David Roberston: An Interview with John Ridgway (Part One of Two)

Posted by on February 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 AM

ROBERTSON: What was your first credited work then? Was it something for Warrior?


ROBERTSON: So we have Dez Skinn to thank for knowing your name. How did you come to be involved with Warrior?

RIDGWAY: Absolutely pure chance.  I went into a newsagent’s shop in I never went into before, in Bolton, and saw the first issue of Warrior. I had a look through it and saw the Marvelman story — a character I knew from my youth when he replaced Capt. Marvel. Having read the mag, I wrote to Dez and sent him some samples of Commando.

ROBERTSON: Did you ask for any work that was going, or did you pitch ideas? The first story you had published in there was The Spiral Path written by Steve Parkhouse.

Click to view larger image. “The Spiral Path” in Warrior #9 (January 1983), written by Steve Parkhouse. Quality Communications Ltd.

RIDGWAY: I didn’t ask for anything specifically. Garry Leach recognized my work, so, at that time, they knew I had done a considerable amount of work. The first story I drew was Young Marvelman by Alan Moore. Spiral Path, I inked several pages only. I was going to take it over, but unfortunately I had to go Nigeria to commission three incinerators for the Central Bank of Nigeria. I later drew The Shroud, The Spire and the Stars and Home is the Sailor by Steve Parkhouse, The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore as well as various other pieces by other writers.

ROBERTSON: Your Young Marvelman story was an interesting diversion from the main Marvelman sequence at the time. Your art had a more “olde-world” feeling than Garry Leach and Alan Davis.’ Were you pleased to be working on a character you remembered from childhood? And how was working with Moore — a rapidly rising comics star at that time?

Click to view larger image. “Young Marvelman” in Warrior #12 (August 1983), written by Alan Moore. ©1983 Quality Communications Ltd.

RIDGWAY: I wasn’t over-keen on the original Young Marvelman. I much preferred Capt. Marvel Jr. when drawn by Mac Raboy – the artwork was far superior. I attempted (not very successfully) to get some of the feel of Raboy’s work into my drawing. I enjoyed drawing Alan’s story which was an attempt to tell a story without dialog or captions. I enjoyed drawing The Red King Syndrome which enabled me to get far more of a science-fiction feel into my work. Incidentally, it is often thought that Alan Moore writes long picture descriptions. In the case of two stories I drew of his, only the first picture of The Red King Syndrome was described in great detail — with a note at the end of the description to the effect “… or draw whatever you like.”

I found Alan’s writing to have great depth. I know he wanted to make his stories accessible to all ages and, from what I hear, he opposed DC Comics putting a label on their Vertigo comics to the effect of “Suggested for mature readers.” I believe he was right. Comics can be written so that they can be read by all all ages. I think that the only reason a comic is not read by a child is that the subject is too complex to be understood. If Alan’s approach had been followed, there would be none of the deplorable gratuitous violence and swearing that permeates today’s “mature” comics.

The British comics scene is totally dominated by the Americans, who think in terms of “product” and manufacture comics. I find European comics and graphic albums far more interesting and diverse, their approach being that they consider comics as an art form and their stories are carefully crafted, often without regard to monthly deadlines.

ROBERTSON: When you say the U.K. scene is dominated by Americans, which publications are you thinking of? The Panini magazines reprinting U.S. material? And what do you make of the new Clint comic?

RIDGWAY: Panini and Titan both concentrate on reprinting American comics. Specialist comic shops concentrate on American comics. Practically all IPC’s inventory is now owned by DC Comics through Warners (hundreds of characters that can’t be used or reprinted). There are a few people trying self-publication but they are few and far between — mainly amateurs trying to get into the business. There are exceptions — like Bryan Talbot and Tim Perkins (but they are producing graphic albums). The rest of the British comics are nursery or humor titles.

I haven’t seen Clint. I looked for it in WHSmiths but it either never went on the shelves or sold out before I got there. A local newsagent, who carries a wide range of magazines, had never heard of it. Some years ago I checked with WHSmith about Blue Moon, a children’s anthology comic published by Tim Quinn. They didn’t stock it despite the fact that the distributor said it was being properly distributed. Personally, I think the title, Clint, is deplorable and, if it is representative of the contents, I’m not interested. I have little regard for Jonathan Ross, who seems to have no regard for anyone at all.

ROBERTSON: How was working with Dez Skinn? His reputation kind of precedes him.

Click to view larger image. “Father Shandor” in Warrior #23 (October 1984), written by Steve Moore. ©Quality Communications Ltd.

RIDGWAY: Dez is an editor/publisher in a world where those two disciplines are usually entirely separate. As such, he acts as a kind of guru for those of us who do the arty-crafty stuff. He is very proud of his achievements and is passionate about comics.

Of course, he’s from the wrong side of the Pennines and I was once told the Yorkshiremen are tighter with money than a Scotsman with his pockets sown up. Despite that, I like him and I hope he likes me, although I suspect he thinks my wisdom is in need of tempering in the hard world of business.

Dez talks a good talk. You can always learn a lot from him — just don’t trust him with your wallet.

ROBERTSON: Going back to 1984, the next thing I recall making an impact was work for Marvel UK. Transformers had reprinted the American limited series and then started British material with your story Man of Iron. How did you find working on that material? It’s essentially licensed comics based on toys.

Click to view larger image. “Man of Iron” in Transformers #9 (March 1985), written by Steve Parkhouse. ©Marvel Comics Ltd.

RIDGWAY: I enjoyed working on the Transformer comic. Steve Parkhouse had been asked to write a story but was struggling to come up with ideas. I suggested a second lot of Transformers had come looking for the first lot and, like the first ones, had been buried. Whenever the ground was disturbed they sent out a recon robot — the Man of Iron of the story. Steve took it from there. I was sent a number of toys to work from rather than the character sheets used by Marvel in the States. My workload prevented me from drawing more than two episodes of the story and Mike Collins took it from there. I drew an episode by Simon Furman — much further down the line — but that was very Americanized and wasn’t much fun compared with Steve’s story. It did give me the chance to do some color covers.

ROBERTSON: You also did a bit for 2000 AD around this time — a Tharg’s Future Shock. How did that come about?

RIDGWAY: With the Doctor Who work for Marvel, plus Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Guttenburghus in Denmark, – and the knowledge that the engineering work was falling off — I had gone full-time as a freelance artist. Unfortunately, the Famous Five comic was discontinued. Fortunately, I had picked up Transformers and CYRIL, the Editor Droid from Marvel UK. Carl Potts, a senior editor at marvel in the States had started me working for America and I was now doing work for Eclipse Comics.

Click to view larger image. “‘CYRIL” in Return of the Jedi #91 (March 16, 1985), written by Alan McKenzie. ©Marvel Comics Ltd.

It seemed a logical progression that I work for 2000 AD and asked for work. They gave me a Future Shock but I felt they had an air of superiority about them — a sort of “you may have worked for some other publishers, but we are the best and you will have to prove yourself.” I didn’t bother going back for more and didn’t work for them again until I had drawn Hellblazer and become more established. At that time they approached me. It was only when British artists started working for Marvel and DC Comics that page rates started to improve in this country.

ROBERTSON: I had forgotten you’d done CYRIL for the Star Wars comic! What did you do for Eclipse?

RIDGWAY: I drew a couple of short stories – maybe more – I can’t remember the titles. One was about a man planning to dump his wife in the desert. Instead she dumped him. I remember that because I drew the interior of the American car as the reflection of the interior of a British car (to put the steering column on the other side). Unfortunately that put the ignition switch on the wrong side of the column — the columns are identical British to American. The other story was about a virtual image of Buster Crabbe. I also inked an issue of Miracleman, drawn by Rick Veitch.

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5 Responses to “David Roberston: An Interview with John Ridgway (Part One of Two)”

  1. vollsticks says:

    Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane! I, too grew up with Mr. Ridgeway’s art on all those old Marvel UK titles and 2000ad and had to “grow into” his work…I think he’s one of the most under-rated comics artists England has ever produced. Thanks for a great interview!


  2. steve block says:

    Not a bad interview, and it’s nice to see an artist as assured of his opinions as Ridgway is, he comes across a bit like Geoffry Boycott, although being from Lancashire he may not forgive me that comment. Incidentally, it’s Patrick Troughton, not Traughton.

  3. steve block says:

    Geoffrey Boycott…!

  4. […] John Ridgeway, interviewed in the Comics Journal and curently working on a Torchwood comic, is frank, open and honest about the current comics […]

  5. Excellent interview, it’s great to see such an opinionated artist speaking his mind!