Liam Sharp broke into comics in the 1990s when ornate, action-oriented, larger-than-life artwork was all the rage and artists turned to Frank Frazetta, Barry Windsor-Smith and Moebius to find inspiration. As trends came and went, Sharp stuck to his aesthetic weapons, and eventually the industry rediscovered him, propelling him on an epic five-year run drawing DC’s best titles including Batman, Wonder Woman and The Green Lantern.
But Sharp is more than the sum of his detailed line art. During his career, he has written several novels, co-founded the digital comics platform Madefire, run several six-figure Kickstarters to publish his art books, launched a course on the online learning platform Domestika and introduces himself. as one of the greats in the industry. storytellers. For his latest project, he combines his pursuits of entrepreneurship, storytelling, and scholarship in an ambitious new sci-fi series for Image Comics titled Starhengethe first issue to fall in July.
I had the opportunity to speak with Sharp about his new project and his career. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Rob Salkowitz, Forbes Contributor: Tell me a bit about Starhenge. What is it and what was your inspiration?
Liam Sharp: I have always loved myth and history. I wanted to do something about the mythical origins of the kings of Britain descending from classical gods and Arthurian legends. In King past and future, there’s this concept of Merlin being born in the future and dying in the past, and I thought, “why would he come in the past?” I started to indulge my love of science fiction and fantasy, imagining this scenario where in the future humanity discovers an alien race where AIs have taken over and are threatening all organic life In the universe. The only thing that can stop them is magic, but magic only exists in the past. Thus, the AIs send robots back to the past to destroy this line of magic. It’s all horribly convoluted, but great fun! The first issues are about establishing the universe to get it started, then it becomes an adventure story.
RS: What are your ambitions for this project? Is it meant to expand beyond the comics page?
LS: That would be lovely. It would be nice as a series. people liked game of throneswhich is fantasy, and Foundation, which is science fiction, but the visual language isn’t much different. So there is an audience interested in this kind of epic material. For the moment, I can’t wait to do the first series (in paper version), then a second, and why not 3 and 4 back to back? We’ll be collecting them in paperbacks, but I’m also thinking of doing a hardcover edition for collectors. Either way, the idea is to create a solidly constructed universe that can be as big as you want or as intimate as you want.
RS: You just finished a 5-6 year run taking on the best DC characters. Why is it a good time for an independent project?
LS: The timing was perfect on this DC run, especially on The Green Lantern [written by Grant Morrison]. I was never satisfied with having a unique style, and this book allowed me to explore different techniques from one issue to another, in the service of the story. This deliberate approach to style became my style; it defines the work I do. After turning down a few pitches to DC for projects I wanted to write and draw, I realized I had to do something creator owned. I thought, now is the right time. My audience might be big enough to make it viable, and that’s important when you have a roof to maintain and a family. I contacted Image [publisher] Eric Stevenson. We talked about Starhengehe loved it, and that’s it.
RS: You’ve run a bunch of successful Kickstarters recently. What are your thoughts on crowdfunding as a sustainable model for comic book publishing, and why did you decide not to crowdfund? Starhenge?
LS: Kickstarter is great for existing projects or unique books. It’s great for indie creators who want to launch a book or series to jump-start their career and show off what they can do. But for an ongoing series, I crunched the numbers, and it’s just more viable to do it on Image, which is a known brand. Kickstarter is amazing and I plan to do hardcover collectors editions through them, but at the same time I need to be aware of what my audience wants and what platforms they’re ready to support.
RS: You are both an artist and an entrepreneur. How important is it for artists to have these business instincts these days, and how do you stay focused on your labor-intensive artwork while juggling business concerns?
LS: It’s honestly hard. Creatives need to learn how to promote themselves. It’s just the way of the world. If you want any chance of reaching an audience, your sense of who you really are goes way beyond a studio or third party trying to push your stuff. In a world of Instagram and Facebook and everything, people are used to feeling connected to the people who inspire them. This authentic voice is central and essential to reach anyone. Otherwise, you disappear into obscurity. It’s a constant struggle, trying to develop a platform. It’s a real frustration. Sometimes I just need to take a step back from the internet and focus on work.
RS: When you came to the 90s, comics were very artist driven, with hot artists driving sales. Nowadays it is almost entirely writer-driven; you are one of the few artists whose name can sell a book. What do you think of this change?
LS: It’s frustrating. He swayed back and forth. The 70s were more artistic, the 80s were writers, the 90s were back to the artists. Now it’s been mostly writers for a long time. These are writers and corporate characters, key figures. People only buy Marvel or DC and get upset when the characters change. It’s hard to fathom as someone more interested in an array of titles and the creative teams for any book, any company.
I have always been a writer, but I am more recognized for my art. It’s really hard as an artist to get writing to be taken seriously. Art takes much longer. My opportunity to write has been massively reduced by the time it takes to produce my works. But I’m aware that writers have pushed the industry, which is why I’m writing more.
That’s why I’m so excited about the idea Starhenge. This is my story, this is my style. I can do painted comics, which we haven’t seen in a while. I hope people who like mainstream comics will give it a shot.