopped buying comics except that one because what was the point? It had everything I needed!
Va'al - So this is talking about the aesthetics and appeal that Transformers had and has on you - what about the interest in actually creating material (art, fiction, anything else), rather than just consuming it? When did that start?
Jack - Well, before I owned any of the toys, I was drawing them based on the photos in that first leaflet. I knew seriously that I wanted to be a comic artist from about the age of 12; Up until then it hadn't occurred to me that it was a job that I could aim for. At that point, it seemed only right that Transformers be one of the comics properties I was aiming to work on.
I got involved with TMUK, the UK-based fan club, in 1995 and started contributing to fanzines. I illustrated "Atonement", a Christmas Optimus Prime story written by James Roberts in 1997, and it's also how I met and became friends with Nick Roche all those years ago.
I've been working as a pro creator since 2003, mainly on UK books. The pay is good, and I sort of fell into a comfortable, but unsatisfying rut. Once IDW got the TF license, I planned on getting some samples together, but work was plentiful and I just couldn't find the time. I worked on Skylanders with them last year and loved every second of it. I knew then that I had to at least try for Transformers. So towards the end of last year, I decided to gamble; stop taking jobs on, work through what I had, then put something together to show IDW. The gamble paid off and, though I can't quite believe it, I'm working on my favourite comic book!
Va'al - For someone working in the robot field for so long, that's actually the first time I've heard that version of the story! We've established that you've been following the fiction for really quite some time - but why become part of its creative team? What really drew you towards making Transformers comics?
Jack - I enjoy drawing them and I have a burning need to create, so I've never really analysed why I want to work on Transformers; I just do. I can tell you I was hesitant to go for it for a long time for two reasons. Firstly, I was nervous that working on something I love would somehow taint it and I was NOT prepared to lose my love for them, and secondly, I wasn't confident that I could do them justice. I started to find, for some reason, that I was getting Transformers commission requests at conventions and as that became more common I realised that not only was it increasing my love for them, I was making people happy with what I was doing. People keep telling me I'm overly critical of my own work and that was obviously what I'd been doing.
The real turning point came when I'd become frustrated and dissatisfied with the stuff I was working on because it all seemed to lack emotional depth. I'm an emotional person, and respond to highly emotive storylines, passionate characters. James has brought a level of that to MTMTE that I rarely see in other comics and I just thought, "That. That's what I want." I'm honestly enjoying my job now more than I have at any time over the last 13 years.
Va'al - That's heartening to hear, as the More Than Meets The Eye fandom has been very vocal in both its appreciation and criticisms of the series! How does it feel to join the ranks alongside Alex Milne? Do the two of you cross paths at all?
Jack - So far, Alex and I haven't really crossed paths at all, other than some brief greetings on Twitter. I've been a fan of his work since the Dreamwave days though, and just love his MTMTE work. Love it.
I'm most excited to be playing in the same sandbox as James and Nick though; we've all known one another for so long, created stuff together as fans. I've rabidly consumed everything they've done at IDW and now the three of us have just been invited to a signing together in Manchester this December. It's really exciting.
Va'al - Yes! You're all TMUK alumni too, right? How are you finding working with James Roberts' scripts, now that you get to not only read them, but materialise them? Do you have any input in the creative process?
Jack - Before I got the script to issue 1, I had people warning me about the length of James's scripts and I had to really hold back from saying, "Look, I've worked in comics since 2003. I've worked to countless scripts; long, short, good, bad. Sometimes terrible! MTMTE, to me, has been the best comic on the shelves since day 1, bar none. Maybe, just MAYBE, part of that can be attributed to James's scripts?"
Nevertheless, I was prepared to settle in for a day and wade through a potentially unwieldy script. That's not the case at all. What I sat down to was 45 minutes of pure entertainment that I couldn't wait to get drawing and I told him as much as soon as I'd finished. And again, working on Lost Light is the most fun I've had in my career to date.
As for input in the creative process, I'm not interested in co-scripting with him; I am a writer, but in this I want to leave James to do what he does. The stuff I'm most interested in exploring creatively is body language and character work. In that I'm given tons of creative freedom.
Va'al - That last part is also very good to hear, but now I'm curious: how do you approach those elements? Do you use references (toys or models or other), do you do rough layouts and drafts, do you jot it all down and go back to it? And, I suppose relatedly, are you a digital or paper kind of artist when it comes to comics pages?
Jack - Usually, when I'm working on a toy line-based property, I buy all the toys and have them constantly at hand for reference. That's how I did it when I was working on Skylanders. But with Lost Light, the character designs are too far removed from the toys, so you can't really do that. I used Alex's designs as reference, kind of finding my own voice in them while keeping continuity with what came before in MTMTE. We'll find out if I was successful in December!
In terms of the process, I do thumbnail layouts which I scan and print out in blue line, then pencil over them. Then I scan the pencils and print those out in blue line and ink them. And yeah, always paper and ink! I love the physical relationship between artist and materials too much to ever go fully digital.
Va'al - That sounds like a very long, and careful process, actually - must come in handy for shows and events where paper sketching is only option available though. I'm curious about your work though: in building your own voice, do you look at any other artistic influence, in robot-designs or anything else in the comics or art world at large?
Jack - My influences for Transformers come mainly from the old box art, back during G1. But it's more an ingrained sort of thing, rather than constantly using it as reference now. As for my comics style, I'm pretty much set in my ways at this point. Besides, deadlines tend to necessitate a "get up and get on with it" attitude!
There are a few artists who have inspired or influenced me over the years; Ed McGuinness, Humberto Ramos, Ryan Ottley, Sean Galloway to name a few contemporary guys. John Romita Jr was THE guy who made me want to be a comic artist, so I have a deep love of clear, uncomplicated storytelling from him. I think, in some ways, my comic style is quite old-fashioned in terms of layout, etc. I like things to be clear. I did get a very simple piece of visual advice from Didier Crisse, ooh, about 10 years ago that I won't bore you with, but that echoes in my mind and I use every single day.
Va'al - I won't pry, but you have definitely piqued my curiosity even further... and I do think this is a good note to end on, actually! Is there anything you want to add to what we've discussed so far, any last words before we see your work in the comics next month?
Jack - No, I think we’ve covered just about everything. I don’t do blogs and stuff, but if you could add my Twitter account, that’d be great!
Va'al - In that case.. thank you for your time, Jack, and we'll see you soon aboard the Lost Light!
You can find Jack on Twitter, and can meet him and James Roberts at the Lost Light #1 signing in London, in December - more details on that event here.
We Have Achieved Something: An Interview!
Credit(s): Jack Lawrence, Va'al
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