Interview with Alison Sampson


    alison_sampson A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to publish an advance review of the one-shot titled Genesis, by Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson.

    Their courtesy did not end there and today we have an interview with the artist of that comic. Sampson is an interesting artist not only in her drawings, but also her background as an architect and recently taking the comics profession.

    Attesting to the (very promising) start of her career as an artist, we talked to her about these topics and more.

    Interview with Alison Sampson

    Zona Negativa: An architect by profession, and now you are starting a career as a comic artist. Were you always interested in comics as a reader? At what point did you think to create your own comics? Do you think of comics as a new profession or as a hobby? Have you ever thought about leaving architecture to devote exclusively to art?

    Alison Sampson: I’ve always been interested in the way words and images work together, and the tension between them. I read 2000AD as a child. Carlos Ezquerra’s depiction of Judge Dredd and his world made a huge impression, and the dark humour there, that was apparent, that Ezquerra made the work rich through his own experience. After that, I didn’t see comics for perhaps twenty, or more years after I started to study architecture. One day I rediscovered them again, when I read Watchmen.

    Text and graphics are a part of architecture, but making a comic looked like all the fun bits of that work, without the cold rooftops and lengthly consultations. I needed to find out more, but it wouldn’t be until a couple of years later that I started to draw by hand again. Until I met people who created comics, I did not understand that people drew the work. From there it was a relatively short step to trying it myself. The comic artist Rob Davis suggested (after I drew his daughter, for practice) that I submit a comic to the UK anthology Solipsistic Pop. So I did- and that was my first comic. It was published towards the end of 2011.

    Dos páginas del cómic Small World, incluido en la antología Solipsistic Pop
    Double page from the comic Small World, included in the Solipsistic Pop antología

    Comics are not a thing that can be done by halves, and I find something so intense to be difficult to think of as a hobby. You either make the best comic you can make, or you don’t make one at all. Working on comics fits in well with how architecture contracts can work, and there are a number of the same skills involved, so I would hope to be able to do both. Working with architecture and landscape is a way of tapping into the world, and to some extent, making a comic is making architecture too, and one really feeds into the other.

    ZN: Obviously your knowledge of architecture affects the way you structure the page, scenarios and the storytelling. How much and how do you think this influence?

    A. S.: A great deal. It is the biggest influence on my work. I’ve been doing architecture work for so long, the practices are ingrained in my mind and I cannot help but look at comics and think of them like I would think of architecture. Even the way the art is drawn, with a fine black pen, in quite a utilitarian way is like architecture. I think about how the spaces work, how they relate to each other and how they join, or do not join. I think about the lighting and the composition and the scale, and all sorts of things. Quite a lot of my experience is in large projects as well, and that really helps dealing with controlled chaos on the page. Cities, landscapes and large architectural projects all have to be landscaped, to some extent, and the comic page is no different.

    ZN: Traditionally, the US comics industry has been dominated by men. Recently we have seen major changes in this area, especially in regards to digital comics. Did you have any difficulty to break into this world? Do you have contact with other women authors?

    A. S.: I don’t know and Yes. I believe Nathan asked me to draw Genesis because of my relatively unusual background and the art he had seen. If this is breaking in, I can only attribute the reason why to be all about the work. In the end it always comes down to the quality of the work. I do follow the work of several artists and writers who happen to be women. Emma Rios’ art is a favourite, I enjoy Emily Carroll and Sloane Leong’s creativity in a number of fields, Jen Lee’s ThunderPaw is very good, and I also like Ms Marvel. I can see there is a thirst from people for all kinds of stories, and the more diverse group of people making comics, the more diverse the stories will be. As Allison Baker put it in her column for Comic Book Resourcesrecently, we are not competing for a share of the pie, we are all wanting a bigger pie. There is room for everyone. As with a city, if everyone did everything the same way, the place would be boring, and if you don’t try and make something special, no-one will want it.


    ZN: Soon to be published, Genesis is making a great impact, with many advanced interviews and reviews. It has to do promotional work you have done with Nathan Edmondson, but still the reception is favorable. Did you expect this good predisposition and comments for the comic?

    A. S.: I had no idea what to expect. When Nathan approached me with the idea, I decided to draw the comic, in the way many comics are drawn for Image, as a «back end deal». I felt this was story I wanted to tell, and I wanted that enough that I was prepared to do what it took to make the comic: a lot of work, for no page rate. This is not only my first comic of any length, but it is the first thing I have been credited for in my life. I’ve done work for hire since I was a teenager, and it is an incredibly emotional experience, after all this time, to make something personal and complete it, and now it is there. My experience in architecture, on projects like London’s Millennium Dome, tells me never to under-estimate people’s capacity to appreciate art, so if our comic is making people think, then that’s great.

    ZN: According to your comments in interviews, your relationship with Nathan Edmondson for this comic was very good, are you planning o talking about a new collaboration?

    A. S.: Nathan is a fantastic storyteller, and when he approached me, I was delighted to hear his ideas. He gave me a particular amount and type of creative freedom in the script, that despite being quite demanding, suited me well. And the ideas were great. I’d happily draw more of those, schedules permitting. It takes two to tango though, so the last word on this is Nathan’s.

    genesis_edmondson_sampson_03 genesis_edmondson_sampson_04

    ZN: We learned through other interviews that you are already working on other projects. We want to know all about these, but we are satisfied with what you can tell us about them for now. Titles, editorial, co-authors, publication dates…

    A. S.: I’m just starting a creator-owned project with Steve Niles called Winnebago Graveyard, with a publisher to be announced. I hope to do more creator-owned work and have plans, but its too early to say anything about anything else yet.

    ZN: Projecting into the future, with which authors and publishers do you want to work? What kind of comics would you like to do? There are any characters or series in particular you want to draw? You aspire to draw other properties or feel more comfortable in the creator-owned?

    A. S.: I want to make more creator owned work, and ideally I would like to get it in front of an audience, but that is not to say I wouldn’t not draw a property. People like David Aja, Ross Campbell and Henry Flint show what can be done there. I like Image Comics and want to work with them again, as soon as I can (because I like that way of working), but they are not the only publisher who makes interesting, or well put together books. Image also help with the work, because their architectural judgement is impeccable, and it helps an artist to work, to know that. John Arcudi, Brandon Graham, Ales Kot, Steve Orlando, Santiago Garcia, Damon Gentry, Jeff Parker, Corinna Bechko and Joe Harris are all people I would like to collaborate with, and I haven’t even *got started* on that list. So many people- collaboration is something I enjoy, and am pretty used to.


    One of the exciting things about comics is about how many very bright people there are involved. Matthew Dow Smith wrote me an excellent story for IDW’s In The Dark, which comes out a week after Genesis. I’m interested to see if more artists take up writing, and to be involved in that. If Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon would write for someone else, i would be first in the queue.

    ZN: That’s all from us, thank you very much.

    A. S.: Thank you for asking the questions.

    Step by step of the page 15 from Genesis

    Alison has been kind enough to offer us a step by step of the page 15 from the comic Genesis so that readers can see in detail the work done. The script is by Nathan Edmonson, pencils are Alison Sampson as well as ink. She also show us an unused version with colors by Ian Herring, and the color in the storyboard by Jason Wordie, and finally the colored page by Jason with Jon Babcock lettering.

    Script for page 15:
    Panel One
    – Now she’s on top of him on the bed (and by the way, let’s keep this scene pg-13,
    if that means strategically placing arms or making thing silhouettes). He’s straining up
    to kiss her.
    – 1)Lilian: At first I didn’t understand it, but it’s wonderful.
    – 2)Lilian: I don’t need to understand.
    – 3)Adam: Neither do I.
    Panel Two
    – From behind, she’s on top of him, the blanket piled around her waist, but her
    naked back curved over him.
    Panel Three
    – She’s upright now, he’s laying down. Her brown hair is being flung back.
    Panel Four
    – Now she’s leaning her head back, but her hair is turning BLONDE. Her skin is
    now perfect, a little bit tan, even.
    – 4)Lilian: Oh, God!

    Genesis, Page 15 - Pencils and ink by Alison Sampson

    Genesis, Page 15 - Unused test with colors by Ian Herring, y page with final colors by Jason Wordie

    Genesis, Page . 15 - Final version with lettering by Jon Babcock

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