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Haïfa è un’agente di autori di comics e di illustratori che organizza delle mostre nelle gallerie espositive, canadese e francesi, con relativa vendita delle opere; nel 2011 ha organizzato un evento dedicato a Barbara Canepa, con tanti artisti che hanno realizzato dei tributi disegnati poi esposti e venduti a Montreal. Da due anni collabora con me, con fumettomania e, quindi, con Glamazonia.
Quest’anno, io e lei, abbiamo organizzato il contest Eric Woolfson Forever: An artistic tribute, le cui 17 opere, sono esposte dal 2 al 24 dicembre a Montreal presso la galleria L’Espace Creatif.
Questo è il suo secondo contributo al nostro sito, con l’intervista ad un’autore inglese di fumetti molto particolare che non mancherà di affascinare anche i lettori italiani (che da qualche mese hanno potuto acquistare i primi due volumi di ELEPHANTMEN).
Mario Benenati

richard starkings

by HaÏfa Adam

Richard Starkings is a British Comic Book Creator best known today for his Image Comics creator owned title, ELEPHANTMEN. However, before he came up with his own title, he worked as an Editor for Marvel UK in London and as a Lettering Artist for Marvel, DC Comics and Dark Horse in the US. As the founder of Comicraft, he was responsible for the comic book industry’s transition from pen lettering to digital lettering.

Haïfa Adam : Tell me Richard, who is Comicraft and what should we know about them.

Richard Starkings : Yearsssss ago, I was faced with a dilemma…
I had moved from London to Los Angeles — via New York — and was making a living PEN lettering comic books…
But the speed at which US editors at Marvel and DC required lettering to be turned around was punishing, and I was struggling to keep up.
It was as important to me then, as it is now, to maintain a high degree of quality in my lettering work, It amazed me that the letterers I admired, such As Tom OrzechowskiJim Novak and a British letterer by the name of Steve Craddock, were able to produce such clean and crisp, consistent work in the face of truly gruelling deadlines. Of course, I later learned that they often worked throught long nights or worked with assistants of one sort or another… nevertheless I was never disposed to staying up past midnight, for work anyway, and I wanted to find a way to turn work around quickly but preserve the quality and integrity of my work.
I was lettering a book by Jamie Delano and John Higgins called WORLD WITHOUT END, for Vertigo, and listening to Anthony Robbins PERSONAL POWER tapes… At the back of my head I was thinking that I was destined to hack out pages of lettering at the rate of (maybe) six pages a day, and that my income would be limited accordingly. Especially because I didn’t like working through weekends either! As I was thinking that, Tony Robbins happened to be saying that, in order to move forward in business, I’d have to figure out a way of earning more without working more… “IMPOSSIBLE!” I shouted at my innocent cassette player…! Remember cassettes?

fm_12_2011_ELEPHANTMENWT30cover_ridHaïfa A. : LOL, yeah, I still have one.
R.S.: But, from that moment on, I started wondering how I could do exactly that.
When John Byrne lettered issues of NAMOR with a “computer font”, I realized that the pen writing was on the wall for what we called “hand lettering,” and I asked him at a San Diego Comic Con –1991 I think — how he did it.
I tracked down a copy of a font making program called Fontographer and started the long, laborious process of turning some of my pen lettering styles into digital fonts. At the time I was working with Bob Chapman at Graphitti Designs, where I had learned enough about the Mac computer to realize that computers weren’t as difficult to use as Microsoft wanted us to think they were…
So, within a year or two I was making my first attempts to letter comics digitally. After a LOT of initial resistance from editors, we were soon lettering books for Marvel and DC using very crude early versions of fonts I’d created. I hired friends to input text for me — my first freelance employee, Janie, is now the wife of RADICAL Editor in Chief, Dave Wohl. But eventually I took on a young (then!) design graduate from UCLA, John Roshell. One day he asked me what he should say when he picked up the phone when editors called, an old roommate of mine was a carpenter and called his business PROUDCRAFT…So, when John wanted to know what we should call ourselves, I quickly offered “COMICRAFT.” And it stuck.

Haïfa A.: How many are you at Comicraft?
R.S. : More than 30 people have worked at COMICRAFT over the years, but these days there’s just three or four of us, even though at one point the compnay was handling over 60 books a month and there were 17 people on payroll!
In 1998 we were lettering about 70% of Marvel’s line, about 15-20% of DC’s books, a couple of Image titles and the entire output of companies like CHAOS, VALIANT/ACCLAIM and AWESOME. In addition, we designed logos and books such as ASTRO CITY, DANGER GIRL, BATTLE CHASERS and, for a short period, all of Marvel’s trade paperbacks. It was a massive workload, and not one I’d care to repeat! But we made a name for ourselves and, I think, raised the bar on what was expected from a comic book letterer. Late, Lamented, Marvel Executive Editor, Mark Gruenwald told me that pen lettering artists regarded me as the Anti-Christ! I have to admit, I didn’t see myself as a “Comic Book Letterer,” as some did, I ALWAYS regarded myself as a “Comic Book Creator.”
Even in the early nineties I was looking forward to creating my own comic book, my inspiration in the 80’s were creators like Dave Sim, creator of CEREBUS and Los Bros Hernandez, who created  .
I had read and practically memorized the Creators’ Bill of Rights published in THE COMICS JOURNAL way back whe, and, in the UK, writers like Steve Parkhouse, John Wagner and Alan Grant were bitter about the system which took away the characters and concepts they’d created. And they cautioned us not to repeat their mistakes. So I was always determined to fully own that which I fully created.

Haïfa A.: I have been following you on your facebook page, and you have become a part of my coffee in the morning, and i see how much you have been traveling, how is life for you?
R.S. : Coffee and Comicraft? Haha, Life is Hard Work.

Haïfa A.: Life is ideas and dreams
R.S. : Quite Right, that too! But, from all the travelling I do, promoting ELEPHANTMEN, I can see that the recession has hit our industry really hard, and I remember that many people felt that we had been hit hard by recession in the late 90’s and early 00’s! But readers find it hard to buy a lot of books these days, and retailers have to make decisions that effect THEIR income. PREVIEWS must seem so daunting to any retailer trying to keep his store in business, and Stores must seem massively daunting to readers trying to pick a book to follow and enjoy.

fm_12_2011_Elephantmen34_cover_ridHaïfa A.: Who are the ELEPHANTMEN ?
R.S. : It’s 2162; the Elephantmen are the survivors of genetic engineering experiments and indoctrination by Doctor Kazushi Nikken and MAPPO, a sinister organization which sought to create suprahuman weapons of mass destruction. Freed and rehabilitated by a United Nations Taskforce following a long and terrible war, Nikken’s ‘Unhumans’ now live amongst men. Legitimized by the ELEPHANTMEN act, they are nevertheless denied the right to bear arms and must survive on their wits alone.
What I tell people who ask that question is that the Elephantmen are human/animal hybrids designed to fight a war between Africa and China. A terrible war is fought, but ultimately the Elephantmen are defeated, rehabilitated and must now live among us. ELEPHANTMEN is a little bit BLADE RUNNER, a little bit TAXI DRIVER, a little bit PLANET OF THE APES, a little bit FRANKENSTEIN, ALIEN and TERMINATOR and a whole lot of awesome!

H.A.: How is ELEPHANTMEN doing ?
R.S. : ELEPHANTMEN has been the Little Big Engine that Could at Image Comics for a long time, we launched at 12,500 and sold through an initial print run of 16,000, those numbers are much rarer now, we went back to press on another 3,000, and some titles LAUNCH around 3,000 now, but our first trade has sold through not only it’s first print run of 5,000 but its second run of 5,000 in just under a year. And our second trade went back to press with a 3rd and 4th volume also in print and doing well.

Haïfa A.: In which countries can we find your books and in how many languages?
R.S. : Just in English right now,and very soon in Italian from Panini. There is a lot of interest overseas now that we’ve produced so many volumes.

Haïfa A.: What are your thoughts on the new generation of comic book creators.
R.S. : It’s SO exciting! We have a whole new generation of artists coming up now who aren’t locked into the Marvel/DC mindset and don’t care about superhereoes.

I did two shows in England last month and the stuff that really excites and interests me is the work of young female artists like Emma Vieceli (DRAGON HEIR), Kate Brown (FISH AND CHOCOLATE) and Lisa Wood (THOUGHT BUBBLE). They are the artists raised on Vertigo books, manga and Image books like WALKING DEAD, GIRLS, THE SWORD, PHONOGRAM and RED MASS FOR MARS, It’s easy to walk into a comic book shop now and spend your money on books that aren’t what we consider “mainstream.” Thirty years ago it was not so easy, now you can by LOCAS I and II and LUBA in beautiful hardcovers, and we’re treated to incredible works like PERSEPOLIS, TAMARA DREWE, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD and HABIBI too! It’s an embarrassment of riches!

Haïfa Adam: You can follow Richard on his website, even read the first ever ELEPHANTMEN that came out back in July 2006. A follow up is coming soon with a trivia in February, but you can always ask for it for Christmas, stay tuned and until then, check this out, it got me curious and hooked
1. https://www.hipflask.com/index.html
2. https://www.facebook.com/elephantmen
3. https://www.facebook.com/comicraft?ref=ts
4. https://www.facebook.com/comicraft?ref=ts.

fm-glamvolume_1A_1B_paninicomicsElephantmen | Tales from Mystery City and the world of Hip Flask

List of the images in this interview:
Cover del n.ro 30 di ELEPHANTMEN (Image Comics).
Cover del n.ro 34 di ELEPHANTMEN (Image Comics).
Cover dei volumi italiani n. 1A e 1B di Elephantmen (collana 100% Panini Comics)

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