Part 6 of 6 | In the final part Paul Gravett talks to Paul B Rainey about how life led him to create There’s No Time Like The Present, a graphic-novel project that has taken him seven years to complete, and how he got to Now.
A Sense Of Place
Paul Gravett: How much of the real new town of Milton Keynes influences There’s No Time Like The Present? What is your relationship to your hometown, living in an architect’s dream of futuristic, car-orientated urban planning?
Paul B Rainey: I’ve lived in Milton Keynes for over thirty years, so I have a lot of friends and family who live here or near to here. Why I set the book here is because of all the places that there are in the world, Milton Keynes is the one I know the best.
Paul Gravett: Can you take us through your creative process on an episode of There’s No Time Like The Present? Were you keeping sketchbooks to plan out your scripts, dialogues and layouts? Were any deleted scenes left on the cutting-room floor? Could we even see step-by-step how a page comes together maybe?
Paul B Rainey: I wrote and drew a scene at a time. Initially, I would write it as a prose piece. Then I would rewrite it with thumbnails. Then I planned the page which meant that I rewrote it again, and then I drew it, rewriting it again. I drew half a page on a sheet of A4 paper. Initially, I drew the strip on 80 gsm photocopy paper, tracing and inking over roughs I had drawn on other sheets. Later, I drew it onto sketchpad sheets of A4. The artwork was scanned and assembled using Photoshop. I still have the original artwork, but I threw away all the workings-out.
Some scenes took more re-writing to make them work than others. For example, the early scene where Barry and Cliff are waiting for a lift outside the comic shop was initially very different in its early drafts. But I don’t recall there being any scenes that were dropped altogether. I had the frame of the story inside my head from the start. As I say, I allowed myself a lot of wriggle room.
Paul Gravett: Your conception of the ‘Ubiquiverse’ suggests a radically different perspective on our pasts, presents and futures. Without giving anything away, can you discuss this a bit? (or not?)
Paul B Rainey: I needed something to explain the paradoxes of time travel. For example, if you hear a song from the future and then write that song, where did it actually come from? I didn’t want alternative universes coming into being to cover all possible decisions the characters might face in the story. Your life is ‘predetermined’. Get used to it!
“ I needed something to explain the paradoxes of time travel.
For example, if you hear a song from the future and then write that song, where did it actually come from?
I didn’t want alternative universes coming into being to cover all possible decisions the characters
might face in the story. Your life is ‘predetermined’. Get used to it!”
Paul Gravett: As an author and artist, how important is self-belief? And self-doubt? How much easier would life be if you simply worked and consumed rather than trying to create and express something?
Paul B Rainey: I was thinking the same thing recently. If I didn’t know that I wanted to make comics for a living as an adult when I was a child, would I have been more accepting of things and more successful in the workplace? I have this uncomfortable conflict between arrogance and low self-esteem. I believe utterly in whatever it is that I am working on creatively at the time, but am always bemused when I come up for air that it’s not more popular than it is.
Paul Gravett: Tell me about your campaign to get published in Viz not an easy title to break into for anyone, to be honest. What were some of the brilliant ideas they rejected? And can you run through the series they are printing (when did your first Viz strip appear)? Do they edit you at all?
Paul B Rainey: As I explained earlier, it took me around twenty-seven years to get into Viz. I should point out that I wasn’t constantly sending them strips, but I would probably send them something once or twice a year. ‘Greg Heath The Compulsive Thief’ was definitely sent to Viz. Some of the strips from Love Bomb like ‘The Flask Shop’, for example. I stopped gearing strips specifically for them long ago. Whatever I had drawn that seemed funny to me might be sent to them for consideration. I was going to send the ’14 Year Old Stand-Up Comedian’ to The Phoenix but sent it to Viz first, because I didn’t have the time to colour it in.
Paul Gravett: Have you written for other artists? Does this interest you to do more?
Paul B Rainey: I really enjoy working with other artists as the end results are nearly always better than I initially expect. I’ve written a couple of strips, ‘Body Pop’ and ‘Connected’, for my friend Robert Wells to draw in recent years and they have both looked great. Rob’s a great writer himself (I use him as my proof reader. Everything I do needs Rob approval before it goes elsewhere) and he’s currently working on his own graphic novel, so I don’t imagine he will have the time to draw anything else of mine anytime soon. I have a very personal script called ‘Injury Time’ with Peter Clack, waiting for him to draw it. I know that that will look really good when it is finished.
“If I didn’t know that I wanted to make comics for a living as an adult when I was a child,
would I have been more accepting of things and more successful in the workplace?
I have this uncomfortable conflict between arrogance and low self-esteem.”
Paul Gravett: What are you other recent and current projects? Did you envisage Thunder Brothers Soap Division as another magnum opus, and will you return to it?
Paul B Rainey: After spending over seven years working on There’s No Time Like The Present, I thought I would work on something quite different and even more ambitious and that was Thunder Brother: Soap Division. So far, I have completed over ninety pages of it, but have been distracted by other opportunities. I really want to get back to it and would be motivated to do so if somebody, a publisher, for example, were to make me a deal.
Paul Gravett: What is next on your drawing board for your personal comics-making? Do other media like TV, music, gallery art, movies etc appeal to you as well? What other creative ambitions do you harbour for the future?
Paul B Rainey: Currently, I’m working on a strip for ACES Weekly called ‘PitKnack’. It started out with me wondering what Minecraft would be like in forty years time. Initially, I thought it was just going to be a two-part story, then a four-parter, then a one volume-long tale (seven episodes) and now, I’m thinking, that it might end up being longer than that. I’m basically making the story up as I go along and am really enjoying setting myself plot traps that I have to resolve later on.
Then, of course, I continue to send strips to Viz. They have a few in their slush pile and one or two waiting for approval. I haven’t had anything appear in the last couple of issues, but, in general, I’ve had a very successful year with them.
I would like to put together my answer to the Nelson graphic novel. The working title is Hardy Har Har and would feature contributions from the third set of the best fifty British cartoonists (just to guarantee myself a place in it). I would love to have a go at a sitcom. I don’t have a title for it yet, but the tagline is “the stupid man’s Mr Bean.” Every now and then I tweet @marvel asking if they will pay me to make a Sub-Mariner comic for them, but they never reply. In it, Atlantis has become a republic and Prince Namor has to earn a living from touring America making personal appearance in shopping malls and signing seashells.
And that is how I got to Now.