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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