As Ireland’s only father and son comic book artists, Joe and John Campbell from Derry’s Bloomfield Park are currently on a high as part of the five-strong team behind the stunning new graphic novel, ‘Walled City Dreams’.
The ‘Derry Journal’ caught up with this dynamic duo to discover what it’s like to be the only father-son team working in the comics industry today
Joe Campbell, artist-in-residence at Greater Shantallow Community Arts, is known to many as the artist behind the acclaimed 2010 Amelia Earhart graphic novel. Having inherited his father’s immense artistic talents, son John Campbell is fast achieving a reputation of his own. The 26-year-old told the ‘Journal’: “I always loved the comic art style but I actually wanted to be a graphic designer! It was only after studying graphic design for several years that John realised it wasn’t the medium for him.
He signed up to a Comic Art and Digital Illustration course at the Verbal Arts Centre. “I fell into it from there and have never looked back,” he admits.
The new locally-based graphic novel ‘Walled City Dreams’ was created through Greater Shantallow Community Arts with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
“The chance came up to create our own book and so we met every Thursday night for about 15 weeks and put our ideas together. Our main idea was to think local and to use Derry as a backdrop for any of the stories we were doing. From there, we began writing stories about ghosts and demons.”
‘Walled City Dreams’ was launched last week during the Earhart Festival. “It’s not too bad working with my father, and we do work very well together surprisingly! People say there are a lot of similarities in our styles and I’m sure there is - he taught me the craft - but we both have our own individual styles too.”
John now hopes to pursue a career in the comic book industry. “Well, myself, along with the Zombie Hi crew, are setting up our own business to concentrate on doing this as a business,” he adds.
GSCA artist-in-residence Joe Campbell elaborates on how his children were naturally inclined to follow in his creative footsteps. “I have a studio at home and John just grew up around art - watching me painting and drawing over the years - and it became second nature to him. Especially as I used both John and my daughter Margaret as models for paintings many’s a time!”
The duo first began working together thanks to 2D - the Northern Ireland Comics Festival - which is held every June in Derry.
“The 2D Festival brought the opportunity to work together and get valuable insight into the work through the 2D Collective, which spurred us on. Then through the Digital Arts course at GSCA, Walled City Dreams was born and separately, the Zombies Hi teams evolved too.”
Although traditionally trained, Joe Campbell has embraced this new digital form of artistic practice: “I was a traditional artists for years but I have to say I do find digital arts really liberating,” he admits. “Through digital art I became a master of of my own destiny for the first time. Now you needn’t spend thousands on getting your work out there - you can do it all yourself and distribute it yourself, which is really empowering.”