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.

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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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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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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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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

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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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

 

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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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.

 

 

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

Phil Elliott – my personal view

Phil is one of those people that, before I’d even read or seen any of his actual comics, I knew about his work. Doc Chaos adverts literally made up part of my comics experience for so long, without me know that this was the same artist that did Man From Cancer, a strip I loved.

Gimbley
Gimbley

 

Tales From Gimbley was one of those things I saw mentioned and reviewed and talked about without ever having seen it until the last few years. Second City and Illegal Alien surprised me because they were so different in approach to his other work.

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

The whole Fast Fiction scene was before my time and outside of my ability to get hold of it, as I was in South Wales, away from all the excitement. Escape never made it to my home town either. Deadline did though, and maybe that wasn’t the child of Fast Fiction, but it sure followed it’s precedent and even borrowed from its crowd. A crowd fostered and encouraged in part by Phil as publisher.

Fast Fiction

Phil has continued making human stories throughout his career, Phil’s whole oeuvre is humanity and its absurdity. That’s what makes him unique and constantly appealing, even in genre work, you can feel his focus on people shine. His observation of body language, facial expression, even his page layouts all emphasise the human and their experiences. He adapts his art, but his style is always to focus on the person.

Phil's latest with Michael Powell - Circus DeNiro
Phil’s latest with Michael Powell – Circus DeNiro

Phil is not a chameleon, he doesn’t alter himself. Phil just has an incredible breadth of skill and ability and for each work, he’ll play up one strength or another whilst holding back other skills. He has a very broad set of skills to draw from (pun intended dammit!!) and puts them to good use. He knows what to do and how to make it work, he appears comfortable in many forms and in all parts of his life. Phil really exemplifies the DIY spirit, always making and doing and collaborating and uplifting those around him. Also, if you follow him on facebook, you’ll know he also does a mean line in DIY building as well!

 

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

Phil Elliott – great creator

This will be the first in a very occasional series appreciating creators whose work I feel remains vital whilst also casting a long shadow through their creative area. I’m starting this, essentially, to create a record whilst it has a chance to make an impact upon the artists.

Morbidly, the death of another long-term comic artist turned my mind to thinking about how sad it is that they would never get to read the appreciations of their peers, fan and creators inspired by their work. I’ve spent much of this year feeling defeated by 2020, brought low and unable to kick myself into action. But there’s got to be an end to that at some point, and that time is now.

This is me reaching out and trying make a difference in the world again. This is me trying to Kill 2020 with kindness.

There has been one person who has seemed to blossom this year, constantly simmering away, making work. Only, he’s not simmering, he’s boiling over, his work just gets better and grows more amazing yet still wholly singular and recognisably his own.

 

Today, we’ll talk Phil Elliott. Phil emerged in the 80’s with a whole group of other makers associated with Fast Fiction. All of them experimental and all of them deeply involved with life and the comics medium. Phil became publisher of Fast Fiction, then moved onto an involvement with those early black and white comic boom titles put out by Harrier. He’s been published by Fantagraphics, Slave Labor Graphics, Kitchen Sink, Harrier, Marvel UK, L’Echo de Savanes and A Suivre in France, NME, Sounds and Melody Maker.

The thing about Phil is, he’s done much of everything from fully creating comics, lettering, colouring, publishing, self-publishing, even handmaking hardback books. When you talk to people about him, it’s not just this though, and it’s not just his restless approach to style, what really shines through is his generosity, his desire to support and his happiness to collaborate. There are few people you regularly and consistently hear such kind words about, but you talk to people and all you hear is how he has supported them, helped them grow, kindly gifted them things. The man is not just a forefather of the UK small press scene, he’s a silent sun shining over it and helping it to blossom into the incredible and diverse field it is today.

 

 

 

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

 

Small (press) oaks – Ken Meyer Jr

Ken Meyer is probably best known for things that I don’t know him for at all. For me, his work will always be vampires (a friend of mine at uni was absolutely OBSESSED with Vampire the Masquerade and insisted on showing me his work every time I went to her house – it stands up well to tens and tens of views, in case you were wondering!) and Caliber comics mystery come horror series Kilroy Is Here a series I realise I enjoyed a lot having spent a number of hours going back through those issues.
When I started looking for creators whose work I remembered, I was pleased to find out that Ken is a huge fanzine collector/ appreciator and I’ve found many new artists whose work I like because of him.

I know none of that mentions his recent art, but I feel like people are probably already aware of his art – if you’re not you should definitely check him out.

 

Ken Meyer - Head shot

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Over to Ken

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

Well, I don’t think I really recognized who I was looking at until long after I started reading comic books (the thing that really started me as an artist). While reading comics in the early seventies I was also reading and contributing to many comic/fantasy fanzines of that time period (and in fact, I write an online monthly column called Ink Stains on this subject, which you can access from my website). Some of the very first comics I remember reading were things like Sea Devils (with those amazing Russ Heath covers). I was made somewhat aware of what came before through things like Steranko’s History of the Comics but didn’t really delve into that with any intelligence until later.

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I remember copying (with carbon paper) many things before I started drawing FROM the comics and then drawing on my own. One was an issue of Thor by Neal Adams. I am sure there were many others, but for some reason I remember that.

 

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

I doubt I ever really thought like that. Of course, there were many that I WANTED to be as good as, or even be like. Early on it was people like Kirby, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Frank Frazetta (I was consuming a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs and similar books), etc. The ones that really sparked my interest came a bit later, people like Bernie Wrightson, Barry Smith, Craig Russell, Roger Dean (who illustrated a lot of my favorite music of the time) and then later, with the coming of the independents of the 80’s and some reinvention in the big two, by people such as Frank Miller, Steve Rude, Dave Sim, Howard Chaykin, etc. Some artists became painters and became very important to me, like Jeff Jones, George Pratt, Dave McKean and above all, Bill Sienkiewicz. About that time, I was becoming interested in mainstream illustration, so others played a big part, such as Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Jim Sharpe, Kazuhiko Sano, Mark English, Bart Forbes and many more.

A recent piece commenting on the murder of George Floyd

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Bill Sienkiewicz always amazes me. I cannot keep up with comics now, so I am probably missing out on a lot in that field. Fantasy illustrators that might be seen in the pages of the Spectrum annual frequently like Paul Bonner, Rick Berry, and so many more.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Part of that answer is just simple exposure…I see Bill’s work very frequently on Facebook, since he posts so often (thank the art godz), for example. Sometimes seeing his work, I am reminded of some of his influences again, who were also mine, such as Peak, mentioned above. Bill has the ability (and experience) to combine lots of media, capture likenesses seemingly effortlessly, be loose and incredibly creative, and also just be very personable and open, which I try to be.

 

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

Peer is a hard term to truly qualify. I suppose mine might be a combination of independent comic artists, magic artists, and a few commercial illustrators. But, like many, I am harder on myself than anyone else, so I hesitate to put myself on the same level of a lot of people. David Mack comes to mind, since we both started, to some degree, at Caliber Comics in the mid-nineties. However, David has gone on to a whole other level, initially through his creator owned Kabuki series (and all the leaps and bounds his art took while working on it), and then working with Marvel and other huge properties. He is also a really good ambassador for the visual medium, traveling the world and introducing art to communities in far flung locations in a very intelligent and caring manner.

I hate to keep harping on Sienkiewicz, but I would be lying if I did not say he comes to mind for this question as well. Steve Rude does also, for some of the same reasons. Even though I marvelled at his work on Nexus, meeting him later was as easy as anyone. Though he struggles with his own personal demons, he remains giving and accessible…and his work ethic is far beyond question. His love of comics in general always shows in his work and his words.

a new playmat with a Dark Ritual-Big Lebowski mashup
A new playmat with a Dark Ritual/Big Lebowski mashup

There are many fellow Magic artists that could fill this bill, and I have been lucky to have met many of them at the various events in the past. They all possess talent, drive, and skill. Some have an incredible amount of creativity, like Anthony Waters. Some are just beautiful human beings, like Chuck Lukacs. Some are inventive pranksters, like Pete Venters. Some have forged very individual styles, like Drew Tucker and Richard Kane Ferguson. I am just lucky to know many of them.

 

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

I have been a commercial artist since about 1976 (starting as a work study student in college). I have worked in many industries and for many companies, including comics (Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, Caliber, Revolutionary, etc), online games (Everquest), paper games; (Magic, VTES, Imajica, Dragonstorm, Rage, Vampire the Masquerade and many other White Wolf/Onyx Path properties, Redemption, Legend of the Five Rings, Shadowfist, more), various ad agencies and companies (Bell Helmets, RAINN, American Cancer Society, etc), and many private commissions and freelance work. My personal interests include film, tv, reading (favorite authors include Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore), music (I have waaay too many cds), and tennis.

I started working exclusively on a freelance basis about 18 years ago (having worked full time art related jobs while doing freelance at the same time for many years before that). Most of the work I do tends to be continuing work for White Wolf/Onyx Path and a few other companies, as well as varied commissions from all sorts of people doing all sorts of subjects. A fair amount of it tends to be Magic based, such as the work I would sell and show at events, or work like altered cards, playmat sketches, artist proof card paintings, etc. But, like most freelance illustrators, I need to be able to do pretty much anything if I want to make a living! As for recent or current work, I have a few Onyx Path illustrations due by the end of this month (June), a private commission for a returning client I am working on now, and some altered cards after that. I can never tell what is coming next!

 Thank you very much for taking the time and letting us into your mind.

empress_orig
Private commision – Empress

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

the long list interview – Lucy Sullivan

Lucy Sullivan’s BARKING has been out for a while now and has been receiving a lot of positive attention and rightly so. It’s a complex work delivered in a seemingly simple manner, one of those tricks that comics manage so well.

It’s been a long road to publication, not without its difficulties either, so we thought we’d talk to Lucy about the ups and downs of placing your book with a publisher and the marketplace for comics.

L-Sullivan-Pic

Lucy and BARKING can be found here:

twitter           facebook           website           BARKING at Unbound

 

ZL – Hi Lucy – and welcome back! Unfortunately, you’ve missed out on being our first returning interviewee, but you’re still one of our favourite creators!!

Congratulations on finishing BARKING and, even more so, on sticking to your guns to get it looking so good. I know it’s been a huge struggle, both creating it and finalising the book’s delivery. You’ve talked about the obstacles that you’ve faced in getting the book produced to a standard you consider acceptable and the difficulties you’ve hurdled in raising the funding to get published. I also know that your next project is going to be self-published. All of which would lead many to say that you probably wouldn’t recommend going down the route of mainstream publication.

But I’m intrigued and want to dig a bit into the whole process and what decisions took you to a publisher and what support and encouragement having a professional editor added to the process of creation.

First of all, though, I guess the elephant in the room would be whether it’s accurate to say you don’t like publishers? Would you swear off going through a publisher ever again, or do you think that this was something endemic to that specific publisher or situation?

LS – Hi!  Thanks, it does feel good to be nearly out the other side of bringing BARKING to print. It has been an epic trail with many hiccups along the way, but I feel I’ve had a crash course in crowdfunding, printing and publishing that’s set me up well for the future.

Sting-still

I do still like the publishers though. It’s unlikely that I’d go down the route of Unbound again, especially now that Lizzie Kaye has moved on, but I would certainly work with a publisher again. I’m hoping to do so with my next long form idea and have a very selective list I would want to work with, all of which are Creator Owned contracts. I think if I couldn’t get a good deal with one of them, I would look to self-publishing. So far as zines and short form comics go that would be my preference anyway. I’m not going to pretend I’m not a bit of a control freak, I am. There’s so much time and effort that goes into making a comic that it has to live up to your expectations. In the case of BARKING there was a mistake made at the repro stage that lead to a drastic issue in the original print run with the black levels. It was a real battle to get it reprinted and if I hadn’t had funding from Arts Council England, I’m not sure it would have happened, but BARKING is a book about black so if its printed grey and inconsistently well that’s just not acceptable. I’m delighted that Unbound did the right thing and went for the reprint, they also went with Comic Printing UK as I had requested, and I think it’s a much better book for it.

Clearly and in light of recent discussions on social media there are many issues with publishing at the moment. The advances are poor to nonexistent and often come with frankly manipulative contracts. I’d come up against (and was beaten by) similar practices in the animation industry. It’s immoral that industries should prey on new talent, but many do. You have to know your worth and get whatever back up you can. I joined the Society of Authors when BARKING was picked up by Unbound. SOA went through my contract point by point and as such I retain many rights and can work with whomever I choose next. I think if you research properly and read every line there’s still a way to make it work but if you can, I’d say self-publish.

 

ZL – Yeah, it’s a shame that such matters are still being talked about in private circles and that companies feel the need to be so secretive about it all. It’s something that’s hard to quantify if you’re aspiring to get into the industry with aspirations for any kind of career. How much responsibility do you feel, having gone through a number of difficult situations to keep quiet for fear of blowing any further chances and how much do you feel you owe it to others to discuss such matters openly?

And for context – it’s not just creative companies that do this, they’re all pretty ish! In my real-world job, I was very gung-ho about the need to be open about such things so that companies didn’t get to play games with long-term employees. I willingly showed what I was being paid and it turned out to be significantly more than a more experienced, longer term employee. It meant that they ended up getting paid better as their managers were equally unhappy but unaware, but it caused them a lot of personal distress and that made me pause and re-consider what I had done, and I wonder where your thoughts on that would be and how this informs conversation about such subjects?

Barking running 1

LS – I do feel a responsibility to be open about the problems and realities of how publishers treat their creators. I think it has to be done with diplomacy as you can massively affect your chances of further employment. It’s been good to have groups emerging that are openly publicising page rates and problematic companies. It’s always complicated ground to cover but with more and more creators self-publishing then the question becomes what can they bring to your project that you can’t achieve without them? I’ve had a lot of disappointments in making BARKING that were directly down to my publisher but equally there’s much I’ve gained and done that I couldn’t have achieved as a self-published work so you’ve got to weigh the balance and talk to people. Most people are happy to discuss things privately but of course we’re all cautious.

 

ZL – Taking a step back in time, I’m sure that you’ve said in the past that Nick Abadzis introduced you to Lizzie Kaye at Unbound! and that led on to you having conversations and BARKING being accepted? What state was BARKING in before you took it to Unbound! and what input had you had and from whom at that point?

LS – Yep, Nick Abadzis is a wonderful fellow and good friend. We’ve been mates since he joined my evening life group way back when. Nick was over from NYC back in 2017 and came over to ours with his family for lunch. He knew I’d been working on my idea and at that stage I had 2 chapters completed and had home printed and bound some sample books to send to publishers. I think I’d sent to 3 or 4 but heard nothing back. I’d worked on the story mainly on my own but had a wee focus group with KidLit pals Fiona Ross & Sophie Ambrose. We’d meet up at Southbank centre and show our work-in-progress to each other for feedback. They were fun days but, as the other two were working on kids’ books, mine was a bit of a change of pace!

Anyway, it’s ridiculous how serendipitous it all was in the end, but Nick was going to SelfMadeHero’s birthday bash that night and got me in as a plus one. Had an amazing evening chatting to some ace comics creators and was trying not to fangirl at everyone when Nick pulled me over and introduced me to Lizzie Kaye and Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier. I was following them both online and got fairly flustered. Lizzie said Nick had told her about BARKING and she wanted to see it. I genuinely tried to talk her out of it. We were all a bit tipsy and I thought she was being nice, but she insisted. At that point a friend of ours, Luke Wilmot had put a PDF of the first two chapters together, so I went to email that to Lizzie and realised I didn’t have her email. So, Nick came to the rescue again! Then I had a 2-week jury service, a murder trail no less, to do before I heard back from Lizzie. It was one of the most intense fortnights of my life, but Lizzie loved the story and wanted to launch it with Unbound!. She was extremely honest about how hard the process would be, but I thought it would be a good route especially as Unbound! are a literary publisher and can get the books into high street shops.

CTM-7-8

ZL – How did getting BARKING accepted make you feel about the book? Did it make it seem more legitimate or at least worth pursuing as it would see the light of day or did it make no difference to the project and your approach?

LS – Gaining Lizzie’s approval and being picked up did legitimise BARKING for me. Mental health and grief is a tricky subject and not the easiest to sell as a comic. I was absolute that I was telling an honest and therefore dark story and was not willing to compromise. Lizzie was all for that and she was very important in keeping me on that track. Although I was left alone to make the book we spoke often, and she always picked up when I was feeling pressured to lighten the story or give it ‘a happy ending’ by potential readers. I’m very grateful for her insight and faith that I could make exactly the book I wanted to make. I think Unbound! is a great platform for that, especially for mental health, I hope they will be commissioning graphic novels again in the future.

I know I would have made BARKING no matter what and the story would have been pretty much the same. My original plan was, if I couldn’t get a publisher onboard, to Kickstart it as a series of 5 books, 2 chapters per book. I think it works better as a graphic novel though. It is intended as a one shot, singular story so I’m very happy with the outcome now.

 

ZL – I guess I’m dancing around asking why you felt like going with a publisher at all, what process you took in looking for a publisher, did you do research, ask around about good or bad ones or was this more of an organic path of introduction, liking the editor and then going to the publisher on the back of that?

LS – I wanted to reach as many readers as possible with BARKING as it’s a universal experience and one I was very keen to open up a conversation about. I did a lot of research and mined websites like Broken Frontier for advice. I was constantly flitting between publishing and Kickstarting but I guess I did both in the end anyway. Unbound is essentially a Kickstarter to begin with as the author raises the full costs, in my case that was £13K. Then they do the rest; print, distribution, marketing. In theory. I think there’s some issues with their setup and the amount’s very hard to raise. It took over 18 months of crowdfunding plus the Arts Council grant and a generous donation from the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. It’s not one I’d say I’d readily do again, but I am going to. I’ve got 2 Kickstarters lined up but after that I’d like to work with another publisher. I think flitting between the two would work for me.

H-Title-1

ZL – Getting back from that little side trip, with hindsight, did the experience of working with Unbound! match up to the expectations you had?

LS – No, not really. You honestly couldn’t make up the things that went wrong with BARKING. Prior to the print issues there were delays with the printers as my original slot had to be changed but no-one rebooked it, so I went to the back of the queue when lots of books were being printed. Then when I was finally at the front of the queue, they’d used my uncoated paper on another book and had to reorder it. Then when that came, the machine broke down. It meant I had to launch at LICAF in 2019 without an actual book than again at Thought Bubble. BARKING had been named ‘Graphic Novel of the festival’ for TB by Broken Frontier and it was devastating to be there without the hardbacks. I then had to do my Arts Council exhibition, again without the books, but it was all going to be ok because I had a launch at GOSH! lined up in March. That got delayed due to the reprint and moved to April 17th and then… well who would’ve have seen a plague being the last hurdle! It’s been quite the experience, but I have a gorgeous looking book thanks to CPUK, it’s out in the world and getting great feedback so worth it in the end.

 

ZL – I genuinely think the follow-up should just be the whole process of getting to put the book out, it would be hilarious and painful and following generations would probably never believe it could possibly happen!

I do feel that what you got out in the end is an incredible product, having seen digital and physical, the digital pales in comparison. Probably, there’s the concern about how sales are affected by those missed opportunities on the one hand, but on the other, you must be pleased to see such an amazing book come out of it?

On a weird note – the book cover is completely medical wipe proof, there’s a fact you’d never have known without COVID-19.

LS – That is a surprising fact but possibly one Comic Printing UK thought of? Rich does know his comics!

I am very happy with the final book. The print quality is exactly what I’d hoped for and the impact it’s having on readers is more than I could’ve asked for. It was an incredibly stressful experience but as with such things I learnt an array of valuable lessons, made contacts I couldn’t have dreamed of at the start and have been forced to put my work out there. Doing so has led to becoming part of an amazing community. For all the gripes I have I still probably wouldn’t change any of the process. Perhaps that’s a lockdown perspective coming into effect? But I say the same about the events BARKING is based on. For all the trauma and difficulty in the end to change one bit would mean having a totally different life now and I wouldn’t want that.

Barking running 2

ZL – On a practical level, what did your editor bring to the project? Did you get feedback on the content – was it spelling errors, or storytelling input or even a sounding board for your ideas? Maybe even emotional support? A shoulder to cry on or a nagging/ coaxing voice to keep you on track and producing?
Was it more a matter of practical support – passing work from you to production staff and keeping Unbound up to date on your progress?

LS – Lizzie worked on an individual basis with each project she commissioned at Unbound!. I think her role was often changed and sometimes not credited there. For BARKING it was a practical and emotional support through the crowdfunding stages. She would put me in touch with people such as LICAF or Alex Fitch, who invited both Lizzie and I to talk at Cartoon County back in 2018. Lizzie also advised me on the technical aspects of the book and was the go between from me to the production staff at Unbound!. She wasn’t however involved in the print and therefore any of the problems. As I said before I was mainly left to create the book as I wanted. Lizzie did proof-read and check the spelling. I think if there had been issues or continuity problems, she would have advised me to remake parts but fortunately there were a couple of spelling mistakes but otherwise all good. Lizzie also came up with the idea of a wraparound cover and pointed out when my original design looked a bit… um, ill-placed shall we say! I think her experience and empathy for the project gave me the confidence I needed to stay true to my original idea. I’m really happy to have worked with her and would gladly do so again.

I’ve also done some work with other editors now and am getting a feel for their various ways of working. I really enjoyed working with Shelly Bond on my strip for Hey, Amateur! (Black Crown). I had to hand in a proper script prior to art working and it was quite a thrill to get notes back on it. It felt very legit! I’d happily work with Shelly again. I’ve also done a couple of commissions for Dark Horse on Black Hammer and they just sent the specs and the deadline. When a professional editor has that level of confidence in you it is a wonderful boost. I’ve been very lucky on that side of things so far. I do think an editor is a very important role. Especially in longer from work. It’s so easy to get to involved in your story and not keep a perspective on the bigger picture. I guess that’s why I’d like to keep working with publishers for my graphic novel ideas. Although I think there will be many changes in the industry in the very near future.

 

ZL – Other than your Unbound! editor, did you seek out other input and advice to help with the process from friends or peers and what type of feedback was that?

LS – As part of my crowdfunding campaign I produced a comic of the first 2 chapters and had it properly printed by CPUK. I got a lot of feedback from readers on that and some reviewers (like zine love!) and that was really helpful in going forward. Other than that, I didn’t show it to many people whilst I worked on it. I would talk some plot aspects through with my partner Stephen. He teaches Animation at Kingston School of Art and is excellent at story editing. But even he didn’t know the full story. I worked on it by writing a loose, cinematic style script for the whole story then thumb-nailing and sketching it out one chapter at a time. I basically thought about it constantly for the best part of a year. It felt like a giant, messy puzzle in my head that was slotted together and exorcised onto the page until it resembled pretty much what I set out to do. Not the most elegant description but true.

CTM-3-4

ZL – Sounds perfect – I do something similar, except nothing I do ever comes out the way I imagined, it sort of progresses organically until I bin it or like it for what it became …and – the last question I promise – as you’re working with someone else’s script and your next project will be self-published do you think you’ll want any editorial advice and feedback? Do you see value in that feedback and conversational process? I mean, I’m presuming you’ll be having that with the writer, but will you be talking to friends and peers, or even just getting a spelling assist for typos. I guess I’m essentially wondering whether you see editorial input as useful or you prefer to go it your own way?

I’m also wondering though, whether you see editorial input as something that only comes with a publisher or whether you consider it as something available and worthwhile out of that structure?

IND-XED thumbnail
IND-XED thumbnail

LS – Interesting question. Yes, the current project is called IND-XED. It’s a script written by Fraser Campbell originally with Anna Readman drawing it. I came on board when Fraser put an artist call out on Twitter, BARKING was finishing, and I thought it would be the perfect palette cleanser. I love Fraser’s comics with Iain Laurie and it’s a cracking wee lo-fi sci-fi. Fraser and I chat as we go and I’m sending him the thumbnails before I fully colour the comic. It’s a very different look to BARKING and it’s nice to shoot the breeze and bounce ideas about with someone again. We’re getting a letterer on board so hopefully they’ll start being a part of the process soon too. I like collaborating and miss doing it as an animator.

After IND-XED I’m kickstarting a short comic called SHELTER. It’s a prequel to my next graphic novel THE BAD OL’ DAYS. It’s been brewing as an idea whilst making BARKING. I’ve been making notes and picking up visual research as I go, which is how BARKING was formed, so I guess it’s a process for me now. I might pass SHELTER to some fellow creators in its early stage to check it’s working out and definitely want to work with an editor on the long form idea. It’s a much more complicated story and has a bigger cast so I think I’ll need an external opinion especially as I’m basing parts on my childhood. It’s not auto-bio though. It’s a supernatural noir but my childhood was filled with some extraordinary folk that are just crying out to be in comics. I think a good editor is going to be vital in making it work, it’s a big idea and luckily, I know a few great editors now.

 

ZL – Thanx for all of your time Lucy and here’s to many years of success for you!

LS – Many thanks. Long live zine love!

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020