Vampires and werewolves shaded in black and white have never looked this good. We recently caught up with Luke Cooper and Will Pickering, illustrators of Jim Alexander’s Wolf Country, to discuss inspirations, creative process and looking into the crystal ball that is the future.
AP2HYC: How did you become involved with Wolf Country?
Luke Cooper: Jim saw a picture I’d drawn of a rat-man and brought me in to do the Wolf Country back up strip in Amongst the Stars. Then, when Jim decided to turn it into its own series, I came in to do issue 1, but had to hand it over to Will from issue 2 onward because I was trying to do GoodCopBadCop at the same time. Fortunately, Jim brought me back to do the cover art, for which I am very grateful. It’s a great series and I’m glad to have been able to stay involved.
Will Pickering: I’ve known Jim slightly for a long time, and I’d done some side-strips for GoodCopBadCop and a great little two-parter called Growing Pains which is now part of the Amongst the Stars collection. We’d been working together on Savant when its original publishing deal went into limbo, just at the point where Luke was starting to struggle with his workload, so Jim thought I was the obvious person to take over. It kept me busy and it kept the series going at the same time.
AP2HYC: Whose decision was it to do Wolf Country in black and white? Do you prefer to use black and white or color when illustrating?
Cooper: I know I prefer to draw in black and white, but it comes from a reality of the independent comic sense – that it’s cheaper to print that way. I like playing with heavy blacks, sometimes turning characters into silhouettes. It’s a moody way of working, which suits my darker style.
Pickering: I’ve always worked more in black and white for the practical reasons Luke suggested, but my style’s generally a bit more open to having color added to it. I’d taken that to extremes with Savant, going for quite a European look, so coming onto Wolf Country and trying to emulate Luke’s use of greyscale was a real change of pace.
AP2HYC: How much creative control did you have over the artwork?
Cooper: Jim [Alexander] knew exactly what he wanted, so storytelling was the most important aspect of the art in the set-up. In designing the characters, it was pretty much 50/50 with Jim, although I am proud to say that Carmichael’s bowler hat was my detail.
Pickering: I actually have a great deal of creative control, but I think part of that is that I have a strict sense of the parameters I want to maintain with the series. I don’t draw the same way as Luke, but I was very keen to honor his character designs and the general mood he’s established so the transition wouldn’t jar too much. Obviously as things go on, the story expands and you get more and more of my style coming through, but I wanted that to be an organic process, and I’m very pleased that both Jim and Luke seem happy with the results.
AP2HYC: Did you have any inspirations for the artwork you incorporated into Wolf Country?
Cooper: Most of the work I did on the series focused on the old West style settlement, so I was aiming for a western but with a timelessness so as to keep a level of ambiguity to when it is set and the even what kind of world the characters inhabit. Remember that when I started, the vampires aspect was a yet to be revealed plot twist. I tried a rougher inking style with issue 1 to reflect the wildness of the landscape, but it wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.
Pickering: I just make it up as I go along. Jim’s quite good at supplying reference material if he has an image in his head, so it’s just a question of filtering that through the aesthetic of the book and finding a way to tell the story. Obviously at the back of my mind there’s a wealth of western imagery from film and classic comics as well, but how successfully that makes it onto the page is not for me to judge. It’s not strictly a Wild West setting anyway – although it has elements of it there’s a lot more going on.
AP2HYC: What is your favorite part about illustrating comics? How would you describe your artistic style?
Cooper: I am often accused of being noir-ish, which seems fair to me. I use elements of photography in my work, so my favorite part of drawing is assembling the references images. I get to use models and pretend to be a director.
Pickering: Illustrating comics is a series of processes, it’s not just one thing. The composition of the page is the hardest part, but somehow the most exciting: breaking down the angle so that everything flows smoothly, conjuring something out of nothing. After that the actual drawing is comparatively easy, although there are innumerable ways it can go wrong in detail, so for me the most satisfying bit is getting to the inks and shading and putting the final touches on. Nine times out of ten I’m mystified how I got that far!
Stylistically I’m very much in the classic realist tradition, but I like to adapt to the story I’m working on as far as I can, so I’ll experiment with different inking approaches to suit the genre or the period.
AP2HYC: What can we expect next from you both? Are you continuing your work with Wolf Country, or bringing your artwork to other comics?
Cooper: I am still doing covers for Wolf Country as well as writing and drawing Hollow Girl for Insane Comics, a serial for the Comichaus anthology called Mortality and the odd short strip and cover here and there.
Pickering: I’m on Wolf Country until further notice, and of course Savant is now with Dark Horse… Beyond that, who knows what the future will bring? Not me!
I’m on Wolf Country until further notice, and of course Savant is now with Dark Horse, as Jim said above. Beyond that, who knows what the future will bring? Not me!
Thanks again to Luke Cooper and Will Pickering! Keep up with Cooper and Pickering at Comics Anonymous.
Have you been a long-time admirer of Cooper and Pickering? Do you have a thought you just want to shout up to the heavens? Well save your breathe, and comment below or on our Twitter page!