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Drawn of the Dead: Sam Gilbey on Capturing the Cornetto-verse interview

Image shows from L to R: Sam Gilbey, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg

Pottering about at last month's MCM Comic-Con London, we bumped into the artist Sam Gilbey, whose table was festooned with British comedy goodness; notably some splendid posters inspired by the work of Pegg, Wright, Frost and Hynes. That may sound like a fusty late-60s folk-music quartet, but their output is a lot more fun, and features a lot more zombies and robots and stuff.

Sam Gilbey

Yes, Gilbey has recaptured the Cornetto trilogy - Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End - and the brilliant series that helped spawn it, Spaced. And he's gotten props from the filmmakers too - acclaim, that is, not actual props from the films. Although that would be amazing.

Actually he ended up making some quasi-props for a subsequent Pegg/Frost film - more on that below. And he got to see numerous versions of the Cornetto props at that comic-con, as Pegg was the star guest, so a big percentage of the punters were dressed as Shaun or Ed or Gary King or one of the Hot Fuzz coppers. Or zombies.

Hence Gilbey's Cornetto display caught our eye. So we grabbed a quick chat with him, afterwards.

How did you get into illustrating originally - did you have particular artist heroes?

I've just been drawing my whole life; well since the age of four anyway. I have so many artistic heroes, but to name a very select few from three key genres, it would be John Romita Senior (comics), David Hockney (fine art) and Drew Struzan (movie posters).

Those are probably the people who have inspired me the most across art and pop culture, and were most influential on me in my formative years. I've been freelancing for 15 years, originally as both a web/graphic designer and illustrator, and for the last four, working purely as an artist.

What made you take on the Cornetto characters? Are they quite iconic now?

I've been a huge fan of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Jessica Hynes since Spaced, so when the opportunity came up to make some licensed artwork for the trilogy (via a company called Fanattik), I jumped at the chance. I've made several pieces of fan art over the years, so it was really wonderful to finally be able to pay homage in an official capacity.

Image shows from L to R: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

You've got some cool pictures of Wright and Pegg holding those posters - how did that come about?

Well I suppose that Simon must have seen them first, as he needed to approve his likeness, but I've had occasional contact with Edgar over the years, after I interviewed him for a website around the time of Shaun Of The Dead.

I showed him some fan art I'd done after our telephone conversation (just via his assistant): he loved it so much that he contacted me directly, asked if he could have a copy for his wall, and also got it included on the back page of the trade paperback of the official comic.

Is that a big boost, when the original creators give approval?

At the time of course that totally blew my mind! Since then, Edgar's always been very supportive, and has even commissioned me a couple of times. In fact I also ended up doing some artwork for the test shoot of [alien road movie] Paul, which I have signed by Nick and Simon, as well as Bill Hader and Greg Mottola, the director. This opportunity came via Dick Lunn, who was the production designer on Hot Fuzz. Again, something else where I really had to pinch myself hard, and I feel incredibly fortunate.

Spaced poster. Copyright: Sam Gilbey

How was the comic-con experience - did you change the way you usually do it, because Pegg was there?

MCM was a great weekend thank you, not least because I met lots of Simon Pegg fans, many of whom were getting my work signed by him, and some of whom were in great costumes! So that's an incredible - if slightly surreal - feeling. Especially when a few people also said that Simon knew who I was! We've never actually met.

What else are you up to in the near future - any good Christmas gift suggestions?

I am actually working on at least one project related to the things we've been discussing, and possibly something else! That said, whilst I hate to be so vague, I'm afraid I'll have to keep the details under my hat. I've learned the hard way over the years that there can be lots of reasons why artwork never sees the light of day...

Rest assured though, there is plenty of artwork related to the Cornetto trilogy, and the careers of its creators and stars, which I would love to make. On the subject of Christmas products though, I do have a variant version of my official Die Hard poster coming out very soon!

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