Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Ellerbisms, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Marc Ellerby, Sequential Art, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics
… And we’re back, scant days since you left us – dangling from a precipice, the Holy Grail mere inches from our grasp – we’ve dusted ourselves off, grabbed our hat, struck a pose, uttered a pithy one-liner, and casually brandished a brand new minterview. That is how we roll. Our minterviewee this time is the fantastic Marc Ellerby – and we mean fantastic – whose diary comic Ellerbisms is one of the only reasons to even look in the general direction of the internet on a Thursday morning. Marc has previously been featured as a Friend of Thought Bubble, and has a blog which you should check out with gay abandon. Many thanks to Mr Ellerby for taking the time to talk to us, a transcript of the momentous occassion can be seen below…
Hi Marc, thanks for talking to us, do you think you could give us an idea of how you initially got into sequential art?
I guess my first exposure to sequential art was newspaper comic strips like Garfield, and, even though they never really made me laugh out loud, I liked the pictures and characters a whole bunch. I remember a tabloid running a Teenage Mutant Ninja (or Hero) Turtles strip during the big Turtles boom and cutting them out of the paper and sticking them into a scrapbook, and I think I was buying the Archie Turtles comics around that time too and thought they were awesome. Soon after that, like most British kids into comics, I got into The Beano and Buster and The Dandy and I think reading the these made me want to explore drawing comics or at least come up with my own creations.
So, do you think that the differences between the British and US small press scenes are down to the comics their respective members would have grown up reading – The Beano, 2000AD, etc, as opposed to ‘traditional’ Superhero books?
To a certain extent, though I reckon a lot of the US small pressers first got into comics through reading Archie, Uncle Scrooge, Calvin & Hobbes etc, which, although lacking a certain bite the British comics have, still have the same sorta vibe. No matter what side of the pond you live on, at some point you eventually read superhero comics – but I think the “kids’ comics” always come first.
You’re perhaps best known for your diary comic Ellerbisms – is it difficult transcribing your personal life into comics which are then there for the whole world to see?
Not really. At first, sure, but it’s been three years now so I’m used to it. I look at the “me” in Ellerbisms as a character anyway, so there’s an emotional distance between me and the strip. If I agonised over it, it’d never come out… Also, the core audience of my site are really great and supportive, and with some of the tougher strips they’ve (mostly) been awesome. I know they’re strangers in the grand scheme of things, but over the past year it hasn’t felt like putting my feelings out into the big wide world – it’s felt like giving the strips to people who really care.
Are you ever tempted to ‘retcon’ certain events that eventually become the subject of an Ellerbism?
You mean change the story to suit a particular outcome? Not really. I guess, because of the implemented delay, some material isn’t as fresh as when it happens and perhaps a lapse in memory changes a dialogue exchange, but I think the soul/point of what happens is intact.
You’ve also worked on various anthologies recently, as well as your own series Chloe Noonan, does the creative process change at all between these projects and Ellerbisms?
Creating the strips is almost identical, just with the anthology bits there’s more pages. First I write a loose script, which consists mainly of dialogue, then I usually break that down into pages with scene settings, and then thumbnail the whole thing, and then rework the script, then draw it. The only other time it’s different is if I’m working with a writer and there’s a full script involved.
Do you think it’s easier to self-publish these days thanks to digital equipment becoming more affordable and widespread?
Sure, the web brings an immediacy to comics that wasn’t there before, and digital printing is cheap enough to allow anyone the chance to print a comic without having to pay huge amounts for “proper” printing, but the digital quality’s improved so much over the years, for small runs it’s really attractive. There’s a chance to make some money back from printing minis now – still not enough to make your fortune, mind.
I still think the web and print can go hand in hand, and there’s still a demand for printed comics, but I think the web offers a new way of serialising and promoting comics. The web is the new monthly comic in a way; however, I don’t think you can make a living from just putting your comic out on the web, very much like you can’t do it from putting out a floppy comic. People still want the collections, no matter where the original content has come from.
Has the resulting increase in the number of indie comic-makers made it harder to get a new project established in such a rapidly growing market?
It’s harder on the web, sure. Everyone has a webcomic nowadays, and it’s really hard to get word out about your strip as, well, another thousand people are trying to do the same. But then like all mediums, if it’s good then people will pimp it, word of mouth will spread, and readers will come. Ellerbisms has only been going for two years, which isn’t that long in the webcomic world, and I think it takes around three to four years to really build an audience (unless you’re XKCD and you can build an audience from eff-all). There’s more out there, yes, but there’s also a lot of Not Good Comics out there too, and people are aware of that.
In terms of print, I think it’s even harder to establish a new project. I’m terrified about pitching Chloe Noonan to publishers as print is in decline, and the direct market is changing so much, it seems harder than ever to get a foot through the door. But publishers like Oni and Image seem to be thriving, so it’s a good sign that The End Of Print Comics is still a long way off.
We certainly hope it is. You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
The new issue of Chloe Noonan should be out by then. In this issue she fights a crab and there’s a 13 page chase/fight scene, but with jokes aplenty (I hope?!). I’ll also have the Ellerbisms mini comics, the Oni Press series I illustrated called Love The Way You Love, issue 1 of Chloe Noonan, some paper bags and Adam Cadwell, though he is not for sale. Well…
We’d totally club together and buy a Cadwell. Do you enjoy attending events like this?
For the most part – I’m into my third year of doing conventions, and I’ve got a good idea of where I’m better suited. Like, I’ve spent a good number of shows sitting in a room not selling anything to crowds of fan boys, and crowds of Shoreditch scenesters, so this year I decided to only do shows where it’s worth my time, you know? Not saying I wouldn’t go back to the big mainstream comic shows but they’re so expensive to attend/get to, it’s kinda depressing when you sit behind a table not selling a thing to people who couldn’t care less you were there or not.
I think shows like TCAF in Toronto, The UK Thing, MCM Expo and (of course!) Thought Bubble are where I really feel comfortable, and it seems like my fans/potential audience go to these types of shows. Plus, those shows are really cost effective to attend, the organisers are lovely, and they actually care about what every attendee thinks, not just “The Guests”. Plus, I really like talking to the crowds at these shows – you spend so much alone time as an artist, it’s great to talk to actual human beings about what you’ve been up to.
We are lovely, it has to be said. Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
Captions. Unless it’s for comedic effect.
Many thanks to Marc for taking the time out to talk to us, if you’d like to talk to him, and every right thinking person should, then come on down to Thought Bubble and let banter commence! Also, if you are going to use Thought Bubbles for comedic effect then, please, use adequate eye protection.
A little bit of big news now – we’ve added some more guests to our already humongous line-up. Can I get a whoop-whoop? Along with our excellent small press contingent, and those guests alread confirmed, we’re now pleased to announce that Ilya (Manga Shakespeare – King Lear, Mammoth Book of Best New Manga), Robert Deas (Spectrum Black, Transformers, Manga Shakespeare – Macbeth), Alex Maleev (Spider-Woman, Daredevil), and Mike Carey (Lucifer, Unwritten, Hellblazer) will also be appearing! Why, yes ambassador – with these guests we are spoiling you.
See you on Monday for another minterview, and, most likely, even more awesome Thought Bubble news. Holy Moley!
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