Low Life Interview
Monday 12th September 2011
"Dirty Frank is back! Low Life returns with ‘The Deal’ by Rob Williams and D’Israeli in this week’s prog!"Following on from last year’s ‘Hostile Takeover’, in which we saw Frank’s life torn apart as the Wally Squad of the Low Life in Mega City One was decommissioned, ‘The Deal’ finds Frank back in uniform and back in trouble.
To find out more about what madness is in store for Dirty Frank this time round, 2000ADonline.com’s Ed Kaye caught up with writer Rob Williams and artist D’Israeli...
2000 AD: ‘Hostile Takeover’ saw a pretty radical change in the status quo for Low Life, where do we pick up the story this season?
RW: It directly follows ‘Hostile Takeover’. So, the Yakuza have taken over the Low Life. Aimee Nixon has disappeared. Dirty Frank's still back in uniform and the entire Wally Squad operation in the Low Life has been shut down due to widespread corruption. Frank's life has been ripped apart and his colleagues of many years have either been murdered or have been shown to be corrupt. He's in a very bad place.
2000 AD: In ‘Hostile Takeover’ you really racked up the body count, can we expect the introduction of any new characters is this series?
RW: I don't want to give too much away but yes. There'll be two new Wally Squad Judges, a recurring SJS Judge and also giant monsters including one who is, in D'israeli's description "a giant ambulatory turd".
2000 AD: The last couple stories have felt like you’re building towards a climax in the Dirty Frank vs. “The Big Man” storyline. Are we heading towards the final chapters of the series, or do you have further stories planned for after that thread is resolved.
RW: We'll have to wait and see. ‘The Deal’ is really the culmination of the “Big Man” plot thread, certainly. That will all be resolved here. There's certainly a feeling that this may be taking Frank as far as he can go in terms of a personal journey. But having said that, I enjoy writing Frank so much - as a character he seems to allow me complete creative freedom in a way very few other characters do - and I absolutely love working with D'israeli, which constantly feels like it's Christmas. So I've got no desire to knock things on the head just now. There could be more Low Life stories without Frank, perhaps.
2000 AD: Over the last seven years you’ve worked with a number of artists on Low Life. Recently though you’ve been working exclusively with D’Israeli. What lead to this working relationship, and how would you describe his depiction of the Low Life?
RW: I think it came about purely because I chanced my arm and asked if he'd be interested. Simon Coleby had left to do The Authority in the states. Rufus Dayglo took over for one story and then left to do Tank Girl. If I recall correctly I dropped D'israeli an e-mail and luckily he replied saying Dirty Frank was his wife's favourite 2000 AD character and she told him he HAD to do it. And, without hyperbole, it's been a dream come true ever since.
His work really pushes me to write extreme visuals that I wouldn't dare with some other artists, because I know full well he can handle it and will excel at it. I genuinely think he's a bit of a genius. His pages not only look superb to the eye but the storytelling is impeccable (a rarity in comics, you sometimes find), his narrative choices are spot on, his character and city designs are world class and - most importantly of all for me - he gets amazing acting performances from his characters. The pathos I write in Dirty Frank, he conveys that quite brilliantly. It's genuinely a huge treat for me to work with an artist of his calibre.
2000 AD: What are Rob's Low Life scripts like. Is he very specific in what he wants to see in a panel, or does he leave a lot of that up to you?
D’Is: On the whole, Rob leaves things reasonably loose - he’ll make sure I know what elements need to be in each panel and give me a rough “camera” angle (above, below, close-up, long shot), but most of the details of the composition he leaves to me. The exceptions are the occasional big “money shots” (like the emergence of the whale or the parting of the waters in Lowlife: Creation) where he’s got something really specific in mind.
An awful lot of the Rob’s descriptions are actually about what the characters need to express - stuff like “Frank, looking tired and scared but still determined; he’s ragged and close to his limits here, only his determination is holding him up” which might sound a bit abstract, but is really useful.
2000 AD: How do you approach a Low Life page differently from how you would approach a page for Stickleback, or one of your many other 2000 AD collaborations?
D’Is: I think there’s probably more difference between the work I do for 2000 AD and the work I do elsewhere, than there is between my 2000 AD strips. I read 2000 AD as a kid, growing up with that early era of Mick McMahon, Kev o’Neill and Carlos Ezquerra, so I have this template in my head for how a “real” 2000 AD strip should be laid out, with lots of variation in panel size, panel overlaps, open panels, and a certain “left field” approach to layout while retaining clarity at all times.
So, really, with Stickleback and Lowlife (and Leviathan before that) I’m actually trying to give them a unified “2000 AD-style” at the layout stage. Since I use such varied art styles for different series (as much to fend off boredom as anything else), I don’t worry about everything looking “samey.”
2000 AD: Though there is certainly a lot of history to Low Life, would you say that this latest story is accessible to new readers?
RW: I hope so. The first episode recaps what's recently happened in the series. After that it's Dirty Frank on a mission to try and find Aimee Nixon. The goal's pretty straightforward.
2000 AD: What is your favourite Dirty Frank line from this season?
RW: Too many! That's the thing with Frank. Every episode you have free reign to come up with the silliest lines. I've been writing him a long time now and he still makes me laugh, so that's a good sign. "Dirty Frank weeps for his fallen ping-pong ball-festooned brethren" – that made me giggle. You'll have to read the story to see if it makes any sense.
2000 AD: What was your favourite thing to illustrate from this season of Low Life?
D’Is: A couple of particularly awful visual puns involving a giant turtle and a robot dinosaur - those will be in parts five and six of the upcoming series…
Low Life: The Deal begins THIS WEEK in 2000 AD Prog 1750, available now from all good newsagents in the UK, and will be available in North America as part of the September 2011 pack.
Monday 12th September 2011