WC: Did you always want to become a comic artist?
TP: Yes, from about the age of eight it was all I ever wanted to become when I was older.
WC: How would you describe your style?
TP: I can adapt my style to suit a house-style, or to suit a certain genre, something comic artists need to be able to do to keep in freelance work. That said my natural style is how you see me working on Worlds End. I guess I am more of a painter than a pencil artist. My style is a “realistic” cartoony style.
WC: Over the year”s you”ve worked on various characters and series ranging from Earthworm Jim, Thundercats and Transformers to name a few. Which characters or series did you enjoy working on the most and why?
TP: My top four would have to be:
1. Dreamstone – as it was my first regular full comic book, including covers. They were great characters to work with and very close to my own natural style.
2. Dark Dominion – as it was the book I worked on as the painter on the series during my time working for Jim Shooter”s Defiant comics in New York city. Joe”s version especially is still something I hold as one of my best collaborations with someone who simply wanted to create the best comics he could.
3. Transformers – as it was my first work for a mainstream comic company and it was Marvel Comics. I enjoyed working on the robots, who wouldn”t?
4. Doctor Who – as it was my first chance to work with the great John Ridgway, who has since become the best friend I have in the comics industry.
WC: Apart from being a comic artist, you are also a concept artist, designer and writer. How do these jobs differ and do you have any particular preference?
TP: They are very similar really in a lot of ways, which is why I approach them simply as a vehicle to create new worlds. I go through the same processes as I create them in each format. So whether the worlds and characters are being created for theme parks, animation, children”s books, or comic books the way I do this is the same. You just need to understand the differences of the end products. Simply put, I have to be aware of where these worlds and characters will exist. Obvious differences are flat 2D printing as opposed to moving pictures, or 30 foot high 3 dimensional glass fibre models.
Writing is different of course than drawing, obviously, but I use both as just one single entity in the process of telling the story. I can”t see you can do either without the other.
As for the preference, it has always been comics, or sequential storytelling for me. I make no distinction between being a writer, or an artist I enjoy both because I enjoy being a storyteller.
WC: You also manage a publishing and merchandising company called “Wizard”s Keep”. How did you go about setting up this company and what inspired you to do it?
TP: I had wanted to do this from the age of about 15 or 16. I had things pretty much mapped out in my head from around that time, even down to the company name. It was the first thing I checked out when sorting the initial aspects of the company – was anyone else using the company name? I woke up one Wednesday morning in March 2005 with sun coming in through the windows and decided that this was the day I would start planning to launch a new company, I wouldn”t wait until next year, which I had been looking at doing. It took around three months or so to find the right suppliers and build an infrastructure and a doable business plan.
It helps enormously that I have a fully supportive wife, who allowed me to undergo this venture. It also helps I have friends and colleagues in the industry and also close family and friends that I get support from.
The inspiration goes right back to being a teenager and something I thought could work, which was merchandising, although back then little of this kind existed. I have been lucky enough to meet a great many wonderfully talented people in my career. Having seen some marvellous art that I was then told were “just” portfolio pieces (better than anything they had in print too) and would never see print I decided I did not want that to be the case with me also. So I embarked on creating a vehicle, which would enable me to create the stories I wanted to and tell them in the way I thought they should be told, without the creative restraints imposed by other companies.
Wizards Keep enables me to do this and Worlds End is the first chance I have to show what I can do when given the opportunity.
WC: Some claim that you”re an actual wizard. Is this true?
TP: Yes, that is true, in fact Gweldar is my new pen-name. It would be great to say this was true I guess I would try to use my magik to help change the world for the better. In truth I have always had a soft spot for wizards and in fact with most things of a fantasy, or science fiction inclination, hence the name of the company,
WC: You have recently published your very own graphic novel; “Worlds End – Volume 1 – The Riders on the Storm”. Has this always been something you wanted to do and how does it differ from working on projects owned by other companies?
TP: Yes, if I had been able to I would have created stories like this from the day I left college. It was just not the way to do comics at the time though. The Internet was still a long way off at that point. I eventually came to the realisation that no matter how long I worked for other companies such as Marvel, or DC, or 2000AD, or any of the other publishers I would never have enough creative control to tell the stories as I wanted them told. I doubt very much if any of the other publishers would have been in the least interested in the story of Worlds End anyhow as they show very little inclination, or support of most things of a creator-owned nature. If anyone had taken on Worlds End volume one, the second volume would probably never have seen print, because of the lack of support and advertising for books outside of their own franchises, so it was always a none-starter for me.
As I say it is totally different as I can control all aspects of the projects. This isn”t done for egotistical reasons but so that my vision of how I want the story told to the best of my ability at any given time is allowed to show through in the work. I do not have to make changes simply because someone wishes to justify their own job. That said I did employ the services of the guy I hold in my mind as THE single best editor alive today, James Hill. A lot of people have said in answer to my words above when this subject has been broached before, why did I need an editor. Surely the whole reason I have set up like this is to escape editorial control. My answer is simple; I do not want to escape editorial control, James has enabled me to feel I have the support of a great editor. He picks up any mistakes I may have made. He asks me if anything should be changed – he doesn”t just make changes. He also has a great eye and also a keen ear, so he has helped me to keep the characters speaking “in character”, so they always sound like the same person, just in case I have missed something.
The project is a massive undertaking, as you know working on your own, Golden Lizard graphic novel. A normal publisher has lots of people all performing all the many different tasks to ensure their publications go out on time. Until I hired my colour assistant, Yel Zamor to produce the colour flats and my letterer, Albert Deschesne from Comicraft, I had been working alone for much of the time. So as well as creating the graphic novel and other product lines I was the Company Director, web-wizard, admin assistant, my own PA, PR consultant, marketing manager, freelancer, educator, network manager, and amongst a whole slew of other job titles the cleaner, so to say I was spread thin is an understatement. Working as a freelancer, or even in-house at another company you don”t need to do this.
The actual satisfaction of the job however for me is worth its weight in gold. Everyday even when the pressure is on or things may be outside of my current control and need a lot of organising is a joy for me. I am having the most fun I have ever had in my career and hopefully that will show through in the new work.
As for the story of Worlds End; I first conceptualised the story around the same time that I was creating my initial work for Marvel back in 1987. It lay languishing in limbo until I came to look at creating a graphic novel for myself. It may not have been the one I thought I would go with during the interim years, but it felt totally right at the time I decided to set up Wizards Keep.
WC: Can you give us a brief description of the plot of “Worlds End – Volume 1 – The Riders on the Storm”?
TP: The basic premise flows around the central characters of Mathemagician, called Gweldar, his familiar, Geek, a young boy, Ralf and a mysterious girl called Zephol. This little band of heroes are all that stand before an invading alien horde known as the Aoevill that are intent on aqua-forming their homelands on the otherwise tranquil planet of Gaeyrth in the far reaches of space.
Gweldar has a limited use of magik, mainly due to his bumbling ways. So they have to constantly use their wits to try to stop something terrible happening to their world.
Imagine a medieval society having to combat a far more highly technically advanced race and you are somewhere near.
The question I ask all the time throughout the series is, are they enough to stop the myriad forces, known as the Aoevill from the depths of outer space and solve the mystery of Worlds End…?
WC: Your graphic novel will be launched exclusively during the Malta Comic Con 2011. Why did you choose to launch it during such an event?
TP: I have been treated so well and given so much respect at the previous two events, it would have seemed wrong not to do so. This is my small way of giving something back to the Maltese people, especially the organisers and my new fans. The fact I chose to use Malta as the launch vehicle for the book also helped me to make sure the it was finally finished this year.
WC: So you have attended the first Malta Comic Convention and have not missed one since. What keeps you coming to this convention?
TP: You guys keep asking me back, which is wonderful. I feel a warmth at this convention that is sadly in the main missing from the UK ones, although Thought Bubble is a nice convention. I like the intimacy of MaltaComicCon. The weather is better here too, of course. There is always a feeling of great excitement from the organisers and I think that is passed on to the local Maltese artists and writers. I enjoy my time here in Malta, especially because I am involved in a lot of the activities such as the workshops, etc. All the guests are treated very well indeed from before we arrive, and even after we arrive back home.
WC: You have always offered invaluable assistance to the organisers of the Malta Comic Con. Is this an approach you take with all the conventions you visit?
TP: I never really get asked to do that at the UK conventions, so Malta affords me the opportunity to utilise my educational side, which I use with schools, colleges and universities and my own Fantasy Art Unlimited course back home in the UK. It also allows me to use my experience in the comics and concept industries and bring that to the aid of the organisers, something I am more than happy to do. I would certainly do that for other conventions if asked, but the Malta organisers seem to be the ones to utilise me at this moment in time.
WC: Last year you also designed the cover for the first Maltese Graphic Novel; “The Golden Lizard” by Fabio Agius, Chris Le Galle and Mark Ellul. What can you tell us about this experience?
TP: I think it was a great privilege to work on the first Maltese graphic novel. I had a great time working on the cover. The guys just let me get on with it and I was delighted when they said they loved what I had done with it. As I say there is this bubbling excitement from the guys and I seem to have been adopted by them too.
Gorg Mallia said to me last year that I had become an adopted Maltese creator and for me, even in jest, that is a great honour. The guys had no idea what I was going to do with the cover other than they had asked for the two characters to be on it. In fact the girl was originally going to be in robot form, but then I was asked to use the female version, just before I was going to start. I am just so pleased it has been so well received by everyone.
WC: Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
TP: Yes, I plan on writing the final draft of Worlds End – Volume 2 – A Hard Reign”s Gonna Fall in December after the launches here in Malta and in the UK. I then plan on starting to draw it in January 2012.
Alongside that I want to continue to write the final draft for a children”s book I began writing again last year. This is a concept from way back in the seventies as an art student in the sixth form, before I went to college. A Little different from Worlds End – still fantasy based, but an illustrated children”s book rather than a graphic novel.
Then I am currently finalising a signing tour in the UK, although if folks want to invite from other parts I am always open to that too, schedule and workload permitting.
Other than that it will be producing more new product ranges for Wizards Keep. The first of these will probably be a Worlds End colouring book and a new series of T-Shirts.
WC: You have delegated blogging duties to Bentley. Is there any chance we”ll see him at the Malta Comic Con?
TP: I would love to bring him along, but I couldn”t put him in the hold of the plane and I haven”t seen an airline that will allow him to sit next to me, even if I pay for a full seat. If that changes in the future though I am sure both he and I would love for him to come along. I am sure he would have as great a reception and time as I do.
He is very busy keeping everything ticking over in the UK at the moment here at the Keep – making sure everything is ready for the day after I arrive back in the UK for the launch there.
He will be back blogging sometime in December showing off his family photographs of Pixie and him and their babies.
WC: Would you like to add anything else?
TP: I would just like to say once again to the organisers, fans and general Maltese people just how much I appreciate their love and friendship. The guests that have not been to this convention before are in for a lovely surprise.
I look forward to meeting everyone again in a few days time and I hope you all enjoy reading and looking at Worlds End as much as I did creating it.