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Minterviews 2012 – Becky Cloonan by thoughtbubblefestival
26/03/2012, 8:55 am
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Minterviews, News, Thought Bubble 2012

Hello you!

Today’s minterview can be read below, but first a bit of TB Festival business…

Tables for this year’s convention are selling fast! We’ve got all the information on how to book up on the website, and early-bird prices are in effect until August 1st, but we reckon they’ll all be booked long before then, so act quickly if you want to bag one for yourself.

If you’re not that interested in the purchasing of a table, but instead curious to see who’ll be sat behind them at this year’s convention, then we’ve been updating the hall pages on the website. You can see everyone who’s confirmed so far for Saviles Hall here, and Armouries Hall here, and we’ll be updating the pages every Friday until all the tables are sold. Cushty!

And so onwards to today’s treat – we’ve got another Minterview for you! They said it wouldn’t happen (they didn’t), they tried to shut it down (they didn’t), and the man doesn’t want you to read them (he is most likely indifferent), but we went ahead anyway, and we chatted to some of comics’ best and brightest, and we’re bringing the results to you on a weekly basis.

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 Becky Cloonan one of our favourite storytellers, whose mini-comic Wolves was one of the highlights of last year, and who provided the cover for last year’s TB Anthology! Words to read after the jump.

***

TB: Hi Becky, 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?

Breaking in was so gradual that at times I feel like I’m still doing it! This year I am a guest at San Diego comic con, does that mean I have finally arrived? Who knows! Demo was the book that put me on the metaphorical map for sure, but every new book I do comes with that feeling of exploring new territory. The trick for me has been to keep busy.

TB: So, when you first started out was it a case of learning by doing? What’s your background with regards to artistic training?

I went to the School of Visual Arts for animation, and ended up dropping out because the industry collapsed. I took one cartooning class while I was there and it kind of opened up my eyes that all the comics I had done until then were unfinished, so I decided to focus on short short stories. I started making mini-comics (this was in 1999), and a few years later my work was seen by Brian Wood who wanted to work with me.

Until that point my work had been very much for myself – personal and abstract at times, I wasn’t thinking about comics as a medium to communicate, I was more trying to experiment with layout, design and just building my chops. I never thought of people reading my mini comics, I did them more for myself. Brian liked what he saw, and it was working off his script that I started to think of comics as a means to tell a story; I thought less about doing comics for me, and more about what people will get out of them when they read them. This was a big turning point for me.

I still learn on the job so to speak – every book is an evolutionary process, and I finish each one differently than I began it. I learned a lot from school, and I still learn from my peers – but most of it is pushing myself to constantly improve and to never be satisfied with what I am doing. Always try to make the next page better than the last.

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

I was playing the first Guilty Gear game for Playstation, and I managed to pull off an instant death move on Justice, the final boss. That was pretty impressive, and luckily my best friend was there to agree that I probably won’t do anything as cool as that ever again.

As far as comics go, probably self-publishing my last mini comic Wolves. Between conventions and online sales I’ve managed to move 3,000 books in ten months! The overwhelmingly positive response is really encouraging, and I’m psyched to print my next book in a month.

TB: Insta-kill on a final boss? Nice. So, do you prefer working on your own, self-published projects then, or do you find illustrating titles like Conan just as fun?

Each has its perks – I wouldn’t want to work on every book by myself. Brian and I make books together that I’d never be able to do on my own, and let’s be honest; working with friends is so much fun! Especially when they push you to be better. But there is something about doing a comic alone that is very introspective. It’s something that represents all of you in words and pictures.

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

I love going to conventions! I still attend as a fan too, last year I went to Boston comic con just for fun, and ended up being invited as a guest this year! And truthfully, I really enjoy the medium and smaller size cons. They feel more personal! I admit every now and then I get exasperated – the hours are gruelling and it’s hard to have so many conversations in such a short time – but I always look forward to convention season, and seeing friends again.

TB: So, who’s the coolest person you’ve ever met at a con? Any personal heroes you’d like to share table space with?

I’ve met so many awesome people at cons! Like Ray Harryhausen! I told him that his films still influence my sensibilities as an artist as much as they did when I was a kid, and he told me that my tattoos will never come off. I hope I’m that cool when in 90. And, Clark, if I’m not mistaken, we met at a convention! Pretty much 95% of my friends I’ve met through comics and cons – I always count myself lucky to be part of an industry with so many amazing people!

TB: We did meet at a convention! The people you meet are the best part of all this, for sure. People aside, which comics are you enjoying at the moment, any all-time favourites?

I hate to say this but I haven’t been to a comic store in months! The last comics I read we’re Otomo’s Domu, which if you like Akira I highly recommend hunting a copy of this down!  I’m also picking up those huge BPRD hardcover collections, because I can’t live without Guy Davis’s art.

I’m really psyched to pick up some of the image re-launches like Prophet and Glory, and I’m psyched to read Corey Lewis’s long-awaited Sharknife sequel. When I get back Stateside, the second thing I’m going to do is go comic shopping.

TB: Domu is so good, with you 100% on that. So, when you do go comic shopping, are you a single-issue collector or a trade-waiter? And, as a follow-up, digital or hard copy?

Once I get an iPad or something in a vertical format I’ve decided to start buying more digitally – but I really hate reading comics on my computer, and my phone screen is too small to make it enjoyable. I’ll always choose print first, but my shelf space is very limited so I’ve been forced to be picky. I used to collect more single issues – I still buy them if I’m looking for new trades to get, but not sure if I’d enjoy it – singles are a great way to sample a story without investing too much in a trade.

TB: If you had to recommend a comic to someone who’d never read one before, which would you choose to get them hooked on the medium straight away?

I got my sister hooked on Peach Girl, a totally girly manga – she doesn’t read comics at all but she loves the drama in a lot of the Japanese shojo comics! Anyone who is into Jane Austin or BBC period pieces should read Emma by Kaoru Mori – it’s like a comic book version of Masterpiece Theatre!

There are comics for everyone out there – it’s just a matter of knowing what that person is into and suggesting something they’d enjoy. Like crime and noir mysteries? Criminal is the perfect comic. Into mind-bending action films? Casanova is a great read! Looking for a comic to read with your kids? Pick up a copy of Amulet!

It’s all about breaking the stereotype that comics are for awkward kids and degenerates who live in their parents’ basement. The goal is to get more people to read comics casually – and with so many amazing books coming out, it’s only a matter of time before we see a renaissance in comic book readership.

TB: Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?

I use caption boxes exclusively – but, let’s face it, Caption Box is a shitty name for a festival!

***

Thanks to Becky for chatting to us, and check back same bat-time, same bat-blog next week for another Minterview!

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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.

***

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 ❤ you all.