With ComiXology Originals Ask for Mercy nearing the finale of season 3, we got the chance to talk with series co-creator and artist Abigail Jill Harding.
We covered Harding’s journey as an artist, creating Ask for Mercy, how she’s been coping with the current pandemic, and more. Enjoy!
The Geekiary: When did you realize that yes, I’m an artist? What led you to become a comic book artist?
Abigail Jill Harding: I always wanted to be an artist in some way or form, but to actually say I am an artist officially is something I am still trying to get used to. It has been a relatively recent affair with comics. I’ve only been working officially as one for about 2-3 years now. However, I started reading manga initially around 2010 then moved onto comics a few years later.
Initially, I had shown my drawings to my local comic book shop, then they showed my work to others. I did a few things here and there until eventually, it led me to meet Richard Starkings.
The way in which it all happened seemed like it was meant to be. I had left university hoping to do figurative sculpture-that didn’t work out, tried tattooing, that didn’t work out either. But the domino effect of the possibility of drawing comics kept getting more interesting and eventually I decided to go for it. I went straight into the fire as it were. I had no previous experience in drawing comics. So I’ve been learning on the job, but I believe I made the right decision.
TG: From what I have seen, your work has a very distinct macabre/Lovecraftian-style; what led you down such a path? Who and/or what served as inspirations?
Harding: Artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Yoshitaka Amano, Sergio Toppi, Salvador Dali, and Gustav Klimt and the narrative-led paintings of the pre-Raphaelite era, are long time inspirations of mine.
I recognized a distinct jump in how my style evolved roughly around the time my parents separated. It changed with the way I felt; it’s not unknown for artists to express their feelings subconsciously through their art. Transformation and creatures have always been a core theme in my work and the macabre and horror felt familiar to me. I suddenly found myself more curious about the supernatural, folk-horror, and the Lovecraftian. But for the first time, I felt a connection with my work. Over the years since I’ve worked at it and refined it.
TG: Can you share a bit about the process of working with Richard Starkings on Ask for Mercy? What makes an interesting story and character/s pop out when operating in the comic book world?
Harding: Richard and I have this working process I like to imagine as a tennis court and we are bouncing ideas back and forth to one another. It’s a really fun and engaging way to work. It’s a method I really enjoy and is a very good way to explore the characters. The characters themselves, they talk a lot, and Richard sometimes writes down lines of dialogue and sends them to me and vice versa. Even if it’s not used, it serves their character development perhaps later on.
I think about them a lot, asking questions and theorizing about what this character might do in a particular situation, the obstacles they face, or what that character must be feeling. People become incredibly invested and even connect with these characters, especially the mysterious ones! They want to know more about them, even we do! Putting them in an environment or a situation, the plot sort of starts to stitch together around them.
TG: Due to Ask for Mercy ready to finish its third season (congrats), how has the response been like?
Harding: Thank you! I believe it’s been relatively positive. With it being my first official series as a
comic artist and co-creator, I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. I feel we have more to tell.
TG: I have to ask, how have you been faring during the current pandemic? If you’ve been binging TV or reading, we’d love some recommendations.
Harding: I have been doing okay. I miss my friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen in a year and longer. I will be honest, things have gone almost unchanged in regards to my work with the comic being digital; I haven’t stopped. I have been revisiting Penny Dreadful and The Frankenstein Chronicles. I’m seriously enjoying the TV adaptation of His Dark Materials at the moment. I began watching Akira Kurosawa films, which I am slowly making my way through.
I have so many books I need to read, though I have been giving Mignola’s Hellboy series another read and I just come to be in possession of some books from my friend’s collection they were giving away. I literally recommend everything Ram V has been writing; how he finds such incredible and talented artists I do not know. Blue in Green is one I have yet to read, having read These Savage Shores I feel it will be yet another gem!
TG: Anything you’re currently working on that you’d like to plug? What’s next for you?
Harding: I have one project that I’m working on in the background I hope to one day publish. It needs to evolve a bit more; it’s about witchcraft and bird-demons.
TG: Good luck with that! Any current favorite comic book artists you would like to share?
Harding: Oh gosh! Currently, I have been really impressed with the comic artwork being produced by Evan Cagle, Christian DiBari, Martin Simmonds, and Anand Radhakrishnan. They have some really unique, strong styles that really push the visual medium into another plane of reality.
TG: Wrapping it up, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Harding: I never really know what to say. 10 years ago I didn’t see myself working in comics at all. I like to hope that I will have become a better artist and storyteller. Perhaps collaborate with
TV and Film companies.
We would like to thank artist Abigail Jill Harding for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish her all the best in her career and life.
The Ask for Mercy series is available over at ComiXology.
The description for the series reads:
An action-packed and artistically stunning dark fantasy story from Elephantmen creator, Richard Starkings and breakout talent, Abigail Jill Harding. ASK FOR MERCY is a WORLD WAR II fantasy horror story in the tradition of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Sandman. Mercy is snatched from her own place and time to join a team of Monster Hunters who are actually Monsters themselves, and together they have to take on a Pantheon of Hideous Creatures summoned to our world by Nazi evil!
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Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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