The Art Of Horror: Liam Sharp talks 'Possessed,' with preview of #2

Wed, August 6th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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It hasn't been too long since CBR News last spoke with Liam Sharp about "The Possessed," but a lot's changed since then. The series debuted from DC/Wildstorm in July and proved to be quite successful, with fans snapping up one of the few "mainstream" horror comics to be released in some time. As issue #2 approaches it's street date, CBR News caught up with Sharp to get an update on things and show some readers what they're missing out on.

"Issue two, for me, was a real step up artwise," says Sharp. "The first issue was very confined - almost claustraphobic. I liked the intensity of it, but it had to be tightly controlled. The house, as so much action was set there, had to seem real. I actually built a 3D model of it and set up shots, lighting, etc. to give it what I hoped was some authenticity. The staircase took me days to build, but the shot with the demon in the hall at the bottom of the stairs is one of my favourites - so it was worth the effort I think!

"Issue two gets more into the city. It gave me a bit more creative scope. I wanted it to feel like America, but also to put a spin on it. Sort of Gotham-it-up. What Tim Burton would call re-imagining it. I'd just come back from Prague, which is a strange hybrid of Gothic and Art Nouveau. A pretty perfect horror location, like a dark fairy tale. It just seemed like a cool way of adding atmosphere by blending that in with American Art Deco architecture. Basically I got to have a lot of fun with the exteriors. Also I had this big crazy possession massacre inside one of these hybrid hotels. There's a scene where this possessed kid is hovering over a mass of dead bodies. Because I'd gone for Art Nouveau as the interior I could bring

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in a bunch of symbolic stuff. On the wall he's facing is a big mural. There's a child holding a cornucopia, a horn of plenty. There are pomegranates and lovebirds, vines, clouds and spheres. It's heaven. As you come down the picture there's a large plantpot carved like an angel supporting the dead priest, like it's pulling him free of the hell that is the carnage below. It was great drawing that page! It pulled me in. Don Lawrence, my mentor really, and one of Europes most celebrated artists, once said you should always try to put more details in than are required. That way people will want to go back after reading it and look at the art. This was a chance to do that. Sometimes cluttered panels get in the way of the storytelling, but sometimes - you've just got to do it and go for it. Have some fun.

"I don't want to spoil it any more, but lets say the Demon is nothing like the previous one. A standard firey dragon type affair. I'm seeing Hell as an alternative reality. Why shouldn't they have some form of science there? We also get to see more of their characters - but issue three is the major character driven issue I've drawn so far."

Working on the series, with writers Geoff Johns and Kris Grimminger, he's developed a favorite character but says none of them were based on Johns, despite one with a goatee whom some fans thought might be based on the red hot writer. "So far Burroughs is shaping up as my favourite character. He and Walt were the easiest to get right pretty much from the start. The others went through subtle modifications before they became fixed in my mind. Burroughs is the maveric. He's a priest with attitude and no matter his fears, he goes in. I like that under the glasses he has kindly, almost sorrowful eyes. I also like Holly. She's the one who's persona is most fragile. She puts on a tough front but she's full of doubt. She just felt real as a character. She's damaged, probably the most damaged, and I feel for her.

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"None were modelled on Geoff though. I'd never met him before the San Diego con this year! If I had they would have been..."

If you're not familiar with Sharp's art, his high profile gig on "The Possessed" will likely bring his work into focus for you, but even he can't begin to describe what his style is like. "I don't think I want to try and describe my art! The truth is I have no idea. I'm trying not to follow any current trends artistically. I'm trying to draw well, I suppose. Hopefully put quality before style. I'm also trying to keep it a little spontaneous and not labour all of it too much. Some of it is very detailed, but where detail would just get in the way I've told the story in a starker panel to panel manner. I've tried to give the characters form, and light them realistically. I've also tried to show their feelings and reactions. You should care for the characters if the comic is any good. I've tried to make the reader care about them."

As mentioned previously, fans have reacted very positively to "The Possessed" and Sharp says his experiences at the Comic-Con International in San Diego really made him happy to be on the series. "The reaction has been interesting! It's inspired some pretty intense debate actually! I think that on the whole it's been great," exclaims Sharp. "Some people were hoping for more story, I think, in issue one. They felt it read too quickly. I think it's definitely a book that will garner more interest with successive issues, as the story unfolds. The first issue was told very visually, and it did move along at a pace. I thought the guys wrote a solid set-up, opened with a really neat idea and ended with a cliffhanger. You got a bit of their characters and got to see the cracks in their setup too. Now they can start the meaty stuff. I

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made the Demon generic so that it was established that's what they are. How it works. It gave me more room to push the boat out with later designs, rather than distracting from the story early on. As a result issue one is less a horror comic than a straight actioner. But that's another way for us to take it elsewhere later.

"There's been some great fan art and adds though. This guy on Geoff's message board has done some nifty Photoshop stuff and trailers for the book! I've put some up on my site."

Some fans might be wondering if we'll see "The Possessed Vol.2" or an ongoing series, and Sharp cryptically replies, "Hopefully! We'll see..."

If the preview for "Possessed #2" and Sharp's comments haven't sold you on the series, he makes one final comment about why he feels it's a good series for a broad range of fans. "It's a fun book. It's a movie. We've all put our hearts into it and we've all grown to care about the characters - which is the soundest basis I can think of for reading a comic book! What can I say? It's a spooky ride. And there are goulies and monsters, which I like!"

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