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"Pink fluffy kittens would give me more nightmares"

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"Pink fluffy kittens would give me more nightmares"

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Charlie Adlard has been drawing The Walking Dead since issue #7, when he replaced Tony Moore, who created the series in 2003 with writer Robert Kirkman. The series has now reached issue #89. After gaining considerable success, the book was made into a television series in 2010. Adlard, seemingly in a very good mood early on a Monday morning and laughing throughout the interview, told us how it feels to draw such a successful and long-lasting comic series.

euronews:
The Walking Dead is very popular, reaching out to a larger audience than just zombie fans. Is it because it is a very good zombie comic or because it is a very good comic?

Charlie Adlard:
I’d say both. We are a very good zombie comic and a very good comic. I think the strength of The Walking Dead doesn’t lie in the zombies to be honest; it lies in the interesting characters that people want to follow every month.

euronews:
Are there scenes that are more difficult to draw, either technically, morally or emotionally?

Charlie Adlard:
The hard part of doing this job – if there is a hard part – is reading the script and imagining what I will have to draw. By the time I get to the drawing table, it is just marks on paper. I don’t have nightmares; I am a quite happy and centered person.
Technically, I always find it harder to draw characters interacting than action scenes. It is more of a challenge to make it interesting for the readers, all the more with The Walking Dead being so character-based. There can be many issues without any zombies anywhere in sight.

euronews:
You’re British; Robert Kirkman is American. The series is set in the US. Do you feel a cultural gap?

Charlie Adlard:
Britain has this… “laughs ironically” [forced laughs]… ‘special relationship’ with the United States. I have been brought up with American series and I started reading American comics when I was about six or seven. So I am familiar with the imagery of America from comics. But if I have to draw something very specific, like a car, a house or even a street, I would have to get out as much reference to draw a British version of it than an American version of it to get it exactly right, no matter how familiar it was to me. Doing rural Atlanta is almost as easy or hard as doing Shrewsbury, where I live.

euronews:
What I had in mind was more cultural elements like the fact that violence seems less scandalous than sex…

Charlie Adlard:
It is actually very refreshing to see this situation reversed in Europe! I’m aghast at what we can get away with violence-wise and what we can’t get away with sexual-wise in a comic that’s meant for mature readers. It should be the other way round. I don’t see why violence is so easily tolerated rather than sex which is the most natural act in the world and the reason we are all on this planet. And yet people go apoplectic when they see a flash of a breast in The Walking Dead! I’d be the first to admit that if there’s been a flash of nudity it is because I have snuck it in.

euronews:
Drawing a series means a certain working rhythm. How do you deal with deadlines daily?

Charlie Adlard:
I am lucky, I am a very ordered person. I’ve always been a 9 to 5 person. I have got more energy in the daytime contrary to many artists and writers who love working at night. But in lots of ways, having children has made going to work even easier. I have to take them to school so it is a cue to start work: the house is quiet then and I have the whole day for myself. I literally start drawing from page one, top-left corner of the page to the bottom right corner. Finish. Next page. Same old, same old. So I have never had any problems with deadlines. I have the reputation of being the fastest artist in the business in America.

euronews:
How do deadlines impact your artwork?

Charlie Adlard:
Since the beginning of The Walking Dead I decided that the panel layout would be very simple, straightforward and right angles, because it is a monthly and issues had to be done in time. I am a big fan of very simple storytelling anyway. I think crazy panel layouts distract from the story.
For The Walking Dead, I have a very cinematic approach. As soon as I have a script I see the imagery in my head. So the panel layout is something I come up with almost instantly. There are only a certain number of options I’ve got anyway. I don’t do thumbnails either; I don’t really pencil my drawings. Inking is my favorite part so it’s nice to quickly get the panel layout out of the way.
But this is not the only way I work. I’m currently working on a different project with Robert Kirkman co-published by my French publisher Delcourt, called The Passenger. It is a one-off, a European style “bande dessinée”, a more panel-heavy project. And it will come out when I have finished drawing it.

euronews:
What happens if you see a mistake in a panel once you’ve inked?

Charlie Adlard:
Aha! Well you can’t get too precious about it. The trick with doing a monthly like The Walking Dead is if you’re satisfied with the initial finish, put it away; don’t look back at it again. Or you would end up correcting things and you would never finish an issue in a month. As much as comics are an art form, there is more to the craft than the technique.
The success of comics also lies in the fact that we maintain a regular schedule and fans know what to expect. It is healthy to see the mistakes afterwards both for the artist and for the fan. It shows that nobody’s perfect. I think that if I was 100% pleased with something I have done when I look back at it, I might just as well give up. I’d like to think I am hopefully never descending, which is when you feel content and kind of don’t care. Thankfully, I still care. If you didn’t challenge yourself at least once a day, life would be fairly boring.

euronews:
Do you end up having zombie nightmares?

Charlie Adlard:
No! My dreams tend to be about the daily stream of the world: dreams where I go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea. And I wake up and I wonder “why the hell did I dream that? What is the point of that dream?” Why am I not having crazy dreams like I hear the others dream about? As I said, it is just marks on paper. I could be drawing pink fluffy kittens, I would literally have the same reaction. Except, they would probably give me more nightmares.