ILYA_KID4_10Greetings, we have another guest for this year’s Nottingham Comic Con, and this man can turn his multi talented hand to any area of comic book making!! Please welcome the awesome ILYA!

How did you get into comics?

Like most kids of my generation, I grew up reading a variety of UK newsstand comics, mostly funnies, and looking at my brother’s LOOK AND LEARNs. I think the point-of-no-return came when my Mum picked me up a copy of CONAN the Barbarian 21, filled with seminal Barry Smith artwork and storytelling. I was off school pretending to be sick that day. At only 9 years of age, the story was a bit beyond me, but that only added to the fascination of it. That was that, I was bitten by the bug.

ILYA_END CLUB postcardI was voracious and read everything. Still do. But, looking back, I can identify an enduring Holy Trinity – Herge’s TINTIN, Russ Heath’s SGT. ROCK, and anything KIRBY. That’s a pretty divergent set of influences, perhaps explaining the wild variations in my screwy art style from project to project. In polite terms, I’m “versatile” – sometimes folks recognize my stuff first from the hand-lettering.

In terms of working professionally – I started out self-publishing, almost as a fanzine editor more than a writer/artist, although I did that too. My first commission in comics was for Marvel UK, on The REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (based on the then current cartoon series). There was a style bible we had to stick to pretty closely, good inking from Dave Harwood, and a friendly editorial team. Despite all that, though, I was never really cut out for licenses – working on other people’s characters and concepts – as I have too many of my own. Having to conform to any set or “house” style sucks the big one, creatively speaking. That said, that’s where the money is, even to this day.

ILYA_END_CLUB_72How did you end up working with Eddie Campbell?

Largely by accident. I’d printed early work of his (from the cycle of stories that became known as In The Days of the Ace Rock’n’Roll Club) in my fanzine days. We became good friends through that. I’d disappeared off to art college, and then by the late 1980’s was pulling shiftwork, as well as odd-jobbing in the film industry: after working 36 hours straight one time, I fell asleep on the underground and lost my entire graphic design and storyboard portfolio. It was about then that Eddie got in touch and needed help on his burgeoning line of Deadface/Bacchus comics for Martin Lock’s Harrier company.

I did that, plus a bit more self-publishing, this time concentrating on my own strips and stories – and all of that led off into pro-work: more with Eddie for Dark Horse, Stateside, then Marvel and DC, at the same time garnering UK work from Marvel, Atomeka/Tundra and Fleetway (then publishers of 2000AD), as they started to expand their operations.

ILYA_KID_SAVAGE_1_05You’re the editor of Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, how did you get involved with that project?

I pretty much abandoned comics for books back in 2000. I was doing MBO:BNM 2006-8, across 3 volumes of circa 500 pages each. That was the print debut of a lot of folks that have since gone on to greater things – Asia Alfasi, Rob Deas, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield, Chie Kutsuwada, Yishan Li and many others. It started out as another accidental sideline, a second job, building I guess on my early days as a fan-ed. I’d been commissioned to produce The Manga Drawing Kit for Quartet, making sufficient impression during my introductory interview to get headhunted by another book company (Constable & Robinson, now subsumed into Little Brown, with their Mammoth imprint of giant compendiums on a wide variety of subjects) when they wanted to climb aboard the manga bandwagon. Credit it to them, they supported my efforts to show where manga outside of Japan was going now and next, but that series was essentially too far ahead of its time to be any great commercial success. The manga thing imploded for all sorts of cynical reasons yet is gradually building a new head of steam – I still support it wholeheartedly (I’ve been on the judging committee for the UK Japanese Embassy’s Manga Jiman talent competition for the last 8 years).

ILYA_RAM_4The variant model of a truly popular and populist comics medium, in a multiplicity of genres, as exists in Japan, is worth shooting for: I’ve worked toward that my whole life. Like anyone in comics from the 1980’s onwards, manga has to be a heavy influence even if you are only vaguely paying attention. It is down to manga that we have such a strong female presence in comics of all sorts nowadays, and that can only be healthy. People still need educating on it. What gets imported here is but a minor fraction of what’s possible by example: it is no singular style or set of tropes, nor a genre, but a vast medium, catering to audiences of every stripe. Expanding the readership is the best hope that comics have.

What are you currently working on?

I’m just rounding off 160 pages of KID SAVAGE, in collaboration with American writer Joe Kelly and Gary Caldwell doing the colours. Joe’s part of Man of Action – the creative combine behind the current Marvel cartoons, creators of Ben10, of Big Hero Six, and many others.

We’d collaborated before on a thing called BALLAST, released through Active Images, who had previously collected my early self-published BiC comics into a book volume of SKIDMARKS.

postcard_sideA_72ILYA_NIGHTWINGJoe and I first developed KID as a comic but then decided to go for book volumes instead, most likely to be released through Image – hopefully later in 2015. It has been a sideline venture of ours for far too long, with us both getting caught up in other jobs. An all ages title, KID SAVAGE synthesizes his love of The Herculoids (a cartoon I’ve never seen) with mine for Kamandi (a comic Joe’s never read), so it should turn out to be its own unique animal. There’s a slice of Fantastic Four dna in there as well.

My last solo graphic novel to hit print was anti-romance ROOM FOR LOVE, for SelfMadeHero, published here in the UK. I’ve done a bunch of stuff for them in recent years and hope to do more.

Continuing with my editorial sideline, this last year I put together both The Mammoth Book of SKULLS and The Mammoth Book of CULT COMICS.

In development, I’m juggling more stuff than I can count, solo and in collaboration (with myself as the writer this time): there’s no guessing what will come off first. Be in no doubt it is a very hard time to be making a living doing comics professionally, especially on the more independent (creator-owned) end of things. But I would say the potential for better things happening in our little arena has never been greater. And my childhood owns popular culture, so that’s fun.

ILYA_author_photoWhat can we expect from you at NCC 2015?

Whatever you’d like! I’ll be there to promote and hopefully also to sign and sell advance copies of KID SAVAGE Volume One – but whether or not that’s printed in time, I’ll happily sign, sketch, appear on panels, in interview, look at folios, advise and/or entertain in every which way that I can. Whatever else comes off between now and then, I’ll endeavor to bring copies with me. And I am happy to be as candid as anyone likes about what it’s been like and what it IS like to work in comics, be it industry or artform.

Make sure you check out ILYA’s work at NCC cos it’s awesome!!!!