Interview: Wayne Nichols on Oz Comic Con Collectors Pack, Marvel GOMA collaborations, commissions and conventions

“Comics” is defined by Wikipedia as “a medium used to express ideas by images, often combined with text or other visual information.” The history of comics has been a long one that has seen a resurgence thanks to the steadily growing pop culture convention scene. It was comics that gave birth to the pop culture convention we see today. Which now brings fans of not just comics, but also, film, television, gaming and cosplay all together in the one place. One of Australia’s leading conventions – Oz Comic Con – will have its first event of the year in Melbourne over the weekend of 9th and 10th of June 2018. One of the comic guests making a special appearance on the Oz Comic Con lineup will be Wayne Nichols, a comic artist, illustrator and concept artist. In the lead up to the convention we had a chat to discuss how Nichols’ work will feature in particular as part of the convention.

For those less initiated in the comics realm, Nichols has primarily worked for the American industry, with such stables as Dark Horse Comics, Marvel, Radical Comics and IDW. With some of the titles he’s worked on including Orphan Black, The X Files, Star Wars and The Force Unleashed. And speaking of Marvel, you may have seen the ‘Marvel: Creating The Universe’ exhibition that featured at GOMA in Brisbane last year. And on entering that exhibition, an enormous floor to ceiling, wall to wall, Spiderman mural.

“I had been contacted by GOMA, and they called me in for a meeting. I sat down and they explained how they’d gotten the rights to do this exhibition, and they showed me the plans. They said that they loved my artwork and had seen work that I’d done for Marvel and other comic book companies previously and they thought I’d be the perfect guy, being based in Brisbane as well, where the show was held to do a mural artwork for that exhibition.”

Courtesy Wayne Nichols Illustration

Obviously getting a big nod from Marvel and GOMA has helped boost Nichols’ profile, which is where Oz Comic Con comes in. The convention then commissioning him to create some unique artwork specifically designed for the Collector’s Pass pack being sold for the convention. The artwork for the Melbourne event is especially focused on both the city and its wildlife.

“The idea there was it was based on the City of Melbourne, and was to use the national animal of Victoria, the Leadbeater’s Possum, to have them as featured superhero or sci-fi type characters in their own right. And the other two, I basically wanted to have a male and a female in there. The male character I gave him electrical powers because I thought Melbourne’s very associated with the trams and the electricity running the trams. And the female I wanted to have magical powers that could potentially be electrical powers and she’s sort of manifesting them as well. Visually I thought they looked really good combined together and Oz Comic Con has their logo in that vibrant green so I wanted to get them sort of manifesting their powers with this green magic which was like the Oz Comic Con green.”

Obviously no hero is set without having some sort of adversary or villain to go up against and Nichols hasn’t forgotten these either, incorporating them into the visual storytelling of the image. The Melbourne Collector’s pass artwork will be the first in the trilogy, as Nichols fleshes out a story spanning across two more pieces for both the Brisbane and Sydney events later in the year.

“Then the city’s getting attacked by these drone looking alien creatures, it was influenced by War of the Worlds, and with the rise of and popularity of people flying drones around. They’re almost like these alien squid jellyfish drone type creatures. To be honest the idea has been used fairly commonly, if you look at the movies and those sentinel machines in the Matrix, they’re very similar as well. I feel in a way that idea was playing on an archetype that’s been established with that kind of jellyfish type, or squid type alien or robot. So I’ll be designing them (Brisbane & Sydney artwork) as well. I’d like them all to tie into a larger narrative with these aliens attacking. So maybe the little sentinel things, the initial ones that you see in the first print, maybe that’s just like the scout party.”

Courtesy Oz Comic Con

Nichols is no newbie to the pop culture convention scene either. He’s been a regular exhibitor at Supanova Comic Con and Gaming, TooCon in Toowoomba, Sugar City Convention in Mackay, Armageddon Expo in Wellington New Zealand, and also comic shop openings and National Book Day events. So he’s quite comfortable with accepting on the spot commissions at an event but sometimes that has its challenges, with fans often asking for obscure characters that he’s never even heard of. Then of course there’s the popular characters that seem to come across his table due to them being part of the current zeitgeist. But often it’s just getting to interact with fans and discuss art that is the real highlight of getting to attend an event.

“Yeah, that happens all the time. I’ve drawn a fair amount of characters but with the fans you get people who are just into really obscure characters because they’ve read some story and they’ve latched on to this character. There’s something cool about this character they really dig. I’ve had a few times where people will specifically bring in a comic featuring a character, knowing it’s a fairly obscure character and I’ll just use that to draw it off. But at the moment it’s Spiderman, with the whole GOMA exhibition and now he’s in the MCU, I feel very associated with Spiderman and previous to this I hadn’t drawn Spiderman a whole lot. So it’s been fun because I absolutely love his costume design.
It’s probably talking to the fans and having conversations with the collectors and the fans who are more passionate about these characters. So that’s really nice to share these conversations with people. But it’s always a buzz to have people come up who are fans of my artwork, and who have maybe been following me for years and to have then come up and tell me how much they like my artwork.”

Besides making appearances at conventions though Nichols has got a few artistic endeavours currently in the pipeline that will be keeping him busy over the next few months. From colouring books, to his own personal stories and of course accepting commissions.

“So I’ve got this Jurassic Park colouring book, and I’ve got two stories, one is Black Sunday and the other one’s Rumours of Whitmore, which are two sci-fi stories that I’ve been chipping away at for ages. So I’m setting aside time to illustrate them. It’s a long process doing every aspect of a comic from writing, to drawing it, to lettering it all yourself. Eventually my plan is to line up a publisher for the stories later this year and to promote them online via my website and through the comic convention scene.”

You can catch Wayne Nichols at Oz Comic Con Melbourne at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th June 2018.
For more information or to purchase tickets go to the Oz Comic Con website.