Will Brooks is a freelance designer based in Cardiff Bay who creates stunning cover art for the Titan Comics range. He has also produced work for Big Finish and BBC Worldwide. This weekend he was in attendance at Film & Comic Con Cardiff selling prints of some of his work and spoke to Blogtor Who.
Brooks talked to us about the process involved in creating the photo covers for the Titan Comics ranges, often months before the comic itself is drawn, how it all began and his favourite pieces.
Bedwyr Gullidge: You create covers for Titan Comics and Big Finish but how did it all start?
Will Brooks: More luck than anything, I think it’s fair to say. I’ve always been graphic designery in what I like. As a kid I distinctly remember sitting in my bedroom cutting up Smash Hits magazine and sellotaping the pictures to little bits of card to make my own covers for Smash Hits. I didn’t realise that until I started doing these and I suddenly went “oh yeah, that now makes sense”. So as a kid I was very designery. Then I drifted away. I studied film production and television production. Did that for a couple of years. Had a disastrous afternoon directing Blue Peter which was the most stressful day of my life and I left Television Centre and thought “I’m not doing that again.” And then I just sort of stumbled into this basically. It was a bit around the houses but in Photoshop you’re a lot less stressed. Well on a good day you’re a lot less stressed.
BG: So what are the things that are the most challenging, that are stressful?
WB: Paul McGann’s hair is horrible to work with, it’s lovely hair but it’s horrible to cut out in Photoshop. And David Tennant at his spikiest. Actually I’ll tell you exactly what the most challenging bit is because I’ve had it this week; it’s when I think too hard about it. If I think, “right, I’ve got to do something really special this time” and “I’ve really got to make something great”, then I can’t do it. And no matter what I try it looks rubbish. Whereas the months where I just think, “Okay, I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to get on, I’m going to do it”, they’re fine. They’re the good months. They’re the months we like.
BG: Which is the piece that you are the most proud of doing, that you look at and think “yes, that works”?
WB: Every month it changes. At the moment my favourite piece is a cover that hasn’t been seen yet, which is from about April next year I think. But then a couple of months ago my favourite piece was David Tennant in the sunset. Before that it was the Twelfth Doctor one that you can turn. So every month I do something new and I go, “hat’s my favourite one” and then a few months later I look back and go, “That’s not my favourite one, of course that’s not my favourite one.” I don’t think I could pick one that I would say “yeah, that’s my favourite.”
BG: So describe the process, how does it go from a blank page to the final product?
WB: Usually it depends what pictures I see that I like. It started out Titan used to say to me, “This is what’s happening in the issue” and I would make something that’s completely not what they asked for. They must’ve hated me. [laughs] For the first six months they’d say, “We want this” but I’d go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah but I’ve done that.” So now they’ve given up asking. Now they just say, “We need a Tenth Doctor one.” And usually I just go through my David Tennant pictures and I’ve got, I think, David Tennant is about 18,000 photos. I just sit there and scroll through until I see one I like and I go, “right, that’s that” and that goes on. Sometimes it’s different. The Sherlock cover for example, I knew I wanted the numbers on there and I knew I wanted the heads on there. So that was less the pictures, it was more I know roughly what I want to do. Once I’ve roughly picked the pictures or the layout, it’s then just several hours sitting in hammering away at it.
BG: So are there lots of different versions before the final one?
WB: Oh yes. Some of them are quite quick. The David Tennant sunset one was one afternoon from start to finish. I pieced it together, I knew what I wanted and that was fine. But the Paul McGann Time War one, that took days on end because it just wasn’t working. Sometimes you do something, usually by mistake if I’m honest, you press the wrong button and you go, “Oh actually that works.” Yeah, that’s sort of how they come together, roughly.
BG: Are there any doctors you haven’t done yet that you’d like to tackle?
WB: I’d love to do every Doctor as a cover. I’ve done Fifth Doctor and Seventh Doctor for Big Finish. So I’ve crossed those off the list. But I haven’t done Hartnell, Troughton or Colin [Baker] on official things. Actually, I have done Troughton, he’s on some of the Third Doctor covers but I haven’t done a proper Second Doctor, so that would be nice. Otherwise a lot of them, I’ve ticked off a lot of what I wanted to do. And there’s things like Sherlock. I was looking at the Sherlock comics and thinking I’d like to do those. So with the subtlety of an ox kept dropping hints, “Oh, Sherlock’s good isn’t it?”, until finally they took the hint and said, “Do you want to?” “Yes, here you go I’ve done it, I’ve started, here’s your first six.”
Many Thanks to Will Brooks for taking time to talk to us this weekend.
Comics featuring Brooks’ covers can be found at comic book retailers or online featuring the Third, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. You can also follow his work on social media on Twitter @, Facebook, Instagram and on Tumblr.