Over the years, ThunderCats comics have attracted some of the industry’s most experienced and well-known writers and artists to help craft the feline warriors’ comic book adventures. However, at Marvel UK in the 1980s, ThunderCats was able to provide artist Andrew Wildman with his first major comics assignment, from which he went on to work on every major title in Marvel UK’s homegrown stable, with his artwork on titles such as Transformers still revered by fans all over the world.
Since working on ThunderCats for Marvel UK, Andrew has gone on to enjoy an even more sparkling career in the comics field, taking his trade to Marvel US where he has worked on several of Marvel’s flagship titles and characters. At the end of 2006, between work on various projects, Andrew was kind enough to talk to me about his work on ThunderCats, his time at Marvel UK, and his career in general. I’m extremely grateful to Andrew for taking the time out to take part in this interview, and would encourage anyone and everyone to check out his website at www.andrewwildman.net!
First of all, Andrew, many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I’d like to start right at the beginning if I may – when did you start drawing and who were your earliest influences? Were you always interested in comics from a young age?
As far as I can remember I have always drawn. I used to trace pictures out of Disney picture books when I was very young and I think it was that that gave me an understanding of line. Earliest influences were from the old British comics. An artist by the name of Barrie Mitchell in particular. Other than that my biggest influence has always been John Buscema.
Did you always want to work as a professional artist? Was your first professional assignment in the field of comics, and if so was this working for Marvel UK?
I always wanted to draw comics but I trained as a graphic designer and did that for a while. My first comics project was a book based on the TV show BRAVESTARR and was for Egmont Publishing. Marvel UK stuff came after that.
How did you come to be working for Marvel UK, were they the first comics company to publish your work? Do you remember the first work of yours that they published?
I went to see Marvel UK because an old college friend of mine was working there. They asked me to do a try-out for Thundercats. I did and got work on the book.
How did you come to work on ThunderCats, and do you remember the first assignment you were given for that comic? Do you recall which issues you worked on?
Can’t remember what the first assignment was. It’s all so long ago 😉
When you started working on ThunderCats, how familiar were you with the characters and the concept? Did Marvel UK supply you with any reference material for illustrating the characters, vehicles, places, etc.?
I wasn’t really that familiar. I did watch a couple of episodes of the show but mostly they supplied reference. A mixture of style guide stuff and previous issues of the comic.
When drawing for ThunderCats (and, indeed, any other Marvel title that you were working on at the time), did you ink your own work or was it inked for you by another artist?
I don’t think I inked any of my Thundercats stuff. If I remember correctly it was mostly inked by Martin Griffiths. A great inker who is now a great storyboard artist. As most Transformers fans will know pretty much all of stuff for that book was inked by Steven Baskerville although I did do some of that myself.
Was there a particular ThunderCats character that you especially enjoyed drawing?
They were all great. The thing about Thundercats was that we all wanted to do it because unlike Transformers or Ghost Busters or any of the other stuff Thundercats was the closest to drawing Super Heroes that Marvel UK was doing at the time.
When working on a comic title like ThunderCats, how much creative freedom were you allowed – were the writers very specific about what images they wanted to see, or were you given a script and allowed to tell the story visually in the way that you felt best? And, was this consistent from writer to writer or would it vary dependant on whose script you were working from?
Pretty consistent in that it was full script i.e. All the panels were described comprehensively so there was not all that much scope for artistic freedom.
As an artist, did you ever get any input into the comics stories that you were drawing? I.e., when receiving a script, were you allowed or able to make suggestions as to ways in which that script could be improved from the perspective of telling a story visually?
Very little. As I said the script was very comprehensive although I am sure that if as artists we felt strongly enough about something the writer and editor would have taken it on board.
It’s fair to say that the person you’re best-known for collaborating with is writer Simon Furman, who I believe you first worked with during your time at Marvel UK – did you and Simon ever work on any ThunderCats comic stories together?
No. Simon was editor on TRANSFORMERS when he saw my THUNDERCATS work and asked me to work on his book. It was circumstances that had us work together to the degree we did.
Why do you think you & Simon worked so well together, was there something about his writing that brought out strengths in your artwork, or did the two of you just develop a kinship through working together at the time?
I have always valued Simon’s help and guidance in those early days and for giving me the opportunity to work on the US book when he was writer. As an editor he was always there ready and willing to give me the criticism that was necessary to keep my work developing. We did develop a good working relationship and that has been proven by the long years of collaboration.
As well as working on ThunderCats, what other titles did you work on for Marvel UK?
Ghostbusters, Galaxy Rangers, Transformers, Visionaries. That’s about it really.
Do you have any special memories of working on ThunderCats, any artwork you drew for that series of which you’re particularly proud, or any special memories of your time working for Marvel UK in general?
I only really remember one particular Thundercats illustration that felt like my work had really moved on. It was a title page and was a picture of LionO running towards the reader. Other than that I have fond memories of working on Ghost Busters. Lots of fun that one 🙂
I believe that at some point you went from working for Marvel UK to Marvel US – can you tell us how you came to be working for them, and how long you worked for them? What was the first work of yours that they published?
I started working for Marvel US because they needed a new Transformers artists. When Simon Furman started writing the US book Geoff Senior got the chance to illustrate it. He was taking a break to do the DEATHES HEAD graphic novel and needed a fill in artist for four issues. That was me. When I had completed the four he decided that he did not want to come back to take over so I stayed until the end of the Marvel run of Transformers.
Did your assignment to Marvel US entail having to move overseas, and if so, was it an easy decision to make to move over there? Do you still live there today?
No move required. All the work was done by Fax (no email in those days) and FedEx. I still live in England 🙂
Can you give us an overview of the titles you worked on for Marvel US?
Transformers, GI Joe, X-Men Adventures, Spider-Man, Black Cat, Venom, Spider-Man 2099, Force Works. That was about it. Some bits and pieces for Punisher, Hulk, Fantastic Four. Never got to do The Avengers. Would have loved that.
What have you worked on since your time with Marvel? Do you still work in the field of comic books, and if so is this the only area of illustration that you work in or have you branched out into other areas?
Transformers all over the place. DVD covers, Dreamwave comics etc. Done a lot of Action Man and Power Rangers. Designed all the characters for LEGEND of THE DRAGON, an animated TV series. That was fun and led to more work in animation. Worked for a Computer games company designing characters, vehicles, equipment, environments. Lost of fun 🙂
Do you still work with Simon Furman?
Occasionally but nowhere near as much as before. We still hold hope that one day we will publish a version of the ground breaking online comic THE ENGINE. It is still online at www.whorunstheengine.net.
What projects are you involved in currently, anything to look out for from you soon? And, do you have a website where comics fans can keep up-to-date with what you may be working on?
Loads of stuff. GI Joe at the moment plus a few other things that I can not mention at the moment. Best place to have a look is at my blog on wildwords.wordpress.com.
I believe that you’re involved with a charitable project known as Draw the World Together – please could you tell us some more about this?
Take a look at www.drawtheworldtogether.com. We have done some great work and it all revolves around comic and game artists. I love this project and it is set to go from strength to strength due to the amazing help of fellow artists and the backing of the games company NCsoft.
A final couple of questions – did you get chance to see any of the ThunderCats comics that were published by DC/Wildstorm a few years ago in the US, and if so what did you think of them? And, if given the opportunity, would you be interested in working on any future ThunderCats projects, either comic-based or otherwise?
I have only seen snippets but it all looked cool. THUNDERCATS is definitely one of those properties that has a look that really works for today. I would love to work on it. Ya never know. May heppen 🙂
Many thanks again, Andrew, for taking the time to speak to us at TCL!
You are welcome. Speak again soon.
Our sincere thanks once again to Andrew for taking the time to provide such a lengthy interview. As I say, don’t forget to visit the many websites that Andrew is assosciated with, not least of all own site, www.andrewwildman.net, for more information and for samples from his amazing portfolio of artwork!
— Chris (He-Fan)
Interview with Andrew WildmanMark
Interview with Andrew Wildman