Thought Bubble 2018 runs 17th – 23rd September!

Steve Tillotson Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

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…


Banal Pig Comics

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!

– Clark

Do you think this generally held perception, that comics for adults are all Superhero stories, is the

Friends of Thought Bubble: A New Hope by thoughtbubblefestival

Welcome to the fourth in our weekly (for the time being) series of posts detailing some of the Small Press and Independent Friends of Thought Bubble (or Uncanny X-Friends), bringing to you the best in sequential art on a regular basis. This week we usher into the spotlight Mr Steve Tillotson, producer of brilliant art, both sequential and portraiture, whose site is a treasure trove of wondrous delights – some of which can be viewed in the gallery below.

Steve Tillotson trained as an artist at Batley School of Art and Design, and went on to do a masters degree at the Royal College of Art, London. He started making comics as an outlet for his frustrations (artistic and otherwise) which include the titular Banal Pig Comics (with contributions from Gareth Brookes), Ethel Sparrowhawk (with Jemima von Schindelberg), Jolly Bear and Fun Coconut, The Manly Boys Annual (again with Gareth Brookes), and an anthology of landscapes to mention but a few.

All of Steve’s art is available for purchase through his store, and, for the more thrifty amongst you, he is even giving away some pieces for free! Further information on Steve’s projects can be found on his blog which contains regular updates on his myriad works, and which is where you can also find his self-penned funnies webcomic.

That dose of delectation wraps up yet another edition of the Friends of Thought Bubble, I’ve got another one in the works so make sure y’all tune in again next week same bat-time, same bat-place, to see some more top-flight sequential art. It’ll make the wait until this year’s Thought Bubble just fly by! (Not a legally binding guarantee.)

– Clark