Doug Braithwaite Speaks!

Doug Braithwaite Speaks!

Doug Braithwaite has been an artist within the comic industry for many years. The opportunity to talk to him about his varied and colourful career was just to good to pass up. I asked Doug to tell me a little bit about himself and this is what he said, "I was born and grew up in West London. I was a keen sportsman when I was younger, mainly football and rugby and played to a decent level and I still turn out for five-a-side once a week. I’m a Man Utd fan and have followed them since I was a kid - they are the first team I ever saw on tv – not unusual for a Londoner - sorry ; )....Ahem..... being a Spurs fan I found no reason (Ahem) at all to object to his choice of Football team, he then added, "I don’t eat out much - luckily my wife is a wonderful cook - but if given a choice I do enjoy a good Thai meal."

NOTE TO THE READER: Doug's answers were so incredibly comprehensive and well worded he made my role in this interview slightly redundant. I have not edited a word of Doug's thoughts, so consequently I needed to ask fewer questions during our interview. The purpose of an interview is to discover the thoughts of the interview subject. With that in mind I decided to break up his excellent answers with plenty of examples of his exceptional art. There is not a huge amount of logic used in the order I have chosen the images in question. but they are all excellent. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: All images used are the property of all the appropriate copywright holders.

Paul: I'll start as I usually do, by asking where it all began. What was the first comic you recall buying or enjoying? I am essentially asking how old may you have been or where may it have been from? Everyone remembers their first comic surely?

Doug: I can’t remember exactly how old I was - I’m guessing about three years old - when I was bought my first comic. I remember my dad taking me to a newsagents near to where we lived and us walking though the shop door and me being drawn to a spinner rack of comics in the corner - there are very few things I can remember from that age but that is one memory I do have. There were various comics and British weeklies on display, they would have been things like The Beano, Dandy, Look-In, etc., and a small proportion of them - and the ones that caught my eye - were imported American DC Comics. 

Doug: I was transfixed. My dad paid for his newspaper, turned around and noticed my fascination with these superhero comics and asked if I wanted him to buy me one. I immediately plumped for an issue of Superman. I don’t remember the issue number but I have a vague memory of him fighting a Yeti on the front cover. This was probably around 1972. I can’t remember anything about the story itself, but I was excited by the colourful costumes and by the characters leaping across the page. I will always treasure that first experience not least because my dad read the comic to me when we got back home. I remember laughing a lot, probably amazed by the outrageousness of the characters, but it may also have been for the way my dad ‘acted’ the story out as he read it to me - including the sound effects. That was my first memory of comics and one that drew me in hook, line and sinker. I just loved the combination of words and pictures, and I ‘got it’ straight away.

Doug: My parents continued to buy me comics when they could, picking up whatever they thought might interest me until I was old enough to receive pocket money and I could purchase my own.....  My local newsagents were great and always seemed well stocked with a wide range of publications. The spin rack was still there and, even though I loved superhero comics, I was always willing to try some of the other things on offer. I was drawn to interesting and exciting covers and I would normally have a quick flick through the rack before making a decision to see the interior art. Generally, I loved it all. I was a big fan of British satirical comics, some of the strips would make me howl with laughter and I was fond of Dennis the Menace, the Bash Street Kids and recall a strip called ‘Bully Beef & Chips’, which was a particular favourite of mine.


Doug: There was such a wide selection of comics to choose from but funnily enough I don't recall seeing many Marvel imports at that time. That could have been down to the suppliers or lack of interest in them from our local newsagent, but I’ve heard from various people that getting Marvel comics wasn’t a problem. You would see them now and again, and some independents too, so, when I saw them I would grab them! To my eyes back then Marvel comics were different to anything else that was out there. The covers literally jumped off the spin rack. They were gritty, vibrant and exciting and the art always seemed a little more edgy compared to what I was seeing in the DC comics I found. 

Doug: Even back then, I was drawn to comics with dynamic figure drawing, but I wasn’t really seeing it, other than in the American imports, and in particular the Marvel comics. Everything else just felt a little tame in comparison......    This early period of reading coincided with me starting to collect the British Marvel reprints, I became an avid reader and it was the first time I made a standing order with my newsagent for a specific title: Spider-Man Weekly, and then, Mighty World Of Marvel (MWOM). They were in black and white and reprinted all of the classic Silver Age story lines -  and in sequence. It was great being able to follow whole storylines for the first time and it was where I started to become familiar with certain artists and their styles. Favourites were: The Fantastic Four, Thor and Iron Man, but I absolutely loved Spider-Man. He was my favourite character growing up as a child and even now, when I hear the theme tune to the (awful)1960’s cartoon, it still sends a shiver of excitement down my spine. Sad.

Paul: Were there any specific comics or artists that inspired you to decide to create for a living?

Doug: In those early days, I’d have to say that virtually every comic I picked up and read inspired me to draw. A lot of the traditional British comics were a treasure trove of wonderful art, including the satirical comics. My main inspiration would come from the B&W Marvel weeklies, and the majority of the artists working in them. It’s where I first saw the work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, Gil Kane and John Romita - whose rendition of Spider-Man was perfection to my young eyes – still is. 

Doug: I had my favourites at DC as well, particularly, Neal Adams and Curt Swan. I’m guessing, even back then I was drawn to more realistic figure work and the classical styles of drawing, I would even pick up the odd DC war and horror title because of the work in them. Although, I was too young to properly appreciate the techniques, I would naturally gravitate towards those books and would always try and draw like them. Some of those books showcased the best talent from Spain and the Philippines and I remember artists like Nestor Redondo and Tony Dezuniga being among my favourites. It was an early indication of the work that inspired me and the direction my art would eventually take.

Doug: However, the one artist who really lit the flame in me, far and above anyone else, was John Buscema. I first experienced his work in the aforementioned British Marvel reprints, in Spider-Man weekly, MWOM and later The Super-Heroes weekly – where I first saw his seminal work on the Silver Surfer. His drawing seemed like it was from another planet. His style was so elegant, so effortless, but so wrought with emotion and power. His sense of movement was so perfect so everything looked so natural, and when it came to doing action sequences, no one (with the exception of Jack Kirby), ever got close to inspiring me the way he did. His dynamics were just perfect. He was my hero growing up, and even now, looking back at the work that inspired me all those years ago, I still can’t help but marvel at the work he produced.

PAUL: What may have been your very first published work? And if possible, could you say who was your first editor? 

DOUG: My first professional work appeared in the Christmas issue of Action Force #43 in 1987......  But, it might be helpful to give you a little bit of backstory that led up to me getting my first professional assignment. Obviously I had a passion for comics from an early age, but it was just a childhood hobby. Even though I loved drawing the characters, and creating my own stories, there was no thought of me ever taking it up as a profession - that was until one day my English teacher caught me doodling in the back of my exercise book - instead of bawling me out he told me to stay behind after class.

Doug: He flicked to my doodles of superheroes and asked me if I’d thought about doing it as a job. I must have indicated that I would like to work in comics, but had no idea where, or how to start looking – I had just turned 15 years old. He said leave it with him. (It later transpired he had studied graphic design and had worked in a graphic design agency in London in the early 70’s)...  A week or so later he caught up with me and told me he had arranged some appointments at some agencies and had also managed to get me a tour at the Marvel UK offices.

Doug: The Marvel offices were in Bayswater. Ian Rimmer, the then Editor in chief, met me at reception and I had a great time being shown around, I met people working in the production department, which was essentially their version of a Bullpen, and I was shown how they did paste up and lettering and it’s where I had my first opportunity to handle and study original artwork. The staff and editors who worked there were very encouraging and I came away from that meeting absolutely buzzing! I decided there and then that I was going to be a comic artist. Some of the staff would eventually become good friends and long term colleagues, but it was Richard Starkings who became integral to me getting my first break in comics.

Doug: Richard was a group editor at that time and spent a fair bit of time with me on that first visit, enthusiastically regaling me with stories of the business (which went over my head), and basically showing me the ropes. He said he was impressed with what he had seen and gave me a try-out script to work from, even though I told him I was nowhere near ready. He insisted, and a year or so later (after a period of hard study under the eye of David Lloyd), I eventually got my first professional assignment from him when I was 17 – which was the Christmas issue of Action Force #43. 


Doug: Richard would later move on from Marvel UK and settle in the States in the late 80’s, where he became one of the industry’s leading letterers, co-founder of the groundbreaking font and lettering company called Comicraft and creator the independent series, Elephantmen.

Paul: Could you expand upon how in the early days of your career David Lloyd helped you develop as an artist?

Doug: When, I was being shown around Marvel UK by Richard Starkings, he mentioned that there was a new cartooning course about to start in NW London and it was being taught by David Lloyd. I was familiar with his work on the Night Raven strip that appeared in Hulk comic weekly, even though by now he was better known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on V for Vendetta. Richard said he would see if he could get me on the course - which he thankfully did. It was a case of the right time, right place for me.

Doug: The course was held once a week for about 2 hours I think. There were aspiring cartoonists, writers and illustrators all wanting to learn about comics and David taught us the fundamentals of strip drawing and story telling. It was a great course and a wonderful experience being surrounded by so many enthusiastic people and being able to learn from an experienced artist like David was wonderful. The course ran for a number of years and quite a few of the students went on to work in professional comics or had successful careers in other areas like TV and film.

Doug: It was David who would introduce me to Karen Berger and Jeanette Khan of DC Comics when they were scouting for Talent in the UK. I hadn’t started working professionally at that point but Karen would always check to see how I was progressing when she was over for UKCAC, and once I had a few years of professional work under my belt she offered me my first DC work.


Paul: You are known for your work on so many comics. Many of them have been for Marvel. Can you choose a particular favourite project or issue you have worked upon? 

Doug: I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on so many amazing projects, drawing some of my favourite characters from my childhood and collaborating with some the industry’s best creators, so I find it difficult choosing which project is my favourite. When I started out, it was my initial goal to A) meet the deadlines successfully and B) to produce consistently good levels of work. The first few years, it was all about that, trying to learn on the job and try to understand everything I could to better fully understand my craft. So, any job I look back on with fondness that I note was as a technical leap in my development. There are a few jobs that I accomplished that and gave me a lot of satisfaction:

Doug: Action Force #43: My first professional work is probably my most important one on this list. It showed that I could do it and I wanted to do more! 

Doug: Doom Patrol #25: My first American work for DC and the most challenging project at that time. It was the first time I had drawn a monthly book with 22 pages to a tight deadline and it was my first experience of working with an A list writer in Grant Morrison – very intimidating.

Doug: Punisher #64-onwards: My first job for Marvel US. This was another huge step up for me (on so many levels), not only was I working for the publisher I idolised as a child, but it was my first continuous run on a monthly comic. I remember feeling like I had to break through so many barriers and it was a mentally challenging and exhausting commitment. Fortunately, I was blessed with working with two fellow Brits - Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, (and hoot of an editor in Don Daley.) They were a great team who made that transition to a monthly book an enjoyable experience. I remember us having a lot of laughs and I’m extremely proud of what we achieved on that run. The most important thing to come out of that project for me was my collaboration with a great hero of mine, one of the all time comic greats  – Al Williamson. A great artist and a great guy. 


Doug: There are so many more projects I could mention: Working with Garth Ennis on the ‘first’ Marvel Max book: Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. Utter joy and mayhem. Then later Punisher Max with Garth. More of the same. 

Doug: Then there’s Universe X / Paradise X : Working on this series was a huge challenge but very satisfying artistically. It’s where I first collaborated with Jim Kruger, Alex Ross and Bill Reinhold  - and following on from the late, great John-Paul Leon’s Earth X run - It was my biggest commitment on a project to date. It involved ridiculous amounts of research and reference and I’m sure I didn’t leave my studio for at least 7 months of the year. That took up several years and was great fun to do though -  where else would I have had the opportunity to draw nearly every Marvel character, classic and re-imagined in one project?  

Doug: Latterly, I would have to say working on Journey Into Mystery, with Kieron Gillen was a highlight (sadly cut short - we were having so much fun), then Storm Dogs -  which was my first creator owned project, written by my good friend and co—creator, Dave Hine.

Doug: I can’t leave out the Justice series for DC that I worked on with Alex Ross and Jim Kruger. The unusual thing was Alex and I had decided to work collaboratively on the art. Instead of the traditional approach of pencils and inks, it was decided that I’d do the pencils with Alex painting over them. The end result was quite stunning and (IMHO) I think it was one of the best interpretations of the Justice League put to page. The series was a great success and garnered many awards and although it ended up being a quite difficult project on many levels, I would say it was one of the many high points of my career and something I can now look back on with a great deal of pride. There are so many others I could mention but you asked for one! 

Paul: During your career you have inked your pencils on many occasions, but you have also worked with inkers on a few occasions I believe. In your experience can you say what makes a good penciller and inker partnership. Can you describe your best experience working with an inker?

Doug: When I first started working I hoped to be in control of the whole process - Pencils, Inks and colours. However, It didn't work out like that due to the fact that I was quick and could produce a monthly book of pencils - so I was attracting companies who were reliant on me doing just that. I still inked the odd cover and a handful of interiors, but it was infrequent. It has only been in recent years I have been trying to take more control of the final process, if that be inking myself, colouring covers myself or by enhancing my pencil art so that it can be coloured directly without inks.

Paul: That sounds tricky!

Doug: Basically, I was never really offered a project that allowed me the time to do the inking myself, but it didn’t really matter at that time. Everyone seemed happy with what I produced, I was young, getting paid and I was enjoying what I was doing – plus I got the opportunity to collaborate with some very fine inkers.

Doug: Saying all that, It is difficult to find the right inker to work with. You need to find someone who not only translates the subtleties in your pencils, but at the same time has the skill to enhance the work. Sometimes you hit on someone lucky, sometimes you don’t. Unless it’s someone who shares a similar approach and a complete understanding of what you are trying to achieve there’s always going to be a conflict in styles – regardless of how talented they are. Fortunately, the good collaborations have more than made up for the frustrating times.

Doug: have been lucky to have worked with some very fine inkers, but the ones that really stand out to me are Al Williamson, and the person who I spent the most time working with, Bill Reinhold. I learnt so much from Al, he was one of the greatest draughtsmen and a wonderfully technical inker. His line work was elegant and concise and showed his depth of knowledge and experience. He lit up every page that we worked on. Bill is another wonderful artist, he got exactly what was needed and was always willing to try different approaches to enhance a story. I was privileged to have been partnered with him for as long as I was.

Paul: Many writers and artists enjoy comic conventions. Is that, or was that, a part of your career you have enjoyed? If so, do you have any cool convention stories you are allowed to tell?

Doug: I do enjoy attending conventions all over the world. I particularly enjoy European shows - Paris, Barcelona, Lucca, to name a few and I very much like going to the smaller European festivals - one I have a particular soft spot for is a wonderful little festival held in northern Spain called Aviles. Nowadays, I tend to limit myself to one or two a year, but you can virtually go to a show every couple of weeks if you are that way inclined but when would I get the time? The last few years have been challenging for everyone with the Covid situation, but I do miss the excitement of it all and catching up with everyone, friends and fans alike, so I'm tentatively starting to dip my toe back in the water. 

Doug: I attended my first show in 1985, I was offered a ticket from a couple of sixth formers at my school. I think it cost me £10 for a weekend ticket. It was my first experience of a show and it blew my mind - to see so many people who shared the same passion for the same medium in one place. That show was UKCAC and was held at the University of London and was the biggest show of its kind in the UK at the time - and the guest lists were amazing. A couple of years later I attended the show as a professional. 

Doug: Yes, I  have many choice memories from attending shows over the years, but none I would like to repeat here for fear of retribution!  Bryan Talbot has a great book on the subject and he is a braver man than me… but boy, it would be fun to dish the dirt.  

Paul: How do you feel about digital comics. If you read comics still do you use a tablet/laptop etc or do you prefer the paper versions?

Doug: I have always been open minded about embracing digital comics. If it can help enhance a viewer’s experience and enjoyment of reading a comic I am all for it. However, I am a staunch traditionalist who enjoys the tactile experience of reading a physical book, so even though I have a few digital titles, I get more pleasure out of reading them the tradition way. After an initial upsurge of interest in the 2010’s, it all seems to have plateaued. The platforms used to read comics digitally have not pushed on as I had anticipated and everyone now all seem to use a similar format to deliver their product. The few that were trying to push the medium like MadeFire have sadly fallen by the wayside.

Paul: I apologise for a slightly daft question. I ask this of everyone that works upon superhero comics. If you could have one superpower, or the have the powers of one superhero, what power or whose abilities would you chose? And why?

It would either be the ability to travel at supersonic speed because I hate the chew of travelling or, like Professor X, have the ability to read minds because you never know what people are thinking. Yeah, I think telepathy would be my superpower of choice - as long as they couldn’t read mine! 

Paul: Being a British artist do you keep an eye on the comic scene in the UK? Have you had a chance to read SHIFT or The '77 at all? If so what did you think of them?

Doug: I have to admit that I rarely keep an eye on the current scene, I’m just too busy focusing on my work commitments. I do try to keep up with friends’ work when I can and I’m always excited to see new creators burst onto the scene, but unless I’m at a show and somebody puts something under my nose I find it difficult to keep up with all of the product that is out there – so as yet I haven’t had a chance to read Shift, or The ’77, but will endeavour to do so asap.

Paul: What does the future hold for you? Are there any projects you are working upon you would like to promote? 

Doug: I am currently working on a number of projects that probably won’t see the light of day till the end of the year. I have been working for DC, tackling many cover assignments, and I’m proud to have been part of the re-launch of Milestone media last year, where I got the opportunity to collaborate with Denys Cowan and Reggie Huddlin on their new Icon and Rocket series. I have been, and am doing, lots of work for Bad Idea, including their company launch title ‘Eniac’ written by the exceedingly talented Matt Kindt. There are a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline, including one I consider a 'dream project’ - but I can’t talk about it... sorry.  Anyhow, they are all offering up new and exciting challenges for me and I’m having great fun working on them.

Paul: Doug, thank you for so much of your time.


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