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SPX 2012 – 6 Questions With Glyn Dillon

Glyn Dillon‘s The Nao of Brown is a beautiful book that starts with its solid exterior packaging to the art on each page to the characters and story on those pages. The story follows Nao, a young woman with OCD whose life isn’t going the way it should, then she meets Gregory, a washing machine repairman.

Leading up to this weekend’s Small Press Expo, where you can catch Glyn who will be appearing on a panel at the convention, Abrams ComicArts allowed us to hit the creator up with some questions.

Here’s 6 questions, with Glyn Dillon.

Graphic Policy: So how did you get your start in the comic book industry?

Glyn Dillon: My Brother is Steve Dillon of Preacher fame, he started drawing comics professionally when he was sixteen. He’s nine years my senior, and his blossoming career had a big impact on little me… I don’t think it’s unusual to idolise an older sibling but when they’re drawing The Incredible Hulk and Judge Dredd it’s just inevitable. So I guess from about the age of six I wanted to draw comics or make films, but I had no idea how anyone made films (there wasn’t much of a British film industry), so comics seemed the obvious route. I got my first professional comics job aged seventeen (I wasn’t as good as my brother).

Around 1994-95 I got out of the comics industry, in order to pursue my fanciful ambitions of becoming a director, (I did manage to direct a bit, but not much) Storyboarding was the plan, and I’ve spent the last seventeen years doing that. The Nao of Brown was partly born out of the frustration of not being able to get things made in the world of film. Plus I fell in love with the medium of comics all over again.

GP: Do you read comic books yourself? If you still do, what’s currently on your reading list?

GD: I don’t read any specific comics regularly, but there’s a lot of graphic novels I’ve read over the last two years of doing the book, there were some shameful holes in my comics reading, I felt the need to catch up (I hadn’t read MAUS until last year!).

I loved Ken Dahl’s Monsters, I loved Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki … I finally got round to buying and reading the full set of Otomo’s AKIRA (I’d read large chunks of it in the late eighties, early nineties but never the whole lot… this time I did it in the space of a week – it’s incredible).

There’s too many to mention really… but I also started reading a lot of Manga.

But the shelf directly above my work desk, one end is entirely devoted to Jean Giraud/Moebius (about 50 books) and the other end to Hayao Miyazaki.

GP: The graphic novel comes off as drawing from personal experience. How did The Nao of Brown come about?

GD: I don’t have OCD myself but my wife suffered with it badly as a child and into her late teens, although not with the same obsessions as the character Nao, so the book is very personal and does contain personal experience – but it’s not autobiographical.

Originally, the male character Gregory was going to be the protagonist, but then Nao started to become more interesting, she kind of took over, and then over a strange period of about three days a lot of the main structure of the book presented itself to me and I realised I had enough to maybe make something.

GP: Coming out of reading it, the entire book seems to deal with cycles and the idea of renewal. The washing machine, counting and the events for both main characters at the end. Why that theme for the graphic novel?

GD: The best thing about finishing the book and having other people read it, is hearing their interpretation, and where they place meaning. I think if I reveal too much about my own ideas, I’ll only be taking away from the reader’s experience, rather than adding to it. Once an author gives his opinion, people then take that as evidence for what it is, I’d rather it be different things to different people, I’d rather people own it themselves, rather than my version.

GP: The placement of the washing machine on the cover of the book indicates its an important part of the story– why a washing machine, and what does it mean to you?

GD: Gregory was always a washing machine repairman from the very start, when he was originally to be the protagonist. The initial spark of interest in washing machines for me, came from my first son, when he was about one and a half and he was afraid of our washing machine – Not when it was on and making lots of noise… He was afraid of it when it was off, he was afraid of that dark round hole in the cupboard. That fascinated me, I liked the thought that he might know something about washing machines that I didn’t, that there might be something mystical about them, that only a child could know.

But of course as you go on writing, other meanings and themes continue to present themselves.

I’m interested in Gnosticism and Buddhism, so that stuff is all in there.

GP: What advice do you have for other creators and those that might just be getting started?

GD: In terms of writing, my advice for people getting started is, write all the time… Always have a notepad with you, and always write in it. Same kind of thing for drawing, although I must admit I don’t use a sketch book myself… My day job is drawing storyboards though, so I am drawing pretty much all the time.

You’ll never feel you’re good enough, but just keep on going… finish things. Start new things… but make sure you finish them. Make a goal for yourself, plan how to achieve that goal, if the approach isn’t working, change tack… but keep on going.

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