The Alien Inside Liam Sharp

Lowdown - Interview

Share this lowdown

  • Button Delicious
  • Bttn Digg
  • Bttn Facebook
  • Bttn Ff
  • Bttn Myspace
  • Bttn Stumble
  • Bttn Twitter
  • Bttn Reddit

Liam Sharp's career dates back from his 17th birthday, when he became an apprentice to UK-master artist Don Lawrence. He started out in the UK, first working for 2000AD and moving on to Marvel UK later, where he had success on Death's Head II.

Sharp's international career really took off after he ventured to the USA to work on a variety of titles such as Spawn: The Dark Ages, Man-Thing, Venom, Vampirella, Red Sonja and in recent years Testament, Gears of War and The Possessed. During this time, Liam also established his own publishing house Mam Tor
and did design work for television and film.

Liam talks with BF about his comics career, his art and, of course, his new Aliens OGN via Dark Horse.

BROKEN FRONTIER: From your start in the UK at 2000AD and Death's Head II, you ventured out to the USA via Marvel and DC projects and made your big break via Spawn The Dark Ages where fans were either ravenous about your art or they just did not like it. How do you feel about that?

LIAM SHARP: LOL! It's true enough, I always have had a divided opinion! I guess a strong reaction is better than no reaction at all... It used to bother me a lot when I was younger. I'd always think I must be doing something wrong, but the truth is you simply cannot provide art that will appeal to everyone, no matter how hard you try, and the art that appealed to me was mostly that of the great stylists, from Druillet through Moebius to Topi, Scienkewicz, Liberatore and Frazetta - guys that pushed boundaries and reinvented mediums. I still try to put something fresh in my work. I don't always succeed, but I try!

BF: Nevertheless you did things your own way and more and more we saw what you were capable of, either with big lovely thematic series like The Possessed (by Geoff Johns), Testament (by Douglas Rushkoff), Gears of War (by Joshua Ortega), more incidental projects like Red Sonja or Vampirella or as a part of a bigger plan like with JLA (Riddle of the Beast) or Global Frequency for that matter. How do you look back on the US leg of your career, from breaking in to the established artist you are now?

LS: It took me years to appreciate the scope of what I've done. I've been in the business almost 25 years now, and there's a huge cross-section of styles, subject-matter, experimentation, failure and triumph. In many ways I've felt almost out on a limb, somewhere between the cult and the mainstream, but not quite either.

Now though, I'm really proud of the body of work behind me. I think it has to be clear to my detractors that even if they don't like my work there's never been a moment when you could say I wasn't trying, or that I was just kind of hacking out a series of stylistic flourishes I'd developed. For good or bad I was trying to do something fresh. Moebius, in many senses, was my template there. He'd change style page to page to suit a story. It could be clunky at times, but always interesting and often beautiful. That's something I still aspire to.

BF: How do you feel about having been a major part of critically acclaimed titles (Testament, The Possessed and Gears of War) and characters (Vampirella, Red Sonja)?

LS: Well the truth is you can't see it coming, you can't judge what may or may not prove successful. Sometimes the smaller books - such as Man-Thing - are the most rewarding to work on. I never go into anything thinking it'll walk off the shelves! My biggest seller, Death's Head II, which had half a million readers, came from absolutely nowhere. It just hit the Zeitgeist. Likewise, I think the success of Gears of War was something I didn't expect - though that may well have been just my own personal ignorance with regard to gaming! I like to think my art had a little bit to do with it... LOL!

BF: Vampirella Winter Rose (published in Vampirella Comics Magazine #10) is an example of a project you wrote and drew. What are the challenges of writing a character you didn’t create yourself, as opposed to drawing someone else’s creation?

LS: I love writing, full stop. I'd rather draw my own strip every time because the writing gives me so much pleasure. I've written a critically well-received novel and and I have three screenplays and a novella in the wings. Writing I do for the pure love of it. For whatever reason I've not been able to sell many comic pitches to DC or Marvel - though I did write the very successful Death's Head; Gold and Bloodseed with Paul Neary.

Drawing somebody else's creation is more of a collaborative process - the writer has to adapt to the fact it will not look the same as he/she sees it in their heads, and the artist has to try to do as they are directed. I must admit I'm a fan of more open, plot-based scripting than totally pinned down, panel to panel script. It makes the creative process more enjoyable, feeling part of the team that structures the pacing and narrative, etc.

BF: If you had to pick just one project to tell the world "this is Liam" which would that be?

LS: Oh man, you know what? - I can't! Different books say different things!
My Death Dealer art says 'I love Frazetta!'.
The Man-Thing work says 'I love old EC comics, Jeff Jones, Berni Wrightson and Bill Scienkewicz.'
The Gears of War work is, for me, the best 2000AD series I never drew.
Testament had proper intellectual chops, Lord Havok was a love-letter to my early 90s Death's Head II work, which was itself a love letter to Marvel, Jim Lee, Barry Windsor Smith and Terminator.
My Lap of the Gods comic, co-published by Mam Tor and Kimera, was a love letter to Moebius, Corben and Heavy Metal magazine. I don't think I've done it yet! LOL!

BF: In 2004 you started your own publishing house Mam Tor. You earned a lot of respect setting up the Mam Tor anthology and many were saddened that these high-quality projects eventually did not find the audience they deserved. What was this experience like for you?

LS: It was an incredible eye-opener. For a long time I heard artists saying 'we should self-publish!' But they never did. Everybody has an itch to scratch, artistically, and there were these great guys who were just not getting the exposure they deserved. It was a wonderful, exciting, exhausting thing to do, and without a doubt the thing I am most proud of. I met some lovely people, and the book helped launch at least four careers. I think seeing the process from the other side of the desk helps too - I'm less nervous of editors now, and I have a healthy understanding of what they do! It's opened the door for me to several new opportunities, and having done something like that gained me another level of respect from the industry, something I never previously enjoyed. I'm seen much more as somebody who works hard to make a difference I think - a can-do guy. It certainly raised my profile, which at the time was a bolster I really needed!

BF: For Dark Horse you started on an Aliens project. Can you tell us some more about this?

LS: Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven has been an absolute joy to work on. I've been a fan of the original movie since I was a kid, as well as Cameron's sequel, but the first movie was important in so many ways: Ridley Scott took almost all the concept team from Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed movie adaptation of Dune - itself ground-breaking in the use of pre-production material by non-Hollywood creatives - Moebius did concept and costume design work, legendary airbrush-wielding sci-fi cover artist Chris Foss designed the spaceships, Dan O'Bannon (who wrote Moebius' classic The Long Tomorrow, which itself influenced the later Bladerunner) came up with the concept and screenplay, and - of course - H.R.Giger created the Alien. Add the fantastic cast, the premise of a female hard-ass action lead, and Ridley Scott as director and you have a genuine, seminal moment in movie history that also crossed over into the genre art world.

My story is set at roughly the same time as the original, and the characters wear pretty much the same suits, as standard Weyland Yutami issue to grunts. It also has the everyman at it's core - this time in the guise of environmentalists protecting and studying life found around the vents under the icy surface of Europa - a concept long loitering in the annals of crypozooological speculation. It's an intimate, character-driven piece I think, and I've done what I can to make it entirely stand-alone. There are no cross-overs or tie-ins, other than it being an Aliens book naturally!

The only other comic work I made a conscious nod to was Walt Simonson's fantastic original adaptation of the movie. I also love the format, which is a lot like the hard-bound european editions I'm a great fan of. I've written, drawn, inked and colored this work too, which makes it a very personal piece. And of course I've tried a new approach artistically, so it's definitely not Gears of War in space with Aliens! The great thing about having control of the color is that I have been able to color code the whole book, so it goes from red - a state of alert - to green - go! And so on. The color reflects the ambience of each scene as much as anything else.

The cover I wanted to look like a classic movie poster of that era, which I think you can see in the design of it. The interior art is nothing like it, but it sets up the required mood I hope!

BF: What can you tell me about the premise of your Aliens project?

LS: It's essentially the classic premise of a bunch of ordinary people put into a situation of serious peril with major implications, and how they deal with that. I don't want to say much more because it's also quite a short story and I don't want to spoil it!

BF: And how díd you indeed end up doing Aliens for Dark Horse??!!

LS: Initially Chris Warner approached me to do an AVP series with John Arcudi, but as I was on Gears of War at the time that wasn't possible. Chris and I have been circling each other for a while now looking for the right project. When AVP proved unworkable he mentioned the intention at Dark Horse to do an Aliens hardback graphic novella - a much shorter story. I asked if there was a writer attached to it and he said no, so I asked if I could pitch something and we took it from there. It's been a really satisfying project, start to finish. Absolutely one of my most enjoyable gigs bar none. I really hope Chris and I find something else to work together on down the line.

BF: A lot of your current projects are at DC. Do you have more up your sleeve at that company?

LS: Absolutely nothing! I'm in the middle of some major changes just now - exciting and terrifying! It's a risk. I want to do more writing, and I'm keen that the comic work I do from now on is self-penned. I've got a lot of ideas up my sleeve, and a few possible projects that I certainly hope come to fruition, but for now - after Gears of War and Aliens - I'm unemployed! LOL!

In the meantime, you can order the ALIENS: FAST TRACK TO HEAVEN OGN, which goes on sale June 16. Check the solicit information here.

Related content

Related Headlines

Related Lowdowns

Related Reviews

Related Columns


  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Feb 24, 2010 at 4:57am

    Great interview and indeed Mam Tor was an amazing venture that did not reach the audience it deserved though I would tend to say that the UK maybe did better than the US, I don't know but there's a whole other interview in there, just about Mam Tor.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Feb 24, 2010 at 7:27am

    There indeed is...but I thought it be too much looking into the past. And Liam also wants to really look forward!

In order to post a comment you have to be logged in. Don't have a profile yet? Register now!

Latest headlines


Latest comments
Comics Discussion
Broken Frontier on Facebook