As our regular blog readers know, we are crazy about The Walking Dead here at TFAW.com. Therefore, we were thrilled that we had the chance to interview artists Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn for Image Month! These two talented creators have taken a black-and-white comic–set during a zombie apocalypse, no less–and created a fully realized world that draws the reader in and doesn’t let go!
Here, they talk about their work on The Walking Dead, the AMC series, and more!
TFAW.com: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
Charlie Adlard: Not a problem at all!
TFAW.com: What’s it like working on such a high-profile, popular comic like The Walking Dead?
CA: Well–we started off small, so it still has that feel. We work how we want to and basically have no one to answer to. Obviously it’s great to receive the success and the recognition that the book deserves–and I have to kick myself sometimes when I realise just how well the book is doing . . . especially when I was standing on set of the TWD shoot!
TFAW.com: Are you involved with the AMC show?
CA: Not really–I haven’t been asked but, on the other hand, I didn’t actively pursue it either. I’m too busy with the book, and that’s what is important to me–I also trust the folks making the show to do absolute justice to our series. The folks at AMC have been great though, and have been incredibly kind to me over the last few months.
TFAW.com: We’ve seen a few production stills: how does it feel seeing your visuals translated to television–in color, to boot?
CA: What can I say . . . it’s amazing! They’ve really captured the feel of the book, which is incredible really because I thought they could’ve gone down a much easier route visually and not tried to be inspired by TWD‘s look.
TFAW.com: Do you think the look of the TV show will be similar to your artwork?
CA: I think it will. From what I’ve seen so far–as I said above–they’ve consciously gone for the book’s visual look. So I’m confident that the rest of the series will be like that. Very flattering!
TFAW.com: You started on the book with issue #7. What was it like succeeding Tony Moore?
CA: It was hard because Tony was the only TWD artist before I came on board. Therefore the fans only had one visual reference point for everything. If I was taking over from an artist on–say–Spider-Man, then the fans would be so much more used to such a change because it’s happened many times over and it’s part and parcel of an ongoing title. No one knew whether TWD would last . . . And to have the art change six issues in by a guy whose style was very different to Tony’s . . . well, let’s just say that I think a lot of people took a long time to get used to me!
TFAW.com: What sort of direction did you get from Robert Kirkman when you first started?
CA: Not at all. Robert was (and is) very trusting . . . He knew I was a professional and just let me run with it.
TFAW.com: [To Cliff Rathburn] You provide the grey tones for the book–is it kind of like being the colorist, except in black and white?
CA: Yeah–like an inker is just a tracer . . .
Cliff Rathburn: I wouldn’t call it coloring, it takes much less thought.
TFAW.com: What do you focus on when you’re working on the book?
CR: I try to focus on depth and light sources and also make sure that grey tones are not above 50% of black. If the grey tones are above 50% the line art and the grey tone bleed together when printing, making the page muddy.
TFAW.com: How do you two collaborate? Do you communicate a lot while you work, or do you keep it separate?
CA: I think we all keep it fairly separate. I trust Robert with the writing, he trusts me . . . Cliff does his thing . . . I don’t see the tones until the final proofs, but he delivers each time–there’s certainly nothing to worry about! We all just trust each other to do the best job required for the crazy time frame we do it in.
TFAW.com: What have been your biggest challenges with The Walking Dead?
CA: Funnily enough, it’s not keeping a monthly schedule–I find that quite easy. It’s probably keeping the drama visually interesting . . . It’s a very dramatic “talking heads” type book and with that comes particular challenges. But I like a challenge! Action is easy–it’s the quiet moments that constantly make life interesting.
TFAW.com: After all this time, do you still have fun drawing the zombies, or are they more background characters now?
CA: I’ve always viewed the zombies as background characters, it’s the humans that fire me up creatively. I’ve always seen TWD as a book about a bunch of disparate human characters coping with an extreme situation, which this time, just happens to be the zombie apocalypse! Of course it’s fun drawing the undead–but I always get more of a kick out of the human characters. It’s what makes TWD work.
TFAW.com: After illustrating issue after issue of death and gore, do you take breaks to draw puppies and kittens?
CA: Hah! I wish! If only I had the time. Anyway, it’s just marks on paper at the end of the day.
TFAW.com: Our band of survivors have undergone some subtle–and not-so-subtle–tranformations over the years. What’s your thought processes behind them?
CA: Just to be as natural as possible. This isn’t some superhero thing, we want these characters to develop as naturally as real people do.
TFAW.com: Do you have a favorite issue or story arc?
CA: Always the next issue . . .
TFAW.com: Do you have any sequences or characters you’d love to draw for The Walking Dead?
CA: Nothing that springs to mind, though I often think what can Robert come up with next–surely he’s now exhausted all character possibilities? But he does [come up with something new] . . . so there’s always something more exciting around the corner.
TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up?
CA: Well a few projects that I can’t really talk about at the moment. Suffice to say that I’m a massive fan of European Bandes Dessine–I drew a book for French company Soleil called Breath of the Wendigo a few years back–so expect a few announcements from across the English Channel at some point . . .
You can read our interview with The Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman, and browse The Walking Dead comics and graphic novels today! Are you huge fans of The Walking Dead, like us? Do you have high hopes for the AMC series? Post your comments below!