Getting The 411: Henry Flint

Henry Flint is one of the most celebrated British artists of his generation with his work on Nemesis, ABC Warriors, Shakara, Judge Dredd and the recent Lowlife being amongst some of the most popular and lionised in 2000AD’s recent history. He recently agreed to take out of his busy schedule to talk to us.

411: Thanks for agreeing to an interview with us Henry. If you had to use only one phrase to describe you and your work what would it be?

Henry: Difficult first question… I’d like to say a sense of fun, that’s the closest phrase, I think.

411: I like many other people absolutely love your artwork yet find it slightly difficult to explain what is it about it that makes it so good. How would you explain your artistic style?

Henry: Thanks! I enjoy my work, so hopefully that comes across. The style is a little more difficult to explain. A little Naîve perhaps. When I first started drawing for comics I made a deliberate effort to change my style. Recently though, I seem to be moving back to something more ‘me’.

411: Which artists have influenced you?

Henry: Tove Jansson, Heath Robinson, Bruegel, Alfred Bestall, David McKee, Escher, Dr.Seuss, Salvador Dali, Jack Davis (he did some great ‘Wanted’ stickers in the 70’s). Also 70’s graphic design on sweet wrappers, cereal packets, toy boxes, etc. I could go on and on.

411: Your work has over the past few years became “messier” abandoning a smooth almost metallic feel you brought to stories such as Shakara and ABC Warriors: The Third Element. How different an approach does it take to achieve the two differing styles and has the change been led by the content of the stories you’ve been given or as a development of your style?

Henry: It’s all to do with the story. Shakara is totally alien, so I went for a detailed style to capture all the weirdness. With the ABC Warriors they’ve always looked better detailed. Low Life, on the other hand, needed to be ‘messier’ to convey the Mega-City squalor. As soon as I started drawing run down streets, it seemed natural to do the same with the characters. Dredd needs a completely different approach, I usually look at past masters for inspiration as I don’t think Dredd’s been bettered since the early days.

411: You’ve recently completed a long run with Rob Williams on Lowlife in 2000AD. This saw you co-create a new lead character in Wally Squad (undercover) Judge Aimee Nixon. How did you go about the process of creating her?

Henry: Ah, it’s back to squalor again. It was obvious that Nixon couldn’t be beautiful, as she wouldn’t last five minutes, but I didn’t want her to be too ugly either, otherwise the readers wouldn’t be interested. So I gave her a beat up bloke’s face on an Amazonian body. My first attempt looked more like a man with no lips, my wife saw the drawing and said that I’d better put massive lips on her, otherwise she’d look like a transvestite.

411: With Lowlife you were asked to depict a less cosmic and more claustrophobic environment than in series such as Shakara or ABC Warriors. Did this throw up any different challenges for you and how did you overcome them?

Henry: It was a challenge, very much so. I’m not best known for realism, but I was happy to try a change, it widens my scope and opens up the opportunities for drawing similar “real life” stories… I need the practice.

411: Rob Williams is a self-proclaimed fan of your work and has talked about trying to get you work on Batman. How did you find working with him on Lowlife?

Henry: Great! Rob’s a canny writer, a real plot man. I’m gutted we didn’t get to work on Batman together. Now that really would have been something.

411: Williams is not the only creator to be pushing your work to the Americans with Andy Diggle having tried to get you on Swamp Thing and Trevor Hairsine suggesting you to Marvel. Yet still you’ve done very little work for the American market. How do you explain this?

Henry: Blimey, I don’t know where you’ve got your information from but I’m impressed! Basically I’m trying, I’ve only recently made myself available and a lot of American editors haven’t heard of me yet. I was born to draw Swamp Thing, but I guess they couldn’t take a chance with an unknown. Hopefully something will come up but I consider myself lucky that I can pick and choose at the moment.

411: Prog 1400 sees you return to ABC Warriors with the second book of The Shadow Warriors. ABC Warriors are one of the classic 2000AD strips, what is it about them that appeals to you as an artist?

Henry: I love the ABC Warriors. It’s pure class. Those robots are so chunky and bulky, they’re a dream to draw, and the expression on their faces can be really over-the-top. Perfect for comics.

411: This is your fourth collaboration with the legendary Pat Mills. How do you find working with him?

Henry: I don’t know any writer like Pat Mills. For the Shadow Warriors he sent me a massive script, plus about thirty pages of notes on every aspect of the story right down to detail on the city’s plumbing system. It’s nuts, but it’s totally mindblowing nuts that I have a lot of admiration for. Read the story, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s a new idea on every panel, but it doesn’t detract from the main plot. I think this latest story could be something special.

411: Also latter this year you will be making your return to Dredd in the sequel to the recently completed Terror storyline. Have you received any scripts yet from John Wagner?

Henry: Yep, I’m currently on episode five. I won’t spoil the story but lets just say it’s ‘explosive!’ I’m waiting for the next part, I’m completely hooked.

411: Your version of Dredd is one of the more celebrated and popular ones. What do you think the secret is to drawing a good version of Dredd?

Henry: I think I’ve only just got the hang of Dredd. There was a time when I based my Dredd on Brendan McCarthy’s, flared helmets and all. I cringe a bit when I see the work, because it lacked consistency and to be honest it was a poor version of McCarthy’s, which I think is one of the best. In Dredd/Aliens I went towards a more Bolland/McMahon/Ezquerra influenced style (if there is such a thing). The character hasn’t been changed to any great degree since they settled on the design, and there’s no point changing him too much. Dredd is Dredd.

411: Last year saw the release of your first major Dredd series, the crossover with Aliens written by John Wagner and Andy Diggle in TPB. What’s your opinion on the series?

Henry: When I first got to hear about it, there was already a lot of excitement around the project. It was also my first chance to work with Andy in his new capacity as writer, so he was wired. I enjoyed every minute of it. Plus I got married and had a baby daughter so everything seemed to be happening at once, great times!

411: The Christmas edition of Judge Dredd Megazine saw you ink some Cam Kennedy pages. How did you find the challenge of inking another artist’s pencils?

Henry: This job had to be done quickly. I had sixteen pages to do in a week and four days. Cam Kennedy pencilled the first four pages and I inked all four in just over six hours. That’s testament to just how good those pencils were. The rest of the story was drawn on coffee-auto. I’m pleased with the end result, the speed seems to make the story flow really well.

411: You frequently collaborate with colourist Chris Blythe on Dredd and other colour work and the two you have really gelled as a partnership on such stories as VCs Book I and Judge Dredd versus Aliens: Incubus. What influence do you have over Blythe when he colours your work? How pleased are you with the results?

Henry: I have no influence over Chris’s colour, his best work comes when I just shut up and leave him to it. He’s ‘King Colour’ as far as I’m concerned, very pleased.

411: You’re an artist that more often than not works in black and white as opposed to colour. Which do you prefer and why?

Henry: I prefer working in black and white. Colouring slows me up and I lose the flow of the story. I still enjoy colouring the odd cover on the computer, but it takes me ages, and it’s just not cost effective. I used to colour all my work before Nemesis, doing it the old-fashioned way with brush and ink. I don’t think it added anything to the work. I can always remember thinking that it looked better left alone. Colour isn’t my strong point.

411: You’ve recently moved into writing with a series of one page complete stories. How did you find the process and could you see yourself follow the likes of John Byrne and Alan Davis and become a full-time writer/artist?

Henry: It would be a dream come true to write and draw. I’ve written a few bizarre pitches! I’m into adventure stories, I like the idea of travelling somewhere and the things that happen along the way. My fave book when I was younger was “Comit in Moominland” by Tove Jansson, Moomintroll has to cross a dried-up seabed on stilts, that’s the kind of direction I want to head in- if I were to write something half as good as that I’d be happy.

411: You’ve worked on some of 2000AD’s biggest series including Dredd, ABC Warriors, Nemesis and Rogue Trooper. What character(s) would you like to tackle in the future?

Henry: Fantastic Four; lots of different relationships going on, it’s like a soap opera plus you’ve got The Thing. If not the Fantastic Four some other group of super heroes, the way they bicker and fight between themselves is very entertaining.

411: Likewise you’ve worked with some of the most revered writers in comics including Pat Mills, John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Andy Diggle and Dan Abnett. What writers would you like to work with in the future?

Henry: Alan Moore. I want him to write me a story about mermaids.

411: What do you have planned for the future?

Henry: After this Dredd I’m starting work on Book 2 of Shakara with Robbie Morrison.

411: Before we finish is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

Henry: Thanks for your support and kind comments on the forums also everyone who voted me Comic Artist of the year!!!!!! Cheers, and see you at the next con.

411: Thank you for sharing your time with us Henry

You can read the adventures of the ABC Warriors in 2000AD available every Wednesday in all good British newsagents and worldwide through airmail subscription. Check Previews for Direct Listings.