Archive for January, 2016
Another wonderful thing about seeing Teknophage come to life, was the astounding color by Angus Mckie. The year was 1995. Computers were slow, Photoshop was crude, but dedicated artists like Angus were making dazzling color comics that made all previous processes seem dowdy and old fashioned. I was already a fan of Angus’ existential SF masterpiece, SO BEAUTIFUL AND SO DANGEROUS, which had run in Heavy Metal. I loved his use of rich contrasted color. It is pure eye-and-mind scorching comics and he pulled out all the stops on Teknophage.
In my mind Teknophage always had one foot in the horror genre and the other in the world of cartoons. Bryan Talbot and Angus Mckie perfectly caught this spirit, with a lush gooey detail and relentless visual integrity.
Above is the first page, which I think nicely sets up the mood of the book. The opening caption, “The blind-piggers and vatmen all swear it to be true.”, was inspired by one of those sketchbook challenges we used to pull on each other back in the day. Can’t remember who it was, but at a convention someone handed me a sketchbook with the title BLIND PIG and challenged me to draw a pig with my eyes closed. Somehow it made it into my script.
I will always be eternally grateful to Dave Gibbons for suggesting Bryan Talbot as artist on Teknophage. If anyone was born to do steampunk, it was Bryan. Hell, he pretty much invented the genre in comics with his Luther Arkwright opus. Bryan was the very sharp leading edge of a whole generation of incredibly talented U.K. writers and artists who would take American publishing by storm in what became known as “The British Invasion”. On one hand he was a cultural anarchist with roots in the underground. On the other he was a consummate professional who could keep a regular series on schedule and under budget without any side dramas.
We showed Bryan what we’d worked up and he liked it enough to join the party. When his first pages started coming in I was grinning from ear to ear. Bryan hadn’t been intimidated by my script with its overwhelmingly long panel descriptions. In fact he seemed to take perverse delight in bringing in every last crazy detail I larded them with. More importantly he caught the tone I was shooting for: Grand Guignol by way of Looney Tunes.
This, of course, was so far away from a normal Neil Gaiman comic that readers must have thought Neil had little to do with Teknophage. I’m here to tell you the opposite is true. Neil was hands on story editor for every one of my scripts; making terrific suggestions and egging us on as we gleefully skewered what was then an emerging corporate culture. He challenged me to add more dimension to my characters; especially the human leads, Rob Nichols and Claudia Cassidy. He shared subtle tricks he’d developed in his own writing such as: “Imagine some life altering event that happened to your character but don’t share it with the reader.”
Bryan breathed life into Rob and Claudia, the facial expressions he gave them always reflecting whatever internal emotions they were feeling in a given situation. Rob and Claudia’s first scene together, when they meet cute over a string and tin can “telephone”, is a master class in staging by Bryan.