Thought Bubble 2014: 9th-16th November!


Minterviews 2012 – Duncan Fegredo by thoughtbubblefestival
19/03/2012, 9:55 am
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2012

Hey gang!

We hope you’ve all had a great weekend, and that your adventures were fruitful. Personally, I managed to facilitate the escape of a shoggoth from a mansion in Arkham, MA, but it only had a few HP left, so who knows how far the cheeky tentacled Eldritch horror got.

In TB news, and importantly if you’re hoping to exhibit at this year’s convention, the tables are selling like extremely hot cakes. If it continues at this pace we’ll be fully booked before spring has even had a chance to be sprung, so book quickly to avoid disappointment!

But to today’s first order of business: Minterviews are back! It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely time since we chatted to some of comics’ excellent talent, so we figured we’d dust off our vocal cords and get a-talking.

The format’s the same each week – five questions are asked to every contributor, and then five special follow-ups are derived from their answers to the initial batch of questions, so ten in total, a mini-interview, a Minterview. Hopefully it’ll make for some nice informal conversations about the funny books we know and love from those who make them.

This week we spoke to Duncan Fegredoillustrator extraordinaire, whose work can be seen gracing the pages of Hellboy, as well as the inaugural issue of our very own TB Anthology! Words to read after the jump.

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TB: Hi Duncan, to begin can you give us an idea of how you got started in comics? Did you get a big break, or was it more gradual?

It was kind of grindingly inevitable really. I’d finished my second year at Leeds Poly and had just gotten back into reading comics in a big way. I packed samples of art and attended my first ever UKCAC – this was ’86.

It was great, never enjoyed a con as much since, I was purely a fan! I showed my samples to anybody I could, got feedback, made a few connections that, in time, paid off. It all comes down to putting yourself out there, listening, understanding criticism, doing the work.

Grinding inevitability.

TB: So, do you think that the convention circuit is still as important for budding artists and writers looking to get their first break?

It can be, if there are editors present who are willing to take the time, but you have to be prepared. I’ve seen so many subpar folios of work: badly presented and with attitude to match. I’ve also seen very promising work, but it’s very competitive – pin ups won’t get you anywhere unless they are astounding!

Evidence of an understanding of anatomy, mood, environments and storytelling are your weapons, use them. If you don’t have them, get them. You have to show that you can do the quiet stuff as well as violence and unconvincing breasts!

TB: Did studying in Leeds, or exposure to the Northern sensibility more generally, have much of an influence on the development of your artistic/storytelling style do you think?

I don’t know about that, it was just a nice place to be! I was very aware of a difference in attitude to those who lived and worked in London though, I felt literally outside of comics, outside the loop. I don’t think that’s an issue anymore, with the web you can be that much more connected at any distance.

TB: What’s your proudest moment, in comics or otherwise, to date?

It’d be easy to say the first time I saw my work in print, but that’s always a double edged sword. I can say without a doubt I was more disappointed by my efforts – that would have overridden any sense of achievement. Still does if I’m honest. I’m proud of all my work with Peter Milligan, with the same caveat, naturally.

Ultimately: being invited to work with Mike Mignola on Hellboy. I was and am a huge fan, but I knew I was letting myself in for a hard time… I stayed the course and changed many people’s expectations, I can be proud of that.

TB: So, is it difficult first starting out working on a character/title as iconic as Hellboy, as opposed to, say, Enigma where you’re effectively world-building?

With Enigma I just didn’t have a clue, at first anyway, but I wasn’t struggling against anything other than my own shortcomings. Oddly enough that is also true of Hellboy – I was in awe of Mike’s work and so was constantly trying to live up to that. I knew going in that was all too unlikely but that wasn’t going to stop me making the attempt!

TB: Do you enjoy attending conventions and other events like Thought Bubble?

Thought Bubble is great, it somehow seems to be a more positive experience. My point of view is very limited, I tend to be nailed down at my booth the entire weekend – not complaining, I appreciate the effort people make and the time they spend waiting to chat and get stuff signed – but I would say that the general mood seems that much more pleasant. I’m less likely to leave the con feeling tired, bitter and twisted. Just tired.

TB: Have you noticed any changes in terms of the people you get coming to your table at cons over the years?

Yes, they age more slowly than I do! There seems to less of a gender split, it used to be a predominantly male crowd. A few more kids too, that’s encouraging.

TB: Which comics are you enjoying at the moment, any all-time favourites?

I enjoy all the BPRD books, all those books that spin off from the Mignolaverse. Locke and Key – I came late to the series, but as I write this I’m checking online for the latest digital issue: it’s superb.

What else? I really enjoyed Rob Davis’s adaptation of Don Quixote, very funny stuff. I’m intrigued to see where Brubaker and Phillips go with Fatale. Loved Joe the Barbarian, Sean Murphy is terrifyingly good for such a young artist. Who is Jake Ellis? Great story and again, I loved Tonci Zonjic’s art. I’m sure theres more, brain tired…

TB: Joe the Barbarian and Who Is Jake Ellis made our end of year list too in 2011. Excellent books. So, are there any writers you’re yet to work with that you’d relish the chance to? Any favourite characters you’d like to illustrate?

If JK Rowling fancies doing some untold tales of Harry Potter, I’m there! Similarly I’d love to work with Joss Whedon on early Buffy stories, or anything else for that matter. See what I mean about aiming high? Other characters…? Not really, it was always Hellboy… That worked out quite well.

TB: Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Both are fine if appropriate to the story, what I really dislike is all the colouring in captions these days, or sound effects that smother the art, rendering it unreadable, ugh!

***

Thanks to Duncan for chatting to us, and check back same time same place next week for another Minterview!



Thought Bubble 2012! (the story so far…) by thoughtbubblefestival
12/03/2012, 10:07 am
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Minterviews, News, Thought Bubble 2012

Hey gang!

Long time no see, we hope you all had a good Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Leap Day, Eschaton, and whatever else happened while we were in hibernation (and then subsequently recovering from hibernation sickness). So, you may ask, what have we been up to all this time since last year’s thought bubble? Let me explain! No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

We have been planning all sorts of crazy stuff for this year’s Thought Bubble!

It ain’t broke, but we’re still looking at every way we can make it bigger and better. On that note, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who came out and made last year’s festival such a success and we hope we’ll see you all back again this November. In terms of specifics, well, we’ve announced a few bits and pieces on Twitter and Facebook recently, and re-launched our shiny updated website with our lovely new festival image by the amazing Tran Nguyen, so here’s what we have so far:

  1. This year’s festival will take place on the 11th – 18th of November, at venues around Leeds and Yorkshire, in partnership with the 26th Leeds International Film Festival, and with a centre-piece (massive) comic convention on the 17th & 18th November. You can get an idea of what’ll be taking place by having a look at our event archives, but every Thought Bubble’s bigger than the last, so expect MORE COOL STUFF;
  2. We’ve announced our first batch of guests for 2012’s festival, and we think that this year we’ll be bringing together the biggest, most varied line-up yet. Comics can be about anything and be created by anyone, so we try to reflect this. We’ll be updating the guest list throughout the year so check back regularly as we’ve got some surprises up our voluminous sleeves;
  3. Speaking of guests, we’re currently in the process of getting this year’s anthology together, which, like last year’s will contain exclusive stories by artists and writers that we’re digging right now, as well as last year’s Northern Sequential Art Competition winners, and with all the profits going to charity;
  4. Speaking with guests, Minterviews are back! We’ve been chatting with Thought Bubble guests past, present and future, and we’ll be putting up the transcripts every Monday right here on the ol’ weblog;
  5. Table registration for this year’s convention is now open! Early-bird prices are in effect until August 1st, but they sold out way before then last year, and we’re expecting them to sell out even quicker this year, so act fast. I’ll try and do a blog post soon about tips for first time exhibitors, but there’s a whole bunch of handy information on the website that’ll give you an idea of how it works and what to expect;
  6. We’ve teamed up with the lovely people over at Comics Forum to put on a comics and philosophy event later this month at the Henry Moore Institute – ‘Comics and Philosopy: From Maus to She-Hulk’ will take place on the 29th March, and is free to attend, but spaces are limited, so be sure to sign up soon;
  7. I’m probably forgetting loads, as Thought Bubble is getting so big that eventually we’ll probably have to put together an elite squad of military operatives and scientists to destroy the monster it has become. However, until that happens, you can find out everything that’s happening, as it happens, by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, subscribing to the RSS feed for the website, or looking for the messages that we hide in various comics that hit the stands on a monthly basis. Which ones? That’s for you to find out! YAY!

There’s always something going on with us, but on the blog, then next thing coming atcha will be the first of this year’s Minterviews. To find out who it’s with, check back here next Monday!

We <3 you all.



Joe List Minterview (and more!) by thoughtbubblefestival

Borag thung bubblets! It’s now only 9 DAYS until the start of this year’s festival, and we’re so excited we can’t think of any analogies to properly convey that anticipation to you, dear reader. In lieu of an apology please find attached to this – our final blog post before the Thought Bubble 2010 begins – a brand new minterview, and a whole host of news about events later this month. But don’t just take my word for it, enlightenment is mere sentences away…

For our final minterview of 2010 we talked to esteemed fellow Mr Joe ListGuardian Weekender defacer extraordinaire, and creator of the magnificent Freak Leap – who is a true Friend of Thought Bubble. For a transcript of our conversation, simply read on, and I can personally confirm that everything he say in there is 100% true.

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I’ve always enjoyed doodling; more recently I’ve tried to force them into various shapes, like boxes or hexagons, It’s a tricky procedure, but I’m getting there.

What led you to transfer the doodling onto the Guardian’s Weekend section?

Long train journeys and cheap pens!

Would you ever consider producing a long-form narrative comic, or do you prefer more condensed, self-contained story telling?

One day I’d love to write a three part novel. I’d call it “THE HOUNDS OF INFERNO” and would be full of maps and diagrams, as well as big words, like Octopuscloth and fungreatfulness

Are you a fan of comics in general? Any favourites you’d recommend reading?

I am a comics fan, but I don’t read as many as I should, I highly recommend the following comics creators;

Dan Clowes;

John Allison;

Tony Millionaire;

KC Green;

Luke Pearson;

Jonny Ryan;

Lizz Lunney;

Seth;

David Mazzuccelli;

There are many more that I adore; I would probably give you a different list in half an hour.

So, do you consider any comic creators to have a direct influence on your own work?

I do, although I’d say a lot of illustrators and animators had an equal influence. I recently did an inspiration map, which may better explain this. [see below – Clark]


You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

I will be bringing Freak Leap again, and also my sketch book comic Guts, as well as a promotional book for my new web comic (also called Freak Leap). I will be bringing badges too, and some new stickers that you can have for free! I will also be framing some of my favourite drawings from the annotated weekender for the kind people of Leeds.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

YES, they are a lot of fun, shaking hands, buying and selling comic, seeing people’s confused faces when they quickly study a strange drawing you can’t remember including in a book. IT’S ALL WORTH IT.

Do you find your comics get a good reception from the general public? Do you think the UK is a good environment for nurturing local indie talent?

Well, I have never expected to be a big name, like Sir Roger Sunderfields or Derek P Saunders, but people seem to like my comics, as long as they aren’t lying to me.

And yes, I do believe comic shops are wising up to the inexhaustible power of the small press. A few large operators will now stock interesting books by the comic book wonder children of the UK. I saw a copy of Steven Gravy’s Acorn Diary next to a copy of Disney’s Invisible Space Aladdin the other day!

Well the UK small press community does seem to be packed with good folk, have you noticed any changes to the scene since becoming a part of it?

Good question, I got my UK small press license and ceramic Biro holder about a year and a half ago, and in that time, so much has changed. We’ve come up with a new secret handshake, had a number 1 hit single (with the instant classic, ‘Ink and Vimto’) and built England’s widest tree-house.

Finally – as ever – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Thought Bubbles my friend! Forever and all ways, Joe List

***

Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to talk to us, you can also see his illustrations in the Answer Me This book, available at all good bookshops, and quite a few disreputable ones too I’d wager!

…And now for some Thought Bubble news! As you may have noticed from the opening paragraph of this post 2010′s festival is pretty close, so here’s some last minute highlighting of awesome stuff(tm)!

To start we’re super pleased that Kristyna Baczynski (another Friend of Thought Bubble) is putting on her debut solo show as part of this year’s Thought Bubble! We here at TB towers love Kristyna’s work, and we think you will too, so pop on down to the Hyde Park Picture House from November 14th to get a glorious eyeful!

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Next up, our friends at Momiji are inviting you all to bring your designs for their dolls to our convention! They’ll be running a workshop at their tables all day, and for £5.50 you can paint your own dolls and submit designs to be taken back to Momiji HQ and the creative team, with the potential that it’ll be put into production. As well as this 50% of the money will be going to the humanitarian charity Medicins Sans Frontiers. Super fun times and a worthy cause! It literally doesn’t get any better than that, y’all. Just drop by the Momiji table at Saviles Hall on Saturday 20th to find out more.

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Finally, a quick mention of our programme of FREE workshops and masterclasses as part of this year’s Thought Bubble Festival! We still have places left on a few of them, but they’re filling up quickly so move fast to avoid disappointment! Details as follows…

ComixBox with Laydeez Do Comics! 13:30 – 15:00 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Laydeez do Comics is a comics forum, open to all, focusing on autobiography & domestic drama, set up by artist Sarah Lightman & illustrator Nicola Streeten. This is a fascinating opportunity to hear from an array of comics artists & academics, who each get just 10 minutes to share their work and research. The international line-up includes: comic artists Maureen Burdock, Francesca Casavetti, Monica Hee Eun Jensen, Rikke Hollaender, Karen Hansen, Ina Kjoelby Korneliussen, Edward Ross & academic Rikke Platz Cortsen. Please note places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Create Fun Eco Mini-Comics! 13:30 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Tiled Hall
Ages 12 to 18. FREE
HI-EX’s Vicky Stonebridge will show you how to make your own handmade small story books using a variety of waste products, old magazines, scrap paper & packaging! Quick, easy, & fun to do. Please note: this is a drop-in workshop but places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Storyboarding & Portfolio Workshop 13:10 – 15:00 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Join concept & storyboard artist Steve Beaumont to find out how to create storyboards for film, video games or tv advertising. Plus bring your portfolio with you to recieve a portfolio critique. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Diarise Your Thoughts Workshop 14:50 – 15:50 Leeds Library Your Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Want to make a comic of your favourite gig, day out, or experience? Adam Cadwell can show you how! Well know for his Glastonbury postcard strips & his work with the Manchester Comics Collective, Adam will take you through the steps of making your own comic & recording experiences in comic form. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Tony Harris Art Workshop 15:00 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Henry Moore Room
16+ FREE.
Eisner award winning artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) is one of the most critically acclaimed & respected artists working in the business today. This special insider look at his creative process will give an insight into how those award-winning comic book panels came to be & is a must-see for any fan of sequential art. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Grandville Mon Amour talk 15:30 – 16:30 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Comics Legend Bryan Talbot discusses his graphic novels Grandville and Grandville Mon Amour, and the venerable & ongoing tradition of anthropomorphic characters in illustration & comics from which they have grown. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Andy Diggle’s Breaking & Entering For Comics Writers 15:45 – 16:45 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
16+ FREE
Following the sell-out success of last year’s writing workshop, the former 2000AD editor & writer of such comics as The Losers, Hellblazer, and Daredevil will be here to pass on some tips & tricks that help separate the wannabes from the gonnabes. Topics include the value of your own initiative & the “DIY aesthetic”, as well as concept, structure, theme, pacing, conflict, exposition, how to pitch to editors… and how ‘not’ to! This class will conclude with a Q&A, so come armed with questions. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

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Finally, the amazing Adi Granov is raffling off his ridiculously awesome double spread cover from Incredible Hercules #138 in order to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care! Tickets, and further details, can be found on the website. You can also buy tickets from his table at this year’s thought bubble convention, and the winner will be announced at the end of the day (Saturday 20th November). Don’t miss out on a chance to own some superb comic book art, and help yet another exceptionally worthy cause in the process!

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That’s it for now, and probably until after this year’s festival. We’re super busy getting all the last little details squared away, and we’re thinking this could be our best Thought Bubble yet. Thanks for reading during the build-up and I hope we’ll see a lot of you at our various events from the 18th – 21st November!

- Clark



Huw “Lem” Davies Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey guys! Things are really cooking here at Thought Bubble towers -  it’s just over three weeks until the opening of this year’s Festival and all hands are on deck to make this year our best ever. And apparently nautically themed. Who knew?! To tide you over on those agonising last few moments before 2010′s events finally arrive we’ve got a new minterview for you!

This week we had a lovely old natter with Huw “Lem” Davies, creator of the brilliant Bunny, who is part of the greatest team ever known – the Friends of Thought Bubble!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I was interested in comics in general reasonably early I think. Of course the Dandy and Beano featured, alongside a dusty old hard-backed annual of Hotspur comics from the 70s that’s particularly dear to my heart. The Hotspur was especially interesting because it felt much more grown up, a bit darker, more rounded. And it had pictures of passenger jets that looked like Concorde flying through thunderstorms, which obviously the Dandy didn’t. I am sure that informed some part of my comic-drawing brain.

The longer I try and work out what actually made me think “Yes, I would like to draw comics”, the less certain about it I get. I know I used to draw primitive “comics” when I was 10 or so, but I can’t remember why. I think I just assumed that reading comics were fun, and drawing was fun, and obviously if I combined the two it would be double plus fun. And, what do you know, I was right in that assumption.

It was certainly more fun that whatever you’re supposed to do on long caravan holidays anyway.

Was there a discernible transition from making comics for fun to seriously producing them? Is it still double plus fun to do?

Not really, I think it just gradually happened over time by doing things which were a little more serious. They’re still double plus fun to do, else I think I would have given up ages ago.

Do you still read comics as well as produce them? Any favourites?

Oh yes, both online and off thanks to the local library carrying quite a broad selection of trades.

Stopping short of listing a whole lot of books that I’ve liked, I’ll just single out Northlanders Vol 1 by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice. It’s a great blend of beautiful art, great storytelling and it feels like a bit of a history lesson as well. I feel that Brian researches things properly and it makes the work stand out.

Is there any work, not necessarily in the medium of comics, that you consider an influence on your own?

Music is a big deal to me when making things, comics especially. I think it helps me concentrate and focus on the visual language I’m trying to use. Gosh, that sounds awfully pompous and Arty. But it’s all about getting into the right head-space, the right mood inside and kicking all the brain machinery into gear to make things work.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

If everything goes according to plan I will be bringing little Bunny mini-comics covering the first three chapters of The Continuing Voyages, Bunny book collections, random mini-comics and hand-made Bunny figurines and soft toy mascots! Maybe some posters and stickers? And perhaps a little something unusual to go along with them, a game of intrigue and chance perhaps? Keep an eye out for a watermelon.

What was it that prompted you to select (the admittedly adorable) Bunnies as your signature characters?

I think they were a meme, way back when. How it happened I’m not actually too sure.

Was the production of accompanying Bunny collectibles something you’d always had in mind, or did it stem from a desire to branch out and make something a bit different?

I think it comes down to really enjoying making things. I enjoy working out how items come together, how to refine the process, how to make them look just as I want them to. Problem-solving, essentially.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I love Thought Bubble and conventions/shows in general because they’re fun and they’re work, and it’s so rare that you get to combine them. It’s great to meet existing readers, introduce some new ones to the rather confusing world of Bunny, getting to see old friends and catching up with comic-creating colleagues.

The only bad part is there is never, ever enough time. Sometimes it’s hard to leave the table and walk around a bit as a pedestrian and see the immense creative sea that stretches as far as the eye can see (or at least until the end of the hall). I generally leave feeling inspired… and very tired.

The
UK small press scene does seem to be growing ever more rapidly, have there been any noticeable changes to the community since you started?

To be honest I haven’t been involved at all in the UK small press scene at all until recently. I only did one UK convention and I was more involved in the US webcomic scene, so I’m really only just discovering just what’s out there on my doorstep so to speak. It’s all terribly exciting!

Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?

I have to admit to being fond to both. I require a lawyer to comment further.

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Mad props to Lem for talking to us, if you want to talk to him too then come along to the convention next month!

In other comics news we’re super excited that Solipsistic Pop – the biannual and best UK comics anthology ever – is launching volume three on November 12th at The Black Heart in Camden.

Volume 3 comprises an 80 page comic extravaganza for the discerning sequential art fan, featuring 30 original and exclusive stories from 26 of the finest comic artists living in the UK. Every imaginative, inventive and inspiring graphic tale within Solipsistic Pop 3 is uniquely tailored to be accessible to readers of all ages. An alternative comics primer for adults and children alike. Each anthology Includes a free Solipsistic Pop pencil for readers to create their own comic! Plus! An A3 poster & set of stickers designed by Philippa Rice.

There’s limited print-run of 500 copies, so be sure to nab one for yourself, and if you can’t make it to the launch party then it’ll be getting an official unveiling for the general public at Thought Bubble, where you’ll be able to meet most of the contributors too. Get them to sign it!

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Finally, it’s the MCM Expo this weekend, running from 29th – 31st October at the Excel centre in London, we’re going to be there with our friends from Travelling Man, and we’re bringing copies of our lovely brochure with us, including the full 2010 festival programme! Come say hi if you’re popping along, and if you see us at the after-party maybe we’ll let slip some super secret Thought Bubble 2011 news. Mystery, intrigue, comics! YAY!

- Clark



Philippa Rice Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Greetings bubblers! There are now only five weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival (18th – 21st November), and to celebrate we have a fresh minterview for you, and some Thought Bubble news as well. We spoil you, do we not?

This week we talked to Philippa “The Juzzard” Rice, whose wonderful webcomic My Cardboard Life continues to entertain us here at thought bubble towers on a regular basis. Philippa’s entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble roster can be found here, and more of her work can be seen on her blog. Let’s rap!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I didn’t start making comics ’til I’d graduated from my animation degree and was looking for more accessible ways to tell stories. Prior to that, I always enjoyed reading comics. The first comics I read were probably from the comics section in the Sunday Times called “The Funday Times” which I used to collect in a ring-binder.

Was the transition from animation to static storytelling an easy one?

It’s a nice transition I think. And easier than say, animation to picture books. Because even though comics are static, the story can move through time quite quickly.

I have used animation in a few comics. It’s fun to have a moving panel or two but I’m not sure if it works really. As soon as there’s something moving in there, it distracts your eyes from reading the comic in the proper order. I’d like to experiment with that more at some point though.

So, what prompted the initial choice to create characters from cardboard and other materials, as opposed to simply drawing them?

Just experimenting with different techniques really. When I first wrote about Cardboard Colin I imagined him being painted, which seems a bit strange now.

Collage might actually be more straight-forward than drawing to be honest, because I don’t have to do any pencils, I just cut the pieces out, stick them down, draw the faces and other details on and that’s it.

How long does it take to create a new character? Does the physical making of them take longer than thinking them up?

It really depends on the character. Cardboard Colin doesn’t take long, but Silvia Foil is a nightmare to cut out. She blunts my scalpel. Cardboard Carl probably takes the longest because he’s made up of three different materials. Cardboard body, Denim jeans and a fabric beard. I remake them for every panel they appear in, so if it’s a comic with six panels and Carl is in every one, it will take lots of hours.

Thinking them up doesn’t feel like it takes very long, because I write things down in my sketchbook when I think of them.

What are your favourite comics at the moment? Are there any you consider an influence on your own work?

I just finished reading My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley. That was a goodun! I like autobio comics, they can be so touching plus they’re guaranteed to be original.

Most of my influences come from picture books or animation rather than comics. Like the way Lauren Child mixes together loads of different patterns and textures in the Charlie and Lola books. I’m a big fan of unusual materials or techniques, as in animations by Jan Svankmajer and Caroline Leaf. Also I enjoy any kind of silliness. I love those old silly symphonies cartoons, and also Spongebob Squarepants.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

At the last few conventions I’ve done I’ve had a diorama on my table. A 3D model of the My Cardboard Life characters in a shoebox. At MCM Expo it was a picnic, at UK Web & Mini Comix it was a tea party. My idea for Thought Bubble is that the My Cardboard Life characters are going to be having their own mini convention inside that shoebox and they’ll have mini versions of the comics, mugs, badges and prints that I’ve got on my table, plus some other surprise items (surprises for me too since I haven’t made them yet).

Are the characters in the shoebox environment ‘life-size’ versions of their online counterparts? How big are they in ‘real-life’?

Well the actual size of the characters in the comics varies a bit from panel to panel, but they are generally the same size as the models in the dioramas. Pauline is about 7cm tall and Colin is 4.5cm. The only real difference about the models is that Colin’s got wire legs and arms instead of ink lines.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I do! It’s a novelty for me to meet real, actual people who read my comics. Plus it’s a massive inspiration boost to see everyone else’s work.

Have you noticed any changes in the UK community since you started creating comics yourself? Is it different to those in other countries from what you’ve seen?

This is a tricky question! It’s difficult for me to judge. In the past two years that I’ve been making comics, it does seem like the UK comics community is changing and growing, and that people are talking about comics more, but perhaps I just feel that way because I’m gradually getting more involved myself.

No, what am I talking about, UK comics are going through the roof! Look at all the stuff that’s going on, I’m seeing events and workshops appearing all over the place. Look at Solipsistic Pop! It’s amazing. I don’t really know about the communities in other countries, but let me tell you, UK comics are hot news, and we are going to show them!

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

If they both asked me out on a date I’d go for the thought bubble. He’s kooky yet considerate.

***

Thanks to Philippa for talking to us, and you can see her talking in person on a panel as part of the Thought Bubble programme which was released recently (segue!).

This year the festival has even more wonderful (and mostly free) events taking place around our centre-piece one-day comic convention! For full details check the website and if you’re planning on attending any of our limited place events then please e-mail thoughtbubbleinfo[at]googlemail[dot]com as soon as possible to book a space and avoid any disappointment!

This year we’ve also expanded the number of screenings being shown in association with Leeds International Film Festival, featuring a number of exclusives that you’ll have to see to believe! Yay!

***

Related to this, our friends at Leeds Central Library’s Your Space are running a regular series of free manga meets for people under the age of 20. Full details on the flyer below.

That’s your lot for now, last few minterviews coming soon, and we’ll have some last minute Thought Bubble 2010 surprises for you as the start of the festival draws ever closer! Zounds!

- Clark



Howard Hardiman Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey you guys! Super special minterview time! Hold your shocked gasps until the end, please. This week we’re talking to Howard Hardiman (now an honourary Friend of Thought Bubble)  the excellent creator behind cutebutsad, whose latest comic project – The Lengths – is looking like it could be something very special indeed. In his own words it “will tell the story of Eddie, a young man who moves to London to art school, but in his quest to find himself, he finds Nelson, a muscled prostitute who he becomes infatuated with and follows into a world of drugs and vice and then his quest for absolution once he finds that it’s a life he’s not cut out for.” Powerful stuff, and from the previews alone the artwork looks gorgeous.

For more of Howard’s work I suggest checking out his website, and he’s on twitter too, but without much further ado, here’s the chat we had...

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I don’t even know if I’m entirely sure what that means, really. When I was growing up, once I’d stopped wanting to be an astronaut, a mother, a vet or Spider-Man, I wanted to be a writer, then a poet, then while I was at art school I started getting into photography alongside writing poetry. I toyed with both, getting a few things published but never being happy, having a few exhibitions of photography, never quite being happy with those either, then I started doodling on post-it notes while I was at work and drawing very bad pictures of animals saying slightly random things. From that, I wound up selling a zine and some post-it notes in picture frames at the UK Web Comics Thing a few years back, then Badger sort of appeared and I suppose that’s a sort of skewed potted history of me. There wasn’t a moment when I thought, “Yes! Comics!” and I think I still spend more time looking at other kinds of art than comics, to the point where I feel a bit lost when other comics artists are talking about things they’ve read – I still feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because of all the time I’ve spent looking at and reading other stuff, but get me on my favourite artists and writers and I’ll bore you to death with my geekdom.

So, in amongst the ‘other stuff”, is there any work that you’d consider an influence on your own output?

Well, I worked at the National Gallery on and off for a for a few years and I think now that I’ve spent the last year doing the MA in Illustration at Camberwell and taking a lot more time on drawing and composition, the influence that painting’s had on my visual language is starting to come through, so I’ve been finding myself going back to look at how Caravaggio used light and how how painters like Titian and Reubens use composition. I’m not for a moment saying I’ve got an ounce of their talent, but it’s really inspiring to have that resource available. I’m also a massive fan of the way some artists can create a sense of mood or spirituality through tone, like Rotkho or Van Gogh – the exhibition of Van Gogh and his Letters at the Royal Academy this year was amazing, particularly because they had lots of pages from his sketchbooks and it really gave you a sense of how he thought and there’s a slightly self-indulgent part of me that wondered if some of these artists might have found their way into comics if they were working now.

Um, other stuff. I love Klimt for texture, and I’m not ashamed to say I got a bit emotional when I saw his paintings first-hand in Vienna a few years back. I’m also a bit of a fan of Mapplethorpe’s photography, not just because there’s a lot of beautiful men in it, but because of how incredibly he uses light to lift subjects into a timeless place and I’ve been looking at a lot of that lately, too. That said, for The Lengths, I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of naked men, like Joe Oppedisano’s work, because it’s a territory I’m delving into there.

I’m still a big fan of poetry and I think there’s an influence there that endures, whether it’s Plath or Hughes (when he’s introspective) or the acrobatics of Gerard Manley Hopkins or the beautiful intellect of someone like Miroslav Holub, there’s something about the craft of poetry that still holds huge appeal to me and it’s something I think I will return to.

Books wise, I’ve been really excited by Scarlett Thomas this last year since Anna Petterson got me reading The End of Mr Y, and that book’s raised my expectations of what storytelling’s capable of weaving into itself, but I’d also have to say I’m a bit of a fan of slightly intellectually arrogant philosophical novels as a general rule, so I still go back to Hermann Hesse as one of the best of that genre.

I’ve also been reading The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker over the last year, which tells you an awful lot about how stories are constructed and what they’re for, archetypically, and that’s surprised me that it’s made me intrigued rather than horribly depressed.

Oh, I’m also a huge fan of stuff about science and I get far too excited about quantum physics and astronomy, but I can’t quite say that’s really filtered through into my comics, apart from a line in Polaroids from Other Lives, but who knows what might come in somewhere down the line?

That wound up being a bit of a list, didn’t it? I think the basic thing is that I’m excited by loads of things and I think the beauty of comics is that it’s a very malleable medium, so there’s, at least theoretically, room for all of these influences to worm their way in, so it’s a perfect place for someone who’s a bit of a synaesthete like me to be dotting around from place to place, falling in love with lots of things at once.

Do you think there’s an expectation that a ‘comic’ creator should be a font of geek knowledge – that the production of sequential art goes hand-in-hand with being a ‘nerd’?

Well.  I think there’s a stereotype that comics fans are introverts with no sense of a world outside of comics, which is really being exploded as the audience expands and becomes more literate and I think we’re living in a culture that’s increasingly visually literate and consumes an incredible amount of coded visual information all the time, so it stands to reason that we consume comics in a very complex manner. I think it’s only reasonable, then, that if you’re creating comics then you’re someone who’s also a bit immersed in the same way of thinking so that you’re giving the reader something that will stimulate them.

I know that I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to share things with an audience right from the start with what I’ve been making, but that’s also meant that I’ve been learning in public a bit and as I say, there’s times when I’m aware that that makes me quite exposed because there’s so many people who know so much more about comics than I do, but that’s brilliant when people are so generous with what they know, I really can’t take it as criticism; I can’t be blamed for not knowing what I don’t know.

That’s not quite what you were asking, though, was it? Are comics people nerds? I don’t think so; I think there’s such a diversity of work being produced and a diversity in the audience drawn to the work that perhaps wasn’t there when the only comics you’d be exposed to would be superhero comics or newspaper strips that it’s less true than before to say that it’s a niche thing to like comics. I think the DIY Zine scene and the art books scene has brought a lot into the world of comics, just as the mainstream success of stuff like Watchmen has at the other end of the market.

Still, I only read Watchmen quite recently; I hadn’t liked the way the colours were printed and that had put me off, so I was late to the game on that one, but I don’t think I mind that much knowing that I don’t actually know the names of all the alien princesses in alternative Marvel universes. I think there’s room for all that and more.

I’m impressed when there’s people whose entire lives seems to revolve around comics, and the collectors and cosplayers scared me at first and now just amaze me. I just hope no-one’s too offended when I don’t know who that wig and codpiece combo’s meant to make you.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

Well, I’ll have the two Badger books and some of the artwork from the first book for sale and some of the short comics I’ve made over the last couple of years, but this last year I’ve had my head down to do a lot of development work on a new comic, The Lengths, which is my first foray into “proper” comics storytelling with words and a long story and panels and things, rather than the wordless tales for Badger or the graphic poems I made for Polaroids From Other Lives. The Lengths is based around interviews I did with men selling sex to men in London, so it’s quite a heavy subject and it’s one I want to do justice to, so I’m hoping to have something to show from it in time for Thought Bubble, but it’s slow progress, so if it’s not done in time, then we might just have to cope…

What inspired you to take on the – presumably quite dark – subject matter of prostitution in comic form, as opposed to, say, just publishing the interviews?

At first, when I did the interviews, I’d thought they were going to end up forming a play, and I got as far as having meetings with artistic directors at theatres about putting it into development, but it wasn’t feeling like the right medium for the material and I didn’t want to go ahead with it. I wrote a couple of articles around it, about attitudes that escorts have towards HIV, and I was quite pleased with those, but they were a different beast to telling a story, so I just kept the material for a couple of years until I didn’t have such a strong sense of being able to remember the people attached to each interview so I was able to approach it again as a story rather than as an account of real people’s lives.

I think there’s something really personal about comics that you don’t get from other media, so it seemed like the right way to do it, and making the characters dogs has a symbolic importance in the story as well as making it a more anonymous experience for the reader and for the people whose lives I’m talking about in the story. There’s still a lot of real events that will be in the comic, but it’s now much more of a story rather than an account and I’d like to hope that making it a bit more symbolic and emotional means that more people will be able to relate to what’s in it.

I would still like to use the interviews, but perhaps I’ll save them up for when the collected edition comes out and use a few of the transcripts then. There’s some really moving, funny and chilling things that came out in those chats and some of the guys I met through that process I’m still friends with now, so I’m hoping they’ll like the way the comic ends up.

Is Badger finished now, or might we see his inquisitive little face again?

Oh, Badger will be back, but I think he’s very much connected to a particular mood for me and he pops out when I don’t really expect him to, so we’ll have to see when he comes out.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

No, Thought Bubble is rubbish and all the organisers are mean. Ha, seriously? Yes, although I’m not sure how many events I could say are “like Thought Bubble” – it’s got such a good atmosphere and the crowd is really engaged with the comics and the artists there, it’s seriously one of my favourite events on the comics calendar of the year.

That said, the slumber party that Timothy Winchester, Lizz Lunney and Philippa Rice had at Caption will live in infamy.

Well, we can be quite mean sometimes. Do you think the UK general public’s ‘acceptance’ of comics in the mainstream has increased over the last few years?

I’d like to think so – I’ve only been making comics for the last few years, so I can’t really comment with any authority about any difficult wilderness years before then, but it’s been a very supportive couple of years for me and I’m really happy with how it’s been going. Obviously, I’d love to see a situation where we had more of us able to make a living out of making the work we love and I’d like to see Marc Ellerby being more stalked than Jordan and Tom Humberstone (see, I can get his name right sometimes!) nodding sagely on Newsnight, but let’s see, eh?

Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Actually, in The Lengths, I’m kind of going for neither, so the narration sort of floats in the background. I don’t know if that counts as captioning, if it’s a thought bubble the shape of the sky, or a caption box that’s the window of a District Line train.

Hmm, that wasn’t terrifically good at answering the question, was it?

***

Thanks to Howard for taking the time to talk to use, we’re really looking forward to seeing the finished copies of The Lengths, and hope you out there in the interwebs are too.

In Thought Bubble news – we’ve finalised the programme for this year’s festival, completed the brochure designs and will be officially announcing the full line-up of events very soon. Sunday’s workshops and masterclasses in particular are looking very strong, and Thursday and Friday’s academic conferences should be a fascinating insight into the more ‘serious’ side of comics.

Fresh minterview next week, just a few to go now in the run-up to Thought Bubble 2010, don’t forget to enter our comic competition, the deadline for submissions is Monday 18th October!

- Clark



Kristyna Baczynski Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Howdy Hey! A fresh minterview for you all to devour with your eyes. This week we’re talking to the super-cool Kristyna Baczynski, a previous Thought Bubble competition winner, whose entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble canon can be found here. I’d highly recommend checking out her website for further ocular delights! Spect-ocular!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

Sure, I reckon the seed was planted right back in my formative years – as I’m sure it is for most folks. Reading picture books: illustrations telling a story.

My mum would take us to the library once a week to check out some new pulp; a most treasured activity. It was here that I became enchanted with seeing an image illuminate a story – words transform into being; communicating with pens, paint and paper.

Do you think the general association with children’s stories is perhaps why comics are viewed with a certain amount of derision in some circles?

I think the idea that comics are any less valid as a communicative device than text-only books is ridiculous. Also, the thought that children’s books have nothing to offer if you aren’t a child is pretty demoralising.

Whether it’s a newspaper, hardback novel or broadsheet newspaper there’s still the same amount of shit you have to wade through to reach something you can connect with and find meaningful. Children’s book, comic or otherwise – there’s always a gem to be found – it just takes some looking.

If someone can dismiss a tome simply because it has an air of juvenility, then they are going to miss out on a heap of beautiful things. And by this breath cinema should then be equally scorned. It too combines language and image – but we don’t see cinema as being wholly tainted as juvenile and frivolous. It, too, has the potential to be profound, absorbing and immersive.

Comics are as versatile, descriptive and limitless as any other communicative tool – simultaneously linguistic, visual and most importantly valid.

…Nerve touched.

I do hate it when comics are dismissed as ‘kiddie’ stuff. Do you still read comics to this day? Do they continue to be a source of inspiration to you?

Absolutely – I read comics almost every day. And am continually inspired by their writing and ingenuity.

Your work tends to be infused with a sense of whimsy and a slightly idiosyncratic sense of humour, does this reflect you as a person?

An obscured and refracted reflection, yes… I am hopelessly enamored with language and wordplay, it is true.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

An amalgamation of avidity and unerring anxiety. But also a spread of new zines, prints, comics, apparel, oddities and assorted occular goodies.

The production HQ (dining table) will be thriving come November.

A fine selection! Have you always worked in multiple media?

Why, thank you.

Not always multiple media. It always starts with mechanical pencils, micron pens and paper – but the more I work the more I tend to turn my hand to. Staving off boredom and stagnancy with adventure and exploration.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

Absolutely. Thought Bubble 2009 was my first step into the world of conventions and fairs – a day which was so unutterably wonderful, I am forever convinced of my enjoyment for such events.

They manage to summon a treasury of interested, enthused and engaging people, which is rare and heartening… especially to studio-bound recluses.

We do attract an awesome bunch of attendees it has to be said. Any important lessons learned from your first outing?

That a fearful attitude is nothing but a hindrance. Staying indoors drawing is a solitary occupation that can make you a hermit. Going out and meeting a bunch of like-minded and talented denizens is the perfect antidote.

Do you think the UK small press community is welcoming to débutantes? How easy did you find it to establish yourself on the scene?

If there is a ‘scene’ I’m unaware of it, or already a happy member. It’s something quite abstract really, and I don’t know who, what or where it is… I’m just here drawing, printing, blogging and emailing. And I’m very lucky that some people have noticed my work and said some very lovely things. I am indebted to them all.

By making your own comics, you are already a member.

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

There is a necessity for both, and a certain loveliness to be achieved with none. Honestly, though, I think I’m a caption box kid.

…I’m going to be shunned as a defector now, aren’t I?

Rats.

***

While we’re never ones to call for ostracism following the denouncement of the humble thought bubble, we do find that those who partake in the act tend to meet their comeuppance. Mark my words. My ominous, ominous words…

In other news, our friends over at Comika are having an exhibition! If you’re in our nation’s fair capital you should go check it out. You know you want to. Details on the flyer (below)

That’s all for now! Check back soon for another minterview. See ya!

- Clark



Tom Humberstone Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Fresh Minterview for you! Today we’re talking to the eminently talented  Tom ‘Ventedspleen’ Humberstone, whose work has long been a favourite here in the lofty spires of Thought Bubble Towers. You can find the profile we did a while back on Tom here, and I urge you all to check out his 100 Days comic project. It’s ACES.

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To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

Comics! Call them comics! :)

I started making comics at art college when I became disillusioned with some of my peers and frustrated with the few seconds of animation I was producing each week despite extremely long hours in the studio. To me, making a comic was a wonderful exercise in instant gratification. Which, as time has gone by and I attempt more ambitious work, seems laughably naive in retrospect.

Regardless, I started photocopying these vicious little character assassinations called Art School Scum on the way into college and plastered them throughout the halls under the pseudonym of Ventedspleen. To my surprise the comic proved extremely popular and a couple of friends convinced me to publish a collection of the comics.

That was my first taste of the small press. Since then I’ve dipped in and out of comics and the alternative press scene here in the UK – only treating it as more than a hobby over the past couple of years.

Heh, ok, so comics  – what prompted the shift from casual creator to fully fledged small press mastermind?

Ha. Not sure I’d call myself that…

Well. After I graduated, I worked in film for about a year which left me very little free time to concentrate on my own work – in fact, that was the main reason I backed away from the industry. I was incredibly frustrated creatively. I dabbled in producing more comics work – starting How To Date A Girl In Ten Days and attending more comic conventions. This led to me attending TCAF in 2007 which really renewed my enthusiasm for comics and helped to solidify a bunch of ideas that had been kicking around my head for years. I suppose it wasn’t until sometime after I returned from America and published My Fellow Americans that I started to have the time, finances and – crucially – health to follow through on those ideas…

Some, if not all, of your comics are extremely personal in content, were you ever tempted to retain the anonymity that publishing under a pseudonym affords?

The Ventedspleen pseudonym was created principally for Art School Scum because I never wanted the content to be judged as being by a ‘fine artist’ or ‘designer’ or ‘illustrator’. For the material to work properly, the author needed to be anonymous. This could only last so long of course, and as people started to discover it was me behind the comics I inevitably found myself in conversations with friends suggesting I draw a comic about a specific person or even request one about themselves. So it had to end.

Since then I’ve kept the name but have never really wanted or had the need to hide behind it. I’m really very comfortable with people knowing it is me who has Crohn’s disease or has an under-developed ability to date. It’s only dawning on me now to really get rid of that name altogether – something I keep putting off because of the amount of work involved with moving websites and ‘rebranding’

Are there any particular creators that you admire? Any favourite comics that you read to this day?

Oh, far far far too many! Probably all the usual suspects too. Tomine had a huge influence on me as a teenager. As did Pekar, Moore, Seth, Ware, Jeffrey Brown, Matt, Crumb…

The two turning points for me as a teen coming back to comics after falling out of the habit – were From Hell and Sleepwalk. Those were what brought me back to the LCS.

I’ll always pick up whatever Joe Sacco does, or Craig Thompson, or Rutu Modan, or Farel Dalrymple… I’m sorry, this question is spiralling out of control quickly. I’m just going to keep listing a bunch of names…

Lately I’ve really been enjoying the work of Hope Larson, Lucy Knisely and Raina Telgemeier. Smile was fantastic. Oh oh oh! And James Sturm’s Market Day is the best comic of the year hands down.

Do you think you’ll ever try your hand at animation again having experienced the more “drawn-out” side to comic creation?

Possibly. I love animation. But it’s very time-consuming and tends to need a team of people. I like the singular vision of the comic artist. I fear I may be too much of a control freak to want to tell stories in any other medium. Besides, there are too many exciting comics I want to make right now!

Never say never though. I could definitely see myself being involved with animation and film at some level. Be it the storyboard commissions I sometimes take on, or some other side of pre-production.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

I’ll be bringing Solipsistic Pop Book 3 which will be enjoying it’s official unveiling at Thought Bubble after a launch party in London. The back catalogue of Solipsistic Pop will also be available, as will the comics of any contributors who are unable to attend the convention.

Solipsistic Pop has been a pretty ambitious , and thoroughly successful, project – what are its origins?

It was an idea I had while travelling across America. I started to feel we had all these great comic artists who weren’t getting the attention they deserved or were unable to publish their work in the best light. So I just wanted to create that platform and provide the UK scene with a bit of an infrastructure. No matter how modest and small.

I wanted to see a UK comics version of McSweeneys and I wanted to design and publish it!

It’s something that I guess I wanted to have existed when I first came to the UK small press scene. That published the fantastic alternative comics we had in the UK in the way RAW did or Fantagraphics do with Mome. The UK comics scene has always felt a little disparate and I suppose SP was a way of tying it all together while making a beautiful book-as-art-object product that people will covet for their bookshelves.

I know that I’ve been able to watch the UK Small Press community grow rapidly since Thought Bubble started – are there any changes that you’ve noticed since being active on the scene?

It’s certainly a lot more encouraging now than it was maybe three or four years ago. I think one of the reasons I never quite committed to small press comics was due to being a little disappointed with the UK scene back then. I didn’t really feel there were many people on my wavelength at the time. I just didn’t feel inspired by it. I guess that’s why TCAF was such an eye-opener for me.

Now, that could very well just be down to me being too shy and insecure about my work at the time to fully engage with the UK scene. But whatever the case, I think most people would find it hard to disagree with the notion that UK comics are incredibly strong right now and there feels like there is a real momentum building for everyone involved.

Everyone feels it I think. I don’t think there’s a better time to be making comics and I also think it’s a sustainable momentum. Too many people have great business models and ideas in place for it to be ruined by any sort of false media/publishing interest.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I generally find comic festivals and conventions quite exhausting and hard work, but Thought Bubble is the exception. Thought Bubble is one of only two comic events (the other being TCAF) that I genuinely enjoy and look forward to. It’s always a lot of fun and I came away last year feeling enthused and inspired. I’m not exaggerating when I say Thought Bubble is my favourite UK comic festival.

Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Aw, I have a massive soft spot for thought bubbles regardless of whether they are considered in vogue or not. It’s probably not very fashionable to be a fan of thought bubbles right now, but I like them. They’re a part of the rich visual language of comics and a wonderfully succinct pictorial shorthand – why would any comic artist turn their nose up at that? They’re extremely versatile too. I have a lot of time for the thought bubble.

***

Many thanks to Tom for taking the time to rap with us, his work is super mega good, and Solipsistic Pop has quickly become the anthology of note in the UK. Lovely stuff. Be sure to check back on Monday for some BIG NEWS. Like, Godzilla big. Srsly.

- Clark



Matt Sheret Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

The blog returns! After a slightly longer hiatus than I’d envisaged – apologies, I was playing Starfighter at the arcade and got called up to help save the planet Rylos, honestly – we’re back in business, and what better way than to kick off a fresh round of minterviews to help speed along that dull wait until this year’s Thought Bubble!

For those of you who missed last year’s vintage – minterviews are mini-interviews that we do with the small press and indie comickers we’ve profiled during the run up to this year’s festival, along with a few secret surprise ones with guests at this year’s convention thrown in for good measure. Tantalising.

This week we’re in conversation with Mr Matthew Sheret, an extremely talented writer, and vanguard of the UK indie comics scene whose work with We Are Words + Pictures is consistently leaving me feeling all warm and fuzzy about the possibilities that comics represent. His Thought Bubble profile is here, and the interview is there (slightly lower down your screen). Wizard.

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Hi Matt, thanks for talking to us today – to start, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

Comics. I got into comics three times: One reading in the hairdressers I used to go to in Southampton, waiting for my Mum and my sister to have their hair done, I’d read the same Turtles comic. I must have seen the pages about twenty or thirty times, I know I tried to leave with it once or twice. It was mostly the turtles sitting around a campfire, I don’t remember much more than that.

Two was getting into Robin and Young Justice at secondary school, and swarming through the DCU a little after that. Then, just as that was wearing off, and I’d come to London for University, I picked up a few Vertigo books and eventually Phonogram. Becoming friends with Kieron [Gillen] and Jamie [McKelvie] pulled me back into comics big time, and much as I try and break free I keep finding myself with illustrators for friends and webcomics on my browser and trade paperbacks by my bedside. I’m stuck.

As for creating, I started a creative partnership with Julia Scheele in 2008 called We Are Words + Pictures (or WAW+P for short), which last year shifted direction a little to become more of a small press events team, producing the Paper Science anthology and heading to fairs and festivals with pens and paper.

Are there any particular comics, or other pop culture creations in general, that you consider an influence on your work?

The most direct influences on how I write – for comics, as a journalist, the whole shebang – can probably be found in the work of Paul Morley (whose repetition and use of lists are fabulous techniques), B. S. Johnson (cult British novelist whose work is heartbreaking and beautiful), Kieron Gillen’s indie work. The thread really is a desire to play with form, which are pretty much what any project I work on has to do in some way, personal or professional.

The things I’m trying to absorb at the moment are Lost At Sea and I Kill Giants. They’re both phenomenal, under-appreciated works, and if I can tell stories half way as moving as they are I’ll be happy.

So, do you think that your work in comics has influenced your journalistic writing, or vice versa?

Well, on my good days there’s definitely a Matthew Sheret voice, that could be found in, say, The Covers ‘zine I did with Julia Scheele, my piece on 00′s Music for Global Comment and my blog project threesixfivestart. They’re all fed from the same place, there’s a lot of cross-pollination in terms of how I think language works and what I want to do as a writer.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

At Thought Bubble we’ll be bringing two things; one is the latest Paper Science anthology, the other is kind of an annual report on what WAW+P’s been up to, as well as some ideas about what we want to do. It’ll be frank, punchy, honest, maybe even brutal.
What prompted the shift in WAW+P’s output? Was it difficult taking on the ‘editor’ role for Paper Science?

The shift happened for two reasons. The first is that Julia and I wanted to do work for ourselves, and that’s probably the most important. The second is that after I came back from San Diego, having sold Phonogram vs The Fans out there, I knew I just wanted to do something more with comics. As a writer I was concentrating on being a successful freelancer, and organising things in and around the scene felt like a more satisfying thing to spend my time doing than more writing. Meanwhile Julia released the first part of her journey through her parent’s lives in the 60′s, and it’s a really great piece of work. Hoping for more soon!

The editorial stuff doesn’t feel like much of a shift to be honest: I love it.

WAW+P appear to be very accepting of multimedia/multi-platform possibilities for sequential art, do you think the ‘comic book’ medium is moving away from its classical paper confines?

I don’t know if moving away is the right phrase. I hope comics are embracing a lot of formats. On good days I think they are; I see Kate Beaton on my browser at the same time as leafing through Magda Boreysha’s ToastyCats. There’s very little printed that doesn’t have an online existense anyway now – I just want to see comics that optimise that.

Print-to-screen comics jar a lot for me because the colour palette suits print, not the screen. I urge artists to check out the colour sets used by David McCandless or Mark Sarmel if their primary outlet is the web. It’s a leap worth making.

What’s been your favourite WAW+P event so far? Do you have any plans for further reinventions of the group in the future?

Haha, yeah, I love the idea of WAW+P as comics David Bowie; new era, new look. Seriously though, no re-invention; I like what we’re up to. I think our main drive is going to be getting more individuals to start WAW+P events wherever they are.

I wouldn’t play favourites with the events. All of us involved have learned a lot of lessons, for better and worse, and that’s great, I just want to move them forwards. I can say though that Latitude opened our eyes in a huge way. It was an amazing weekend of comics, in an environment that completely embraced us. I’d be surprised if you didn’t see WAW+P doing a few of those next year.

So long as you don’t go all Tin Machine, that’s cool. Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I love Thought Bubble. Really and truly a great show, for the comics, the creators, the social stuff, the atmosphere. Our first, in 2008, was a sell-out success, and for fledgling creators that was a huge deal. I’ll forever have fond memories of DJ’ing last year too – immortalised in comic form by Julia – in which I made a room of people dance to Outkast. I would later join Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen and Mike Molcher onstage as an ersatz Take That, which I have a blurry memory of, but there’s video footage to make up for that…

The UK comics scene does seem to be thriving – it’s certainly growing every day from my experience  – have you seen many changes to the community since you became involved as a creator?

Confidence. It’s rising across the board, and rightfully so. As creators everyone’s stepping up, supporting others along the way. It’s beautiful. I just want – need – people to do more. Almost any creator moaning about not having a large audience isn’t doing enough to reach one, and I mean that. The UK aren’t ignorant about the medium, they know how to read comics, a lot of them like comics, they just haven’t been given a convincing enough reason to buy them. So go and talk to them.

Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?

I know I’m supposed to say thought bubbles… I’ll leave it at that.

***

Huge thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions (that sounded a lot less police procedural in my head), check out WAW+P as they’re usually up to something mind blowingly cool. Oh and I Kill Giants is totally one of my comics of last year, if not the decade, if not history. Tres bon.

Another minterview coming up next week, who will it be with? Well, you’ll have to wait and see.

- Clark



Ben Templesmith Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

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.

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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!

- Clark




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