Interview with Martin Simmonds – Artist on Death Sentence: London

AllcoverssmDeath Sentence was a smash hit in 2013/14 and I wrote about the mini series quite a bit. Created by Montynero and Mike Dowling it told of three people who had contracted the deadly STD G+ Virus. They had six months to live – however the side effects included a boost to their creative skills and super powers…

Having garnered early support from Mark Millar and then released internationally by Titan this book really caught my imagination. Montynero has been published in 2000AD and written a couple of things for a company called Marvel. Mike Dowling is quite simply rushed off his feet since…

But this is an interview with Martin Simmonds. I first came across his name when Monty announced that due to how busy Mike was he had brought Martin in to work on volume 2, at that point simply entitled Death Sentence.

Martin has been involved with a number of online and small press projects over the years including; Eponymous, Dead Roots and Disconnected along with a few covers on other titles. So this is his first big project with a wide distribution.

You can keep an eye on what Martin is up to by following him on Twitter, a website is on the way.

I’ve seen a few pages from the forthcoming Death Sentence: London that launches in June (details regarding pre-orders are in an earlier article) and I’m really excited about this new era in the lives of the characters I met in the mini series. There are three preview images at the end of the interview.

Semple: Death Sentence was quite a hit first time round, I named it one of my favourite Creator Owned projects, did you read the miniseries at the time?

Martin: Yes I did, I picked up each of the six issues as they came out. I don’t collect many comics, preferring to wait for the collected editions, but Death Sentence was one of the titles that I made sure I picked up each month without fail. So, getting the chance to work on the series was a big deal for me.

Semple: Mike Dowling being quite busy after Death Sentence made Montynero seek out someone for Volume 2, now titled Death Sentence London. How did he come to approach you?

Martin: I’d bumped into Monty at a few different cons over the years, and we’d talked about working together on other projects before he asked me if I’d be interested in working on Death Sentence. Being such a fan of the first series, I jumped at the chance to collaborate with him.

Semple: As only the second artist to deal with these characters how much balance is there between making them recognisable as the characters Mike drew and bringing your own style?

Martin: It’s fairly easy to strike a balance between the two. Mike’s art on Vol.1 is a great resource for the look of the characters, plus he’s so good at drawing the character acting that it helps to form living, breathing characters with recognizable mannerisms that I can draw upon when I illustrate them. Because that resource is there, I can still draw things in my own way and hopefully it still retains the authenticity of the first series.

Semple: I understand that it is hoped Mike will return to illustrate some story arcs, will you be collaborating on any character designs for new characters or is Monty providing designs for you both to work with?

Martin: Well so far on DS: London character design has been a collaborative process between myself and Monty. Although Monty’s a very talented artist as well as a brilliant writer, he allows me do my thing when it comes to visual representations of new characters and then we take it from there. I’ll get descriptions and any reference from him, then I’ll sketch something out and from there it’ll be a case of emailing back and forth between us until the design is right.

Semple: How is it to be illustrating a comic for a Writer that is also a very skilled Artist? (I edited out ‘does it increase your game’ from this question, I might put it back but didn’t want to force answers in too specific a direction)

Martin: It’s great. It’s really useful to have someone who can look over the artwork and come back with suggestions from an artist’s perspective as well as from the position of a writer.

Semple: What in particular inspired you from the miniseries?

Martin: It’s an original concept with strong, relatable characters and beautiful artwork so a lot there to inspire!

Semple: What do you bring to the book that is fresh?

Martin: Death Sentence: London is set mostly in a ruined London and my style is suited to giving the artwork that grimy appearance. Also, Verity’s powers allow for some pretty surreal moments and that allows for some nice dynamics and contrasts in the artwork.

Semple: What medium do you use for Death Sentence and is this your usual way?

Martin: Apart from adding hand painted textures that I scan in, I work digitally – Mostly in Photoshop, and occasionally Manga Studio. It’s the way I do all my artwork, except commissions when I tend to use mixed media.

Semple: What artists inspired you when you were young?

Martin: Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams and Dave McKean were the biggest influences on me growing up.

Semple: Are your inspirations now the same or is there a current artist (or artists) that drive you on?

Martin: I’d still list those three artists as the biggest inspirations on me, but there are so many other artists whose work I love so I could write a very long list! Frazer Irving, Jock, Greg Tocchini, Tommy Lee Edwards, David Aja, David Mazzucchelli, Christian Ward, Tula Lotay, Ben Templesmith, Ashley Wood, Lee Carter, I could go on…

Semple:  Are there any writers you really wish you could work with.

Martin: Jeff Lemire – He’s an amazing writer. I really enjoyed Sweet Tooth and Trillium, and even though it’s only a couple of issues in, Descender is fantastic.

Semple: What do you like drawing most?

Martin: People

Semple: And the least?

Martin: Horses

Semple: And what do you most want to improve?

Martin: Drawing horses.

Semple: If you got the chance what 2000AD character would you like to draw for them, either in 2000AD or the Megazine.

Martin: Slaine would be my top choice, but Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd come a very close equal second.

Semple: Are there any other currently published characters you’d like to work on?

Martin: Constantine, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Elektra, Hawkeye or Punisher. I’d be happy to get a chance to draw any of them!

Semple: What question haven’t I asked that I should have asked? And what is the answer?

Martin: I guess, seeing as this interview is mostly about Death Sentence… If I had the G+ virus, what power would I want to have and what would I do with it?

I’d like the ability to manipulate time – I’d pick up a Grays Sports Almanac, travel back through time, make some money on sporting events and set up BiffCo Enterprises, then I’d trace the G+ virus back to it’s origins and try and eradicate it before it begins with the help of some science boffins.

DS Martin

DS Martin 2

DS Martin 3

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