Comics artist signing new series in St Albans

Kings Watch issue 1

Kings Watch issue 1 - Credit: Archant

THE comic artist responsible for teaming up Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician will be holding a special signing session in St Albans this weekend.

Marc Laming is the illustrator of the new five-part series Kings Watch, which brings together these three iconic characters for a modern audience.

He will be appearing at Chaos City Comics in Heritage Close, St Albans, this Saturday from 1.30pm, to sign copies of the sell-out Dynamite Comics series.

Marc, 45, who lives in Hatfield, used to run the illustration and graphic design foundation degrees at West Herts College in Watford, but has been working in comics on and off for almost 20 years.

“I’m the world’s oldest newcomer!” he laughed.

He first came to prominence with the 1950s noir series American Century, published by Vertigo/DC for two years from 2001 and written by comics legend Howard Chaykin.

“The Vertigo gig came about after was introduced by [writer] Andy Lanning to [Vertigo editor] Shelly Bond at a UK comic convention. Shelly took away some of my sample pages and a week or so later called me to see if I wanted to draw a section of an issue of [Sandman spin-off] The Dreaming and if that went well how did I feel about working with Howard Chaykin? I had been a huge fan of Howard’s since the 70s when I first saw his work on the comic adaptation of Star Wars so I was thrilled at the prospect and more than a little intimidated. But Howard was a joy to work with and extremely supportive of my work and I learnt so much from him.

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“American Century was set in the early 1950s and very much grounded in reality so EVERYTHING was was researched from the cars through to the right style of shoes and ties the characters might be wearing. I still have box after box of ‘50s research from the couple of years I worked on the title. I also watched almost every film noir movie from the period I could get my hands on and as much period TV as I could find too.”

Marc’s style is very realistic and detailed, which helps ground the fantastical in reality, something obviously evident in Kings Watch, where he manages to make scenes of the Phantom fighting dinosaurs look “real”.

“I think that is just where my drawing comes from, I was always a fan of artists such Al Williamson, Alex Raymond, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, Dave Stevens, Frank Robbins and Milton Caniff so that informs my work more than anything.”

Flash, the Phantom and Mandrake were previously seen joining forces in 1980s cartoon Defenders of the Earth, but this much-loved show was not an influence on Marc’s take on the characters.

“I loved the old Flash Gordon serials and I watched them all the time in the 70s, Defenders Of The Earth however kind of passed me by. I think we had black and white reprints of the Alex Raymond Flash Gordon newspaper strips in the house when I was younger too. This would have been pre-Star Wars so it along with Dan Dare would have been my first exposure to sci-fi and adventure. Almost everything that came after Flash Gordon was based on it. Star Wars, for instance, would have been a Flash Gordon movie had George Lucas been able to secure the rights.”

Marc is working on Kings Watch with writer Jeff Parker, famous for his runs on Agents of ATLAS, Thunderbolts and Red Hulk for Marvel.

“Jeff is a blast to work with, he’s extremely funny and loves the subject matter as much as I do so it’s a great working relationship. Jeff writes the script and I try to bring the most out of that with the artwork but it’s very much his story and and unless I have something stupendous to offer I just stick to the pictures.”

Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Kings Watch if Marc has his way: “It’s a five issue mini-series as things stand, but I’d be happy to work on it for longer and certainly with Jeff again.”

Copies of the first issue of Kings Watch will be available to buy for signing at Chaos City on Saturday.