Interview: David Lloyd Pt 1 [of 2]

Categories:  Interviews

When I approach the Dark Horse booth near the entrance of the New York Comic Con showroom floor, David Lloyd appears deeply engaged with someone standing on the other side of the signing counter. His eyes flit from the fellow occasionally, only to put the finishing touches on a large sketch that dominates the inside cover of the book—his latest, a crime drama called Kickback, which sits next to him in a small pile on the counter.

Lloyd shakes the fan’s hand, warmly wishes him luck, and then moves on to the next person, who asks sheepishly for a sketch of V on the inside cover of V for Vendetta, the work that helped the artist, who paid his dues on horror books and movie adaptations, become a legendary name amongst comics readers.

Lloyd complies with a an exuberance that betrays none of the general air of exhaustion that hangs in the air the morning of the third and final day of the Con. He’s only too happy to answer questions about his new book or the Wachowski adaptation of his most famous work. It’s a stark contrast to the inferred antisocial nature of his occupation—one only compounded by the outward appearance of many of his peers, including (perhaps somewhat undeservedly) his Vendetta cohort, Alan Moore.

It’s because of this that it’s easy to forgive his holding up our interview start time for a good half hour, due to a determination to personalize the books of all who lined up to meet him. When we finally sit down at an elevated table toward the rear of the booth he reveals with a sigh a bit of the exhaustion he seems to have been holding back for the last hour and a half.

It’s the last day of the Con. How are you holding up?

I shouldn’t have agreed to an 11:00 signing. Far too early for me.

Were you out late last night?

Yeah, I guess that’s the trouble. I was with a crowd of folks and I fully intended to get back earlier.

How long have you been doing conventions for? You’ve got to be fairly used to the run of things by now.

Yeah. I’ve been doing them for years and years now. When I started, there were no conventions at all. And then they grew out of comic dealer marts. I started doing them in England and then over here. San Diego is the one I do most of the time.

It’s Sunday now, and we’re all exhausted, so perhaps it’s not the ideal time to reflect, but do you generally enjoy going the experience?

Yeah, I love it. Absolutely. There’s nothing better than meeting the people who read your books. All artists need reassurance. It doesn’t matter how good you know you are, or think you are. You really need to get reassurance.

For the most part, book publishing seems to be an industry very much removed from its audience. You’re sitting in your studio cranking out work, and someone at a comic shop or Barnes & Noble is selling your book for you. But watching you interact with each fan, you’re selling one book at a time. Taking the time to interact with every single person.

Yeah, that’s right, and I like that a lot. I never lose touch with that individual experience with everybody. That aspect is important. And I don’t just sign books—I have in the past, if it’s been a real long line, and I can’t do anything else, but I prefer to do a sketch—to give it a personal touch. It’s something that’s personally theirs, over and above the print of the book.

The new book has been out for a little while, right?

It’s been out for a while, but Kickback is just really reaching the people now. I think one of the problems in the business is that so many books come out. How do they all get seen? Conventions are the ideal way to do that. Word of mouth is good, too. I always say to people, “if you like this, tell all of your friends about it.” I would like it to be in more stores, too. I was speaking to retailers here, and some of them said that it was on special order. They don’t actually have it at their store. If people hear about it, they can order it, but the store should actually have books like that. Especially books that have a reason to be there

More stores have [V for] Vendetta, so all they have to do is get copies of Kickback, put it next to Vendetta, and it will walk out the store. That’s exactly what happens. Retailers have told me that when they do that, it goes. It’s a very simple thing, but this stuff about it being on special order—where are they going to hear about it?

It’s interesting. Even the retail existence of this book seems to be something of a one-to-one interaction. Someone tells a friend, or somehow you get the book physically in front of people. It’s a fairly personal process, as opposed to this idea of mass market paperback that dominates so much of the industry.

Yeah, well, I think it would be nice to see that back again. When I was telling people about Kickback, I actually ended up phoning lots of stores—more than 100. A lot of them were very surprised and happy that I had phoned them up and talked to them. “you’re the David Lloyd?” and they would tell me about their store and I got a really interesting view of their problems. Store managers have a tight budget, so they have to order something they’re very sure about, with all of the product that they’ve got, and I understood their problems. And I talked to some managers who had had very specific clientele, and they didn’t do anything but Marvel and DC. There are a lot of stores like that around. And then there are a lot of stores that like the whole mix of things—very eccentric stuff. It’s very interesting finding out about stuff like that. I like that one-to-one contact with store managers, as well. I do signings abroad in Europe, and connect with them.

I’m sure some of the surprise stems from the fact that it’s a very solitary field. Creators aren’t always the most social, personal people around.

I know, I know, and some people just don’t want to do things like this convention, but I enjoy it.

There’s a little bit of an ego boost involved, as well.

Yeah, it’s that reassurance. It gets me out of the house, and frankly, I like traveling. You get to meet new people and go to new places, and you can make something of a vacation out of it. Why not? You get invited to some nice places. Extend it by a week, and you’ve got a nice vacation.

But the big problem with being an artist in this business is that it’s so very time intensive, and people don’t have the time to do these things. They’ve got tight deadlines, and it takes ages and ages to draw a page, sometimes. You need a very strong constitutution to be in this business, so I think it’s time as much as personality. I envy America artists, because they can get on a plane and quickly be anywhere in the States, and there are lots of conventions in the States. We only have one major one in England. That’s Bristol—though there are a few more coming up. But I really envy that, because I couldn’t do more than maybe one or two American conventions a year, because it’s a 12 or 16 hour plane ride, and it can be expensive too, so you can’t always do it.

Do you get a lot of creative fodder from traveling and interacting with people?

Well, I did a book on Sao Paulo—illustrations and commentary. Kind of a travel book. And when I was there, I saw a building that gave me an idea for a story, which I’ll not go into, right now. But of course you see things like that, but stories are everywhere—it doesn’t matter where you live. But I do enjoy people watching. I like nothing better than sitting in the sun with a drink and just watching people, because people are fascinating.

I’ll give you an example: I was sitting in a bar, and I saw a bar man and a bar girl, and there was ice on one side, and lemon on the other. The guy was going for the lemon tray and picking them up for the drinks, and the girl was picking up the ice for the drinks. She was turning in one direction, and he was turning in the other, and I thought, “oh yeah, lemon and ice.” That would be a great idea for a story, those two getting together. He was bitter and she was cold [laughs].

[Continued in Part Two.]

–Brian Heater

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