When it comes to comic books, you will find very few people who know more about them than Chris Sequeira. And when it comes to Australian talent working in the international comic book industry the writing/drawing team of Chris Sequeira and Chew Chan, first formed around 2000(AD) to produce a little-known independant title called The Borderlander, have since landed a deal with Marvel comics to produce their latest Iron Man for Astounding Tales. ...
T: Can you give us some idea of the relationship you have been developing with Marvel – the path you have taken leading to this, and how long it has taken to get here.
Chris: A long time! I’ve worked for big US companies before, like DC Comics, and Marvel proved to be similar. They have very firm ideas about their characters and want them to be seen in a particular light, they act as custodians of decades-valuable intellectual properties.
Having said that, I loved Iron Man as a kid, so it was a bit of a dream come true, spinning a yarn about a childhood favourite. Thanks, Editor-Man, John Barber! John was a supporter of ours based on samples alone - a rare feat! But it took months before he could get the right opening gig for us. Then, after it was first scheduled, that comic was cancelled and so he found it another home in a new title (Astonishing Tales #1).
The big, big thing is that normally it’s very hard to get a gig as a combo; they don’t like writers and artists teaming up, usually they would rather assign the work. But we both had track records, so that made a big difference, I would imagine.
Chew: It usually takes a long time to develop any kind of relationship with an editor - unless you’re personally introduced. We were lucky to have had past work and decent samples that John liked. I also flew to New York and met him. I think it always helps to put a face to a name and personal impressions (assuming they are good!) always go a long way. Of course, the only way of keeping that relationship healthy is to be totally professional in your work - give your best work and don’t blow deadlines!
T: How was the experience of working with Marvel directly? Have they edited/changed/directed your work in any way disagreeably or otherwise?
Chew: It was highly enjoyable. Very straight-forward, especially when you compare the process to how it works in the movie business - to which I am more accustomed. There are just so many hands to go through in film production, lots of ideas get lost in the process.
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John Barber, our editor at Marvel, was deliberate and authoritative - he knew what he wanted. So the process wasn’t just smooth, it was efficient. We progressed quickly from the script to the layouts to the pencils. Pretty much a dream job!
Chris: They very much guided the direction of things all the way through, and in fact this story started with an idea the editor had - he wanted to do a riff on ‘Iron Man in Hollywood’ (because the movie was coming out) so he asked me to come up with an idea around that. When you work for such big companies you need to understand from the beginning that it’s a collaborative approach to writing – that’s what they pay (relatively well) for.
So, I did a couple of outlines, then a couple of script drafts, and at each step the editor would indicate what he wanted me to play up or play down. But he also listened to my ideas about particular dialogue, actions, etc.
Chew: The art went through without any changes, which was great. If anything, they were quite accommodating to the changes that I made in the visualisation of the script.
John was very attentive to the art as well as the story. We had a very long discussion over how I felt the inking (of the pencils) should look. It speaks volumes about him as an editor to have listened to an artist talk about how he would like the art to turn out and actually go out and secure an inker to achieve it – initially he had an inker lined up who I didn’t think would match my pencils. In the end, we got Tom Palmer, who is an industry legend; needless to say, I was extremely happy with the result!
T: The Future?
Chris: We’ve had a really favourable reaction to the story and also to another story we did for another US publisher (a Lovecraftian horror story for Cthulhu Tales #11 which, by eldritch coincidence, went on sale the same day in comic shops). So ‘The Chewster’ and I are working together and separately on some new gigs, which will hopefully grace comic shops in the near future.
interview by Steve Proposch