Merry Boxing Day Thought Bubblers! As today is the traditional celebratory holiday whereby we all celebrate Superman and Muhammad Ali teaming up to defeat the nefarious Scrubbs, I thought I’d give you a nice present in the form of our (i.e. my) favourite things of this (almost over) year. Now, obviously, we all know that the best thing about 2009 was the Thought Bubble festival – ahem – but there was a whole heaping pile of other good things that came out/happened this year too, so I’ll ramble on about them in no particular order and give you some “fascinating” insights too – it’s what the internet was made for. This probably won’t feature any comics, as I’ve spent a year living through them, but will feature every other form (e.g. telly, music, films) of popular culture.
This year was a great one for fans of square eyes, Battlestar Galactica finished in typically obtuse fashion, The Wire managed to round-off “the best telly series of all time” in a fitting manner, and Spongebob Squarepants celebrated its tenth anniversary. Enough has been written about the aforementioned shows to fill several quite large blogs so I’ll go through some of my other favourites instead.
1) Generation Kill While technically a 2008 series, this HBO masterclass in how to make a war-based drama was finally shown on British television this year, and so under my rules – it counts. Written by David Simon and Ed Burns (of The Wire) and based on the book of the same name this mini-series, quite frankly, blew my mind. The dialogue consisted mainly of dense military terms and acronyms with little or no explanation, there was a complete lack of dramatic irony, and the subject being tackled (American armed forces in Iraq) was one of the most contentious to be addressed this decade (besides the global warming debate, which, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be nearly be as interesting), and yet, simply put, it worked. Managing across its seven hours to avoid the Band of Brothers trap of portraying the military as unabashed heros, it featured some of the best writing, characterisation, acting, directing, et al to be seen on the small screen, something which would later be seen – in slightly more bombastic fashion – in The Hurt Locker. Get some.
2) Breaking Bad The second series of this sickeningly good american show finally arrived early this year, following a truncated initial run hampered by the writers’ strike of 2008. The show chronicles the struggle of chemistry teacher Walter White who, following a diagnosis of lung cancer, turns to ‘cooking’ and dealing meth with a former student in order to pay his spiralling medical bills. While I started watching Breaking Bad because the central conceit sounded fairly original, I continued watching because Bryan “I was the dad in Malcolm in the Middle” Cranston’s performance as Walter is a nuanced tour de force raising the series above a simple morality tale into the upper echelons of televisual perfection. Ably supported by cliche-free writing and a talented wider cast, it’s safe to say that this is one of the best, and easily the most morally ambiguous, American series since The Sopranos. Let’s cook.
3) The Venture Brothers Showing as part of Cartoon Network’s ‘grown-up’ imprint Adult Swim, the Venture Brothers has consistently topped my end of year charts since it started in 2003. Following the adventures of the eponymous siblings, their father (a super-scientist), and their homicidal bodyguard Brock Samson, it’s as manically brilliant as you’d expect a show created by one of The Tick‘s writers to be. Now in its fourth series, which has been shown over the last couple of months, the programme is part loving-homage to cartoons of yesteryear (most overtly Johnny Quest) and part pop-culture cornucopia with enough references to stun a wampa. The animation is top-notch, as is the voice acting, and the writing is (as with all the best comedy shows) infinitely quotable and laugh out loud funny. Go Team Venture!
Honourable Mentions Narrowly missing out on my top three was the consistently good Mad Men, the consistently gruff Sons of Anarchy, the consistently gross Misfits, the consistently ghoulish Being Human, and the consistently f**cking great The Thick Of It also all worth a watch.
While the behemoth that is Avatar seems to be grabbing all the end of year headlines cinema-wise (it’s light on story but heavy on spectacle), 2009 saw some great releases on the big(ger) screen. Moon saw an assured science fictional debut from Duncan “can’t say his name without adding a Bowie reference” Jones, Pixar’s Up made everyone cry, and Watchmen and Wolverine caused arguments at comic shops across the kingdom. Some others stood out for me though…
1) Star Trek A reboot of an ailing franchise that somehow manages to hark back to everything that made the series great in the first place while reinvgorating it and thus making it palatable for a contemporary audience, seems like an impossible ask. But apparently JJ Abrams had decided to boldly go where no director has gone before. The writing was good, the cast were great, and what could have been a disaster ended up being a perfect popcorn sci-fi flick. Set phazers to fun.
2) Let The Right One In With zombies shuffling back and forth through the popular zeitgeist for a few years now, 2009 saw vampire stories lunge from the shadows into the limelight (with an accompanying sizzle of seared flesh). While Twilight and True Blood seemed determined to undermine the inherent badass nature of everyone’s favourite haematomaniacs Låt den rätte komma In (to use its native Swedish name) instead looked to the macabre aspects of the vampire myth and, faithfully adhering to its source novel, created a dark contemporary fairytale reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth. These vampires don’t suck (groan).
3) Inglourious Basterds aka How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Quentin Tarantino. I went into Inglourious Basterds expecting QT’s take on war films (a Kill Bill for the Diry Dozen) I was disappointed on that front, but ended up walking out with it being my favourite Tarantino film. Cristoph Waltz embodied tetralingual perfection as one of my favourite movie baddies ever, and the palpable tension underlying each scene had me clawing against my seat. Again, much like Kill Bill, there was a fair bit of juxtaposition, but it had me giggling like a small child for all the wrong (and thus right) reasons. Glorious.
Honourable mentions Sam Raimi’s return to schlock horror Drag Me To Hell, Malcolm Tucker’s expletive-laden swansong In The Loop, a refreshing take on the sci-fi genre in District 9, the Studio Ghibli goodness returning in Ponyo, and the surprisingly good Shaun of the Dead US aka Zombieland.
I started this year, after reading about how Lady Gaga was going to ‘take over the world’, thinking it was another year for me to hide in a bunker with my generic MP3 playing device until it was safe for me to venture out again. However, this year in music, Jonas Brothers aside, actually turned out to be pretty good in the end. Animal Collective continued plowing their lone, wobbly furrow; Röyksopp reminded everyone why the musical landscape would be much duller without them, and Vampire Weekend wore their influences on their sleeves to great effect.
1) F**k Buttons – Tarot Sport Not only a great duo to watch live, but in Tarot Sport the Bristolian twosome have effectively made a soundtrack to the rapture. Doom-laden, but uplifting, sweeping but intimate, the album defies definition (e.g. I’ve misplaced my thesaurus), so I’ll stop my pretentions and simply exclaim that I put it on when walking and let my cares fade away. F**cking great.
2) Passion Pit – Manners One of those bands that I listened to expecting a whole lot of nothing, but ended up loving. A sort of proto-Shins meets Dan Deacon they don’t half make some sing-alongable tunes. Great lyrics, strong hooks, and a good line in facial hair means they made my summer very bouncy indeed. Merits multiple listens through fo’ damn sho. Lovely stuff.
3) Them Crooked Vultures – S/T There is no word in the English language that will strike greater fear in the hearts of a muso than ‘supergroup’; very rarely adding up to the sum of their parts they invariably tend to be fairly mediocre at best, downright offensive at worst (I’m looking at you Audioslave). So it made for a nice surprise on hearing Them Crooked Vultures to find that this is one of those rare examples where it works. Made up of John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme, I think I can put it best as being my favourite album featuring Grohl/Homme since Songs for the Deaf. Rocktacular.
Honourable mentions Bleepmeister general Dan Deacon returned with Bromst, the weird and wonderful Wild Beasts hit their stride with Two Dancers, and Birdy Nam Nam finally delivered what they’d always promised with Manual for Successful Rioting.
There you go, some stuff what Thought Bubble (me that is, Lisa tends to have wildly different tastes) thought was good over the last year, of course due to constraints of time and space I’ve missed a lot of stuff off (Adam and Joe’s weekly podcast, Terry Pratchett’s best discworld book EVER, Phonogram (had to have a comic in there somewhere), beetle boots, the list goes on) but what’s above serves as a nice selection nonetheless. I like to think. If you don’t, well then there’s not much I can do except cry into my Christmas leftovers.
We’ve got some fun stuff planned for thought bubble next year, a lot of it secret (SPOILER: Robot monkey dance troupes), but most of it just building on the same cool stuff we had this year. We’ll be back in the future (2010) to kick all this off, but until then – be excellent to each other.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Thought Bubble 2009 | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
Hey Bubble-fans! Last week saw the third Thought Bubble Sequential Art Festival take place, and – now the dust has settled, and sleep has been indulged in – I think we’d be pretty safe in saying it was our best yet. We’re not afraid to blow our own trumpets here at the TB Tower, no sirree!
It needs to be said though that it wouldn’t be possible without our amazing volunteers, who, if you attended, you would most likely have seen dashing about making sure everything ran like clockwork. We are incredibly lucky that every year we get even more enthusiastic, friendly, hard-working, sequential art-loving, people who are willing to help us bring you bigger and better Thought Bubbles – the TB family keeps on growing to match the festival itself; there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. On behalf of myself and Lisa, I’d like to say a massive, and heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers who helped out, both during the festival and in the run-up/aftermath, you’re all legends in your own lifetimes!
I think it’s also safe to say that this year’s batch of professional guests was our best yet, and I don’t think I’ve ever had the privilege of being around such a concentrated group of talented, and friendly, individuals. One of my favourite things about the comic industry is that it gives fans a unique opportunity to interact with the creative forces whose work they admire, and I don’t think any of our guests disappointed. For some it was their first visit to Thought Bubble, others have been appearing at them from the start, but all of them are great in their own right, and it remains a pleasure, nay a delight, to be able to bring everyone together year after year. Especially at the after-party. The atmosphere at Thought Bubble is one of friendly banter – I like to think – and this is down in large part to our wonderful guests, so I’d like to say thank you to each and every one of them for coming this year.
It must also be remembered that Thought Bubble would not be able to take place without our exhibitors – the small press/indie comic creators, retailers, and traders who spend an extremely long day bringing their amazing wares to the fans, and who are all, again, just the friendliest bunch of people you’ll ever meet. It amazes me how lucky we are that everyone who has a table at Thought Bubble, besides having loads of cool stuff to look at, is great to chat to and a joy to work with. If you attended this year’s convention I’m sure you’ll have had first-hand experience of that, and we look forward to seeing many of them again next year, it’s just sad that we have a limited number of tables otherwise I’m sure we’d bring you even more amazing people to brighten your day.
I’d also like to give a special shout-out to all the cosplayers who attend Thought Bubble, and have become the fastest growing section of Thought Bubble’s demographic. This year’s cosplay contest (hosted by the awesome Natasha Tyler aka MissyTetra) was a wonder to behold, and got us some great footage on the local news. The cosplay contingent help make each Thought Bubble convention day extra-special (and extremely colourful) and we thank you for it!
A final word of thanks has to go out as well to you, the paying public, who attend the festival. It’s because of how well received each Thought Bubble is that we keep wanting to make it bigger and better for you guys, and (although we may say otherwise at the end of the convention day when lack of sleep is becoming a factor) it never seems like a chore. We love bringing Thought Bubble to you all, and we’re extremely thankful that you all seem to enjoy it as much as we do, and continue to let us bring the goodness of sequential art into your lives.
So that brings to an end another Thought Bubble, if you’re interested in seeing what some of our guests and attendees have had to say about the festival then Forbidden Planet has handily condensed a large batch of the online musings into one handy blog post. Well worth a read. This blog will start up again in the new year with some fresh minterviews, more small-press profiles, and a whole bunch of new stuff for you to get your teeth (or more likely your grey matter) into. Until then, on behalf of everyone at Thought Bubble, I’d like to say one last thank you, we heart you all.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, News, Programme 2009, Thought Bubble 2009, Workshops 2009 | Tags: Comics, Emma Vieceli, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, masterclass, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
Greetings Bubblers! I hope you’re as excited as we are about the fact that this year’s festival is now less than three weeks away! Join us in a squeal of delight won’t you? Eeeee! To keep your sequential art intake at acceptable levels until then we’ve got some lovely exclusive interviews with some of our awesome guests. Following on from our travels inside some of the small press artists’ studios, these conversations with various professionals who’ll be appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble will be assured to astound and amaze. And various other words beginning with ‘A’.
First off we talked to the excellent Emma Vieceli, a professional illustrator, writer, comic artist, and Thought Bubble veteran whose work on Self Made Hero’s Manga Shakespeare line – as well as for Sweatdrop Studios – is something you really, really should check out post-haste. Emma will also be judging the cosplay competition at this year’s Thought Bubble convention and running a workshop on Sunday 22nd (details on our main programme page). But without much further ado (there’s a pun in there somewhere, I know it!), let us begin…
Hi Emma, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, first off do you think you could give us a brief idea of how you got into illustration?
I think like most people it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just loved reading comics and watching cartoons as a kid, and started drawing on everything I could. I don’t think it had ever crossed my mind that I’d one day be able to draw comics as a career… So, it really is still a dream come true. I was very lucky to join Sweatdrop as they helped me early on and gave me somewhere to focus my interests. We all just loved making comics. It was (and still is with Sweatdrop) very much a hobby for fun.
The turning point for me was the year when I managed to bag a place in Tokyopop’s first UK Rising Stars of Manga competition (again, thanks to Sweatdrop friends bugging me to enter!) and also myself and Sonia Leong had been pitching to and had signed to work with SelfMadeHero just before Rising Stars was announced. So, it was a pretty big year for the pair of us. Hamlet taught me a shed-load, not least of all that running my full time job alongside a GN contract would make me very ill! I ended up going freelance towards the end of the book, as by that point I was talking to two potentially exciting clients about future jobs…it was hard to switch gears and realise ‘wow, this is actually happening’! Sadly the two potential clients never panned out – such is the industry – but by that point I was away, and have never regretted making the decision.
So very much a case of ‘learning on the job’ then?
Pretty much, haha! But then, as artists, we’re always learning on the job. We never stop learning I don’t think.
Your style appears, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times, to be quite manga-influenced – is that a conscious decision on your part, or simply your natural illustrative technique shining through?
Never a conscious decision, no. Creators are always inspired by what they see around them. What we watch/read as we’re growing up will shape our own style hugely but, whatever that style may be, I believe it should be something that flows naturally. I don’t hold with the concept of consciously thinking ‘I want to draw like that’. It can’t be as enjoyable to force a style, surely? For me, I grew up in the UK and spent a lot of time in Italy with my family. There I was exposed to Bonelli’s Dylan Dog (a comic that changed my life) and also a lot of TV anime. Back in the UK I was also reading Marvel comics and The Beano. What’s interesting is that even the three manga styles that I really fell in love with in my early teens and that influenced me hugely (Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP and Keiko Nishi) are completely different from each other. I don’t know what that mystery aura is that makes us look at a piece and think ‘manga’, but whatever mine was, it was born out of a veritable mish-mash of stylistic influences. These days I don’t tend to refer to my work as manga and I don’t call myself a manga artist, but I think my storytelling techniques are still very reminiscent of shoujo manga stylings… So, maybe that’s the defining feature?
What would you say your main artistic influences are?
They’re always changing, but my most influential artists overall would probably be: Giovanni Freghieri, Keiko Nishi, Adrian Alphona and studio Clamp.
Do you think there is a stereotpyical view held amongst western audiences of what a ‘manga’ title will have to offer, one which limits the potential audience?
I think there is one, yes. But I think it’s being gradually expelled thanks to titles like Monster and Death Note. It’s not all sailor suits and giant mecha! Once, the image of manga over here was that it was all sex and violence, now that’s been turned around so that it’s seen as all being for kids. It’s a pretty sharp swerve, so now we need people to realise that it’s both of them and everything in between! It’s comics – plain and simple.
Do you think that manga is enjoying the same surge in popularity that superhero comics seem to be currently experiencing?
I think the manga wave is finally subsiding here in the UK after an amazing few years, but what’s great is that a lot of us are seeing what we always hoped would happen when it was at its biggest over here. We hoped that this time, unlike past manga/anime rises in popularity, when the wave passed it would leave behind a solid foundation – a bedrock of manga in our existing comic industry. It’s what a lot of us worked very hard for, and I think we’re seeing that. Manga shouldn’t be some strange sidekick to comics, but a fantastic part of a wider comic scene. We’re seeing styles and techniques crossing over a lot now, and that’s great.
Any particular favourite titles in this new-wave?
I guess I could be cliché and say Death Note… It’s superbly written. I have to confess I do also like Naruto in its manga form as opposed to the anime. However, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really differentiate between what is seen as ‘manga’ and what are ‘comics’. It’s all comics, and I probably spend more time reading X-Men, Runaways and Fables than I do ‘manga’ these days. I get frustrated by the constant need of many to separate the two!
Do you think this differentiation between ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ comics is stunting the growth of the graphical medium in general?
I think creators themselves aren’t as worried about the differentiation, so it’s not stunting creativity at least, but I know of several creators, myself included, who have hit hurdles with publishers because our work is ‘too manga’ or ‘not manga enough’, and that’s upsetting; to always have your work compared in some way to whatever litmus paper exists for this mythical ‘manga’ style.
That said, the wave has also lead several larger book publishing companies to get in on the action with graphic novel lines, so on the one hand, GNs are booming like never before.
I think we’re getting there. I’m seeing certain large comic publishers being very open with their new artists, and we’re seeing some fantastically hybrid art styles. Gone are the days of house style, and that’s great news for creativity!
You’re perhaps best known for your excellent work on the Manga Shakespeare range, what was it about those adaptations that appealed to you?
I’m a Shakespeare NUT! Studied him at university, wrote a dissertation on him and then after uni, I became a professional performer for a while and got to do a couple of Shakespeare roles. For him to then find me through comics started to convince me I was being haunted! I just love Shakespeare’s work, and his plays were always meant to be seen and not read as text on paper… So, I thought Emma Hayley’s idea of something between the two was genius!
I can think of worse historical figures to be haunted by! Do you have a favourite Shakespearean play, or character, one which you’d relish the chance of illustrating?
Very true! Haha! Well, lucky for me, my two favourites were Hamlet and Much Ado! In some ways I’d love to go back and apply what I know now to Hamlet – but that way madness lies, haha. I was happy with the storytelling, and that’s the most important part of any comic I think.
Ah, nice King Lear reference! So, when you’re adapting Shakespeare’s plays from the manuscripts, do you take into account stage directions, or just utilise the dialogue?
I don’t use anything but the dialogue… So, essentially I am the director of the piece too – which is great fun. I love trying to add new elements within the set text. Richard [Appignanesi] does a great job of adapting the script down to GN-length dialogue, and then I add what I can to that visually.
To be honest, Shakespeare was very sparse on his stage direction, with the exception of exits, entrances and the occasional ‘dies offstage’, haha!
You’ve been involved in the UK sequential art scene for quite some time now, have there been any noticeable changes during that period, for better or worse?
So many changes! Most notably, there is just more of it – and that’s fab. When Sweatdrop started out almost nine years ago (ARGH!), we did so because there was no one at the time in the UK publishing manga-style work. This was before Tokyopop, before Markosia…it’s hard to believe. Sweatdrop is a bit of a dinosaur of UK small press comics, haha. We’ve seen Rising Stars of Manga come and go, we’ve seen Neo Magazine start up and become the amazing publication it is, and we’ve seen independent sequential artists in the UK move from photocopied, folded comics into pro-looking digital printing. There are so many groups and individuals out there now making the most of cheaper printing and the ever-expanding convention scene.
Shows like the London MCM Expo have exploded comics out into the wider public, while shows like Thought Bubble, BICS and Bristol offer specialised playgrounds where comickers and comic lovers can come together and revel in the shinies. Magazines like ImagineFX have really started welcoming comics into their line-ups, and even the surge in recent comic adaptations to film have all contributed to the notion that the geeks truly shall inherit the earth.
The UK has always had a wealth of amazing comickers, but so many have been forced to take their talents elsewhere in the past. There are a lot of people right now working hard to really push the talent pool we have here in the UK, and I love seeing the results!
Some people seem quite eager to pin this growth on the recent success of comic-book adaptations at the box office, how much do you think this is the case?
I think the film industry has not so much drawn in new readers (though I bet it’s brought a few people ‘home’) as it has strengthened the bond and courage of existing readers. I know loads of people who love the recent surge of adaptations, but they’ve never read a comic and never will… What this recognition has done has made existing readers feel less isolated; it’s made us that bit prouder of our obsessions. We can now wear our geek-shirts with pride and count ourselves amongst those ‘who were there at the beginning, man’.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble; do you enjoy attending conventions and other events of that nature?
Well of course! I LOVE events. They’re the times we can come out of our solitary studios and mingle with humanity…and other creators.
I attend as many as I can in a year without destroying myself, though that’s getting harder these days now that there are so many events, what with me trying to span the pure comic events and the anime conventions! As I write this I’m recovering from the MCM Expo, where I actually organise the ComicVillage, so I’m very much looking forward to Thought Bubble, where I can be a creator again. I have huge respect for the people who organise these events after my Expo experiences! This weekend I’m off to my first Italian convention in Lucca, so that should be good fun!
I urge anyone who sees me at an event to come up and say hi! For some reason I get a lot of people after shows saying online that they saw me, but didn’t want to bug me at the show, haha. I’m there to be bugged, people! Don’t be a stranger! ^_^
Alas, as it is said, the rest is silence. Many thanks to Emma for taking the time and talking to us, we here at Thought Bubble are huge fans of her work and really cannot recommend it enough!
A little bit of TB related news now, for those of you unlucky enough not to be able to make it to this year’s festival, we’re pleased to be able to bring a couple of our big-name guests to you! Thanks to our partners at Travelling Man, Ben Templesmith and Alex Maleev will be attending signings at TM’s Newcastle and Manchester stores during the Thought Bubble festival period, details can be found on the flyer placed conveniently below…
That’s all for now, tune in on Wednesday when we have another interview for you with one of our fantastic guests. “Who?” you may ask, well you’ll have to come back to find out. Mystery is our middle-name.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, News, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Adam Cadwell, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, Small Press, The Everyday, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Greetings Bubble-fans! We’re now less than a month away from this year’s Thought Bubble Festival, in fact come this time next month we’ll all be sat around reminiscing about how spectacularly it went, even though that pack of Gremlins got loose and engaged in their own particular brand of hi-jinks. Fun times. However, as Yoda once chastised Luke “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was”, so, with that in mind, we shall stay firmly in the present, with the final entry in our series of small-press minterviews for this year. Today’s minterviewee is the excellent Adam Cadwell, a previous Friend of Thought Bubble, whose diary comic The Everyday is a joy to behold. We had a lovely chat, so read on and be sure to check out some little bits and pieces of TB news after the jump.
Hi Adam, thanks for talking to us, to start off do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?
The Ghost World movie – I’d read that this underground comic was being made into a film in a magazine, right about the time I was just starting Uni. I’d had some ideas for comics but was aware that I hadn’t read many since I was a kid, so I looked into what was out there and started with Ghost World. I was amazed by it and immediately admired what [Daniel] Clowes was doing and discovered all these other artists creating comics like Mike Allred, and Jaime Hernandez. It was clear that this was medium I wanted to work in, I focused on comics and illustration for the rest of my time at Uni and started my webcomic after that.
However, I recently found some comics I’d made as a kid, about 9 or 10 years old. They’re comics of my family holidays, with each panel or two documenting what we did each day. I’d drawn the whole two weeks but only coloured half. I was amused that some of my earliest comics were pretty much autobiographical too.
You regularly produce a diary comic The Everyday – do you ever find it hard displaying aspects of your personal life in such a public forum?
No, not especially. My comic is more about what happens around me, observations that I make that hopefully most people have thought or experienced at one time or another. Earlier on I included more personal thoughts, mostly about girls, but I’ve left that alone now, I was always aware it can come across as self-indulgent. The readers do pick up on things about my life the longer they read it. It’s odd when someone references something that happened to me and I’d forgotten I’d put that in a comic. It’s odder still when they read between the lines and tell me the things they think I’ve been up to, debauched things mostly, and they’d mostly be wrong. So it can be odd sometimes, but not difficult because of the viewpoint I’m taking with the comic.
You’ve also contributed work to a number of anthologies and are currently working as colourist on Zombie Death Squad – do you actively seek variety between your comics projects to keep boredom at bay?
I’ve always had bad luck with anthologies, the first one I submitted to in 2006 still hasn’t come out yet and I was almost in Comic Book Tattoo at the last minute but it didn’t work out. I have assisted Marc Ellerby with the colouring on his Popgun submission though – it’s the first Chloe Noonan mini in full, dazzling colour. And yes, I was offered the job of colourist on ZDS but that’s its own series rather than an anthology piece.
As for seeking variety, it’s something that just seems to happen. I wish I had more time to focus on my one big personal project but I am getting more comfortable hopping between projects and roles.
By day you’re a mild-mannered commercial illustrator, do you see your small press creations as a hobby/past-time, or is working in the comics industry a career path you’d like to take?
The latter, definitely – I do enjoy the commercial work, storyboards and such, but comics are easily the most fulfilling. Telling a story in one of the most accessible, expressive mediums is a joy, especially if it’s your own creation. At the moment, commercial work pays the bills and comics get me a little money from online sales and rare paid work but I’d love to be able to turn that around.
The whole point of Thought Bubble is that we want to help promote sequential art as being, as you said, one of the most expressive storytelling mediums – why do you think it is that comics are still looked down upon by so many as a cultural art form?
Superheroes. They’re to blame really. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wee myself if I got offered a job drawing Spider-man but since the early popularity of the modern comic format the genre of superhero stories has dominated, and they’ve been dismissed as something for kids or, later, maladjusted adults. Comics and men in tights are intrinsically linked in the popular consciousness. Until most people can separate the two, the medium will always be mistaken for the genre.
The view of comics has been getting better in the last 10 years or so though, I think the term Graphic Novel has helped that a lot.
You’re a staunch advocate of the digital revolution, has the internet been good for the small press scene, or do you think it’s flooded the market somewhat?
Am I? Is it a revolution anymore? I think we all take the internet for granted now don’t we? Webcomics are certainly an alternative to print comics but I don’t think they’ll ever replace them. They’re not quite equal yet, but that’s only a matter of time as technology becomes even more integrated into our lives.
I think the internet is invaluable to the small press scene in way too many ways to mention here. I don’t think it’s flooded the market though; the small press scene is full of exciting work with new creators getting involved every year. As for webcomics, yes, there are thousands of terrible comics online but on the other hand it’s actually harder to find the bad comics than it is the really good ones.
Well, you have a twitter account, that’s semi-advocating, and sure, I take the interweb for granted – until it stops working. Do you think that if/when webcomics become an equal to print comics, in the sense of a market share, that that will signal the end of comics appearing purely in print form?
It’s starting to happen already I think. With sales of monthly comics dropping lower and lower, and the rise of technology like the iPhone, people are really considering how to make money from reading comics on these new devices. But I think until there’s a standard reader, an iTunes for comics basically, then print will continue to dominate.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
Thanks for the chance to plug my stuff, Clark. I’ll be bringing the three collections of The Everyday, a comic about Glastonbury in the form of a postcard book, new badges (everyone loves badges), and a postcard set of my Childhood Villains illustrations.
Oh, and “it”. I will be “bringing “it”. People will say “Hey, look at Cadwell, he’s really brought it”. Consider it brung, Thought Bubble.
Always happy to help a comics brother/sister out. Do you enjoy attending these kinds of events?
I wouldn’t come otherwise. Especially the shows with a focus on self published work like TB. The audience is a lot more responsive to my work than at the bigger shows, with those darned superheroes books! I’ve been both years so far and loved it both times. So, don’t let me down, Clark, I’m looking forward to this show the most! Where else can I sell loads of copies of my comic just for sitting down behind a table? I’d do it every day if I could. I’d be a withering wreck of a man, but I’d be very satisfied.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
Thought bubbles for thought, obviously. Captions are for narration. Stupid Bendis.
And there you have it, the final minterview for this year. Oh, and for the record we don’t think Mr Bendis is stupid for his (mis)use of captions, nope, no sirree, and I’m not just saying that because he’ll sic his Dark Avengers on us. Run Adam, run!
That’s not all from Thought Bubble’s interview bank though, we have some super-special interviews coming up over the next few weeks which will astound and delight you, watch this space!
In Festival news, we now have the full list of exhibitors for this year’s convention up on the main site, that’s over 180 tables of some of the finest artists and traders you’ll ever lay eyes on. Magnifique! We’re also pleased to say that the brochure for this year’s festival has just come off the presses and is looking damn fine, keep an eye out for it at a retailer near you soon!
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again, probably sooner than you think…
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Lizz Lunney, Sequential Art, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics, YouTube
Hey gang! We’re back, as you can probably see from these strange symbols in front of you. A short break was embarked upon whilst I recovered from a mild case of The Andromeda Strain, or possibly a cold – we’ll never know. Anyways, back to business! We have a brand new minterview for you hot off the presses! Today we’re talking to the super-talented Lizz Lunney, creator of the delicious Online Comic Sushi, and seller of quality wares. We’ve previously featured Ms Lunney as one of our Friends of Thought Bubble, and I can confirm that her site is really worth your time and attention. Really. So, pull up a chair, stoke the fire, swirl your brandy round in its glass, and read on…
Hi Lizz, thanks for talking to us, to start off do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?
Hello there, thanks for inviting me! I’d say there was never an exact turning point when I could say I “got into sequential art” – I’ve always drawn comic strips since I was able to hold a pen so it just seems a natural thing for me to do. I studied animation at University, got into storyboarding and drew comics for fun, and then it just developed into making comics for real. For real!
So, did you grow-up reading comics?
Yes! I loved The Beano. My granddad used to buy me The Dandy each week, and I also read Wizzer and Chips, Buster, Twinkle, Disney comics, Garfield, and probably loads of others too. I liked the Bumpkin Billionaires, The Bash St. Kids and Roger the Dodger.
My Favourite was always Baby Face Finlayson. Your Online Comic Sushi is a very surreal affair, were you attracted to self-publishing because of the creative freedom that it allows?
Um, not really, I sort of just started self-publishing because I didn’t know how to get my work known. I did a comic course that ended in self-publishing a comic at the end and then I just continued to make them. I’ve never really thought about the creative freedom aspect, in fact, I don’t think I take advantage of it enough! Some stuff I draw I think might seem a bit weird or unsuitable for the comics so I kind of self-censor the work I get printed or put online, and maybe I should just put the lot in and not worry so much about it… I usually test ideas out on my bro – if he reads a comic strip and his reaction is “huh, that doesn’t even make sense”, then I burn it in a sacrificial ceremony in the garden at night and cry.
Kind of like Luke Skywalker, burning Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi – no plans for a “director’s cut” of your comics then?
I’d like to do a Depressed Cat collection one day when I have enough to collect together which could include “out-takes”, etc, but at the moment it makes more sense to print new stuff!
As well as comics you also produce a wide selection of gift items – are these simply a way of creating revenue, or is your arts/craft output more an extension of your illustrative endeavours?
I think it’s more of a personal interest, I like merchandise! I always try to make things that I would buy myself if I was looking round a shop or convention. I sometimes feel a bit sad that the badges, stickers and other spin-off items sell better than the actual comics, and people will buy them who have never read my comics so they don’t know the characters or anything, but on the other hand it’s nice to sell things that will appeal to people who like “stuff” and perhaps don’t want to buy comics in book form.
Do you think this misconception is stunting the growth of the comics scene – that sequential art can only ever be in the form of a graphic novel?
Yes, perhaps. If you go to comic shops in France they are full of other items based on the comics even for lesser known characters and comics. I think if you have an idea or a story it shouldn’t be limited to a book. I want to make some animations of my comics eventually. And lunch boxes. Lunch boxes are the dream.
The small press community seems to be growing at an exponential rate at the moment thanks to the digital revolution, how easy was it to establish yourself on the scene?
I just bribed and stalked people wherever possible. Haw, no, not really… I don’t know, I just go to a lot of conventions and spend far too many hours on social networking sites talking to other small press people.
The small press community does seem to be more in tune with the latest social trends than ‘mainstream’ comics – do you think this is why the scene’s grown so much over the last few years?
I guess the small press community is just more in tune with the people who actually buy things just from speaking to people, and by actually running the stalls, rather than the work going through a distributor. I don’t really buy mainstream comics and have a very limited knowledge of anything superhero or manga based, so I couldn’t say if this is true or not, to be honest! Personally, I just write about things I like! If other people like them too and buy the comics because of them, hurrah!
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
Lots of awesome treats in time for Christmas – I’m currently working on a bigger project (which I’m going to try and keep secret for now!), so for Thought Bubble I plan to have lots of cool smaller stuff. New things will hopefully include Hairy Midget toys, tattoos, Christmas cards and new badges! I might bring some cake. I will definitely bring some sushi and crisps and chocolate, maybe a flask of tea.
Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?
Yes! Very much so. Although I find it tiring work talking to so many different people for an entire day (or two depending on the con), and can’t speak to anyone for weeks afterwards to make up for it.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
Um, I use caption boxes mostly, but, so not to upset the convention name, I’ll pick thought bubbles!
And there you have it – another fine minterview with one of our wonderful Friends. Thanks to Lizz for taking the time to talk to us, and who gets major bonus points (+520pts) for (eventually) choosing thought bubbles over caption boxes. So should we all.
We’ll be back on Thursday with another minterview, if you’d like some more TB goodness in the meantime then feel free to check out our youtube channel to see our awesome new trailer! It’s like Michael Bay and Ridley Scott having a fight, in 3D!
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, News, Programme 2009, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art?, Workshops 2009 | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds comic workshops, Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, masterclass, Sequential Art, Signings, Small Press, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Greetings Bubblers! It is now less than six weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival and we are very pleased to be able to share with you our full programme line-up for those four heady days in November.
We think you’ll be blown away by the awesome guests and exhibitors we’re honoured to have in attendance, as well as our extensive range of masterclasses and workshops…
Full details as to this year’s programme can be found on the Festival Information 2009 page (on the list to the left), while Thought Bubble’s guest list also looks amazing (although there may be some surprise announcements coming soon), and we have some brilliant small press exhibitors in attendance. Make sure to look out for our brochures, which will be hitting the streets very soon.
We’re all really psyched about this year’s festival, and we hope you feel the same way and will be able to join in the fun in November.
Until then, remember – with great power, comes great responsibility!
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Guests 2009, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2009, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Banal Pig Comics, Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Sequential Art, Small Press, Steve Tillotson, UK Conventions, Webcomics
Righto, it’s Monday (or at least it is if you’re an inhabitant of the slightly less fashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy, other localities’ calendars may vary accordingly), which for the time being means it’s time for another of our Minterviews. Today sees Friend of Thought Bubble Steve Tillotson, of Banal Pig Comics, join us in cheerful banter about all things sequential in preparation for this year’s Thought Bubble, a nice reminder of his time with us in days of yore. I would also highly recommend checking out Steve’s site for some thoroughly awesome examples of his work (which is also, coincidentally, thoroughly awesome), but without much more preamble, let’s shift in time and space to the main event…
Hi Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, to start off could you give us an idea of how you were first introduced to sequential art?
I always used to like the classic British kids’ comics, like The Beano and Buster, when I was younger, but forgot about comics for the most part from the age of about 11 or 12 onwards when I ditched the comics for football magazines – I was never really interested in so-called adult comics, superheroes etc didn’t appeal to me at the time. It was probably a good 10 years later when I happened upon Daniel Clowes’ books, which struck a chord with me, and I saw the potential of comics as an art form. I had no idea there was a small press scene until I had made my first comic though.
Do you think this generally held perception, that comics for adults are all superhero stories, is the reason that sequential art has such a poor reputation as a cultural art form?
Yes, but I think you can say that about any art form, the commonly held perception is the wrong one – for example, contemporary art is often represented by Tracey Emin’s “unmade bed” and judged accordingly – it doesn’t matter. It would be nice if great graphic novels were higher up in the public consciousness, because it would mean there was more money and jobs in it, but there is a certain freedom about being a niche and not within the mainstream.
Who, or what, is the Banal Pig?
Banal Pig was the first comic character I created. As with most of my characters, the title is fairly direct – he is an anthropomorphic pig that does banal things. The “joke” is that the strip is not dramatic or funny in the conventional comic strip sense. He became the title character of the comics, and the publishing imprint by default – as I didn’t have a better idea – but it proved to be quite a good choice as the name is quite unusual, and hopefully quite memorable. Some people still pronounce it as if it rhymes with “anal” though; I thought it was quite a common word.
Your characters are quite esoteric, as is the sense of humour that runs though their stories – does it take you a long time to develop them from the initial ideas stage?
Having an idea is the easy part – it’s developing it, and drawing it, and making it work on the page which takes the work, but the more I’ve done it the more intuitive and easier it has become. It depends on the story and the length of the strip though – I can knock a three-panel funny up in an hour, but something longer and more involved can take months. I’ve used a lot of the characters a few times, so their personalities are more developed and it’s easier to imagine how they would react in a given situation (with hilarious results, obviously).
The small press community seems to be growing at a fair old pace at the moment – do you think it’s getting easier for people to get established these days?
Yeah, it’s really easy with the internet and desktop publishing to knock something up. I can’t imagine a time where there was no internet and comics had to be photocopied on a dodgy copier or litho printed, but it was probably less than ten years ago – I couldn’t have been arsed. I’m not sure about the word established though – I’ve been doing it for four years now and, although I’ve sold a few thousand comics, I’ve never really made any money from it.
So, for you then, it’s more the case that you enjoy making comics and telling stories through them, rather than being “in it for the money”?
Yep, it’s a labour of love, to use a hackneyed phrase, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t accept paying jobs should they come along…
You have various solo creations under your belt, but have also worked on a number of collaborations – is the creative process markedly different when you work alone as opposed to with a partner/group?
It is quite a lonely occupation – even when you’re working with someone else on ideas, ultimately you’ve just got to then sit down and draw it, and I like having the control over what’s on the page. I wouldn’t want to make something that I wasn’t entirely happy with, because it takes so long and I don’t get paid for it, I don’t want to waste my time.
You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?
I’ll be premiering the second Ethel Sparrowhawk story if all goes to plan, I’m about one-third finished at this stage, plus most of the back catalogue – Manly Boys, the Banal Pig comics, The Banal Pig Landscape Anthology, and more probably. I’ll be sharing with Gareth Brookes, who himself has an impressive portfolio of works. I’ll try not to bring a hangover to this year’s convention though – I was feeling rough as arseholes last year…
And, when not hungover, are conventions something you enjoy attending?
Yes and no. I really enjoy the conventions in terms of selling comics and meeting people and seeing what’s out there, but I’m usually at conventions as an exhibitor, and it can be hard work trying to get people to buy my stuff as I’m not the best self-promoter – I find it a bit embarrassing. I’d rather someone else handled the business side of things really, but it’s part of the deal unfortunately.
Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?
No preference, although for the purposes of this I will say THOUGHT BUBBLES.
Huge thanks to Steve for being one of our minterviewees, I’m sure you’ll agree that it was a sterling effort. For the record, if people don’t like thought bubbles we don’t mind – we’ll just be extremely disappointed, and possibly sulk a bit.
There’s some news on our newly approved Arts Council funding, and details of another series of manga days at Travelling Man in the previous blog post, so if Japanese sequential art or lottery funding of worthy causes tickles your fancy you’d best grok it, like. New minterview up on Thursday, in the meantime might I suggest following us on twitter, our twees are sure to astound and delight in equal measure!