Artist Liam Sharp has been drawing all of his life. He grew up in the small industrial town of Derby, located in the UK midlands. His family and friends saw his loyalty and dedication to the arts, so they all just assumed that’s what he would do in life. Now, Liam is an accomplished artist working with everyone from heavy metal band Danzig to working DC comics on their Wonder Woman Rebirth series. He is also the founder and chief commercial officer at Madefire which is an website/app for comic book readers who enjoy reading their comics in full digital motion.
Liam was kind enough to spare some time to be to speak with me on his passion for drawing, as he talks about his love for art, and his work at DC comics.
When did you decide that illustrating and art was your passion?
There was never a time I didn’t draw. It was innate. And everybody around me – teachers, family, friends – just assumed that’s what I would do. Oddly there’s quite a lot of pressure in that assumption! You have a lot to live up to!
What do you love most about being an artist? What do you like the least?
Making worlds and telling stories!
Seriously though, there are always things we lean towards. I have a textural, organic approach to art, so I enjoy drawing things that reflect that, such as trees, mountains, and rocks. Or even alien technology. As a writer it can be anything from epic fantasy and sci-fi (God Killers: Machivarius Point and other Tales) to something more experimental and James Joycian (Paradise Rex Press, Inc.)
How long have you been involved in the comic book industry? Where did you get your start?
This is my 30th year. I started out as an assistant to the late, very great Don Lawrence. Then I went on to 2000ad, Marvel UK, Marvel US, Verotik, Wildstorm, DC, Vertigo, and Dark Horse. I’ve worked for almost all the larger companies now over the years!
You discussed previously that you worked with heavy metal band Danzig. They are known for being a bit on the wild side. What was that like?
Interesting. The upside was having a lot of creative freedom.
That said, I’m becoming more, shall we say, politically correct as I grow older. My daughter is a feminist, as is my wife, and I think some of that material would offend them. Hell, it would offend me!
I like to push myself, and I’m not squeamish, but if there’s going to be violence, horror or nudity I prefer it when there’s a good, non-gratuitous reason. When I look back at some of my earlier work I wonder what it is I was trying to say. I think I might just have been testing myself – seeing how far I dared to go. And often the violence, which was very over the top and ironic, didn’t land in the way I might have liked it to. It was sort of celebratory extreme violence, and that’s not like me at all!
At WonderCon 2016, it was announced that you will be working on the solo Wonder Woman comic via the DC Comics Rebirth project, how did you land the opportunity to work with DC again?
Right place, right time, and a style that is made for that comic. I’m the co-founder and CCO of www.madefire.com, which has been an incredible journey, but at this stage, after eight years out of the mainstream, I was just desperate to get back to my drawing board.
I sent Jim Lee (who I’ve known for almost 25 years) a text with a Red Sonja piece I had drawn, and I sort of said – wouldn’t it be great if Wonder Woman was done like this? And he said yes it would, and did I have any WW samples? I said I didn’t, but I would have come Monday… And that’s how it happened!
What’s it like working with DC Comics and writer Greg Rucka?
There are three of us coordinating the book, which will be twice monthly. I’m on Wonder Woman year 10, which will be issues 1,3,5, etc. and the exceptional Nicola Scott is doing Year One through the even numbered titles.
We’re staying fairly in contact as I speak to Greg every few days. He’s a fantastic collaborator, and an exceptional writer – especially his great, natural dialogue. He gets a lot of story over in a very deliberate and effective way.
We’re also aligned in our world and ethical views. This is great because it means we can embed stuff in the story that really matters to both of us. So often, as a freelancer, you are almost forced to ignore the context in order to put money on the table and keep the family fed!
How did you decide on the particulars of the artwork? How did the story help shape your vision?
I knew I wanted to bring in a lot of detail – that’s my thing. Texture and detail. I wanted it to be the Red Nails of Wonder Woman stories – epic and beautiful.
What were some of the difficulties, or, challenges you experienced while illustrating for the comic?
None so far! It’s been just a thrill!
Where do you hope to see the success of Wonder Woman a year from now?
I hope this run becomes seminal. We all care, first and foremost, about the book and the character herself, and we work in service of that.
A character as iconic as Wonder Woman cannot be owned. You’re just another aspect of the gorge through which that legacy flows. There is 75 years of creativity before this current team, and there will be many more years of Wonder Woman stories after we are long gone. We will be inextricably tied to that legacy, and that’s a hell of an honor!
Can you provide any advice for those looking to create art for large comic book companies like DC?
Draw panel to panel storytelling. Don’t just draw the icons as no one gets to start out on them! Draw everything – especially the stuff you don’t like to draw. Show your range. You have to love drawing more than you love drawing the stuff you love!
What can fans expect from you personally in the future?
I hope to grow as an artist, improve my own skills, and hopefully stay on the title for a good long run! Beyond that – who knows?