'The Walking Dead's' Charlie Adlard on Rick, Negan, and 'All Out War'
(CBR) "The Walking Dead" artist Charlie Adlard was recently a guest on the Under the Comic Covers podcast, and the most famous zombie artist in the industry took listeners on a journey through his career, from the time he accepted Robert Kirkman's invitation to illustrate the series over 100 issues ago to now.
Below, CBR presents the complete transcript of the interview, in which Adlard reveals his thoughts on being inked by Stefano Gaudiano throughout the "All Out War" storyline and beyond, provides an update on his and Kirkman's sci-fi original graphic novel "The Passenger" and discusses the sometimes unsettling nature of the reference material required to do his job properly. Adlard also heads back to his childhood to reminisce about where his love of comics originated in the first place, before flashing into the future with his guess as to the final fates of characters Rick Grimes and Negan. The podcast is available at http://underthecomiccovers.com/episodes
Under the Comic Covers: One of the first questions that I've had and I've always wondered about was, how exactly did you get involved in "The Walking Dead," after Tony Moore's departure?
Charlie Adlard: It's not really a particularly exciting story. [Laughs] Basically, Robert [Kirkman] just emailed me one day, out of the blue. Robert and I knew each other from a few years previously, because our mutual friend, Joe Casey, sort of put us in touch because I was working with Joe on a comic strip called "Codeflesh" at the time, and to cut a long story short, Robert came in to finish off a few episodes that were left hanging because Image, basically, didn't publish everything we did, and obviously Robert was running an indie label at the time, called Funk-O-Tron, and Joe and I published the last three chapters of that story with him.
So, that's how I kind of got to know Robert. I think I met him a couple of times in San Diego over the years, previously, but I don't think we exchanged more than ten minutes worth of chat between ourselves, over that time. Then, all of a sudden -- BING -- there was this email. Basically, just saying, "Would you like to take over this small zombie comic?" [Laughs] I'd not even heard of it, so he sent me the previous few issues that Tony had drawn, and he obviously sent all the scripts. He sent the script to Issue #7, and to be honest, I was in between jobs at the time.
It would have been truly awful to me to have turned it down. [Laughter]
And ten years later, here you are. I feel your style is a just perfect fit for the mood of the story of "The Walking Dead." It fits so well.
Oh, thank you. It was an interesting decision on Robert's part because, obviously, Tony and I draw completely differently to each other. Tony relies a lot more on linear art work. He's a lot more "cartoony" than I am, and he told his story in a lot more in the grey tones that he used in the book, which was probably one of the reasons he couldn't keep up with the schedule because, not only was he penciling and inking, he was greytoning the book, as well. I came on board and I, obviously, have a more realistic "darker style," which, arguably, probably does suit that genre a bit more than Tony.
I also understand that your process, the way that you've always done it, is somewhat different or unusual, in that you'd go straight from the pencils to the inks, correct?
Well, yeah, the benefit of working for Image is that we don't have an editor, or anybody to go through to seek approval, or anything like that. So, the first thing that Robert would see of the pages is literally the finished page. Obviously, there is a time factor involved, as well, which means we haven't really got time, to and fro, between pencils and inks, if we wanted to. So, it's one of those things where he just trusts me. Hey, I'm a professional! He trusts me to get it right the first time, hopefully. With monthly comics, there are going to be mistakes, we all admit that; it's just part of the game you play. If we had two months to do every issue, and someone noticed a mistake, fair enough; we'd hold our hands up and go, "We screwed up there -- sorry, guys." But when you're knocking out a book every month. I was doing -- "Was," he says -- [Laughs] doing pencils and inks every month, things are going to go awry. Like I said, it's just part and parcel of doing monthly comics.
So, it's nice, though, that you are allowed to work with Robert in a way that you don't have to do -- it's not comics or art by committee, it's just you guys trust each other and pump it out, right?
Yeah. Yes, basically. The weird thing is, I've always been an advocate of having an editor! [Laughs] Because, sometimes, it is beneficial to have someone there telling you not to overindulge, primarily, and obviously, there to seek out mistakes or whatever. So I'm not decrying the whole idea of not having an editor.
How much direction, or detail, or freedom is given to you by Robert when you guys are creating the story? I feel so much of the pacing and the mood is created by you and your art, so I wonder, with different panels, and how they are laid out -- how much direction does he give you, or do you have a lot of freedom?
I think I'd say that I have a lot of freedom. Robert and my relationship, work-wise, is definitely 50/50 on the comic. I always say, "He writes the script and I do the drawing." It's as simple as that -- I very rarely point out stuff in his script and he very rarely points out stuff in the artwork. Probably, the longer we've worked together, the more simplistic his scripts have become. Purely, because he pretty much knows what I'm going to do. So, that's the benefit of having a long working relationship. I think Robert and I now have probably -- I believe, I'm not absolutely sure of this, but I think we have broken a record; especially, in the American industry -- I think we are the longest serving, unbroken run as a team on any comic book ever.
Wow, congratulations! That's fantastic. It's like a marriage -- working together.
Yeah, it's not secret! [Laughs] Nothing particularly serious, but we have had the occasional up and downs, that's for sure, like marriage has had over the last ten years.
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