In Conversation with Andy Diggle

Andy Diggle is one of the UK’s leading comic book writers, best known for the Vertigo action thriller THE LOSERS, which was adapted into a major Hollywood movie in 2010, and GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE, which forms the basis of Warner Bros’ forthcoming TV show ARROW.

He has also written BATMAN, HELLBLAZER, SWAMP THING and RAT CATCHER for DC Comics; DAREDEVIL, SHADOWLAND and SIX GUNS for Marvel; Guy Ritchie’s GAMEKEEPER for Virgin Comics; and sci-fi action thriller SILENT DRAGON with superstar artist Leinil Yu. Andy is also currently writing DOCTOR WHO for IDW, plus several unannounced projects for DC Comics, Dynamite and Image.

We had the chance to have a chat with him on his inspirations, passions and we get a little info on the upcoming Dredd movie which stars Karl Urban!

POPCulture Online: What inspired you to go into the world of comic books and to make a career out of it?

Andy Diggle: Well I’ve loved comics since I was a kid, I kinda learnt to read by reading comics. I used to read Asterix and British war comics and I always enjoyed telling stories and then I discovered 2000 A.D. when I was 10 years old. and that rewired my brain completely and that comic (2000 A.D.) was what made me want to write comics for a living.

I remember talking to my teachers about it and I even showed them copies of Warrior magazine, V for Vendeta and stuff like that but my English teachers told me that those were not literature and my Art teacher said it’s not art and my careers adviser said I should go work in insurance. Fortunately I ignored them all and did it anyway.

I studied comics as part of my media studies degree, interviewed lots of writers and artists and got tips from them. Even as a teenager I’d write to writers like Alan Grant and he sent me a script from one of his 2000 A.D. story so that helped me get a grip of how it all worked from the inside. So yeah I’ve loved it from an early age, I guess for about 30 years now. Makes me feel old just thinking about it! HAHA!

POPCulture Online: After all these years, what do you think has been the most important lesson that you’ve learnt?

Andy Diggle: I think the main lesson is that you’re always learning. That’s what I tell to people who are just starting out or perhaps trying to get their first break into comics. They think that they’ll show their artwork to an editor at a convention and suddenly their life will change overnight but it doesn’t really work like that. You’ve gotta keep producing work, the gate isn’t going to suddenly open and you can do whatever you want.

Keep producing comics, you don’t need to get a job in the comics industry to make comics because anybody can make comics, all you need is a pen and paper. So keep producing comics, in fact I think short stories are the best way to do it. Something like short 5 to 10 page stories.

If you’re a writer it’s easy to finish that and it teaches you structure like how to have a beginning, middle and end in the shortest possible space and for artists, short stories are also easier to finish in between having a day job. The best part is the more you do it, the more you learn.

POPCulture Online: If you could go back in time and give yourself a skill that you have now, say to yourself at 20 years old, what would it be?

Andy Diggle: It would probably be how to talk to girls actually! HAHA!

Seriously though, I’d tell myself that it’s all about compression. Comics is an even more super compressed art form that film writing is. What you leave out is almost as important as what you leave in and I think that’s the key to understanding good writing.

Judge Dredd played a big part in your life and based on what you’ve seen so far, do you think the new Dredd film is close to what we’ve come to know from the comic?

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the new Dredd movie and in fact I saw some of it with producer Alex Garland in London. Obviously he knew that I used to be the editor of 2000 A.D. so as I was watching scenes from this movie, Alex was watching me to kind of see how I reacted.

I think it looks good so far. The thing about the Dredd comic is that it has so many different styles and tones. It can be anything from serious political drama to even absurd parody or even everything between. The thing is you can’t do all of those at once in a 2 hour movie so Alex very wisely thought that he had to pick one particular tone for the movie and stick to that so he chose the one that best sells the idea of Dredd in his world for a new audience which is the grim tough action story.

From what I’ve seen, it definitely is very close to the tone of the comic. I think visually it’s a little different because it doesn’t seem to be so far into the future. It doesn’t have flying cars and robots and stuff like that. He’s gone for a much more near future urban hell vibe to it.

Karl Urban is definitely channeling the real Dredd, he’s been a fan of Dredd since he was a teenager and it shows. He actually said he wouldn’t have done the movie if Dredd was asked to take his helmet off so I think he know what he’s talking about.

POPCulture Online: Christopher Nolan’s Batman was something else, it was realistic and did very well at the box office. But now there’s already talk of a reboot so if you had a say, what sort of approach would you want the producers to take?

Andy Diggle: I’m a huge fan of  Christopher Nolan, I really enjoyed the second one especially, I thought that was outstanding.

I think with Nolan he tries very hard to be grounded with his superhero and that kinda takes away the fun of being a superhero movie whereas with The Avengers it totally embraced the absurdity of being a superhero movie and had a ball of a time. Actually it still managed to be smart and funny at the same time.

I think I would like to see a bit more of that pop culture sensibility in the future Batman film. A bit more cartooney would be fun….I mean I don’t wanna see a Joel Schumacher movie but you look at all the great Batman cartoons that have been around over the years and I think that it’s that kind of spirit in a live action movie would be cool.

Don’t be ashamed to be a superhero movie just embrace it and have it more dynamic and crazy! The world of Batman has got all these great and colourful villains.

POPCulture Online: What’s your opinion on Superman and Wonder Woman getting together in the new 52?

Andy Diggle: I guess it kinda makes sense that these two very attractive super people would maybe have feelings for each other. Then again Lois Lane has always been such a big part of the Superman story, I kinda feel bad for Lois frankly.

But who knows how long these things will last. I guess they are both “outsiders” to a degree with Wonder Woman from a different culture and Superman is from a different planet so maybe it makes sense because it’s something they have in common.

We’ll see whether it lasts or if it’s just a publicity stunt.

POPCulture Online: Having been on DC, Marvel and even Vertigo, if you could have a superhero movie made, one that’s not been made yet, which one would it be?

Andy Diggle: That’s a good question. Well I’m very happy that Joss Whedon has announced that he’s doing a S.H.E.I.L.D. TV series and it opens up the Marvel universe very nicely. I hope they’ve got a good budget for it as well so we can have a little bit of spectacle in it.

In terms of what we haven’t seen, I think Dr Strange would be pretty awesome, it’s something you can have a lot of fun with! I think Swarmthing would be amazing. If you did a good smart and dark Swarmthing, I think it could work especially with all the amazing CGI effects that you can do these days.

POPCulture Online: What are your plans for the rest of the year and maybe next year?

Andy Diggle: I’m working on Dr Who for IDW now and that’s gonna take up most of my time between now and Christmas. I’m also working on snapshots which is a high concept thriller where this kid discovers a mobile phone and sees that it’s got snapshots of a murder in it.

I’ve actually also got 3 other projects lined up for 3 different publishers which I can’t announce yet but I think I’ve been kinda off the radar since I left Marvel but I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of me over the next few months once these projects are announced.

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