Thought Bubble 2016: 1st-6th November!


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.

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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


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