Howdy Hey! Happy St George’s Day, Shakespeare’s Birthday/Deathday, Cervantes Birthday, and ZX Spectrum’s Birthday! Phew!
In non-birthday news, this year’s Thought Bubble Festival is creeping inexorably closer, waiting to pounce upon you and show you the best that comics has to offer. Kind of like a tiger, if tigers liked to pounce upon you and then show you the best that comics has to offer, instead of eating you.
Convoluted animal metaphors aside, we’re happy to announce that Saviles Hall tables for this year’s convention are now sold out! Royal Armouries Hall is likely to follow closely on its heels, so if you want to exhibit at 2012’s convention then be sure to book soon!
Tables have sold in record time and numbers this year, and we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s booked one. Check out all the exhibitors who’re confirmed so far on the website, and see why we think this Thought Bubble is going to be our best yet!
Ok, so, it’s only 202 days until this year’s festival, but in the meantime, we have a little something for you…
People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood. But it did happen. However, that’s not what we’re here to talk about! Instead we’ve been chatting with a few comic creators and writing down the results! Minterviews! Wheeeeee!
The format’s the same each week – five standard 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 chatted to John Reppion and Leah Moore one of our favourite comic writing teams; creators of ripping yarns, whose free-to-air webcomic The Thrill Electric is a great read. You can see what we talked about after the jump!
TB: Hi guys, 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?
Leah: I submitted a little 8 page story called King Solomon Pines anonymously to Scott Dunbier at Wildstorm and he liked it enough to publish it. I did another short story for Terrific Tales and then Scott set me homework of concocting my own series. I kicked ideas round with John, and we gradually came up with Wild Girl, and decided to write it together. We Completed the 6 issue miniseries together, and have been writing together ever since.
I think it does count as a big break, as it was a big gig to land from a standing start, but I think it kind of left us a bit clueless about how other companies worked, or what to do next really. We just had to try and get on with it, and somehow we managed to build up contacts and projects for different companies. it was slow going though, we’ve been doing this for nearly 10 years now!
TB: So, do you think there is a traditional, formal way of breaking into comics, or would you advise people to forge their own path?
John: Writers need to write stuff and artists need to draw stuff. That’s the minimum requirement. Write and draw and get your work out there; be it self-published, or small press anthologies, or whatever. Have a finished product to put in someone’s hand (or inbox) to show how you can work with others and how your skills translate into a completed comic. It’s up to you who you want to show that work to, what direction you want to go in, etc, but that’s the very best starting point, I think.
TB: What’s your proudest moment, in comics or otherwise, to date?
John: As parents we’re bound to say the birth of our son, Eddie. As clichéd as it might seem, he makes us both immensely, immensely proud every single day.
Professionally, The Trial of Sherlock Holmes is still probably the series I’m proudest of, just because we set our selves a goal of writing something that we’d never done before (and something that wasn’t easy) and it worked out really well; people really liked it. Saying that, I’m very, very proud of The Thrill Electric too (which is still free to read online at www.thethrillelectric.com).
TB: Do you find it intimidating working with revered characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, as opposed to creating characters/worlds, such as in The Thrill Electric?
Leah: Adapting Dracula felt less intimidating, because there are so many versions out there already and lots of them are kind of known for being a bit crap, so we felt we were already doing more by keeping to the original story, staying with the original plot etc. We had that angle to give us confidence.
When we did our first Sherlock Holmes book, we absolutely felt terrified that we’d do it, and all the Holmes fans in the world would just blow a collective raspberry at us, and stamp it “FAILED”. Amazingly, it has been incredibly well received by Holmes fans, and new readers alike, so we must have got away with that one.
Writing Doctor Who too, the pressure was enormous, but again people seemed to enjoy it. I think the fear keeps you very careful with the feel of the story. You don’t want to “give it a new twist” so much as “not horribly balls it up”, so I think it’s a good thing!
TB: And are there any characters you’d relish the chance to write for, any literary classics you think are ripe for adapting?
John: Well, let me preface this by saying I do not read monthlies at all (sorry) and am completely out of touch with all the new re-launched revamped rebooted continuity, but some part of me does still dream of writing Batman. I actually only just read Gotham by Gaslight properly very recently and it gave me the same excitement that reading The Dark Knight and The Killing Joke did when I was ten years old.
As for literary classics, there are so many great stories that could be adapted really well for comics and brought to a whole new audience. I’m not naming any otherwise someone else will do them and we’ll be out of a job! Well actually, a book we wanted to adapt and that didn’t work out was Day of the Triffids, and I still think that could be really, really good.
TB: Do you enjoy attending conventions and other events like Thought Bubble?
Leah: I love going to conventions, especially as we don’t get to so much anymore since Eddie was born. It’s a great chance to meet the readers, see our friends and catch up on the industry gossip. It’s a weird job socially, because we all sit in our spare rooms on our own, talking on the internet or the phone, but don’t meet up much except for the cons.
They end up torn between work and fun, with everyone trying not to end up too hungover to function by the end of the weekend. (I say that mainly from memory as I was pregnant at the last Thought Bubble I attended!)
Thought Bubble is a really amazing convention. It’s really well organised, the guests are looked after, the communication is great, the location is really easy to get to, and the vibe is always really relaxed and fun. I’ve never heard a bad word said about it, which for saying how much comics professionals like to moan and gripe to one another about ANYTHING, is nothing short of supernatural! We were there at the first one, and we’ll keep coming back as long as you’ll have us. Long may it continue!
John: Thought Bubble is the one! Best UK by far in my opinion.
TB: Thanks guys! We’ll keep putting it on as long as everyone lets us! So, have you noticed any changes in terms of the people attending conventions over the years you’ve been attending them as guests?
Leah: I think there are more young people, more teenagers, more kids, and a lot more girls. The whole cosplay thing has done masses to drag in teens to conventions, but it’s also brought together comic fans, gaming fans, anime fans, steampunk fans.
A convention now is so much more than old guys and one woman dressed as Electra; it’s a much more lively vibe now. More family friendly, less cliquey. You don’t have to be hunting through long boxes for a back issue to enjoy the con.
TB: Which comics are you enjoying at the moment, any all-time favourites?
John: Neither of us is keeping up with the monthlies at all these days, sadly. The most recent books I read are probably Neonomicon and Captain Swing, which are both quite mental in their own way. We both read the Owly book most days as our son is pretty obsessed with them. Comics I’m most likely to pick up from the shelf and read again are the Hellboy Library volumes. I love them!
edit – since we conducted the interview John’s read some more comics, and recommends one of them here.
Leah: I read Erica Moen’s Bucko, and Danielle Corsetto’s GirlsWithSlingshots online too, but, as John says, we haven’t bought actual paper comics in ages. I got Adam Cadwell’s Blood Blokes as the MCM Expo, and I’m looking forward to more of those, but we are rubbish at buying things! The only thing I actively go out of my way to get is anything by the Hernandez Bros. You can never have too much of those guys. I’m happily addicted.
TB: So, if you both had one book to recommend to someone who’d never looked at a comic before to convert them into a lifelong fan, which would you pick?
John: My God, that’s a tough question. Not either of the books I just mentioned! It really depends on the person and what they’re into. Whatever it is, there’s bound to be a comic that’s perfect for them. That’s a bit of a cop-out, isn’t it? But I do think it’s true.
Leah: I would go for something like Bryan Talbot’s Tale of One Bad Rat, just because it’s so clean and expertly done, and heart wrenching and beautiful all at once. Anyone who wasn’t impressed by that would need their head read really.
TB: Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?
John: I think we’ve only ever used thought bubbles once and that was in our Alice in Wonderland adaptation. No, wait, we might have used them in some of the DC Thompson pastiche bits in Albion. But, 99.9% of the time its caption boxes for us.
Many thanks to Leah and John for talking to us, we’ll have another Minterview for you next Monday!
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