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X marks the spot: Rob Hunter guides us through his Map of Days

Rob Hunter’s Nobrow debut was the critically acclaimed The New Ghost, published in our 17 x 23 showcase series. This is what It’s Nice That had to say about it, back in 2011:

“a remarkable comic… It tells the story of a benign ghost getting to grips with its new purpose in afterlife and the earthly obstacles it meets. It has been beautifully composed, individual frames devised with a quite brilliant colour scheme and pages arranged for the utmost narrative potential. Wonderful stuff.”

Last week, we proudly announced Rob Hunter’s second book, Map of Days, and It’s Nice That were delighted that it was everything they had hoped for:

“It’s no exaggeration that everything Rob Hunter’s talented hands touch turns to pure visual gold… His success comes from both an innate skill and a comprehensive understanding of print processes. Anyone who’s ever seen his work in the flesh will know that his colours really leap from the page, an effect no lithographic amateur would be able to achieve.”

So, we asked Rob to share with you the genesis of the project and some of the process involved in its making:

NB: What was the inspiration behind Map of Days?

RH: The initial inspiration behind Map of Days was my grandfather Frank. My Nan’s house is filled with grandfather clocks that Frank collected and I have been told that at one point there where thirteen squeezed into the house, a few per room and lining the corridors. Frank would buy them from a newspaper then fix them and wind them all in sync so that they would ring on the hour together.

NB: So you created a story from your grandfather’s hobby!

RH: I started to think, why did he have so many clocks? And that led me to imagine them all powering something beneath the house. It’s from this idea that I developed the story.

NB: When you set out, what sort of story did you want to write?

RH: One thing I wanted to express through Map of Days was an unrequited love story. The idea being that the Face becomes self-destructive as it persists to reach an unachievable goal – the Sun. It reads something into every sign, searching for a glimmer of affection to focus on, and as a result undoes its achievements and hurts its friends.

NB: Did you use photo references or gather any literary influences?

RH: I visited The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in London for some clock research and read a lot of short stories by a selection of authors; Daphne Du Maurier, Ted Hughes, Nabokov and David Eagleman.

NB: Is Map of Days is linked to The New Ghost and the rest of your work in any way?

RH: After The New Ghost I was keen to try and create another creation story. In the way that The New Ghost tells you about the stars, Map of Days tells you what powers the tides. This has always interested me: to look out at something that has been present throughout our lives and think of an alternative way that it came into existence.

NB: Could you tell us a bit about your writing process, how the idea materialised and became the finished graphic novel?

RH: I started by writing a pitch for Nobrow: a loose written outline of what I wanted to happen throughout the whole story. At this point I began to play with the order of things and started to sketch the layouts for the book so that I had a rough version of how it would look in the amount of pages I had allocated.

Then I produced mini-layouts on index cards and began to shuffle them around to see if I could play with the order of things. Originally, the section that is now the prologue of the book was a mini-story in the middle of the book, but it broke off from the main story too much so I shifted it to the beginning. Also, because the story was quite unusual I figured I’d open it on one of the most unusual bits so that the reader is faced with that straight off.

NB: What process do you go through to put the artwork together?

RH: I try and create as much of the artwork as I can by hand, so I sketch in blue and then work on top with black ink, crayon and pencils. I then scan the drawings and apply the colour on the computer. I like to apply the colour this way because the spot inks Nobrow allow me to use come out really nicely as a flat colour, so I like to make use of that process so that when it’s printed the flat areas really pop.

Map of Days by Rob Hunter is available to buy or order at bookshops and comicshops nationwide.

It is also available from our shop on Great Eastern Street, London and from our webstore.