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Interview: Comic Book Artist Cliff England

Man-O-War

Cliff England is an Illustrator / Inker who is starting to get some attention in the comic book industry and is now pursuing a lifelong dream of creating comics as a professional artist.

A former US Marine, Cliff served as an Aviation Ordinanceman maintaining F/A-18 A-E’s (Superhornets) in Beaufort, SC with VMFA-122. After leaving the Military, he worked as a CDL driver and other odd jobs to support his family while picking up his pencils and inks, in preparation for getting his artwork career on track. Cliff is now living in Arizona with his wife and four kids, and currently is in the process of completing construction on his professional art studio and creating independent artwork for commissions.

Spiderman Comic ArtI first came in contact with Cliff on Twitter and have developed a sincere admiration for his work. It’s because of this that I asked Cliff to participate in this interview and he accepted. In this interview Cliff talks about his near and long term plans and discusses some of the things that got him started in the business of drawing comics.

Background and Influences

When did you begin drawing?
CE – I was about 11 when I began drawing. My stepmother used to give me paper to doodle on during my weekend visits and then as much as I wanted anytime, after I moved in with my Father at 12 years old. She encouraged me to draw as much as I wanted. To be honest I spent most of my time in 8’th grade in detention (I was a wild one) and I used to read comics and doodle all day after I got my lessons done. That was the spark that started the fire you could say.

What was your earliest influence for drawing?
CE – Jim Lee / Scott Williams Uncanny X-Men 272. This comic was the one that pushed me deeper into comics. That cover to this day is the pinnacle of “Comic Art” in my personal Opinion. I have mad respect for Scott Williams, because Inking Jim Lee’s work would drive me mad, and he does it and makes it look as clean as anyone in the business can do.

Who are your favorite comic book characters and why?
CE – It’s going to sound strange, but I have always liked the Night Thrasher character from “The New Warriors” (Another Mark Bagley Influenced character), Colossus from “Uncanny X-Men” & Batman is a wonderful character but I never collected because of all of the old stories I couldn’t afford to catch up on as a child. I never wanted to jump in mid story.

You mentioned previously that your favorite artists are; Mark Bagley, Jim Lee and Art Thilbert… what is it about these artists that you admire and how have they influenced your own work as an artist?
CE – Jim Lee is an Icon, his art is clean, and his stoic poses are something that I always found awe inspiring. Mark Bagley’s work was as clean as any could be. His work is the Yin to Jim Lee’s Yang and I found it interesting how 2 artists with such different styles could entertain my interest. Art Thilbert’s ability to contort characters and still make them look clean impressed the hell out of me. He could take a character and twist them and make them look athletic and animated, even though you were looking at this 2-D image and I always wanted to turn the page to see what he drew next.

Together, their works influenced me because I know people want clean lines. Each of these artists showed me and gave me a perspective that was “Renegade” at the time I read them, but became “Mainstream” over the course of the last 15 years. I enjoy the fact I was there to see their early work.

Personal Views

Politics, religion and social issues are often central in comics; does this raise any concerns with you and would you ever refuse a project if it went against your own beliefs?
Colossus Iron Man Silver SurferCE – I once heard a person say “If you want to start an argument, start talking about Religion or Politics.” If a writer came to me with a “Story” about something that went against my personal beliefs there would be a very short conversation and then I would gauge the situation accordingly. Debate, communication and understanding is rare, and are skills I hope I would have the wisdom to exercise in such a situation.

With all of the problems our world is faced with currently, which of those would you like to see dealt with in comics, and which characters do you think would best be suited for dealing with those issues?
CE – Again, Colossus. He is the avatar for society in my personal opinion. He is capable of handling anything on his own, strong, stoic and able to depend on his own strength, and he works with a team to accomplish goals. Stories about strong characters like Colossus, Superman, and other heroes who help without wanting anything are why people are coming back to comics. Society is beat down by bankers, bad govt’s and horrible corporate entities that abuse and misrepresent them. When they come home they want to be inspired. If we as artists and comic publishers can make comics affordable again & help push that “Self Reliance” attitude in comics they will be even more successful than they currently are.

Goals

What are your career goals as a comic book artist?
CE – I recently found I could still draw. I am in my mid 30’s, and still have many years ahead of me. My kids love seeing my art and even if I never get published my family, friends and many others enjoy what I have to draw. I draw because I love it, simple as that. I lose nothing by drawing, and have everything to gain. I would love to get my hands on Colossus for a short miniseries though. He is an extremely undervalued character in my personal opinion. I am currently working on an X-O Manowar picture for Valiant Comics. I hope they enjoy it and if I am lucky I can accomplish some serious exposure for me and my colorist James Anderson.

What made you decide to come back to drawing comics after 15 years?
CE – When I was in High School, everyone told me to submit, but after graduating I entered the U.S. Marines and they are good at keeping people busy so between that and my first marriage, Kids & other domestic issues I never picked up a pencil for any amount of time again until recently.

About 3 weeks ago, I sent in a quick drawing I had to DC, and got a response asking “Where are you working” implying “the comic industry”. I simply replied nowhere. The next question floored me… “Why”. If you know me I am rarely stumped, and I simply didn’t have an answer. It disturbed me so much that when my wife came home I left immediately for the art store to pick up my equipment. The way I saw it, I had no other option and art doesn’t draw itself. If I wanted to do this, I had to make it happen.

Would you mind sharing your plan for breaking into the Comic industry?
CE – My ability to “Break into the industry” depends on the fans of my work, and the editors that decide to throw me a bone. My plan currently is to remain “Relevant”. I post nearly daily work on my twitter account currently. Griffen Comic ArtI recently read an article that stated that the comic industry is a “Today” industry. Once tomorrow comes, some artist comes by and will simply draw something cooler and you will be forgotten. If I want to succeed, I must remain relevant, so to do this I am committed to posting daily work, so feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Cliff_England) and share my work with everyone you can. Exposure and relevance can’t be undervalued. If I don’t get picked up by a major publisher within 18 months, I will simply self publish. No one’s going to hand me anything, so I can’t tell you how important it is for an artist to make sure and thank everyone for any exposure they give you when they tell a friend about your work.

I believe in making things happen. I don’t like waiting around. Having a proactive attitude makes me a very “Unique” personality. I would rather do it myself and fail, then wait around for months or years for someone to give me permission or approval to do something.

Do you have a mentor and how have they helped you in the comic industry?
CE – Unfortunately not. I would love to have a long afternoon with Art Thilbert or Mark Bagley. Not to talk comics, but to just absorb how they interact with things, people and others in the industry to get inspiration. I think inspiration is what makes artists unique. I personally take a long jog after every work I do. Each artist has their own outlet, I would love to know what their outlet is. Tell Art or Mark to feel free to mentor me any day, I am all ears… lol.

So what’s next and what can Comic fans look forward to?
CE – I work with a Colorist (James Anderson – @JamesW_Anderson on Twitter) and he is helping me over the next year to solidify my style. I figure after a year I should get my mojo back and become a better artist. With him getting a years experience coloring my work we hope to come up with a “Shorthand” and learn to work together easier to produce pages faster than we are now. After that, we are setting up a website that will display our works, and we hope to make an online/digital comic that is able to put comics back into the “Affordable” range.

I am hoping that by March we will have our website online and begin pushing traffic our way. More on that will be announced on Twitter as we get closer.

How to contact Cliff
You can see Cliff’s work and reach him on Twitter @Cliff_England and “Cliff England Comic Art” on Facebook.com or email him directly at cliffengland@cliffengland.com

Thanks for reading the interview. If you have any questions / comments about this interview or would like to ask Cliff yourself, please use the Comments section below.

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