Jack Teagle is a freelance illustrator based in South West England. He has worked in a large variety of fields, including editorial, character design, storyboarding, poster/ product/ textile design, and worked as a cartoonist for Front magazine from 2010-2014. He wrote tutorials and worked as a columnist for Digital Artist Magazine. His comics have been published by Retrofit, NoBrow, McSweeneys and others. Jack’s next book is Rad Erwank & Conspiracy Dog with Lukasz Kowalczuk and Kek-W from Alternative Comics.
Rad Erwank writer Lukasz Kowalczuk talked to Jack about his time in comics and illustration and about the freelancing life. Rad Erwank & Conspiracy Dog will be in stores February 2019 from Alternative Comics. It is available as an exclusive discounted pre-order book from Wow Cool.
1. What was your first important encounter with pop culture? The kind that made you “scarred for life” (you are inspired by it, you return to it etc.)
When my sister was being born when I was three and a half. Some of my first memories. I couldn’t sleep, and my dad was looking after me at home. Ultraman was on late night TV, and it was so strange. I didn’t know what it was for years. We went to the hospital when my mum was having the baby, and to keep me quiet, my dad bought me a Batman and Joker toy to play with. The rest is history.
2. When we started to work on Rad Erwank, you mentioned SF & Fantasy magazines that your father collected. The UK has a huge tradition of publishing weekly pulp magazines. Can you tell us something about it?
There’s so much out there. I have a lot of Eagles from my dad and uncle, with some amazing Dan Dare stories and art.
My dad was really into the art of Roger Dean. He never really liked prog rock, but loved the artwork, so we had a ton of sci-fi airbrush painting books in the house. We had this amazing book called After Man that was about how animals would evolve far into the future long after man had died. My dad and uncles gave me lots of their copies of 2000AD, my dad had posters all over the house of Tank Girl and Judge Anderson. It was really cool to all grow up with. We had Deadline comics too. Really good mix of music and crazy comics. When I was a kid, we had the Fleetway Sonic the Comic. You’d get a lot of 2000AD artists working on Sonic the Hedgehog! It was crazy to see Mike McMahon draw Sonic! A lot of counter culture and pulp sci fi would bleed into the larger world of mainstream media. You don’t get that so much these days. Album art, all that stuff. It was a lot of fun.
3. I guess that Rad Erwank is the first time you worked with a writer on a bigger project. How do you feel about it? What impression do you have? No sugar coating.
Really good fun. Having layouts was fantastic, and it meant I could try to push myself on making some crazy scenes. I’ve worked on short stories for people before, who had never really written comics, and they were really hard to illustrate. This was really easy compared to art directors telling me what to do!
4. You are working on big formats, A3 (297 x 420 mm / 11.7″ x 16.5″—tabloid sized) for example. Why? It seems that with such simplistic and clear style, you could draw on pages 2-3 times smaller.
I’ve got no idea. Maybe it was a bad habit that formed? I used to see pros work larger and have work shrunk down, so I always thought I had to do that. Ha ha, I’m an idiot! I’ve got a lot of dumb work processes that I need to cut out. I need to save time and my sanity.
5. Your titles are published by established companies like NoBrow and Retrofit. Any interesting remarks or funny stories regarding cooperation with them?
I miss when NoBrow made crazier comics. They seem to be more focussed on kid’s books or educational books now. I wouldn’t stand a chance of being published by them again unless I did a kid’s book. Retrofit were really easy to work with, they just let me get on with my work. They’d even take on my zines and sell them in the US which was cool. I got to know Box [Brown], because he read my NoBrow wrestling comics, and loved wrestling, so we started to talk about doing a new book. NoBrow used to get me some really good jobs. One time I was working on character designs for a TV show for Graham Lineham, the man who created IT crowd and other comedy shows.
6. I found the UK comics scene very vital and diverse, with a lot of releases and events. How do you find yourself there? You seem to be more popular outside the UK.
Ha ha I AM! I find it VERY hard to sell books here! When I was first published by NoBrow, I was very popular, but in the last few years I’ve seen a big drop-off. I get more comic orders to America, Germany and France than the UK. The last places to publish my work were Russia and Belgium. It’s great here, but it’s very competitive. I had a lot of copycats and just gave up. People tried to take illustration work from me too, so I’m not very trusting of people in the UK anymore. I’ve got a lot of friends who make great comics, and I love to support them, but I don’t bother selling at many conventions in the UK anymore. It costs too much because I live quite far away.
7. How often do you table at cons or festivals?
If I’m a guest, I’ll go to any convention or fair. I love doing them, and it’s nice knowing I’m welcome. In the UK I used to do one a month. Now I do one a year in the UK if I can be bothered. It costs so much to stay in hotels and for travel. It’s cheaper if I drive, but trains cost more than plane fare. I used to do a lot of local ones, but they were terrible. I ended up buying more than I’d make. One time there was a convention held in a science-fiction themed night club, and it was really dark, stank of sweat, and the Red Dwarf theme* was being played on loud-speakers on repeat.
8. What did you expect from your visit to Poland in 2017?
It was great to feel welcome. It really meant a lot to see that so many people wanted to meet me and see my work. Because I spend so much time working in my studio, I forget that people out there are reading my books. It was amazing to know that people liked my work enough that they wanted me to fly over!
9. My friend told me that he expected “English Kowalczuk”, and the fact that you are a shy and quiet guy surprised him. Can we say that you are the opposite of your creations?
Ha ha, it’s funny because I used to do a lot of backyard wrestling and short films with my friends as a teenager. In person I’m really shy, but when I can make something, or put on a mask, I can pretend it’s not me and go mental. My speciality was that I had a really hard head. I used to have people break things like guitars over my head and run through glass doors. I feel confident with the work that I make, but not in person. I guess I’ll have to wear a wrestling mask if I ever meet people.
10. You published a meme about focusing on illustration instead of comics, as a more rewarding and stable job. Is it only matter of unsatisfying conditions in comics, or also the result of your previous publishing strategy? Years ago, in chat, you mentioned that your titles lack some kind of consistency.
Work is very cutthroat, and I don’t make much money. I have people that want to exploit work without paying for it all the time. A lot of bullshit artists. I’m very cynical. This is all I want to do with my life, make art. I started out really positive with my career, but then you get fed into the meat grinder and spat out. Had some bad experiences with some bad agents. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve started to make some better money again.
I love comics, but they take so much time for me, and I have too many stupid ideas that I can’t focus on a series. I make more money making one skateboard design than I do from a whole comic. I love making them, it’s like when I made horror films for my friends. It’s great for fun. But I’m getting older and need to pay bills. There’s a great scene in the UK, but the mainstream doesn’t respect comics. Especially the type I make, so I’m trying to focus on improving my skill as an artist.
11. Speaking about harsh times in work. Do you ever regret working with some types of companies or people? What kind of clients do you like to work for the most?
You either have terrible people who don’t explain what they want, and waste your time for little money, or dream projects where people hire you exactly because they like your work, and know you’ll do a good job. I’ve done a lot of t-shirt design jobs, but I’ve worked on storyboards for adverts, greetings cards, skateboards, gig posters, editorial work, kid’s magazines. I’ll take anything on. I’m too patient with people.
I got myself into a lot of bad work when I started out, but you learn from your mistakes. You learn when you can tell someone is going to be a bad client, so usually I won’t work with them. Recently I had someone who wanted me to make artwork for their board game because their old artist had disappeared. I was away for the weekend, and he sent me emails and messages to my personal accounts on social media, so I knew he was going to be a nightmare (and this is probably why the other artist left!)
12. What comics-related projects can we expect from Jack Teagle in the coming years? Will we see more strips with the old characters like Catheadarmman, The Crying Cat or Snakeman? Will you try to pitch to so called BIG publishers?
I’m not sure. Spain wants to publish my Diamond Defenders book, and Russia want to collect together all my Teagle Comics stories with Snakeman and all those characters. I’m hoping I can pitch some things. I was going to have an art book of my paintings released by a US publisher, but there was a big falling out in the company, and my contact doesn’t work there anymore. I have pretty bad luck! There might be a hardback book of all my comics collected together in the UK, but I’m not sure yet.
13. There are a lot of wrestling references in your books, so i need to ask… What level is your interest in wrestling nowadays?
To be honest, most of my interest comes from the 80s and 90s. I don’t know anything about modern wrestling. For me it was all tied to Final Fight, Streets of Rage and Capcom fighters like Saturday Night Slam Masters (Tetsuo Hara did the artwork for that game! It’s amazing!) We never had the channels at home to watch wrestling, so I’d have to go to my friends to see it. I just like how it feels so much like Tokusatsu shows. It’s more for the look and feel. I know more about Dragonball Z and Street Fighter than wrestling.
14. Imagine that you can draw a story about Tiger Mask. Describe it in maximum five sentences.
A drunken man climbs into a tiger pen at a zoo where a notoriously brutal Tiger is held. It savagely mauls him to death, and because of the man’s stupidity, and the tiger’s cruelty, the two are bound together as one soul as punishment. The creature has super strength, and it’s fury is balanced by the human heart. It’s an outcast, and doesn’t fit in anywhere. To avoid being captured and put into a freakshow, it joins a masked wrestling circuit, where only the organisers are aware that he has an actual tiger’s head.
* By Howard Goodall!