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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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be a good fan

I’ve started thinking about how to make social media work for those people whose work I admire and how to get it to raise their profile

I’ve put together a few tweets already, and have now turned them into a moment that you can find here

⚡️ “Being a good fan on twitter”

Looking for inspiration

 

I want to start a new feature where people recommend 5 creators working in the small press/ self publishing/ zine or arts communities.

But this is about educating me as much as it is about educating others, so I’m reaching out to everyone and asking them.

Could you name 5 recent creators (with links) whose work you admire that are working in the arts and publishing themselves or being published through small or alternative presses.

It would be great to have a line or two about why you like the work as well.

Use the contact on the site, or use social media DM’s

twitter – @iestynpettigrew
instagram – @_zinelove
facebook – @zinelovechat


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Today we’re 1!

To celebrate we’ve spent the day tweeting out links to accounts, creators, zine libraries, shops, distros and all sorts of other things and peeps we love

If you’ve got twitter – go to https://twitter.com/iestynpettigrew (@iestynpettigrew) and have a look through – there’s got to be something you like, we sent out 200!!

 

all images page 1all images page 2all images page 3

 

 

Go Fund – 2020 publications from Birdcage Bottom Books

Campaign finishing Wednesday, March 11 2020 3:00 PM

There are 5 books in total. Every one of them looks like a great book, with great cartooning, great character design, even the single pages shown are intriguing storywise

The artwork is all very individual and exciting

I really wish I had more money so I could back the whole lot and get copies of their previous publications – that an option you can choose!

Really, really exciting comics here!

(click on images to follow links)

2020 publications from Birdcage Bottom Books

http://kck.st/2Sd82Ig

 

Here are some examples from the campaign page

 

Flop Sweat by Lance Ward
Flop Sweat by Lance Ward

Eddie's Weel by Patrick Dean
Eddie’s Weel by Patrick Dean

The Burning Hotels by Thomas Lampion
The Burning Hotels by Thomas Lampion

Woods by Mike Freiheit
Woods by Mike Freiheit

Malarkey by Novemeber Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will STAND THE GENERATIONS

images of comic character hugo tate from his initial stick figure stage to his more realistic and detailed final look mirroring the evolution of man image

This will STAND THE GENERATIONS award

There’s an urge in me to make this contrarian and go look for the more obscure option here. But that’s just daft because the whole point of this is to put out the work I most immediately feel has lasted, has maintained a relevance to the world and to those that are working here and now.

So – this one goes out to Nick Abadzis for Hugo Tate – details on Nick’s site here

And I sort of dealt with all this a while back on twitter – thread here  and another here

I was having a conversation with someone and was reminded of Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis

It’s such an incredible piece of comics. It’s not a work that blew my mind, it’s a work that formed a small part of me, at points visualising what was hidden in me. It also made me think about life and about comics and stories, how to tell them, what they’re worth within this world.

In particular, the scene with his father, early on in the series and just after his father’s death struck me then and continues with me now. It’s nearly 30 years later, but I can still see that page, with its stick figure characters and how rawly, openly and cleverly it details that emotional situation. That truly was and still is a high-water mark for comics storytelling.

Kenny Penman did the world a huge service bringing the book back into print and in putting it out in such a suitable format, a manner that evidences it’s worth very clearly. I don’t know how easy it is to get hold of copies of that book currently. I do know my library has a copy, as I’ve flipped through it many times, settling in to read 5 or 10 pages of I have a moment of quiet with my kids when there.

This is one of those things that episodic or chaptered comics does so well that doesn’t really exist in any other medium. You can grab 10-15 minutes with a work and get an excellent bit of a story in that time.

early Hugo Tate page depicting his visit to his father's house it is sad in tone
early Hugo Tate page

 

That string of tweets initiated a fair amount of feedback from UK comickers on how influential in opening their minds to what comics could do Hugo Tate was.

It’s a work that needs reprinting and distribution to as wide a base of readers as possible, both because of it’s worth to the medium and because of the great beating heart of humanity that lives within the work.

iestyn

Paper Underground Awards – Originally, I said that this would be – Best discovery I made in November (but it was really just being sarcastic) Then I received something in October that fitted the bill.

pannonica issue one a printed and hand stapled zine made by nick prolix with abstract images and thopughts structured into a coherent narrative

Originally, I said that this would be – Best discovery I made in November (but it was really just being sar

Originally, I said that this would be – Best discovery I made in November (but it was really just being sarcastic) Then I received something in October that fitted the bill.

Which is an odd title for an award, but there we go.

Download from here

Pages from Pannonica issue one by nick prolix featuring abstract black images on creamy coloured paper
Pages from Pannonica issue 1

The winner is Nick Prolix with his Pannonica series (and experience)

Originally, I included this as a dig at all those bests of lists that come out in December thereby blowing off everything that comes out in December.

Then in October and again In November I read part of an ongoing series that struck me as amazing and original, but also as something that concretised a feeling I’d had for a while about UK comics and zines and where I’m seeing work that I would consider vital and important.

Petrichor, our initial award winner, is part of that wave. A wave that drives its visuals with non-representational art married to real life thoughts and emotions. It has narrative, but not story. Structure but not linearity.

Sort of a comic slipstream fiction, but nothing like it.

Anyway

Why name it?

Pannonica was something very surprising to me, considering Nick’s normal mode of comics are very representational and timebound. Here’s this printed and hand made zine with abstract images.  A zine related to tweets and Instagram posts. World building by building in the world rather than the fictional page. Yet, amazingly, it’s a work that still manages to be structured, human and about matters of life. Dealing with the humanity of his thoughts, his present concerns, his art history and art future. Not necessarily universal, but personally meaningful to me and timely – like it froze a wave and made a statue for generations to come to look upon.

What’s striking about Pannonica is how it creates narrative structure in the same manner as Nick’s story work, with call backs, shadowing plot points and running a theme through its paces.

iestyn

 

Paper Underground Awards – Work that is something I’d never want to make, but really appreciated anyway

Star Bright a webcomic and graphic novel bby Rob Zwetsloot and Alice Clarke four teenage girls in school uniform are hanging out

Work that is something I’d never want to make, but really appreciated anyway

Star Bright by Rob Zwetsloot and Alice Clarke – buy it here

This may be the most controversial award. I’ve had feedback that it might feel like a backhanded compliment. So, to clarify.
This award recognises a work that inspired me to recognise its impact upon me. Rather than inspiring a creative reaction it stirred me by being a great read; moving and affecting. It’s about enjoy things not for what they drive me to do, but for the enjoyment of experiencing them.
I hope that makes sense.
Star Bright is a low stake look at teenage life. It is a strong argument for acceptance. There is no melodrama, no angry railing at society, no big story moments. Yet it forcefully makes an argument for it cause. It’s a beautiful and emotional work that relies on creating empathy with the reader, quietly telling a meaningful story about people, loneliness and eventual acceptance.
It uses simple methods with, what one could almost call a utopian spirit, to make a big argument about life, diversity and accepting differences.
The art has a strong personality and communicates emotions and relationships extremely well. It works perfectly with the story to deliver its argument for equality by showing a world that is accepting and how it essentially functions the same as our world but without the hating. It delivers a window to another world and shows you that it won’t hurt or damage you, in fact, its existence will not affect your life at all, but it will make the life of others much better.
Cute and simple looking artwork that communicates the human experience and a simple and eloquent story that shows how the world can be rather than raising a fist to the world as is. I completely respect anything the raises the quiet voice of reason to make its argument to the wide world.
iestyn

Paper Underground Awards – Work that I wish I had published in a large deluxe limited edition

front cover of aorta comic by sarah horrocks depicting a vampire giant mech robots and space filled with stars

Work that I wish I had published in a large deluxe limited edition

Aorta – by Sarah Horrocks (buy physical or digital)

Aorta splash page in black and white by sarah horrocks
Aorta splash page

I literally only know Sarah’s work from online – but god I wish I owned everything she has ever made.

I love her colour work; her choices of texture and pattern; her colour combinations are so vibrant, living and communicative I’d sink deep down into their glowing acid power like people claim to do with a Rothko.

What she achieves with computer textures makes me want to grab a pen and a brush and get that physically down on paper. Her art affects me the same Bill Sienkiewicz’s affected my childhood mind. I want to cut out and paste, to splash paint and hatch and scratch and design the page into perfect life. I want to perfect what they’ve put on paper, with my own hand because then I’ll have achieved a skill and greatness I could easily respect.

Which, I suppose, makes my choice either odd or contrary.

When I saw her post this double page from her current comic Aorta I contacted her straight away because it was just so impressive. All that texture to lose myself in – I actually put it up across the double screens I have at work.  I saw it and just imagined holding a big – A3 page size big – hardback book; textured paper, almost like watercolour paper and that image crisply set into that paper, so deep it stretches beyond the edge of vision, like an IMAX movie. Comics suffers to keep itself cheap and avoid ‘being elitist’. But I don’t see why we can’t have expensive, deeply beautiful objects as vehicles to portray these works. I think this art deserve engaging with in a manner that let’s you obscure the world around and just sink into this glorious world of marks, movement, design and texture, like you’re climbing through a dark forest.

Being able to immerse yourself into the reality on paper and letting the work argue for the respect it so readily deserves.

iestyn

 

Paper Underground Awards – Most Romantic Work

Petrichor by Gareth Hopkins front cover featuring a recoloured photograph of a beach with two children playing in the waves

Most Romantic work

Petrichor – by Gareth Hopkins (shop here)

This is my book of the year, no quibbles.

Until I read Gareth’s work, I would never have said that either romance or auto-biography would be the most important and urgent style I’m encountering in comics.

Yet, when I read this book I was moved nearly to tears, to rethink my own attitudes and to a sense of admiration for what was being said on these pages. I think Gareth’s work is amazing. I always have, from the moment I first saw it. But, generally, I’ve admired the images and the textures, structures, marks and sequencing. His work was very much visual pleasure.

Then he wrote Petrichor and later worked on Intercorstal: Extension which I’ve previously reviewed. Intercorstal: Extension was published prior to Petrichor, even though it was created after it. In both works the writing developed an elliptical, poetic and rhythmic style that dealt with life and memory as experiences rather than narrative. It’s almost poetry, but it’s not. I’d say it’s a clipped version similar in style to JG Ballard’s early novels, like The Drowned World. But somehow warm and human and emotionally affecting, whereas Ballard’s words are the experience of ennui.

Many works are labelled as being about love and death, it’s a great review cliché – this work is truly about the experience of both, of how living life comes with waves and troughs, how we change whilst staying the same person, maybe with altered priorities.

To be fair – it’s not going to be for everyone, it’s not narrative, it’s got no images of things, there’s marks and short, clipped lines of text. But if you let yourself experience it, it’s like being in the heart and mind of that person as life happens around them. Beautiful and poignant. Ultimately, it’s satisfying to see a book dedicated to sharing an individual’s humanity and love.

iestyn

Paper Underground Awards – introduction

These are my way of thinking about what has mattered to me in zines and comics this year.

As much as they’re a way of recognising what I’ve found excellent, they’re also a thank you and a chart of what mattered to me at a time and place.

I don’t know whether these will matter to people, but then I’m not going to not do something from fear of embarrassing silence.

Originally there were going to be 5 awards, for the terribly practical reason that I could roll out an award a day over a week. Then something big happened in 2019 so now there’s going to be 6.

I think in the end, I’d like to see other people respond in kind to these awards and just do something that tells other people, but particularly the creators, why they liked their work in a little bit more detail and depth than a like, a purchase or an ‘Awesome’ – nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s great for people to take a minute and engage with the question of what they enjoyed about a certain work, consider the essential ‘thing’ within them that it satisfied.

Here are the categories:

1- Most Romantic work

2- Work that I wish I had published in a large deluxe limited edition

3- Work that is something I’d never want to make, but really appreciated anyway

4- Originally I said that this would be – Best discovery I made in November (but it was really just being sarcastic) Then I received something in October that fitted the bill

5- This will STAND THE GENERATIONS award

6- Mystery award

iestyn

The Short List – Tom Murphy, some of Colossive Press

Disclosure – Colossive Press published a zine by me and I have published two contributor only zines with one of the Colossive Press people.

buy from Colossive Press

donate to St Christopher’s hospice                      donate to Maggie’s Wallace Centre

twitter                             instagram                             web

ZL – You’ve published a number of zines now, through Colossive Press, have you any plans for new publications?

CP – Oh yes! Putting out the first few things through CP last year was a bit like opening the floodgates to ten or fifteen years’ worth of ideas that I’d not had the opportunity or confidence to pursue. They’re all at a fairly nebulous stage, so I need to focus on one at a time and get it done – it’s easy to get a bit paralysed and not know which way to go first.

Ahead of the Sheffield Zine Fair on May 18th, Jane (my wife) has compiled Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning) – a book of intriguing photos by her dad, Gordon Gibbens, who was also the subject of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least for a While). As well as his street art photography, Gordon used to hunt down press launches, demonstrations, festivals, marches, etc. As a result, there’s a lot of splendid and strange shots in his archive.

Things Dad Saw cover 1200
Things My Dad Saw

We’re also launching 3:52 AM, an A6 zine of words and photography by our brilliant friend VJ Sellar, based on her experience of insomnia (and raising money for the Maggie’s Wallace centre in Cambridge). I like to think we’ve coaxed her into the world of zines, and hopefully there are more to come.

Given the time I’d also like to publish more things by other people, as a bit of a patron. I’d like Colossive to be a bit like Ghost Box or some of the small music labels I follow on Bandcamp, finding interesting work with a strong identity and bringing it to the world.

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

Odyssey 7
Odyssey 7 Manchester

CP – At my age, most of my “firsts” are lost in the mists of time. However, I’d say that the first work in the print medium that really blew my mind was Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright. As a teenager I was a casual and slightly ironic reader of whatever comics I could find in the newsagents of Chorley. However, when I landed a plum part-time job at Morrisons (in 1985), my horizons soon spread to Odyssey 7 in Manchester, where the world of comics opened up in front of me like a thousand-leaved lotus blossom. And one of the first goodies I picked up was book one of Arkwright.

Even though I was also getting into series like Swamp Thing, American Flagg! and Moonshadow, Arkwright totally captivated me with the intricacy of the narrative and the incredible craft of its execution. When, after a seemingly interminable hiatus, the second and third volumes dropped, Talbot’s mastery of the medium just seemed to expand exponentially.

Page from Luther Arkwright
Page from Luther Arkwright

As much as anything, the whole work implanted the idea that at their best, whether dealing with the mundane or the cosmic, comics could do stuff that other mediums couldn’t even dream of. That notion has kept me coming back, through thick and thin, for 30-odd years.

 

ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?

CP – Ha – I’d have no idea what to do with a budget! I guess a full-blown Croydon Spaceport visitor experience somewhere in the town’s now legendary Whitgift Centre, complete with historical artefacts, audio-visual displays and – naturally – a lavishly furnished gift shop.

Ad Astra cover 1200
Ad Astra

ZL – Ad Astra is an alternative history story, what was the initial trigger for that idea?

CP – Oh blimey… I think that somewhere along the line, during a period of creative paralysis, I had an idea for a series of one-page text-and-image concoctions under the overall title Going Somewhere, Going Nowhere, based on the idea of travel and journeys. Little one-shots I could aim to wrap up quickly.

One of the notions I had was a voice remembering when the 119 bus used to go as far as Croydon Spaceport, how it used to be packed with people going to see the launches etc. I think that came about from the heritage work being done at the site of Croydon Airport – the very first London airport – and the sort of faded sci-fi, “lost future” feel that some of the town gives off.

Anyway, one of the benefits of my characteristic procrastination is that the idea had time to germinate in my noddle into something a bit richer. I started to come up with a more detailed timeline and cast list for the short and ultimately disappointing history of Croydon’s municipal space programme.

Another influence was a bit of street art that thousands of people walk past every day without even noticing. Underneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, the pedestrian underpass is decorated with tile displays showing alternative plans for the bridge, scenes from its construction etc. However, some enterprising ‘guerilla historian’ has dug out the Letraset and staged a bit of an intervention to come up with an alternative history involving flat-pack bridges from Argos and lost instruction manuals. I loved the element of absolute toot being delivered in a very straight-faced way.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the discovery of Flickr Commons, where various institutions make their image archives available with no copyright restrictions. With NASA and the San Diego Air and Space Museum among the participating institutions, I soon found plenty of images that lent themselves to gags or unlikely developments. Once I’d cracked the format, it kind of wrote itself.

 

ZL – You’ve had a lot of success and good feedback from ‘How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life…’ As that’s such a personal book, what does that feel like and mean to you?

CP – We’ve both been blown away by the response to the book – and we’re very proud on Gordon’s behalf. The initial aim was to showcase some of his photographs and the brilliant work of the street artists he admired. But Gordon was such an amazing man that Jane just had to tell his story.

Gordon was effectively written off when he received his second terminal cancer diagnosis in July 2016. but within weeks he was out with his camera again. Although he was clearly very frail, nobody on the graffiti scene really knew how ill Gordon was or what he was going through. Many of them have only found out recently through the book – something we now regret in a way.

There’s been a massive wave of affection and admiration for Gordon from all over the world, both from those who knew him and from complete strangers. We always knew what a brilliant person he was, of course, but it’s been great to spread the word. And although she’ll kill me for saying this, I’m pleased that more people now appreciate what Jane went through and what an amazing support she was for her dad.

All profits from the book are going to St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham (south-east London), from where Gordon set off on some of his final graffiti trips. With a little help from our friends – including Steve from London Calling Blog, who organised a charity street art walk in Penge – we’ve now raised more than £1,300, and we hope that figure will continue to rise. (We’ll also be donating the profits from Things My Dad Saw…)

We’re very pleased and proud to be able to support such a worthy cause in return for all the help St Christopher’s has given our family. Jane’s mum Pat was also cared for there, and following Gordon’s death, Jane received bereavement counselling through the hospice. Its work is absolutely vital to the local community, but it remains alarmingly underfunded.

Ultimately, the message of the book is: find something you love doing then find a way to carry on doing it. That’s one of the driving impulses behind DIY culture, and it’s what we’re both trying to do with Colossive.

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Malty Heave

Buy Malty Heave

Phil on twitter                                    Robert on twitter

Malty Heave issue 1 cover
Malty Heave issue 1 cover

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Sprouting and Other Tales of the Curious

 

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Asa Wheatley –   twitter       web              Sammy Ward –  twitter      web

Michelle Marham –   twitter      web       instagram     patreon

Emma Graveling –  instagram

Emily Pearson –  twitter     web                  Kat Willott – instagram        web

The Brief

I enjoyed reading this. There are some interesting subtexts to chew over and some skilled pacing and design. I really love that cover a lot!

The ongoing serial A Witch’s Penance had me interested to follow it. It was certainly my favourite story.

As an anthology, it felt consistent and well balanced. It mixed up approaches to story telling and left me thinking about some of its themes. It’s a solidly created anthology with some interesting and more personal moments. Essentially, it delivered a good read and I was left thinking.

Hanging in the Darkness Page 2
Hanging in the Darkness – page 2

The Detail

This is an anthology mixing prose and comics works. It uses a traditional ‘horror story with a twist’ format that, when I’m looking at it, seems well handled. Nothing comes from left field in terms of the twists. It manages the foreshadowing and punchlines well.

Now that probably sounds cold coming from me and that’s really a matter of my reading of the work. ‘Horror story with a twist ending’ is low on my list of likes unfortunately. However, there’s a bit more at work in these stories than just that format. Maybe I’m reading more in there, maybe I’m not, but I’m going to come back to both Sprouting and Hanging in the Darkness to get into my thoughts about what they made me think about.

First, I want to discuss Finders Keepers, the prose story, then go onto A Witch’s Penance.

Finders Keepers Page 3
Finders Keepers – page 3

Finders Keepers is a fine prose story but, for me, didn’t move me too much. It’s paced well, it develops it’s plot well, it builds its tension well. But that’s it, which is not a complaint or a method of damning anything, it’s a recognition that I don’t really get into these stories. The prose is clear, avoiding being purple and that’s to its benefit. I guess the only thing I wonder is what it’s trying to tell me or talk about? I hate saying that, because I hate anytime when someone says, ‘it was done well, but…’ because that’s just an awful snipe. Things have a right to exist the way the are without having to meet my sense of meaningful.

Unpicking my thoughts really does just bring me back to the fact that the style of story is not one I am personally invested in, with the other stories I feel like there’s enough extra there to dig hooks into me, where this one feels like a nice pot boiler without much to say for itself outside of being well executed. If you like stories with twist endings, it’s well made for you.

I like the illustrations style for the story. It reminds me of a Ladybird books and that matches the tones of the story and age of the characters well. They also given some very lively acting, giving a good sense of personality and action.

A Witch's Penance Page 2
A Witch’s Penance – page 2

A Witch’s Penance, the only ongoing story in the book, and the other two tales gave me much more of an idea that there’s something at work under the surface. I picked A Witch’s Penance out from the other two for a reason though. This story, at the moment, seems to have less of a theme and have more of a plot. Unlike the others, this is not a ‘twist at the end’ plot. This is very much a ‘revenge doubled’ plot. By which I mean, a mysterious figure with a past seems to be revenging something, but exacting this revenge sets up an excuse for the antagonist to also seek revenge. The circle of revenge is spinning and pulling in unwitting victims all around.

It’s not the plot, or even the characters that interest me as much as the approach to storytelling. Here, it’s very much that delivery which makes it my favourite in the anthology. The pacing and rhyming between panels is handled poetically.  It’s got that bouncy rhythm of doggerel verse. Plain, driving, seemingly simple but incredibly effective at dragging you along. To mix my metaphors. It’s a catchy pop chorus, very simple structure delivering something immediate and accessible and hiding some very clever production techniques underneath it all.

This piece comes into its own in the chase through the wood, with panel layout and the positioning of figures (and a tree!) creating rhythm, leading to comparisons between characters circumstances, if that makes sense? To pick that apart, I get a lovely, punchy sense of action happening. It’s tense here, because there’s a sense of the figures moving around each other, of proximity and the level of danger and luck involved in trying to escape and how thin the line between success and failure will be. The end delivers a couple of cliff-hangers that set the future wheels in motion and maintain that sense of things happening and matters to learn.

It’s difficult to know how the layout was decided, where writer and artist begin and end, but I would say that the layout and characterisation achieved in the woodland scene by Michelle Marham impressed me and I thought delivered the tightest storytelling in the anthology. Whoever worked it out, did a good job, but the delivery sells it well.

As mentioned, Hanging in The Darkness and Sprouting gave me a sense of subtext in the work. Each has a nice little plot. For both, the artwork is a little rough in places in terms of anatomy and expressing emotion but paces itself well. It adds atmosphere and I like the colouring on Hanging in The Darkness most of all, I’m not sure whether there was a single colourist, or if each artist did their own. As no colourist is named, it seems likely that each artist did their own work.

Hanging in the Darkness Page 1
Hanging in the Darkness – page 1

Hanging in The Darkness seems to me to be a study in the slow eroding of memory and the chill and dread that comes with the loss of that memory and, as such, the art is very much telling a separate story to the text. It’s atmospheric but lacks a bite of good character work to it. The art has a hard task as it’s there depicting a story that’s less engaging than the text, which gets to delve into and explore the deeper psychological content of the piece. The art is there to deliver the chills, which it does very nicely, but I can’t quite work out what point that was serving other than as a plot device.

Sprouting on the other hand has art that is very much in sync with the writing, adding layer to the words and working together to deliver additional depth to the plot. Where Hanging in The Darkness played with loss of identity and personality, Sprouting is dealing with a sense of dysmorphia and the ability to come to a safe space where we accept our form and ourselves. Where we find friends that accept us for who we are and, through that, a place in the world.

Sprouting PAGE 2
Sprouting – page 2

I very much feel like this idea needed more space to develop a sense of the person, to make them meaningful, for my tastes a story dealing with such themes needs to get me to see the lead as a person rather than delivering plot beats. I think the limit of the space and the scope of the storyline conspired against it making its message deeper and more meaningful by affecting me emotionally. It ended up delivering something polemical rather than persuasive or personal.

They’re both good ideas though, ways of dealing with their subjects that I thought were quite effective concepts, interesting ways to explore those concepts and personify the psychological physically.

I do feel like there was room for these two stories to breathe more and get down to the bone. It’s a bit grisly here, you can feel it roll around as you’re chewing over the idea. To be clearer, and I can’t second guess creators, but to me these seem like strong ideas that either space or time didn’t allow for a full resolution to. I didn’t come away with a sure image of what the creator was trying to say about these things, or whether they were meant more as hooks to hang a good story on. That may be on me, and that may indeed have been the intent here all along, but to me it felt like there was room to go deeper and more personal in these stories, to commit to an opinion. They had interesting things to bring up and interesting ways of personifying the abstract, I just wanted to know more about what they personally felt about these subjects, because I think there’s an interesting set of voices here.

Artist page
Artists page

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Secret Protectors 1-2

 

TSP-LOGO-HEADER-E

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Let’s get this right at the beginning

At the start, this may seem like I’m going in hard on this comic and also going in hard for choosing to be something I don’t like.

So, I want to say this clearly up front.

I like this comic, it’s a work forming for sure. So if you want the slick, mature work of creators fully situated in their styles, or a very settled format of superhero comic similar to corporate comics, this is not what you’re looking for. I think it’s not yet formed, and I think it’s still firmly rooted in its genre work, but it does nothing badly. For most people who read the kind of thing I’ve reviewed before it’s likely not the kind of work that will interest them, and I’ll argue why I can fit this in my mind in the same space as those works at the end and why I think it has a virtue worth investing in. It’s entirely possible these are patronising things to say and I’m going to hold my hand up to that if I’m called out on it.

I also add the extra caveat that all comments about style and genre are not to be considered as a definition of the creators’ interests, influences or personal systems of categorising. They are comments upon my thoughts, values, and ways of thinking. They deal with what I’ve put together and brought to this work. Talk to the creators for their opinion.

It all gets quite deep and specific as I parse those things out for you.

On that sinister note, let’s go!

TSP - Logo SP

This is an interesting comic

Maybe you’re old enough, maybe this will mean nothing to you, but this really reminds me of the comics put out by Adventure Comics in the black and white glut. Now, I really like them, in fact, I’d say that I actually own comics just like this one.

They’re the sort of comics that mix ideas the creators have seen in fiction and thought, ‘Oh my god, I want to do a story with that in it because it’s so COOOOOOOL!’ Then there are moments where there is something so personal and out of context with the stuff in it that it throws you sideways. I like them for the very reason that they’re often just this weird stew of genre cliché and they’re often characterised by being about plot point and cool scenes and some stuff to string them together. I just like sitting down and parsing all of those influences out and enjoying how clearly these are people fulfilling their kid comic dreams.

This work is near to that experience, but there’s something more than that about it. It’s one of those ones where you can see it has potential for the creators to get better an not just sit making their own weird stew of fan-fiction.

Which is to say that this is a work that leans heavily on its inspirations, has not shaken off that inspiration enough to call itself its own thing yet, but it has these moments and ideas that could really be exploited if they dig into it. It’s a work you can see where the creators are figuring out their choices and solutions a hitting some and missing others.

Which is an appallingly long way of saying that this is the work of a team finding its feet between doing the stuff they’ve loved reading and wanted to make since they began wanting to make stuff and finding their own style and purpose and their own way to say it. They have made some quick steps between issues though.

I found the second issue, for example, much more interesting than the first both story and art wise.

 

 

Let’s go back in time

Now, we have to establish a bit here. This is a ‘modern’ superhero comic and I am genuinely not a fan of modern superhero comics, they take too long to get to anything and they don’t know that they’re too serious or how to package an idea. They equate heroic poses with emotional gravitas and, as with all modern media, angry emoting is seen as ‘character’ and ‘depicting male emotions’. I’m not a fan of either thing, it’s hysteria not emotion, its going ‘BOO’ when you could sneak up and tap someone quietly on their shoulder. It’s a smiling emoji rather than laughing with your friends.

That’s definitely a taste and age thing. It’s also a bit damn unfair of me to knock something for reminding me of a style that I’m not a fan of. However – there’s work in here that has a much more interesting nature than the genre it’s leaning into, so I need to deal with why I feel this could ‘move up’ (in my estimation). It is also the nature of this blog that I’m talking about my reaction to thing, so honesty around that is required.

To me, this story doesn’t get going into the characters quickly enough because it has decompressed its story too much. Its story also seems more plot than story, as in, stories have character arcs not just things that happen. Stories talk about something relatable to their audience, not relying on a familiarity with genre to carry the weight of identification.

Put another way, these could be interesting characters, but we don’t know them. We know their plot points, not their personality and those two things are very different in my head. We know the main character got his powers in a disaster and that there are shadowy powers at work and a superhero team at work. Just looking at things, we can also see that we’re dealing with a battle between diversity and racism/fascism/the shadow government.

All we know about the personality of the main character is that he’s a bit shy around a pretty girl, loves his family and gets angry when confused. We’re two issues in, for me that’s two chapters of this story, which means two chapters in and I’m still not comfortable about whether these he’s going to be an interesting character to read about. I know he’s there to be a cypher for the reader to identify with so they can be led into this new world through him, but he’s too much of a cypher, really too much of a stereotype and not a person yet. Sometimes you need to know the head of a character before you trust their heart and their insight.

As to the Secret Protectors, the same is true for them, except that there are some moments where you get a little ‘in’ on their relationships. I’m unsure whether issue 2 delivers more interest because of their presence, or their presence in issue 2 mean that they’re treated with more skill and so come across as more interesting.

I think the art also needs to work harder at selling this comic at this point as well. It’s uneven at the moment and fluctuates in ability sometimes panel to panel. There are moments where the anatomy is bang on, followed by some really awkward posing or poorly executed foreshortening and that throws around the reading of the story. On the whole though, those anatomy issues are about time and practice. There are more fundamental decisions here about the approach to the story where there’s an uneven approach that throws the story out. Choices of posing and pacing and sequencing that at points flatten the character portrayal or the excitement of the action, but at other points serve to really punch it up a notch.

 

Diving down into the detail

Now – I’m going to get into a quite close read of this here and this is where I talk about why I enjoyed this comic and what I see as its virtues. That all comes with the caveat that I’m neither writer, nor artist, nor editor and that none of these things are anything other than the reasons I have for reviewing and recommending this.

So, lets begin by picking 2 pages from issue 2 to compare, page 2 and a detail from page 5.

Page 2 is the first half of a double page spread and we’re seeing what should be a really impactful moment where a mech droid is confronting the Secret Protectors. I’ve decontextualized this a lot by removing the big robot, because I want to talk about character and the depiction of those characters.

If you look at the poses being struck here, I find them vey static and generic. There’s nothing individual about those poses where you couldn’t reverse the costumes and be showing them as having the same personality. Also, the composition relies very heavily on the action lines to feel dynamic. That barn in the background carries as much dynamic force as the figures themselves in my reading of the scene.

Compare that to the action shown on page 5, the position and shape of the body, the placing in the frame and the composition of the action between those two panels. They’re small on the page in the actual comic, but they carry much more action and punch and show more of the character’s personality, The writing here adds an extra element to the character depiction, seemingly at odds with the ‘go in there and do it’ look of the action we can see someone concerned with not causing harm to their enemy.

Then you look at that pose in the panel and instead of opting for a typical ‘blasting out flames’ pose, the arms are thrown backwards whilst getting into position, so now I see that the writing explains why they are thrown back without banging you on the head with a hammer.

Interestingly, the anatomy in both drawings is no better on a ‘realistic’ scale, it’s just that the flame panels have their own rhythm where those shapes put together make sense as a person running fast. Also the shapes made by the flames between each panel match up dynamically, twisting the eye around in a near circle, moving your eye down from top to bottom before retuning it to the right so you move on to the next panel. My eye moves quickly, like the action it’s depicting.

Even the computer art works differently; the orange flames, though very painterly, sit within the context of the image; whereas, the action lines on page 2 stand apart, almost speaking a different language to the image on the page.

Secret Protectors 1 page 4 detail
Secret Protectors 1 page 4 detail

The computer art has a nice pace of its own at points in this comic as well. There’s a panel on page 4 of the 1st issue that is just orange colour with a white speed line filter applied. It works, at that point, as a nice story beat, it’s very otherness serving to break out the rhythm of the story. The approach is not used in such a considered manner throughout though.

Secret Protectors 2 page 1
Secret Protectors 2 page 1

The 1st page of issue 2 also has an interesting moment like this and shows my point more clearly, I think. If you look at the whole page, the middle panel again uses some computer made speed lines to give a sense of dynamism. This time, I feel, they’re working against the real dynamism achieved in the figure drawing and panel composition. They’re dumped so artificially onto the panel it breaks up the flow of the story where it should move dynamically. Then you get that final panel, where there’s this amazing, expressionistic depiction of the van shown very realistically in the first panel. Break beat. Sinister yellow eyes glowing out. Impact of the message driven home. Game changer engaged. Essentially, such a different outcome.

 

Secret Protectors 2 page 1 close up final panel
Secret Protectors 2 page 1 close up final panel

I guess the point that’s being skirted around is that there is some really good work here, but I’m not sure that it’s a choice as part of the story delivery. I hope so for the creators, because these are interesting techniques to employ consciously. Personally, it doesn’t matter so much, intent doesn’t stop me from stopping and looking at that and thinking it is awesome.

But the application is inconsistent throughout the two issues and that’s a shame as it can really block the story at points.

Maybe one last group of examples might make my point clearer.

Secret Protectors 1 page 1
Secret Protectors 1 page 1

The use of computer colour and design on the drawings, particularly on the buildings, has a sort of deadening effect on the art quite often, as do the pacing and drawing choices. If you look at the 1st page of the 1st issue, the very precise nature of that building, the point of view disappearing into the centre of the building, the matching tones of most of the page, all of these serve to force you to just stare at the centre of the hospital complex. It’s a real work of effort to move your eye on.

When you do, it’s the same battle over again to move your eyes off those repeated panels, then again, the first panels of the bottom tier are matched so closely that the final panel of the page seems like it’s clipped from a completely different story. That page is just hard reading all the way through. Yet I can feel that it’s trying to create a rhyme on the page, a pace to draw you through.

Secret Protectors 1 page 9
Secret Protectors 1 page 9

I get the same feeling about the pacing set up on pages 8-9 of issue 1. Just looking at page 9, you can see the rhythm being aimed for. Yet it’s so flat, the characters aren’t made interesting in either drawing or writing. It’s stiff at all points. Maybe not stiff, forced, like the creators know they’ve got something to get across and they’re going to make it happen.

Now, why I’m interested in this comic can be seen when you contrast that with issue 2 page 13. Just stop and look out the layout and how it rhymes and matches up, window panes below matching panel layout above, colours in top and bottom tiers balancing yet contrasting. Even the way that the panels show the change in character personality. The anatomy may be no better or more consistent, but the pacing is on point so it doesn’t matter to me.

Secret Protectors 2 page 13 detail
Secret Protectors 2 page 13 detail

Look at how the relationship of characters is mirrored between their powers at work, the story beats are well chosen and well depicted. They sell the relationship of those characters to each other, rather than labouring the point. It’s subtler already. It’s unfolds before you rather than TELLING you about itself.

 

One last dive

I just want to look at this last page, mainly because of those bottom three panels and the way I like the look of them! Also though, because that middle panel works so well to deliver an emotional moment. Simple, good facial expression and body language and colours focussing the moment. Then those last three panels delivering such a different artistic style, changing the rhythm of the comic instantly. It’s moments like this that make me enjoy this comic.

Secret Protectors 2 page 7
Secret Protectors 2 page 7

It’s served up in a way that shows me some character and emotion, in a way that feels like it’s a personal solution for its creators. It’s fine entertainment and I’m all about that at times.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Paul Jon Milne

cover_gravehorticulture2
Grave Horticulture Issue 2 – cover

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ZL – I feel like you’ve been doing zines for a while, when did you start and what inspired you to do so?
PJM – After I graduated art college in 2003, I started contributing pieces to various publications. I did a fair few one page things for excellent Dundee arts zine ‘Yuck n Yum‘, and I was trying to get some work going as an illustrator with varying amounts of ‘for exposure’ success, but finally decided to make an actual comic around 2009/10.  I had a lot of spare time due to being unemployed, and wanted to vent frustration about how rotten the ‘Jobseeker’ life was, and so I made my first ‘proper’ zine, Guts Power 1. It was pretty rudimentary but it exists and that’s what’s important.

gutspower6cover
Guts Power issue 6 cover

Unemployment’s not a particularly entertaining subject and was covered surprisingly accurately already in League of Gentlemen, so in the end Guts Power was less about the dehumanising aspects of the jobcentre, and more about absurd jokes, ridiculously specific pop cultural references, body horror and musclemen in fetish clothing, plus lots of thinly-veiled self-hatred. Basically my attempt at a ‘Deadline‘ sort of thing but with much better taste in music.

Once I’d made issue 1 and realised that it was a thing I could actually do, it spurred me on to start making other comics. The final issue of Guts Power 6 finally came out last year, phew.

 

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

twars
Marvel UK Transformers – Time Wars cover – Art Wetherell and Dave Harwood

PJM – Comics-wise, I was very taken with the weekly Marvel UK Transformers comic,

specifically the ‘Time Wars’ storyline by Simon Furman and Andy Wildman. It seemed impossibly dark and important to young me, and maybe the first time I was aware of the comic as something other than just nonsense with my favourite toys in it.

But I still abandoned it when the Hero Turtles comic came out, as I sure did like those Turts, and kids are daft.

Other formative “what is this, this is incredible” moments as a tiny bozo were the Night on Bald Mountain section of ‘Fantasia’ , catching a random and unadvertised showing of Ghibli’s ‘Laputa’ on ITV on a school holiday (which seems to be an experience shared by many people of my generation), and first contact with Street Fighter 2, which broke my brain.

 

ZL – What single creation would you settle down with and just chill?

 

PJM – I find it hard to ever properly relax due to my delicious cocktail of mental health issues, but at the moment a pretty good time can be had lying in bed with a glass of milk and a volume of Q. Hayashida’s ‘Dorohedoro‘ which is ludicrously imaginative, gory and kinetic. It’s also very sweet, but crucially not twee. No tweeness at bedtime, I don’t want to go to sleep angry.

 

 

ZL – You have just published your second Grave Horticulture issue after what seemed like a good amount of success with the first publication, does that make it harder or easier this time around?

gravepic
Grave Horticulture issue 1

 

PJM – I suppose it was a kind of success as people seemed to like it, but the box of leftover copies cluttering up my bedroom says otherwise! The fact anyone had an opinion on it is quite daunting, and as a result while working on issue two I’ve definitely found myself overthinking things.

This is useful when it comes to stuff like “will people be able to follow this sequence?” as it pushes me to consider storytelling clarity, but not so useful when I start second-guessing nearly everything and worrying about if something seems “professional-looking”.

Best just to try and follow my instincts I suppose, which is certainly easier in theory.

 

 

ZL – (Let’s hope this never happens, but let’s also pretend!) A psycho runs up to you in the street and chainsaws your hands off. Your life is saved, but they couldn’t save your hands. Who draws in your hands’ place?

gravehort1cover
Grave Horticulture issue 1 cover

 

PJM – First of all, I hope the chainsaw person gets the help they need! And secondly I hope I’d still carry on with art in such a situation, but I suppose it’s good to have backup plans.

Not sure I’d want anyone else to draw my comics really, it’d be pretty unfair on them as my scripts are very vague and confusing. I mainly piece the story together as I go, apart from a rough outline and certain scenes. I’ve done ‘full script’ once or twice and it’s been much easier for me to draw, but the final results haven’t been as good, I don’t think.

I like the idea of making Michel Fiffe draw whatever I tell him to, but I would feel bad keeping him from making more issues of Copra.

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – J Edward Scott

Disclosure – I am working with Ed on a small zine with no set publication date as yet 

ZL –  You have a very idiosyncratic and personal style to your comics, but one very situated within the history of UK comics, how did you arrive at your style and how satisfied are you with it?

 

JES – When I started drawing with a view to doing it seriously, I did that thing most people do which is drawing in a way you think is how you’re meant to draw. In my case, to start with, that style was newspaper editorial cartoons, somewhere between Steve Bell and Ralph Steadman because that was what I wanted to do out of university. Probably (Gerald) Scarfe was in there too, but he is such an egregious old wind-bag, I’m less keen to admit to being fan. I then tried to simplify my style when I started doing small press Page 7 - Full Page Spreadcomics, trying to be like Tom Gauld (who I still love). Then I thought I’d try and go ultra-realistic like Brian Bolland or Arthur Ranson and do a long form gothic Frankenstein story (currently unfinished and mouldering in my parent’s attic). Anyway, the best piece of advice I ever heard was from a Chanel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary about a kid trying to become a graffiti artist and the guy coaching him was having a go at him for not drawing enough. You should be drawing all the time, draw anything, develop your style. So I tried to focus on just draw things ‘wrong’ until I found out what the wrong drawings were trying to tell me. So that’s sort of it. Also, I creep in Kevin O’Neil and Mike McMahon’s house at the dead of night and suck bits of their brain out with a straw. Did I mention I have Michael Moorcock’s head in jar?Page 3 - Magic healing

 

 

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

JES – I really loved the Beano like most kids growing up. I also really enjoyed Adam West era Batman and the cartoon at the start of the show which I think got me hooked on cartoon violence. He-Man is lurking in Blade of Arozone, which is hardly surprising. Akira blew the back of my head off when I bought the first volume when I was a teenager after seeing the film on BBC 2. A big thing I am channelling at the moment is the Warhammer art of people like Ian Miller, Paul Bonner, Kev ‘Goblinmaster’ Adams and John Blanche, which I was obsessively into as a kid. I was actually more into Warhammer than comics growing up!

 

ZL – Do you yearn to work in colour?

JES – Working in black and white was originally a practical choice because I was printing comics on a photocopier in Kinko’s (RIP) and I knew colour would cost more. I’m not averse to colour, but I really like that feeling of black, inky comics, so I will be monochrome for a while certainly.

 

ZL – You are gifted the opportunity to set up a new museum showcasing all of the creators who have influenced you from birth to now.  The first show is called ‘First, Formative and Now’ who do you pick and why?  Page 12 - Single inky panel goodness

JES – Growing up in the 90’s there happened to be a lot of documentaries about underground comics, so I remember Robert Crumb being the first example of a guy being vaguely ‘rock and roll’ but not being a musician but instead doing something I could do (since I was no good at music). Formative is definitely Simon Bisley, who I tried to emulate as a teen-ager (with zero success). Current is a long list, but in terms of style, energy and imagination (not to mention jaw-dropping work ethic) I’m a big fan of Hyena Hell. On reflection, that’s the exhibition that taste forgot, isn’t it?

 

ZL – You’re due to release the second issue of your comic ‘The Blade of Arozone’, how well has the first issue done and how different are you feelings now compared to when you released the first one? Blade of Arozone

JES – I’m pretty buoyant at the moment – I’ve had some really good feed-back and some great support, especially from Tom Oldham of Breakdown Press and Gosh Comics. I’m mainly glad to have gone from being a guy who used to make small press comics a decade ago to a guy who makes small press comics again. I also really want to tell this story, so the fact there is a willing audience is excellent. The alternative was handing out pamphlets about Death Priests and Elderkin on the streets. There’s always that to fall back on, of course.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Intercorstal: Extension Review

Petrichor

Gareth’s new book, released by Good Comics – go check out the preview or buy it at the following links:

Petrichor Cover
Gareth Hopkins’ new book

Preview Petrichor                     Buy Petrichor               Listen to Gareth Talk About Petrichor

Intercorstal: Extension

I have a long history with Gareth Hopkins’ work, or so it feels anyway.  I was away a long time from looking at anything comics and Gareth’s were some of the first comic drawings I saw when I came back.  They stuck with me as they felt interesting and personal.  They are also the first abstract comics I’ve seen that felt like they had something to say, rather than something to do.

That’s quite an oblique description so let me explain more. Although these comics are abstract, they are not impersonal, not formal exercises.  There’s something in them that affects me, not just something I look at and think, well that’s interesting, then turn away because that’s all there is to engage with – ‘clever trick’ or ‘boring trick’.

However – until ‘Extension’ I’ve not read any of Gareth’s writing (in fact I think this may be the first comic published with Gareth’s own words. He’s recently had Petrichor published and I think that was written before Extension but published after).

I was surprised by how much emotion he evoked in this story. How evocative and captivating it was. In all honesty I never thought I’d get emotionally affected by any of this work, abstract comics essentially being a distancing concept. However, there is such a strength in this work, in the pacing of the words, the sequencing of the pages. It feels like poetry; epic, raw and deeply personal.

 

Intercorstal Extension close-up

He achieves an amazing range of pace and depth of meaning. To me, someone who easily glazes over when met by blank verse or stream of consciousness, I thought I’d pretty much delve into the images and skirt over the words. But I quickly found myself into the rhythm of the work, I could not believe how much life this had.  I was head nodding at the call backs and remixing in the text, it kept it fresh, giving a sense of cohesion, of purpose.

I was impressed by the general mood of the art – the density matched the mood of the text. I felt that the images belonged to the world of the words, even if they weren’t showing the same thing always. To make a weird analogy – it’s a piece of work similar to industrial music tracks – the images play a dark ambient music under the words that feel like a voice muttering dark and velvety.  Beautiful and painful like a Leonard Cohen song.

It’s the first times I’ve not found myself admiring Gareth’s design sense. I was too busy soaking in the atmosphere. The many, many moments where art and word weave emotively together. ‘When I wake up I’m going to absolutely’ big burst on the flip, bursting out of dream, a rupture of what they were trying to hold onto.  A drawing that, in the context of the other pages, could have stood out as quite light and cheesy, that instead lifted it up and hit home the sensation of a dream smashing on waking.

I soon found myself believing its rhythm, going along with it, persuaded I was reading rhyming verse where there was none. I felt like I’d been pulled along into a dance and now I understood its rhythm I could go with its steps. There was something in pithiness of the boxes that made it have that same bounce as rhyming couplets. None of it rhymed.  I’m not sure how much that was intentional, and how much intuitive (don’t call it luck – that’s a disservice to it), but it sucked me in to the story at that point.

It changed my appreciation from looking at the art, to feeling part of a moment.  It hit home with feeling. This was personal, someone secretly reaching out by hiding a human plea in a seemingly abstract (and so supposedly emotionless) piece of art. There is a point where the words suddenly, directly address, for me, the whole purpose of the piece, not in a meta sense, just directly, openly speaking a truth at the heart of the work. It was like someone suddenly swinging their down staring gaze to burrow into your soul whilst switching their mumble to a firebrand’s roar.

Intercorstal Extension Pages 15-16
An emotional turning point

To put it a clearer way – there’s a moment where it feels like you’re seeing the whole meaning of this swirling universe, the mists part and the path to the heart of it all is laid bare for you to follow.

The pages that followed are a beautiful synchronisation of text and image. Oddly they made me smile with relief and recognition, they felt like the first moment of human warmth, even though they’re filled with frailty and fear.  That happiness is a sort of prelude to deeper, fearful emotions to connect to. Some say just before you die, you suddenly get a second breath and that’s what his moment feels like, that last smile before the rattling breath brings the fear home.  A good and affecting end.

Previous Review – Barking by Lucy Sullivan

all art copyright and trademark it's respective owners. 
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

 

 

What’s coming up

Well

I’ve got a plan now.

There’ll be reviews, 1 or 2 a week.

I’ll be starting The Short List soon as well  1-2 a week – different creators answering 5 questions about themselves, their hopes, their inspirations, their loves and sometimes – what they’re selling!!

Again, please do feel free to contact me with ideas or work you’d like reviewed.