I think probably the first time I wanted to be an artist was when I was about six or seven years old. I used to get British comics and I clearly remember seeing my first American comic: an issue of 'Action Comics', with Superman on the cover with a treasure horde in a cave, and Lois saying something like 'I don't believe Superman is a miser!'
I came to think that nobody from England could draw American comic books, because they were clearly all done by this sort of Mafia, all these guys with Italian and Irish names who had the whole thing sewn up. It was actually seeing a comic book drawn by Barry Smith, who was about my age, and English.
I vividly remember my first 'Superman' comic, which my granddad bought me when I was about 7. From that point on, all I wanted to do is draw comics. And specifically, superhero and science fiction comics. Basically I used to copy comic books, and draw my own comics on scrap paper.
One of the things when you're drawing a comic book is that you're spending four or five times as long to draw it as the writer takes to write it. In my career I've had to spend a week drawing something that a writer has thrown out in an hour. And there's nothing worse than having to work on something that no previous thought has gone into.
To my mind, the most successful and the best comic book illustrators are those who translate the real world into a consistent code. If you look at Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, their drawings look nothing like the real world, but they are internally consistent. In terms of a comic book it can work just fine.
In comics, there are depths that don't reveal themselves immediately, and the stuff that you might consider anal about 'Watching the Watchmen' - like the notes where I plot the rotation of a perfume bottle through the air - might not be particularly obvious to anyone who reads it.
When I first came to New York City, what I was thrilled about was not the Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty; it was the fireplugs in the street. These things that Jack Kirby had drawn. Or these cylindrical water towers on top of buildings that Steve Ditko's 'Spider-Man' fights used to happen in and around.
I had a few brushes with death, where I nearly chose to go. The final one in 1996 did it for me. I suddenly had that feeling that I wasn't indestructible. There was no big white light experience, I just felt this complete blackness and a huge voice inside me saying, 'This is not right.'