The Retrospective exhibition at the VG&M in Liverpool my home town, is on from March and beyond October 2017, a good length of time to run. Time is a great SF trope, you could say 40 years in preparation (as a freelance comic artist) and 4 years since I was first approached to have the exhibition. The root of the exhibition is Science Fiction, comics and illustration, of which I am very proud, but more than that this it is about Liverpool, about my roots, family, friends, support net work and all the creative hands behind the presentation of this exhibition that features my art.
This whole event would not have happened with out Mike Edwards who had pushed for me to have an exhibition in Liverpool for many years, and with his team of talented designers at Kaleidoscope – designed and produced most of the presentation of my work you see on the walls.
Matthew Clough who first listened to Mike banging on about me having an exhibition and made it happen. One of the pleasures of this retrospective is working with the talented team from the VG&M, Leonie Sedman the curator who along with Kirsty Hall had the hands on job of making this all come together in such an impeccable way.
The art is presented is one of the most imaginative use of wall space and combinations of art I have ever seen in an exhibition. Leonie saw threads and connections to the art that, even I as the artist did not see until it was pointed out, the back room people from Moira, fine art expert and the technician’s had done such an impressive job relating the work to each other in groupings and along with artists such as JMW Turner, Lucien Freud and others in my inspiration corridor, to hanging it, that show it all off to its best advantage and how sequential art connects from panel to page to complete story, I am blown away by it all.
I hadn’t always wanted to be an artist. At one stage I wanted to be a writer of Science Fiction novels, but soon found out for that you needed to know punctuation and how to spell, neither being my strong points even now 40 years later since my first foray into the world of SF (comics) with the cover to 2000AD #43 1977.
SF was a passion, and still is. Seeing different artists’ visions or reading stories of strange worlds and future imaginings of human or alien societies… all of this still inspires me and drives me on to create the dark and twisted things that populate my worlds. (See Razorjack).
“As an artist, colourist, writer and editor – and sometimes publisher – John Higgins is regarded by his peers and his fans as a consummate professional, an entertaining raconteur and very much one of the Good Guys. But his work sometimes reveal that he has a dark side, too: “People pay me to imagine their worst nightmares.”
“… its one of the best artist art book/portfolios I have ever seen – A beautiful book, really well presented, great design, very informative and most importantly very accessible.”
Avram Buchanan, Creative Communications Director
The 2017 retrospective exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum gave me the opportunity to write this autobiographical art book, initiated by my first curator Matthew Clough with an introduction to Anthony Cond at LUP, Liverpool University’s publishing arm.
This autobiographical “how too” book traces how my career unfolded (mainly stumbling from job to commission to job) as well as my personal quest for the perfect combination of words and pictures.
If you want to be a comics professional or just want to read comics, this book is for you.
Learn how to write a professional comic script and produce a page of print ready art, find out how much it costs to publish a comic-book and how much money you can get paid to do so.
From my forty-years of experience as a professional comics creator learn the history of comics and story telling, discover all the different methods of producing art from traditional to digital, with step by step guides.
In my career, I has created my own fantastical worlds, and brought to life the worlds of many others. Worked on the world’s most iconic and beloved comic-book characters, from Batman to Judge Dredd, from The Transformers to the most successful graphic novel of all time, Watchmen.
My favourite comic character of all time is Judge Dredd and my own (even more favourite) comic character is Razorjack, who I created in 1999 and initially self published, it has been in print for most of the intervening years with its latest edition from Titan books in 2013.
Who or what is Razorjack?
“She is the noise that wakes you up at night, were is it?
Outside the door to your darkened bedroom? In the wardrobe?
You hold your breath, listen in mind-numbing fear, dreading to hear the sound again, hoping it was all a bad dream.
Until… you hear it again! “
Razorjack is a nightmare becoming real.
My Razorjack graphic novel starts with three innocent college kids that get caught up in a vortex of violence and action spanning multiple dimensions, stemming from when they inadvertently open up a gateway to a dimension ruled by the evil incarnate Razorjack. Into this plot pot we throw undead assassins, secret societies, and a serial killer, along with Frame, a hard-bitten cop, and his young assistant Ross, who start out solving crimes and go on to save worlds.
More Razorjack is in the pipeline, check back for more information coming soon.
Watchmen was an incredible experience working with two of the most talented creators in the comics world, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons on an innovative graphic novel that featured in Time Magazines top 100 of the 20th Century’s greatest novels, and this was not just Graphic novels, Watchmen rubs spines with such classic prose literature, as 1984 by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding and the other 99 greatest novels.
What I love the most about comic art more than any other form of illustration, is obviously the storytelling aspect, but also the adventurous ways you can design a picture, to make the most mundane image interesting, close ups, unexpected cropping and extreme perspective, All to give a dramatic impetus to a panel illustration which then tells a better story. With the added dimension of colour you can dictate and guide how a reader responds to the scene.
This became even more of a ‘science’ when I coloured the Watchmen. The way Alan and Dave had told the story gave it such depth and complexity that I had to raise my game as the colourist. In many ways because of the almost archaic comic production process in 1986, such as the hand separation of the colour, it became more relevant to the storytelling than the traditional use of hand sep’ colour.
The use of colour to accentuate a scene came out of those limitations. If we had the colour palette we have at our finger tips now – with computers, the colour would not have had so much resonance. This was why when we digitalized the Absolute Watchmen in 2005, Dave made the editorial decision not to modernize it and we stuck to the purity of the colour we had in the original printing, I cleaned it up, added some modelling and caught continuity errors that had happened in the original run due to the monthly print schedule, we did not see the first issue printed and in the shops until I had completed issue 3, and seeing it in print showed how certain approaches we took in colouring such as using a grey tone or 75% colour tints did not work as we had planned.
I felt after the Watchmen I had hit on a way of colouring that suited me, so it was very much in light of what I had learnt on Watchmen that I came to the Killing Joke. I was going for mood more than any naturalistic colour sensibilities, In comic strips comparisons, film making process is more often cited than any other form of image making, so the use of particular colour hues you can see in the movies that are dictated by a light source was always an approach I had taken since well before the Watchmen with any colour strip work.
The major difference was it was a type of full colour process called Blue line colouring, as opposed to the very limited colouring process we had on the original run of the Watchmen which was hand separation’s making the overlays for the cmyk colour printing plates.
This type of colouring gave a great opportunity to use different processes to making colour, so it was airbrush or paint brush washes and coloured pencil in places, which gives the opportunity to add texture to surfaces.
I have been asked what my favourite panel is and it is the panel were the Joker appears at Barbara Gordons door holding a gun, this for me is the perfect “before image” as from here on in the DC universe the Joker grew into the mature catergory of villain, never to be a “cartoon” villain every again. I had not seen such a chilling depiction of violence in the Bat universe up to that point, but as in so much that Alan Moore gave to comic storytelling, from that point on it is a reassessment of what makes the strongest presentation of “comic violence” and its question of being appropriate for what particular story you are trying to tell.