Anybody who’s read 2000 AD over the last decade or so will be familiar with Boo Cook’s vibrant, distinctive artwork in strips like Asylum, Harry Kippling, Anderson: Psi Division and, of course, Judge Dredd. Outside of that title Boo has been responsible for a number of covers for American comics from X-Factor to the Wolverine: Dangerous Games one-shot to the title he’s most associated with in the US market, Elephantmen. This week sees another cover to add to the collection as Boo brings his talent to the rather marvellous Image series, Prophet, for issue #31.
Always busy creating images beyond the reach of most of us, Boo managed to tear himself away from the drawing board to answer our questions…
What’s your earliest memory of coming into contact with the world of comics?
I had a couple of really old Eagle annuals which had some amazing Dan Dare art by Frank Hampson, but my first regular weekly comic when I was 4 years old was Toby, about a small dog with dungarees on.
Is there one person you would say is responsible more than anyone else for helping you get your foot in the industry door?
Well, it could be Andy Diggle for giving my first job for 2000 AD when he was editor. It could be current 2000 AD editor Matt Smith for employing me for so long, or it could be Richard Starkings who, once the industry door was open, opened it even wider and has held it open with a big courteous smile ever since!
Why comics and not plumbing or brain surgery?
Since my formative teenage years I've had it set in my head that I wanted to devote my life to spreading positive ideas to as wide an audience as possible - when being in rock bands didn't work out as planned I fell back on the art side of things and my lifelong passion for all things sci-fi and comic based. I opted for comics over more traditional illustration entirely because of their storytelling/communicative power.
What musical delights help you get your head in the right place to start creating?
I have different musical preferences for different aspects of the job - I never work in silence. When I'm doing my thumbnail breakdowns I go for really non-intrusive ambient, or synth drone. When I'm pencilling I like to blast out some good shouty classic rock or prog to get things flowing, and for computer colouring I'll opt for more bleepy synth based stuff or a good podcast. Lately I have been particularly enjoying Drokk, Beak, Matt Berry, and Die Antwoord. An eclectic mix for sure.
What artists inspire your work?
Probably my biggest artistic influences would be the main crop of 2000 AD artists from the ‘80s golden era - Bolland, Ezquerra, McCarthy, McMahon, Cam Kennedy etc - all of them unique and incredibly stylish storytellers. Since that initial rush I'd say that the likes of Moebius, Ladronn, Frank Quitely and Jack Kirby have had a massive impact. I wear some of my inspirations on my sleeve more than others but it's all there in my brain filtering down one way or another. Facebook is actually quite handy for throwing up new artists - I recently discovered the mindbendingly talented Sergey Kolesov and Kim Jung Gi on there...
Which piece of your own published work are you most proud of?
That would possibly be the Strontium Dog/Elephantmen crossover strip that Rich Starkings and myself just had in the recent Thought Bubble Anthology #2 - largely because I love Elephantmen, and Strontium Dog has been my favourite character since I was about 9. It's still going strong in 2000 AD and co-creator Carlos Ezquerra is still belting out some of his finest work on it, but it was lovely to step into those shoes and try them on for a few pages.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far in comics?
I've had to draw some hideously gruesome stuff over the years, but the strip that I'm working on now Gunheadz for 2000 AD, written by Tom Eglington, has been the most creatively and intellectually challenging. I've had to employ four different art styles in the 15-page strip, and some of the panels are extremely complex in terms of content and composition... Luckily I love a good challenge.
What are you currently working on, and why should we be excited to see the final product?
I think Gunheadz, which I'm just approaching the end of, should be in 2000 AD at the start of the new year, along with a Strontium Dog cover I just completed. Aside from that I have another run of Elephantmen covers, a Conan strip and hopefully some more collaborations with Tom Eglington in the pipeline.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
It's difficult to say for sure, but I'm pretty certain it will still be here at least. I imagine there'll be more in the way of digital comics and projects like Liam Sharp's Madefire. Whether it will be in a boom state or another dip in ten years will depend on the economy in general, the zeitgeist, the proliferation of comics based films, and the increase in popularity of other entertainment mediums - but yeah, comics will still be here, and I'll still be doing them!
You meet someone unfamiliar with the world of comics - what book would you place in their hands to convince them of the medium's worth and potentially convert them to the cause?
2000 AD would be a good place to start - when it's on form it can be exceptionally good. It pushes boundaries, it has wildly varying art styles and because of the anthology format there's potentially something for everyone. I think graphic novel collections are handy to win over non comics people and I imagine that one book that is probably very busy doing that right now is The Walking Dead. It's maybe a little clichéd to say it, but Watchmen is such a masterclass example of the medium I'd have to throw that in... And Vol#1 of Elephantmen.
Three recommendations in books/movies/music/TV that you can't get enough of at this moment in time?
Film: Dredd 3D, Prometheus, anything by Herzog. Book: The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt. TV: Season 3 of Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad. Music: Motherbox (a cheeky plug for my band!)
You’re evacuating the planet Earth ahead of its imminent destruction and you only have a chance to grab three comics and/or graphic novels before you leave. What would they be and why?
Jack Kirby's 2001 tales, The Invisibles Omnibus, and the Complete Strontium Dog (which probably doesn't exist, but it will by the time the apocalypse occurs).
Which three comic characters would you most like to go for a beer with (and why)?
Wolverine, because he could keep up in the drinking stakes and take care of the fights instigated by a certain Mr. Matt Clark... Qlso a night of mead and wine with Wulf Sternhammer and Conan would have to be pretty epic!
What would you most want to be remembered for?
Entertaining some folk with sounds and pictures, helping everyone to be a bit nicer to each other, and promoting space migration.
Kirby – king of comics?
You offend me. 'Undisputed Eternal God-King of Comics' if you please!
Prophet #31 is out now.