Thought Bubble 2016: 1st-6th November!


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.

***

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


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