Fanboy Comics Interviews John Higgins (‘Razorjack,’ ‘Watchmen’)

The following is an interview with John Higgins, known the world over as the colorist for Watchmen, as well as the writer and illustrator of the cult graphic novel Razorjack, which will soon be re-released by Titan Books.  In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Higgins about his inspiration for Razorjack, the changing landscape of self-publishing in the comic book industry, and where you will be able to find him next.

This interview was conducted on September 26, 2013.



Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing EditorRazorjack first began as a fifteen-page strip in your self-published comic book anthology of the same name.  What inspired you to tell the original story, and how do you feel that the self-publishing landscape has changed since that time?

John Higgins: The sole reason to create Razorjack was a creative itch I need to scratch, to have a break from the work I was being commissioned to do at that time. I was feeling slightly frustrated. The frustration was not with the world-class stories I had the pleasure of collaborating on with the best writers in the world. There were just certain scenarios or mix of elements I was not being asked to illustrate, so I decided to write a story that took in all my interests in one hit. Horror and action adventure with a smidgen of SF thrown in for good measure.

Self-publishing has changed for the better for one reason only: the internet. When I self-published, it was not as developed as it is now. But, now it is the best marketing tool ever, plus you can publish on the web and tell a story in small bursts with very little costs except for your time. The killer for self-publishing comics is the expense of distribution, even if you can find some one to distribute it. My advice is to test it out on the web first and only then do hard copies once you feel you have an audience for your book.

BD: Razorjack has been described as a “cosmic horror story.”  As the graphic novel finds a new audience with its upcoming release, what impact do you hope that the story will have on readers?

JH: First and foremost, I want readers to enjoy it as a rollicking adventure story that constantly surprises them and to find the mix of story elements is different to anything they have read before. I want them to feel it stick in their minds like a plant bur and think about it long after they have put it down. That they care about the characters, Frame and Ross in particular. These two have a mentor/buddy relationship that I am very pleased with and that I want to explore in more depth in future stories.

BD: Given that you are the creator, writer, and artist of Razorjack, which aspect of the creative process did you find most challenging, and why?
 
JH: When I was doing just one aspect of the comic storytelling process, as in just the colour on Watchmen, or just pencils and inks on Dredd or Constantine, I knew I wanted to do it all, being a bit of a megalomaniac I suppose - watch out, any small country, if I'm in a bad mood. I just might invade! To work on all aspects from writing to finished art was invigorating and freeing. So, the creative side I had no problem with, it was the logistics of self-publishing I found the most challenging. I think invading a small country would be a tad easier than self-publishing.
 
The remastered edition being released will have many special features, including exclusive artwork and commentary.  

BD: Are there any details that you are able to share with readers about the two new stories that are also being included in the graphic novel?
 
JH: What I am enjoying about the new stories is how Razorjack's world has taken off at tangents to the “origins” story, which is the first part of Titans collected edition. I always think once you know where Superman came from or what created Batman, then the stories become more involved and detailed, as the foundation has been laid. We know who they are, and now we can introduce elements that add depth and detail that explain the “laws” that might govern this weird and wonderful world.

So, I wanted the new stories to add texture in the detail, while the apocalyptic destruction of everything by Razorjack is the overarching premise, the thread of dread that links to everything that happens in the Razorjack universe. The small incursions of killer Twist B----es or monsters in human form, which are the basis for the new stories, is an interesting way to develop the characters and villains and to discover more about them and the world they exist in. Mike Carroll's story, "A Glimpse of Summer," is a very clever SF premise with a neat, poignant love story detail. The new dialogue for the main story, that Mike also did, has given – I have been told – a clarity to the complexity of the story that maybe I did not manage the first time around. Mike's understanding of my world even surprises me.

BD: As a former self-publisher, what is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans who aspire to work in the comic book industry?  

JH: If it is to anyone who might self-publish, it is tempting to give the advice I was given by two creators whose judgment I trusted completely when I asked them if I should self-publish, which was, “Do not, under any circumstances, self-publish!” I didn't listen, so why should you?

But, I feel now is probably the best time to get into comics. The movie tie-ins have given comics such a high profile, it is not such a cult market any more. The potential to have that crossover to main stream entertainment, such as Watchmen achieved, is there for the taking. Also, the growth of smaller publishers out there as an alternative to the big two gives you an opportunity to retain more control over your creation. And, going back to the internet, this gives a great scope to show your work and even get commissions. So, draw and create constantly, showcase your work on as many comic art websites as you can, and go to conventions where you can show your work at portfolio reviews to comics publishers big and small.

BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?

JH: I am about to start a new Eden strip for DHP's written by Jim Alexander, who has a clear and weird alternative view when he writes this SF series, set in the dystopian future world he has created. I just need to finish a series for 2000AD first, which is the 3rd Greysuit series. This is set in the present day and is peopled by super-enhanced hitmen who have been brainwashed into doing the bidding of a shadowy organization, which basically involves removing "problems" for political purposes. One of the hitmen is fighting his conditioning. This is a very satisfying project to go into - after talking about doing it all my self - to work with a writer of the stature of Pat Mills - one of the original creators of 2000AD - is a pure pleasure.

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