Interview with Laurence Campbell, artist of B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know
This is Kevin Alford, editor for Mignolaverse.com. Today I’m very proud and excited to bring to you our first interview with an artist from the Mignolaverse itself! I had a chance to sit down with the astonishing Laurence Campbell, currently writing the last leg of the B.P.R.D. series.
Before we start, for those who don’t know, Laurence has created some truly gorgeous limited edition Hellboy and B.P.R.D. prints (both of which are currently hanging in the Mignolaverse.com offices). At the time of this writing, they are still for sale. If you’re interested in getting them, email Laurence directly to order your own prints, or Laurence Campbell Online: Get Campbell!, Laurence Campbell on Facebook, and Get Campbell on Twitter.
Perhaps even more exciting is that you can buy many original pages from Laurence’s work on B.P.R.D. on his Cadence Comic Art page, accessible by clicking here. Every image in this story was taken from that site. Let me make this clear: YOU COULD BUY THE ORIGINAL OF EVERY PIECE OF ART FROM THIS STORY. So if you want them, better rush. [header image sale link]
Editor’s note: As Mr. Campbell is English, we’ve used British spelling for extra flavor. Enjoy!
You're a bonafide industry veteran at this point, with a huge history of great projects on your resume. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, including how you started working in the Mignolaverse?
Ha! veteran, I’ve been called that a few times now, I think it’s a way of saying I’m getting old, yet I feel like I’m just really starting out. I’ve been lucky to have worked on some great titles before starting on the B.P.R.D.. Most of them have been gritty type characters like Punisher Max, Wolverine etc.
How I started working for the Mignolaverse was via Facebook. John Arcudi sent me a message saying he liked my work on Marvel Universe Vs Wolverine. At the time I was under contract with Marvel but we kept in touch. I was a fan of John’s writing so once my contract was up we talked about doing something together. I suggested B.P.R.D.as I’m a big Hellboy fan. John sent my art to Scott Allie and Mike Mignola and to my surprise I was offered a three part story called Wasteland. It a bleak story but the type of thing I like to draw. I had the opportunity to draw destroyed cities, huge monsters and helicopters all the type of things I love. Johns also good at the close personal stuff which I also enjoy drawing. I was lucky enough to be offered more work on B.P.R.D.from there on. It must around be six years since I first started working them and it’s been a real pleasure since. As I’ve said before a dream job for me.
Only young people worry about getting old, so you must be safe. I loved your art on Punisher Max by the way. I think that was the first place I saw your byline.
Punisher Max was the first time I inked myself. I started to get more confidence in myself and art. With Punisher I tried to give him noir feel, influenced by Michael Mann films. Added a lot of darkness, made him a force of nature.
You said you're a big Hellboy fan, but what was your starting point? I sometimes feel like you comic professionals read every single issue that's released, but were you there to see Project Ragnarok when it first came out? Also, do you have a favorite issue or story from each of the major Mignolaverse lines (Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Abe Spaien, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson)?
I remember buying the first issue of Hellboy from Gosh comics in London when it came out. I was drawn to Mike’s art before with an issue of Legends of the Dark Knight. Hellboy came along at the right time for me.
However, I didn’t buy every issue of B.P.R.D.. I dipped in and out. It was only when I knew I was drawing B.P.R.D. I went out and bought all the Plague of Frogs hardbacks. Fell in love with them straight away, reading them all together you really got to see the character development.
As for favourite issues that really changes all the time, like favourite films. It depends on my mood. I remember loving the Hellboy floating heads story but what happens these days is when searching for reference I come across a story and then spend time looking at it all over again.
Recently Koshchei the Deathless blew me away.
With B.P.R.D.ending. I remember getting a phone call from Scott Allie telling me the future of B.P.R.D.and how it was going to end. This must be over 3 years ago now. The phone call blew my mind and I could tell anyone! Asking if I wanted to be involved, I think I replied yes before he finished the sentence.
One of the things I like about B.P.R.D.is that it has always been about 3 arcs, a beginning, middle and end. I like this, like all good stories there’s an ending. It’s been planned out. This makes a refreshing change to a lot of comics out there. So although I’m saddened by it ending I totally think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve immersed myself in this world for around 5 years now, it’s going to be strange for me with it ending.
How did it feel to take over on B.P.R.D.? Your first issue was the start of Wasteland, right? John Salinas from the Hellboy Book Club Podcast said that arc made him question his fandom (in a good way) from the emotional paint of it all. That's a very heavy weight to pick up as part of such a huge snowball of storytelling. How did you prepare?
Wasteland was a pretty heavy storyline but sometimes you need the darkness to appreciate the light. Certain characters had a chance to develop and come into focus. It was also the turning point of Howards. Before drawing the script I’d watched The Road and War of the Worlds which again are pretty bleak but had the feel I was going for.
How do you feel taking over a series that was almost entirely set in place by Guy Davis (and then for a little while by Tyler Crook)? How did you use their art to establish your own takes on those characters?
Joining B.P.R.D.was both exciting and a little overwhelming. I think every artist who has worked on B.P.R.D.has brought their A game. I’ve not meet an artist who has not been influenced by Mikes work.
Mike, Guy and John had a laid down the tone for the book and had done the world building. By the time I started Tyler Crook was working on the book and James Harren had just started, both amazing talents. Tyler captured the human side of the book, same as Guy. James did an amazing job on The Long Death with John, an instant classic to me.
With me coming on at Wasteland I tried to bring a certain realism to the world going out of control. The real becoming unreal with creatures as huge as skyscrapers destroying buildings and cities.
What’s your favorite thing to draw in the Mignolaverse? What’s your favorite thing you've done overall?
There’s been a number. Drawing the End of Days arc and Cometh the Hour was very special. I got to draw plenty of things which I loved, the battle with the Black Flame, the Ogdru Jahad, the scenes in Hell, all amazing for me. The Devil You Know has also been a rich tapestry to draw from.Must also say I had a blast drawing Sledgehammer 44, so the return fight in End of Days was very satisfying.
Do you have a favorite fellow artist in the Mignolaverse?
It’s got to be Mike. As I mentioned before he’s been a huge influence on a number of artists. Hellboy in Hell blew me away. For Devil You Know I have keep checking reference looking back at past issues of B.P.R.D.and Hellboy. With the Hellboy pages I’m in awe seeing something new every time.
Who’s your favorite character you haven't drawn, or don't get to draw much?
That’ll be Daimio, Sir Edward Grey and Gail Denner.
Most of our readers likely know all of your work within the Mignolaverse, but perhaps they don't read Marvel or DC or the others, so let me ask you some related questions to those. Have you drawn anything that you felt didn't get the attention it deserves? Do you have a favorite subject or series to draw outside of Dark Horse?
Not so much a favourite subject, although I do tend to get the more dark gritty storylines. I can pick out a few titles which I feel hold up from Marvel. There’s a Punisher Max one shot called Get Castle, written by Rob Williams I really enjoyed. Punisher goes to Wales and takes on rogue SAS. Getting the chance to draw a Moon Knight annual with Pete Milligan in a dark Christmas Story was also fun. I also worked with Pete on 5 Ronin which was a story of Marvel heroes set in Feudal Japan. It was a 5 issued mini series with some great artist like Tomm Coker, Dalibor Talajic, Goran Parlov and Leandro Fernandez. Deadpool Pulp was a fun period piece and a different take on the character. Had a to some research to get the references right on that one which I enjoyed. Marvel Universe Vs Wolverine was fun as I got to draw pretty much all the Marvel Universe in a gritty way being killed by Wolverine.
Recently, we’ve had the first real information about the new Hellboy film. It looks like they're not drawing from any of the books you were on yet, but they certainly might in the sequels. did you like the the older ones?
In interested in the new film and looking forward to seeing the trailer but I do see the comics and the film as two separate items. Hopefully it’ll bring a new audience to Hellboy and B.P.R.D..
Finally, if you could tell people one message before, and one after the B.P.R.D. storyline is finished, what would they be?
Message before the last arc would be ‘Buckle up’ and after... [trails off].
Thank you again for your time, and even more so for your superb art. I can hardly imagine a better person to send my favorite comic series of all time off into the sunset (with covers by Mr. Mignola, I hope). I look forward to everything you create going forward.
Kevin it’s been a real pleasure talking with you and thank you for your patience. I’d be happy to come back another time.
People can checkout my website at getcampbell.com or find me on Twitter and Facebook.