Monday, November 24, 2014 • Midnight Edition • "Hope you survive the experience!"

FANZINE EXTRA: Interview with Kieron Gillen

Written by Kieran on Tuesday, March 09 2010 and posted in Features
phonogram_2.6_1.gifKieron Gillen, acclaimed writer of Phonogram, Thor and Dark Avengers: Ares stops by The Outhouse to talk to King Impulse's Fanzine about the end of Phonogram, his upcoming projects and what he thought about Siege #2.
Very special issue of Fanzine today, hot on the heels of our last one. No arseing about here, I was very lucky to wrangle an interview with Kieron Gillen, one of my favourite writers working on some of my favourite comics. He's currently working on Marvel's Thor, a fill-in on New Mutants and has a Doctor Strange black and white one-shot out next week. Earlier in the week, we had a nice Kieran-to-Kieron chat (See, because I spell my name with an 'A'!)
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King Impulse: The first question I just gotta get outta the way, is, my friend Twigg who was with me at Though Bubble, I told him I was interviewing you, and he asked me to ask you something, so I'm just gonna get it out of the way now. Do you follow football and do you have a favourite team?

Kieron Gillen: Oh man, erm, I don't follow football anymore, I've given up. I was 21 when I stopped following football, I went to live in America for a year, and I essentially had a choice of trying to carry on following pop music or trying to carry on following football, and I definitely chose pop music and I never got back into it. When I followed it, I followed Everton, my dad's a big Everton fan, so that's how I was brought up.

phonogram_tpb.gifKI: So, I've got a handful of questions, but I was hoping to use those to kinda springboard into a more conversational aspect. The first one that I've gotta ask is, you've said Phonogram's finished with Series 2 and #7, but is there a chance we could see any more in like maybe an anthology, like the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund ones put out through Image?

KG: It's like James Bond y'know, 'Never Say Never', but yeah, I don't wanna say 'That seems like a possibility' but, yeah. Actually, there's a story I'm doing for BOOM which I probably can't talk about yet because it's not public, but its part of an anthology and it's kind of a 14 page thing, and it's very much a kind of Phonogram. It's not Phonogram, but it's kind of a Phonogram story. I kind of hope to do stuff which is in the same vein, and that kind of stuff transfers quite readily, but really it would have to be something big. If we're talking about doing a story with Jamie [McKelvie], after this year he's signed off doing any sort of work for free, as in like "I'm not gonna do that again" so it'd have to be something which Jamie really, really cared about. Would I do it with somebody else? Dunno, maybe. It's not the same without Jamie. So yeah, possible, but really, don't hold your breath.

KI: That leads nicely into one of my other questions that I've got, would Phonogram have ever come about if it wasn't for Jamie? Could you have done it with anyone else, or was it like, "This is the artist for this project, I need this artist or there's no point."?

KG: You've got to assume that I never met Jamie and I tried to the idea with someone else. Yeah, it would have changed. What Phonogram is came from me and Jamie working together, and a kind of hypothetical 'Other Jamie' Phonogram doesn't exist, and it would have been a very different thing. When I first met Jamie, when we were initially thinking Phonogram, we were thinking small press, we were thinking like British fanzine kind of stuff, and we ended up actually growing as creators and eventually finding interest in the Americans, but it could be possible I met somebody else, like say Sean Azzopardi, he's an interesting guy. Me and Sean were talking about doing something together at the same time, and imagine we said "Fuck it, let's do Phonogram comics" and that would have been literally, black and white fanzines, which would change everything, and I would have been doing that for quite a while, it's quite possible I would be doing much more material, but it would have been a different sort of style. So yeah, I could have done Phonogram with someone other than Jamie, but would it have been Phonogram? It would have been a completely different comic.

KI: Does Jamie have any input on story, or character, or plot, or is that all you?

KG: Abstractly, if Jamie said 'This is wrong' or 'This character shouldn't act like this' I would listen, and if he actually had the right argument, I would go for it. The plot, character and story though are basically all mine, what Jamie actually does and what he brings to the project is characterisation, as is whilst I've created all these characters, what he brings is an interpretation, like, tiny little actions. I write quite detailed descriptions, but he thinks about how the character would move, and then, interprets it. The panel in issue 3 when Emily, Kid With Knife and Kohl are dancing, I put a little bit about the dancing in there, and I do kinda mention some stuff, but Jamie takes it a lot further, there's some very subtle body language stuff in the dancing which kind of says a lot about the characters. So whilst the core of the characters are mine, they're expanded by Jamie.

emily.gifKI: It's funny you mention that, because I remember reading a review where they were talking about that panel, and about how Emily has her handbag ready to go to the toilets, so I had it in my head ready to go "Oh, you mean like this bit?"

KG: Yeah, I was thinking of the same feature. There's another bit in that issue where Emily is fixing her make-up, and in the middle of an incredibly hard speech, she stops, and does the lip purse thing, and then carries on. I wrote that, but Jamie... performed that, that's what Jamie brings. 

Jamie kind of inspires and improvises and grows from it, and he's kind of like the lead actor that way. I don't wanna say Jamie has no influence at all, but the truth is kind of, confusing. I mean, I get no money from Phonogram, but abstractly, we split the money 50/50, it's just that Jamie gets the money first, if that makes sense. So up to a certain pay-level, enough that he has enough to eat, he gets the money, then I get the money afterwards. In fact, we've only once on an issue gone above that boundary, which is issue 3, series one, which we had a nice cheque for and it was very exciting. 

Most people in comics doing what we do, which is a back-end deal, the money is normally weighted towards the artist, as in 70/30, or 60/40, and Jamie insisted on 50/50, just because I put so much stuff into it. I do an abnormal amount of work for the comic, you can tell with the back-matter and all that kind of stuff, but with the actual scripts and stuff, it's never rough, Jamie gets these sort of weird products of my head for half a year, so yeah, that's kind of how we operate.

KI: You're very good at setting up segues for me, because my next question is, what led to the decision to do the second series, because from what I gather, the first series didn't do all that well, did it?

KG: You say we didn't do well, we did okay, you know what I mean? *laughs* The first series did about 4,000, I'm generalising, but we ended up doing about 4,000 per issue, which is a perfectly acceptable level. The thing being, we were black and white, so for black and white we made an acceptable amount of money. Jamie was getting about £1000 an issue, that kind of level. It's a shitty wage, but it's enough to maintain a roof over your head. The first series was completely commercially justified, for the second series we went colour, and we thought, because usually you go colour, you add on a couple of thousand sales. If you look at the first issue of Suburban Glamour, that basically did 6,000, we were kind of thinking it came in at Suburban Glamour levels, but it didn't, it came in at Phonogram level, the numbers didn't move at all. In that case, the fact that it was colour removes that profit margin. The first season didn't make much money, but the second season made pennies, essentially. It's not like we lost money, but we made a couple of hundred dollars an issue, or whatever. We wanted to do it because A) it was kind of out calling card. B) It did seem popular. C) We thought we could actually, y'know, grow the audience. D) Because I would have killed everybody in the world if I didn't get to do a second series.

KI: What led to the actual story of the seven perspectives on the one night, because I know the first series started out with the spec script 'Faster'

KG: It's a weird one, I've always wanted to do a story that was set in a venue at the same time. There was a girl I was going out with when I was nineteen, and she asked me to write her a story, and I started writing her a multi-narrative story set in a single pub, with all these stories interlocking and eventually you getting the whole thing, so the idea's always been there. Specifically, after doing Rue Britannia, it just made sense to do that sort of story, I didn't want to make it Kohl, I wanted it to be something a bit more... multi-headed, I wanted to show people all the different ways this metaphor works, and to show all these different kinds of characters who like all these different kinds of music. Basically, I thought it was a very efficient way to show people what Phonogram was. To be honest, some people always got it without having it spelled out, but the second series really spelled out that 'This is about what you love!' 

It wasn't always gonna be that though, we were talking about doing the third arc, which would have been Emily Aster vs Claire, and that was almost the second series. It was a serious decision, do we want to do The Singles Club which was something more intimate, sort of short story, semi-experimental sort of stuff, or do we wanna do the Emily Aster story, which is a bit more like Rue Britannia? In that it's kind of a character arc, in that it's mainly about Emily and about what Emily goes through to fight Claire.

KI: This is "The Word 'Girl'" yeah?

KG: Yes, that's what it probably would have been called. So we had these two separate stories and we had to decide which one we wanted to do, and we chose Singles Club, because it made more sense. As I said, it explains Phonogram as like kind of a statement. In our first comic, Rue Britannia, it was probably a bad way of explaining what our comic was, and I love Rue Britannia, but in terms of the core idea, i.e Music is Magic, it's just about music, and whatever you love, and there's a power there and all these things. The fact that it was such a specific story did kind of make these people have kind of a limited idea of what we were about, but on the other hand, we had to do that story, because it's a story we wanted to tell. As in, if we were only able to tell one story, that's the one we wanted to do, and we had to actually act like that was our only chance to ever actually do it, and then we realised we can do it again, it was like 'We've got to start thinking about the future.' With Rue Britannia, we were assuming we were gonna get shot.

KI: Was there any music in the series that you gave to a character, that you don't yourself like. Like, "This character would like this band, even though I don't."

KG: Ooh, that's a good question...

KI: Because there's a lot of Kenickie, Los Campesinos!, that sort of thing, stuff that you talk up real life, on your blog or whatever, so is there anything like 'This is what this character would like, even though I don't personally like it'?

KG: I must admit, I know what you mean, I don't often namecheck it. I can definitely think 'That character would like this band, but I don't like this band' I just don't often talk about that. Jamie especially doesn't like half the stuff in Phonogram. I'm more likely to insult bands I like, I insult Sleater Kinney all the time, or I insult The Smiths, but I adore Sleater Kinney and The Smiths, it's the characters in particular mock them.

KI: Sleater Kinney came up because I remember what Seth and Silent Girl said about them, so I thought that's the one you might not like
.

KG: It's weird, because I love them, I find them sort of intimidatingly brilliant. There's a precision about Sleater Kinney that scares me, I feel kind of guilty for being essentially me and listening to them. That was kind of the point of the second series, that I kind of wanted to talk about music I was into, but have the characters all argue against it. Like 'Yeah, I'm into all this stuff, but I'm quite prepared to pull the knives and stab into it." I'm trying to think of actually a band a character would like which I don't like.

KI: It'd probably be something Kid With Knife likes

KG: Oh, Kid With Knife doesn't count, he is beyond good and evil, that boy. Laura would like something I wouldn't like, I just can't think what.

5.gifKI: I remember, when the first issue came out, Laura was the character I... latched onto, like "Aww, she speaks in Long Blondes quotes, that's so cool!" then her issue came out and I was more "She's not actually that... She's quite mean" and how you talk about her being 'trapped within the quotation marks' and that's not always a great thing
.

KG: I talk about her being the villain, but she's very much the "villain" in quotation marks, she's tragic, she's definitely one of the sadder characters in the entire story. Poor old Laura, bless her.

KI: How much thought went into the setlist for The Singles Club? I'm a big believer in that songs should flow together, and that certain songs sound better after other songs, so was it something you put a lot of thought into?

KG: Yeah, definitely. I must admit, it was more of a literary device than an actual device, as in, I had all the stories I wanted, and different songs had to be certain story beats. Y'know, it matters that they play 'Pull Shapes' at that certain point.

KI: and even smaller stuff, like 'Ice Cream' when Penny runs off

KG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so after I got the stories, I was thinking 'How could this possibly fit together?' The bit I definitely thought about the 'flow of records' was the six records you get the responses to in Seth and Silent's issue, as in, the six panel grid where you get the six songs and their responses. Yeah, I definitely thought of that, I was trying to think of six songs that Seth and Silent would play in an order, and the bit where Emily notes what Seth has just dropped, as in "Oh, they just played Crystal Castles!" Basically, if you see me name three songs in a row, I thought about how well those songs would hang together. 

With retrospect, I'm not sure I'm entirely right all the way, but at least there's some kind of idea flow, but when I compiled the whole setlist, I realised, that's probably a bit of a leap. Blondie to 'River Deep, Mountain High' is probably a bit of a leap, that was me after I'd done all the stories, trying to retrospectively put the evening together, realising Blondie, and then they play Ike, and then they play Nelly, then Crystal Castles, and then New Young Pony Club, that's the only way that whole section can work. Going from Salt N Pepa's 'Push It' to Johnny Boy is another bit that's sort of "Are you sure?" but I can sort of see them doing that. After that though, going from Cansei [de Ser Sexy] to Girls Aloud to Sleater Kinney to Kenickie to The Supremes to The Pipettes, that's totally the sort of thing that I would drop as a DJ. So yeah, I did think about it in those terms, but it wasn't the main concern.

KI: The Seth/Silent issue is probably my favourite issue, especially the section where they're commenting on the tracks. My favourite 'comedy bit' in the series is the Girls Aloud bit, where they're talking about who they'd be friends with in real life, and Seth says 'Cheryl?' to which Silent says 'No' and Seth goes 'The cow!'

KG: Haha, 'The cow' I must admit that was one of the last jokes that I added to that issue. Actually, talking about the setlist, I realised what was basically a continuity error, and I would have to swap St. Etienne, which was originally there, and I realised that I had to move Girls Aloud from the previous page. When they decide to play 'Ice Cream' they were originally deciding which Girls Aloud song to play, then I did all the maths and realised that they can't play that there, this is when they have to play 'Ice Cream', so that was a late change. I kicked out St. Etienne, because actually, the joke just wasn't very funny, and had to make up a whole new joke for Girls Aloud, which turned out to be my favourite as well. That whole issue I was worried about "Is it funny?" I lost all form of perspective, but people seemed to really like it.

KI: In that issue, where there's the double page of everyone dancing, and the panel borders and that break down, what song is playing? Or does it not matter?

KG: That would have been The Knife... actually, they're not playing anything when the panels break down, they're just about to put something else on. They're about to play The Knife, but nothing is actually playing when the panels break down. It's kind of like almost, stepping outside of the evening, and it almost doesn't matter for them.

KI: Is there any significance of the date that The Singles Club is set, December 23rd, 2006?
 

KG: Err, no? Actually, yes, there's significance. I wanted the story set that year, it was a 2006 story, and what's the latest in 2006 I could set it. I quite like the juxtaposition, essentially it's set at Christmas, but no-one ever mentions it. It's the point almost, all these people have their own individual universes and worlds they've created and none of its connected to the outside culture, despite the fact that they're obsessing over one of pop culture's most obvious artefacts.

KI: Moving on from the story of 'The Singles Club' onto the B-Sides, did you have more B-Sides than you got time or whatever to publish. Is there an archive of them on your computer or something?

KG: I do actually, yeah. 

KI: I remember you mentioning on Twitter that you wrote a My Chemical Romance one
 

KG: I never actually wrote that one, but it's one that I could write. An incident inspired me, it was basically involving turning a girl off by deliberately dancing to something she wouldn't like. Kind of the opposite to what Kohl did in the first issue of Rue Britannia.

KI: Are there any dream artists you'd love to get for a B-Side?

KG: Tell you what, two people that fell through for this season are Andy Watson, he was going to do one, Frazier Irving was going to do one, oh, and Chynna Cluggston, she was going to do one. Scheduling fell apart, but they're three really good examples of people I'd love to do B-Sides with, but it just didn't happen. People with individualistic styles work well on the B-Sides, like, let's just do it a completely different art and show how it could look. Frank Quitely, he's an example of someone I would LOVE to work with, because he's an incredible artist with a brilliant, interesting style, however, I don't think his style suggests a sort of music. It's brilliant, but I don't crave to do a B-Side with him, in the way I do with Andy Watson. It'd be hilarious to get Bryan Lee O'Malley to do one, obviously he would write it himself, but Bryan O'Malley doing Phonogram would be hilarious because he would just mock me to death!

KI: You mention Frazier Irving, and I'm really looking forward to the 'Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange' one shot which you've got coming out next week.

KG: Yeah, it's just kind of snuck up on me, because I wrote it late last year, and it's just kind of crept up and wow, me and a Frazier comic, which is very exciting. Frazier's an old friend of mine, I just mentioned him as an example, like my editor asked what sort of artist I'd like and I said someone a bit more impressionistic and trippy, kind of like Frazier, and it was just a suggestion and he kind of jumped on it, saying "Yeah, I think he's free actually!" and all of a sudden I'm working with Frazier, which is a lot of fun.

KI: Moving more into general music, I've gotta ask, what are you listening to now?

KG: Oh man, I knew you were gonna ask this.

KI: I have to do it.

KG: I'm really enjoying the French Resistance album, err, Everybody Was In The French Resistance... Now! the Eddie Argos solo project

KI: Oh yeah, I've not heard any of that, isn't that like, responses to pop songs?

KG: Yeah, they're just straight response songs, and y'know, funny, some brilliant one-liners, cheerful pisstakes, etc. In terms of new stuff, I'm very much into the new Joanna Newsom album which just came out, which of course is enormous.

KI: It's like three discs, isn't it?

KG: Yeah, it's two hours of stuff, so that's a lot of harp. We got tickets to see her at the South Bank, which I'm very much looking forward to. I might be going to the ATP she's at as well, which'll be interesting. This week, I haven't listened to much new stuff, actually, just scanning down my Last.fm page, I've been listening to the Chew Lips album a bit, which I quite like.

KI: I've been meaning to listen to that.

KG: What I feel embarrassed about Chew Lips is that I didn't realise it was a pun, until I actually said it out loud.

KI: OH YEAH! I just got that!

KG: Exactly, I've been feeling like an idiot. Also, you might be able to guess, when it comes out, the comic I'm doing for BOOM which is kind of Phonogram-esque, I'm listening to a lot of music from that period, so Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and old Ramones albums, so it's kind of 1970s punk style story. Went through a Shellac period during the week which was a lot of fun. I dug out The Peechees, I actually ordered this from America. The Peechees were this sort of punk band from the mid-late 90s, and I only ever had one of their singles 'Antarticists' on vinyl, which is great. Last week I found myself rooting through my vinyl, found it, put it on, thought "This is great!" and I found myself ordering it. I just wanted to buy it, but it's not available in the UK, and the only place I could get an MP3 download to buy, was directly from the label, but they don't sell the download, they give you the download free when you order the album on vinyl, and of course, it's from America, so I ended up paying $30 for them to ship me an album, and I just wanted to the MP3s. Oh, and Electrocute! I've been listening to the Electrocute album which is coming out finally. 'Super Kiss Attack' has been my single of the week because it's just so incredibly stupid.

KI: Do you still go to many gigs?

KG: I must admit, like, I'm going, but I'm not as full on as I once was. My problem is I'm generally districtable, the idea of me arranging to do something months in advance of actually doing it is unlikely. That's why something like ATP matters more to me now, because I don't do as many gigs as I used to, the idea of having an incredibly intense experience of gig, gig, gig, gig, gig, without having to sleep in human shit as in most festivals appeals to my old and broken bones. It's a shame because I love live music, I just don't do it enough anymore, because I'm very old. It's why Phonogram would never be an ongoing thing, because in four years time, I'd feel a little awkward writing Phonogram. To be honest, I feel a little awkward writing it now, it's the sort of thing you can only really write when you're completely 100% there.

KI: You've got a comic coming out through Avatar soon, would you like to talk about that?

KG: Yeah, I'm still sort of 'pre-hype' in that I wanna make people aware of it, but they haven't shown any art or even announced who the artist is, means that I don't wanna say too much, because I know that I'm going to be really yabbering about it in the coming months. It's basically a science-fiction comic set on Mercury, following a female cop, Louisa. It's kind of like, I described it in the pitch as 'Post-Obama Sci-Fi' I wanted to write about the future as if the future were going to happen. As I think the malaise we've all kind of fell into is that we've stopped thinking about the future, I wanted to create a future that wasn't utopian or dystopian, I wanted "Here is a future, and we're going to have to deal with it." 

The whole thing is about people dealing with the world they find themselves in which is the point of Sci-Fi that you bring it back home to where you are. I wanted to create a future where things we think are major problems have been overcome. Like environmentalism, this is a world where it's something everyone, or mostly everyone believes in, but this creates new problems, and the idea is that Mercury is basically Earth's engine. Another example is almost everyone is mixed race, but we don't mention it. This is 200 years in the future, let's assume all the problems we're dealing with have been overcome, but now we've got a new set of problems, because they'll always be problems. The hook of it is that it's on Mercury and I wanted to use the environment of Mercury to tell stories with, how do you police law in this incredibly hostile environment?

KI: What's the story called, sorry?

KG: The Heat

KI: The Heat. Oooooh, because of the police and..
.

KG: Yeah, you see, it works on multiple levels

KI: Is there a projected release date for that?

KG: I'm not sure, it wouldn't surprise me if it debuted at San Diego, but that's just a guess.

KI: What comics are you reading at the moment, and what are you looking forward to that's coming up?

KG: New Casanova, that's the enormously big thing that's sort of weighing down on me. I feel like I've sort of passed off the baton to Fraction, in that I love Casanova, he loves Phonogram, and it's like "Now it's your turn, show me what you got, punk!" Obviously, the new Scott Pilgrim. There was actually a secret screening in London last week that was cancelled because too many people knew about it, but I somehow got a ticket for it and I probably shouldn't have. I'm excited by both the film and the comic there because I think they're going to be complimentary. I'm really, really enjoying Unwritten, are you reading Unwritten?

KI: Yeah, I've recently dropped most comics due to finance issues, but The Unwritten's one of the ones I've kept hold of because it's so good.

KG: I must admit, I've only read the first trade so far, but when I got to the Kipling issue, it was like "This is the real thing."

KI: I remember describing the first one as like I was 'reading history being made' because all the great Vertigo titles like Sandman, Preacher, etc, all happened before I started reading comics, and now there was one that I was reading as it was happening.

KG: I find it really interesting, it's kind of what I wanted for Phonogram, it's going to be different for people who read it in trade, because you had that month gap to let the character kind of sit in your head. Probably the worst thing about the second series of Phonogram is that we did have those big delays, I didn't want to send out review copies of issue one, until we got issue two done, because I wanted people to see them next to each other. The point being, you go from one character then you go to the other is so important that I didn't think anyone should read it without that option. In the end, we did the opposite of that, in which there was this enormous gap. The periodical still gave people a chance to have it sit in their head for a bit, and of course if you're reading it in the trade, you're just going to go from chapter to chapter.

KI: You've kind of answered this question already, what with THe Heat and stuff for BOOM, but have you got any more ideas for creator-owned work, or you mainly Marvel now?

KG: I must admit, I'm getting ansty. I mean, I love doing the Marvel stuff, but I don't want to just do the Marvel stuff. There's something else I'm doing with Avatar, but I don't want to say anything at all about that one yet. The BOOM thing is just a small thing in an anthology, it should be with Marc Ellerby on art, y'know he did the back-up in Phonogram?

KI: Yeah, I follow his webcomic, it's amazing.

KG: I love him to death apart from the fact that he's a despicable human being. I really wanted to do a comic with him, so this was a great opportunity. Back to the question, it's been nagging at me, I've been wanting to do something, what's the word? Less commercial, y'know "Something that really won't sell again." The Avatar stuff though is commercial, it's a smart, action, 'lad' comic with interesting characters, it's not going to get people going "Oh, he's very pretentious!" You won't want to punch me after reading it. Hopefully not, anyway. There is a desire though to do something just a bit weirder, I was chatting to Image about something, and it's quite an old pitch I had, something called 'Ludocrats' with Jim Rossignol who I do Rock, Paper, Shotgun [PC gaming website] with, I would like to do something with the Ludocrats if we could actually find some way to do it. If it were to happen, it would happen this year, and it's a low input thing, so I could do this along with all the other work I'm doing, and I'm doing a lot of work. On the other hand, part of me thinks that's maybe going to be next year now, as in this year's just going to be me doing Marvel stuff, and other stuff like that, and also the Avatar stuff. This is about building an audience, instead of doing something completely and utterly self-indulgent and anti-commercial. I would like to though. 

I like doing it all is the thing, and I couldn't do four books like Phonogram a month, because it would kill me, in terms of what you have to put into it. Which isn't to say you work any less harder, there are just other things you can't put as much work into. Like, I love it all, I throw myself into the characters. My Ares comics were basically about my fear of becoming a father - not that I'm about to become one, but the idea that I could be a bad dad. That's the emotional core of it for me, that's why I care about it, and of course to anyone reading it, it's just guys with axes hitting each other. Which is awesome.

ares.gifKI: I can see it, especially the bit about Ares' son, and of course the squad who he's training, and they're sort of like surrogate children.

KG: Yeah, that's totally it, that's the theme. About the relationships and realising that you're a bad father because of something inside you, maybe you just won't be able to do it no matter how hard you try. That's the nasty part that made me care about Ares. It sounds like I'm saying I work less hard on the work-for-hire, but that's not the case, it's more about the size of the job, some jobs are bigger than others and you do as much work as is required, and if you do any more work, it just doesn't operate as a comic. You can't have Ares sat around having deep conversations and over-ornate panel layouts, because it's not that sort of comic. It needs to play as a large scale action comic. I need to leave more space to the artist to sell the scale and grandeur.

KI: When you were writing Ares, did you know his eventual fate at the end of Siege #2?

KG: I did actually.

KI: Do you feel that affected your writing of the character?

KG: Yeah, when I found out about it, I was already planning the story, but if you read the series again, with that final page, that's kind of foreshadowing. You look at that guy and you think "Ooh, he's not gonna end up well, is he?" So I was definitely trying to foreshadow what was happening in Siege.

KI: Do you have an opinion on that particular scene in Siege, because it was controversial to say the least.

KG: It's lucky that we use computer colouring because if we still used traditional colouring, that would have used a whole lot of red paint. 

I thought it was striking and powerful, to see a guy literally ripped in half. Yes, it's been a controversial scene, but if you read all the reviews and critical responses to Siege, it got people talking about it. Even the people that were kinda "Meh" on the first issue were going "Ooh, this is a bit interesting." 

This ties into my current theories about mainstream comics. I'm analysing my own stuff a bit, and Jason Aaron wrote a piece for his blog recently talking about how he writes comics, and he always asks himself "Does something awesome happen on every page?". It could be a scene or a quotable line, but does this page have something that's better than just sitting there? Which is a great way to think about mainstream comics.

The way I've been thinking about it is "Which pages in this comic will people be talking about specifically” As in, what's the bit which people are going to be talking about, without context, just as a thing. The big key story beat for the internet. You're not writing for that response... but knowing which scenes are going to get that response is a good thing to know. And those two pages... there was no way they weren't going to be talked about, immediately, everywhere. It's straight to the heart of what some people want to talk about in comics, and that's kind of straight to the heart of the fan. In other words, a great scene.

On my part, a good – if smaller example - would be the two pages bits that get talked about in Thor #607 – the scene with Kelda, and the scene with Vostagg on the internet. I was aware that if there were going to talk about any specific bit, it would be those two. One's a bit weepy, and the other one is just kind of completely out of left field.

KI: I must say, I don't like Volstagg at all, but I enjoyed that scene.

KG: Wait until the end of this arc. I don't wanna say anything about the next two issues of Siege, but Volstagg goes through hell.

KI: Do you have much interaction with Brian Reed, the writer of Siege: Embedded, who is also heavily featuring Volstagg?

KG: We haven't talked directly. We basically made sure our plans didn't contradict, we all swapped scripts, dropped emails and talked to editors, stuff like that. What we wanted to do with the character actually fit together quite nicely. The fun thing about the crossovers is that guy disappears and then they appear in this other comic, it does fit together quite tidily. It was so tricky to pull off, and the fact that it's so tightly cut, I've seen some people say "Oh, Volstagg's in two places! They've made a continuity error!”. He's not, he really is going from one place to another.

KI: You've got a New Mutants ti-in coming up as well, right? Is that mostly based around Dani Moonstar and the aftermath of Utopia?

KG: Yes, it's her paying off a debt basically. She made a deal with Hela and now she has to pay.

KI: And the artist on that is Niko... I don't wanna try and pronounce it

KG: Henrichon, Niko Henrichon. When I was told that I'd be working with him, it was like "WOW! I wasn't expecting that!" Maybe other people always expect the best... I always expect the worst. But everyone I've worked with has actually been really cool and we've done really interesting stuff. I've a long list of artists and I'm cheerfully crossing off these people the more work I do. These are people I would buy their comics just because they're on art, so getting the chance to work with them is just amazing. 

KI: Do you subscribe to the, like, Bendis/Millar/Loeb theory of writing as well as you can for a specific artist? Like, you can tell when Loeb is writing for Ed McGuiness, or for Art Adams, or Tim Sale or whatever.

KG: I think everyone does. Generally you get the best results if you write for the specific artist. There's stuff with Jamie I wouldn't have done with any other artist, issue seven of Phonogram, I wouldn't have given to anyone else, or issue four, I wrote those, knowing it would be for Jamie. They gave me a chance to play to Jamie's strengths, and also to show stuff he doesn't always get a chance to show, so with issue seven, I wanted to give him a chance to show off. Ideally with artists, you write specifically for them. I've been in a few situations where I haven't, and in those cases what you do is you generally write more. Jamie on Loki is going to be interesting, because Jamie is not the traditional Thor artist - it's like what I was talking about with the Phonogram B-Sides, that different artists change the feel of the comic. I remember Warren Ellis was talking about The Authority and he's always said The Authority was always kind of black-satire beneath the over-the-top heroism, it was always like, these guys are a little bit fascistic, you shouldn't entirely have sympathy for them. The fact that [Bryan] Hitch draws these beautiful, sexy, charismatic people you look up to and admire, the fact that Hitch is such a charming artist makes The Authority more good, clean fun. This is early Authority, before Millar and Millar took it to more cynical and angry and obviously satirical areas. Imagine Alex Ross drawing The Authority, you would have all these people looking down, looking like statues from a Nazi propaganda film, it would be immediately obvious, the fact these guys weren't that nice, that would be immediately clear. The artists change everything. It's one of the reasons why the medium's interesting.

KI: I remember, I bought Jamie's issues of Cable, just because it was Jamie on art, and it was such a clash. I enjoyed the art, but it didn't really suit Cable at all. I don't mean any offence to Jamie because I enjoyed it, but it didn't really suit Cable.

KG: Of all the Cable stories to do, I thought it was the one that suited him most. It was a quiet story, just kind of Hope and Cable having a yabber, and that kind of hit the body language, the acting, and all that kind of stuff which Jamie does so well. Of all the Cable stories it was the one that most suited Jamie. The Loki story he does, I very much wrote that for Jamie. I knew it was Jamie, so I wrote it for Jamie. Have you seen the preview art for Loki?

KI: Yeah

KG: That cityscape, page 3, which is beautiful... I knew he wants develop his skills in terms of 3D positioning of characters and he's trying to push it in a certain way, so I was writing for him. "Okay Jamie, you want to try that? Try that." I knew it was something he wanted to draw, even though it was clearly hard work. If he wants to push himself, I'm going to give him the chance, there are other bits, like with the paneling, where I said "I'm going to write it a lot more sparser than I usually do for you, but I want you to use some kind of like Suburban Glamour techniques to present this stuff." Of all Jamie's mainstream comics, I think its the one that most harnesses what Jamie can do. He does a good Loki.

KI: Especially with the guyliner look he's rocking in the preview.

KG: Haha, we talked about that, I kind of wanted a hotter Loki. Some people do look Loki as kind of scabrous, like Richard III sort of thing, and I wanted a more seductive Loki, like sitting back with the goblet going 'Oh, hello. Come into my room. Can I take your coat?'. That was the kind of guy I wanted.

KI: The way I see it, it kind of reminds me of young David Kohl in Rue Brittania, when he's with the girl who loves Kenickie, and like, manipulating her, and with this being Jamie's art, I was looking at Loki and thinking "Yeah, that reminds me of young Kohl."

KG: Haha, that's a horrific way of putting it, I'll tell Jamie that, but yeah, I know what you mean. He's manipulative and live, I liked it.
---------------------------------------------

Kieron Gillen's top three tracks at the moment

1) Electrocute - Super Kiss Attack

"It's a song about kissing. Big fan of kissing."

2) Heels - Timberlee

"I found myself obsessed by this, it's the most annoying record in the world. It's nothing but hook, and really annoying hook. Amazing.

3) Marquee Moon - Television/Blank Generation - Richard Hell and The Voidoids

"I'm listening to a lot of this era due to the stuff I'm doing for BOOM, especially stuff I wasn't into. Marquee Moon is something I've always loved though.

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