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