Throwback Interview: Jamie Delano (2006)

Jamie Delano is a popular British comic book writer, best known for his work on the comic book Hellblazer (on which the movie Constantine was based). Delano has also worked on a multitude of other series, such as Animal Man, Doctor Who, 2020 Visions, and Ghostdancing. Delano was generous enough to take time out of his busy schedule to participate in The Ten.

Q: How did you break into writing?A: Got lucky. I always planned to be a writer of some kind, but got distracted for a number of years by the need to earn a living. I was driving taxis when a friend, Alan Moore, offered to introduce me to an editor at Marvel UK, who in turn, took a chance and commissioned me to write some episodes of a prose series: Night Raven. I made the most of this chance to prove myself, moved on to experiment with sequential story-telling in Captain Britain and Dr Who, etc., discovered I enjoyed the medium and looked for other opportunities to develop my craft. Luckily a few other people enjoyed what I was doing enough to pay money to read it.

Q: How did you come to be the first writer on the series Hellblazer?

A: DC Comics were looking to develop Swamp Thing character, John Constantine, as a lead in his own series. They wanted a British writer to imbue this quintessentially English character with an air of authenticity. I had already submitted a proposal for an original series to DC, and they subsequently offered me the chance to work on developing Constantine. My ideas were sympathetically received, and Hellblazer was the result.

Q: Your writing tends to be dark and horror-oriented. What draws you to this genre?

A: Take a look around you. My emotional response to the world I inhabit provides the energy I need in order to write, and I don’t detect a whole lot of sweetness and light.

Q: Aside from the Original Sins collection, why hasn’t more of your extensive run on the Hellblazer been reprinted?

I have no definitive information on that: some weird marketing voodoo decides these things.

Q: How satisfied were you with your tenure on Animal Man?

A: Considering it was something I never had plans to write (my tenure arose from a request to fill-in for a couple of issues by an editor in distress), I was quite satisfied with the work I did on Animal Man, although I was getting a little bored with it by the end. After the intensity of the Hellblazer experience, Animal Man was almost relaxing and fun to write.

Q: When you script a comic book, how much leeway do you give the artist? Or are you very precise in your direction?

A: I like to provide a fairly detailed schematic for the production of a story. I generally design a script so that a competent result can be achieved merely by following the instructions – however, in the ideal situation, the artist desires to contribute more than just functionality to the work, and the real job of the script is to inspire this impulse in him. Script and art should combine to be more than the sum of their parts.

Q: Are there any particular tools or methodologies you use to write (outlining, script writing programs, etc.)?

A: Take a mess of vague ideas of character, theme and scenario; mitigate the blank screen terror through chemical re-balancing of the brain and body; indulge in days of “keyboard thinking” until a blurred dramatic structure begins to reveal itself – then set some characters walking and talking across the page; follow, and hope they lead you to a satisfactory end.

Q: How do you feel about the state of the comic industry today?

A: Pretty neutral, I guess. Nothing insightful to add to the endless debate surrounding your question, I’m afraid.

Q: What advise would you give to up-and-coming writers who want to break into the comic book field?

A: Strive to develop your own vision and voice. Approach your work with integrity. Whatever the genre in which you work, energize your stories with emotional truths with which your audience can empathize.

Q: What’s next for Jamie Delano?

A: Dotage and death, most likely: with a few comic projects, movie work, and a novel if time permits.

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