Zoom Rockman & Paul Gravett

Celebrating his Spirit Of London Award win – the community youth oscars – creator of The Zoom! Rockman goes in conversation with mentor Paul Gravett at Soho's Gosh! comics

img231 copy

Zoom Rockman is being hailed the "next big thing" by people who don’t normally "do" comics. Maybe because you can’t really not go on to do big things when you've just finished writing and illustrating the 7th edition of your own publication, winning a Spirit Of London Award for achievement in media, known as the community youth oscars. And you've just turned 12. 

With a dry wit, The Zoom! is a combination of Rockman’s observations and imagination. Wisely, he chooses to write what he knows, basing his characters on the people around him. Such as his teacher, who was lucky enough to be drawn (albeit as a murderer) in one of his earlier comics. Comics of which are already considered collectors’ items. So impressive is ‘The Zoom!’ that it’s landed him with a mentor in Paul Gravett, a reknowned curator and comic expert. We met with the two at Soho’s legendary Gosh! comic book store.

Zoom Rockman: The first comics I bought were The Beano and The Dandy… actually my brother just got the last Dandy. When I was getting The Beano I only got ones before 2000, I can’t think of anything being before the year 2000. That made me want to draw because I had loads of stories I wanted to do.

Paul Gravett: I grew up on TV21 which was the home of Thunderbirds and Stingray and later on Captain Scarlet and I liked it so much that I started making my own comics, not as good as Zoom’s of course…

Zoom Rockman: You know The Walking Dead? I tried to get the first one because that was free as a download. I was surprised by how short it was because I’ve got the actual book. It’s kind of weird flicking through on the iPad, you don’t see it moving…it just slides to the side.

Paul Gravett: Well we’re just at the point where the Dandy has gone over to a digital version…but there’s still something about comics in print that I think works better than anything I’ve seen because you can really get a sense of the whole thing. Maybe part of the problem with digital media is we’re driven to not spend so much time on it where as with a book or comic you can go back and forwards you can pause on a panel and look more closely, you’re pacing it without thinking 'oh I’m on a computer I’ve got to keep whizzing forward.'

Zoom Rockman: When I’m older I’d like to be a film director so I’d like it to be a bit more film-y, maybe write sitcoms. I’ve got this new comic called The Awkwards, who are all awkward expect for the son. The dad is Mr Tumbles, the mum is a bodybuilder who’s taken so many steroids she’s got a moustache, and the sister stalks people. There’s also a little brother who has anger management problems. It’s all from real life as it’s based on my area, like kebab shop of horrors, which they don’t know about.

Paul Gravett: I think he’s got a great cast already. This is a really great comic, you could easily say ‘oh it’s a 12 year old doing a comic’ but it’s really good, it’s really funny, and he’s getting better all the time that he does it. Earlier on you used to put about 3,000 panels on a page didn’t you? Now you’ve got a bit more confidence and you know how to pace the story, it’s a big improvement I think. But what I would say is, make some films but what you’ll find is films are incredibly full of compromise, full of challenges and you’ll long to go back to comics where you’re in full control of the whole thing.

Zoom Rockman: I started off scribbling, it’s just practice really. I draw a rough version, maybe just with words and saying where people are and then I do my actual one. If I make a mistake I don’t start over. In my first issue there’s a few spelling mistakes but they were mainly put in there just to make sure everyone knew I’d drawn it.

Paul Gravett: Have something to aim for. If you say you’re gonna sell it somewhere, at a fair of comics event or gig or whatever, give yourself a deadline and that kind of motivates you.

Zoom Rockman: Batman, just cause he hasn’t particularly got any super powers but he’s got machines and stuff, so it’s possible for you to be him. Not saying I’m going to give up drawing to become Batman.

Paul Gravett: I was going say Batman but I think a good one to choose would be The Flash, because I never have enough time to do everything, so to be the fastest man alive and just do no end of stuff would be amazing.

Zoom Rockman: I don’t think I’ll get to an age where I stop storyboarding unless I can’t use my hands.

Paul Gravett: Use your teeth. I do think it’s weird, I don’t know why anyone would lose interest in this subject, because when you look around Gosh! there’s stuff that’s bloody amazing. And you haven’t got to be as obsessive about it as I am…but if you just have an open cultural mind, there is always something that will bring you pleasure through comics.

More Arts+Culture