Best known as the illustrator of V For Vendetta, David Lloyd is a giant of the British Comics Industry, having also worked on Hellblazer, War Story, Global Frequency and many others. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about V For Vendetta, the comics industry today and his latest project Aces Weekly.
MW: Hi, David, you’re here actively promoting Aces Weekly with badges that say “Join The Club”, could you just give us a rundown of what that is please?
DL: Well Aces Weekly is a completely online comic art magazine, we’re not chopping down trees for this. We don’t do print, we just use 21st Century technology for this to utilise cyberspace printing. We have it now so why not use it? It saves costs, it saves the reader money and it gets the creator the money they deserve. Because when you don’t have to spend on these extraneous costs that you don’t need anymore there’s more for the actual creative process so it just becomes the reader and the creator that are the most important people and they always were the most important elements of comic creation. That’s what we’re doing, we’re cutting out all the stuff you don’t need, bringing it direct to the reader using cyberspace, it’s inexpensive, it’s beautiful and we’re doing it, that’s basically what Aces Weekly is and we want as many people as possible to join that club that you mentioned. What you’re talking about is the legend on the badge that we have that says Join The Club and I actually look on the readership as an exclusive club, an elite readership, people that actually appreciate something that is new, that is different. To describe what it is, it’s an anthology, I think the closest thing to it in print is 2000AD but we’re not just science fiction we cover loads of different stuff, there’s something for everybody, there’s thrillers, there’s humour, actually I wanted to be as wide ranging as possible because it’s subscription based so it’s for everybody, it’s family friendly I want to make that clear but there’s a whole bunch of different stories in it. If you get it weekly you subscribe to it, you pay one pound a week you get over 20 pages over seven weeks that makes a volume, we then take a break for two weeks and it starts again. Currently we are up to out twenty first volume so it’s been going for quite a while. Every volume is a mix of serials and short stories, in a volume a serial will end but sometimes they continue on into other volumes but it’s a great mix of different stories and I’m very proud of the people we have working on it. It’s a mix of new comers and we also have some veterans, we have Herb Trimpe, we have John McCrea, we have Batton Lash, we have a whole bunch of other people. I’m very proud of it and that is what we do.
MW: Well I paid £3.50 for the latest Batman this month but for that with Aces Weekly you get a months worth of read and a trade paperback is £10 and that is a volume of work.
DL: That’s right and all our volumes are graphic novel size in terms of number of pages and two hundred pages cost seven quid so it’s very cheap but the reason you pay that money for Batman is that you have all those costs that we don’t need now. Even at that price it’s still not paying for Batman because as you know, half the content is advertising so you don’t even get a good story telling experience because every three pages there’s an advertisement. So a lot of those great storytelling concepts in comics like the flipover don’t work anymore because they can’t flipover. I remember working for comics when all that advertising started coming in and it was very difficult to get anybody to tell you what would be a good flipover because without getting too technical, you could rely that you could flip the facing page over then you’d get a payoff but you couldn’t rely on being able to do that because they didn’t know where the advertisement was going to go. So advertising has not only screwed up the actual aesthetic experience of reading a comic, it’s screwed up the actual storytelling elements. Of course we don’t have that in Aces Weekly, we don’t have any advertising, we rely on subscription, my attitude is with subscription you are getting people paying for the product, that’s what they’re buying and if we ever used advertising we’d be in thrall to advertising in some way or another and we’re not going to do that. If people like what we’re doing then they pay for it and if they don’t want to pay for it then they don’t become subscribers and they don’t enjoy the benefits and they miss out on some fantastic stuff.
MW: You’ve mentioned some of the benefits of being an online only product, do you think that’s the way comics are going to move and that more and more are going to be published like this?
DL: I think so, not neccesarily because comic readers demand it because comic readers are very resistant to digital. It’s one of the reasons that despite the correct value of Aces Weekly it’s still a tough sell and that’s why it’s important for me to be at conventions where I’ve got a personal face to face opportunity where I can talk to people about it. But I think from shear economic point of view it’s going to be the future, if you look at it there are an extroadinary amount of costs involved in print publishing and that is totally not viable and if you look at the giant corporations that have taken over DC comics and Marvel, cost cutting is important to those corporations and why would you want to spend those thousands and thousands of dollars in an antiquated production system when you could cut that out and both Warner and Disney know all their customers have tablets and have access to digital versions. So from an economic point of view that may be the way it’s steered but I regret that comic readers won’t make the transition more now out of choice but the need for paper and the need for holding something and the need for collecting is still very important.
MW: Do you think there’s room for both?
DL: Oh there will always be room for both but the advantages of digital are many and I’m just taking advantage of them.
MW: You mentioned about you’re earlier work in comics so I’d just like to ask you about that, when you were working on the V For Vendetta series did you think at the time that, you really had something and it was going to connect with people? Because the effect has been massive and people stil talk about it frequently now.
DL: Well the one thing we were both sure of was that it was going to be successful because we were very good and I say that with no kind of shame what so ever. How successful it was going to be we didn’t know. But in terms of its long term survival we did want to tell a story that was important and both myself and Alan were politically aware and we wanted to say something that was in a rough way equivalent to nineteen eighty four, a kind of comic version of nineteen eighty four. So we thought the message and the importance of it would survive its success as a concept and I think we were sure of that but ultimately the effect it eventually had on people on a long term basis, of course we had no idea, you can’t really predict anything like that.
MW: Well it connected at the time but it’s possibly more relevant today than it ever has been, if you were trying to produce something in the vein of nineteen eight four that people still look back on like that in the years afterwards it’s totally on the mark.
DL: Well it’s actually worse now, in V For Vendetta we were talking about a tyrannical government based on Germany in the thirties because there you had a population coming out of massive unemployment and hyper-inflation and they looked to a saviour to pull them out of the mess and they ended up with Hitler and that’s basically the structure of V where they end up with Adam Susan because they need rescuing and they end up with a monster. But now these days it doesn’t matter who you vote for, it’s all corporations, the governments are irrelevant now. Globalisation of corporations means that whatever you do the corporations win and that is scarier than anything because it means the future is completely out of the hands of the people even if they go out in the streets, there’s nothing they can do. Politics now is all about big power structures, even in the Middle East, look at the Arab Spring, they work hard, people die in the streets trying to get rid of a dictator the guy moves out and who comes in? A bunch who are just the same. Then they try and get rid of him and another comes in and they’re all the same they’ve all got this little thing, some great idea, some great scheme of world domination and control of power. Nobody votes for them, there is nobody voting for them, the people aren’t voting for them or supporting them, it’s just these people who’ve got this obsession with this fanatical belief of some kind either insane lasses faire capitalism or insane fundamentalist religion of some kind and that’s the world we’re in. Which is scary as hell because it means you’re vote means nothing and you see what’s happening in America now right? What an extraordinary picture that is now, you’ve got people talking about socialism and actually getting support because everything is so scary, the ordinary people are so lost amidst all the power structures and getting nothing out of it.