Boo Cook’s comic artwork regularly appears in 2000AD and Elephantmen. Closer to home, his designs have featured on recent Tru Thoughts albums by Sleepin Giantz and Zed Bias. Check his drawing at boocook.tumblr.com.
What comics did you enjoy as a kid?
I lived on the edge of the Dartmoor, so anything I could get to feed my imagination in a fresh, exciting way was gratefully received. My grandpa used to send me a comic in the post each week – Look-in, The Beano. When I was 9 or 10, my pal Tom introduced me to 2000AD. A small bunch of mates and myself used to spend all our time trying to emulate its art styles and my passion for that has remained to this day.
How did you get into professional illustration?
My first published work was in 2000AD, but before that I’d done several small press and self-published projects. They’re an indispensible proving ground to try out your visual storytelling skills and get feedback from comics readers, to see how you can improve and develop. Once you’ve gained a certain level of confidence you can start sending bundles of work off to editors, but you have to be patient and tenacious, listen to what they say, take advice on board and keep sending.
What skills do you need to be a comic artist?
A really healthy dose of life drawing is invaluable as 99.9% of comic strips involve our complex human anatomy. Not many art colleges can teach you to draw the crazy stuff but if you couple your imagination with a solid grounding in the basics of painting, drawing and colouring you should be off to a good start. The bible to me as a kid was Stan Lee and John Buscema’s How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, an awesome, all encompassing book for any aspiring comic artist.
What strips do you most enjoy drawing?
My favourites are ones with a science fiction angle and plenty of scope to give my imagination a tasty workout. Richard Starkings’ creation Elephantmen is great because I love drawing heavy hitters. The strip centres mainly around this group of massive human/animal genetic hybrids: they were engineered for war, but now the war is over they’re struggling with the complexities of re-integrating into a very Blade Runner future society in LA. With Judge Anderson Psi I get to play in the world of Judge Dredd, Mega City One. Judge Cassandra Anderson is a very well fleshed out, realistic character, with the full range of human emotion to portray, but due to her psychic abilities you can always expect some twisted psychedelic mayhem to go down, courtesy of writer Alan Grant.
What other writers do you like working with?
I’ve had some great sojourns into sci-fi with Rob Williams and strips like Asylum and Judge Dredd. I also really love the work of Al Ewing and had the chance to work with him a few times, which was great. At the moment I’m working on a strip for 2000AD called Gunheadz with my long time friend and incredible writer Tom Eglington. Not only is he technically very adept, he has a boundless imagination and crazy style which fits together really well with the way I like to make comics.
Which up and coming artists do you admire?
Lately I’ve been getting into James Harren’s work on B.P.R.D., Becky Cloonan on Conan and Nick Dyer’s Dredd work. Nick’s a fellow Brightonite, so we meet up quite often and discuss mind-blowing things like pen nibs and paper types. Joking aside, it’s great to have someone local who you can discuss the ins and outs of comic art with.
What other commissions do you take?
Advertising is a little dissatisfying on the soul front for me, so I tend to keep it comics or at least sci-fi based. Occasionally I’ll meet someone like Tru Thoughts’ wacky MD Paul Jonas who will need something space based or a bit crazy for an album cover. If I’m moved by the music or there’s some illustration work I can emotionally invest in I’ll always give it a pop. My collaboration with Elephantmen’s Richard Starkings seems to be an ongoing thing, so I always have a job or two in the pipeline with him, and I’m incredibly grateful to alien Matt Smith (AKA Tharg the Mighty), my editor at 2000AD, for keeping me in work for over 12 years now. With any luck there’ll be many more gigs to come.