“We want to follow Lady through some monumental parts of her life” Christian Wildgoose on the future of Porcelain: Bone China
If you’ve paid attention to the site over the last few weeks then you might have noticed that we were rather fond of Porcelain: Bone China – the new book from Benjamin Read and Christian Wildgoose at Improper Books. Having regained some semblance of our journalistic impartiality, and packed away the porcelain puns, we caught up with Chris to discuss his amazing work on the steampunk sequel and to [hopefully] find out out more about the possibility of a third installment!
It’s been a number of years since the events of the Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, so what made you and Ben decide to move the action forward in time, rather than follow up the events straight away?
CW: Ever Since Ben played with idea of a sequel I think he always intended to make a fair jump in time. The epilogue of book 1 jumps forward around 5 years from the last scene of her as a child. I can’t speak 100% from Ben’s side but I think he has had a good idea of where he would like to take her should he have the chance to write more and he’s filled out the story as he’s had time to play
It goes without saying that there are certain events in Bone China that Girl couldn’t do until she was of a more mature age so there was that. Also it’s no spoiler to say that some things that where broken in book 1, remain broken 15 years later and they have shaped and weighed heavily on her and make her the woman we follow in book 2.
Where did the original idea of the Porcelain come from? Did they come first or was it Girl and Uncle who were the initial spark?
CW: Ben often tells it as the story came together to him in a dream. If I remember rightly, when we first spoke together about this Porcelain story it was always about a Child breaking into an alchemists house. So I’d guess what came first is Child. I think Ben writes her voice very easily, and knowing Ben I’d say she’s almost certainly a part of himself! So I’d say she came before anything!
Did the designs for the Porcelain evolve much in the process of creating Gothic Fairytale?
CW: The design for the Porcelain was a lengthy process of back and forth between Ben and myself. For their faces we looked at tons of different masks from lots of different cultures. I also remember doing designs of them with a lot more metal work to them but Ben wouldn’t have that. We have a sort of unwritten agreement that we would like to keep subtly away from any strong steam punk relation, so no metal or clockwork can be seen on them. At least, not while Uncle or Lady have any say on the design.
For Bone China did you have to make any major decisions about how Child would look and behave now that she is Lady?
CW: Well the title she evolves into alone sort of demands that she looks a lot more sophisticated and more powerful than she did as Child. I asked Andre the colourist to keep her clothing colours more subdued than the dresses she wore in book 1. Also she is almost in a constant state of mourning over events of book 1 so she keep the colours to a minimum.
And have you evolved the way the Porcelain look now she has had several years to hone her skills?
CW: The Porcelain took on a significant change which I hinted to in the last few pages of book 1. Ben wrote in the script that she was at the table with some new models of Porcelain that she had made. As soon as I’d read that I knew she was better at making them than Uncle and had this natural skill for carving out the human form. They would be sleeker and stronger looking much like Lady is. For Bone China I brought that same design along. I was quite happy with the way they looked in the end of book 1 and Ben was happy to carry them over so we kept mostly with that design from the end of book 1.
Which of the new characters has been your favourite to draw and design and which were the most complex or challenging?
CW: Ugh this is hard. I think Lady is just great character, I could draw for the rest of my life. I love drawing her hair, cloths, everything. Completely new characters in Bone China? Hmmm, I’d have to say it’s an even tear between Satta the bar owner or Prosper.
Satta is just quite satisfying to draw as she has all these wide curves (sadly we had a couple more pages with her in but they had to be cut). Prosper is great as he’s just so slick and throwing sarcastic looks left, right and center which is always fun to draw.
Your artwork is incredibly detailed, are we right in thinking you have a fine art background? How much source material do you use when creating your characters and worlds? We’re guessing the sail boat was a particular challenge in Bone China!!
CW: I did study Fine art at university, though If I’m honest my fine art training hasn’t had much of an impact on my comic work. I do love to get into the nitty gritty of planning out a book. I’d go as far to say the planning and concept stage is my favourite part of the whole comic drawing process. We usually set about 2/3 weeks of solid research and pulling together visual references and sketches.
To be honest the sail boat wasn’t one of the hardest things to plan. I took the shape of it almost directly from an ancient Chinese war ship and added some extra parts. I think the hardest part was the bloody Captain’s hair style I must have tried 30 designs before Ben and I settled on one! oh and his body tattoo. don’t get me started on that!
Both Porcelain, and your other recent release Briar, have a very fairytale feel mixed with a lot of 18th/19th century detail, what draws you to that period and style of art?
CW: I think it’s a period Ben and I just gravitate towards there is something slightly mystical about those eras. Science was starting to creep in but superstitions, magic and religion were still very, very strong. Something more contemporary is never out of the question but there is something gloriously gothic about those periods that just lends so well to fairy tale type stories.
Are you ever tempted to work on a more contemporary book or in a completely diferent genre like crime, sci-fi or superheroes?
CW: Other genres’ certainly. Myself I’d love to venture into horror but more along the lines of monsters and supernatural than anything in the gore spectrum. I’m a huge, huge Hammer Horror nut so to do something like that would be great. I’d never rule out super hero work but out of any of those genre’s it doesn’t have the strongest pull for me.
After a few quiet years post-Porcelain you seem to have a lot of books coming out at the moment, is that just a quirk of timing? Have you been super busy and they are all now being released? Or were you just working on other things in the meantime?
CW: It’s more a quirk of timing, We actually completed Briar the year previous to it coming out but we had offers from different publishers to take it on. It remained on the bidding table with different houses for a good while but eventually we just wanted to get it out into the world so we decided we would got back to plan A and print it ourselves.
Bone China was completed not long after so it really was just a case of it overlapping and making us look incredibly busy!
You’ve released the book via Improper Books, which is your own publishing label – has there been any interest in it from any larger publishers, and would you even be interested if approached?
CW: Yeah Improper Books is an imprint of a larger publishing house that Ben runs. We started Improper Books for the simple reason that we wanted to bring out the books we wanted to write and draw in our now way. As I said we had interest from other publishers especially after Porcelain Book 1 and before Briar came out which is why we had a shop around with other publishers for the English printing. We are still very much listening and interested in partnering with someone but it has to be right for us and what we want to do.
Porcelain is released via Delcourt in France – how does the French market react to the world of Porcelain? Do you think your characters work better for a French audience than they might for say a US audience?
CW: So if you ever go to a comic shop in France or talk to anyone in Europe outside of the UK & Ireland you’ll notice that comics is a whole other thing. Often times the art of comics is considered closer to fine art and appreciated much more highly. You only have to take a peek at artists such as Moebius to see how highly it can be regarded. I think it comes from the fact that comics over there are used for stories of all kinds and have been for a long time.
So Porcelain slips into the European markets a hell of a lot easier than it does in western comic circles. Certainly we’ve had a much tougher job getting readers in the US than we have over in France and I don’t believe that is solely down to having Delcourt behind us. European audiences just take in a story outside of the superhero genre a lot more easily than western readers do but readers tastes are changing in the west I think.
Do you make any changes in terms of content or format (obviously apart from the language translation!) for the French market?
CW: The format doesn’t take on too much of a change other than the French Edition is in a lovely large format nearly twice as big as English prints so for someone like me who throws a lot of detail in it’s great to get to see my work a bit closer to the size I actually work to. I think the only thing that might not come across so easily is the ’cockney slang’ moments but I think people do get the gist.
And finally, will there be another Porcelain book eventually, to make it into a trilogy?
CW: Yes! Absolutely. it’s already announced! The third book is titled Porcelain: The Ivory Tower. When we finished Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale Ben almost immediately had two sequels in mind. Luckily the French publishers Delcourt snapped us up before book 1 was even completed and asked for more. Essentially the larger plan is that we want to follow Lady through some monumental parts of her life and maybe, possibly If we can, her whole life span – who knows? But yes I’m literally working on Book 3 right now!