A short interview with Cam Kennedy

Completing this unholy trinity of micro-interviews from the Moniaive Comics Festival (7th to 8th September 2002) is artist Cam Kennedy. Cam is best known in 2000AD for his stints on DREDD, ROGUE TROOPER and THE VCS. He has also reached out to wider fan base with his STAR WARS work.

Is he my favourite 2000AD artist? Well, it's down to him or Carlos Ezquerra. And it's a replica of a Cam Kennedy Judge Dredd front cover (Prog. 440) that adorns my motorcycle jacket.

I caught up with Cam late in the afternoon and ushered him into a quiet corner where he answered my impertinent questions with a twinkle in his eye, all the while sketching BOBA FETT ("Yes, that's right Cam, my son would like it signed: To Mister Tips"). Throughout, Cam is good-natured and talkative; he starts with a Kenneth Williams style monologue describing his career to date

Mr. Tips: What was the first work you had published as a professional?

Cam Kennedy: That would be way back in '66 or '67 when I got a COMMANDO book by D.C. Thomson, a war story. I don't know how many of them I did. People keep coming up to me and saying "Do you remember doing this?" and I say "No". So I must have done quite a lot of them and then I went away to live in France and I stopped doing COMMANDO and just did painting.

I was working with a friend of mine in France who has got a printing works. And because I'd started after leaving school I was an apprentice commercial artist in one of these old fashioned kind of studios you used to get. So I worked for him doing painting and when I came back from France I wasn't sure what I would do; whether I should continue painting or what? But someone said there was a comic called BATTLE. So I did a few pages of just figures in uniforms in various poses and sent it off to BATTLE. They sent me a script by return of post so I started doing stuff for BATTLE.

And then the editor of 2000AD saw my work and he was in a stronger position than the editor of BATTLE at the time and he called me up and asked me if I'd like to do some work for him. I wasn't really sure what 2000AD was because I've never really been a great comic buff - I really only just do it for the money - and I think the first stuff 2000AD I got was ROGUE TROOPER (I can't really remember). I know that at that time John (Wagner) and Alan (Grant) wanted me to do some DREDD but the editor said "No, no, he's too busy and he's really enjoying doing Rogue Trooper." (which wasn't exactly true).

Anyway, there must have been a lull in the ROGUE TROOPER stuff and the 2000AD Editor, Steve McManus called me and asked "Do you want to do a DREDD?" and I did. The first DREDD story I did was called "The Suspect" and then I was back onto ROGUE and then onto THE VCs. Then more DREDD; sometimes in a week, I was doing ROGUE TROOPER and DREDD.

I was younger then! I had a lot more energy and I used to be able to sixteen hour days. Plus I did work really fast - I couldn't be bothered with all this thing about making wee sketches and doing things first of all in a thumbnail. I just drew it in pencil on the page and if it looked good, I inked it in.

And that's been it up to the present day really. I stopped doing DREDD for a while and did some American stuff and then I'd alternate between doing DREDD and American stuff.

I've just finished a job for America for GARTH ENNIS; a fifty-two page war story about the SAS in the Second World War. And next week when I'm back home, I'll be starting on another DREDD.

So what would you say is the biggest thing you've learned between doing your first published work and the current DREDD?

We don't get enough money for what we do!

You did "The Bazooka" last year in the Megazine. When you saw that John Wagner had sent you a script where you had to draw someone hiding in someone else's stomach, did you think he's just taking the piss and seeing what he can get you to draw?

No, not at all. I've known John for a long time and we have kind of a similar sense of humour; quite black at times. But often being black and absurd can lead to interesting and funny stories.

What story that you've done are you most proud of?

I would probably be have to be something to do with DREDD. I thought "MIDNIGHT SURFER" turned out pretty good. It's a difficult question because sometimes it's not the complete story you look at. Sometimes it's just a page. Or sometimes it's just one panel. One panel that you distinctly remember doing and later on you still like it.

You took over from Dave Gibbons on ROGUE TROOPER. You've done DREDD, STAR WARS and THE PUNISHER. How hard is it when you are taking on a job when the fans have got expectations of how things should be?

It doesn't really affect me. It might. If I was seventeen or eighteen I might get a wee bit concerned about it. Obviously Dave did ROGUE TROOPER so I knew I had to stick to the same kind of uniform but because of the different styles of drawing, my ROGUE took on his own persona even though I'm only drawing in my style and Dave Gibbons created the look and the uniform.

But that's just a fact of life. I wasn't going to try and change what Dave had created.

For instance with DREDD he had an established look; for years and years everybody drew him the same but in their own styles. But sometimes youngsters would come up at conventions and show you're their DREDD and they've thought "I'll give him a different gun" or "I'll change his uniform". Well, you don't do that.

It's like being given a job to draw Superman and doing it without his cape because YOU think he looks better without his cape. You just don't touch it.

You've drawn a lot of iconic figures; DREDD, ROGUE, STAR WARS, LOBO and PUNISHER - is there anybody you'd like to have a shot at but haven't had a chance.

No. There really isn't. I'm kind of set in my ways now and I'd just like to do the occasional different story for a different writer for a different publisher. And then I'll just carry on doing DREDD. I just don't have that WANT that a lot of artists do have that says "God, I'd love to do WOLVERINE". It's never entered my head.

My head's full of other things I'd like to do like play boogie-woogie piano. I can't play the piano but I'd love to. I'd love to sometime just be some place and there'd be a lull and I'd just say [adopts quite appalling American accent] "Just hang on a minute folks and I'll give you a little something!" and then go into my boogie-woogie!

Are you a regular reader of other comics?

No, not at all. Well, sometimes I might look at a comic if I like the art but as I say I'm not a big comics buff. I always took my art for granted. I just assumed that even though I could draw, I'd probably end up as a plumber or a joiner, just doing little drawings for my kids at night. It took a lot of people a lot of time to convince me that I could, maybe, make money at it.

Both Alan and John have talked about the cross fertilisation that's going on with other media at the moment. Is there anyone in a medium outside of comics that you'd like to work with?

No. John and Alan and I have got something that we are working on just now but we've, well, I've been down this road before.

People call you up and they are running a computer company and they want concept stuff done, But I'm long in the tooth now and though they fly you down to wherever they are based and they gush over you and things, inevitably, the bottom line is "We're a new company and we don't have much money!". To which I have to reply; "Then why are you in business - you're not very good at it?"

But none of these things have ever come to fruition. And I don't take it that nothing ever happened because I'm not good; these people were raving about my stuff on the phone.

A lot of these companies are run by people who were fans in days gone by. They've obviously approached other people like Dave and Brian and Mike McMahon and Frank Quitely.

So I think that next time I'm asked to do something, I'll stay at home and get more paperwork from them before hand; a contract would be nice.

I just stick with what I know best but if this thing with John and Alan comes off it'll be fine because it'll be OUR thing. We haven't been to anybody else or had to fly anywhere!

You did some great design work in your STAR WARS DARK EMPIRE books? Were you approached to do any design work for the new movies?

Well, no. The thing was when I was first offered DARK EMPIRE, I'd never actually seen the films. I'd been living in France and got into a way of life where watching these things wasn't important. So I'd never seen them and had to watch them on video before I started.

Some of the designs were good but they weren't my best. I kept the best stuff for myself. I'd be sketching and I'd come up with something and I'd think "Oooh that's good! I'll keep that design for myself". That way I could make a bit of money off it. George Lucas doesn't need more money but I do.

I was explaining this to TOM (VEITCH) on the phone and he said "My God, Cam, how can you not give your best stuff to George?" and I replied "But when has George ever given his best for me?"

Thank you for your time.

Thanks again to Sue Grant for allowing the interviews to take place and to Wake for publishing them on the website.

Boba Fett © Lucasfilm 2002