Kieron Gillen is a beloved British comic book writer and super-star DJ well known for both writing his creator owned comics and his time as a video games and music journalist. Frequently pairing with the talented artist Jamie McKelvie, he was most well-known for his successful stint at Marvel, writing titles such as the popular Uncanny X-Men and Young Avengers, before creating his own characters in the highly successful The Wicked + The Divine. I had the chance to talk to Keiron about his career, his passions and what he has planned for the future.
BCP: Why did you move from games to comics?
KG: A lot of people complain about the money in comics, but I come from games journalism. I was a freelance journalist since 2003 and in that period I started doing comics, which I started doing in the evenings after work. When I started getting paid for comics I started doing that during the day, and over a period of time I realised that I was getting more money from comics than I was for writing about games. Towards the end Rock Paper Shotgun was the only site I was writing for, and I part owned it. It was a long slow goodbye because I did my first aid games journalist gig in 1995, and I’d been doing it for 15 years so I’d done everything, and I fell in love with comics.
BCP: Do you ever see yourself going back to the games side of things?
KG: The thing about games is I never wrote a book. It’s the only thing on my list, because as a games journalist I did a lot. There are theories that I wrote about that people still use now. Stuff I wrote was used in the New York Times and text books, so there’s not a lot left in games journalism that appeals to me. I’ve done some games design and written for games in my time, so if I returned to it, it would probably be that side of things.
BCP: With comics you have a lot of fans that love meeting you at conventions, which is very different to the games journalism. How do you feel about that?
KG: It’s certainly the difference between being a critic and a creator. You get a lot of hate as a critic, but having the right people angry at me felt right. Critics write about other things. The Wicked + The Divine is about many things but at least part of it is about going from being a fan to being someone who is a creator and a lot of emotions around that.
BCP: How did you become the King of after party DJing?
KG: The kingdom is divided between many monarchs. Thought Bubble in 2007 was the first one where they paid me and Jamie to go there. In the second year, it was the first year of the casino, and they had a party upstairs but we were the top end of the younger people and we wanted to dance. We plugged a laptop in at the back and started dancing, and that was the start of the Thought Bubble after party and it grew from there. There has been better years and worst years, but it’s never been anything but interesting.
BCP: What do you think it is that makes you and Jamie such a good team?
KG: We can’t escape each other. He came to a table I was chairing and he showed me his early portfolio. Jamie got what I got and understood what I did, and we also like the same things. It’s not always easy, but there is a shared aesthetics and ethics and we take things very seriously. There are many times that people enter the industry together and then separate, but after we’d made our own reputation we went off and did our own book together.
BCP: What made you want to go off and create something of your own after the success of Young Avengers?
KG: The original purpose was to do Phonogram and then we would go back. One of my guidelines in comics is ‘what would Jack Kirby do’, and the general guideline is make up something new. To go back to doing stuff that wasn’t out own felt like a backtrack, but at the same time there is the commercial aspect. Phonogram never sells, but people were very excited by Young Avengers. It felt like an opportunity that we could, so why shouldn’t we. It worked out with The Wicked + The Divine.
BCP: With more creator owned and indie comics out there, are there any in particular that you’re a fan of?
KG: I have a long list. I’ve finished a book called Pantheon, which is a faithful retelling of the Egyptian creation myths which is a wonderful book. The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis is amazing, and Hannah Berry’s new book which is called Livestock. I love her work and think she has a really interesting voice and art style. In terms of more traditional ongoing comics, I am blown away by The. Black Monday Murders, and love Image books by my peers such as Sex Criminals and Extremity.
BCP: On a completely different note, tell us a little bit more about your love of table top games
KG: Most of my gaming interests ebbs and flows, and I haven’t played many computer games in the past 5 years. I’ve been playing more table top games and role-playing games, and I’ve gotten back into miniature stuff a lot. I had another release of Warhammer stuff around 2001 when I was first doing work for hire work. I fell out of love with RPGs back in around 1998, but now I’m back into them and I’m part of a weekly group. I’ve been doing a lot of research into RPGs for work, but I’m the first part of the first part of the younger generation that got into it in the UK. I’m D&D Redbox, but my first game was the Games Workshop edition of the Middle Earth role playing game. To me, video games and table top games all tie together.
BCP: Can you tell us anything about your future plans?
KG: We did an issue of Wic Div that was a magazine issue, and I was told the most interesting things you do are when you combine your interests. That issue of Wic Div involved so many different things that weren’t common. The next projects were born from that kind of thinking. My new project is code named ‘Spangly New Thing’, which is linked to fantasy, horror and role-playing games, and I have an artist for it. I’m doing things which are genuinely new and exciting for me.
BCP: You have a new book coming up where you are teaming up with a new artist, but are there any others that you would like to work with?
KG: All of them. I’m worked with so many artists, but my list is endless. Frank Quitely is a fairly obvious one, and J H Williams would be great. People always ask me who I would like to work with most, and Kevin O’ Neil circa 1983 with Nemesis and Warlock is one. Other artists would include people like Carla Speed McNeil, who did the book Founder, or Jen Bartel. I like to work with people I could hang out with and get along well with.