An Interview With Warwick Johnson-Cadwell

by Nick Devonald on November 11, 2019

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, the writer and artist behind Our Encounters With Evil: Adventures of Professor J.T. Meinhardt And His Assistant Mr. Knox, the sequel to Mr. Higgins Comes Home, which he also illustrated.

Hi Warwick, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk to me. Our Encounters With Evil: Adventures of Professor J.T. Meinhardt And His Assistant Mr. Knox marks a return to the characters from Mr Higgins Comes Home. What is it about these characters that you feel drawn to tell more of their stories?

As soon as I saw what Mike had in mind for the book I was so excited about it. We are both fans of that gothic horror tradition, particularly in film, and that meant there was a great resource to draw from. I was having ideas about all the characters as Mike was writing them, and building histories for them came easily. These characters are bursting with stories to tell I think, which is part of the reason this book tells three rather than just one. I feel there’s much more to tell, too.

You’ve gone from being the artist on Mr. Higgins Comes Home to both writing and art duties on Our Encounters With Evil. How easy did you find that transition?

It started off exciting, then became challenging and is currently terrifying. This is the biggest book I have written so far, and Mike Mignola’s storytelling skills are superb and a daunting prospect to follow. I always loved what Mike was writing on Mr. Higgins Comes Home but this time I had to trust the writer part of me while drawing it and not be tempted to make changes as I went along. That might stretch the timetable.

I’m curious about the title. Was it ever just Our Encounters With Evil? What made you choose to have such a long title?

Not really, though I’m using just Our Encounters With Evil when I talk about it now. The book is an insight into the endeavours of these vampire hunters and I wanted it to be like a series of journal records from an extensive library of adventures, and so was happy to promote a dry and academic title to the volume.

This is our second foray into the world of Professor Meinhardt and Mr. Knox, do you have plans to return to their world in the future?

I would love to. As I mentioned, this book is a brief selection of the activities of Meinhardt, Knox, and Van Sloan, and I think they have a great many tales to tell. I think there is plenty more that can be visited as they battle the supernatural world.

Mike Mignola is a bit of a legend in the comic book world. How was it working with him on Mr. Higgins Comes Home? And did he have any input on Our Encounters With Evil or was it all you?

He certainly is a bit of a legend and it was a great pleasure working with him. It was unbelievable in many ways. He sent me the story idea and scripts and it felt crazy that I was reading them and no one else was. Or even knew. He is a massive influence on my work and a real hero of mine so it was a surreal experience all around. The input he had in Our Encounters With Evil really came from the work of his that I’ve read and studied and followed apart from that he really left me to it.

You have a very unique art style. There is a sense of constant movement and energy in your drawings which is perhaps missing from other comics. What artists inspire you?

Mike Mignola of course! Mick McMahon too. Those may be the top two but really the answer is all if them. Any folk enthusiastically making something is inspiration to me carrying on my path. Favourites change all the time, often as I find artists I haven’t seen before. Some of the artists who have influenced me most over the years are friends and even college pals from way back. Can’t help but be encouraged by creative people.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

Not anything I can talk about, sadly. Some exciting stuff that I’m sworn to silence over. Which is a problem in this game. A lot of projects that are waiting to find homes or for that highly prized Green Light. I’m always drawing though.

There has been a bit of a shift to drawing being done digitally. Is any of your art done digitally and what are your opinions about digital art?

I think it’s something I could benefit from knowing a lot more about. My drawing is all pencil, pens, and paper still but I’d love to spend more time with my tablet. My colour work is digital. Though I’m spending more time working out colour on pages now, too. I do love pencil and paper and imagine i always will. But if you’re true to yourself then whichever medium you work in will be the right one after enough practice.

 You’ve worked for Aardman Animations (An animation studio which utilises stop-motion clay animation techniques, creators of Wallace & Gromit amongst others) and Laika (The Missing Link) in the past. What is it you’ve done for these studios?

Concept and character design as it’s known. Basically making up characters for certain projects. It’s wonderful to do as I’m often allowed to “just go with it” even with someone like Aardman, who has a signature style for their 3D. I was allowed to go my own way. The work for Aardman was at a stage before writing, so the ideas would be used to communicate between the creators.

You have also worked for The Guardian newspaper. Is there a particular client or job you prefer working for and why?

Each one has their own highlights. I appreciate being able to work with such a variety going from magazine illustration to animation to comics. I imagine if i got stuck with one I’d be envious of missing another.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions for Comics: The Gathering.