Interviewed October 2016 by Adam Gidney
BOX=ART - Hi Dermot! Do you remember your first box art you completed (should be one of the following, Golden Axe, Supremacy or Judge Dredd)?
Dermot Power - The first one was for Dredd. Then probably Golden Axe … I cant quite remember. I did a bunch of them until the company was bought out and a new regime came in and I was swept out with the old. (I was busy doing comics by then so wasn’t too bothered).
I’m guessing the Judge Dredd cover led to your time with 2000AD? Out of interest, do you know why Virgin picked you to design the cover over an already established 2000AD cover artist? Not disconting your talent of course!!
I was hoping to get in to 2000AD as a comic artist and so had some sample pages in my portfolio when I went in to Virgin games for an interview. I had no idea they were doing a Dredd game - it was just a coincidence. The art director saw a panel in a test page I did that he really liked and asked me to do a tighter bigger version for the cover. I was so shocked he asked me that my first reaction was to tell him he shouldn’t use me and it would be much better to get Bolland to do the cover!
Luckily for my entire career he wouldn’t let me say no. In fact he said ‘you’ve done a great interview up to now - don’t blow it’ and best of all he said ‘if you f*ck it up we’ll just use the picture in your portfolio’. So I did it …but its very much a homage to Bolland and Higgins. Virgin games used it to advertise the Dredd game for months in the Megazine and 2000Ad - I’m sure people were pretty sick of seeing it - I know I was.
2000AD gave me some covers to do on the back of it - I remember the editor Richard Burton saying that the 2kAD covers would need to be more dynamic and that he understood that I had no choice but to do this rather ‘boring’ cover for the game - I nodded in agreement of course even though I disagreed with him (and still do- dynamic action covers feel like an episode of something not the main thing- I wanted something more iconic even if my art skills weren’t quite up to it at the time)
Richard and Alan McKenzie were great supporters of my work from then on - I’ve been very lucky with the people I’ve met over the years.
Who was your art director at Virgin?
I can’t remember their names - which is awful because they kick-started my career. There was an art director and a game director. I remember the game director saying the Alice Art looked like I had plucked it from inside his head. That was meant to be a compliment …I think. Not sure if it was to himself or me. Either way we got on very well and they were very supportive of my artwork which is important when you are starting out. The film industry is full of very nervous people so you only know you are doing well because you get asked back but you hardly ever get compliments.
What art direction did you get back then?
For cover Art ? Not a lot really; I just sent in some sketch ideas and they let me get on with it.
Other than your sample comic art you mention, what was it about your art or you as an artist that appealed to Virgin?
I have no idea… maybe the storytelling feel to it.
What was your favoured media back then?
Acrylic and gouache on Cs2 paper although I think I might have painted the Golden Axe cover on Black paper which was a bit nuts - everything looks bright when you start with black as a background so the final painting is often way too dark.
Who were your artistic inspirations in the early 90’s?
Simon Bisley, Glen Fabry, Frank Frazetta, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, John Higgins (I loved his colour Dredd work), and John Waterhouse, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle …all the way back to Caravaggio I guess.
Did you ever retain your box arts?
I held on to the originals for years until a collector bought almost everything in one go about 6 years ago. I still have the Wonderland art - I don’t want to part with that just yet . The pencil drawing is better than the painting - that often happened at the beginning of my career - I would put way too much effort in to doing the pencil drawing and then lose a lot of the creative energy for the final colour artwork. I learned later in my career to go to paint or full colour as early as possible so you are designing for colour not for black and white line art which you then ruin with colour.
Your box art for Wonderland seemed to kick start a career in the Alice world. Has all of you time working with Carroll's characters been a coincidence, or are you a big fan and gravitated towards this work?
I do love Alice in Wonderland but it’s mostly a coincidence although sometimes it can seem like the fates are aligning to keep me connected to Lewis Carrol’s world. When I worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I was based in the attic of Arthur Rackham’s house which was a very inspiring place to create in.
What would you say are the big requirements and expectations of a modern cover artist compared to one in the early 90’s?
I’ve no idea about cover art these days. I don’t do any cover art for anything. I am in a design phase of my career where the art is not the final product but a design for a final product. I don’t miss the pressure of everything depending on a single image. I did a few weeks on Bioshock, working from home in London so didn’t really have any connection to the team creating the game. So can’t really claim to know much about the evolution of the game industry. I very rarely work in games.
What can you tell me about you final cover Lure of teh Temptress?
I think the ‘Lure…’ cover killed my career as a box cover artist! It coincided with a change of guard at Virgin games (the new crew were not a fan of my art style) and for some reason I swapped my painterly style for a more Bolland inspired line and colour art style. No idea why I did that but it looks awful. The drawing is good..probably as good as anything I did up to that point but why I did those three strong colours? horrible. I remember meeting the comic artist Dougie Braithwaite at a convention and him laughing and saying ‘ooh…that’s not your best work’. That hurt but I can see why he said it now.
Am I right in thinking your first cover for 2000 AD was for prog #699 - The Necropolis cover?
Actually the first cover was a back cover for the megazine which was embarrassingly bad- I was trying to ape John Higgins whose work for the Kraken Dredd story was absolutely beautiful. And then Bolland again. Most of my career was me trying to figure out how my heros did what they did!
I read that you were busy recently working on The Force Awakens. Can you say what you are currently working on?
I Didn’t work on the Force Awakens. I did Fantastic Beasts instead. Mainly to work with the Production Designer Stuart Craig. Stuart is a brilliant designer, best in the industry probably. I love working for him. I am on Fantastic Beasts 2 as I write this.
By the way, I grew up with your art in 2000 AD, the 'Slaine kicks ass' cover was a favorite!
I loved working on Sláine .. Pat Mills is a great writer. Some of the happiest days of my life was working on Treasures of Britain .