My Life in Comics… John Charles

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Pow! Wham! Terrific! One of these very early British comics reprinted Marvel material and I believe it was these comics from the early 1960’s that first exposed me to American comics and superheroes. I distinctly remember the power in Jack Kirby’s Hulk drawings and loved the character. As I recall, some of these comics were two-colour, black and shades of red.

Justice League of America # 57: “Man, Thy Name is Brother.” A bit of an oddity, perhaps, but literally the first American full-colour comic I can remember buying. I must have been about ten or so, and I bought it when I was on holiday on Hayling Island. A very early ‘relevant’ story. I lost it over the years, but stumbled across a copy in Leicester’s old ‘Magic Labyrinth’ comic shop. I had to have it, and still have!

Warlock by Jim Starlin This comic blew me away. I remember at first thinking that the art was a bit weird and not buying it for a while. I was a DC kid and it was hard for me to buy Marvel Comics. But this one sealed the deal, and I was converted. The story was compelling, the characters very out of the ordinary. Who can forget Pip the Troll, and, of course, Thanos?

Batman #251 : “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams Neal Adams was a huge influence on me as a young comic artist. His work was head and shoulders above almost everyone in comics. I later came to appreciate the majesty that was Jack Kirby’s work, but if you’d asked me back in the 70’s I’d have said Adams was better. I met Neal in San Diego once. He looked over my samples and told me I couldn’t draw ladies’ feet and should use photo reference. Great advice! I got to shake his hand and thank him for all he’d done for me as an influence, so that was cool.

Workin’ Klass Superhero #1 & 2) My first foray into drawing comic strips at the age of 18 in our very own fanzine. I was in great company: Steve (Barbarian) Brown, Glenn Fabry (yep, that Glenn Fabry), Kev Pike, and old buddy, now writing partner, Barry May. Issue one was printed by a friend at Surrey University print unit, where I worked for five years before going to art school. We sold it at comic marts, in Forbidden Planet, London, and by mail order. I think it went pretty well.

Knights of Pendragon Vol 2. #13 My debut as a comic book penciller, I was still called John Mould at this point. I remember this taking me ages; way too long in fact. I like to think it’s not bad for a debut. Plus, Death’s Head II was in it, and he was Marvel UK’s flagship character. Writer Dan Abnett was instrumental in getting me into Marvel UK, and, strangely, I still work on his stuff now as colourist on Sinister Dexter for 2000AD. Superb inking job by Martin Griffiths with an assist from now mate, Lee Townsend, I have since discovered. The cover is by John Royle.

2000AD. First cover I met editor, David Bishop early one Sunday morning at a Manchester UKCAC. It was very quiet and he very kindly allowed me to interrupt him and looked over my samples. I had one piece he liked (a Transmetropolitan cover mock-up.) and on the strength of that he offered me a shot at a 2000AD cover (Yes, I was happy!) This took me two weeks on my Mac and was ‘painted’ with a mouse. I could probably do it in two days now, using my Cintiq.

Spectacular Spider-Man #134-136 “Mutant Menace” I was working regularly as a colourist for this title over John Haward and John Royle, and began submitting the odd story idea too. Spider-Man’s editor, Ed Hammond. liked some of those and bought the first part of the story which guest-starred Nightcrawler, pitting him and Spider-Man against a Sentinel in New York. (Always loved The Sentinels!) Ed called me and asked if we could make it  a two-parter as one of the X-Men movies was due out. During that conversation, it grew into a three-parter. Best mate, Barry May came on board as co-writer, and we had a ball writing these. We are literally the only people on the planet who made their professional writing debuts on Spider-Man AND The X-Men! Huge thanks to Andie Tong who did a superb job on the art. And the mighty James Offredi on colours. I was always in awe of his work!

Mister X This is probably well out of sequence in time, but was a huge influence on me. I trained as a Graphic Designer and loved the design and typography on this seminal title, created by Dean Motter. I remember seeing Paul Rivoche’s posters for the series in Comic Showcase in London; stunning work. And the character… an architect who never slept and lived in a city in the far future where the architecture itself had bizarre psychological effects on its denizens.

Which brings us to…TechnoFreak Yep, our very own comic. This one has it all, and wears its influences on its sleeves. It’s Blade Runner, Judge Dredd, film-noir, Transmetropolitan (without being nearly as clever), Sherlock Holmes, Mister X and more. Everything but the kitchen sink has influenced this one! Me and Barry re-united as writers. We wouldn’t let the one another get away with anything and we came up with something far better because of it. Me on colours, going apeshit with the hues.  My ex-student, Tom Newell, powered his way through the art. And, boy, does it show. His contribution is ballsy, funny, futuristic and retro; everything it needed. And Tom is still getting better. I’ve seen what he’s been drawing since TechnoFreak and it’s stunning. Tom will be a star; mark my words.

Handy Hint: You can buy TechnoFreak # 1 from our website’s shop and it’s in a few comic shops and will hopefully wind up in more. So far: All Travelling Man stores, Forbidden Planet – Hanley, Darkstar in Cove/Farnborough, Comics Games and Coffee – Chichester, Gosh Comics in London, and Retro Hub – Rugeley.

John Charles has been into comics since he was a child and is now a professional comic book artist and colourist. Along the way he’s been a graphic designer for Trident Comics, drawn/digitally painted covers and illustrated some Future Shocks for 2000AD, provided cover art for Antarctic Press and IDW in the U.S., and coloured Spectacular Spider-Man and many strips in Marvel Heroes for Panini UK. He co-wrote a three-part story for them co-starring Spider-Man and the X-Men. John has also lectured in comic book art at Staffordshire University for several years. Most recently, he’s been a regular colourist on Sinister Dexter for 2000AD and is currently colouring Judge Dredd stories for the Megazine. He is also Editor in Chief (or some-such fancy title) of Sunday Lunch Comics, publishers of TechnoFreak!

One comment to “My Life in Comics… John Charles”
  1. John also drew Santa’s green Christmas last xmas for comicsunitingnations run by pcimedia and UNICEF it’s available as a free download from conicsunitingnations ad are a couple of stan Lee comics and guardians. This are all focused at the sustainable development goals and are part of the world’s largest classroom.

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