Renowned comic artist, writer and colourist John Higgins recently opened a retrospective exhibition alongside his book of the same name ‘Beyond Watchmen & Judge Dredd: The Art of John Higgins’ here in Liverpool, at the Victoria Gallery and Museum. As well as being a fantastic exhibiti on chronicling John’s illustrious career, the man himself was kind enough to offer a few words of his own on his work, his inspirations and his relationship with the city of Liverpool.
“…We want to inspire hopefully any young people who want to be artists or maybe if I can just show you actually can come from Liverpool and draw American comics, that’s what I want to do…”
You’re here with your latest work, the exhibition ‘Beyond Dredd & Watchmen: The Art of John Higgins’ from the 10th of March 2017 to the 10th of October 2017 here at the Victoria Gallery and Museum. Being born in Walton and displaying this retrospective in Liverpool, how would you say Liverpool influenced your career, motivations and style?
“…Growing up in Liverpool, being a port, I discovered you were very lucky because what they used to do, the ships that used to go to America unload the cargo, used to come back with ballast and the ballast used to be old American magazines and comics. So, they used to unload them at the docks in Liverpool and then send them out to all the different news agents who wanted to buy American comics off them, so basically I started reading American super hero comics probably a long time before the rest of the country…”
You have been instrumental in some of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time, from Watchmen to 2000 AD and World Without End. Each of these projects has a very distinct artistic style, with such projects are there any that you would consider definitive of your style, if you consider yourself to have one, or are there styles you are particularly fond of?
“…it was a discovery very early in my career; it doesn’t matter how beautifully you painted something, you have to sort of bring people into that world and painting can break down that third wall between you and the reader but is also it is not necessary to have it. Simplify story telling down to its most simple forms and you can still engross people in it, you can still make people believe and get involved in that story and as complex as any great novel that you can imagine, that’s what comics – great storytelling – can do. So, that’s something I was trying to discover and learn and I felt that after a while that the story was more important to me than the way I depicted it…”
Is there anything that you haven’t done, say comics or art in general that you would like to give a go, like to try?
You’ve done it all?
“…I do have my dream job and I if I talked, if 14 year old me talked to me as, well he wouldn’t recognise me without any hair and with the grey beard and the very intelligent look in my eye, but he would probably sort of not believe he would have a career in doing what he loved…”
In your biography, it mentions you have a ‘love-hate relationship with computer imaging’ and particularly what you describe as your ‘embarrassment’ with Watchmen. Has your opinion changed at all in recent years and to what extent do you think the digital medium is changing comics?
“…Digitally I jumped completely and utterly both feet in…”
“…I personally prefer people come to the exhibitions and see the originals, see my marks and my fingerprints, I used to paint with everything I could get my hand on, including my hand, used to use tissue, sponge it was just great fun you know just get so completely involved in that…”
With the world of graphic novels and art in general moving at such a rapid pace and with the technology that we now have, what advice would you give to any aspiring illustrators, writers and artists in general?
“…Become incredibly rich and pay someone else to do it…”
“…I want this exhibition to be inspirational to any young artist who is sitting in their bedroom drawing, pencilling, inking, trying to tell their own stories or just copying their favourite character or trying to create a new monster they’re going to do for a video game sometime in the future. I want them to look at this career that I’ve had and say well if he can do it, from Walton, from Liverpool, why can’t I? The important thing that I want people to see is there is, if you have an ability, an application and the bloody-mindedness not to take no for an answer you can get there in the end… if I can do it, anyone can do it honestly…”
What is next for John Higgins?
“…Razorjack. I’m going to go back to my baby; the ugly, snarling monster you’ll see in the corner of the exhibition. I created her because I wanted to do something different about ten or fifteen years ago, she came into my world and my life, and she’s grown in a way that has impressed me, I don’t know if that’s the right word for it. She makes me feel incredulous…she lives in a way that I had not planned for her, the world I created for Razorjack has started to grow and go off in different directions…”
John Higgin’s wonderful, interactive exhibit is available at the Victoria Gallery and Museum from the 10th of March to October 2017, alongside his new book, ‘Beyond Watchmen & Judge Dredd: The Art of John Higgins’ .