This the second interview that originally appeared in Dogbreath Issue 28, March 2014. You can read the first, An Interview with John Wagner.
Dogbreath is a Fanzine dedicated to Strontium Dog, created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra for Starlord in 1978. When Starlord merged with 2000AD the strip followed and has proven to be a continued success.
Strontium Dog follows the exploits of Johnny Alpha, a mutant from Milton Keynes in the 22nd Century.
I was asked to do these interviews by the editors of Dogbreath as they had read some of the interviews I had already published on the blog.
Below is the original version of the interview as sent to the Editors. I don’t think there were any major alterations when it saw print.
Strontium Dog is a very recognizable character. His distinctive face, his elaborate helmet, the stripey jumper. Once you’ve met himyou know him as soon as you spot him.
That distinctive look of course is courtesty of Carlos Ezquerra. Carlos started his comic career in his native Spain. He started working in British comics on Wizard published by DC Thomson and then Battle Picture Weekly published by IPC. In Battle he drew Rat Pack and then Major Eazy.
In 1977 Pat Mills and John Wagner brought Carlos to 2000AD and he co-created Judge Dredd fwith John Wagner. In 1978, again with John Wagner, he co-created Strontium Dog for Starlord. Both titles were published by IPC.
Carlos has a destinctive style and his storytelling is magnificent. His creations have lasted the test of time and though Dredd has evolved slightly the original concept still shines through.
In this interview we have concentrated to a degree on Strontium Dog. Many thanks to Carlos for taking time to be interviewed.
Steve: When you first created the look of Johnny Alpha did you get a detailed description from John or did you have full control?
Carlos: I’ve always had full control about the way the characters look, the description I receive from John, and the one I am really interested, is his personality, the way he is and his job. Once I know this I’ll try to show it in the way he looks and how he is dressed, hopefully matching with the idea John had when writing it.
Steve: Was there anything you tried and decided would not work?
Carlos: No, I don’t remember any.
Steve: What part of Johnny’s distinctive look are you most pleased about?
Carlos: I suppose his face with the sad look on it, the broken nose and the curly hair. He can be dressed in different ways but you have always been able to recognize him.
Steve: A friend of mine has pointed out that there are similarities between Johnny Alpha and Dredd, the pads, where they wear the badge, the gloves, the boots. My assumption is that this is because in the real world it reflects the pattern of a western law-man. Am I correct or is there another reason?
Carlos: Both are action men so they need protection. In the seventies that kind of protection wasn’t very usual, but now almost all the police forces have similar uniforms.
Steve: Similarly, Wulf Sternhammer, granted the description ‘Viking’ does give a good starting place but did John guide you in a particular direction?
Carlos: The look of Wulf came out of my love for the comic Prince Valiant by Hal Foster,
Steve: The Happy Stick in particular is quite distinctive, did you have any real weapon in mind when you designed this?
Carlos: No, John told me he had a hammer, so I tried to make a more deadly weapon.
Steve: Visually I think Stix is one of my favourite villains ever, perhaps because he is so straightforward. Is there a villain that you are most pleased with the design?
Carlos: I loved Stix, maybe because he was a very Spaghetti Western looking baddie.
Steve: Is there any other character in the history of Strontium Dog that you have particularly enjoyed drawing?
Carlos: Several of them, I enjoyed drawing The Gronk, Middenface McNulty, Durham Red…
Steve: When you create a new character,such as a Mutant or an alien that we have never seen before do you have a particular way of starting,do you start with the face,or the body for example?
Carlos: I doesn’t matter if it is an alien or a human, I always start doing the head.
Steve: Your style is instantly recognisable, but what artists have inspired you?
Carlos: My gods from the comic world were Hugo Pratt and Alberto Breccia. Followed by Victor de la Fuente, Moebius, Milton Canif, Arturo del Castillo, Salinas, Alex Raymond…. and many more, too many to mention here.
Steve: I know some artists base their characters on people they know. Have you done this in your comic work? If so can you tell us a few examples and perhaps who they are based on?
Carlos: No, as I said before, once I’ve got the description of their personality I can visualize them in my mind. The only one I took from a real person was James Coburn, I loved his look in The Magnificent Seven and I used it in Major Eazy and specially in The Stainless Steel Rat.
Steve: Is there any 2000AD character you have never drawn that you would like to draw?
Carlos: Never thought about that, I really enjoy drawing the characters I create.
Steve: And finally, I ask this of most people I interview but not everyone answers this one – Can you think of a question that no one has ever asked you that you think needs an answer.
Q. After a life dedicated to drawing comics can we say that is your real vocation?
A. Unfortunately I discover too late in life my real vocation was to count clouds on a tropical beach and with a Margarita in my hands