Legendary comic illustrator on the danger of digital art

2000 AD and Heavy Metal legend Simon Bisley reveals why he favours a hands-on approach to art.

Simon Bisley on Blizzard and being a genius

Blizzard's Diablo III's King Leoric gets Bisleyfied.

Simon Bisley is a weightlifting, bass-playing artist whose distinctive style – essentially muscles, boobs and demons – has made him a legend in the world of comic books.

Yet his latest project is a side-step from graphic novels: creating artwork for Blizzard's game Diablo III.

"Blizzard approached me about a year ago to do some promotional artwork on its main characters," says Simon. "It's taken what I've done, which was hand-painted, and then digitised and animated it so it looks three-dimensional.

"Normally that would be a bit corny, but these are done very effectively. It really enhances my genius."

Simon Bisley on Blizzard and being a genius

Malthael's goth-rock hyperbolic look is rather a good match for Simon's art style

Despite games being largely unfamiliar territory, he found himself at home with Blizzard. "It's exactly my style. I saw stuff there that was mine anyway," he says.

"It's funny when companies get you to create stuff, and your influence is in their work already. It comes back to you in a weird way, and it's a huge compliment. I was probably one of the grandfathers of that style... Listen to me and my ego!"

Simon Bisley on Blizzard and being a genius

You can practically hear the squealing electric licks...

While hand-painted work was commonplace among the promotional material of games 15 to 20 years ago, recent titles rely heavily on CG and digital art.

It makes sense given the virtual nature of games, but Simon believes there's a danger that old-school skills will be buried by digital art.

"You can put more of your soul into a painting when you're doing it hands-on," he says. "Doing artwork digitally is a bit like having sex with a condom on – the pleasure's not there, but at least you get there in the end. Not using a condom is a greater pleasure. It's more aggressive, more organic... just way better."

Simon sees an important role for his unprotected approach to art in the future, too. "It doesn't matter what medium you use, or how you get to it – it all ends up on a screen anyway," he says.

"I think the main thing is there's a resurgence of comic book artists. People in the games industry have realised that we're quite good at designing as well as illustrating stuff, and we come up with our own concepts. So yeah, there's a great future for it."

Illustrations: Simon Bisley

Simon Bisley arrived on the comic book scene when he pencilled the return of the ABC Warriors for 2000 AD in 1987. Since then, he's worked on Lobo, Full Cirkle and Slaine. This article appears in ImagineFX issue 120.

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