Guy Davis - Talking About The Marquis and More

Talking to Guy Davis

An artist’s artist, Guy Davis’ detailed, atmospheric work has adorned many acclaimed projects, including Sandman Mystery Theatre, Baker Street, The Nevermen and of course his long run as artist on BPRD at Dark Horse.

But many fans consider his best work on his creator-owned series The Marquis. The violent and disturbing tale of Vol de Galle, a demon-hunter in the time of the Inquisition, who finds himself with the ability to see the real demons surrounding him. But the Marquis’ quest threatens his own sanity, and leads him into ever greater depths of darkness, including one of the most disturbing visions of Hell seen in comics or any medium.

The series has previously been published through Caliber and Image, but Dark Horse recently announced that it’s not only reprinting remastered editions of the two previous collections, but three new volumes from Davis that complete the story. We spoke with Davis about the world of Vol de Galle, and whether his creator-owned work will affect his run on BPRD.

Newsarama: Guy, why did you decide to return to the character at this point?

Guy Davis: I've always been working on it on the side. Whenever I get a chance I'll do something more on it, designs or pencil/ink a bit. The whole end of the series is plotted out, and I had the layouts to the new "Marquis and the Midwife" story already done for some time now.

Since I wanted to do the rest of the series as original graphic novels, there were a lot more pages that needed to be done ahead, and right now I felt I was in a good stride with the BPRD monthly deadlines to officially get The Marquis on a schedule to finish off the rest of the books.

NRAMA: How did you come up with the idea of The Marquis, and what kind of research have you done into Vol de Galle's era?

GD: I guess it really started with wanting to do something set in the 18th century, or that sort of backdrop setting with the powdered wigs and baroque architecture – so that window dressing came first and really it was just working out the type of story I wanted to tell and everything fell into place the more I fleshed some ideas out.

It pretty much just formed from everything I was wanting to draw but never got the chance to -- bizarre monsters, Hell and winter. There were actually a lot of versions and story ideas I played with before I settled on the final Vol de Galle/ Marquis.

As far as research, I didn't really bury myself in the history books for it, since the world I set it in is all fictional – its history and religion are its own. Design-wise, in the beginning I really tried to get the baroque architecture down along with the clothing – but you know, the more I tried to make the buildings authentic or having baroque scrollwork on buildings an actual baroque design, the worse and boring it looked on the page – but if I scribbled it in and hinted at it, then it looked more moody and natural to me.

So I just used any reference for 18th century France/ Italy as a basis for the look, and then went crazy with it, and the let the imagination take over, built up the designs to make them more bizarre and larger than life.

NRAMA: Why did you decide to revive the series through Dark Horse?

GD: I've been doing work for Dark Horse for over 10 years now, it started with an Aliens mini-series and then books like Nevermen and then BPRD, which I'm having a great time working on with Mike (Mignola) and John (Arcudi).

I realized that of all the companies I've worked for, I enjoyed them the most, both in what they publish and actual business dealings – so it was an easy choice to want to bring The Marquis there when they were interested. And they're really putting all the bells and whistles into the new Marquis: Inferno collection – I couldn't be happier with how it's shaping up!

NRAMA: What's different about doing The Marquis in the OGN format as opposed to the serialized format, and why did you decide to go in this direction?

GD: Well, I guess the big difference for me and the main reason I wanted to start doing it this way was so I could make the chapters as long and short as I wanted without trying to fit each part into the 24-32 page comic format – and I mean that originally each chapter was a full single issue comic that was later collected into a TPB.

So now with the OGN, some chapters might be 10 pages and others 40, I'm letting the story tell it and not the format and I personally really like that pacing for it. I also think it reads better all in one without the wait between monthly issues, there's just the longer wait between the full books.

NRAMA: What do you feel makes The Marquis distinct from your other projects -- aside from you writing, obviously?

GD: I don't know, it's a personal project as opposed to something where I'm part of a team – so everything is straight from my head to the paper, it's full self expression. It's a different setting and feel to anything I've ever done before – a different tone, very dark.

NRAMA: And something that's been bugging me for years – where in God's name did that vision of Hell come from?! What inspired that?!

GD: (laughs) I don't know – I love the paintings of Bruegel and Bosch, especially the ones with all the bizarre details and creatures going on in the backgrounds, so I'm sure I had that in mind with the scenes of Hell cluttered up in The Marquis.

But you know, as far as the actual designs – it's just using your imagination and fleshing things out in sketchbooks until I have something I like the look of. And with the scenes of Hell and the devils specifically I wanted them to be as different from what people are used to seeing as possible – no forked tails and horns.

I tried to make the visions of hell as honest and obscene as I could think of. It didn't make sense to put loin cloths on everyone, Hell shouldn't seem modest!

NRAMA: How are you coordinating The Marquis around your BPRD work, or are you taking some time away from that book?

GD: Not at all, I love working on BPRD with Mike and John – I told them that's the series I want to retire on, and I want to be working for a long time ahead!

There's no conflict with The Marquis and BPRD deadlines, both are coming out from the same publisher and they're scheduling it so it all goes smoothly. The new Marquis stories won't start until 2010 and that gives me enough time to get ahead – and also, The Marquis is always something I planned with a finite ending, so after the Midwife story there are only two other new graphic novels planned that tell everything I want for that character.

NRAMA: How is the experience of working as a writer/artist different from working as an artist on a book someone else is writing? Also, what are some lessons you've learned from the different writers with whom you've collaborated?

GD: Working with a writer is a lot easier to me actually, you only have to do half the job and they already have it mostly worked out before you start. I enjoy both writing and drawing my own stories, but I never actually have the urge to write for someone else – I think that's because when I work out a story I see it visually in my head and not descriptive if that makes sense.

With The Marquis I pace it out in short notes and then thumbnail out the pages before working on the dialogue – since I'm drawing it myself I don't write it as a full script beforehand.

As far as actual lessons, I don't know – I guess it's the same as with my art, I learn the most by doing it wrong, learning from my mistakes and seeing it done right by artists and writers whose work I really enjoy.

NRAMA: As you've mentioned on your web site, The Marquis has been translated into other languages around the world. What kind of reception has it gotten, and what do you believe is the source of its international appeal?

GD: From what I've heard there's been a really positive response and they're also looking forward to more of the series. As far as it's appeal – I don't know, I hope it's simply that people are entertained by the story and characters and find it different type of book to what's also out there.

NRAMA: In your sketchbooks, you do a lot of great pieces depicting characters and creatures from many different movies, comics and other media. If you could do a book based on or tying into any movie/TV/etc., what would it be?

GD: That would be hard to pick – there are a lot of characters I enjoy sketching or doing a one-off drawing of just for fun. But I'm not sure if I can think of anything I'm itching to do as a full blown book – right now I'm lucky and happy to be where I am, working on my own projects like The Marquis and getting to draw Mike's incredible characters and working on BPRD with him and John.

NRAMA: What are some other projects you have coming up, and some projects you'd

like to do in the future?

GD: I have some backups in the upcoming Hellboy: Wild Hunt that Mike’s writing, and of course more BPRD.

After The Marquis is finished, I always wanted to get back and complete my first series, Baker Street. That was another book that I had set ending already plotted out for, and I have a few other personal book ideas I'd like to flesh out at some point. The trick I guess is finding enough hours in the day to do everything I want!

Davis is currently illustrating BPRD: The Warning, which is in stores now.

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