Illustrator to Illustrator | Meet the Bloodfellas Artist | Mick Trimble
Introducing artist, Mick Trimble who illustrated the graphic novel Bloodfellas.
Bloodfellas is a graphic novel with a twisted soul. There is a new drug in town, a world of zombie mafia rings, voodoo rituals, with interwoven stories with so many twists and double crosses you need to hold on for the ride.
Bloodfellas - When there's no room left in hell, the dead will turn to crime.
Qu: Hi Mick, how did this project come about, were you a creative team who knew each other?
Hi Ali. No, we weren’t a pre-existing creative team. I’d worked with Dave Evans (Bolt-01, the letterer, before, I’d drawn a couple of stories for his FutureQuake anthology book. (I was shocked to hear last week of Dave’s sudden and tragic passing. He was a truly great guy, and the small press comics scene is missing him already. RIP, Dave.) I met Jasper (Bark, the writer) at the Bristol Comics Convention. I was there hawking my portfolio about, I’d already had a graphic novel out, Septic Isle, which people seemed to like, so I was showing that off, too. We were outside the Marriot hotel, I think, having a smoke, and just got chatting. Harry Markos was there, too, so I got my portfolio out and showed it to them both. Then Jasper mentioned an idea he had about zombie mobsters, I said something along the lines of ‘that sounds cool’ (it was all so long ago, now, can’t remember it exactly) and that’s how it all came about. Aljosa (Tomic, the colourist) came aboard quite late, our original colourist left the project, my friend Andy Winter (who wrote Septic Isle) had worked with Aljosa before, suggested him to us, so we contacted him and he joined the project. Jasper knew Rob Moran, had worked with him before, and got him to do the frankly astounding covers.
Qu: Its 100 pages of insane action, a massive undertaking. How long did it take you to complete the artwork?
Quite a while! I can’t tell you how long it took exactly. Well over a year, probably closer to two. My youngest daughter was still a baby then, as well, and I was the stay at home dad, so I basically had to do it at night or during her naps (which weren’t very often!) There was a hiatus for a few months as well, while Jasper finished off another project (I didn’t get the script all in one go, I got each ‘chapter’ as soon as it was finished.
Qu: Where do you start as an artist with such a complex story to tell? Were there any points where you felt overwhelmed?
No, not really. I started by reading the script (which, as you know, was pretty complex!) and making notes in the margin. Jasper would send me references, so I’d check them out and do the necessary reading and research. Making sure that all the clothes, cars and everything were accurate to the prohibition-era American setting (I even researched the bloody lampposts- not sure that was entirely necessary…) All that was fun, I love doing that stuff. I had a folder full of print-outs and cut outs and old adverts and stuff. Also, like I said, I was getting the script bit by bit, I probably would have been overwhelmed if it all dropped on me at once. I didn’t know at the start that a bloke in the background in the first chapter would be a major character in the last part, or a choirboy would show up again as an adult, it was amazing and just pure luck that I didn’t have to re-draw anything, I’d managed to make the character look consistent by mistake!
Zombie Mafia Character Sketches by Mick Trimble
Qu: Can you talk through the process of working as a team on a graphic novel? Is it about getting everyone in a room and calmly agreeing deadlines for handovers and getting it on with? Or are you in constant discussions with each other throughout?
Well, because of the hiatus, the original deadline went out of the window. We never sat down in a room together discussing anything. It was all done by email. It was a bit hectic at the end (we needed it to be ready for that year’s London Film and Comic Con, which wasn’t that far away) so the last few pages were done in a frantic blur.
But generally, I’d get the script, pencil it, maybe email Jasper to ask him a few questions if I needed to, amend the pencils if I had to, ink it, then send my pages on for approval, then they’d go to the colourist.
We’d ironed out most of the kinks in terms of tone, art style and character designs and all of that before we started, really, so I don’t remember getting any emails telling me it was all wrong and i had to do it again. It’s a horror book, with plenty of violence and gore, so anything went, really. It generally went swimmingly (or maybe my brain has edited out all the trauma and I’m suffering some kind of selective amnesia, but I don’t think so.)
QU: Was there a celebration when you signed Bloodfellas?
I remember being a bit bereft when it was finished, as it had taken a fairly big chunk of my time for nearly two years. But then you get excited about seeing it come out, all coloured and lettered and everything. I remember being thrilled at seeing my name on the cover (it’s on the spine, as well). Incredibly narcissistic, I know.
Because we all lived in different parts of the UK, (and Aljosa lives in Serbia) we didn’t get together and have a celebratory drink. Jasper and I met up at the launch at the London Film and Comic Con) we had a great couple of days signing books, I think we were the biggest selling Markosia book that weekend. Jasper turned up in his Voodoo costume (not me, sadly. I think I look scary enough!) and we had a blast. He’s a born performer and great at getting people over to the stall, which is what you need, really. I don’t understand those guys that just sit there at these cons just hoping that someone will come over and buy their stuff. We did it again at the Birmingham con, which was great fun again, and not just because it’s my hometown and I didn’t have to faff around with hotels. And most people seemed to enjoy the book, which is gratifying, to say the least.
Slackjaw Character Sketch by Mick Trimble
Qu: I have a favourite panel, without giving any of the story away, it is the characters Samantha and Slackjaw in a scene very much together. Totally shocking, brilliantly drawn. Do you have any panels which stand out for you as your favourites to draw?
I think I had the most fun with the shoot out in the first chapter. There were heads exploding and stained-glass windows and gothic architecture. I loved all that. The sequence you’ve mentioned was fun, too. I remember reading that in the script and thinking ‘Jasper, you’re a sick man’, but then realising I must be too because I love drawing that stuff! And I love drawing Slackjaw. I mean, he’s a gun-toting sharp-suited zombie mobster! what’s not to love?
QU: What are the tools of your trade? Do you work digitally? And what advice would you give any illustrators just embarking on their first graphic novel?
I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to digital. Actually, not strictly true, something happens to technology whenever I use it. I’m like a human EMP or something. Computers generally stop working whenever I’m near them. I still use a pencil and paper. A scratchy loose layout at first, tighten the pencils up, then ink. I use a brush for the most part with the ink, but then the fineliner pens come out for the tiny details.
Anyone starting out on their first graphic novel just need to follow the basics, really- always have the first speaker in any panel on the left, make sure the characters look the same from panel to panel, continuity- for example, don’t have round windows in your interior if you’ve shown it having square windows on the exterior. Also, don’t fuss too much about every tiny detail-a lot of background stuff gets muddied or lost when reproduced smaller or when it’s coloured in. And also, one of my biggest faults, leave a drawing that you’re proud of alone. If I’ve enjoyed drawing something, I have to fight the urge to keep adding to it, because in the past I’ve done that and ruined my drawing.
Qu: Was the writer, Jasper Bark, very clear about how he wanted the characters to look or was it a case of playing around with ideas?
There were some discussions, we definitely wanted it to look like a cross between an EC horror comic and Jordi Bernet’s Torpedo. Those were our two main influences. Obviously, Jasper would describe a character,but he wasn’t a tyrant about it. I’d draw my interpretation of that description and send it back to him. My initial Slackjaw, because he’s arguably a romantic lead in this (and I did say ‘arguably’!) was a lot better looking, only a bit zombie-fied, but Jasper wanted me to ‘ugly him up’ (I still think he’s fairly good-looking, still. Let’s say ‘unconventionally attractive’.)
As you can see from my sketches, the Angels were initially going to be anachronistic and wear zoot-suits, but that was jettisoned and we went for the traditional robes. Ezekiel was going to carry a flaming sword at one point, too, but all this stuff was sorted through trial and error.
Angel Mobsters Character Sketches by Mick Trimble
QU: You know who each character is from any angle. Do you work with character sheets or 3D models?
3D models would involve computers, so I’d refer you to my earlier comments! Character sheets. At first, anyway. After a while you get to ‘know’ these characters and some kind of muscle memory kicks in so you use the character sheets less often.
Qu: Your style of artwork is so consistent and visually tells the story brilliantly. Is this your signature style of drawing or was it a break from the norm for you?
It was a break from the norm, as I said, we’d decided on an EC meets Torpedo style, so I tried to meet that brief. Also, it was the first time I’d done a book that was going to be coloured, I’d exclusively worked in black and white before, so a lot of my usual shading and stuff had to be done differently. My style now is probably very similar to how it is in Bloodfellas, but it wasn’t before.
Qu: Mick, what are you currently working on? Do you every think about writing?
I’ve kind of stepped away from comics and graphic novels at the moment. That’s not to say I won’t ever do one again. I do a few commissions and I’ve done hundreds of sketchcards for companies like Dynamite and Upper Deck, which has been fun, and I’ve got to draw characters like Red Sonja, Vampirella, a lot of the Marvel characters and even the band KISS, so it’s varied and fun. Since the first lockdown started I’ve been trying to do a drawing a day and post them on my instagram (instagram/mick.trimble) and that’s led to a fair bit of interest in my art.
I have written a couple of short strips in the past. It is something I enjoy, and who knows? Maybe my next graphic novel will be one written by me as well. Watch this space!
We want to say a massive thanks to Mick for sitting down with us virtually for this interview. You can follow Mick on instagram @mick.trimble
Bloodfellas Graphic Novel – Writer Jasper Bark, Art by Mick Trimble, Colourist Aljosa Tomic, Letters Bolt 01 and Covers by Rob Moran. Published by Markosia.
Bloodfellas is now available at Spacecraft Westbury in its glorious physical graphic novel form!