An Interview With Artist PJ Holden About Garth Ennis’ Battlefields: Happy Valley, Interagents, Phonogram, and Judge Dredd!


PJ Holden is a comic artist from Northern Ireland who is probably best known for his work in 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, where he has worked on many popular ‘Thrills’ such as Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Mega-City One, The 86ers, and Dead Signal.

PJ’s forays into the U.S. comic industry have been few and far between, but he actually got his professional start working on releases by Malachy Coney from Fantagraphics Books, the first of which was Holy Cross #3 in 1997. Around this time he also worked on Suicide Kings, with writer Mike Carey. However, he would not work in the U.S. industry again until 2007, when he did the artwork for Fearless, a four-issue Image Comics miniseries written by Mark Sable.

Since working on Fearless, PJ has been dedicating his efforts on working for 2000 AD, and his ventures into publishing all-ages iPhone comics through Infurious Comics.

Next year, this is all set to change though, as the news was recently leaked that PJ is set to be working on a ‘Battlefields‘ miniseries with Garth Ennis. Ennis broke the news a few months ago that he was plotting a second series of his ‘Battlefields’ war comic series, with three more arcs of three issues each, including sequels to both ‘The Night Witches’ and ‘The Tankies’, and a new story, ‘Happy Valley’, involving an Australian bomber crew over Germany in early 1942. Then in a recent interview Garth revealed that he was working “on part two of the three-part ‘Happy Valley’, a war story for the “Battlefields” series I’m doing for The Boys publisher Dynamite. It’s about an Australian bomber crew over the Ruhr Valley in early 1942. Great art by 2000 AD’s PJ Holden.”

With few other details about the story available, I decided to contact PJ to find out more about his involvement in this project, and while he has not yet been OKayed by either Garth Ennis or Dynamite Entertainment to talk specifics, he was able to share a few tidbits about the series with Hypergeek.

  • PJ, What can you tell us about the plot of Battlefields: Happy Valley?

PJ: It’s about an Australian Bomber crew flying over Germany in early 1942 - Happy Valley refers to the Ruhr Valley in Germany - the centre of Germany’s wartime production, and a big target for the bomber crews during WWII. Also, the crew fly a Vicker’s Wellington, a plane designed pre-war and was bombing Germany from the onset of the war - day one in fact (none of those things have anything to do with the plot, but since I had to research the bejaysus out of the strip I figured I may as well let you have some of those details !)

  • What sort of things have you you found yourself drawing for this title?

PJ: Almost everything has required some sort of reference, the Wimpy (The Vicker’s Wellington was nicknamed the WIMPY by it’s flight crew after the Popeye character), the crew’s uniforms / flightsuits, the vehicles, the clothing, the advertising signs in the background. So, lots of real world stuff.

Ed: Yes, I have seen the airplane models and cock-pit diagrams that you used as reference meterial, that looks like some serious work (see gallery below.)

Working With Garth Ennis

  • Garth Ennis is very passionate about war stories. Is this a passion that you share? Growing up, did you read a lot of titles like Battle Picture Weekly, Commando Comics, War Picture Library, Warlord, and Charley’s War?

PJ: Hell yeah, we’re about a couple of weeks apart in age and we’re both from Belfast so we’d pretty much exactly the same options for reading material - I suspect Garth tended more towards Battle where I went more towards Warlord - which was similar but slightly ‘softer’, and I loved Commando (at the height of my personal commando library I had 300 titles and could lift any one of them and tell you what is was about).

  • This is the first time that you have worked with fellow Northern Irish comic creator Garth Ennis. What was it like working with him?

S’great - Garth’s scripts are succinct, giving you enough to get the job done but not micromanaging every single panel - for the most part 22 pages of comic translated to 22 pages of script, but they’re also loaded with atmosphere - quite a lot of which comes from the dialogue.

  • Are you a big fan of Garth Ennis work, and if so, which of his stories do you most admire?

Garth’s a top notch writer and you’ve got to love Preacher and the Boys (and, you know, there are very few damp squibs in his career, so there’s a lot to admire…!)

  • Garth Ennis tends to have a collection of artists who he likes to work with, including John McCrea, Darick Robertson, Carlos Ezquerra, and Jason Burrows. Is this project the beginning of more Garth Ennis projects for you? I would love to see an arc of The Boys illustrated by PJ Holden!

I’ve no idea where this will lead, Garth seems to really like the art though, so who knows. Clearly, I’d be mad to turn down anything else that might come my way from him!

Gallery of images from Battlefields: Happy Valley:

Some of PJ’s research for his work on Happy Valley. Notice the airplane models used as visual reference:

Superheroes, Phonomancers, and Parts Beyond…

  • Battlefields: Happy Valley is the first U.S. industry work that you have done since 2007’s Fearless. Are you actively looking for more work in the States? If so, do you have anything yet that you can talk about?

PJ: I tend to work my career as one gig after another, so, right now, I’m doing stuff for 2000 AD and I’m finishing Happy Valley (having JUST crossed the halfway point). Once down there’s a couple of creator owned projects that I may, finally, have time and resources to look at - but then I’ll be looking for a publisher.

  • You have an upcoming B-side for Phonogram: the Singles Club. What is this B-side about, if you are allowed to tell us?

PJ: Cor, I did that awhile ago, it’s a four pager about quite a lot of things. Not least of which is living in the moment.

[Ed Note: PJ's B-Side story will be appearing in Phonogram: The Singles Club #6, which is currently delayed and awaiting re-solicitation from Image Comics]

A coloured page from PJ's Phonogram: The Singles Club Back-up Story

  • You also have an upcoming back-up story featured in the trade paperback collection of Dwight L. MacPherson’s Interagents comic series. A comic that first appeared exclusively online. What is this back-up feature about, and how does it connect to the first story arc of the comic?

PJ: Er… I did that awhile ago too - I think it’s seven pages - and it fills in some back history to what’s going on in the Interagents, beyond that I can say nothing!

Judge Dredd: Lost Cases

  • You are also working on an upcoming nine page ‘Lost cases’ story with Alan Grant for the Judge Dredd Megazine.

PJ: Working on? Finished it! (I seem to have a lot of inventory stories that will all come out around the same time, woot!)

  • What are the Lost Cases, and what is the setting of them?

PJ: My story ties directly into the Block War story and it was enormous fun - almost wish fulfillment for me, I’d finished a Wagner script and followed it by an Alan Grant script - it was like I was working for TB Grover (the name John and Alan wrote a good chunk of work under - and who, for years, I thought was the greatest Dredd writer ever - little realising it was a pen name!)

Judge Dredd: Interlude

  • You recently announced that you will be illustrating a six part Dredd universe story by John Wagner. This story, is titled ‘Interlude’, and will be a break from the current Judge Dredd storyline. Even thought this story doesn’t have Dredd in it, it is still written by John Wagner. Will it have any effect on the current direction of the Dredd Universe? Can you tell us anything about it?

PJ: Ah! Sadly NOT a six parter - it’s a six pager, that’s a big difference! So no, doesn’t have as much impact as a six parter might, but it IS in continuity, despite no Dredd, and does feature Dredd’s clone Rico - and it has ramifications for him. (Rico, as I think, Al Ewing described him - is great fun, he’s Dredd LITE.)

[Ed note: I must remember to fire my researcher!]

Ed: Thanks very much for your time PJ, I know how busy you are at the moment, so this is incredibly appreciated.

Related posts:

  1. Garth Ennis Writes About the Debt of Gratitude He Owes to 2000 AD over at
  2. Ennis and Wagner to bring Dredd to Dynamite. Recipe for awesomeness, or recipe for disaster?
  3. Droid Interrogations: An Exclusive Interview With Dan Abnett
  4. Droid Interrogation: An Exclusive Interview with Frazer Irving on Gutsville, Batman & Robin, Days Missing… and More!
  5. Small Press Comic Review: PJ Holden’s Previously


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