A Sharp Operator
♦ Liam Sharp spent a couple of years working with writer Greg Rucka on DC’s Wonder Woman. Then he moved onto The Brave And The Bold which came out last year. Sharp is one of the guests of honour at Portsmouth Comic Con on 4 and 5 May so we thought we would represent one of the extensive chats he did with us in the run-up to the show…
TRIPWIRE: How long has this idea been gestating in your mind for?
LIAM SHARP: I have wanted to tell a comics story that featured Cernunnos and aspects of Celtic mythology since I was a boy. I studied Greek and Roman history, culture and myth at school, and it seemed to me that there was less interest in much more local folklore, and our direct heritage, than you might suppose. My interest was probably initially piqued with Alan Lee and Brian Froud’s amazing Faeries book, which touches on the Tuatha Dé Danann. I got heavily into old Arthurian material, and read Nicklai Tolstoy’s The Quest for Merlin and The Coming of The King, and Alan Lee’s gorgeous illustrated Mabinogion. I also discovered Jim Fitzpatrick’s gorgeous The Silver Arm, which really ignited my interest in the Irish myths, leading me to dive into Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men and Cuchulain of Muirthemne. It became a bit of a passion of mine!
TW: You worked with Greg Rucka as writer on Wonder Woman. Did you pick up any pointers from him that you could use to write the character yourself for The Brave and The Bold?
LS: Greg definitely influenced the way I set up ‘beats’ in the plot of the story, and how it was structured. But more than that, when Greg decided to leave I wasn’t quite ready, but I didn’t want to work with another writer on the character because I had fallen in love with the version we created together. New writers – as they should – bring their own voice and spin. For me, this series jumps right off the back of our run, and I’ve tried to make her the same character as much as I’m able – given the material and the fact I’m not (despite appearances) actually Greg. I hope I’ve done him proud!
TW: Rucka is a very talented writer so was it a little nerve wracking for you to be writing and drawing the character yourself in this miniseries?
LS: It was incredibly nerve-wracking, but not for that reason. When you are working with a character that has such an important, symbolic role in the industry right now – the world’s most famous female superhero – the intensity goes up to 11! There are so many expectations put on the creators, things that readers feel they want and need to see, for a thousand different reasons, and you have to honour that as best you can, while not being hobbled by it. Batman was, in many ways, the easier of the two characters to write because his role in the story is more straightforward – he’s a detective investigating a murder. It just happens that the victim is a god…
TW: This isn’t the first thing you have written but I am right this is the first superhero series you have written. How was that for you as a creator?
LS: I wrote Death’s Head Gold way back in the early 90’s, and the series I co-created for Madefire with my wife Christina – Captain Stone is Missing… – is a superhero epic. But I’ve not written as much in the genre as I would like, given that fact I’ve been in the business 32 years this year…
TW: Did you enjoy the extra control you had as a writer artist rather than just as an artist here?
LS: I try to keep the two roles fairly separate, and write as if I was writing for another artist. That way you don’t just write stuff you want to draw, which is a pitfall and can be bad for stories. Six issues is a fair size, 132 pages, so there’s a ton of moving parts to keep track of, especially when you are also working in and adapting some iconic mythology. The honest answer is that there are pros and cons to writing and drawing. The pressure and stress increases, but you are telling the stories you want to tell. But there’s a joy in collaborating with a writer too, especially when you hit it off and it comes together as something greater than the sum of its parts. It was a constant joy working with Greg. J.M.DeMatteis was another great, collaborative writer I loved working with on Man Thing years ago. You can’t beat that, when the chemistry is right.
TW: Your art had a very particular look in Wonder Woman. Are you adapting your style for Brave and The Bold or sticking with the visual feel you created for Wonder Woman?
LS: Oh certainly – though I think the steady improvement in my art through that run continues into this. It’s the work of my career, no doubt about it. It does help, too, when you have a colourist of the calibre of Romulo Fajardo jr. on the book!
TW: Were you a fan of the original Brave and The Bold series?
LS: As a British comic reader in the 70s, I tended to pick up whatever meagre fare was on the shelves at the corner shop, so I found a lot of these classic titles in later life. It’s fare to say I have become a fan of them – Aparo and Adams killed it on those books. But I like the earlier, weird Kubert stuff too – men in hawk masks fighting birds in man masks? What’s not to love?
TW: The series seems to be tapping into Celtic myths and legends. How much can you tell us about the plot and the story of Brave and The Bold?
LS: Tir Na Nóg, the faerie realm, home of the old gods – the Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann – has been forgotten by human kind, and the causeways have all closed to it. The result is it has become pretty much a prison to its inhabitants. They have spent centuries in that isolation, and it has led to tensions – an analog to prison riots in some ways. Diana, as a renowned peacemaker, is sought out by Cernunnos, the horned god and care-taker of that realm. He needs helps as it becomes increasingly hard to maintain the status quo. To make things worse, when she gets there she finds that an important King, one of the old Celtic gods, has been murdered, so she, in turn, recruits the best man she knows for the job to help her. What follows is an investigation, a tour of Tir Na Nóg, and a dramatic and epic climax…
TW: Your run on Wonder Woman was part of an ongoing series whereas this is a miniseries. Is that part of the appeal for you as a creator that you can create this and then it is done in six issues?
LS: Wonder Woman consisted of two six issue stories. To me this is a third – although she’s obviously sharing the billing with Batman! So it feels like part of a very big, larger arc, but that could be more of a personal thing. Certainly new readers could jump right in without any problems. I have ideas for further arcs if this does well enough though, so we’ll see how it pans out. I did imagine this as the first in a trilogy…
TW: How far ahead are you with the series?
LS: I’m cranking on issue 4 now, but have scripted to the end already.
TW: You have lived in the US for a number of years now. What do you miss the most about the UK?
LS: Family. Friends Pubs. 🙂
Tickets are still available for Portsmouth Comic Con where Liam Sharp is just one of the great guests