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The Short List – Malty Heave

Buy Malty Heave

Phil on twitter                                    Robert on twitter

Malty Heave issue 1 cover
Malty Heave issue 1 cover

ZL – Hi both of you, thanx for agreeing to this interview about your new comic Malty Heave! Rob, I understand you’ll be launching it at Portsmouth Comic Con.

Where will people be able to find you in Portsmouth, do you have table details yet, will you be tabling both days?

RW – I’ll be on Table 6 in Comic City 4 at the Portsmouth con.  I hope people can find me as I think the event is going to be even bigger this year, and it was big (and busy) last year.

 

ZL – Phil I believe you’re going to be at Ace Comics in Colchester for Free Comic Book day to launch it, as well as doing sketches? Pretty jealous for those people in Colchester, I’ll tell you! Before diving into details about the comic, I thought it would be interesting to get some background about how it came about.

I was wondering how long you’ve known each other and what led up to you two producing this comic together? I’m guessing you both agreed a theme and didn’t stumble upon one by accident, so I was wondering how specific that theme was and what went into agreeing content to publish together?

 

RW – Phil and I have known each other for about five years.  I used to live in Maidstone in Kent, where Phil has lived for many years, and we met not long before I moved away (only to Ashford, which is also in Kent).  We have kept in touch and met up a few times since then, and we have also done a few local comic events together.  The last time we met up, a few weeks ago, we were talking about how things like Heavy Metal magazine and Epic Illustrated used to be available in newsagents (I had been chatting to Andy Oliver from Broken Frontier about the same topic on Twitter a few days earlier, which probably led to the chat me and Phil had). Then, the next time we talked, I said I wished I had something new to sell at the Portsmouth Comic Con and Phil got back to me and suggested we do a comic together, twelve pages each, inspired by Heavy Metal magazine.  I was quite intimidated by the thought of doing a comic with Phil to start with, particularly as we only had about two weeks to write and draw the whole thing, but I think we both enjoyed doing it and we are both pleased with the finished comic.  We each created our own strips separately and showed them to each other when they were done (or more or less done in my case, as Phil finished his first and needed to see what I had done to design the cover) but we did tell each other roughly what our strips were about after we’d come up with some stories.  The cover was Phil’s idea.  He did his part first and then sent it to me to draw my characters in and add the logo, etc.

 

ZL – I’m deeply impressed you two could make these stories in two weeks, they’re very accomplished full stop; considering the turnaround time, even more so. Rob, your cartooning and character design really impressed me, they’re beautiful and solid forms and there’s a lot of details included in your work, how much actual time went into drawing and how much to writing? Do you layout, thumbnail or pencil a work like this?

RW – I can’t believe we did this in just a couple of weeks either.  It’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got a tight deadline.  It may have been a day or two over a fortnight, but it took me a few days just to come up with a script I was happy with and the actual drawing / putting all the files together was done in under a fortnight.

I wrote a script for Rank Bottom, which took a few days.  I knew more or less what I wanted to do right away, and I had a beginning and an end, but it took me a while to work out what was going in the middle.  I did do very rough thumbnails, just to work out what was going on what page, and then I just threw myself into drawing it and one panel at a time.  I used to do quite detailed pencils and then felt like I ruined them when I inked them, but since I’ve gone digital my pencils have become very rough and I spend more time on my inking.  I even draw some stuff straight down in ink, which I can do, because it doesn’t matter too much if I make mistakes.  I letter it one page at a time, as I go, and tend to re-write bits of dialogue / add in new jokes as I do.

 

ZL – Phil, just because I can’t believe it’s possible, I’m also going to ask you about the fact that you made this comic in a two-week period, which seems amazingly quick considering the quality of the work!

PE – After suggesting to Rob that we create a comic together in two weeks I had a sudden panic attack, but I’m really pleased that we pulled it off and have created something decent, which we hope people will enjoy.

When I suggested this comic to Rob I had no idea what I was going to draw apart from that it’d feature robots and that I’d be working to a one panel per page format. Once I had the opening line the story, such as it is, developed from there and I only changed one caption along the way.  I really enjoyed the freedom of drawing large panels (which were drawn same size A4). The pencils were very loose and most of the details came at the inking stage and I had fun playing around with different textures and styles. I’ve always enjoyed sketching and wanted to keep that same spontaneity with my story.

I should also mention how much I enjoyed drawing the cover and working with Rob on it.  I drew my parts first, which I scanned and sent to Rob who drew his bits on the computer, which is his preferred way of drawing.

 

ZL – Rob, I don’t really know anything about your comics work so I wondered if you could give some details about how many years have you been working at making comics, did you start as a kid and come back, are there many years of work to dig into?

RW – I started reading comics as a kid, always wanted to draw comics, and self-published my first comic, Crisp Biscuit, in 1991, when I was 22, but in the 20 years after that I only published another handful of comics.  I had very little self-confidence, was very slow, and had no idea who would ever read or publish my work, so there were quite a few long periods of time where I just wasn’t drawing at all.  For a few years in my mid-20s, I just focused on writing, which boosted my confidence in that department, but I still felt like I was just bluffing it with my art.  I didn’t draw much at all in my 30s and had pretty much given up on ever drawing comics again, but for some reason, in my early-40s, I got back into it again, was a lot more patient and focused than I had been before, and I stuck with it.  I was 50 in February and I feel like I’m just getting going.  I think the things that made the biggest difference to me this time were social media, which I hated to start with but it meant that I could connect with fellow creators and potential readers in a way that I’d never been able to before (at least I knew that someone would see my strips on Facebook), the way that printing comics became more affordable, and most importantly, getting into digital art.  I bought a drawing tablet and a copy of Manga Studio a few years ago and the first thing I drew digitally was my book.  Before that, I was always changing my mind about what tools to use for inking, always thought my pencils looked much better than my finished art and going digital has really improved my art and boosted my confidence in my drawing.

 

ZL – I’ve been sounding off a fair bit about how there aren’t any venues to get comics out there in front of people’s eyes, are you concerned that UK comics is becoming something of an Ouroboros constantly eating itself? What’s drawn you to attend Portsmouth Comic Con?

PE – There are far more comic conventions in the UK now than there were when I first started. More than one a week so there should be more venues to sell comics, especially independent ones but these conventions seem more interested in having tables selling merchandise and having “the 3rd actor who played the 2nd Storm-trooper who gets shot before he makes through the hole in the wall in The Empire Strikes Back but was later replaced by a CGI Storm-trooper in subsequent versions” signing photos at £30 a time.  I know that not all conventions are the same and Portsmouth is an exception but the cost of tables, travel and possibly accommodation makes it difficult for creators to attend and make any money selling their comics.

RW – I think I’ve always been worried that there aren’t enough venues out there for cartoonists.  In some ways, things are better for people like me right now than they have been for years, because at least there is a graphic novel market and a chance that I could get another GN published and into bookshops, but that is hardly a path to riches (or even a minimum wage).

 

ZL – I know we’ve talked about how tricky getting work out to new people can be and I’m a bit prone to talking about how things are a bit ‘best of times, worst of times’ so I was wondering, when were the worst of times and the best of times for you?

PE – I think my best times have been and gone but you never know!

 

ZL – Phil, you’ve been around the UK small press and zine scene as well as working in professional comics and I’m wondering how the current scene feels in comparison to, say, the early/ mid 80’s and you were in Gag! and there were companies like Harrier, Trident and Valkyrie? Do you still feel like there’s a scene and do you feel part of that scene?

PE – I’m not really part of the comic scene these days, probably because I stopped going to comic conventions and meeting anybody.  It was some years before I plucked up the courage to contact Rob even though he was living a short bus journey from me in Maidstone. Rob’s younger than me and was more familiar with the scene that developed after Harrier, Escape etc but we shared a similar interest in a certain type of comics.

 

 

ZL – Rob, I’ve seen the advert for your comic, Back, Crack & Sack (& Brain), but I was wondering what else you’ll be bringing to Portsmouth and what else of yours is out there to be found?

RW – I will probably bring copies of most of my old comics to Portsmouth (although there are some I have run out of now) but will mainly be focusing on Malty Heave, my book, and a couple of issues of a comic I drew called Department of the Peculiar. DOTP is a superhero / sci-fi comic (sort of) written by Rol Hirst, and the first two issues were drawn and published just before I went digital and got distracted by my book but me and Rol are working on a 48-page special right now, which will hopefully be coloured by Phil, and we intend to Kickstart that in the summer.  I have a table at the Lakes festival this year and I definitely want it out by then

 

 

ZL – Apart from your work on Department of the Obscure, which I know you’ll be working on with Phil and writer Rol Hirst, whose name I recognise as a reviewer from Comics International, (yes I’m old enough), but apart from that, what projects have you both got coming up?

RW – Everyone seems to know Rol from Comics International.  Phil’s friend Reuben knows him from CI, too, but I didn’t make contact with him until quite some time after that.  Department of the Peculiar is my main project at the moment, and I’m still not quite half way through drawing it, but I have an idea for another graphic novel I would like to start after that, unless I end up getting distracted by something else.  I would at least like to put a few chapters together and see if I can find a publisher / maybe even get an Arts Council grant.  I also drew a story for Aces Weekly last year and I would like to do more with the characters who appeared in that story (Love Her Madly) and maybe build that up into a graphic novel.

 

 

ZL – Would you like to work together again, or even with a larger group of people on another anthology?

RW – I would love to work with Phil again.  We enjoyed doing this comic and have since talked a bit about the possibility of doing more with Malty Heave, but with a different theme next time.  I think Phil already has an idea for a story, and I’ve had an idea for something myself in the last couple of days.

PE – Malty Heave is our first project together and we’re already talking about a second issue which we think will have a horror theme (it may surprise people that I’ve always been a huge fan of Berni Wrightson and the work he did for Warren magazines in the 70’s)

 

 

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

comics · crowdfunding · interview · news · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · short list interviews · small press · women's art

The Short List – Russell Mark Olson SKRAWLLORD

Martin Simpson - SKRAWL 1 COV TITLE_small
Martin Simpson – SKRAWL 1 cover

SKRAWL can be found on Kickstarter

 

Anyone that’s followed zinelove or iesorno on any kind of social media knows I’m partial to a few creators including Phil Elliott and Nick Prolix who have both featured on the site and who I might have banged on about a bit…

When I saw Russel Mark Olson dropping hints about a magazine that would feature both, as well as his own work I was immediately interested, even more so when I saw the names of the others involved, many of them creators I was checking out on social media already. Then they blew through their Kickstarter goal on day one and added in Lucy Sullivan and Mark Stafford whilst also putting out a rallying cry dropping the names of some mighty UK anthologies that I love.

So, I thought I’d followed up with some questions to dig into it and flesh out their plans and ethos. You can see more details about the anthology and contributors at the end of the interview!

 

Interview!!

ZL – You mentioned that the SKRAWLLORDZ formed after meeting up and chatting at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and I was wandering what it was at that meeting that galvanised you as a group to get together and put out SKRAWL?

RMO – Away from the con, we were sharing an Airbnb. While individually, most of us knew each other, none of us knew everyone. But we all knew of each other’s work. I took my laptop and a microphone along in the hopes that at some point during the weekend-long convention we’d get a chance to all sit down together and talk comics. The Friday night before the con we recorded over an hour’s worth of discussion on topics ranging from individual process to the ins-and-outs of printing. From that conversation, and many more over the weekend, we bonded and formed the SKRAWLLORDZ. For the particulars, you’ll have to ask the group’s chronicler, Pete Taylor. We kept in touch and over the coming months the idea for a joint publication developed. Looking back, it was a pretty natural progression. Put a bunch of comic makers together in a room full of chimps on typewriters and eventually the chimps type out a note to the comic makers reading “Make a damned comic together, morons!”.

ZL – You’ve mentioned Escape, Revolver and Pssst! as inspirations, what is it you see in these that’s common to what you hope to achieve with SKRAWL?

RMO – Firstly, the magazine format allowed these great publications to stay nimble, agile. To bring in topical work that could address issues quickly and not get bogged down in exposition. The format allows for comics, journalism, prose, and the kitchen sink to sit side-by-side without being a jarring read. These magazines could capture a moment in comics and culture so quickly and effectively. We’d really like to be able to bottle that lightning.

Secondly, we loved the freedom to think about short form and long form comics. That’s the beauty of anthology mags. Ongoing stories and one-offs. If say, Nick Prolix hit on an idea that we wanted to run with, he could produce 5-8 pages every issue of a single thought or storyline while still being able to focus on his personal body of work. If say, he decided that he wanted to change tack for one issue, the melting pot magazine allows that. If he wanted to run with a political space thriller and dropped it into an issue of Slang Pictorial and had to elbow out the residents of Bouveray Town, readers might be a bit confused. The mag allows for that freedom of experimentation and for quick directional changes.

Tertiarily, collaboration. In future, we plan on doing much more of it. We’re all cartoonists, meaning we write and draw, and can letter, colour, do product design, the whole kit-and-kaboodle. We’re all confident with each other to send scripts around, share inking work, do colours here, or letter there. Many hands make light work.

Fourth, the opportunity to invite some incredible talent to add to the mags. To give both industry stalwarts and up-and-comers a chance to explore, or maybe dust-off stuff that’s been sitting around for years which has yet been able to find a home. At the moment, everyone is UK-based. But it’d be great to run with the international ethos of LICAF and bring Europeans, South Americans–hell, the world— to SKRAWLEscape did that brilliantly. Something Pete said recently has really stuck with me. “I’m a fan of good comics. If it’s a good comic, we want it in SKRAWL.”

Lastly, they all had a bit of an edge. Hard to define, harder to capture. I suppose it boils down to risk. Risk in many forms. I think we’re all pretty comfortable with risk. Pssst!, Escape and Revolver were definitely happy taking risks.

Gustaffo Vargas The Oak Tree
Gustaffo Vargas – The Oak Tree from SKRAWL

ZL – As you’ve already blown through your first target and will definitely be putting out your first issue, what are your plans, if any, for the future?

RMO – The short answer: there will be more SKRAWL. The longer answer is a bit inchoate. We’re ironing out the details at the moment, but the things that we’re sure of, is that we have loved putting this together and want to do more. More contributors, more collaboration, wider reach. What we’re not sure of is output. Ideally, we’ll put out two a year. That might mean making the individual issues leaner, maybe 3 SKRAWLLORDZ per issue + guests, or the SKRAWLZ will do more collaborative pieces while guests can show off what they do best, or a combination of these things. We’re all involved in other projects, so we have to cut our cloth to measure, but we’re staying forward thinking. That’s not necessarily a hinderance. Ultimately, SKRAWL, as Pete said above, is about good comics. It wouldn’t surprise me if it naturally evolves. It probably will several times. But at its heart, we’ll do our best to take risks, explore, collaborate, and lift other voices.

 

ZL – I’m always banging on about money, so I have to ask whether any of you will be making anything from this anthology and whether your future plans include paying contributors or using additional money to widen distribution or anything else you may have thought of?

RMO – Possibly not the soundest business model, but almost all of the money will be going to pay our guests and cover print costs. Anything that’s left over we’ll be using towards the magazine. That may mean figuring out distribution channels (we’d love for SKRAWL to act as an ambassador for the UK scene (even though we do plan on widening our net and bringing in international voices), so possibly translated editions), convention representation, promotional materials, marketing, or plugging back into guest rates for the next one. Ideally, we’d get to a place of self-sustainability. But print markets are increasingly tumultuous, new and established magazines bite the dust daily.  We might move towards a subscription model if we can get a few issues out on a trackable schedule, but these are all questions that we’ll be deliberating on once the first issue is in circulation. It’s exciting, wild stuff. Possibly a little mad. But no one stays in comics for the money.

Russell Mark Olson - Goldhorn from SKRAWL
Russell Mark Olson – Goldhorn from SKRAWL

ZL – Last question, I promise, what do you hope Skrawl will bring to the current marketplace for comics and the history of comics?

RMO – Maybe it’s just because we’re in the shadow of Covid-19, but this “feels” like one of those Moments in Comics. Distribution has been partially/temporarily disrupted. Books have been canned, pushed back, mothballed. Artists and writers are roaming the prairies, tasting the dust, listening to the ground for the tell-tale signs of buffalo, dipping their tin pans in streams new. Retailers have scrambled onto their rooftops, their eyes scanning the horizon for the arrival of the airlift helicopters. When we started planning SKRAWL, Covid had yet to hit the news, but by coincidence, we feel we’ve tapped into something, a moment, which is bigger than your average occurrences. How SKRAWL fits into that moment, we’ll have to wait and see. But there have been anthology periodicals which have managed to be more than just a genre vehicle, more than just a single-topical-issue-mag-of-the-hour. This is possibly–as were books like those mentioned above or RAW or Rubber Blanket–a time capsule of what was going on in the UK indie scene at this point in time.

Let me add a caveat to that. The UK indie scene is massive and has talent of which no single mag could possibly hold. The last thing we’d want to do is self-proclaim ourselves to be the keepers of the keys. Lemme tell you. Give us a set of keys and we will lose them faster than a hot minute. But our camaraderie, and our combined network means that all of those creators currently delivering gold are an email away from joining in on the fun. I guess we’re all at a point in our careers where we’ve been around long enough to have a decent grip on the ins and outs of book production but aren’t so swamped with phone calls from the big leagues that has allowed us to confidently produce something which we feel is a good and necessary addition to the indie market. How does that sound? Time will tell. Finger’s crossed in twenty years from now an aspiring UK cartoonist will find a bundle of SKRAWLS in her local Oxfam for a tenner, and she’ll take them home, read them, and then feel inspired to call her friends and say, hey, let’s make something special. That or “Christ, people didn’t know how to draw back then.” I’d be happy with either. Being remembered is being remembered, right?

RosiePackwood-ascend
Rosie Packwood – Ascend from SKRAWL

ZL – I’m sure they will be inspired! On which note, tell us some more about the details of the anthology.

RMO – Continuing in the tradition of Escape, Pssst!, and Revolver , SKRAWL is a comic anthology magazine featuring cartoonists, artists, and writers primarily from the UK’s independent comic scene. The magazine was launched on Kickstarter on August 1st and met its goal in under 24 hours. With a long list of up-and-coming UK talent as well as established professionals, SKRAWL promises to be one of the most exciting comic anthologies of the year.

The core of SKRAWL are the SKRAWLLORDZ (Mark Hughes (Silverbeard), Russell Mark Olson (Gateway City; Tripwire Award Best New Talent 2018; Yancy Street Award Best UK artist 2018), Nick Prolix (Slang Pictorial), Martin Simpson (Needleman, Pipedream Comics Top 10 Indie Comics of the Year 2018), Pete Taylor (Silverbeard) and Gustaffo Vargas (Manu, Pipedream Comics Indie Comic of the Year winner, 2019)) who formed during last year’s LICAF. The magazine will also feature guest spots by their chums, including UK-indie royalty Phil Elliott (Tales from Gimbley), Rosie Packwood (Bun), Jessica Lucas (Yours, Yesterday), Matt Simmons (Bastard Galaxia), and the Cartoon Museum’s Artist-in-residence, Mark Stafford(The Bad Bad Place). To further accentuate the magazine-ness of the anthology, John Reppion (Conspiracy of Ravens) and Lucy Sullivan (Barking) will provide an illustrated short folk horror story.

The SKRAWL Kickstarter campaign offers backers the chance to get on board the publication either as a fully digital or print edition, with retailer tiers for comic shops and bookstores. The magazine will be US format, (a bit bigger and a lot wider than a US comic– at 280 x 210mm) perfect bound, and currently sitting at a page count of 84… but we’d like to expand outwards a bit through stretch goals.

The campaign can be found on Kickstarter. Funding began August 1st and ends on Thursday, August 20th at noon BST. Digital backers can get the full magazine for £5, while the physical magazine is £12 (plus shipping). Retailers in the UKand EU can take advantage of the retailer tier which offers 8 copies for £48 (plus shipping). For more information, please email skrawllordz@gmail.com.

Gallery of contributors

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

interview · Small press oaks

Small (press) oaks – Micah Liesenfeld

Today we talk to Micah Liesenfeld, creator of the web comic “True Blue Ninja Guy” or just “Ninja Guy” if you’ve seen it in print as a mini comic. He’s one of those creators I’ve seen in a lot of places I frequent on facebook, but didn’t really know their main body of work. I’ve seen some of his Ninja guy in those facebook groups and I’ve seen some contribution to Not My Small Diary in old fanzine sites.

So, when he agreed to do this interview, I thought it only fair to have a nose round what he was up to! Which was good, because he’s got an appealing set of work out there, I particularly liked Snow World and his work on his instagram labelled ‘Trudge’. There’s a nice sense of design to the first and just great colour in the latter.

Trudger day 309 - Micah Liesenfeld
Trudger day 309 – Micah Liesenfeld

Check out his work, especially as he’s just finished his 106-page Ninja Guy epic on Monday.

 

about the author photo

You can find Micah here

true blue ninja guy          webstore         instagram         twitter

 

Over to Micah!

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

The first one? That was Charles Schulz. Peanuts comics jumped off the paper more than any others to me. I started cutting out the strips and trying to assemble them into comics that I could collect.

Peanuts - Charles Schultz

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Again, it was Peanuts. In the summer of 1989, I started making my own comics at 12 years old, and one of the first was called “The Peanut Butter Gang”… Completely unaware, I was making a very obvious rip-off.

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

Hmm… I never really felt I was going to be as good as anyone. I know a lot of people who compared themselves, but for some reason, I never tried to storm the tower between “here’s what I love” and “here’s what I’m making.” I just kept trying to make stuff, and meanwhile, I was reading a lot of comics. But I think I finally found my home when I fell into the DIY comix scene that was going strong in the late 90’s and started making things like Space Car Junkie, Snow World, and Feldspar.

 

The requirement to “be as good” was just not a barrier to collaborate and contribute with other creators, and I loved that. I started contributing to anthologies like “Not My Small Diary” (Here’s the current issue). It was so freeing to be accepted as a real comix artist just because I said I was. Armed with just a couple of pens and a long-arm stapler, I was in!

Not My Small Diary 20 art by Ben Snakepit
Not My Small Diary 20 art by Ben Snakepit

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

I’m currently reading “The Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi. Right off the bat, the book just launches you off into the action and tragedy of this created world. It’s inspiring to me for the quality of writing, but also the impact of the message about racism and fighting for a world of love and acceptance.

 

In comics, I’m currently reading “Berlin” by Jason Lutes. It’s a historical piece about what was happening in Germany right before World War 2. It’s eery how similar this time-frame feels to now.

Which creators do you most often think about?

 

In the context of my current work, I love the expressive inkers like Paul Pope (THB) and Scott Mills (Big Clay Pot). I revere Stan Sakai’s commitment to his craft (Usagi Yojimbo). I laugh at the comedy of Rumiko Takahashi (Maison Ikkoku), Mike Allred (MadMan) and early Ben Edlund (the Tick). And I can’t get enough of the epicness of Jeff Smith (Bone).

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Billy McKay (Instagram: @artbybillytherobot) and I have been trading and contributing to each other’s projects for many years. I absolutely love his style and sense of whimsy.

Billy McKay
Billy McKay

Danny Houk (@dannyhoukart) and I are currently collaborating on a project, and I really love his style and sense of timing on either a joke or a sob (whichever emotion he’s trying to pull out of me!).

Danny Houk
Danny Houk

Dimitri Jackson (@frotoonpress) and I met each other at the Saint Louis Small Press Expo a few years back, and I’m in awe of his commitment to his craft with Blackwax Boulevard.

Dmitri Jackson
Dmitri Jackson

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

I live in Saint Louis, Missouri USA with my wife, Aicha, and two children, Julian and Ornella.

 

[True Blue] Ninja Guy is a comedy in 5 parts. I recently decided to publish it as a web comic due to the pandemic, even though I made it as a mini. I’ll have the 5th chapter up very soon, and then it will be complete. It’s about a guy who responds to an online job post. The job requires him to dress in a ninja costume and break into a building to steal something. The ad he’s responded to is a scam, obviously, and he basically reaps the consequences. The sub-plot, though, is all about the two warring factions of Cincinnati chili fast food chains and how they came to be… just what the world needs right now! Er… wait.

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Space Car Junkie - Micah Liesenfeld

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

 

 

comics · fantasy art · illustration · interview · mental health · Small press oaks · zines

Small (press) oaks – Morgan Gleave

I first saw Morgan Gleave’s work on the 1977-2000AD group for a strip in The ’77 magazine that they publish. I immediately loved the character design and graffiti-styled cartooning. I was struck with a memory of Samurai Jam by Andi Watson, not so much in style or layout, but in the life of the line and world design.

I’ve found Morgan to be a very positive person, both in his posts and in the interactions I’ve had with him. I know it shouldn’t matter, but there’s something of that positive and fun attitude that glows out of his work. It’s fun, daft but also deftly giving to the audience.

Morgan Gleave photo

You can find Morgan here

website          ko-fi          twitter          facebook

 

Here’s Morgan

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

Hmmmm… Probably Maurice Sendak, creator of Where the Wild Things Are. That book and In the Night Kitchen were my favourites when I was little. I still have my original copy of In the Night Kitchen, complete with crayon scribbles!

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Kevin O’Neill and Carlos Ezquerra. 2000ad was the first comic I bought every week. I did some huge copies of Ezquerra’s take on The Stainless Steel Rat and Angelina, which my stepdad mounted and framed for me. They’re in my old portfolios in the attic…

Stainless Steel Rat drawn by Carlos Ezquerra
Stainless Steel Rat drawn by Carlos Ezquerra

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

Probably O’Neill. I copied a lot of his Nemesis artwork, and he definitely influenced me for a long time.

Nemesis the Warlock art Kevin O’Neill written by Pat Mills
Nemesis the Warlock art Kevin O’Neill written by Pat Mills

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Mike Mignola is my biggest influence, as a writer and an artist. Although my style has definitely become my own, he is without doubt my favourite storyteller. Mal Earl is amazing too, we’ve struck up an incredible friendship over working on The ’77. I love his style and use of colours.

The Prodigal - Mal Earl
The Prodigal – Mal Earl

Which creators do you most often think about?

Mignola! There’s probably tons more, but I keep going back to him!

Hellboy - Mike Mignola

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Pete Fowler

My stepdad… he saw I had talent and encouraged me to draw and be creative. I followed in his footsteps and became a graphic designer. Pete Fowler… another HUGE influence and inspiration, I love the worlds and characters he creates. Great music too! Ed Doyle… we met over The ’77, have become good friends, and I’m working on some great stuff with him. He’s so positive and encouraging. Lovely chap.

Kazana art by Ed Doyle
Kazana art by Ed Doyle

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

This year has been crazy… In the first week of January, I was asked to send art to LA for a skate video premiere, Tic Tac Skate School reached out and asked me to recreate their logo (I’ve done TONS for them since, and am an ambassador for the school), and was contacted by The ’77, which was a dream come true… PUBLISHED COMICS! I’m now working on LOTS of strips for them.

portrait
portrait

Having grown up on comics and skateboarding, this year has seen so many of my dreams come true. I’ve had comics published, designed stickers and clothing for Tic Tac, and my first skateboard deck will be out soon. I’ve also been interviewed for an amazing podcast, The Mouth of Manliness, who I’ve supported since they started last year… it’s about masculinity and mental health, with a huge dose of creativity thrown in.

I had a huge breakdown last year, and nearly gave up on comics completely. But I started skateboarding again, and slowly started writing and drawing again. I’ve done more comics this year than ever before. And I’ve won online skate competitions! I’m in quite a good place now… I can genuinely say I’m happy for the first time in years.

Cat
Happy Cat – work in progress

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Thank you!

Morgan Gleave image 3
Morgan Gleave

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · fantasy art · interview · self-publishing · Small press oaks

Small (press) oaks – Adam Yeater

The first time I saw Adam Yeater’s work I was struck by the blobby. organic shapes and bright colours strewn over the page. It was full of noise and clutter, just incredibly exciting with lively art filling up a page.

His work is clearly a modern take on classic underground comix; full of extreme, gaudy and sometimes savage images . It delivers its punk trash thrills with verve and invention.

He also posts no youtube, showing his collection of smallpress comics, mini comics and zines.

Slit Mouth Woman in a Hoodie - Adam Yeater Header
Slit Mouth Woman in a Hoodie – Adam Yeater Header

 

You can find Adam here

webstore                youtube                facebook

 

Over to Adam

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

 I guess it would be the MAD artist Don Martin. I was really into those big foot businessmen he would draw. They looked so professional and ridiculous at the same time.

Which creators do you remember first copying? 

Prohias the Spy Vs Spy creator. I loved to trace his strips. Joe Kubert’s jungle and war comics too.

Page from Our Army at War #217 art by Joe Kubert
Page from Our Army at War #217 art by Joe Kubert

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

Frazetta maybe but we are just in different worlds. Our styles are so different and he did not do a lot of comics really. I have always been in awe of that painterly style.

The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta
The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Sadly not a whole lot in comics right now. The medium is kind of stagnant. American comics are way too english centric. It is a bunch of dopey white dudes who love to grandstand instead of make good comics. Everyone is making comics to be like movies. I wanna make and see comics that can’t be made into film. Comics that do things only comics can do. Instead most modern comic books read like 1980s TV serials. Way too much dialogue with very little action. Comic book writers have bored everyone to death for long enough. It is time for artists to breathe life into the medium again.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Lately as I get older I think more and more about the old dudes. I think about the creative freelancer who dedicated their life to working on some shitty superhero comic. Signing away any future prosperity because they wanted to provide for their families. I think of the artist that is now penniless living without health care while some asshole corporation reaps billions off their creations. That is who I think about.

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Hideshi Hino, Jim Woodring and Tim Vigil.  I want to make comics like theirs. Stuff that pushes boundaries. I wanna make surreal horror comics with style. Shit nobody has seen before. 

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

I am currently working on two ongoing comic books. World of Knonx and Blood Desert. World of Knonx is a more mainstream title about smurf type creatures who fight robotic invaders over a magical resource. Blood Desert is a dark humor comic. It is non-stop action and gore.

I can be found all over social media. I also have a YouTube channel called Small Press Express that focuses on independent and mini comics.

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · graphic novels · interview · Small press oaks · women's art

Small (press) oaks – Rachael Ball

Rachael Ball has been making comics for a long time now. Part of the Deadline generation that did impressive work for the magazine whilst it existed then all but disappeared from view afterwards before coming back to the fold with vital, deep and fascinating new graphic novels, starting with The Inflatable Woman, which she first serialised on tumblr. That’s how I reconnected with her work and I’m happy to see that she’s now been busy making comics on a regular basis for a long time since.

Rachael’s art and writing are both gentle and coaxing, they create and delineate a narrative world that is always slightly absurdist but never cruel. It’s no so much a calm world, but it most certainly is never grim, where there is threat, it feels genuine as the characters are real enough for you to care about them and what happens to them.

Rachael Ball

Rachael can be found here

twitter                     instagram                     tumblr

 

So, here is Rachael

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

When I was growing up we had a collection of comic books by Giles and a few by the American satirist Jules Feiffer’s (Sick, Sick, Sick and Passionella.) My favourite graphic novel though was ‘Kontiki and I’ by Erik Hesselberg who after the Second World War was one of Thor Heyerdahl’s team that sailed on a raft from Peru to Easter Island in order to prove that early humans could have made the trip. The drawings are really beautiful. It’s warm and funny and hand drawn with ink cartoons in a daily diary style.

KONTIKI
Kon-Tiki and I by Erik Hesselberg

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

The first was definitely a copy of Giles’ iconic Grandma character. I think I was about 5 years old. I can picture myself doing it. I’m sitting on the arm of an armchair, drawing by a lamp. We were out of paper so my Mum gave me some tracing paper to use instead. I copied the Granma very carefully onto the tracing paper and was so proud of it. I took it to school the next day and other girls (not surprisingly!), accused me of tracing it. Poor me! I was so sad!

Giles - Grandma

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

When I was a child my first passion was kid’s books, particularly fairy tales. I always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. Still chasing that dream! I loved Thackeray’s Rose and the Ring and the illustrations of Robin Jacques. I can see their influence on my characters today and also perhaps how fairy tale tropes often seep into my stories. But yep those two! I wanted to be like them and be as good as them both all wrapped up into one!

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Chester Brown’s ‘I Never Liked You Anyway’ is a fabulous book. Brown is a master observer of nuance in characters. Jillian Tamaki, I’m always blown away by her work. She literally makes me gasp! I was having a good study of Clement Ouberie’s work the other day. His work is relaxed, human… beautiful! Superb use of colour and his technique is great. Storywise, ‘Beautiful Darkness’ by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët can’t be bettered. It really stays with you afterwards and the cuteness of the characters makes the message of the story even more powerful.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Same as above.

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Brecht Evens – I love the way he thinks outside of the box, compositionally. His pages are so well crafted and the compositions are soooo clever. I feel like he uses some kind of perspective device but I can’t fathom what it is! They look like there’s vanishing points all across the page or none at all. They are almost medieval compositionally.

BRECHTEWENS
Brecht Evens

I’ve been following Ottilie Hainsworth’s Corona diary comics recently. They’re lovely. They make me laugh. It’s like she’s opened the window into her life for all to see.

 

Corona Diary by Ottilie Hainsworth
Corona Diary by Ottilie Hainsworth

The Finnish cartoonist Emmi Valve has started doing these lovely personal mailout comics recently. I got my first in the post the other day. Each envelope is filled with zines with her life and thoughts in comic form and extra special objects. She’s doing another in August.

I recommend them. They cost 12 Euro

EMMIVALVE
Emmi Valve

@dreamhouseartletter on Facebook

Emmi Valve - Dreamhouse Art Letter facebook header

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

My most recent published graphic novel was Wolf (2018 Selfmadehero based on the loss of my father as a child), Two very different but fun jobs I had last year – Lizzie Boyle invited me to create a script for a ‘Bella at the Bar’ strip for Rebellion’s remake of Tammy and Jinty. It was Illustrated by the fabulous Vanessa Cardinali with text by Jim Campbell. Bella was one of my favourite childhood comic characters so that was a real gift! I was also asked to illustrate a script for Tony ‘Ez’ Esmond’sThe Whore Chronicles’ based on transcriptions of interviews with prostitutes. It was a fascinating job. I felt that I had a real responsibility towards the woman behind my script.

I really enjoyed not having to do the writing as well! It was so relaxing illustrating somebody else’s words. I’d love to do more of that.

What I’m up to now – I’m about to actually get down to scripting AND DRAWING my next graphic novel, ‘The Patsy Paper’s which I’ve been planning for ages. It’s a satirical tale of my experiences teaching in a state school that was gradually falling apart under austerity.

THEPATSYPAPERS CHARACTER SKETCHES copy
The Patsy Paper character sketches

I’ve also been working on a kid’s picture book sample and I’m planning on doing more light, short kid’s stories whilst making The Patsy Papers. The GN is proving complex so it will be nice to have something light hearted to balance things out.

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · interview · self-publishing · Small press oaks

Small (press) oaks – Robin Barnard

Robin Barnard is one of those creators driven to make for the sake of making. I came across his work via Martin Hand who regularly works with him on the Star Jaws title. I was very pleased when I realized I could read his contributions online and then more pleased when I got to read the zines as they’re fun. There’s a sense of community around them and I’ve found some other great creators by following out from his comics. There’s something ESSENTIALLY fanzine about the whole thing, from the appropriation of style, the mashup of content to the intent to dig into what you enjoy by both celebrating and critiquing it.

I was interested to find out what Robin had to say about his inspirations and influences.

current facebook avatar taken from Robin's hand drawn reproduction of the original Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly corner box
current facebook avatar taken from Robin’s hand drawn reproduction of the original Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly corner box

Find him here

website                   facebook                      twitter

or click the image links for Robin’s comics

A reproduction of a panel from Claremont, Byrne and Austin's Star-lord drawn by Robin
A reproduction of a panel from Claremont, Byrne and Austin’s Star-lord drawn by Robin

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

That would be John Byrne. The very first comic I got brought, Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly in 1978 reprinted “Star-Lord” the first story by Claremont, Byrne and Austin as a team just before they went over to Uncanny X-Men. And then Byrne seemed to turn up in almost any comic I was reading for the next decade or so. It wasn’t for a while after that until I started appreciating films and then music.

img_7179
Carmine Infantino

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I traced a Carmine Infantino cover of The Flash when I was about 9. I don’t remember which issue it was, but I remember it was very fluid.

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I have never thought I was as good or going to be as good as anyone (laughs). I never compare anything I have done to anyone else. I have plenty of inspirations, but I never hold my own work in much esteem. I don’t have much of an ego in that area. I have also never consciously been that competitive. I tend to create for the enjoyment of creating as I find that makes it worthwhile. Sometimes I look at a page I have done and think that might be okay, but that’s it really

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

At the moment I am enjoying the creative madness of Terry Gilliam. I actually saw “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” in the cinema, which was not easy (it had very few screenings), but it was so worth it. Sometimes a movie comes along, and it just takes me to place I have never seen before, and I just have to experience again and again. It doesn’t happen very often, but Terry’s movies have done that for me at least 3 times (Brazil, and 12 Monkeys are the other two).

WHAT ROMANCE 20-20 (with Wallis Eates)
WHAT ROMANCE: 20/20 (with Wallis Eates)

Which creators do you most often think about?

It depends on what I am doing. I tend to go through a cycle where I will discover a creator and then want to experience all of their work. If I was just, for example, working on recreating the 1st issue of “The Human Fly’ then I would read all the issues of that series and read about Bill Manto and the real life Human Fly and all of that would all feed into the end result.

Outside of creative works, I tend to think about Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam when it comes to movies and music can be anything from R.E.M. all the way to Kylie Minogue and everything in-between.

I always have an eye open to see if I can find something new and tend to be open to try anything and make up my own mind if I like it or not, having said that I have not yet watched “Xanadu” (laughs)

STAR JAWS 35
STAR JAWS 35

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

I guess the first one should be Martin Hand. He has been drawing covers for my comics for quite a few years now, he is really great at what he does and he’s much better at it than me. He has also made some great comics.

Next would be David Robertson, who other than myself or Martin has had more material in STAR JAWS than anyone else. David has he is own unique sensibility you always know its David’s work just by looking at it

Last but not least would be Paul Rainey, whose line work is brilliant and his story telling sensibilities again has a great unique voice.

What Men - Robin Barnard
What Men – Robin Barnard

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

For what seems the last umpety ump million years I have been slaving away on STAR JAWS. Which I suppose is basically a spoof comic.

Star Jaws 36 - cover
Star Jaws 36 – cover
The Superheroes Special - cover
The Superheroes Special – cover

As for myself I prefer my material to speak for me, I don’t consider myself as a person or my actual real opinions any part of my creative process.

What I tend to do is observe a situation and try and put that into a story and try and include all valid points of view and if possible, let the audience make up their own minds as to what to think. But sometimes the material has something very specific to say to me in which case that’s exactly where it goes.

I have recreated and rewritten quite a lot of existing comic material and I work in an entirely different industry to comics.

Almost everything I have ever created is on my website.

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Thank you

THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK
THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · crowdfunding · interview · self-publishing · Small press oaks

Small (press) oaks – Ben Nunn

Ben is the artist of the small press comic The Secret Protectors (we reviewed issues 1&2 here and read our interview with them here) and does his own comedy strip on Webtoons called Guff Canyon.

Yesterday we posted an interview with Adam Wheeler, his collaborator and the writer on The Secret Protectors.

Like many creators of his generation he mixes US superhero and manga comic influences

They’re currently Kickstarting a collected edition of the first 4 issues of the series (you can sign up for the first two issues for free here and you can see art from the series throughout the article!!) You can back it here.

You can find The Secret Protectors here

facebook               instagram                twitter

Ben is on  instagram

It’s over to Ben now

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

John Romita Jr
John Romita Jr

As a kid I remember seeing issues of Spider-man illustrated by John Romita Jr. Before that I’d devoured every Superman and Batman/Superman comic I’d been able to get my hands on, so I was fairly familiar with the John Byrne influenced style of the time but Romita Jr stood out and made me think about comics in a whole new way. They didn’t have to be in the typical comic book style, there was a lot more room for experimentation than I thought possible.

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

When Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT were airing on Toonami in the early 2000s I would record them on VHS. Then, after watching a new episode a couple of times I’d pinpoint some cool frames and pause the tape on those moments so I could copy them. This was not a good system. Anyone who’s ever paused a VHS knows the screen becomes a distorted mess of static, discolouration and incomprehensible blurs. Somehow, I did manage to eke out some good frames and had a lot of fun doing so.

VHS scroll
VHS scroll

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I’m not sure this is a thought I’ve ever exactly had for a well-known creator. Growing up it was more about imitating people’s styles because I liked them, not necessarily to get better. That said, I do distinctly remember when I was about six years old, I saw an awesome piece of Batman fanart in a Batman/Superman comic. The kid who’d drawn it was ten and I remember being blown away and not being able to imagine being that good at ten years old. If I saw the drawing today, I’d probably think differently but I do sometimes wonder if I caught up with that kid in the next few years.

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

At the moment I’m really loving the work of Bilquis Evely of The Dreaming and Soroush Barazesh (AKA Koteri Ink) of Kings of Nowhere. They both have very strong, distinctive styles that create a great sense of tone and atmosphere. They’re also both just incredibly technically proficient.

Soroush Barazesh (AKA Koteri Ink) - Kings of Nowhere
Soroush Barazesh (AKA Koteri Ink) – Kings of Nowhere

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Frankie Boyle

I don’t listen to as much stand-up comedy as I used to, and I think that’s partly due to Frankie Boyle. Frankie Boyle is incredible at summoning up an incredibly precise image with as few words as possible. In his BBC Three show New World Order he calls upon imagery that’s mad, grotesque or surreal but it’s always to serve a greater point. In his Mock the Week days he’d take cheap shots for the sake of shock but these days he always has something valuable to say and always says it in a brutal but uniquely valuable way. If brevity is the soul of wit then he’s really got that nailed, and the ability to be concise is a huge element in both illustration and writing.

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Die Hard of the Dead - Written by Matthew M Stapleton Art by Mark Hooley
Die Hard of the Dead – Written by Matthew M Stapleton Art by Mark Hooley

We’re relatively new to the con circuit as we’ve only been at it for a few years, but we’ve met some great people doing some really fantastic work. The first that comes to mind is Matt Stapleton (@what_if_stories), writer of the What If Stories. He takes pop culture icons and adds a horror twist. Die Hard of the Dead for instance is Die Hard plus zombies. His ideas have a lot of potential on their own but it’s the execution that really makes them stand out. His writing is great, and he’s teamed up with some fantastic artists too.

 

 

 

Sam Dempsey
Sam Dempsey

A few years ago I did a bit of a business course where I met comic book artist Sam Dempsey (@dempseyillustrates), we’ve kept in touch on and off over the years and whenever I see him pop up on my Instagram feed I know I’m in for something special. Every now and again I’ll check back on his feed just to get another look at all the awesome work he’s done.

Rhys Wootton
Rhys Wootton

Rhys Wootton (@rhyswootton) is another artist we’ve come across in our con experiences. He’s worked with Matt on What If Stories and has some really awesome comic art for sale. Definitely another one worth checking out.

 

 Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

Ben Image
Ben from The Secret Protectors (not to be mistaken for Ben Nunn the artist!!)

My recent work has been a bit eclectic as far as comics go. I’ve been working on the superhero series The Secret Protectors with Adam for a few years now but since the beginning of 2020 I’ve also been doing a series called Guff Canyon which might best be described as gag strips on Webtoon. They’re mostly little four panel skits about whatever pops into my head. The Secret Protectors is definitely way more towards the mainstream end of the spectrum and heavily influenced by classic X-Men so it’s fun to have a different kind of creative outlet in a totally different style. I think it’s important to have different kinds of projects on the go so you don’t get creatively burnt out. Standalone jokes are also a fun way to stretch my uh…nonsense muscles…

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Guff Canyon
Guff Canyon

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · crowdfunding · interview · self-publishing · Small press oaks

Small (press) oaks – Adam Wheeler

Adam is the writer of the small press comic The Secret Protectors (we reviewed issues 1&2 here and read our interview with them here)

Like many of us, Adam balances a job and writing, looking to grow creatively and get his story out into the world. What appealed to me about The Secret Protectors particularly is that it’s a raw work, finding its voice and style and watching Adam and Ben Nunn (the artist on the series) grow is as much a part of the story as the actual comic.

They’re currently Kickstarting a collected edition of the first 4 issues of the series (you can sign up for the first two issues for free here and you can see art from the series throughout the article!!) You can back it here.

You can find The Secret Protectors here

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Over to Adam

small press superhero comic the secret protectors in this image one of the heroes with flame powers is running and set fire to something
Secret Protectors

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

Yeah of course, you know, I don’t think I realised it till I got a lot older, but the first creators who really left a lasting effect on me were Filmation (responsible for He-Man), Eastman & Laird who somehow thought up TMNT, along with Toei animation who created the Transformers cartoon. Perhaps even more important are husband and wife Eric & Julia Lewald, the two main creatives behind the X-Men animated series. That show, I can genuinely say, really taught me a lot and instilled in me morals I hold to this day. It was an absolutely great show! Crazy to credit that to a kids Saturday morning cartoon I know but I don’t think you can overestimate how important our younger years are in defining the adults we’ll grow in to.

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I remember as a kid playing with my action figures and it was never enough to just have the good guys facing off against the bad guys for the sake of a cool battle. I can vividly remember trying to create the Secret Wars storyline with my figures. Instead of just Marvel characters though I’d have Turtles there as well, along with a bunch of other figures. I remember I couldn’t include Transformers or Thundercats though! They didn’t scale well! It would have been ludicrous to include them too! As for my adult years, I’ve tried to not outright copy anyone of course but at this point I’ve so many influences that play into my storytelling approach.

 

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

Woah, tough one that! Creatively I’ve always wanted to try and have my own way. As a small press indie guy, I’m not sure its about trying to be better than someone else. I think it’s more about improving your craft, learning from your mistakes and growing as a person to improve your work!

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

There’s so many! If I had to narrow it down, I guess I’d have go with a top 5 format, so:

David Chase – The creator of, in my opinion, the best TV series ever – The Sopranos. It’s been labelled all kinds of superlatives, I’m not sure I can really add anything to the list. I’ve heard it described as an 86hr film, which is probably about right. It just never misses a beat and the storytelling is just so deep and rich. It’s the only series I’ve ever watched over from start to finish more than once. I’ll definitely been watching it a third time at some point in my life!

Spawn 300 by Todd McFarlane
Spawn 300 by Todd McFarlane

David Simon – The man is responsible for a bunch of incredible TV series, such as The Wire, Show Me a Hero & The Deuce. I’m a pretty unemotional guy but Simon is phenomenal at drawing you in emotionally before then absolutely crushing you. Show Me a Hero in particular left me completely exhausted.

Christopher Nolan – He’s just never made a bad film, in fact, I’d argue literally all his work is top drawer stuff. Not only does he tell original, amazing stories, he does it in a way that is normally a way you’ve never been shown a story before.

Todd McFarlane – When Todd left Marvel and started up Image, he, along with the other founders of Image changed the industry forever. In Spawn, he has the longest running independent comic of all time and on a personal note, anytime I see an interview with him he just seems so humble and grounded. He worked his absolute arse off to get where he is and to improve himself. He’s gone from aspiring, struggling artist to a one-man empire! He makes comics, films and toys! The man must never sleep!

Chris Claremont – The man wrote X-Men for 25 years! The longevity and quality of his work is pretty much unparalleled. To quote the great late Stan Lee ‘Nuff said’.

There’s plenty more but this is a pretty good representation.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

I actually try not to really! I’d end up depressing myself by comparing myself to someone on top of the, figurative, mountain that I’d love to ascend! I kid, of course! That’s a tough one. I try to focus on being better personally. Just keeping my head down and doing ‘me’.

 

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Sure, first up! Matt Stapleton – The mind behind What If? Stories. He’s such a great guy! He’s one of those people whose enthusiasm is just unrelenting! Some might find that jarring but it’s honestly infectious! In a good way! He’s so positive when taking on a challenge, like his recent Kickstarter for instance, he smashes it! If you’ve got a dream and want to make it happen, surround yourself with individuals like Matt. People who dream and believe!

InstaSave
Ben Nunn – 2000AD submission from sample script

Ben Nunn – The second half of The Secret Protectors duo. Ben’s great! We’ve been working together now on The Secret Protectors since 2017. We’ve both developed a lot since then but Ben’s improvement is remarkable. He’s never happy with his work and he’s constantly looking to do better. If I let him, he’d probably completely redo issue 1! Hahaha!

 

Lastly. My wife! Kate Wheeler. Now, she’s not a typical creative. She is an actress but she’s not currently working. She had to get a real job to pay the bills unfortunately. But she is my muse. She’s the only reason I developed the belief needed to go out there and get my comic made in the first place! She is my number one confidant, partner, friend and consigliere! The Silvio to my Tony Soprano so to speak.

 

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

I’d love to shamelessly plug my Kickstarter which is Live right now! It’s for my comic book series The Secret Protectors! It’s Ben and mine’s take on the superhero genre. There’s sci-fi and fantasy aplenty but it’s more about the drama and tension between the characters themselves! It’s the story I feel I’m here to tell, essentially. There’s not a day that passes that I don’t think about it in some way, shape or form! It’s definitely my burden to carry! My curse!

(editor’s note — It’s here – remember!)

I also recently wrote the short story ‘The Ville’ – download The ‘Ville – By Adam Wheeler. Completely different to anything comic related. To be honest, I just wanted to challenge myself to make something up new. Something that was a complete departure. Just to prove that I could, more than anything.

As for me, I’m Adam Wheeler a 35-year-old male. I’ve been creating & crafting stories since I can remember, not that anyone ever asked me too. I’m not so interesting. I’m just a working-class guy with aspirations. Cliché I know but it’s the best backstory I could come up with for myself.

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Praise Image

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

comics · interview · self-publishing · small press · Small press oaks · zines

Small (press) oaks – Daniel Bristow-Bailey

AC3_p04
Anxious Comics – issue 3 page 4

I first saw Daniel Bristow-Bailey’s work when he offered up free copies of his prose zine Dog. I ordered it on the strength of the cover, Dog handwritten above a very detailed drawing of a frog. It made me laugh, there was something oddly significant in that juxtaposition, couldn’t tell you why, but there was.
Shortly after that he started his Anxious Comics series, which is a fast paced, underground influenced mash series that has a lot of nonsense and yet some very powerful moments. It’s daft, but also on point and so, exactly what I enjoy.

He’s an eclectic creator and has a set of skills that make his work pop.

 

You can find him here

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Use the discount code ZINELOVE10 for a 10% discount on anything you buy. Valid until the end of 2020.

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Screaming page 2

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

It would have been someone from 2000AD. I remember being very excited by Kevin O’Neill’s run on Nemesis and Simon Bisley’s painted artwork for Sláine. If I look at Bisley’s stuff now I find it hard to get past the grotesque anatomy, but as with people like Todd MacFarlane in the US he pushed past his technical limitations with a raw energy that appealed to adolescent boys. I don’t mean that as snootily as it sounds! Adolescent boys can be fierce critics.

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

My mum, who should get most of the credit for teaching me to draw, always strongly discouraged me from copying directly, but I came pretty close to it with Moebius! He always makes it look so (deceptively) easy that it’s hard not to have a go oneself.

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Moebius – Edena

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

That’s an interesting question. Probably Gilbert Shelton. I started reading the Freak Brothers when I was far too young (got to thank my mum again for that) and that “underground” style with lots of fine linework and cross-hatching seemed to be achievable with the materials I had at home. I think the Shelton influence still shows in my black-and-white stuff.

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Gilbert Shelton – Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

In terms of comics, I’ve recently discovered Al Columbia. I can’t remember the last time I found an artist who really disturbed me like his stuff does. Even the more restrained stuff has an evil, haunted quality. The book I’ve got (Pim and Francie, Fantagraphics, 2009) feels like a cursed object, like the Necronomicon in Lovecraft’s stories, or the video cassette in the Ring. It’s a great example of text, illustration and book design all working together.

I’ve been reading a lot of Nabokov. He’s one of those writers I keep coming back to. Sometimes I like to think about how you could do a graphic novel of “Pale Fire”. The first half of the book is a very long poem, written by one fictitious character, and the second half is a collection of footnotes to the poem, written by a second fictitious character, who has stolen the manuscript and is preparing an unauthorised edition of the poem. As the notes digress further and further from the text of the poem, another narrative emerges, that may or may not be “true”, so it would probably be impossible to do a graphic novel adaptation, but thinking about how one might do impossible things is often creatively rewarding.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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David Lynch – Twin Peaks

Aside from the people I’ve mentioned already, I think a lot about David Lynch. I’ve always liked his stuff but Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) absolutely blew me away. There were points I was watching that when I thought “I didn’t know you could do that with television”. I think whenever a work expands your ideas about what’s possible within a particular medium you know you’re in the presence of real Art with a capital A. I love the sense of mystery in Lynch’s stuff, which I think comes from his letting the subconscious take the lead in the creative process – he talks a lot about using ideas or imagery from dreams, or meditation. It’s a process I’ve consciously been emulating with “Anxious Comics”.

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?

Gareth Hopkins - NO NEW IDEAS

 

 

 

Gareth Hopkins, because I’ve just finished doing a page for his “no new ideas” project. It was great fun getting to paint over a copy of one of his pages. Gareth posts a lot of his process online and I’ve found it inspiring how he reworks and recycles stuff. His work has definitely encouraged me to veer more towards abstraction, and not to be afraid, in comics, of decoupling the text from the image – I think he was a big influence on my one-shot “the Screaming”.

Gareth Brookes. I’ve not talked to Gareth much about process but he seems drawn to ridiculously labour-intensive media, like embroidery or linocuts. As if making comics wasn’t hard enough already! But as I said before, there’s nothing like setting yourself an impossible challenge to get the creative juices flowing. Also, when I look at the spread of stuff he’s got for sale at conventions – a mix of self-published zines and two or three big hardback books published more traditionally, I think it’s where I’d like to be myself in a few years’ time, so I guess he’s kind of a role model for me right now.

 

Hannah Lee Miller
Hannah Lee Miller

Hannah Lee Miller is producing some lovely stuff. I picked up a copy of her zine about condiments at Catford Zine Fair and it’s one of those things that initially seems rather slight and inconsequential but is actually really, really good, it just doesn’t shout about it. Also, Hannah is, in my limited experience, infallibly enthusiastic about other comic / zine people and always ready to help out or lend support where it’s needed. An asset to the scene.

 

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

For a long time I tried to be self-disciplined and only work on one thing at once, but recently I’ve come to accept that I’m happier when I have several projects, preferably in different media, on the go at once.

The last thing I self-published was “The Screaming”, an experimental one-shot comic about dreams and mental health. I wrote about it in some detail for Broken Frontier.

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Screaming page 8

I’ve got five pages in the upcoming anthology by Obsolete Comics. I’m really excited about this one as it looks like it’s going to be great, and hopefully represents the start of another small comics press. We can never have enough small comics presses.

I’ve also got Anxious Comics, my ongoing series – four issues out to date and the fifth long overdue! My long-term plan with that, if you can call it that, is to keep it going between other projects for as long as it needs to, or until I get bored. At some point it would be nice to do a collected edition.

I’m currently drawing a comic written by Steve Thompson, which he’ll be pitching to publishers soon I think. I like drawing other people’s scripts because it forces me to draw stuff I otherwise wouldn’t think of.

Looking to the longer term, I’m working on a script for a longer-form comic. It’s kind of a superhero thing. But not quite. I’ve got this character who’s kind of my own take on the super-violent costumed vigilantes like the Punisher and Deadpool that were popular when I was a kid, but transplanted to the “real world” of early-noughties London.  It’s pretty bleak. I think it’s funny myself but as with some other stuff I’ve self-published in the past it will probably cause people to express concern for my mental health.

Gareth Huntbegins
Gareth – Hunt Begins – work in progess

Bio: Daniel Bristow-Bailey was born in London in 1978. Growing up during the “dark age” of mainstream comics, he quickly became attracted to the alternative / indie scene and, encouraged by his mum and the bloke in the local comic shop, started drawing his own from an early age. Like many others, he drifted away from comics in his late teens, put off by their uncool image and lack of seriousness compared to grown-up art and literature, but came back to them in recent years as he realised that no-one was going to think he was cool or take him seriously anyway. As well as making his own comics, he draws other people’s scripts and sometimes writes prose fiction. He has a day job working as a mental health person in schools. He lives in Richmond with his wife and two children.

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

Gerald
Gerald – work in progress

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

announcement · art · illustration

39 Steps – exploring personal spaces at the time of the Covid crisis and beyond

Something a bit different today, a bit more community led.

We’re inviting creators of all stripes to make art about their spaces, both physical and mental, with this brief

‘You walk for 39 consecutive steps. For each step, you make an image. That can be a drawing, a sketch, a photo even just written messages or descriptions. They shouldn’t be precious or considered, they should be an immediate reaction to what you see in front of you. Step – image, step – new image until you’ve made 39 consecutive images as you’ve travelled.

During the process, you can write down what you hear, what you think. You can come back and reflect upon what that set of images makes you think about and feel as well.’

you can post them in comments, send photos to the email, as we’d love to put them up and host them to build up a varied, worldwide experience

Here’s my example, and there are some example panel layouts you can also use if you want to join in. 39 Steps – Group template

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comics · what's going on

What’s going on – some thoughts about harassment and the future

Some context

There’s been a lot of talk online, particularly about Warren Ellis, although other creators are being called out as well, in Science Fiction and comics. If you don’t know the details, they are all involved in serial sexual harassment.

I’ve been reading with no small amount of sadness, but also, no great sense of surprise either. This is something that’s a problem, full stop. It’s not just comics or writing, it is very common everywhere.

I keep my personal details out of this blog and, generally, off most posting I do that can be connected to my social media accounts for a reason. I’ve seen the kind of weird and unpleasant behaviour some men think is entirely normal at first hand. I’m not adding a publicly accessible account to those issues already faced by my family. There are many creepy AF men out there. Niche concerns attract them more as they can go underground and make themselves safe there, so those industries need to address them with greater emphasis.

I don’t usually repost things from anywhere – but the below post by Nevs Coleman on his MONDO Funnybooks page struck me as very balanced in comparing two different industry responses and the light it sheds on those entertainment industries.

NOW – context – we’re two, white middle-aged men here, so the least likely to suffer at the hands of this situation, so bear that in mind. Also, I’ve barely done retail, so I don’t know the complexity there, but I’ve seen those situations and have had to step in even in the small amount of time I did.

After Nev’s article, I expand upon my own thoughts, they are mine and not his, please remember and consider that.

 

 

Nevs Coleman – Mondo Funnybooks

If you read nothing else from here, this is the important bit. I want to express my sadness and regret for the people harmed as has been revealed in recent events in the comics and wrestling world. There is no other explanation except an abuse of the hierarchy implicit in both and each industry has failed the people they attracted.

The rest of this is extrapolation on that. If you feel comfortable with carrying on knowing this is what it is to come, please do.

‘Rise above

We are tired of your abuse

Try to stop us

It’s no use.’

I don’t know where to start on this. Even the fact that I’m dropping all the tropes that come with Mondo Funnybooks is significant in this instance. There are a lot of things I need to say about everything even if I’m not sure my voice isn’t drowning out the important stories in all this.

If you’re new here, Mondo Funnybooks is usually a column covering elements of comic history that I find funny or dubious or just ‘wha-?’ There are normally jokes or tenuously linked personal ancestors or elements of howling at the void.

That doesn’t seem right for now. Doing the usual schtick is just tone-deaf apathy attempting to pretend everything is okay. Giving ‘a respectable amount of time’ before doing the song and dance number says…what? Okay, this doesn’t matter anymore? There is a time limit on acknowledging the pain we’ve caused and then we’re back to Peach Momoko variants and Walking Dead comics as if nothing happened?

I’m caught between silence which at BEST suggests apathy and fucking up in public with the best of intentions. I’d rather do the latter because there are a number of ideas being discussed that I want to use this platform to give greater prominence to in the general psyche. I accept there are potential problems with this I’m not perceiving. Please understand this is ignorance and not malice in action.

There is an issue of Excalibur by Warren Ellis that is extremely important to me that I’ll keep for personal reasons. Going into that here adds another 1000 words to this but I’m quite willing to give my reasons should anyone want to confront me on this.

However, I don’t feel comfortable keeping the other works of his and other individuals who’ve had their abusive actions revealed in the last couple of weeks.

What I’ve chosen to do is to sell them onto a friend of mine and have him donate the proceeds to an organisation called ‘One In Four’, which operates out of Catford. I’ll drop a link at the end of this.

I suspect I may not be alone in feeling this way and while there isn’t a clear infrastructure in place, it seems fairly simple to achieve. At the moment if this is a bother for you as well, please feel free to get in touch.

It strikes me that there is an element of entertainment fandom that is apathetic to the actions of publishers, creators or such and therefore would be happy to pick up a cheap copy of Red, Planetary or any Superman related comic under the Eddie Berganza regime, especially if the purchase has such a tangible and immediate benefit to it. While none of this is set in stone, obviously, I think the route of least resistance is for sales to be private so as to not be potentially publicly shamed for wanting a copy of Red.

That would be counter-productive and I’d rather people didn’t think that they couldn’t be involved with this transaction without being shouted at online. That would literally cost this idea money. Not what is wanted.

I must confess I don’t know if the secondary market is ready to have potentially thousands of issues of Batgirl or Suicide Girls dumped on it. But we’ve all benefitted financially as shops, publishers, convention organisers from these men and their work so I think we should be willing to pay back what’s owed.

With that in mind.

Those of you interested in wrestling will have been aware that there have been a number of revelations regarding various performers in the news over the last few days. Reactions have been staggering in their sincerity and actual immediate action taken, with people in high positions of power stepping down and whole companies closing down.

What’s relevant to this, I think, is the case of Sammy Guevara. To catch you briefly, Sammy was found to have declared during a 2015 interview that he wished to r*pe WWE performer Sasha Banks.

Almost immediately, AEW put out the statement:

“We strongly condemn the extremely offensive and hurtful words of Sammy Guevara. As such, effective immediately, Sammy is suspended without pay until further notice.

“Sammy has agreed to undergo extensive sensitivity training and, upon completion, his future status within the company will be re-evaluated.”

AEW added that the wrestler’s salary would be donated to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville for the period of his suspension.’

I think the final part of this is a key element for what can be done looking forward. There is ad revenue that comes from hosting content by these creators in question and I strongly think, especially in cases where publishers have benefitted massively by public appearances of these men that there ought to begin the process of diverting that money and future sales of that material to the relevant programmes, organisations and institutions that are essentially dealing with the mess created by our lack of care and practice.

Which brings me to my last point. I realise this has been a long one and not the material you expected and thank you for keeping with me this far.

I think i would be safe in saying that I have the most colourful and varied professional history in comics retail and publishing of anyone alive. In my 25 odd years as someone paid to be doing a job which is usually public facing, I’ve worked for Humanoids, Dark Side Comics, Raygun, Nobrow, Gosh, Orbital, Comic Showcase and 30th Century Comics.

That’s not factoring in time working for friends at marts, cons, related events and in that time I’ve spent time with every one worth knowing discussing everything, with people who were there from the very beginning of the British comic retail scene to people who just transferred over from CEX because their regional branch of FP was two stops closer on the bus. I maintain relationships with some of the longer served members of the American end of the industry.

This isn’t to drag everyone down with me nor brag but merely to back up my final idea:

We, as a community and a trading business do not have ANY standards and practice involved when dealing with potentially dangerous customers. Not in regard to the safety of female staff. I can tell you that some have evolved out of necessity such as sending the staff member away from the shop floor until the creeper leaves or being in close proximity to shut down to the attempt to start irrelevant conversation that makes the woman uncomfortable, driving all communicating down merely to transaction. Or having to travel with the woman as the shop closes.

These have all been effective, but they have been borne only out of hardship and necessity and nobody I’ve spoken to on this suggests any policy covering this possibly exists.

Conversations regarding this have begun in some places. If you aren’t in that circle, then perhaps it’s time to begin them. I don’t believe things like this are going to stop happening and I’d rather there was too much idea than what’s happening now. Which is nothing. And that’s probably nowhere near good enough.

Incidentally, I am aware that this probably isn’t standard in many other public facing industries. I think if we take away anything from 2020, it’s that this is the year we finally had almost every problem that’s been obviously building up for a very long time explode at us at once. Maybe this is one we get a head start on.

I think that’s it. I have no desire for this to be seen as anything except ‘As someone who has been around a bit, there are things to be thought about.’ It occurs to me that just waiting out for the next bit of news to replace this and we can all go back to worrying about DC/Diamond or FCBD just lessens the focus and it will happen again.

Or, I suppose, it has happened, but the person involved doesn’t feel the support is there for them to come forward. So, they leave. That happens probably more than you think.

Having written all this, I want to reaffirm this is only written as offering angles and ideas that I hope improve things. I recognise that I am very much a compromised individual so if the removal of me from this is necessary for the suggestions to be considered then by all means.

For those of you who came to this business and world wanting to join in with the magic you saw and got what you got, I am deeply ashamed of what we became, and I hope life improves for you. We didn’t deserve you.

https://www.oneinfour.org.uk/

 

 

Post script

So – here are my thought.

A lot of people have gone on a political approach to this, by which I mean, they debate whether they sound contrite enough or whether a creator should be boycotted. But what strikes me is that there’s not much talk about what to do to make actual change. You can’t stop what happened, but you should make damn sure it can’t happen so easily next time.

There’s also little recognition that these matters HAPPENED to a PERSON and they happened, in many cases, around the periphery of professional environments. More importantly, read these things and one thing becomes absolutely clear, these matters didn’t get talked about because of fear of professional repercussions and they enabled by the silence of those firms.

Put another way, people kept quiet for fear of ruining their chance at a career and those concerns were REAL because companies like DC and Dark Horse and god know how many others actively protected those behaving unreasonably and by protected read sacked those abused not the abusers.  Let’s call for those companies to get held to account, to set up initiatives to deal with and address the very real harm that they have caused countless individuals? We know they can do it, DC have already pulled and will never again publish work written by Gerard Jones because of his conviction. If they can do that, then why not pass on profits from these other creators?

Maybe they can’t because of contracts? I’m almost certain there is a way for them to still be able to make charitable donations to organisations that can help raise voices and deal with concerns of abuse within the industry in positive and impartial ways. Even if that’s education for professionals coming into the world of comics.

Let’s also talk about structural changes that are needed to protect people at risk at work. No one needs to circle their wagons for fear of reprisals, be open, contribute by listening.  Contribute to organisations that will provide best practice for changing these spaces and making them safer, sign up to follow best practice.  We need business groups coming out with best practice recommendations for dealing with the day to day issues of harassment or even simply inappropriate behaviour? ComicsPro could step up in the US, cons could get advice.  We’re wanting to see places be Covid safe, why not harassment safe as well?

That’s what I liked about this post, a call for practical change. Let’s call for change, let’s demand that DC apologise and investigate what happened, let’s get journalists out there asking sacked workers removed because some DC person harassed them.

Let’s do something to congratulate and support those who have spoken about it, let’s get organised to support women, minorities, everyone suffering harassment, whether sexual, racial, age related, LGBTQ+.

Let’s also make changes now to reduce risks of this continuing into the future. Guidance to new and established authors about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Rules at cons about the behaviour of guests to fans. They are small things and maybe they’ll take away some of the fun of these situations, but maybe they’ll actually allow everyone to have more fun without hurt or abuse.

 

books · comics · graphic novels · horror · Reviews · women's art

BARKING review – The River Runs Through

Lucy and BARKING can be found here:

twitter           facebook           website           BARKING at Unbound

 

BARKING is the story of a woman whose breaking heart also breaks her mind. Death cracked her reality, making the black dog her new shadow in life.

This is a harrowing book. Bleak and painful with no easy solutions and little in the way of kindness shown throughout. At this time of lockdown, it was affecting in odd ways. The most emotionally charged scene for me was when the main character walked through an underpass, it captured the scene so perfectly I was suddenly struck by the reality of being locked in for months now. Similarly, that sense of an altered reality felt uncomfortably close, like a shadow casting over me, like an itch scratching at the back of my head throughout.

1.Hounded Pg2-3

I mean to say, you’re not going to walk away from a reading with the sense that all’s well and good with the world. You are going to walk in someone else’s footstep for a time though. For me, there are times that it’s a walk uncomfortably close to my own path. I can tell you that there are moments where it feels very much like reality is on the page, even when that reality is genuinely all in the mind.

BARKING is a bravura work. A work centred wholly on emotion and the depiction of personal experience.

BARKING swims in black, mental and physical. Scratched onto paper; sometimes kinetic and neurotic, sometimes fluid and loose and occasionally still and filled with captured life and place. It’s hard reading, mentally but easy to follow. It’s no simple drama, it is a gothic horror drenched in sturm und drang, the melodrama turned up loud.

In terms of story, it starts with Alix fully immersed in a psychotic episode, being chased by the police. She is sectioned and admitted to a hospital for treatment where details of what led to her breakdown come out as Alix slowly walks back to reality. It’s a simple story of breaking and climbing from the wreckage. As well, though, it is a highly structured and carefully put forward work of literature that is neither linear nor straightforward. It drops you in the reality of Alix straight away and plays one little game with plot. The real heart is not the plot, nor the skills, it’s the story as experienced, the altered reality that you’re dropped into. A first-person narrative constructed as a first-person reality. Visually building delirium in a way that first-person prose never could.

2.Commit-Final Spread

To slip back to prosaic for a second – this is a work where it’s got so much going on you can almost never know what to talk about. I could just list the amount of moments where the drawings are beautiful, the images reflect each other structurally or the textures just look totally incredible. I could detail story moments that pulled me up and hit close to home, but that would never give a flavour of the whole experience.

So, I’m going to do something a bit looser here – different ways to think around this book.

 

The river runs through as an itchy line of darkness

In literary studies the use of themes, similes and metaphor are very important. Often what marks the literary worth is the quality of language, the intelligent use of simile, and how it helps highlight themes and character traits. Maintaining consistency of subject can reinforce your major and minor themes. It is similar in music as well as film. Characters will have the same tune or the same framing to create a consistency that allows the creator to trigger reactions and connections that build subconsciously within a work. Leitmotif, in other words.

Lucy runs the River Thames through the work constantly, the lines of the drawings hark back to the lines of the dark waters. The river is both the site where reality fractured and the altered reality that Alix treads through every day. She can’t help walking through it, dripping and at points almost drowning in it.  Whether it’s hanging over her head or rushing round her ankles, the tow of the dark tides is as constant a companion as the black dog belittling her.

Scratched onto the page

And really that scratching active line is the major leitmotif at work, it holds up players as puppets, it drags bodies around and down and curls them into balls. The free, loose movements and their frantic pace fluid along the width of the page are suddenly dragged upward and tied together in the cramped environs of the hospital.

The lines scratch in and out of the narrative darkening and lifting with Alix’s own distance from reality.

 

Staring reality in the face

Lucy communicates a lot of what happens through her art, whether that’s the chaos in the mind or the emotional state of her characters. The way Alix holds her hands to her chest and peeks round corners that aren’t there tells you all you need to know about her mental state and how fragile she feels at that time.

Her environs blur off into lines of black so that you know they just aren’t reaching her, reality is just floating out of reach. What strikes hardest though, for me at least, are those moment where detailed sketches of real places are included. There’s something about the nature and approach of those drawings that’s so rich that it interrupts the darkness and identifies itself as REAL reality, the world truly impinging on Alix’s mind. It’s a strong metaphor and a simple method of communicating an incredibly complex concept. They are also very beautiful images that you could happily look at for a long time, so they also provide much needed breathing space in a difficult read.

Location-Print

Leaning on genre to create form

Whilst reading and re-reading BARKING for this review a couple of things popped up that struck me as very relevant to BARKING and how Lucy handles the story.

H-8-9

The latter was a blog post by M John Harrison that I’ll quote in full.

‘For maybe five decades, maybe more, I didn’t want my life to be what it was. It was perfectly ordinary, but I didn’t want to be in it. Writing and climbing were escape routes; I developed a bad memory to deal with the rest. Only now, after I’ve spent a few years in a life I want, do I see what an odd admission that is to make. People seem quite horrified by it; I don’t want to live among people who aren’t. How do you write about a life like that, legacy of your own poor management of childhood & adolescence, except veiled in concepts such as “haunting”, “navigation failure” or,” behaviour after a disaster”? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Living is the endless discovery that you’re weirder than you thought, & you’ll never retrieve any of it except via the metaphors you’ve had all along. That seems to have been one of the advantages of genre fiction for me’

A great way of talking about where genre transcends its own limits and becomes literature where tropes and ideas become a way of making the normal seem strange so we can more easily examine it.

Before that, on international women’s day, there was a thread on Frankenstein and Mary Shelley that discussed the backstory of its creation with many comments chimed in that she had created a whole new genre of fiction from that one novel. Now you can argue the case for or against that, and I would say what she did was build upon the existing structure of gothic novels and make that her own. What made it her own was that she had something to say and took a form and structure that helped get her point across whilst adding what she needed, where she needed it to keep to the path of personal truth. You could also argue for it being proto surrealism convincingly and likewise you could say it leans heavily into symbolism or romantic poetry. Whatever you want to take from a discussion of the structure of that story, the reality is, what drives it is not clever genre tropes, no inversion of expectation, what drives it is the very human drama it describes and plays out. However much lightning and drama it blows at you, at the heart you care because those characters exist as real emotional beings that speak truthfully about someone’s feelings or experience and you engage with those and that drives your interest.

1.Hounded Pg4-5

BARKING certainly shares themes with Frankenstein, with its questioning of who or what is a monster and the worth of science.  But more importantly, it deals with the humanising of the monster, of building a portrait of the world experienced by that monster to drive an axe through accepted norms with the sharp blade of humanism.

 

BARKING is not setting fire to genre and making something new. What it’s doing is building a work with a frame of genre and in reality, it doesn’t lean into those tropes in any meaningful sense. What I mean by this is that some may see the haunting in this novel as a ghostly experience, the tarot reading as a supernatural signifier. What I experienced when I read it felt utterly divorced from trope and genre style. You’re not seeing someone writing a spooky or scary story for the sake of shocks, it’s an affecting method of portraying the experience of Alix, a way of putting that experience out there for you to go through and experience yourself. The genre elements are almost like a sugar coating for those who don’t want to deal with the idea that this experience is a reality, the reality of Alix. It cushions the blow for those unable to accept altered reality is still reality for those in it.

By which I mean, it seems a genre story but it’s not using supernatural elements for terror, but to make explicit the hidden experiences of the mind. It is a work of surrealism in the true sense. Surrealisms aim was, according to leader André Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality“, or surreality. That, for me, is clearly what BARKING both aims to do and delivers with great élan.

 

You’re always talking nonsense

Oddly, in comics, particularly literary comics, the use of lettering and ‘sound effects’ is rarely used to convey much either psychological or audible experience. There are few works that aim to make use of integrating words in design and layout, at least with western traditions. The two series that took these techniques and ran with them to astounding effect both appeared in the 1980’s and we’ve rarely seen any experiments drawing upon either Cerebus or American Flagg. In fact, with the consigning of thought balloons to the ‘childish’ era of comics, psychological insight has come to be delivered through literary dialogues that read more like journal entries than experienced existence. Distinctly purple prose revealing no personality or emotion.

Word screeds

Lucy digs heavily into the opportunity that words in comics can deliver, sometimes drowning the scene in the negative aggressive self-hating screed constantly playing in Alix’s head. A screed at point almost completely unintelligible, sometimes rolling along in the background and sometime on point, ripping into her in the moment.

It’s an odd thing to call a comic creator brave for using one of the basic tools within their arsenal, but equally, considering how frowned upon the technique has become, it shows a commitment to delivering her message with all of the powers available to her to make it work.

 

BARKING is a big work. A work that roars with power and rage in the hope of making people feel the terror experienced by many encountering the mental health system and societies reactions to those in the grip of mental health issues.

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

This is the end

 

 

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – other things I found along the way

Michel Fiffe

appreciation – http://michelfiffe.com/?p=1851

Interview – https://www.factualopinion.com/the_factual_opinion/2011/10/second-city-the-paul-duncan-phil-elliot-interview.html

First Comic Newshttps://www.firstcomicsnews.com/phil-elliot-interviewed/

Tom Murphy at Broken Frontier reviews In His Cups –http://www.brokenfrontier.com/in-his-cups-collected-tales-from-gimbley-review-phil-elliott-fast-fiction-comics/

Eddie Campbell

http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2008/10/fter-writing-about-british-small-press.html

Eddie Campbell writes about the 80s small press (of which Phil was such an influential part) available on SEQUENTIAL and Kindle:

Dapper John: In the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club

Kindle (all devices)
SEQUENTIAL (iPad only)
Ed Pinsent
Lambiek.net
Paul Gravett

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributors – art page

Below are some interpretations of Phil’s style or characters, just for fun

Gimbley image is by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Gimbley image by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Deadface - Ilya - with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Deadface – Ilya – with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Gimbley - Robert Wells fan art
Gimbley – Robert Wells fan art
Gimbley - Mark Russell Olson fanart
Gimbley – Mark Russell Olson fanart

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – A gallery

Part of the reason this has taken so long is the search for images or, more fairly, my reaction to looking at Phil’s work curated on the internet. Not only is there a lot, but it’s all damn good and i could lose myself in it completely.

Below is a gallery of every image I sourced for these articles, just so you can see them all in one place and realise the breadth of ability at work.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – round-up

Martin Hand
Martin Hand

Martin Hand – comic writer and artist

The Suttons
The Suttons

Phil’s sheer craft and drawing ability – his ability to keep going is to be admired. The Suttons is my favourite work by him and I hope he’ll do a complete collection one day soon.

He’s like the British Herge – he’s got a very distinctive style – which will fondly remembered – unlike many of his 80s small press peers he’s still doing new material with new people and still evolving.

I don’t know Phil in real life beyond Facebook but I was very pleased to buy some Suttons pages off him – and I’m always pleased when he likes my work on f/b… 🙂

 

 

Ed ‘Ilya’ Hillyer – comic writer and artist

I was pondering repro of a panel from Deadface (with Eddie Campbell) where I pastiched his style for a flashback sequence of a panel or two… filling the bosses’ quiver!

Deadface - Ilya - with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Deadface – Ilya – with added Phil Elliott pastiche

 

Simon Russell
Simon Russell

Simon Russell – comic writer, artist and editor

The tone of Phil’s writing, both visual and textual, is entirely unique to him. No matter what style he adopts, it’s this that makes it stand out immediately as a Phil Elliott comic.

 

John Freeman
John Freeman

John Freeman – comic writer and editor

I feel like I’ve read Phil’s work my entire adult life, since the first time I discovered it on the Fast Fiction stand at the Westminster Comic Marts. An extraordinary and I would say influential talent on the UK independent scene, constantly surprising and innovative, the quintessential “tryer” who deservedly made it to the mainstream and whose work continues to delight. Yet, despite knowing Phil’s work, he isn’t a creator I know socially, so I have no scandal to relate!

I’m just hoping for more of his work and that more people support it.

Gimbley
Gimbley

 

Morgan Gleave

Morgan Gleave

I feel like I’ve been aware of Phil’s work for as long as I’ve been reading comics… certainly since I started collecting seriously in the 80s. Phil is a legendary creator who deserves serious recognition for his place in comics history, in the U.K. if nowhere else!

I love the inherent simplicity of Phil’s work… it’s a beautiful style, that has remained consistent for a long time. I imagine Phil goes through a lot of plotting and planning to get this timeless feel.I was very honoured to have one of my drawings reinterpreted recently by Phil for issue 1 of The 77.

I feel like I’m just getting to know Phil personally, having connected over our work on The 77. He’s been lovely about my work and very supportive. 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Laurence Campbell

Laurence Campbell
Laurence Campbell

Laurence Campbell – comic artist

Hello Phil, you won’t have a clue who I am but I just wanted to say I have fond memories of your work.

The cover to Escape magazine #3. Art by Chris Long
The cover to Escape magazine #3. Art by Chris Long

There was a time I had felt I had grown out out comics like X-Men and was looking for something more, something with a bit more depth and something I could relate to. At the time comics were changing, there was a buzz in the air. I was still far away from being a comic artist at that point but I was looking for influences and different styles, I was eating this stuff up.

I discovered independent titles like Escape Magazine which at the time I found at the time a little too adult for me and later Deadline which seemed to speak to me more back then.

Deadline

 

Later when I was starting to think about being a comic artist I would l see your name on books when browsing in Forbidden Planet, looking for something more. It was good to see comics which were not done the Marvel way when being told at the time that was the only way to do it. It gave me the confidence to carry on.

 

I also have fond memories of UKCAC’s, going at first as a fan and later going with the start of a portfolio and seeing your name on the pin up in the booklets for the years I went. I still have some of them now. Your image in UKCAC88 looking back is wonderful. I wish I had bought it! Full of confidence and just a wonderful image.

So, thank you for broadening my horizons.

Laurence Campbell.

 

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Rainey

Paul Rainey

Paul Rainey – comic writer and artist

Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover
Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover

During my teens in the 1980s, I made a purposeful decision to broaden the comics I read from UK newsagent and American superhero to now include Escape, the comics art magazine. It was here that I read Eddie Campbell and Phil Elliot’s work for the first time. Obviously, this seemed like quite a leap, but Phil’s rounded, energetic, Tin Tin styled drawings helped with my transition. I loved Phil’s work. It enjoyed being a comic. It rolled around in the language that all other comics had foolishly forgotten about and then invented its own. There has always been a sense of contentment in his work even back then, of an artist comfortable in his own skin.

If fourteen year-old me ever thought that Phil’s work is limited to only carrying his unique vision, then I was proved wrong very quickly. Early on, Escape published Doc Chaos, a sci-fi strip written by David Thorp which I loved and still have my copies of. Phil’s priority was never style or mood at the expense of the story.

Another collaboration I enjoyed very much was Second City, a four issue series written by Paul Duncan and published by Harrier Comics. Then there was The Greenhouse Warriors, written by Glenn Dakin and self-published, all copies of which I have also kept to this day. I was so impressed by the latter, that I contacted their printer and used them for my 1990s comic, Memory Man. Recently, Phil has reprinted strips he drew with Eddie Campbell for Sounds during the 1980s. What I like about these works, and others, is that it’s often difficult to see where Phil ends and the collaborator begins.

 

I think that Phil is definitely under appreciated. I often wonder how differently he may be perceived by the comics-hive-mind today if he had had the opportunity to illustrate a years in the making graphic novel written by Alan Moore. At a time when Phil’s peers were chasing gigs at 2000 AD and DC, Phil was working for Sounds and Fantagraphics and pitching Real Ghost Busters strips to Marvel UK. (This approach to work that I always imagined Phil to have, has been an influence on me). I remain delighted by Phil continuing to make comics like Malty Heave with Rob Wells and The Last Man with Michael Powell. The man’s an inspiration.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Russel Mark Olson

Russell Mark Olson
Russell Mark Olson

Russell Mark Olson – comic creator

 

Elliott is one of the best cartoonists in the biz. In an industry cluttered by the scritchy-scratchy uncanny valley of layered upon layered digitally produced comics, Phil’s work represents the clear directness of deliberate storytelling. No superfluous marks. Everything on the page is in service to the narrative. There’s no ego, just consummate craftsmanship.

ES EF - page
ES*EF – page

 

Coming from the States, I was completely unaware of Elliott’s body of work until very recently. Ever since, I’ve been trying to make up for that shortcoming. Those of us in the current barnstorming UK indie press scene owe so much to him and others like Paul Grist and Eddie Campbell. He deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of indie comics and should be required reading in all corners of the industry and beyond.

 

As I said, I’ve only recently come to his work (after backing ES*EF), but very recently, I purchased a prototype promo piece from him and he included as a surprise, a page of original art, presumably from an upcoming issue of Malty Heave. To top it all off, it was mailed rolled up inside an old box of clingfilm. Diamonds in the rough and all that.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Alex Fitch

Alex Fitch
Alex Fitch

Alex Fitch – pod cast and radio presenter

Taboo #3 featuring Phil Elliott - Cover by Michael Zulli
Taboo #3 featuring Phil Elliott – Cover by Michael Zulli

I first came across Phil’s work in the form of a couple of memorable short stories in Steve Bissette’s Taboo anthology, and then probably like many people saw his name crop up as a sympathetic colourist on a number of British comics. His colouring of Paul Grist’s work and British kids’ comics has been great, and it’s a shame that although he’s a talented colourist, there haven’t been more mainstream comics that he’s had the chance to write or draw. The ones he has been involved with have been terrific, in particular his Cold War aliens graphic novel – Illegal Alien – that Dark Horse released some years ago.

Illegal Alien - written by James Robinson
Illegal Alien page – written by James Robinson

I think Phil’s place in comics history is to have been part of the terrific Escape generation, making memorable comics in collaboration with the likes of Grist, Glenn Dakin and Eddie Campbell. I don’t think he’s as well known as he deserves to be, but by the people who do know his work, it’s rightly well appreciated.

I came across Phil’s crowdfunding campaigns for his collaborations with Eddie Campbell that were serialised in Sounds magazine; seeing that all three were going to come out as separate volumes, I emailed him to ask if he might bring out a slipcase for the trilogy, when the third one hit kickstarter. We exchanged a few emails and he said that while doing a number of slipcases wouldn’t be viable, he kindly offered to make me a bespoke case to put my copies in, so I have a one of kind box-set of The Mammy, The Wonders of Science and Rodney – The Premonition! (Which was much appreciated)

Phil Elliott - Handmade box set for Alex Fitch
Phil Elliott – Handmade box set for Alex Fitch

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Duncan

Paul Duncan
Paul Duncan

Paul Duncan – writer

 

Phil is the restless giant of the small press. Since I have known him, off and on, since the early 1980s, Phil has explored every avenue and type of publication. Writing, drawing, lettering, colouring, editing, publishing – he can do it all. Fearlessly.

He is prolific. He is diverse of subject. He is relentless. He cannot be pinned down. He supports so many other creators and publications. He is willing and giving. He delivers!

He is a collaborator. He will write for others, he will draw for others. He will support others.

He is a leader. He was there at the start of Fast Fiction and helped kickstart a movement of diverse talents. He spearheaded many titles for Harrier in the UK, giving many talents a wider audience, and then leapfrogged into America, doing likewise with titles for Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, and Dark Horse.

Undoubtedly, Phil’s greatest artistic achievement is Gimbley, a character who is all too human and fallible, and who may be occasionally melancholic, but ultimately understands the ironic qualities of life.

As for history? Fuck history – his work will live on!

By 1986 Phil had built up a diverse portfolio of work (Gimbley, Doc Chaos, Sounds) and I had not, but we both thought it would be a good idea to go to Paris, visit the BD publishers, and try to sell our ideas. We arrived in Paris, and walked along the Seine, admiring the Bouquinistes. Just as we arrived at a stall selling comics, a motorbike pulled up, threw down a pile of new comics bound by string, and whizzed off. The comic at the top of the bundle was Second City, a comic Phil and I had worked on together, published by Harrier. How auspicious was that?! Needless to say, it wasn’t. We visited publisher after publisher and they were not interested in what we had to sell, not helped by our lack of the French language. Still, the publishers arranged the meetings just before lunch, and so Phil and I dined heartily at the publishers’ expense, dissecting whole fish and quaffing wine and coffee.

 

best

-paul duncan

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Michael Powell

Michael Powell
Michael Powell

Michael Powell – comic writer

 

Phil is a fantastic storyteller. It’s amazing how many different genres he can turn his hand to and yet still be recognisably Phil. We’ve worked on horror and sci-fi together, I’ve seen Phil produce work that’s funny, surreal and philosophical, sometimes all at the same time. He’s also a great writer too.

 

 

Phil has been there at every key stage in contemporary comics history. From Fast Fiction to Sounds, Escape, !GAG! and Blite, Phil’s always been there. He’s illustrated comics for mainstream publishers too, bringing that unique Phil Elliott style to Ghostbusters and Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd

Phil’s been producing comics professionally since the 1970s but he keeps getting better! The new art Phil’s produced for Circus DeNiro is I think some of the best of his incredible career.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Nevs Coleman

Nevs Coleman
Nevs Coleman

Nevs Coleman– reviewer

Tupelo - page 2

Matt DeGennaro and Phil Elliott’s Tupelo is sadly now out of print (although you can pick up copies on Amazon), Tupelo was originally published by Slave Labor Graphics in 2003 as a four issue mini series, and then published as a trade paperback featuring a cd by cult band Famous Monsters. I was working in the late Comic Showcase at the time and was staggered by how much each issue just… got it. Understood and recreated the atmosphere in my head. The sticky floors, the toilets with broken doors, the kids proudly showing off their home-made ‘X’s, the drone of the men who are too old in the head to be there. The Outside that oppressed with silent hostility. The outrage at the huckster hypnotist who stands in for every soulless advertising exec who preys on the insecurities they created and profits from them with promises of false hope.

Tupelo - page

They are, indeed, brilliant. Phil is some kind of Art Ninja Genius, distilling the page down to only its essential lines. Like a Toth, a Parobeck or a Kurtzman, this process looks like it’s easy, but it’s really the total opposite. Lesser talents can hide their weakness behind flashy layouts, unnecessary cross-hatching and other short cuts. If you’re working as Phil does, every flaw is going to scream out of the page at you. It never happens in Tupelo. The story pages are a beautiful discordant symphony. The… backmatter (hate that word) is both inspiring and a perfect approximation of prison letters, Zig Zag/Maximum Rock ’N’ Roll era music journalism and Punk Manifesto, with one issue containing an ideology that makes the likes of Fight Club sound like playing RATM too loud in your bedroom after your Mum’s asked you to clean up your room.

Tupelo

Phil is an astounding talented artist who’s just published In His Cups: Collected Tales Of Gimbley. It’s bloody good stuff and you should obviously all go buy it.  Ideally, he’d be on a regular book and there are no end of comics being published that if I were given editorial responsibilities on the title, I’d just say “Give it to Phil. He’ll make it work.” Personally, I’d hire him to redraw all those Todd Loren knock-off rock biographies as and when he felt like it while he got on with whatever made him happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Robert Wells

Robert Wells
Robert Wells

Robert Wells – comic writer and artist

 

Phil is a great artist who seems to be able to draw anything and make it look easy (FYI, he is also really good at DIY) and his slightly surreal / not-quite-autobio stories are like poems in comic form.

(Editor’s note – he really is – look below!)

Although he’s worked for all sorts of publishers in the UK and US, Phil has a particularly important place in the history of British indie comics. The letters exchanged between Phil and Eddie Campbell, as well as the various rejection letters and other correspondence that they published at the back of the three collections of their Sounds strips, are as important and interesting as the strips themselves. Those books really should be collected by a big publisher, as should Phil’s Gimbley strips.

Malty-Heave-01-S1
Malty Heave

I met Phil for the first time in 2014, in the foyer of the Odeon in Maidstone.  I was living in Maidstone at the time and we had a mutual friend (a neighbour of mine who’d been to college with him) who kept promising to introduce us. When she moved away, still not having introduced us, I sent Phil a message through Facebook to say hello, and he replied asking if I wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy with him and his nephew. So, we met, we saw the film, and after we’d seen it, we went back to his house, my wife joined us, and Phil and his wife cooked us dinner, having never met us before.

We’ve remained friends since then and I have shared tables with him (or had the table next to his) at several events. I still remember the amazing, Moebius-like, A3-sized drawing he did of a spaceship landing on an alien world that he effortlessly (or seemingly-effortlessly) produced the first time I sat next to him at an event, and then sold way too cheaply. I wish I’d bought it. However, as one of Phil’s Patreon supporters, I’ve received a lot of other art from him over the last couple of years, as well as various other bits he’s sent me, like the paintings he did for Department of the Peculiar Goes POP! issues 1 and 2. It was a pleasure to get to work with him on Malty Heave #1 and I’m looking forward to working with him again on #2.

Department of the Peculiar Goes Pop - pin-up
Department of the Peculiar Goes Pop – pin-up

Phil is a generous artist and a generous friend.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham
Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham – comic writer and artist

 

Phil Elliott has always been an inspiration to me. I first got involved in comics way back in the 1980s and was part of a kind-of second wave of creators who were part of the British Small Press scene back then, who gravitated around Paul Gravett’s Fast Fiction mag. People who were already established on the scene at the time included Ed Pinsent, Woodrow Phoenix, Ryan Hughes and…Phil Elliott. Phil’s work was astonishing to me, because he seems to draw nothing from the traditional British style of cartooning and instead took from the clear line style of European cartooning – something rare in British comics. He was one of those people who appeared fully formed with a mature talent immediately. A big contrast to my own inadequate scribblings (And didn’t I know it).

ES EF - page
ES*EF – page

Years later I had chance to work with Phil on a couple of projects as a writer. At first I wrote him full scripts, but as the work developed i wrote less and less, because he is so talented that I realised that I could just leave it to him to come up with better visuals than I could ever describe. All he needed was the briefest panel description and the dialogue and he could run with it, filling the panels with action and humour. Phil is effortlessly easy to work with. He is incredible talented and modest. I’d work with him again in a second if he ever wanted to.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett
Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett– comicbook writer and novelist

Phil is one of the real unsung giants of British comics.

His work is always touching and utterly distinctive, and I’ve always thought it an injustice that it hasn’t been more widely appreciated. Perhaps it’s the very nature of what he does best – very quiet and personal stories, often with a logic bordering on realistic dreaming – that has resulted in him being overlooked far too often. His stories seldom shout, and thus may get drowned out by the more flamboyant work of others.

Pool Tales
Pool Tales

Admirably, he has never compromised to “fit in” – his style remains true and perfect and unique. His work is long overdue the appraisal and proper recognition it deserves. In my opinion, he is a true artist – by which I mean singular creative voice – and his place in British comics over the last decades has been massively underrated… as is so often the case with true artists. Plus, of course, he’s an enormously nice person.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – David Hathaway-Price

David Hathaway-Price
David Hathaway-Price

David Hathaway-Price – artist, writer, editor and curator of online zine archive

 

A small tribute to Phil Elliott

In His Cups - Collected Tales of Gimbley
In His Cups – Collected Tales of Gimbley

A couple of years ago, Tony Esmond was kind enough to invite me onto the ‘The Awesome Comics Podcast’, to chat about my fanzine archive, and to talk about all things fannish. I’m pretty useless behind a microphone (not helped by having a strong aversion/phobia about talking on the phone at all), but I was pleased to be asked near the end of the interview to recommend a small press comic that I thought people should read… The fact that my choice was ‘In His Cups: Collected Tales from Gimbley’ perhaps gives you an idea of how much I respect Phil, and just how highly I regard his work. Being a gentleman of ‘a certain age’, who often looks back and tries to make sense of his past and poor choices in quiff height, this collection really spoke to me. Of course, the frankly exquisite art may also have something to do with my appreciation of the work.

Mr Day and Mr Night with Glenn Dakin
Mr Day and Mr Night with Glenn Dakin

Right from the very start of comics fandom there had always been Strip zines of course, but the Fast Fiction explosion (and the proliferation of High Street Print Shops, which meant that you could get your zine printed off that day, rather than hanging around and waiting weeks for a ‘proper’ printer to fit you in somewhere) gave an outlet for people to start telling all kinds of stories (slice of life, rather than men in tights). Still living in the depths of South Wales in the early ‘80’s, and only visiting London very rarely, I missed out on both the ‘Crackers’ evenings and the opportunity to visit the Fast Fiction table as much as I would have liked. A shame, as I probably missed out on the great majority of the comics being published by the small press at that time. Without Phil, and the rest of the guys and girls paving the way, we might not have ended up with the thriving small press scene we are enjoying now.

 

If I remember correctly, I first contacted Phil to ask if he would give his permission for me to add his strip zine ‘ELIPSE’ (1977) to the archive; generous to a fault he of course agreed. Not only that, but about three years ago he contacted me, explained he was soon going to be moving home, and asked if I would like his zine collection? He wanted no money, he just wanted to know that they were going to someone who would look after them. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the man’s character and generosity, I don’t know what would.

The Day the General Came - with James Robinson

Thank you, Phil, you’re a treasure.

 

David Hathaway-Price

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – David Hine

David Hine

David Hine – comic creator

I first met Phil Elliott in the late 70s. I was aware of him through the fanzine culture and we were both contributing artwork to The Panelologist fanzine, which also featured some art by David Lloyd among others. I contributed to the fanzine Elipse, co-edited by Phil and soon after that we met for the first time at the UK Comic Art Convention, probably in 1979. I had a fanzine of my own, Joe Public Comics, and was bloody hopeless at selling it. We didn’t have tables, so it was a case of approaching people and persuading them to buy a copy. Phil grabbed a bundle of my ‘zines, went off and sold a couple for me. I was impressed.
Elipse fanzine 1977
Elipse fanzine 1977
This weekend I dug out some of my old fanzines and came across Elipse #3 – the very issue that I had contributed to. I had forgotten that this was the first time anyone published one of my full comic-strips, a lightweight horror story called “A Video-phone brings you so much closer to the one you love.”
In the editorial section, Phil had written up my bio where it states that “His major complaint with comics is the way commercialism perverts artistic talent, and says he won’t be satisfied until we get rid of deadlines and money.”
That seems a bit presumptuous for someone who had never worked to deadline or been paid for anything. Clearly I had set my sights on a high standard of aritistic integrity. Had I made it in indie comics back then I might have been able to pursue my goal of creating personal comics while starving in a garret. Instead I was cursed to spend a lifetime working to deadlines and getting paid for it.
I had also completely forgotten that when Phil gave me my copy of Elipse at that Comic Con he apologised for “erasing the penis.” I have made it my lifelong quest to get as many penises into comics as humanly possible, with a fair amount of success, but this was the first one to get censored – and in my first non-self-published work too! In retrospect it’s quite interesting because the knobless bloke looks like some kind of gender-neutral character – very advanced for 1978. (Editor’s note – an incident that Phil clearly remembers – check out this interview!)
Elipse - Censored Panel - David Hine
Elipse – Censored Panel – David Hine
We subsequently met up at various comics gatherings, mostly at the Westminster Comics Mart where I also met Paul Gravett who, with Phil and others like Glenn Dakin and Eddie Campbell, had set up the Fast Fiction collective of small press publishers.  Phil went on to work on Paul’s Escape magazine and became something of a superstar of the small press world. I never really fitted in, failed to make it into Escape and ended up on that path to mainstream comics instead.
Vignette Comics
Vignette Comics
The years went by and I pursued an up-and-down career in comics while Phil seemed to disappear from the scene. In the comics world if you don’t turn up at conventions, or at least have an active social media presence, you don’t exist. It’s the rule. When we finally met up again at the Malta Comics Convention in 2017, I apparently greeted Phil with “I thought you were dead!” We had a very pleasant time over the weekend, reminiscing about the old days, as we middle-aged grey-hairs are wont to do. On the way home Phil gave me a copy of In His Cups – The Collected Tales from Gimbley. I had seen a lot of these in various publications but it was only when I read them as a collected body of work that I realised just how good they were – surreal, oneiric, often disturbing and always hilarious.

 

Phil’s work with Fast Fiction and Escape has cemented his place in the history of British comics. He went on to work for Marvel UK, Rebellion, Dark Horse, DC, Fantagraphics, a whole string of publishers, collaborating with all kinds of writers, but for me those Gimbley tales stand out as the purest expression of his art. The conceit of a middle-aged man recounting tales from his youth is remarkably effective. I really should have asked Phil how it feels to look back on those stories from the perspective of the middle-aged creator. And also how much of it was autobiographical.
Maybe it’s better not to know.

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Gravett

Paul Gravett

Paul Gravett – Publisher and journalist

 

Phil Elliott and I go way, way back, to our school days (different school but we’re both Essex boys).

Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover
Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover

Personally, Phil was crucial and instrumental as a friend, artist and designer at two key points in early 1980s UK comics history. First, the creation of Fast Fiction, both the Westminster Central Hall Comic Mart table and the anthology that he and Ian Wieczorek soon evolved out of it, notably designing the cool logo. I remember how Phil, Ian, Eddie Campbell and I used to use the PMT camera at pssst! magazine’s offices in London unofficially on a Saturday morning to reduce and prepare the artworks for FF Magazine’s printing. And secondly came the launch of Escape Magazine in 1983. Peter Stanbury and I picked out a panel by Phil to put inside the subscription prospectus and chose him to draw the first issue’s wraparound cover. Phil even found us our first issue’s printer local to him in Maidstone. We knew his quirky, bittersweet Tales from Gimbley had the spirit, style, suit and quiff that belonged in Escape. Inspired by Hergé, Swarte and more, Phil’s work personified ‘La Ligne Claire Anglaise’.

I’ve continued to admire and enjoy his work since, and it was a delight to have a reunion a few years ago, when we found each other over a lunch in the National Comics Centre in Angoulême during the city’s annual Festival. Neither of us could have imagined back in those old schooldays how far the comics world would change and grow, and how it could bring us back together.

Cheers to you, Phil!

Paul

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Glenn Dakin

Glenn Dakin
Glenn Dakin – creator and collaborator
Man From Cancer - Page
Phil’s work has a beautiful stylised quality, he can draw the most outlandish things and make you accept them.
When I decided to make The Man From Cancer (Marvel UK) all about marine life characters, I knew Phil was the perfect artist for it. If I wanted a character answering the phone, he would draw them as an enormous squid, and it would look weird, but perfectly natural.
Also Phil is a great natural storyteller, I never once had to write him a script for any of our comics, I would just rough out the page, and he would immediately ‘get it.’
To me, Phil is one of the great UK comic artists, a mixture of the aesthetically pleasing ‘clear line’ style, with an almost Ditko-ish nightmare lurking at the edges.
Something that captures that troubling quality to Phil’s work, when I first went to Australia to stay with Eddie Campbell, I wrote a little strip about a dream I had, and my first feelings on arriving in Brisbane. I sent it to Phil to draw up, and he captured something under the surface of my remarks… The strip ended up being printed in Steve Bissette’s horror anthology, Taboo! I was always found it funny that my holiday at Eddie’s ended up in a horror comic…
Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy – publisher, Colossive Press and contributor, Broken Frontier

The clarity of Phil Elliott’s work and his gift for storytelling have made him a master across genres. However, the work of his that has carried me along for the last thirty-odd years is his epic Tales from Gimbley sequence – a wide-ranging series in which a middle-aged man looks back with the benefit of hindsight at the antics of his generously bequiffed younger self.

Back in the day, in the shoes of young Gimbley, I chuckled along in recognition of his misadventures and reflections on drinking, the artistic life, friendships and relationships. Now, looking at them through the other end of the telescope, alongside old Gimbey, I love them just as much for their wistful treatment of memory, emotion and the passage of time.

And, in possibly the biggest thrill of all, I’m now lucky enough to have the original artwork from a few of those iconic pages – pages that I’ve read so often down the years that they are imprinted on my brain. Let’s raise a glass to Phil Elliott – one of the true godfathers of the small press comic scene, as both an artist and an activist.

(In His Cups: Collected Tales of Gimbley is available here, in print or PDF)

image0image1

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Russell Willis

Russell Willis by Hunt Emerson

Russell Willis – writer and founder of the Sequential comics app for the iPad

Phil Elliott was a massive influence on my me. It was his Gimbley strips in Fast Fiction that helped consolidate my interest in comics outside of superheroes. Had it not been for Phil and his small-press buddies, I would most likely have given up on comics altogether at the age of 13.

Doc Chaos
Doc Chaos

Instead, in 1983, I launched a “non-superhero” fanzine called Infinity and in the editorial of its first issue I wrote about how the work of Phil Elliott had inspired me. In the second issue of that mag, we had a lovely little Gimbley tribute from Graham Cousins.… And I loved featuring reviews of  Escape and Doc Chaos.

The fanzine attracted letters from the notables and upcoming notables of the day but I was truly delighted when I got a letter from Phil – right at the end of the zine’s run.
Running that fanzine was one of the most exciting and formative periods of my life, and without Phil’s work, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
Cheers, Phil

 

Gimbley image is by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Gimbley image by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

comics · great creators · illustration · Phil Elliott · self-publishing · small press · zines

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Graham Johnstone

Comic creator Graham Johnstone talks about Phil’s work and influence

 

Page from Dead Trees
Page from Dead Trees

 

I first became aware of the work of Phil Elliott in the mid 1980’s, probably first in Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury’s Escape, and thereafter in a number of his lovingly assembled self-published comics.

I’d grown up with comics: Marvel had taken me to the point that I considered comics a unique and important art form and wondered what more they might do. I’d seen the American Undergrounds and the more experimental RAW, but Elliott seemed to be part of a distinctly British evolution of comics. In America there seemed to me, on the one hand, the melodrama of Marvel/DC, (and their offshoots into the nascent independents), and the other hand the brilliant, but almost painfully ironic re-appropriation of pop culture RAW. In Britain, I was aware of the gently fictionalised autobiography of (Elliott’s Fast Fiction magazine colleague) Eddie Campbell, but Elliott seemed to have struck on something different: an exploration of personal life and inner dilemmas (like Campbell) yet in a more poetic form. That’s also true of different talents emerging from the Fast Fiction diaspora like Chris Reynolds and Ed Pinsent, but I think Elliott arrived first and the others were most likely influenced, or at the very least, inspired by him. I know he certainly inspired and influenced my own work of the subsequent years, and what we published in Dead Trees.

He has a fine artist’s sensibility, that’s evident not only in his highly personal content and poetic approach, but also in his visual range and experimentation. To explain this, I’m reminded of a famous conflict in painting ‘the battle between line and colour’ with the former favouring detailed draughtsmanship and the latter building up images with tone and colour. To relate this to comics, think of one extreme as the Ligne Claire penmanship made famous by Hergé, and the other as the impressionist brushwork of say Milton Caniff. The early Tales from Gimbley show Europhile Phil absorbing Herge and progressing to the more expressive line work of the Belgian master’s successors. Like Serge Clerc or Yves Chaland,

Yves Chaland

Elliot mastered the art of varying line weights, to create a camera focus depth-of-field effect, while foregrounding the truth-to-materials (another critical hobby-horse) of ink lines on paper. Elliott’s able to balance: black, white and tones; space and detail; cartooning and realism – often in a single page. We can find all of this in a single Tale from Gimbley story involving a salvaged cigarette machine (In his Cups: Collected Tales from Gimbley page 130). If that all sounds the preserve of connoisseurs, let’s not forget that the versatile Elliott could also satisfy the more mainstream demands of Ghostbusters, without losing himself in the process. I could go on and on, the point is though, it’s hard to find examples of comparable stylistic range and mastery in comics or, I’d go further, any other visual art. He radiates a sheer love of drawing, and at his best, artistry with every element of it.

Phil and I met only met once. At around the turn into the 1990’s, I was invited to participate in an exhibition of upcoming local talent at (I think) the first Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GlasCAC), organised by Frank Plowright and colleagues. I bumped into Frank, who told me that someone had liked my work, and would like to meet. I was delighted that it was Phil. He proved as urbane and charming in person as on the page, and his interest in my work probably spurred me to take it into the world and publish Dead Trees. We’d hoped to meet again at UKCAC, sometime in the 90’s. However, by that time I was already juggling comics with a full-time job, homemaking, and a lengthy commute, with the result I didn’t make it to the Con. In those days before instant communication, I wasn’t able to let him know in advance, sadly leaving the impression I’d sauntered round the con and not bothered to find him.

I’ve hung onto my Gimbley pamphlets and picked up Elliott’s published collaborations with other creators. I was delighted to pick up In His Cups, with all his Gimbley work (so far) in a single volume. I’ve always felt Phil never got the full recognition he deserved – compared to say his similarly talented contemporary Eddie Campbell – and it’s a joy to see his increasing profile over recent years. I look forward to seeing ever more of his work and am delighted you’re recognising his achievements in this way.