Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Guests 2009, Small Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble, Thought Bubble 2010, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Kristyna Baczynski, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Paul Duffield, Richard Starkings, Sequential Art, Small Press, Tony Harris, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Hello Thought Bubblers! There are only 193 days left until the start of this year’s festival, that’s a mere 4,632 hours! Time is flying. Literally. Today we have for you some exciting news of guests for this year’s convention, as well as another entry into our rapidly growing list of Small-Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble (or FRIENDS Inc). Don’t waste another precious second considering this sentence, simply scroll down and enjoy the ride. However, please remain seated until we’ve come to a complete stop.
This week’s Friend of Thought Bubble is the splendid Kristyna Baczynski, a local artist of wide reknown whose work is just marvelous, as proved by its winning one of our competitions in days of yore (2008). Further examples of this excellentitude can be seen below. Proof, if proof be need be, that there are some mad skills in effect.
Kristyna Baczynski makes pictures.
Pictures in sequence.
Pictures that move.
Pictures that stay put.
Kristyna self-publishes ‘zines and comics as well as creating throngs of illustrated wrongs which can be found in all sorts of places including poster designs, music videos, fancy books and bespoke prints.
Contributing and collaborating whenever she can -
Kristyna’s work is regularly featured in Nib-Lit comics paper, and appears in the very recently released (and amazing) Solipsistic Pop vol 2 – an anthology which contains her ‘Sapling’ comic. She planted a Sycamore tree the day it was completed.
Whilst drawing she listens endlessly to Kate Bush, Kiss and Costello.
Whilst dining she enjoys sweet potatoes, satay broad beans and strawberry laces.
Work and witticisms can be found on her blog.
Info on some early professional guest confirmations now! We have high hopes that the line-up for this year’s convention will be our biggest, best and most diverse yet, and these names seem to suggest that this will be the case…
Next is Richard Starkings, legendary letterer, founder of Comicraft, and creator of the brilliant Hip Flask and Elephantmen!
Last, but by no means least, is Tony Harris, artist on Eisner award-winning series Starman and Ex Machina!
We’ll be announcing many, many more names as we approach the festival dates, so be sure to check back regular, like. You know you want to!
I’m off to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, byeeee!
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Programme 2009 | Tags: Anime, Ben Templesmith, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
Alright guys, this it it – we’re now less than a week away from the start of this year’s Thought Bubble. Fasten your seatbelts, keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times, and do not leave your seat until we’ve come to a complete stop (around 5pm Sunday 22nd November). Otherwise enjoy yourselves, it’s promising to be a belter.
In celebration of the impending awesomeness, we have the final in our series of minterviews with some of our professional guests – today sees Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Fell, Wormwood Gentleman Corpse) take time out to talk to us, the results of which are below for your delight and delectation. Get some.
Hi Ben, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today; for starters, could you tell us how your comic book work first came about?
I technically broke-in twice into comics, at the same time virtually. One was via Joe Casey on a project he wanted to do at Vertigo, called The Darwin Theory, which we actually started, but, alas, never ended up seeing print for one reason or another. My first actual work the world knows though was as the new artist on Todd McFarlane’s Hellspawn, after Brent Ashe, then TMP art-director saw my work online, and I think he said Todd walked by and noticed he was looking at something on his screen, and it basically went from there!
Your artistic style is not what most people would consider ‘traditional’ comic book art, was this a conscious decision to reflect the, often gothic, tones of titles you’ve worked on, or is it simply your natural illustrative style?
That always makes me laugh. Being “non traditional” in comics means I’m, kind of, just “art” to the rest of the world instead of the perceived stereotypical “comic” style. It’s great that the medium has opened up now to a whole variety of eclectic styles though, in the last few decades certainly. As with most artists I guess my style is simply about being an extension of who I am to some degree. I always loved the darker side of things, and atmospherics - that just translates to the art really. I always try to slightly tailor things depending on the project though, of course.
Do you feel that this ‘stereotypical comic style’ is, perhaps, one of the main reasons that it’s taken so long for comic books to become accepted, by the mainstream, as a culturally relevant storytelling medium?
I still don’t think it has. Sure, we now have the “graphic novel” being a cool buzz-word, but all the general population still think they are, in general, is superheroes. Obviously they’ve had great success now, but a medium still isn’t one genre. A few more successful non-superhero stories that are just, well, good stories that have more interesting art could change that, but I won’t hold my breath just yet. It would just be nice if comics had the comparable success of, say, a Harry Potter, or a Twilight series – to really break it open with a bona fide cultural phenomenon - to change mindsets completely. I can dream, no? I only see the quest for “acceptance” as a way to guarantee a viable future for the medium though - not for riches, or glory for glory’s sake.
Has your individual style adapted to embrace the recent advances in digital illustration techniques, or do you prefer to work with more orthodox materials?
To be honest, not really. I started using the computer soon after I started. Nothing that I do now has fundamentally changed since then. Sure, I updated to a new version of ‘photoshop’ a couple times, but I’m not doing anything differently than before. No fancy tricks or button pushing! I’ve probably decided to go more the other way, and do more real world art before I add any computer elements now, actually. I just want to make art, rather than have things only exist digitally.
You’re one of a select group of individuals within the comics industry who work as both writers and artists, notably having created a number of your own titles – is the artistic process markedly different when illustrating another writer’s script as opposed to your own?
Absolutely – well, until telepathy becomes more commonplace. Since I know what I’m doing in my own head, and I don’t need to bother explaining what I want to another person, doing it all yourself definitely is a different, more short hand experience. Pros and cons to both though. My scripts are more just loose notes until I really solidify the dialogue, which I have all worked out before I actually start to illustrate.
Within your own writing the subversion of human nature, either by supernatural (e.g. the vampires of 30 Days of Night) or scientific means (in Singularity 7), seems to be a recurring theme – is this something that you feel has a special relevance to the modern world?
Well, we’re a moderately intelligent species. As human beings, we’re almost masters of our own destiny these days. The only things that can really screw us are technology and fear, or a combo of both. We’ve seen the results of fear rather recently, and some aspects of science. My little stories that deal with things like that probably show I’m rather cynical when it comes to my thoughts as to if we’ll actually see the year 3000, I guess.
Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, the series which you’re currently best know for, while primarily gothic in tone, also has a very dark, macabre sense of humour running through it – do you enjoy the idea of making people laugh while also terrifying them?
Well, if anyone reads my twitter they probably know by now, I don’t hold back too much. I kind of dig challenging people, and saying uncomfortable things, but also funny things. I figure if you can show people rather nasty, uncomfortable things but make them laugh at them at the same time, it’s a rather good way to get by - something a little more complex and harder than simply grossing someone out for its sake alone. It, kind of, gives me a thrill to know I can actually make someone laugh out loud at my sick ideas sometimes. I feel honoured whenever anyone tells me that - never thought it’d be something I could do as a kid.
30 Days of Night was one of the first major cinematic adaptations of a less well-known comic property to find success at the box office – do you feel Hollywood’s increased interest in titles which don’t necessarily feature an eponymous Superhero for a protagonist has been beneficial to the comics industry?
Actually, it technically wasn’t! Previous to that one there’d been things like The Crow, or Road to Peridtion, etc, but, yes, as an actual comic that was trust more into the mainstream of the time – it did wonders to revitalize horror comics at the time - I guess you could say that.
Having non-super hero movies made, especially if they meet with success, is ultimately far more important to the comics medium than doing just superhero films. That’s a genre, one that people will get sick of one day perhaps, but stories themselves never go out of style, so if creatives can transfer successful ideas across mediums it helps keep talent creating new things, and bringing in new readers, hopefully, who don’t just have to like one genre. Imagine if the only ever books to get turned into movies were the Fabio romance-type novels, or just spy thirllers? Diversity is the best thing possible.
Speaking of films, the creatures in the 30 Days of Night comic series appear to draw inspiration from cinema rather than literature – did you have any specific referential sources in mind when developing your vampires?
I’ve been told my vampires looked like “Euro-trash”, though I’m not really sure what that means since I’m Australian, and don’t know what “Euro-trash” actually look like. I just figured they shouldn’t be the overly frilly-dressing romantic looking types, frequently popular, and now rather popular again. I guess. Never once did I think of Blade or anything though - for me I just drew inspiration from Charles Darwin (for my wanky theories on how vampiric eating machines would look via evolution), and the movie John Carpenter’s The Thing.
One final question, on the nature of comic conventions – are they something which you personally enjoy attending, either as a creator or a spectator?
I’ve been told I travel a lot, so I guess I do more than most. I personally love going to new places and meeting people who read my work in them. I could be working in a box factory, in an alternate universe, but instead I get to travel the world to meet people who actually appreciate my work. To me that’s amazing, and I never want to forget that or take it for granted. To meet the people who allow me to earn a living, well, that’s really something every creator should treasure.
Big props to Ben for talking to us, a fitting end to this series of minterviews. I’d just like to take the time to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s contributed to the blog this year, you’re all amazing! Hopefully we’ll have even more awesome stuff to induce wonderment in your brain sacs next year, but for now let’s focus on the more pressing engagement: Thought Bubble ’09!
In TB ’09 news, Leeds University’s Anime Society has made us some lovely promotional material, which, I’m sure you’ll all agree, kicks some serious ass.
Okay, enough for now, remember that Thought Bubble ’09 kicks off Thursday 19th November in the fair city of Leeds, we hope to see you there!
Filed under: Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews | Tags: Comics, Frank Quitely, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
Hey there Thought Bubblerinos, hope you’re all well? Good, glad to hear it. Today sees the next in our mini-series of mini-interviews (minterviews) with some of our excellent professional guests for this year. If the TB blog continues at this rate, then by (approximately) June 8th 2013 it will represent a repository of all known information in this, and any other, universe – rivalling the mighty wikipedia. Possibly. My maths skills are notoriously weak.
Today’s guest minterviewee is the sublimely talented Frank Quitely, multi-award winning comics illustrator who has worked on a myriad of titles including New X-Men, All-Star Superman, We3, Flex Mentallo, The Authority, and – most recently – Batman & Robin. His work is, quite frankly (pardon the wordplay), mindblowing, and we’re extremely pleased to be able to number him amongst our (uniformly brilliant) guests for this year. We had a talk, the results of which you can see just below… To the reading-mobile!
Hi Frank, thanks for talking to us today; first off, could you give a brief overview of how you first got into sequential art?
I started in self-published comics. I was one of the founding members of a Scottish underground comic called Electric Soup. We published 17 issues in the 3 years we were together, during which time I developed a real love for comics and after sending unsolicited samples to all the publishers listed in Comics International I eventually got commissioned to work on a strip for the Judge Dredd Megazine.
You have a very distinctive illustrative style, rendering your work instantly recognisable – was this an intentional ploy to make you artwork stand out from the crowd, or simply a by-product your own individual way of drawing?
My style’s a mixture of my various influences filtered through my personal tastes and shaped by my strengths and limitations as an artist. As the years have rolled by I’ve concentrated less and less on ‘style’ and more and more on story-telling, to the point where my style is just a by-product, like my handwriting.
Has the evolution in digital art-techniques over recent years resulted in many changes to the way you work?
Yes, to some extent. The biggest change for me was moving from colouring on paper using tradition materials, to colouring digitally. I sometimes do my thumbnails and lay-outs in photoshop and print them out so I can trace over them, and occassionally I’ll do a spot illustration or a cover completely digitally, but mostly it’s the colouring.
You’ve worked on mainstream titles, such as New X-Men, and creator-owned properties, such as The Invisibles - is the creative process different when working with high-profile characters, most of whom have an extensively depicted history, as opposed to those that are relatively new, or obscure?
The creative process is always the same. When you work on a title or character that everyone knows loads of people say ’I hate his ?Wolverine?‘ or ‘I hate his ?Superman?‘ or whatever, because it jars with their own favourite versions of the characters - no one ever says ‘I hate his ?We3 animals?‘ because they didn’t start reading it with any preconceptions or prejudices. From that point of view it’s always easier to work on new stuff, or your own stuff, but I enjoy the challenge of getting to do well-known characters and I generally don’t really care if some folk don’t like what I do, it’s personal taste, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin. But as I said, the creative process is just the same
Do you have any characters in particular that you enjoy portraying? Are there any you’ve yet to work on, but would relish an opportunity to do so?
I enjoy making new characters, like the mutant kids in New X-Men, or the circus freaks in Batman and Robin -
actually, I’m really looking forward to drawing The Joker in the closing arc of Batman and Robin.
You’re perhaps best known for your collaborations with writer Grant Morrison – how did your initial partnership come about?
I had met Grant once or twice in Glasgow at comic-things and I knew something of his reputation. I didn’t know that he was a fan of my Greens strip in Electric Soup, though (well the drawings anyway – he never commented on the writing!). Then he phoned me up one day and asked me to draw Flex Mentallo, I asked what it was about, and when he started talking about it I was hooked. And when I started working on it I remember thinking that I wanted to keep working with this guy.
Are you ever tempted to return to both writing and illustrating – creating characters and telling story – or is it now the case that you feel your story-telling is best facilitated purely through your artwork?
Only for humour stuff.
I’m actually writing a script for a couple of guys who want to try to animate The Greens, which is a humour strip I used to write and draw when I started 20 years ago. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to write serious stuff because I don’t understand enough about how good writing works.<
Superhero comics in general seem to be gaining more recognition by the general public every day, do you think this is the cause of some of the massive upheavals that have been seen in many of the big comic publishers’ universes, or is it simply that existing comic fans are demanding more bang for their buck these days?
I think the superhero movies have had a hand in getting the general public more aware of superheroes, though I doubt that translates into new comic book readers. As for the upheavals in the universes, I suspect that’s more of a publisher-led marketing thing ather than something the fans are demanding.
Speaking of the current vogue for superhero films, do you think such adaptations ever have anything to add to the comic book stories – a medium with far fewer creative limitations than the silver screen – that they’re based on?
I think the main thing movies can bring is a sense of realism – but that’s a double-edged sword. It’s great seeing super powers done convincingly with the latest special effects, but if a costume looks slightly goofy on paper, it usually looks pathetically amusing on screen.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble – do you enjoy attending comic conventions, either professionally or as a casual attendee?
I’ll let you know at the end!
Many thanks to Frank for taking the time to talk to us, remember that this, and the other of our special guest minterviews, can currently be found in the Leeds International Film Festival catalogue (a steal at £7) wherein you can also find some information on Thought Bubble. Biblioriffic!
In some other news, our friends over at Manchester’s Tokyo 15 are having a signing this weekend (November 14th) with the massively awesome Naniiebim (artist on Mephistos). If, like us, you’re from the norf [sic] of this fair sceptred isle – thus meaning you can’t make it to the Anime League Club London’s mini-con – then you should definitely ch-check it out. Details on the flyer below.
… And there you have it, we’ll be back at the weekend with our final (guest) minterview before the festival starts! Exciting times…
Filed under: Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews | Tags: Charlie Adlard, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art
What up gang? It’s now two weeks to the festival, and as promised earlier in the week we’ve got some fresh minterviews for you with some of our amazing big name guests at this year’s Thought Bubble. These can currently be found in the TB section of this year’s Leeds International Film Festival Catalogue (which you should really check out for details of over 200 amazing films currently showing across the city), but we’re happy to bring them to you, live and direct, here on the TB Blog. We really do spoil you guys, but hey – you deserve it.
First up we had a chat with Charlie Adlard, currently astounding and terrifying readers in equal measure with his illustrative work on the break-away comics hit of the last few years – The Walking Dead. So get your best zombie shuffle on and read away. All together now… Braaaaains…
Hi Charlie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us; to start, could you give a brief idea of how you first got started in the comics industry?
Well, I got in just as so many other pros have – through the London and Glasgow conventions in the late ’80′s. I just basically took my portfolio around each con until someone was foolish enough to give me work. At those two major cons back then, it was a lot easier getting work off the major companies because they were all represented there, as opposed to now when you’re lucky to get an editor from DC comics and perhaps 2000AD, so I stood a much better chance back then. My first work was through the Judge Dredd Megazine (I got my first commission at a Glasgow con after about two years of trying) and thankfully it’s never really slowed down since then.
Your illustrative style has changed markedly over the years, was that adaptation due to the demands of the titles you’ve worked on, or was it more of a natural evolution of your own talents?
Bit of both, really. When I first started to get a portfolio together for these conventions, the work in it mainly consisted of B&W illustrations – that’s where I was at style-wise back then – but I was also looking for work at a time where it was fashionable to do fully painted artwork. Consequentially, I thought I’d better try my hand at that to improve my chances of cracking the industry, and it was that work that got me my first commission with the JDM.
Personally, I don’t think I was that good at it, and I spent roughly my first professional year doing fully painted comic strips, then I was asked to do few strips in B&W for the JDM and I haven’t really looked back since.
I’ve always felt more comfortable in monochrome – I think it’s where my strengths lie – I probably reached a “competent” level with full colour but never surpassed that, and now I rarely paint. It’s a shame really because I would have loved to have gotten better at it, but alas I never found the time – I was too busy doing B&W! Occasionally I do get the chance to paint or colour on the computer, and I really enjoy it because I do it so little – it’s a break from the norm – but it’s never enough to really improve my technique. It’s in my B&W work where I can see constant improvement, and I should be happy with that, but, y’know, I want to be a master of all trades.
You’re currently best known for your artwork on zombie-apocalypse epic The Walking Dead – is it liberating working on such a title where you get to portray characters involved in moments of quiet introspection as well as horrific acts of violence?
Yes, definitely! If this was just a plain “horror” book not only would I have got bored with it but the readers would have as well. The beauty of TWD is the fact that it’s a character book first and foremost and that’s what keeps me interested. If Robert [Kirkman, series’ creator] had written just issue after issue of people in peril and zombie mayhem then I don’t think I’d be still talking about it today, six years down the line.
Of course, the other great thing about working on a title like this and what makes it so liberating is the fact that I don’t have to draw Superheroes to make a career for myself. It’s totally amazing to see TWD buck all trends, to go up against all the mainstream superhero stuff and stand alongside quite respectably. There’s not many non-superhero books can claim that – it’s a very privileged place to be in.
Comics in general seem to be shifting more and more into the mainstream, what do you feel has caused this change in public perception to sequential art?
Do you think comics are more in the mainstream? People might be more aware of them than, I suppose, 15 years ago, but it hasn’t really translated into huge sales.
I think the industry has resigned itself to being a niche, to be honest, a healthy niche, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think we’ll ever see sales in the millions again. Mind you, I think that’s the case with the whole print industry, not just comics.
Comic books are doing OK though – I think we’re in a good space at the moment. The graphic novel side has certainly taken off for the industry, particularly for certain books, TWD included. We actually sell as many trades as single issues. If most publishers could get those figures then I think the death of the single monthly issue would be inevitable and we might become more like the European template.
Having said all that, the movie and TV industry has done a lot to raise the profile of this industry and it’s only been possible in recent times to make good looking superhero movies that people won’t laugh at (there’s always been exceptions to the rule of course, Superman The Movie, The Rocketeer, and I’m certainly not saying that all the recent comic movies have been critical successes), because of the advancement in effects, and the influx of self-confessed “geeks” to direct and write the things. Thanks to them we have a healthy profile, and, in slight contrast to what I said before, it does make people more aware of the lesser known comics out there that have become films, and that does translate to better sales. However, the big mainstream ones – not a jot of difference anymore.
The increased interest in comic properties by Hollywood is certainly undeniable at this point – TWD the latest series to be commissioned for television – has this led to any noticeable operational changes within the comics industry?
I think comic companies are increasingly aware of their properties becoming movies and the rewards that that can reap. Consequentially, they may publish things that might not necessarily make them immediate money back on publication – especially if there’s movie interest beforehand, which can quite often happen.
Publishers now are able to think beyond just publishing a book, and to the possible greater awards that movies, TV, and merchandising can give them. Before publishers were just that – publishers – the concept of anything else was rare, if at all. Personally, for me and many other creators – we have also started to think “out of the box” – the advantage to doing something which you own is much more appealing when it can generate the rewards that other media can offer. So, quite often, even before pen has hit the paper, thoughts of where this particular project can go outside of comics is all too relevant!
You’ve worked on a number of different titles, from Judge Dredd to Green Lantern, do you have any particular favourite characters, either to illustrate or as a comics fan?
Yeah, you could say that, up until TWD, I was a bit of a journeyman artist – taking work from wherever I could get it – not a particularly fulfilling first 10-plus years, but I did get to tackle many different styles and characters because of that.
In all honesty, I would say that I don’t have a burning desire to do any one character and the reason for that is TWD has put me in really good place creatively and professionally. It has enabled me to do whatever I want, so doing work for the money alone isn’t a factor any more – and one could argue that doing projects for the “big 2″ would be purely for “the money”. Let’s face it; there really is no other reason. Why would I want to work on someone else’s characters when I can have total control and own my own creations? That’s so much more fulfilling than anything Marvel or DC could offer at the moment.
Having said all that, there’s no reason why I might not return to other people’s characters one day, it would be just for a bit of fun and probably not a lengthy project though (Dr Doom or Conan might be fun to do at some point) and it won’t be in the near future. I’m with TWD for the long run and I have plenty of creator owned books on the side in the pipeline as well – enough to see me well into the next couple of years.
Finally, regarding comic conventions – are they something that you enjoy attending, either as an artist or as a spectator?
It’s been years since I attended a con as a fan. I used to attend Angouleme in France on that basis, but even going there now I attend as a professional. I kind of miss it – to just go to a convention for the “fun” of it and without all the baggage that being within the industry entails. Though that really is a minor gripe – on the whole I really enjoy going to conventions, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t go. Drawing comics is a fairly isolated business, so it is good to get out there and meet the fans. It’s great to meet up with the other pros and socialise as well. It’s not often we all get the opportunity to gather together in one area and we’re all too lazy to organise get togethers ourselves!
Many thanks to Charlie for taking the time to talk to us, we’ll have another big-name minterview up next week. If you blog it, they will come.
Two weeks to go ’til TB ’09! Shazam!
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, News, Programme 2009, Thought Bubble 2009, Workshops 2009 | Tags: Comics, Emma Vieceli, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, masterclass, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
Greetings Bubblers! I hope you’re as excited as we are about the fact that this year’s festival is now less than three weeks away! Join us in a squeal of delight won’t you? Eeeee! To keep your sequential art intake at acceptable levels until then we’ve got some lovely exclusive interviews with some of our awesome guests. Following on from our travels inside some of the small press artists’ studios, these conversations with various professionals who’ll be appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble will be assured to astound and amaze. And various other words beginning with ‘A’.
First off we talked to the excellent Emma Vieceli, a professional illustrator, writer, comic artist, and Thought Bubble veteran whose work on Self Made Hero’s Manga Shakespeare line – as well as for Sweatdrop Studios – is something you really, really should check out post-haste. Emma will also be judging the cosplay competition at this year’s Thought Bubble convention and running a workshop on Sunday 22nd (details on our main programme page). But without much further ado (there’s a pun in there somewhere, I know it!), let us begin…
Hi Emma, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, first off do you think you could give us a brief idea of how you got into illustration?
I think like most people it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just loved reading comics and watching cartoons as a kid, and started drawing on everything I could. I don’t think it had ever crossed my mind that I’d one day be able to draw comics as a career… So, it really is still a dream come true. I was very lucky to join Sweatdrop as they helped me early on and gave me somewhere to focus my interests. We all just loved making comics. It was (and still is with Sweatdrop) very much a hobby for fun.
The turning point for me was the year when I managed to bag a place in Tokyopop’s first UK Rising Stars of Manga competition (again, thanks to Sweatdrop friends bugging me to enter!) and also myself and Sonia Leong had been pitching to and had signed to work with SelfMadeHero just before Rising Stars was announced. So, it was a pretty big year for the pair of us. Hamlet taught me a shed-load, not least of all that running my full time job alongside a GN contract would make me very ill! I ended up going freelance towards the end of the book, as by that point I was talking to two potentially exciting clients about future jobs…it was hard to switch gears and realise ‘wow, this is actually happening’! Sadly the two potential clients never panned out – such is the industry – but by that point I was away, and have never regretted making the decision.
So very much a case of ‘learning on the job’ then?
Pretty much, haha! But then, as artists, we’re always learning on the job. We never stop learning I don’t think.
Your style appears, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times, to be quite manga-influenced – is that a conscious decision on your part, or simply your natural illustrative technique shining through?
Never a conscious decision, no. Creators are always inspired by what they see around them. What we watch/read as we’re growing up will shape our own style hugely but, whatever that style may be, I believe it should be something that flows naturally. I don’t hold with the concept of consciously thinking ‘I want to draw like that’. It can’t be as enjoyable to force a style, surely? For me, I grew up in the UK and spent a lot of time in Italy with my family. There I was exposed to Bonelli’s Dylan Dog (a comic that changed my life) and also a lot of TV anime. Back in the UK I was also reading Marvel comics and The Beano. What’s interesting is that even the three manga styles that I really fell in love with in my early teens and that influenced me hugely (Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP and Keiko Nishi) are completely different from each other. I don’t know what that mystery aura is that makes us look at a piece and think ‘manga’, but whatever mine was, it was born out of a veritable mish-mash of stylistic influences. These days I don’t tend to refer to my work as manga and I don’t call myself a manga artist, but I think my storytelling techniques are still very reminiscent of shoujo manga stylings… So, maybe that’s the defining feature?
What would you say your main artistic influences are?
They’re always changing, but my most influential artists overall would probably be: Giovanni Freghieri, Keiko Nishi, Adrian Alphona and studio Clamp.
Do you think there is a stereotpyical view held amongst western audiences of what a ‘manga’ title will have to offer, one which limits the potential audience?
I think there is one, yes. But I think it’s being gradually expelled thanks to titles like Monster and Death Note. It’s not all sailor suits and giant mecha! Once, the image of manga over here was that it was all sex and violence, now that’s been turned around so that it’s seen as all being for kids. It’s a pretty sharp swerve, so now we need people to realise that it’s both of them and everything in between! It’s comics – plain and simple.
Do you think that manga is enjoying the same surge in popularity that superhero comics seem to be currently experiencing?
I think the manga wave is finally subsiding here in the UK after an amazing few years, but what’s great is that a lot of us are seeing what we always hoped would happen when it was at its biggest over here. We hoped that this time, unlike past manga/anime rises in popularity, when the wave passed it would leave behind a solid foundation – a bedrock of manga in our existing comic industry. It’s what a lot of us worked very hard for, and I think we’re seeing that. Manga shouldn’t be some strange sidekick to comics, but a fantastic part of a wider comic scene. We’re seeing styles and techniques crossing over a lot now, and that’s great.
Any particular favourite titles in this new-wave?
I guess I could be cliché and say Death Note… It’s superbly written. I have to confess I do also like Naruto in its manga form as opposed to the anime. However, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really differentiate between what is seen as ‘manga’ and what are ‘comics’. It’s all comics, and I probably spend more time reading X-Men, Runaways and Fables than I do ‘manga’ these days. I get frustrated by the constant need of many to separate the two!
Do you think this differentiation between ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ comics is stunting the growth of the graphical medium in general?
I think creators themselves aren’t as worried about the differentiation, so it’s not stunting creativity at least, but I know of several creators, myself included, who have hit hurdles with publishers because our work is ‘too manga’ or ‘not manga enough’, and that’s upsetting; to always have your work compared in some way to whatever litmus paper exists for this mythical ‘manga’ style.
That said, the wave has also lead several larger book publishing companies to get in on the action with graphic novel lines, so on the one hand, GNs are booming like never before.
I think we’re getting there. I’m seeing certain large comic publishers being very open with their new artists, and we’re seeing some fantastically hybrid art styles. Gone are the days of house style, and that’s great news for creativity!
You’re perhaps best known for your excellent work on the Manga Shakespeare range, what was it about those adaptations that appealed to you?
I’m a Shakespeare NUT! Studied him at university, wrote a dissertation on him and then after uni, I became a professional performer for a while and got to do a couple of Shakespeare roles. For him to then find me through comics started to convince me I was being haunted! I just love Shakespeare’s work, and his plays were always meant to be seen and not read as text on paper… So, I thought Emma Hayley’s idea of something between the two was genius!
I can think of worse historical figures to be haunted by! Do you have a favourite Shakespearean play, or character, one which you’d relish the chance of illustrating?
Very true! Haha! Well, lucky for me, my two favourites were Hamlet and Much Ado! In some ways I’d love to go back and apply what I know now to Hamlet – but that way madness lies, haha. I was happy with the storytelling, and that’s the most important part of any comic I think.
Ah, nice King Lear reference! So, when you’re adapting Shakespeare’s plays from the manuscripts, do you take into account stage directions, or just utilise the dialogue?
I don’t use anything but the dialogue… So, essentially I am the director of the piece too – which is great fun. I love trying to add new elements within the set text. Richard [Appignanesi] does a great job of adapting the script down to GN-length dialogue, and then I add what I can to that visually.
To be honest, Shakespeare was very sparse on his stage direction, with the exception of exits, entrances and the occasional ‘dies offstage’, haha!
You’ve been involved in the UK sequential art scene for quite some time now, have there been any noticeable changes during that period, for better or worse?
So many changes! Most notably, there is just more of it – and that’s fab. When Sweatdrop started out almost nine years ago (ARGH!), we did so because there was no one at the time in the UK publishing manga-style work. This was before Tokyopop, before Markosia…it’s hard to believe. Sweatdrop is a bit of a dinosaur of UK small press comics, haha. We’ve seen Rising Stars of Manga come and go, we’ve seen Neo Magazine start up and become the amazing publication it is, and we’ve seen independent sequential artists in the UK move from photocopied, folded comics into pro-looking digital printing. There are so many groups and individuals out there now making the most of cheaper printing and the ever-expanding convention scene.
Shows like the London MCM Expo have exploded comics out into the wider public, while shows like Thought Bubble, BICS and Bristol offer specialised playgrounds where comickers and comic lovers can come together and revel in the shinies. Magazines like ImagineFX have really started welcoming comics into their line-ups, and even the surge in recent comic adaptations to film have all contributed to the notion that the geeks truly shall inherit the earth.
The UK has always had a wealth of amazing comickers, but so many have been forced to take their talents elsewhere in the past. There are a lot of people right now working hard to really push the talent pool we have here in the UK, and I love seeing the results!
Some people seem quite eager to pin this growth on the recent success of comic-book adaptations at the box office, how much do you think this is the case?
I think the film industry has not so much drawn in new readers (though I bet it’s brought a few people ‘home’) as it has strengthened the bond and courage of existing readers. I know loads of people who love the recent surge of adaptations, but they’ve never read a comic and never will… What this recognition has done has made existing readers feel less isolated; it’s made us that bit prouder of our obsessions. We can now wear our geek-shirts with pride and count ourselves amongst those ‘who were there at the beginning, man’.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble; do you enjoy attending conventions and other events of that nature?
Well of course! I LOVE events. They’re the times we can come out of our solitary studios and mingle with humanity…and other creators.
I attend as many as I can in a year without destroying myself, though that’s getting harder these days now that there are so many events, what with me trying to span the pure comic events and the anime conventions! As I write this I’m recovering from the MCM Expo, where I actually organise the ComicVillage, so I’m very much looking forward to Thought Bubble, where I can be a creator again. I have huge respect for the people who organise these events after my Expo experiences! This weekend I’m off to my first Italian convention in Lucca, so that should be good fun!
I urge anyone who sees me at an event to come up and say hi! For some reason I get a lot of people after shows saying online that they saw me, but didn’t want to bug me at the show, haha. I’m there to be bugged, people! Don’t be a stranger! ^_^
Alas, as it is said, the rest is silence. Many thanks to Emma for taking the time and talking to us, we here at Thought Bubble are huge fans of her work and really cannot recommend it enough!
A little bit of TB related news now, for those of you unlucky enough not to be able to make it to this year’s festival, we’re pleased to be able to bring a couple of our big-name guests to you! Thanks to our partners at Travelling Man, Ben Templesmith and Alex Maleev will be attending signings at TM’s Newcastle and Manchester stores during the Thought Bubble festival period, details can be found on the flyer placed conveniently below…
That’s all for now, tune in on Wednesday when we have another interview for you with one of our fantastic guests. “Who?” you may ask, well you’ll have to come back to find out. Mystery is our middle-name.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, News, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Adam Cadwell, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, Small Press, The Everyday, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Greetings Bubble-fans! We’re now less than a month away from this year’s Thought Bubble Festival, in fact come this time next month we’ll all be sat around reminiscing about how spectacularly it went, even though that pack of Gremlins got loose and engaged in their own particular brand of hi-jinks. Fun times. However, as Yoda once chastised Luke “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was”, so, with that in mind, we shall stay firmly in the present, with the final entry in our series of small-press minterviews for this year. Today’s minterviewee is the excellent Adam Cadwell, a previous Friend of Thought Bubble, whose diary comic The Everyday is a joy to behold. We had a lovely chat, so read on and be sure to check out some little bits and pieces of TB news after the jump.
Hi Adam, thanks for talking to us, to start off do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?
The Ghost World movie – I’d read that this underground comic was being made into a film in a magazine, right about the time I was just starting Uni. I’d had some ideas for comics but was aware that I hadn’t read many since I was a kid, so I looked into what was out there and started with Ghost World. I was amazed by it and immediately admired what [Daniel] Clowes was doing and discovered all these other artists creating comics like Mike Allred, and Jaime Hernandez. It was clear that this was medium I wanted to work in, I focused on comics and illustration for the rest of my time at Uni and started my webcomic after that.
However, I recently found some comics I’d made as a kid, about 9 or 10 years old. They’re comics of my family holidays, with each panel or two documenting what we did each day. I’d drawn the whole two weeks but only coloured half. I was amused that some of my earliest comics were pretty much autobiographical too.
You regularly produce a diary comic The Everyday – do you ever find it hard displaying aspects of your personal life in such a public forum?
No, not especially. My comic is more about what happens around me, observations that I make that hopefully most people have thought or experienced at one time or another. Earlier on I included more personal thoughts, mostly about girls, but I’ve left that alone now, I was always aware it can come across as self-indulgent. The readers do pick up on things about my life the longer they read it. It’s odd when someone references something that happened to me and I’d forgotten I’d put that in a comic. It’s odder still when they read between the lines and tell me the things they think I’ve been up to, debauched things mostly, and they’d mostly be wrong. So it can be odd sometimes, but not difficult because of the viewpoint I’m taking with the comic.
You’ve also contributed work to a number of anthologies and are currently working as colourist on Zombie Death Squad – do you actively seek variety between your comics projects to keep boredom at bay?
I’ve always had bad luck with anthologies, the first one I submitted to in 2006 still hasn’t come out yet and I was almost in Comic Book Tattoo at the last minute but it didn’t work out. I have assisted Marc Ellerby with the colouring on his Popgun submission though – it’s the first Chloe Noonan mini in full, dazzling colour. And yes, I was offered the job of colourist on ZDS but that’s its own series rather than an anthology piece.
As for seeking variety, it’s something that just seems to happen. I wish I had more time to focus on my one big personal project but I am getting more comfortable hopping between projects and roles.
By day you’re a mild-mannered commercial illustrator, do you see your small press creations as a hobby/past-time, or is working in the comics industry a career path you’d like to take?
The latter, definitely – I do enjoy the commercial work, storyboards and such, but comics are easily the most fulfilling. Telling a story in one of the most accessible, expressive mediums is a joy, especially if it’s your own creation. At the moment, commercial work pays the bills and comics get me a little money from online sales and rare paid work but I’d love to be able to turn that around.
The whole point of Thought Bubble is that we want to help promote sequential art as being, as you said, one of the most expressive storytelling mediums – why do you think it is that comics are still looked down upon by so many as a cultural art form?
Superheroes. They’re to blame really. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wee myself if I got offered a job drawing Spider-man but since the early popularity of the modern comic format the genre of superhero stories has dominated, and they’ve been dismissed as something for kids or, later, maladjusted adults. Comics and men in tights are intrinsically linked in the popular consciousness. Until most people can separate the two, the medium will always be mistaken for the genre.
The view of comics has been getting better in the last 10 years or so though, I think the term Graphic Novel has helped that a lot.
You’re a staunch advocate of the digital revolution, has the internet been good for the small press scene, or do you think it’s flooded the market somewhat?
Am I? Is it a revolution anymore? I think we all take the internet for granted now don’t we? Webcomics are certainly an alternative to print comics but I don’t think they’ll ever replace them. They’re not quite equal yet, but that’s only a matter of time as technology becomes even more integrated into our lives.
I think the internet is invaluable to the small press scene in way too many ways to mention here. I don’t think it’s flooded the market though; the small press scene is full of exciting work with new creators getting involved every year. As for webcomics, yes, there are thousands of terrible comics online but on the other hand it’s actually harder to find the bad comics than it is the really good ones.
Well, you have a twitter account, that’s semi-advocating, and sure, I take the interweb for granted – until it stops working. Do you think that if/when webcomics become an equal to print comics, in the sense of a market share, that that will signal the end of comics appearing purely in print form?
It’s starting to happen already I think. With sales of monthly comics dropping lower and lower, and the rise of technology like the iPhone, people are really considering how to make money from reading comics on these new devices. But I think until there’s a standard reader, an iTunes for comics basically, then print will continue to dominate.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
Thanks for the chance to plug my stuff, Clark. I’ll be bringing the three collections of The Everyday, a comic about Glastonbury in the form of a postcard book, new badges (everyone loves badges), and a postcard set of my Childhood Villains illustrations.
Oh, and “it”. I will be “bringing “it”. People will say “Hey, look at Cadwell, he’s really brought it”. Consider it brung, Thought Bubble.
Always happy to help a comics brother/sister out. Do you enjoy attending these kinds of events?
I wouldn’t come otherwise. Especially the shows with a focus on self published work like TB. The audience is a lot more responsive to my work than at the bigger shows, with those darned superheroes books! I’ve been both years so far and loved it both times. So, don’t let me down, Clark, I’m looking forward to this show the most! Where else can I sell loads of copies of my comic just for sitting down behind a table? I’d do it every day if I could. I’d be a withering wreck of a man, but I’d be very satisfied.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
Thought bubbles for thought, obviously. Captions are for narration. Stupid Bendis.
And there you have it, the final minterview for this year. Oh, and for the record we don’t think Mr Bendis is stupid for his (mis)use of captions, nope, no sirree, and I’m not just saying that because he’ll sic his Dark Avengers on us. Run Adam, run!
That’s not all from Thought Bubble’s interview bank though, we have some super-special interviews coming up over the next few weeks which will astound and delight you, watch this space!
In Festival news, we now have the full list of exhibitors for this year’s convention up on the main site, that’s over 180 tables of some of the finest artists and traders you’ll ever lay eyes on. Magnifique! We’re also pleased to say that the brochure for this year’s festival has just come off the presses and is looking damn fine, keep an eye out for it at a retailer near you soon!
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again, probably sooner than you think…
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Lizz Lunney, Sequential Art, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics, YouTube
Hey gang! We’re back, as you can probably see from these strange symbols in front of you. A short break was embarked upon whilst I recovered from a mild case of The Andromeda Strain, or possibly a cold – we’ll never know. Anyways, back to business! We have a brand new minterview for you hot off the presses! Today we’re talking to the super-talented Lizz Lunney, creator of the delicious Online Comic Sushi, and seller of quality wares. We’ve previously featured Ms Lunney as one of our Friends of Thought Bubble, and I can confirm that her site is really worth your time and attention. Really. So, pull up a chair, stoke the fire, swirl your brandy round in its glass, and read on…
Hi Lizz, thanks for talking to us, to start off do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?
Hello there, thanks for inviting me! I’d say there was never an exact turning point when I could say I “got into sequential art” – I’ve always drawn comic strips since I was able to hold a pen so it just seems a natural thing for me to do. I studied animation at University, got into storyboarding and drew comics for fun, and then it just developed into making comics for real. For real!
So, did you grow-up reading comics?
Yes! I loved The Beano. My granddad used to buy me The Dandy each week, and I also read Wizzer and Chips, Buster, Twinkle, Disney comics, Garfield, and probably loads of others too. I liked the Bumpkin Billionaires, The Bash St. Kids and Roger the Dodger.
My Favourite was always Baby Face Finlayson. Your Online Comic Sushi is a very surreal affair, were you attracted to self-publishing because of the creative freedom that it allows?
Um, not really, I sort of just started self-publishing because I didn’t know how to get my work known. I did a comic course that ended in self-publishing a comic at the end and then I just continued to make them. I’ve never really thought about the creative freedom aspect, in fact, I don’t think I take advantage of it enough! Some stuff I draw I think might seem a bit weird or unsuitable for the comics so I kind of self-censor the work I get printed or put online, and maybe I should just put the lot in and not worry so much about it… I usually test ideas out on my bro – if he reads a comic strip and his reaction is “huh, that doesn’t even make sense”, then I burn it in a sacrificial ceremony in the garden at night and cry.
Kind of like Luke Skywalker, burning Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi – no plans for a “director’s cut” of your comics then?
I’d like to do a Depressed Cat collection one day when I have enough to collect together which could include “out-takes”, etc, but at the moment it makes more sense to print new stuff!
As well as comics you also produce a wide selection of gift items – are these simply a way of creating revenue, or is your arts/craft output more an extension of your illustrative endeavours?
I think it’s more of a personal interest, I like merchandise! I always try to make things that I would buy myself if I was looking round a shop or convention. I sometimes feel a bit sad that the badges, stickers and other spin-off items sell better than the actual comics, and people will buy them who have never read my comics so they don’t know the characters or anything, but on the other hand it’s nice to sell things that will appeal to people who like “stuff” and perhaps don’t want to buy comics in book form.
Do you think this misconception is stunting the growth of the comics scene – that sequential art can only ever be in the form of a graphic novel?
Yes, perhaps. If you go to comic shops in France they are full of other items based on the comics even for lesser known characters and comics. I think if you have an idea or a story it shouldn’t be limited to a book. I want to make some animations of my comics eventually. And lunch boxes. Lunch boxes are the dream.
The small press community seems to be growing at an exponential rate at the moment thanks to the digital revolution, how easy was it to establish yourself on the scene?
I just bribed and stalked people wherever possible. Haw, no, not really… I don’t know, I just go to a lot of conventions and spend far too many hours on social networking sites talking to other small press people.
The small press community does seem to be more in tune with the latest social trends than ‘mainstream’ comics – do you think this is why the scene’s grown so much over the last few years?
I guess the small press community is just more in tune with the people who actually buy things just from speaking to people, and by actually running the stalls, rather than the work going through a distributor. I don’t really buy mainstream comics and have a very limited knowledge of anything superhero or manga based, so I couldn’t say if this is true or not, to be honest! Personally, I just write about things I like! If other people like them too and buy the comics because of them, hurrah!
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
Lots of awesome treats in time for Christmas – I’m currently working on a bigger project (which I’m going to try and keep secret for now!), so for Thought Bubble I plan to have lots of cool smaller stuff. New things will hopefully include Hairy Midget toys, tattoos, Christmas cards and new badges! I might bring some cake. I will definitely bring some sushi and crisps and chocolate, maybe a flask of tea.
Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?
Yes! Very much so. Although I find it tiring work talking to so many different people for an entire day (or two depending on the con), and can’t speak to anyone for weeks afterwards to make up for it.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
Um, I use caption boxes mostly, but, so not to upset the convention name, I’ll pick thought bubbles!
And there you have it – another fine minterview with one of our wonderful Friends. Thanks to Lizz for taking the time to talk to us, and who gets major bonus points (+520pts) for (eventually) choosing thought bubbles over caption boxes. So should we all.
We’ll be back on Thursday with another minterview, if you’d like some more TB goodness in the meantime then feel free to check out our youtube channel to see our awesome new trailer! It’s like Michael Bay and Ridley Scott having a fight, in 3D!
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, News, Programme 2009, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art?, Workshops 2009 | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, masterclass, Sequential Art, Signings, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Greetings Bubblers! It is now less than six weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival and we are very pleased to be able to share with you our full programme line-up for those four heady days in November.
We think you’ll be blown away by the awesome guests and exhibitors we’re honoured to have in attendance, as well as our extensive range of masterclasses and workshops…
Full details as to this year’s programme can be found on the Festival Information 2009 page (on the list to the left), while Thought Bubble’s guest list also looks amazing (although there may be some surprise announcements coming soon), and we have some brilliant small press exhibitors in attendance. Make sure to look out for our brochures, which will be hitting the streets very soon.
We’re all really psyched about this year’s festival, and we hope you feel the same way and will be able to join in the fun in November.
Until then, remember – with great power, comes great responsibility!
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.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Banal Pig Comics, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, Small Press, Steve Tillotson, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Righto, it’s Monday (or at least it is if you’re an inhabitant of the slightly less fashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy, other localities’ calendars may vary accordingly), which for the time being means it’s time for another of our Minterviews. Today sees Friend of Thought Bubble Steve Tillotson, of Banal Pig Comics, join us in cheerful banter about all things sequential in preparation for this year’s Thought Bubble, a nice reminder of his time with us in days of yore. I would also highly recommend checking out Steve’s site for some thoroughly awesome examples of his work (which is also, coincidentally, thoroughly awesome), but without much more preamble, let’s shift in time and space to the main event…
Hi Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, to start off could you give us an idea of how you were first introduced to sequential art?
I always used to like the classic British kids’ comics, like The Beano and Buster, when I was younger, but forgot about comics for the most part from the age of about 11 or 12 onwards when I ditched the comics for football magazines – I was never really interested in so-called adult comics, superheroes etc didn’t appeal to me at the time. It was probably a good 10 years later when I happened upon Daniel Clowes’ books, which struck a chord with me, and I saw the potential of comics as an art form. I had no idea there was a small press scene until I had made my first comic though.
Do you think this generally held perception, that comics for adults are all superhero stories, is the reason that sequential art has such a poor reputation as a cultural art form?
Yes, but I think you can say that about any art form, the commonly held perception is the wrong one – for example, contemporary art is often represented by Tracey Emin’s “unmade bed” and judged accordingly – it doesn’t matter. It would be nice if great graphic novels were higher up in the public consciousness, because it would mean there was more money and jobs in it, but there is a certain freedom about being a niche and not within the mainstream.
Who, or what, is the Banal Pig?
Banal Pig was the first comic character I created. As with most of my characters, the title is fairly direct – he is an anthropomorphic pig that does banal things. The “joke” is that the strip is not dramatic or funny in the conventional comic strip sense. He became the title character of the comics, and the publishing imprint by default – as I didn’t have a better idea – but it proved to be quite a good choice as the name is quite unusual, and hopefully quite memorable. Some people still pronounce it as if it rhymes with “anal” though; I thought it was quite a common word.
Your characters are quite esoteric, as is the sense of humour that runs though their stories – does it take you a long time to develop them from the initial ideas stage?
Having an idea is the easy part – it’s developing it, and drawing it, and making it work on the page which takes the work, but the more I’ve done it the more intuitive and easier it has become. It depends on the story and the length of the strip though – I can knock a three-panel funny up in an hour, but something longer and more involved can take months. I’ve used a lot of the characters a few times, so their personalities are more developed and it’s easier to imagine how they would react in a given situation (with hilarious results, obviously).
The small press community seems to be growing at a fair old pace at the moment – do you think it’s getting easier for people to get established these days?
Yeah, it’s really easy with the internet and desktop publishing to knock something up. I can’t imagine a time where there was no internet and comics had to be photocopied on a dodgy copier or litho printed, but it was probably less than ten years ago – I couldn’t have been arsed. I’m not sure about the word established though – I’ve been doing it for four years now and, although I’ve sold a few thousand comics, I’ve never really made any money from it.
So, for you then, it’s more the case that you enjoy making comics and telling stories through them, rather than being “in it for the money”?
Yep, it’s a labour of love, to use a hackneyed phrase, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t accept paying jobs should they come along…
You have various solo creations under your belt, but have also worked on a number of collaborations – is the creative process markedly different when you work alone as opposed to with a partner/group?
It is quite a lonely occupation – even when you’re working with someone else on ideas, ultimately you’ve just got to then sit down and draw it, and I like having the control over what’s on the page. I wouldn’t want to make something that I wasn’t entirely happy with, because it takes so long and I don’t get paid for it, I don’t want to waste my time.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
I’ll be premiering the second Ethel Sparrowhawk story if all goes to plan, I’m about one-third finished at this stage, plus most of the back catalogue – Manly Boys, the Banal Pig comics, The Banal Pig Landscape Anthology, and more probably. I’ll be sharing with Gareth Brookes, who himself has an impressive portfolio of works. I’ll try not to bring a hangover to this year’s convention though – I was feeling rough as arseholes last year…
And, when not hungover, are conventions something you enjoy attending?
Yes and no. I really enjoy the conventions in terms of selling comics and meeting people and seeing what’s out there, but I’m usually at conventions as an exhibitor, and it can be hard work trying to get people to buy my stuff as I’m not the best self-promoter – I find it a bit embarrassing. I’d rather someone else handled the business side of things really, but it’s part of the deal unfortunately.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
No preference, although for the purposes of this I will say THOUGHT BUBBLES.
Huge thanks to Steve for being one of our minterviewees, I’m sure you’ll agree that it was a sterling effort. For the record, if people don’t like thought bubbles we don’t mind – we’ll just be extremely disappointed, and possibly sulk a bit.
There’s some news on our newly approved Arts Council funding, and details of another series of manga days at Travelling Man in the previous blog post, so if Japanese sequential art or lottery funding of worthy causes tickles your fancy you’d best grok it, like. New minterview up on Thursday, in the meantime might I suggest following us on twitter, our twees are sure to astound and delight in equal measure!