Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Art by Guests, Film and Sequential Art, Minterviews, Thought Bubble 2010, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic con, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Matt Sheret, Sequential Art, UK Conventions
The blog returns! After a slightly longer hiatus than I’d envisaged – apologies, I was playing Starfighter at the arcade and got called up to help save the planet Rylos, honestly – we’re back in business, and what better way than to kick off a fresh round of minterviews to help speed along that dull wait until this year’s Thought Bubble!
For those of you who missed last year’s vintage – minterviews are mini-interviews that we do with the small press and indie comickers we’ve profiled during the run up to this year’s festival, along with a few secret surprise ones with guests at this year’s convention thrown in for good measure. Tantalising.
This week we’re in conversation with Mr Matthew Sheret, an extremely talented writer, and vanguard of the UK indie comics scene whose work with We Are Words + Pictures is consistently leaving me feeling all warm and fuzzy about the possibilities that comics represent. His Thought Bubble profile is here, and the interview is there (slightly lower down your screen). Wizard.
Hi Matt, thanks for talking to us today – to start, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?
Comics. I got into comics three times: One reading in the hairdressers I used to go to in Southampton, waiting for my Mum and my sister to have their hair done, I’d read the same Turtles comic. I must have seen the pages about twenty or thirty times, I know I tried to leave with it once or twice. It was mostly the turtles sitting around a campfire, I don’t remember much more than that.
Two was getting into Robin and Young Justice at secondary school, and swarming through the DCU a little after that. Then, just as that was wearing off, and I’d come to London for University, I picked up a few Vertigo books and eventually Phonogram. Becoming friends with Kieron [Gillen] and Jamie [McKelvie] pulled me back into comics big time, and much as I try and break free I keep finding myself with illustrators for friends and webcomics on my browser and trade paperbacks by my bedside. I’m stuck.
As for creating, I started a creative partnership with Julia Scheele in 2008 called We Are Words + Pictures (or WAW+P for short), which last year shifted direction a little to become more of a small press events team, producing the Paper Science anthology and heading to fairs and festivals with pens and paper.
Are there any particular comics, or other pop culture creations in general, that you consider an influence on your work?
The most direct influences on how I write – for comics, as a journalist, the whole shebang – can probably be found in the work of Paul Morley (whose repetition and use of lists are fabulous techniques), B. S. Johnson (cult British novelist whose work is heartbreaking and beautiful), Kieron Gillen’s indie work. The thread really is a desire to play with form, which are pretty much what any project I work on has to do in some way, personal or professional.
The things I’m trying to absorb at the moment are Lost At Sea and I Kill Giants. They’re both phenomenal, under-appreciated works, and if I can tell stories half way as moving as they are I’ll be happy.
So, do you think that your work in comics has influenced your journalistic writing, or vice versa?
Well, on my good days there’s definitely a Matthew Sheret voice, that could be found in, say, The Covers ‘zine I did with Julia Scheele, my piece on 00’s Music for Global Comment and my blog project threesixfivestart. They’re all fed from the same place, there’s a lot of cross-pollination in terms of how I think language works and what I want to do as a writer.
The shift happened for two reasons. The first is that Julia and I wanted to do work for ourselves, and that’s probably the most important. The second is that after I came back from San Diego, having sold Phonogram vs The Fans out there, I knew I just wanted to do something more with comics. As a writer I was concentrating on being a successful freelancer, and organising things in and around the scene felt like a more satisfying thing to spend my time doing than more writing. Meanwhile Julia released the first part of her journey through her parent’s lives in the 60’s, and it’s a really great piece of work. Hoping for more soon!
The editorial stuff doesn’t feel like much of a shift to be honest: I love it.
WAW+P appear to be very accepting of multimedia/multi-platform possibilities for sequential art, do you think the ‘comic book’ medium is moving away from its classical paper confines?
I don’t know if moving away is the right phrase. I hope comics are embracing a lot of formats. On good days I think they are; I see Kate Beaton on my browser at the same time as leafing through Magda Boreysha’s ToastyCats. There’s very little printed that doesn’t have an online existense anyway now – I just want to see comics that optimise that.
Print-to-screen comics jar a lot for me because the colour palette suits print, not the screen. I urge artists to check out the colour sets used by David McCandless or Mark Sarmel if their primary outlet is the web. It’s a leap worth making.
What’s been your favourite WAW+P event so far? Do you have any plans for further reinventions of the group in the future?
Haha, yeah, I love the idea of WAW+P as comics David Bowie; new era, new look. Seriously though, no re-invention; I like what we’re up to. I think our main drive is going to be getting more individuals to start WAW+P events wherever they are.
I wouldn’t play favourites with the events. All of us involved have learned a lot of lessons, for better and worse, and that’s great, I just want to move them forwards. I can say though that Latitude opened our eyes in a huge way. It was an amazing weekend of comics, in an environment that completely embraced us. I’d be surprised if you didn’t see WAW+P doing a few of those next year.
So long as you don’t go all Tin Machine, that’s cool. Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?
The UK comics scene does seem to be thriving – it’s certainly growing every day from my experience – have you seen many changes to the community since you became involved as a creator?
Confidence. It’s rising across the board, and rightfully so. As creators everyone’s stepping up, supporting others along the way. It’s beautiful. I just want – need – people to do more. Almost any creator moaning about not having a large audience isn’t doing enough to reach one, and I mean that. The UK aren’t ignorant about the medium, they know how to read comics, a lot of them like comics, they just haven’t been given a convincing enough reason to buy them. So go and talk to them.
Finally, thought bubbles or caption boxes?
I know I’m supposed to say thought bubbles… I’ll leave it at that.
Huge thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions (that sounded a lot less police procedural in my head), check out WAW+P as they’re usually up to something mind blowingly cool. Oh and I Kill Giants is totally one of my comics of last year, if not the decade, if not history. Tres bon.
Another minterview coming up next week, who will it be with? Well, you’ll have to wait and see.
Filed under: About Thought Bubble, Small Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble, Thought Bubble 2010, What is Sequential Art? | Tags: Comics, Leeds comic festival, Leeds Thought Bubble comic festival, Matt Sheret, Sequential Art, Small Press, UK Conventions, We Are Words and Pictures
Greetings from Thought Bubble towers!
We’re close to six months away from this year’s festival, and things are looking good! We already have an awesome line-up of early guest confirmations for the Saturday convention, as well as some wonderful exhibitors, all of whom look set to make 2010’s Thought Bubble the best yet! You heard it here first, and we’re nothing if not apt to indulge in wanton (but justifiable) hyperbole.
For your viewing pleasure today we are pleased to present the latest entry in the select group of Small Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble (or Friendlytron for short), namely Mr Matthew Sheret.
Matt is rapidly becoming one of the most innovative individuals in the UK comics scene at the moment and in five years I predict we’ll all either be working for him… or dead by his hand. Silliness aside, his work is really quite marvelous – you need only check out the recently updated We Are Words + Pictures manifesto to see how serious Matt is about comics – and he’s one of my favourite writers operating at the moment. For more information, and some examples, read on…
“Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures” – Harvey Pekar
If you read comics, or even read about comics, I imagine you’ll find that quote enchanting. It conjures images of children buried in notebooks building impossible landscapes in crayon and of wonderful conceptual essays that spill across pages, illustrated with monk-like endurance by people who cannot help but see terrible things.
Pekar’s statement is wonderful, but it falls a little short of what I want to see.
I have written here as placeholders some reminders, three little words: Future; Optimism; Ambition. I am supposed to be writing about comics. Bear with me.
The future is a process. Time is not made of fixed instants, it is not binary, it is not a thing that leaps to dates or tipping points. The future is a long now, a time that moves towards all time, in which we change and are changed by what we do and what we encounter. You are taking part in this process, allowing your ideas and techniques to be shaped by this movement through time. When you become aware of this you start to see the effect you have on other things, people and places, and on the lives you never really know. You can do anything to the world around you: some you will never want to do again, but a lot more you’ll be happy to put your name to in that long, constant tomorrow.
Tomorrow is worth seeing. Since people began to think about the unknown ahead of them a prevailing sense of doom has crept into thought and discourse, but I’m becoming a lot more optimistic than that allows. People can and repeatedly do accomplish brilliant things, in the face of impossible odds, on a global and personal level. I work knowing that what I put out now I will better, knowing that I learn from my mistakes and will try to avoid repeating them.
I have the ambition to affect an audience, to change them in some way, if even a barely tangible one. You have to put yourself on the line to do that, but the rewards can be magnificent. We spend most of our lives going through experiences wrapped solely inside ourselves, and it would be beautiful if those rare moments of cultural or emotional specificity – when somebody reaches out to us and says “You are not alone” – happened more often.
You see I want you to think about the images you have seen of doomed worlds. Of nuclear death. Of solitude. Of rot, entropy and carnage. Of the flash-burst obliteration projected behind a thousand artists. These pictures, all around you, that say “What comes next is the end.”
Reject this; I will. My grandparents saw Europe break out in peace, my parents saw men walking on the moon and I have seen the world collaborate to pool its knowledge in the space between servers and source code. And before that begins to seem big and impossible I want you to remember that you are moments away from combining words and pictures to share a story, shape an idea, perhaps affect someone for years to come. You have an opportunity to fail a thousand times without judgement and you should take advantage of that.
So if we can do anything, what means we shouldn’t aim to do everything?
Matthew is a freelance writer based in London. He has worked as an editor and copywriter for Last.fm, Newspaper Club, ditto.tv and Men’s Health Online, has contributed to Plan B Magazine, Solipsistic Pop and Electric Sheep Magazine and writes a column for Global Comment. His personal projects have seen him taking on roles that include journalist, web-hack, curator, market trader, teacher, student, critic, photographer, DJ, editor, and publisher, often at the same time.
In 2008 Matthew co-founded We Are Words + Pictures, a team who promote the work of small press comic artists and writers in Britain at fairs, festivals, club nights and workshops, alongside their biannual Paper Science anthology. They have worked with over 35 creators to date, and have in the past exhibited for Josie Long, Thought Bubble Festival and The ICA.
Projects like this and Phonogram vs The Fans have led to Matthew recently being described as “The Malcolm McLaren of indie comics” a title he could never hope to live up to.
There you have it, I seriously urge you to check out Matt’s writing, and the work of We Are Words + Pictures, well worth your time.
Thought Bubble planning continues unabashed, we went to the MCM Expo over the May Bank Holiday, and oh my stars and garters it was FUN. Thank you to everyone who came to our table, you were all lovely, and also to the organisers for putting on such an amazing event. It gave me a renewed vigour for putting on this year’s festival, and also confirmed the notion that the UK comics scene is host to some of the friendliest people in the whole wide universe. No fooling.