Interview took place 18th October 2011
I first happened upon 7STRING in July at the London Film & Comic Con, where I randomly struck up a conversation with the writer/artist Nich Angell. I got hold of a copy of the first issue and read it on the train ride back. What can I say? I loved it.
7STRING chronicles events in the life of a young lad called Zach who one day happens upon what can best be described as a magical guitar sword. He quickly masters it and learns how to fight using the guitar sword-y thing’s magical harmonies. Of course, being a story worth its salt, tragedy strikes… but I’ll say no more.
Actually, when I say 7STRING chronicles the life of Zach, I don’t think this could be strictly true. After all, I’ve only read the first issue (cleverly titled ‘Track One’, with the tagline ‘How one song ended and another began’), so really, anything could happen. The first issue is essentially a prologue, detailing the origins of Zach. It explains the basics but leaves us hanging… and it has plenty of mysteries that hit just the right note that leaves me wanting more!
Stylistically, the artwork is rather incredible. It’s like… nothing that I’ve ever seen before, yet instantly familiar, as if its blended about a hundred different art-forms into one. Angell has a very intelligent and deep colouring to the comic, and wacky designs for his characters – Zach himself has blue hair, the antagonist has a weird purple hat that I cannot even being to describe, and there’s musical dragons, and a myriad of interesting looking aliens in one scene. Almost every page is a work of art within itself.
There’s also a brilliant scene in the middle of the comic where Zach’s mother, an engineer, sums up the entire decision making process of life in six simple rules, which, surprisingly, sums up life. I’m not going to write what those six rules are, so you’re going to have buy the comic to read it, but trust me, it’s an absolutely genius piece of dialogue and without a doubt my favourite bit in the whole comic.
Overall, I’d describe 7STRING as a sci-fi Scott Pilgrim, with a bit of Futurama-if-it-was-made-in-Japan thrown in for good measure. I’m dangerously close to sounding gushing now, so I’m going to shut up very soon – after I recommend you all to buy 7STRING: http://www.nichangell.co.uk/7STRING.html.
In addition to me shutting up, here is an interview with 7STRING’s creator, Nich Angell, where he does most of the talking. Enjoy:
1. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself – how did you get into becoming a comic book artist in the first place?
Well, I live down south in the UK in a town called Salisbury where there is simply NOTHING of a comic book scene. There isn’t even a comic shop. Waterstone’s has a shelf. That’s it. So when I discovered comics at a young age, they were very special to me. Over time, I’ve come to realise how much comics truly resonate with me. I really want to create worlds and tell stories, that’s the big thing for me. I love the idea of creating worlds and characters that don’t exist and follow their own rules, proper world building stuff you know? Draw maps of the places they live, and work out the politics and the currency. I love all that.
I quickly realised that comics are a medium where one person can have full control. Unlike animation or film (if you want a visual medium), comics are the only way to be in complete command. On top of that, I believe in comics as the strongest medium for telling stories. They have the self-pacing of novels, the camera-work and shot framing of films and the unique visual signature and art object quality of animation. It’s the best of 3 worlds.
After discovering all that it was really just a question of ‘What’s my world going to be then? What comic will I write?’ There was no single moment where I got into comics, I just drew and drew and wanted it so bad. I guess when you’re that passionate and committed, good things come along!
2. What first inspired you to get writing and drawing 7STRING?
7STRING pretty much all stemmed from a single drawing I did in a sketchbook of a girl holding a guitar sword. After that, over many years the character changed into a bloke and the world started to build around him. I started 7STRING so many times and every time I knew I didn’t quite have it, the world wasn’t quite there yet. Until very recently.
After drawing that picture I knew I wanted to do a comic set in a musical universe because of how important music is to me. It carries emotions and memories and can really fire you up for battle or mellow you out for contemplation. It has real power. Coupled with the fact I play a lot and was jamming with a lot of friends at the time, I wanted to get that ‘swing by the seat of your pants’ feeling that jamming has, into a battle and lifestyle context, like 7STRING.
3. How do you go about writing 7STRING? Do you storyboard it, or write it like a script, or something else entirely?
I have written a loose conceptual script that spans far into the future of the saga. That’s my lifeline to keep everything on track and to ensure things are revealed at the right times and everything’s in order. Then I have a very detailed script of the first graphic novel. I thumbnail every page I do first as well usually on a bit of A4, really loose and pencilled. Then I go for the real thing, page by page. But rarely in reading order!!
4. How long can you envision 7STRING running for?
I have a story to tell and I won’t stop ‘til it’s done. As I said, I have an overall loose script. That covers 3 graphic novels, so a trilogy. Each graphic novel will consist of 10 or 11 chapters or issues that are 20 pages each approx, so there’s gonna be a lot of 7STRING to come yet and I tell you, some of the stuff I’ve come up with for later is gonna blow your mind. I’m so excited I’ve already drawn some of it, even though it probably won’t be out ‘til the end of next year!!
5. What are your influences for 7STRING, and/or what other comics would say are awesome and would recommend?
Wow… my influences are so wide. I read a hell of a lot of comics but I’ll outline the important ones, the ones that shaped 7STRING and the ones you must read NOW!!
Brandon Graham’s work. That dude is like my hero. Multiple Warheads, King City, Escalator, read them all, and then read them again. He tells these amazing chilled out future space opera stories that are epic in scope but local in execution. They’re sort of ‘life goes on’ stories and they rule so hard.
Green Lantern. Mainly the Geoff Johns stuff with Blackest Night, that’s some of the coolest space opera out there at the moment. That has influenced a lot of the alien world elements of 7STRING.
Transmetropolitan. Probably my favourite comic book of all time. Incredible dirty future stories from Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. There’s a new Transmet artbook out now from the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund. Get it cos I am in there. I was stoked with that. SO honoured to be in a book with Darick.
Moebius. Not sure there’s a comicker worth their salt who doesn’t worship at the altar of Moebius, but I literally CANNOT get enough. He is so effortlessly imaginative. One panel of his work could inspire a whole graphic novel series but yet he throws incredible concepts around like a madman. So dreamlike and beautiful… it will blow you away. Check out ‘The Airtight Garage’ and ‘Gardens of Aedena’. Oh and I recently picked up a massive fully translated ‘The Incal’, some of his best work EVER.
And a hell of a lot of french BDs. I so love the continental, big format full colour stuff. That’s the major inspiration for 7STRING. I want to see 7STRING in an A4 hardback in a French comic book shop one day. Amazing French comics to look out for: Valerian and Laureline, Orbital, Lanfeust of the Stars, Sillage and Loumyx. Gorgeous stuff.
6. How do you draw 7STRING? (e.g. Do you do initial outlines by hand and then digital colouring? etc.)
7STRING is all hand drawn on marker paper with Indian ink fibre tip pens after being pencilled with blue col-erase pencils (these pencils mean I never erase my pencilling as that damages my inked lines. Instead, because they’re blue, I just tell Photoshop to remove the blue. Genius!)
Then I scan it and colour it digitally with Photoshop! Simple stuff really. I work at A3 and then print at A4 making all my lines and panels tighten up a treat!
Nich’s work and updates on 7STRING can also be checked out at his DeviantArt page: http://netherflux.deviantart.com/