As Defoe: Queen of the Zombies claws its way into bookstores this week,
ECBT2000AD lured art droid Leigh Gallagher into our lair with the promise of cake
and hair-care products. We asked Gallagher about the new Defoe, his career at
2000 AD and the imminent reboot of a fondly remembered badass.
So, Defoe: Queen of the Zombies is out now. What can we expect?
Hey there, thanks for having me over in your hot tub for this interview. The
bubbles feel soothing… Okay, so this second book of Defoe collects the storylines
Queen of the Zombies and A Murder of Angels written by Pat Mills, the daddy of
2000 AD, and illustrated in RIDICULOUSLY detailed black and white by me.
It’s 17th century London and Defoe and his crew of zombie-hunters, the Brethren
of the Night, are going all-out to take down La Voisin, the Queen of the Zombies,
once and for all. The second part of the book introduces the more magical
aspects of Defoe’s world, as they defend The Tower of London against the zombie
hordes and perhaps even… angels?
There’s a whopping 18 pages of sketches, layouts, and even a pencilled version of
what would have been the book’s painted cover before it was decided to stick
with the ‘zombie baby’ version. Just as I did with the first collection, I went back
to retouch a variety of panels that I wasn’t quite happy with when originally
serialised in 2000 AD. Kinda like what George Lucas keeps doing with Star Wars,
but with less “NOOOOOOO!!!”
I’m going to put aside any modesty and tell you that I’m proud of this book. If
anyone here is a fan of my stuff, THIS is what I’m all about.
Following Defoe: 1666, Queen of the Zombies marks your second
collaboration with Pat Mills. How close a working relationship have you
had over the course of the two books? Is there much back and forth
between you? Does he provide you with much in terms of research? Are
his scripts detailed or do they let you do your own thing?
Pat’s a brilliant, brilliant man; infinitely smarter than myself. I still can’t believe
that my first big gig for 2000 AD was with him and here we are, four years later,
still going. In the planning stages, he’ll always ask me if there’s any particular
scenes I can picture that I’d like to draw and he’ll do his best to work them in.
That’s how the zombie baby scene (and cover) came about.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an intellectual in any sense of the word,
which is why I’m so incredibly relieved when Pat kindly sends me a care package
of reference pictures, which I would have no chance of knowing about if left to
my own devices. Seriously, you’d think that the cool steampunk weapons and
gadgets were completely made up, but nooo… There’s Pat’s reference of FORKS
that are also pistols!
What I take time to do is collect my own research for the more mundane aspects
of 17th century London, like furniture, clothing, pots and pans. It eats into your
schedule, but when you’re illustrating a story set in history, you can’t make this
stuff up as you could in, say, a Dredd story.
Thankfully, Pat’s scripts aren’t as detailed as you may think. I’ve been on other
jobs where it was so much work just to read the script that it left me feeling tired
and wanting to go off and have a cake break. But not with Pat’s scripts.
There are so many other zombie comics on the market right now. What
makes Defoe different? Did you try in any way to distinguish your
zombies from what’s already out there?
True dat (can I pull that off?). Yeah, I know what you mean, but luckily, in the
first part of this book, you find Defoe’s Brethren facing off against a sadistic team
of super-powered zombies! From there, we establish that this isn’t just a ‘zombie
book’, though that aspect is always there. Defoe’s 17th century is a bizarre world
of chaotic invention, magic, clockpunks, freaks and perhaps even angels.
Defoe’s pretty graphic in terms of horror. Did you feel the need to censor
yourself at all?
Naaaahhh. Well, I say “I” didn’t censor myself. Tharg may have requested
changes to the original zombie baby cover of Prog 1643. I’d drawn the image of
Defoe with the zombie babies crawling all over him, but the boss sensibly pointed
out that we can’t have “dead babies” featured on the shelf of WH Smiths, and so
asked me to “demonise” them a bit. A few versions later, I was still struggling to
think of a version that wasn’t entirely different from what was depicted in the
story. Eventually, thanks to suggestions from a couple of mates, I coloured them
bright green with red eyes and gave them lumpy skin. That made Tharg happy
and turned it into an image that I still kiss every night before bed, and even use
as my convention display stand!
Have you had much in the way of feedback from readers?
I’ve actually had some really nice emails from folk telling me that the art style
reminds them of “old school 2000 AD”, which is a bloody lovely compliment to
have. And I’ve also had feedback from confused, but lovely people like
“Fernando”, who left an Amazon review saying how in a “male-dominated
industry”, I, as a woman, have done well depicting such gore and violence, and
that I’m an inspiration to females wanting to take up illustration.
Once again, someone clearly more intellectual than I, apart from the fact that I’m
a MAN! Look, I have a package here! LOOK AT IT!
I’m keeping that bit about being an inspiration to women though…
*Tears eyes away from Gallagher’s package* Uh, where was I? Ah, yes.
Are you much of a horror geek? I understand you’re a big fan of Jose
Ortiz, the artist behind Scream! comic’s The Thirteenth Floor…
I do have a thing for fantasy horror, so long as it’s not torture porn or serial killertype
stuff. I love playing with shadows. The more black ink on the page, the
As for Ortiz, it’s thanks to his glorious work on Scream’s The Thirteenth Floor that
I got offered Defoe by Tharg in the first place! Long story short, I previously
worked on a few things for DC and Vertigo, but without a recognisable style of my
own I soon found myself on the dole. Trying to ‘find myself’ I went back to comics
that inspired me when I was a kid: 2000 AD, Scream! and Eagle. I studied Ortiz’s
work, adapting elements into my own to hopefully create a style that made me
stand out from the crowd.
When I thought I was ready, I approached Tharg with my new style (I’d
previously done a Future Shock and some Past Imperfects for him), and a week
or so later he offered me Defoe.
You’ve just finished working on Gordon Rennie’s new strip, Aquila. What
can you tell us about that?
Well, I think this may be the first time it’s mentioned online (EXCLUSIVE!), but
I’ve had the go-ahead to finally say that Aquila is a reboot of a classic Tornado/
2000 AD series called Blackhawk!
It’s a cool project to be involved with. Gordon’s one of those 2000 AD writers that
anyone would eat a cat to be involved with! The strip looks completely different
from Defoe and is currently being coloured by that talented 12-year-old boy
Dylan Teague. I’ve also been a lot more imaginative with the panel layouts.
We start with a 10-page prologue in 2000 AD Prog 2012, with a full series to
follow hopefully not long after!
AND THEN, I jump onto book five of Defoe.
You’re also working on some more Dredd…?
Yup! I’m currently halfway through a six-episode run, part of the ongoing Day of
Chaos storyline, written by the great John Wagner. Really enjoying the break from
historical reference to go crazy with the future tech and I bloody love drawing
How far do you think you’ve come as an artist since your first
commission for the Prog?
Oh, man. You know, it’s been eight and a half years since my first Future Shock
was published (inked by Dylan Teague, no less). I wouldn’t say my work practises
have evolved much over the years, apart from cutting out time-wasting stages of
development, like needlessly over detailed initial layouts. From my first gig, I’ve
always worked hard. Some, like my fiancée Niki, would say too hard.
Unfortunately, now I’m approaching my mid-thirties, I’ve found that I can’t simply
work through the night like I used to and still be ready to wrestle a fat man the
next day (not that I used to). That’s not to say I won’t still do it when I have to.
I’ve just come off pulling two all-nighters in a row to get the latest Dredd
finished. And now I feel like crap. Like I’ve just, well, wrestled a fat man…
I’ve had a strange trajectory to get to where my career is today. I started at 2000
AD on Future Shocks [Bad Thoughts; Prog 1342] and Past Imperfects [The Man
They Couldn’t Hang; Prog 1356 and The Great War; Prog 1361], went to DC/
Vertigo for a while, dole, then back to 2000 AD where I’ve thankfully been in
constant work for the last four and a half years, and hopefully have cool projects
lined up with them for some time to come.
Plus, I seem to be lucky enough to have had really interesting side projects
presented to me on occasion. From the year I spent working on the LEGO Bionicle
comic series to theatre posters and the three-metre tall football comic strip that’s
currently in the new Liverpool Museum. Right now, I’m back doing some work for
a BBC show.
When I started this was always the goal: to have enough work doing what I
bloody love, to afford a life, a house, and eventually family.
Things are looking good for the foreseeable future. I just wish I had more time to
fit in all the other projects I have on my plate.
With Defoe and Aquila, you seem to be gaining a reputation as a
historical/horror artist, but your work on Judge Dredd suggests you have
a much wider range. Is there any kind of genre or project that you’d like
to get your teeth into? Any 2000 AD character you’d like to get to work
That really wasn’t my intention to have that rep. After the latest chapter of Defoe
finished and the series was on hiatus, I wasn’t really looking to dive straight into
another historical epic. But then Aquila was offered to me and it was such a great
opportunity I couldn’t turn it down.
Thankfully, immediately after finishing the 10-page prologue, Tharg offered me
this six-part Dredd. That’s been enough to show off and scratch that sci-fi itch for
As for other 2000 AD characters, I don’t think you can top Dredd and I will slap in
a really manly way anyone that says otherwise…
Really, I’d prefer to create new 2000 AD properties, though none that could top
Dredd, otherwise I’d have to slap myself.
Your credit box in Prog 1728 qualified you as “The Most Handsome Man
In Comics” and rightly so. How do you do it…?
Years searching the world for the perfect hair product. Plus, that design-bot
clearly has a thing for me…