Robot 6

Paul Pope talks Battling Boy, DJing and the new THB

Screengrab from the upcoming documentary 'Soul Trading' about the Thee Hypnotics (Director Phil Staines, Cinematographer Andrew Foster)

Paul Pope is comics’ closest equivalent to a rock star.

It’s a reputation he’s garnered by both his comics works and his personality — and by the fact he’s an active DJ. He now splits his time between New York City and Europe, the latter of which is the first to see some of his anthology work. Last weekend, Pope and AdHouse Books stealth-released a new issue of his seminal series THB at Baltimore Comic-Con, with extra copies now available on AdHouse’s website. The unique nature of this release was due in no small part to Pope being off the shelves of American comic book stores for years while he completes the graphic novel Battling Boy for First Second.

Just moments after riding back from Baltimore, I spoke with Pope about the new THB, as well as Battling Boy and a creation of his even more rare than the new THB.

Chris Arrant: Let’s start with an easy one, Paul – what’s on the drawing board today?

Sequence excerpt from the story 'Masked Karimbah' in 'THB: Comics From Mars #2'

Paul Pope: Battling Boy. Right now it’s a lot of inking. We’re at the point where First Second is preparing their 2011 marketing and Battling Boy (or “BB” as we call him internally) is a big part of that. So my editor Mark Siegel and I are getting a lot of pressure from higher-up to get this thing done ASAP. Without compromising quality, you know. I tend to pencil about 24 pages and ink those while penciling the next big batch, overlapping like that. I’m treating the various scenes as “issues” or “chapters” within the book. Hilary Sycamore’s studio is coloring with my art direction, and the coloring is looking really great– much brighter and flatter than Batman: Year 100, which required a gritty, urban, slightly toxic tone. Battling Boy‘s coloring is more like Hayao Miyazaki’s films Totoro and Porco Rosso.

Arrant: Last week, you let loose with a new THB – the second in a new volume. Why’d you choose to have this be a Baltimore exclusive?

Pope: It’s been really hard to go from years of periodical publishing — where you have an ongoing dialogue with readers regarding the work in progress — to suddenly working on a massive graphic novel like Battling Boy, where you do pages you want to share but nobody can see the work for literally years. I’ve missed publishing comics. So I wanted to get a one-shot out, drop it like a stealth single. [AdHouse Publisher] Chris Pitzer and I cooked up the idea and decided to keep it a secret, just launch it without any word. It was his idea to make a companion to the last Comics From Mars — so this is a second one-shot containing THB Universe comics set on Mars. It turned out nicely, I think. Chris’s cover design idea is really visually striking.

Panel excerpt from the story 'Action' from 'THB: Comics From Mars #2' (AdHouse)

Arrant: Is this con close to your heart?

Pope: I love the Baltimore con. Mark Nathan, Brad Tree and the others gear this show more toward the creators and the fans, so there’s a refreshing lack of big-media booth culture with all the movie stars and disgraced ex-governors and all these other media people and things who have sweet F.A. to do with comics. A lot of my friends in the business make it to this show, and it’s small enough you actually get some quality time with people you don’t get to see often enough. Also, it’s close to AdHouse’s HQ and in a sense is a home-team game for Chris Pitzer and AdHouse.

Arrant: This one reads to me as very fluid, with you working pretty fast – not rushing – but not letting ideas sit for too long in your head. I see a lot of ephemera like David Bowie, Tom & Jerry, and Kirby comics seeping in here … so can you tell us about putting this together?

Pope: I haven’t had the time to work on too much besides Battling Boy for some time now. The last nine or 10 months — since wrapping “Strange Adventures” for DC’s Wednesday Comics anthology — have just been a whirlwind. But I have managed to complete a short stack of THB-related short stories, a few of which were done for my French publisher, Dargaud, for their newsstand magazine Pilote. Chris and I looked at what we had already completed, and of the 50 or so “available” THB Universe pages, we edited the contents down to a solid 24 pages– it’s a single, stand-alone comic. This one has leans toward humor — my sort of absurdist humor — and action.

Story continues below

Panel excerpt from the story '1977' in 'THB: Comics from Mars #2' (AdHouse Books)

Arrant: While longtime comics fans like you and I have been reading for years, there are a lot of people just coming into it – or just coming back.

Pope: I’m starting to notice a considerably younger reader now, people in their teens and early college-age. For a longtime, the audience seemed to be my own age group and older Silver Age readers who are into black-and-white comics. Now it seems to be widening.

Arrant: How would you describe THB for someone who’s fresh into comics?

Pope: It’s a science fiction action-adventure story. THB is a loose handful of separate science fiction stories, all interweaving, all set in the same cities and deserts on a colonized Mars in the future. At the heart of it, it’s a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl whose father builds incredible robots. The absent father is in trouble with the law and the daughter has to figure out what that’s all about. It has elements of the science fiction I grew up loving — Frank Herbert’s Dune, Star Wars, John Carter of Mars, things like that.

Arrant: Jeff Newelt mentioned you were doing more rock ‘n’ roll art; I loved those gig posters you did a while back. Is this kind of work what he’s referring to?

Pope: I’ve done a few tour posters and magazine illos for the likes of Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, JSBX, Heavy Trash, White Stripes … I have been involved in the upcoming documentary about Thee Hypnotics, one of my all-time-favorite bands, I did some art for that. I’m really into jazz lately, though — abstract music.

Panel excerpt from 'Battling Boy' (AdHouse)

Arrant: I can’t hold back any more – I need to know more about Battling Boy. How’s that project coming for you? It seems like it’s gestated for a while, and with all the movie interest and a big publisher already signed on, has that helped or hindered things?

Pope: It’s been inscruitable, really. Not sure what to compare it to. The film and the book are both on separate tracks and both need to hit within the same timeframe, the book first then the film. I’ve been involved with both, which has slowed things down on the book but also benefitted the story structure for the book, since I’ve been involved pretty intimately on the film script and concept art for the film. We aren’t at greenlight yet and can’t say much about it now, but getting there, we have a lot of support from the studio and the producers and there is work going on toward a feature film.

Arrant: A friend told me they saw you DJ a party and you had a video you put together for it. Where can a guy out in the middle of nowhere like me see that video edit you put together?

Pope: Gotta make it to one of my DJ sets! It plays as a “lightshow” or a “showreel” during the live set and doesn’t live online anyplace. I like the idea of creating something that isn’t available to torrent or download or anything, it’s strictly a component of a live event. Too often now, people can get anything online and they miss out on the sense of wondering about something without really knowing what it is. I miss that and wanted in my own little way to bring that back.

For more on Paul Pope, visit his website, blog and Twitter feed.



Paul Pope is such an amazing example of a real artist should be. He draws and inks every line with his hand and a pencial and a brush. Not a computer, not Poser, not Photoshop, not Sketchup, not Daz3D.

With so many ‘hot’ artists in the field relying on copouts and crutches, Pope is a refreshing beacon of how it could be done.

I think Paul would be the last person to deny the legitimacy of technological tools.

this piece and the Dean Haspiel one are both great. Here’s hoping that Arrant joins Robot 6 fulltime.

Indeed – plus comics & technology have always gone hand in hand. It’s not gallery work. It’s meant to be printed & reproduced. Whatever tools help that then it’s up to the artist & creators in general to figure out what’s best for their particular projects.

Photoshop isn’t a cop out. It doesn’t magically make art better. It’s a tool no different than an artist using a ruler or the 1001 other tools you can find in an art supply store to achieve a desired effect. The execution & techniques used don’t make art or an artist “real” – it’s what’s produced that counts in the end. Just look at Brian Bolland’s work – Photoshop is hardly a crutch in his hands. The talent & skill is in who he is not what he uses after all.

Before any THB fans get too excited, remember, this isn’t a new issue continuing the main saga. It’s an issue of, y’know, apocrypha.

I dunno man. I’m a THB fan and i’m SUPER excited for an issue of, y’know, “apocrypha”.

THB was a favorite of my for years, as well as Paul and his work, glad to hear its picking up new readers! I remember being at NYCC a few years ago and my brother pointed out that John Cassaday and Paul Pope just walked passed as I was tying my shoe…ahh one day I’ll get my chance to meet him!!!

Can’t wait for Battling Boy. I’ve been waiting for that one for years. I hope finishes those THB collections someday too.

Technology DEFINITELY has a place. In fact the biggest jump in quality of comic books imo has been due to the change to computer coloring. Take an objective look at books before Image Comics came out, even though Image’s coloring was mostly not that good early on, they changed everything for the better in forcing the industry to use computers. It’s also sped up lettering based on what I’ve read. HOWEVER it’s RUINING illustration. Want an example? Look at what Alex Maleev is doing, these guys are just running photographs through a filter and calling it art. I’ll take a craftsman over that garbage any day.

I have yet to be impressed with computer coloring other than when it’s reproducing an old technique. There’s a certain charm to the limits of a 64 color palette that brought out stark and vibrant pieces of art that are rarely seen today. The sheen and shine on modern comics hurts my eyes.

So you haven’t been impressed with what Jose Ladronn is doing over the last several years? He works entirely in Photoshop now and has used it to some capacity on most of his colored work.

There are definitely a ton of great examples of computer coloring, but there’s also a ton of mediocre airbrushed crap, and there’s been a very large shift away from design in the color palette.

Brent Anderson has been drawing Astro City digitally for a few issues now and it looks great. Camilla D’Errico colors her work in photoshop and it looks gorgeous. And someone mention Ladronn and he’s amazing as well. The computer is a tool and it depends on the artist using them.

I’m with Grant — skill is skill, talent is talent. I don’t judge an artist by their tools, but by their art.

I’m not blasting technology. I’m blasting artists who rely on it to carry their work instead enhancing it.

I marvel at the fact Pope needs nothing but paper and ink to get things done.

Brent Anderson can grab a pencil and a sheet of paper and give you no less of an impressive result.

Pope and Anderson have taken the time and effort to learn basic drawing skills.

Neither of them need to find a photo of TripleH grimacing like he’s having an enema to draw a villain.

Neither of them need to search the 3dWarehouse for a model of a hotdog stand to draw one convincingly.

If all of the digital cameras, stock photo services, photoshop filters and 3d programs ceased functioning tomorrow, who would still qualify as an artist after that?

For a few months, I have been obsessed with getting Paul Pope to do an Atomic Knights story to follow up his Adam Strange stuff. I asked him about this in Baltimore and he is mad into it!

I have a Facebook group to drum up support. It includes a quick Pope Atomic Knights sketch!!/group.php?gid=123831117650574&ref=ts


There’s also a ton of non-computer colored crap. I don’t understand where this revisionist history about coloring quality came about, but I’d ask everyone to take an objective look at coloring from the past. The fact that we’re familiar with it doesn’t mean it was good. Some of Art Adams’ work for example would have looked even better if he’d had decent colorists working over his line art. It was less imo that the old style was better than that you don’t remember noticing it very often. Meanwhile Isanove did some amazing work over Jae Lee’s art on Dark Tower, computers or not.

I lost interest in Ladronn when I noticed his work was no longer hand painted. It looks too smooth, like plastic. Jose Villarubia and Dom Regan seem to be the only colorists I can handle.

I would love to get THB: Comics from Mars #2 but with it being US$20 just for postage to Australia no way in hell will i be able to get it :[

Even though I fell in love with THB during the Nineties, it’s a bitch to collect it. I couldn’t keep track of the issues post volume 1 anymore. And back issues are hard to find. The first issue of Comics rom Mars #2 is sold out. I wonder if I can get the #2 in time.

If there people who would like to sell their copies to me, do let me know. :-)

Hey Gallama –

That $20 for shipping to Australia is a glitch in how we have our shipping set up. Since it’s a comic, and will fit in flat rate envelope, actual cost is $13. It’s a pain, but I’ve been refunding international orders $7 or whatever extra they’ve paid.

But yeah, all the THB:CfM#1s are gone. Only available through ebay, possible stores (Beguiling?) or luck.

Also, these stories are all tidbits of background characters. No real THB or HR included in this one, or the previous volume.

Thanks for all the interest in this comic. Paul does amazing work.

One of the saddest days of my collecting life involved a partially flooded basement and discovering most of my THBs (which were temporarily in the basement) were water logged. I kept them but good golly, trades can’t come soon enough.

Hi, Paul! Good luck.

Great to see you are staying busy.


“kill em dead”. isnt that air gear?

for all you guys who think pope doesnt use reference material: How do you know he doesnt? have you been looking over his shoulder every single day while he is drawing?? Yes he DOES use a lot of reference materials. ALL artists do. Even moebius did I got tons of examples where he outright stole from photos. Pope has said in many previous interviews he uses reference photos, in fact he said he had people take photos of LA for the One trick Rip off book.

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