Dave Taylor, architecture meets comics

"I used to draw in the back of my dads architectural plans."

By Nota Tsekoura, on 27th Jul, 2013 13:26

Dave Taylor, comics artist 

Dave Taylor is a comic artist famous for his illustrations of Batman and Judge Dredd. Or at least that is what he is widely know for. However, apart from his comics' most amazing drawing lines, a great interest can be retrieved by his connection with architecture. We had the chance to have a unique talk with Dave on how architecture and urban space influenced him and how strongly these emerge through his work. Among others, we mentioned his latest masterpiece “Batman, Death by Design” as well as his very first comic and character he created, Tom Tom Macoubre.

Short audio part from our interview with Dave Taylor

The interview    

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  Nota Tsekoura   We know that Moebius [Jean Henri Gaston Giraud] was a great influence for you, a mentor maybe? In the everyday life or in the fictional world like in mythology, or a movie, a comic etc. is any character that you could call a personal “hero”?

 Dave Taylor  Moebius was a great influence for me! I started drawing comics when I was very young, seven or eight. By the time I was leaving school I had drawn a few comics. I went to London to a comic’ s convention where Moebius was attending. I was looking through his portfolio that his agent had available for people to see his artwork live, not printed and was a mind-blowing experience! I found fascinating that he seemed to be coming from the same perspective that I was looking for. I tried to suck in as much of it as I could to learn from and I ended up buying one of the pieces, an incal page that is still not published. I asked his agent if there was any chance of meeting Moebius because I loved to show him what I have been doing and try to get some advice from him. I ended up having forty-five minutes with him, which was wonderful because he looked through my artwork and he was excited with what I was doing. Years later, when I sort of developed a relationship with him, Moebius confirmed that my journey was going to in right direction “ you, I, Geof Darrow and José Ladrönn , we are brothers and we share the same imagination, our imagination comes from the same source”. Ever since Moebius death last year I've noticed that a lot of artists have developed a similar style with him. As he said once to me, that we all seem to be connected, there is this universe that we are all plugged into and it is wonderful to see other artists come up and share the same universe with us.


© Dave Taylor

 NT  Do these sketches|creations have had any impact to you and your work now?

 DT  It is a book I started developing at school when I was 16 and is something that I tried to develop ever since, but keeping up with the comic book career I have never actually got around to producing it properly. The Tom Tom Macoubre that I published was only of 20 -25 pages long, but the original story behind it maybe contained a hundred or a thousand pages. So I started recently to do a sketchbook of ideas and I do hope to publish it as graphic novel soon.

 NT  Obviously architecture is a big part of your work since it is the place where the characters that you design live and act in there. But how do they work together? Is the character shaped according to the environment or is the environment shaped according to the character?

 DT  I do not see or think any other character of where his environment is so important than Batman. Because of his environment he became Batman. Living in a city, the darkness and the way of life in there made him who he was. The darkness killed his parents. When Chip approached me with a project that was heavily structured around architecture I was enthusiastic because my father was an architect. It was a joined project, 

I have worked on Batman quite a few years before that, though I never really had the chance to show his environment as part of the story but now it was predominately about it, and I was happy that I could dive into architecture.




© Dave Taylor

 NT  So to what extend were you influenced by your father and subsequently his work?

 DT  When I was very young I used to draw in the back of his architectural plans. I used to turn huge sheets of paper over and draw all sorts things on the back, but also not just ignore the front of it, I looked at the illustrations that he have done and found them fascinating. He designed mostly bridges in the city of Liverpool, unfortunately they are turned all down now. One of them was a huge bridge complex and was linking one area to a major shopping area in Liverpool and going over a very busy road. His work was basically saving peoples lives through the fact that this bridge was there and they didn't have to cross this very busy road.

 NT  What is your relationship with the built environment that you live in? Do you identify parts of you on it?

 DT  My immediate environment is a wooden building that I have build and I call it my shed, my sanctuary because it is full of my books and collections of spaceships and all shorts of my things. I even have the Moebius drawing here. It is the first environment that I have worked and felt I could produce the artwork that is inside me without anything holding me back. So that is a major influence for me who I do not get out much when I am working but I do love the city of Liverpool.

The environment can change your mood and I am aware of that, buildings of your environment can almost physically change you. 

It makes you think differently, more or less productive, more creative, less creative etc.I had a studio in Liverpool when I was starting in the industry in a very old warehouse, near the dock area. It was very cold and this is the reason I left it. It was a big old building and the heating was poor but I could work in there because the sense of history, too much information, too much had gone on there for me to start creating new things. My new studio was build specifically for me, to work in. It has this fresh attitude that I could do anything in here, it doesn't try to tell me other things that have been done before, it is a brand new environment.

The reasons I did not get into architecture, which I was considering when I was in school, is because in designing buildings there are so many constrains and restrictions. I want to be able to do something with pure freedom. I have enormous respect for architects who get a project finished under all those restrictions.

 Mirto Xenaki  What is your favorite place to travel to?

 DT  I like to travel, and when I do, I take photos of the architecture.I love visiting Paris and Barcelona purely because of the architecture. 

 NT  We see architects that want to be more artists than they are or initially wanted to become artists. So, in architecture we see a direction towards inclusion of other disciplines in the production of more hybrid projects where sometimes art gets included in many occasions. Could you recognise this will in architecture?

 DT I can see that in modern architecture, for example the Gherkin building [by Norman Foster | Foster + Partners Architects ] in London is almost like a very stretched dome. It seemed to ignore the fact that it needed to be a building with restrictions. It was predominately a statement of art, trying to break up the landscape from all these strict lines. Or in big projects especially abroad maybe in Abu-Dhabi and Dubai were it is clear that the architects involved are frustrated artists. Some buildings look like sketches, a very early state sketch that amazingly has been taken through the whole process of designing a building and when it is finished it looks like a sketch.



© Dave Taylor

 NT  You have stated that a long time ambition of yours was to design a Mega-City formed by technology and robotics, a city aimed for Dredd's universe. In this city we see robot buildings in an absolute integration of a building and a robot of architecture and robotics, but not in the usual sense, where the robot makes the building, rather than the robot is the building. Could you tell us about this moving city and it's function?

 DT The inspiration for that came about 10 years ago. I used to watch a British TV program which every week there was another building. One episode was talking about the computer in the house and the computer controls all the heating, the lighting, basically the environment that human is going to experience. I found that fascinating and wanted to talk down to its ultimate point where the building was the robot, was it self. If it needed fixing it would fix itself, no human would have to be involved. In some degree in a Mega-City robots do almost the whole construction.

 NT  What would you say are the points where you concentrate more while you are drawing an architectural or urban environment?

 DT  Well, I am drawing Judge Dredd at the moment again. The story that I am doing at the moment is taking place in a bit of a wasteland where there has been a war and a lot of buildings have been destroyed.You can see buildings off in the background that have a very distinctive shape and the way I draw them is very organic.They almost look like melted candles or sort of like a mushroom, maybe that have grown above the ground and the closer you get to them the more complex they get but at the same time their organic nature is still there in the details.

 MX  And from where do you start when you draw? What is the first line that you make?

 DT  The initial shape, the outline, the whole picture almost at once. Because it is science fiction, nobody can say: “oh that is not right, that is not accurate”, cause there is no accuracy. It is all from my imagination based partly on what has been done before. The first Judge Dredd I did I wanted to work very personally and incorporate some of the history of the magazine, but also try to put my vision forward and try to develop it more and more. In the sequences I am drawing now, when Judge Dredd enters a building for instance I want to incorporate those elements seen from a great distance on a very close up scale. The theory behind the construction of the building is consistent, from a great distance or a very close up.


© Dave Taylor

 NT  We architects, among others get influenced by things that happen in art. We see great and famous architects designing buildings that resemble, or sometimes are identical, to designs seen in fiction movies and|or comics.

 DT  The building I mentioned before in London, looks like a building out of Mega-City one to me, because it is like a very tall dome, it is stretched dome. It looks like one of the classic megacity artists Brian Bolland there where just these huge mushroom shaped organic buildings and this is what Gerkin building reminds me of in London. 

Which makes me think either is a coincidence either the architect behind it was influenced by comic books in that sense.

 MX   Talking on influences, is there a story, or song or video that you like to hear or read again and again?

 DT  Oh yes! This one piece of music that comes to mind it is called the Gayane Suite number 3: IV. Gayane's Adagio  by Khachaturian . It was used in the film 2001 Space Odyssey  that is probably my favorite film. It is a beautiful, almost somber piece of music that I find heavenly. It was placed in a very strong part of the film. My love of classical music is from my mom who was an opera singer and when I was a child growing up I was surrounded by classical music.

 NT  Hypothetically, If you got to meet one of the characters that you have drawn in real in life, which one would it be and why?

 DT  The character I most want to meet is my character Tom Tom Macoubre because he is not finished yet and it is a constantly developing character and I would just like to sit down with him and discuss his future with him, who is he going to become, where is he going to go, what part of life he is going to play. I wouldn't like to meet Batman for instance nor Judge Dredd. But my daughter wants to, my 5year old daughter is desperate to meet Batman because she thinks he is real and I haven't putted of that idea.

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