What’s Your Story? is a monthly series in which we find and talk to interesting people in our local community, whether they run a business, have an interesting job or do something else that we think is worthy of wider attention.
Warren Pleece is a Brighton based comic book illustrator, graphic artist, and brother of our director Gary Pleece. Both Warren & Gary have collaborated on various comic book titles over the years the latest of which is Montague Terrace. We caught up with Warren at his studio to find out more about him and the art of illustration.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WANTED TO BE AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I’ve been drawing since day one and first took it out on my Dad’s prized Jazz albums in the late 60s for want of a good bit of cartridge paper. On my foundation course at Epsom art college I didn’t have a real plan as to what I’d be doing in the future. I was doing a lot of painting at that time. I remember a tutor explaining the difference between a fine art course and an illustration course when we were considering applying to degree courses, ‘With fine art, you probably won’t make any money, with illustration, you might’. I chose illustration. Not that I’ve always been flush from it, but it’s always suited my love of drawing.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE BUSINESS?
A lucky break in 1986 when my degree show moved up from Brighton to Centrepoint in London. Paul Gravett, aficionado and editor at comics magazine, Escape, came and liked the comic strip I drew for my final year exam project, putting me on to a whole new exciting world of graphic storytelling. I had a few strips published in Escape, a few in Woodrow Phoenix’s Sinister Romance anthology, then I started up my own comic mag, Velocity, with my brother, Gary.
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE JOB?
I’m doing what I love, creating comics, stories, drawing, painting. I often get to draw projects I’m really interested in. When I was working for the Horrible Histories magazine, each commission was a joy; Vikings one week, Medieval Plague the next. I’ve also been lucky to collaborate with a lot of great writers.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE COMICS?
I grew up in the 70s on British kids comics, Whizzer and Chips and Warlord, then got really into 2000AD. That’s when I first became aware of particular creators. I got in to the work of Munoz and Sampayo, the Hernandez brothers and people like Daniel Clowes once I’d started drawing my own comics in the late 80s. To be honest, there’s so much good stuff around at the moment, I find it hard to pinpoint favourites.
FAVOURITE PIECE OF WORK?
Of mine? That’s difficult to say. I often hate the last thing I’ve worked on, only to rediscover it years on and think it wasn’t too bad. I just see all the things that could’ve been better. I was pretty proud of Montague Terrace but would love to have another go at it. Incognegro with Mat Johnson was a high point for me, too. Ask me in a few years time when I’ve stopped hating what I’m working on now.
Of someone else? Just look at anything by Alex Toth.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO WHILE YOU WORK?
It varies. I’m sharing a studio at the moment, so I don’t like inflict my tastes onto the others here. When I’m left to my own devices, 6 Music evening shows on catch up, Radio 4 podcasts, instrumental stuff, Mogwai, William Basinski.
I came here to do my illustration course in the early 80s. It was exciting, I was young and it wasn’t the suburbs. It’s kind of stuck. I’ve moved away a couple of times, raised a family, but keep finding myself back here.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
I’m working on a couple of books at the moment; a follow up to the graphic novel Incognegro (Incognegro Renaissance) written by Mat Johnson for Dark Horse Comics and a book about runaway slaves in 18th century Scotland with the University of Glasgow. Other things, when I can get round to it, will include the return of short stories online and in print under the Velocity moniker, the magazine co-written with brother Gary that started it all, celebrating its 30th anniversary next year.