Ferguson’s 7 Questions With… Martin Hayes
Time for another 7 questions. Answering this time is writer Martin Hayes.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
The first short strip that I had published was a four-page science fiction story in the British comic FutureQuake. I did that story with Manchester-based artist Jim Boswell and it led directly to the first graphic novel, Project Luna: 1947, which I also did with Jim, and which he totally knocked out of the park. It was published in 2012 (I think).
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that putting a comic together can be a very slow process. Writing it, finding an artist, waiting for the art to come in, colours, letters, submitting it, maybe it gets accepted, then you wait for the publication date to roll around, that could be a year away, maybe more. Waiting, waiting waiting.
And so, if you’re a writer, you shouldn’t just write comics. Write everything. Keep yourself busy. Make your own opportunities. I write a lot of prose stories for anthologies and magazines. My fifth story for Nature, the science journal, was released a few weeks ago. Last week I wrote a 3000 word essay about an obscure out of print book that no one has ever heard of, which will be appearing in a collection of articles about “lost books” next year. I got offered that gig because the editor had read a ghost story of mine that was published in an anthology tribute to the Irish writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu last year. This week I’ve been writing an essay about the British writer Nigel Kneale for a book not out until next year. I just finished a 5000 word story for a supernatural anthology that will be released next spring.
All of this keeps me writing while I’m waiting for the various comic projects I have on the go to come to fruition (or not, as the case may be). Writing is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. If you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy and wither away.
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
After I’ve come up with the rough concept I’ll draw out ten boxes which are shaped like comic pages: these represent the first ten pages of the story, and I’ll write what happens on each page into those boxes. There’s lots of erasing and revising and moving things around at this stage. But eventually you can see how the pages will flow together, and get a good sense of the page turns. This is always the first step that I take with a comic. Once I’m happy with that I’ll start writing the script. I do panel descriptions and dialogue at the same time, as I go. I very rarely know exactly how the story will end before I start writing.
But the main thing is to just make a start. Don’t wait until every aspect of the plot is perfectly realised in your head. Don’t traipse around waiting for inspiration to strike. Just get your arse into the chair and start writing. Just get something down, get that blank page filled up with words, because revising twenty pages is easier than writing one. Just write the bloody thing.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
Not sure. I’m a big fan of the old war comics, Battle and Commando and the like. HMS Nightshade, Charley’s War, that kind of thing. And Alan Moore, inevitably! Garth Ennis too. A new Eddie Campbell book is always something I look forward to. From Hell was a big touchstone for me when I was researching and writing the graphic biography of Aleister Crowley that I did with my old drinking pal Roy H Stewart in 2013. I frequently go back to Harvey Pekar’s work, amongst the best ever done in the comics medium. Outside of comics I mostly like weird stuff: Arthur Machen, JG Ballard, Iain Sinclair, Nigel Kneale.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve got a ten-pager brewing with my old mate Jim Boswell, we’ll get that finished and send it off to Dark Horse Presents probably. I’ve got an Image pitch going with a great bunch of American guys but it’s really early days so I’ll keep that under my hat for now. Just made contact with an editor at Vertigo so I’ll hopefully be sending a few pitches their way soon. I’m also starting what will probably be a five issue series with the always excellent Matt Soffe, a good friend and brilliant artist.
What do you have out now or coming out next?
My latest graphic novel is called Abominable Glory, Chris Askham was on art, Bram Meehan on letters and design, and they both did an amazing job. We launched it at the London Super Con back in March. I was really happy with that book, as it goes. And the reviews were all positive, which is great to know.
My next comic is with those same two guys, Chris and Bram, and I’m very happy about that as they’re both very talented and immense fun to work with. It’s a very weird little story called Older Than the Hills. It’ll be serialised over seven weeks in David Lloyd’s digital comic Aces Weekly, starting on September 7th. You can subscribe here: http://www.acesweekly.co.uk/
What is your favourite Irish comic?
Not really sure about “favourite Irish comic” but some of my favourite Irish creators would be Eoin Coveney, who has been doing really great work in 2000 AD, love that fella’s art. And Sarah Bowie’s work is properly brilliant – she did a two-pager called Kenco Rich Coffee a while ago that just killed me. Really beautiful work.