Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Jack Fallows, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Greetings true believers! It is now only 6 weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival, even less if you accelerate at faster than light speeds out of our celestial sphere’s light cone and then return back at a carefully calculated point further along our fourth dimensional travels. However, if that ability is available to you time really does become relative. Isn’t physics fun? Answers on a quantumly uncertain postcard, please. Anyways, to keep those of you that are still time-static occupied until the festival starts we have a new Minterview for your delectation – todays minterviewee being Friend of Thought Bubble Jack Fallows. Jack is something of a polymath when it comes to artistic endeavours, so I’d highly recommend perusing his site for all sorts of insanely creative bits and bobs (being the SI unit for creativity), or, for a little taster, simply take in the handily reproduced conversation we had which follows this little diatribe, and includes some exclusive information on his newest project…
Hi Jack, thanks for talking to us, to start off do you think you could tell us about your first experiences of sequential art?
Hello! Well, outside of The Beano exposure that can be claimed by even the least nerdy of people, I suppose the first big thing was when my dad started buying me those UK Spider-Man comics from the news agents on a weekend, followed closely by 2000AD, and then pocket-money (hence free reign to buy whatever that small sum could muster!). I got into a bunch of manga when I was about 12 or 13, and then I bought Ghost World after seeing the movie and proceeded to consume everything that Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf had to offer. Outside of that I was also into Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Warhammer and I even wrote my own tabletop RPG gaming system that nearly got on the BBC! In other words, most of my existence has been spent in and around communities of right [bleep]ing DORKS! But lack of athleticism and social skills saw to that, not that I’d ever want it any other way. Dorks are the best.
They sure are. You’re something of a renaissance man, working on various different projects in a multitude of mediums – where do you get your inspiration?
Well in terms of comics, I guess you could pin that on all the stuff from the previous question. The music is influenced by all of that stuff to an extent as well, but I suppose the biggest influence on both of them is how obsessive I get when I really like something – art, music or otherwise. I have the habit of saying “This is the best — ever!” about almost everything, or “This is the worst — ever!” – I was actually having a discussion with my girlfriend the other day about people who claim to “appreciate” art (critics, columnists, etc), and I genuinely believe the only real art appreciators are teenage heavy metal fans. Here are some kids who are so blinded by their awesome love for [Metallica frontman] James Hetfield that they’ll leave their house sporting a look that infuriates their parents and scares the old ladies on the bus, and even gets their heads kicked in at school, purely because they want the world to know that Ride The Lightening is better than your stupid boring face. It’s the perfect outlet for these new things you experience as a teenager – angst, opinions, misunderstandings, the need to be cool – it allows you to stand out and also reserve the right to complain about standing out. I suppose I never really got out of that mind set, even though I don’t indulge in “moshing” anymore, and the feeling applies to much more than just those nostalgic aromas of Metallica deep in my soul, despite the fact that I look and talk like some sort of boring Dad at the age of 21 now!
Do you think that attitude is still widely held – that creating, or even reading, a comic is something of a fringe activity?
I think it’s seen as less of a fringe activity to read comics these days – which I believe Hollywood has something to do with. People see movies based on comics, and the stories are great, so a lot of the time those people come in to the comic shop where I work to pick up the comic book. In that sense I’m quite grateful to them, because people should know how amazing the medium is, but I’m really torn about the whole comic-to-movie adaptation thing. I think really great comic stories can only be told as comics, and while sometimes you get great examples of adaptations (like the aforementioned Ghost World) they’re more examples of good movies as opposed to good “translations”. What Ghost World and other successful examples do is figure how to get the same message across in a different medium, as opposed to things like the Sin City movie, which literally tried to make the comic move. I won’t go into Frank Miller and Sin City at this juncture, because I’ve digressed enough at this point and I don’t want to lose any Frank Miller fans with an angry rant… ahem.
Anyway, people always make the crucial mistake that comics are static films, but a lot of the time when they realise they aren’t it’s a glorious revelation of sorts. People love to be told stories, and movies are one of the easiest ways to be told one, but comics ask you to interact with them and I think it takes a certain kind of mind-frame to get all you can out of it. So I don’t think they’re ever likely to be as big as films, at least not in the UK and US. In a lot of places in Europe and in the Far East they’re on a vaguely similar plain, but technology, 3D goggles and buttered popcorn make people lazy. Soon we’ll have comics downloaded into our brains and there’ll be nothing left for pen-bearers like me to do. As for creation, I think that’s mostly done by comic fans who have been comic fans for a while – but in that case it’s definitely something that is cropping up more, and more, and becoming less of a fringe activity. Sometimes comics by non-comic fans are some of the best things out there though.
You’re the founder of the Paper Jam Comics Collective which produces regular anthologies, has the growth of the small press community made it easier to get projects like that off the ground?
I think people are definitely starting to realise how easy it is to put out their own comics and get them seen, and I think Paper Jam has certainly contributed to that in terms of the scene in Newcastle. We have people submitting things to the anthology who have never self-published before, and sometimes never even drawn a comic before, and in more than a few cases it’s led to them spearheading their own projects. It’s nice having a free and open art community and forum for people to exploit as they like, and it means that we have a name and a presence for networking with similar groups who are springing up all over the country. I also think it’s great that people are happy to operate on this level, and sometimes able to make a living too. I automatically search for the small press stuff at fairs and conventions, and other creators do the same thing. That’s probably one of the healthiest things about it – people aren’t trying to clamber over each other in a race to get published by a name company, the only competition seems to go something like “Damn, those Banal Pig guys made an awesome comic for this year’s Thought Bubble, I’m going to have to produce something that will blow their mind next year!” – hence, you just keep getting better stuff without any editorial interference! So the short answer – yes, definitely.
Do you think this is due to an increasing ease of self-producing sequential art, or more related to the increased media attention on comics in general?
All the stuff I mentioned above about Hollywood and self-publishing applies in this case, but more than that I think in terms of the Paper Jam Comics Collective, group mentality makes it easiest of all. We’re lucky enough to be a group of fairly driven, enthusiastic people and all tend to feed off each other’s excitement. Whenever an idea springs up people just build it into an empire, and the more we do, the better we get at it. This applies in a more sparse sense to people all over at fairs and conventions though, and all you really need to know are a few tricks and maybe somebody who’s done it before to help you out and anybody can get a project off the ground.
Your comics tend to be quite whimsical in nature – does this reflect you as a person?
I’ve got to say, not really. The only whimsical character I could be compared to is that dude from the Labyrinth film with the bird on his head, who doesn’t know what’s going on half the time, mumbles, and falls asleep mid-conversation. A more accurate filmic comparison would be Woody Allen’s character in Play It Again, Sam, except clumsier and less funny… and a lot taller.
So, your writing is more a reflection of what you find amusing, rather than a Freudian mirroring of yourself?
I wish I was as dapper as The Gentleman Ghost, but I’m not. It’s strange to think about, because outside of that title, and a few of my really early ones, I’ve gone a bit abstract, a bit self-indulgent and a lot depressing with my work (How’s that for a sales pitch?!), but then, maybe I do find self-defeat and personal suffering quite amusing too. If you’re a Philip Seymour Hoffman fan you’ll know what I mean. It’s like if you’re feeling crappy you don’t want to put on I’m Walking On Sunshine and turn it up to ten, you want to listen to Blue Valentine by Tom Waits, and drink a bottle of scotch, and smoke a pack of Lucky Strikes in a dungeon somewhere – which isn’t to say that I’m miserable all the time, or that I’m unsympathetic, or even that I smoke for that matter! But everyone understands misery, and it’s always a lot more interesting and beautiful than most other things when you do it right, which is what I’m working on at the moment. Black humour is the most humorous humour for me, so that much I can claim of myself.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be exhibiting at the convention?
Well as with last year I’ll have my comics The Gentleman Ghost and Costume Party, as well as some new postcards, prints, original art, maybe some badges and other fiddly bits, and I’m going to try my very, very best to fathom the time and mental energy to put out the first of three issues of a brand new project that I’ve had in the works for months and months called The Big Bang. This is easily the most adventurous thing I’ve attempted yet and I have no idea whether it’ll be any good, but I’m really excited about starting work on it and don’t want to do a rush job. So if I’m not still pencilling page one come November 21st I might have that kicking about too!
Do you enjoy attending comic conventions?
I don’t get to nearly as many conventions as I’d like, I think they’re great. When I was a kid I’d see them being referenced or shown on TV Shows and used to think “God, I wish I lived in America” – it was seriously only about 6 years ago or something that I realised they actually happened in the UK. Which, thinking about it, was probably not a bad time to realise, because more and more of them have been springing up since. Thought Bubble has been my most enjoyable convention though – no lie.
Thanks for that Jack, your cheque is in the post. Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
I love to read things with thought bubbles, they’re something of a forgotten art these days and usually add a layer of nostalgia and welcomed ‘cheese’, so I like to use them in my own stuff, when I can get away with it. But, I’m a bit of a wuss, so I usually play it safe and use caption boxes – just in case Gary Groth is kicking around, and he thinks I’m some sort exposition-monger… sorry!
Thanks to Jack for taking time out to talk to us, it must be noted that Thought Bubble does come with extra cheese as standard, but a lactose-free version is available on request (where available). There are currently a number of exciting TB announcements teetering on the brink of public awareness, so be prepared for some major truth-bombs to be dropped in the near future, make sure you come back next week for some more, uniformly übertastic, minterviews. See you in the funny pages.
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