Writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock have worked together in the comic book medium on a few occasions, namely the critically acclaimed The Losers and Green Arrow: Year One. Last month’s release of the thrilling four-issue mini-series, Snapshot, is their first creator-owned partnership. Published by Image Comics, Snapshot is fast-paced noir that tells the story of a teenager who finds a cell phone containing photos of a murder scene. It made our Wednesday Run as a pick of the week, and lived up to it’s billing as edge-of-your-seat reading!
Andy Diggle took some time out of his busy schedule to answer questions via email on the Snapshot series, working with his good friend Jock, the economy of writing opening scenes, the self-promotion of his work and his creative process.
Read more after the jump!
JP Fallavollita: Snapshot was a long time coming wasn’t it? I understand that it took over five years of work before it saw publication! What was the genesis of Snapshot and why so long before its release?
Andy Diggle: I was reading a screenwriting website that suggested you should be able to come up with a story concept based on anything in your immediate field of vision. My digital camera was on the desk in front of me, so I thought, what if someone finds a lost camera with pictures of murder victims on it? The story just snowballed from there. The camera quickly morphed into a phone for story reasons, but the framework was there right from the start.
It took a long time to come together simply because Jock and I have families to feed and mortgages to pay, and you tend not to get a page-rate for creator-owned work, so paying gigs always had to take precedence. We just fit it in between other jobs.
JP Fallavollita: The two of you are good friends. You’ve worked on Lenny Zero together, then the acclaimed The Losers and Green Arrow: Year One. Really, it feels like you’ve worked together forever, but this is just your first joint creator-owned project! Why now?
Andy Diggle: I had always promised myself I’d balance work-for-hire comics with creator-owned, but financially it isn’t easy. But eventually the stories gestating inside you just have to get out. Snapshot was hopefully the first of many to see the light.
JP Fallavollita: Beyond being friends, what is it about the dynamic the two of you have together – the merging of the writing and the art – that makes the finished work so strong, so compelling?
Andy Diggle: I think we both have quite a stripped-down, no-nonsense approach to storytelling, so we seem to complement each other. We just fit. We seem to have the same sense of how to sell a particular dramatic moment – when to go in close, when to pull wide. I’ve been spoiled working with Jock.
JP Fallavollita: The nature of the North American comic book industry is for monthly titles to be compiled as hardcovers or trade paperbacks after a five or six issue run. Andy, I know that you really enjoy the four-issue format of comic book storytelling. What is it about that particular format that excites you?
Andy Diggle: I grew up loving the fast, dense comics storytelling in 2000AD. I also love movies, and studied screenwriting, and I tend to write very “filmically”. I’ve never been a fan of long-form soap-opera storytelling, either in comics or TV. So for me, the four-issue mini (i.e. a 100-ish page graphic novel) just suits my sense of structure. Beginning, middle, end. Done. That’s a story. If it doesn’t end – like many ongoing comics – then it isn’t really a story, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. That said, I am starting to enjoy giving my characters more room to breathe, let the conversations run longer, so I’m becoming more comfortable with 5 or 6 issue arcs – especially on THIEF OF THIEVES, which I’m REALLY enjoying writing. But I’ll never be one of those guys who writes the same title for years on end. After a few issues I start getting antsy to move on to the next thing.
JP Fallavollita: Snapshot was originally printed in black and white within the pages of the UK’s 2000AD magazine – but there was some talk about Image Comics releasing it in full colour. Why the decision to keep it in black and white?
Andy Diggle: We always planned it as an Image book, and it was just luck that Matt Smith at 2000AD offered us the Judge Dredd Megazine slot. Jock and I went back and forth on whether to color the book for Image, but honestly, we both love black-and-white art, and it keeps the costs down. I like it the way it is. We could always do a color trade somewhere down the line if the demand proves to be there.
JP Fallavollita: The first scene in the first issue is, I feel, a remarkable opening. Not only does it set the tempo, which is certainly fast-paced both in the reading of text and visual art, but it also successfully sets up a sense of dread with a playful line borrowed from childhood: “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” The responsibility and ramifications of such a throwaway rhyme can be quite heavy, can’t they?
Andy Diggle: It’s interesting that you say that, because I never liked that opening scene. I thought it was wasteful spreading it out over two whole pages! As a 2000AD guy, it feels terribly self-indulgent taking two pages to show a guy picking up a phone. So I’m really happy to hear that you think it worked.
JP Fallavollita: It has become increasingly incumbent for writers and artists to market their own works – whether it’s the convention circuit, Facebook posts, tweets, or interviews like this one. Snapshot, as a website, has been mapped to your own site, Andy, and you guys have created a fantastic animated short for the series, serving as an advertisement. You’re also actively soliciting feedback from readers in back pages of the comic itself! How important is that kind of outreach for the two of you, whether it’s for Snapshot or any of your other work?
Andy Diggle: It’s hugely important for creators to promote their own work, and to be honest I feel bad that I haven’t had enough time or spare mental RAM to pimp Snapshot the way I should. I’m writing four monthly books right now and I have two young kids, so that doesn’t really leave a lot of time for anything else. But my good friend Adam York Gregory (http://thesecretsurface.co.uk/about/) put together that amazing animated trailer for Snapshot, which really helped spread the word. And the mighty James Sime of the Isotope comics store in San Francisco came up with the wonderful idea of readers sending in their own Snapshot “murder photos” (http://snapshotcomic.tumblr.com) to win a page of Jock’s original artwork. I have much love for James and his boundless energy and enthusiasm for comics. Anyone thinks comics aren’t cool, just point them at James. It’s no coincidence that the comic shop in Snapshot happens to be on the same street as Isotope.
JP Fallavollita: At the end of the first issue, Jake, our young protagonist, is in a whole heap of trouble. There are still lots of twists and turns to come, aren’t there? What else can readers expect from the next few issues of Snapshot?
Andy Diggle: There are a couple of big twists in the first issue and it’s been interesting seeing people try to guess where it’s going. I’m pleased to say that nobody seems to have figured it out yet. Obviously I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s more than just a chase thriller. The hitman is more than just a hitman. He’s a man with a plan, and he has very good reasons for wanting Jake dead.
JP Fallavollita: One of the things we’re very interested in at Biff Bam Pop! is the creative process. On that note, could you each give us an idea of what your typical day is when working? How long do you spend on a given day, do you have music going when you’re working? What do you need around you for you to be as productive as possible?
Andy Diggle: I rent a tiny office in town, which is just round the corner form my kids’ school. That’s great, because it means I’m sat at my computer at 9am every morning instead of sat in front of the Xbox in my undies, which would be my natural inclination. Of course I’m still perfectly capable of distracting myself on the internet, but I’m getting better about applying a bit of willpower and stepping away from Twitter. I usually spend an hour or so answering emails and then it’s on to writing. I can’t listen to music while I work, I find it too distracting. I’m very easily distracted so I basically just work in a white box. My office is very sparse. It’s all about just getting lost in the work. Everything else is irrelevant.
JP Fallavollita: Snapshot will complete its run over the next few months. Can readers expect any future collaboration from the two of you in the near future?
Andy Diggle: Nothing planned for the near future, but hopefully one day.
Snapshot #2 can be found at better comic book shops on Wednesday, March 6. The Snapshot and (Andy Diggle) home page can be found at: www.andydiggle.com. To submit a staged “snapshot” photo of you or your friend’s death for the Snapshot original art contest, visit: www.snapshotcomic.tumbler.com right away!