Review – The Blame by Jon Aye

A collection of short stories from Jon Aye.

Jon Is currently taking part in the digital Hackney Comic & Zine Fair.

Find him on twitter

I enjoyed this. A quick read that I think I could go back and spend some more time dealing with the bigger ideas it touches upon.

I often see these kinds of comic zines or this style labelled as experimental, but I’m not sure the label fits as well as alternative would. I feel there’s too much in the history of comics, I was immediately reminded of the cartooning on Dick Tracy as soon as I looked at this. The story approach is similarly easy to follow and parse, with its brevity seeming at points both dreamlike and histrionic, by which I mean there are strips where each line is designed to be dialogue delivering drama rather than naturalistic speech so it all seems like high drama pounding out the beats.

There are a couple of nice one pagers that amused me, such as the one below.

But there were a couple of strips that I found much more interesting, that got me actually thinking. They both deal with current society in its post-Thatcherite state, one obliquely and one more directly. Specifically ‘Disaster!’ and ‘Problem Solving’.

They’re both still short snippets, respectively four pages and one page, but together there is a personal thesis about post-Thatcherite UK society that I think bears expanding upon. It’s not so much that the thoughts are necessarily in depth in those stories but the combination of the two coming at the subject manages to make it so that we get a more rounded understanding of that thesis. It’s an interesting way to experience opinions without having to commit to reading a long heavy storyline exploring the subject.

I particularly like the approach to sci-fi in ‘Disaster’, it’s a very New Wave of Science Fiction attempt to look at matters, with a good use of ‘disaster’ as metaphor. I’d personally like to see that idea expanded as I think that world has some legs, but it doesn’t need expanding for the story to work as it is.

UKPLC also touches on current affairs in a nicely timed and confidently cartooned way. I like the visual approach and the somewhat abrupt approach to timing in the strips. Not all of the ideas work for me, either they’re a bit too pat  or didn’t have that much of a new idea (‘Writing’ and ‘New Name’), but the work itself is strong and individual whilst still feeling part of a contemporary comic scene.

comix economix – an interview with Avery Hill’s Ricky Miller

I think the true nature of what makes Avery Hill a truly worthy publisher comes not from the work that they publish, but from the approach that they take.

It seems to me that the two most important things to be taken from this whole interview would be these comments, “..we had a responsibility to sell as many books as possible and make some money for the creators…” and “…we put a massive amount of our time into the company and don’t take any money for that…”

It’s that approach to creator first commerce that I admire. It seems to pervade their whole ethos and, I think, informs much of their editorial aesthetic as well – people first. At the heart of what they do is the belief that people matter and so should be shown respect.

Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure Steven Tillotson

ZL – Hi and thanx for agreeing to this interview!

Having looked around, you seem to have entered your 15th year as a publishing company and it seems like a terrible year to be in business, especially the business of comics. It made me think though, did you believe you’d last 15 years when you started, do you feel like you’ve accomplished more than you ever thought you could?

RM – It’s actually 8 years that we’ve been an LTD and a couple of years of making zines before that.

I think when we started, we probably saw it going a few years and our major aim was to have a nice row of a few books on our shelf which wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for us.

I Love This Part Tillie Walden

To some extent that’s still the philosophy of what we do, although as we’ve taken on more overheads, we’ve had to make a few more decisions based on business reasons rather than other reasons. We didn’t have any idea that one day we’d be doing print runs in the thousands rather than in the tens and that we’d actually have books winning awards! The day that Tillie (Walden) got nominated for an Eisner for I Love This Part is still one of the most mind-blowing things to have happened.

ZL – I don’t know if you want to, but that sentence ‘…although as we’ve taken on more overheads, we’ve had to make a few more decisions based on business reasons rather than other reasons. ‘, really cries out for unpacking a bit! 

It’s very open to interpretation and I’d love to dig out some detail. 

A Projection Seekan Hui

With comic companies so often being so negative, I’d normally be inclined to read that as, ‘we’ve started screwing creators and shipping production out to the cheapest printer we can find’. However, in my experience, creators seem incredibly positive about working with you, both in terms of the value you add to their work and your treatment of their works as published. 

So, my assumption about what you’re saying here is that the kind of projects you take on has changed rather than the treatment of creators or is it something else entirely?

A Quiet Disaster Alex Potts

RM – It’s more that we now think a lot more about how commercial a project is before we take it on. This hasn’t led us yet to do a project JUST for commercial reasons, every book we’ve put out we believe in from a creative point of view and it’s a book we’d love to read ourselves, but we’ve probably had to not pursue a few projects where we just didn’t see it making any money at all. In the past we might have gone ahead with that type of project just for artistic reasons, but we’re trying not to do that anymore. It means saying no to some books we might love to do, but in the long run it’s best for us and also for the creators.

ZL – For me, the whole idea of taking on ‘overheads’ seems damn scary! It’s sort of the difference between being in zine publishing and book publishing. Which is a loaded statement for sure.

Artifical Flowers Rachael Smith

What I mean is, for me zine publishing doesn’t require much money up front and doesn’t really expect to do more than break even or even just net back a bunch of reading through swaps. Book publishing carries the expectation of income to fund new publications, carrying back stock, selling in bulk and at discount, handling returns and all sorts of other time consuming and expensive upfront costs and gambles.

Does that seem like a fair view or am I over simplifying matters horribly!?

RM – The main thing is just not totally overstretching ourselves. We’ve so far not had to do anything financially that we couldn’t see a way of surviving if everything went wrong. We always pay invoices immediately, especially for staff and smaller businesses that we deal with and being responsible is really important in that we don’t want anyone else to hurt from mistakes we make.

On A Sunbeam Tillie Walden

Our biggest costs are always by far print costs. Reprinting something like On A Sunbeam is a massive cost. Our latest reprint of that cost £20K+, but that’s a book that will always sell and it’s just a short-term cash flow problem rather than a risk.

Breakwater Katriona Chapman

ZL – Do you miss the simplicity and immediacy of zine publishing. I don’t mean that as a ‘would you prefer to go back to zines’, more of a question of whether you appreciated having the opportunity to approach publishing in that manner and whether that had its own appeal and does that appeal still exist for you?

RM – I don’t really miss the zine aesthetic, I was never particularly into it. Dave might feel differently on that score as he was very much the one who produced all of those early zines that got us started and I was just a contributor for most of that. I like buying and reading zines more than I did making them. I’d encourage every creator to self-publish something at least once as it gives you a great education in the whole process of making, selling and marketing a book. 

Butter Tubbs Donya Todd

ZL – In the face of all that complexity, what is it about the process that keeps you going and motivated, what emotional aspects of it reward you, as I presume you’re not rolling in money from this, it’s publishing and comics after all!

RM – I’m more interested in getting as big an audience for what we do as possible and I get most of my enjoyment now from figuring out the business side of things and seeing how far people like us can get without any insider knowledge, connections or experience other than what we’ve managed to gather as we go along. I see our logo as something of a metaphor for this, that we’re bunking over a fence into the publishing industry. 

Days Simon Moreton

ZL – We’ve dived quickly into depth here without really getting any history for context, which is terrible in an interview! So, to step backwards for a minute, how about you tell us what background you have with comics?

RM – Dave, the AHP co-publisher/co-owner, and I have been friends since school and definitely bonded through comics (as well as music). We both started reading lots of Marvel UK stuff when we were very young. I was particularly into Transformers and used to do my own Transformers fancomic when I was about 14. Then when we met at senior school we were reading some superhero stuff (it was the early 90s so mainly the Image guys pre and post them leaving Marvel) and then the DC mature readers titles that became Vertigo, like Sandman, Animal Man and Shade. Also a few self-published titles, such as Strangers In Paradise, Bone, Hepcats and A Distant Soil. Cerebus was probably the biggest one for us though (until it went off the rails) and I’d say that a lot of the stuff that Dave Sim used to discuss, with regards to creator ownership and self-publishing, still massively resonates in how we think about Avery Hill.

We both drifted from comics when we went to uni and then Dave got back into them when we were in our late 20s and leant me Y: The Last Man and Fables, which got me back into them as well.

Deep Space Canine Comic Book Slumber Party

ZL – I’m always interested to see Dave Sim mentioned because of how his place in comics seems to have shifted from Cerebus as a comic and more to what he did when publishing it and what he wrote about publishing itself. I could do a whole discussion about the value of the comic, but that’s a whole other interview!

What I am intrigued by is, how a publisher took what Dave Sim said and got inspired by it when you consider how anti publishers and pro creators doing it all themselves his writing was. So, at what point in Avery Hill’s history did he influence you and what impact does he still have on your approach to creators and publishing?

Victory Point Owen D. Pomery

RM – I think the main thing is the stress on creator freedom and ownership. We don’t take any rights from creators in terms of licensing, image, etc. And they’re totally free to tell their story however they want. The way he worked directly with comic retailers as well is really important and how he built his audience from the ground up pre-social media.

Desolation Wilderness Claire Scully

ZL – As a random question, have you ever considered reaching out to Gerhard and seeing if he’d want to be published, can you imagine a comic just filled with his illustrations of different environments!

RM – I’m not sure if he’s ever written a comic, but I’d definitely love to see a nice book of his drawings!

Escape From Bitch Mountain Comic Book Slumber Party

ZL –  Just to tack a further wide open question on there, what do you think the legacy of that generation of self-publishers has had on comics now? I personally feel it did a lot to re-introduce diversity of subjects and approach back into comics and spurred what I’d class as the book market side of comics.

RM – I’d love to read an Easy Riders, Raging Bulls type book on those creators and that time. I’m sure it would be fascinating, although equally male-centric. I’m not sure that many of today’s younger creators have read much of that stuff and I don’t think any of them are making enough from self-publishing to turn up at shows in limos like Sim used to. I think we have to look at it more in the context of an Image style business model nowadays, where books like Saga, The Walking Dead, etc kept some of that ethos, albeit with some work-for-hire aspects that Sim would frown on. The most influential on today’s market from that time is definitely Jeff Smith’s Bone, which blew the doors off of the middle-grade market. The lasting influence there is massive.

Follow Me In Katriona Chapman

ZL – Going back a bit to something else you mentioned, specifically publishing your own Transformers fan comic, and I can’t leave that stone unturned! What was it called and was it something you did for yourself and your friends or did you put it out to the wider world and are there still copies available to buy or maybe a link to read it somewhere?

RM – Thankfully it was pre-internet and I don’t think it will surface. It was done through a Transformers fan club and was an incredibly ambitious prequel to the whole Transformers saga called Pathformers that (shockingly) I abandoned after about 6 issues. Sadly, a lost masterpiece of the form.

Goatherded Charlo Frade

ZL – Do you think that early experience had an influence on setting up and beginning Avery Hill?

RM – I don’t think I would have thought of doing Metroland if it hadn’t have been for the Transformers comic, but I always enjoyed writing and drawing so I’m not sure.

A City Inside Tillie Walden

ZL – I’m a nosy person that’s very interested in how people get to a point, not just what they do, so I’d really like to know what was the trigger that finally persuaded you to publish your first book?

Also, when setting up the company, what was the initial impetus to make Avery Hill exist? I just think it would be interesting to know whether the original dream has been met, but also, digging into that a bit deeper, what moment persuaded you that it was possible to go out and publish comic books?

Finally, to heap in the questions like an avalanche, what did you think you’d be able to achieve, in what timescale?

Metroland 1, 2, 3 & 4

RM – Dave wanted to start a zine called Tiny Dancing and I decided to contribute a comic to it called Metroland, which I used to write and draw. As we got more into that world we found loads of other comics creators who were much better than us, like Tim Bird, Owen Pomery and Simon Moreton and decided we should just publish their stuff instead. So the first book we put out that wasn’t by one of us was Grey Area by Tim and the The Megatherium Club by Owen. Simon’s collection, Days, was the first big graphic novel we ever did.

Grey Area Our Town Tim Bird

We had absolutely no background in publishing, no contacts, no financial backing and not much of an idea about the small-press scene. We didn’t really expect it to go anywhere and thought it would just fizzle out at some point. There was definitely no grand plan. We often compare ourselves to those small record companies that start because they like a band, like Electric Honey, Jeepster, or Factory Records. I like the idea of doing something where no one can tell you “No” and taking control of what you want to do. Neither of us would be remotely interested in working for another publisher (I’d maybe consider running Marvel for them…).

Internet Crusader George Wylesol

ZL – I’m going to jump around because that’s how my head works sometimes and because I realise it would be good to get some context.

I know many people don’t really want to talk about numbers, particularly sales and income, but I’m not one of them! Forewarned is forearmed I fully believe. So, what were your initial expectations for sales and break even for published comics and on what did you base those? Was there a network of people you could reach out and did you reach out to them?

Zebedee and the Valentines Abs Bailey

RM – From the point of view of the books making money, we didn’t start out with that intention and the print runs and costs were never going to generate a meaningful profit. We were fan amateurs doing our best to publicise work by people we liked (and we had to like both their work and the person themselves) and that was very clear to all of the creators as well. However, at a certain point it got big enough that we realised those terms had changed and that we had to take it even more seriously and that we had a responsibility to sell as many books as possible and make some money for the creators. A lot of companies can start as hobbies and then grow beyond that and it’s really, really important to notice when you have crossed that line so that you don’t start failing to deliver to the expectations of your creators. We feel a deep responsibility to the creators for the amount of work they put in. We want the final book to look as good as possible and sell as many copies as we can.

Ismyre B Mure

ZL – I don’t want to derail this set of questions yet, so I’ll come back to some of those points in a bit, if that’s alright? I’m wondering if you ever achieved those initial numbers, or blew them out of the water, or did you find yourself still sitting on a fair amount of dead stock?

RM – We made some mistakes in the early days in terms of print runs. Everyone does. It’s rare you have “just enough” books, which is what everyone is trying to aim for. You either get stuck with a load or you go to a 2nd print after a short period of time because you printed too few.

It’s Cold in the River at Night Alex Potts

ZL – What did you do to decide on those initial numbers, was it based on a marketplace assessment, segmented by a target audience, more of a finger in the air informed guess, or the more hopeful, ‘well if I sell this amount it’ll cover all the costs and it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to expect these sales figures’?

And the punchier question, how much better have you got at making those estimates now that you’ve been at this for so many years?

I would guess there’s no great problem thinking you’ll only sell 500 and suddenly finding 5,000 ordered. Of course, I’m just assuming that, so feel free to re-educate me!

Tower in the Sea B. Mure

RM – It’s all finger in the air as in those days we had no clue what print runs other publishers were doing. A few people took us under their wing and gave us some idea. I’ve always been interested in developing out the business side, so I always ask people questions. All of the published data is close to useless for comics as so many aren’t sold through tills. We’re a lot better than we were, but we’re still pretty conservative and get taken by surprise a lot. Storage is expensive, printing is expensive, shipping is expensive…it’s an expensive business.

We have UK and US distributors who sell our books directly to bookshops and to comic shops, either directly or through Diamond. All books are returnable, so each month we’ll get a hit on books that come back. A while ago we got notified of 650 books that were returned and unsellable again due to slight dings or scratches on them, so they have to go to be recycled and we lose all of the money on those. They pay us on a 4-6 month lag, so it takes that long to get any money back on most books. Which means cash-flow is king. You need a pipeline of good sellers to be able to stay afloat if you don’t have big financial reserves as you’re always paying for the next book out of the money from the previous book.

Maleficium Edie OP

ZL – Heading back to your earlier point about starting as amateur publishers, could you expand a bit on what expectations you set yourself at first and how realistic those sales or rather, your measures for sales, were in the end? How much of the continuation of publishing over the time was linked to your expectations shifting to meet reality and what emotional effect that had upon you?

There’s also the flip, in terms of how creators’ expectations have been managed by you in this process. Have you ever had to sit a creator down and go ‘Slow down, you’re thinking mountains and we’re thinking hills’?

The Rabbit Rachael Smith

RM – It’s all emotional with us. If the creator is happy, we’re happy. If the creator is delighted, we’re delighted. If the creator is not happy, we feel awful. A lot of that is managing expectations at the outset. 

The main focus for me for the past few years has been putting everything possible in place from a structural perspective to make sure that we can do as good a job as possible. That’s distribution, printers, marketing, PR. and sales. It’s all about sales when it comes down to it. Every job we do in this company is about sales. A friend of ours, Gareth Brookes, who makes graphic novels and some years ago we published a couple of zines by, said something the other day which really resonated with me. He said that we’re “too professional” and I knew what he meant, in that we can give the impression that we’re bigger and more successful than we are in reality. That’s because we put a massive amount of our time into the company and don’t take any money for that (we have day jobs). We also hire three contractors to work on sales, marketing and publicity who are all great at their jobs and we punch way above our weight.

Marble Cake Scott Jason Smith

ZL – This is a tricky one to slip in, but I wonder after how much emotion and anxiety you expected to be involved in the process and whether you were prepared for how much there actually was?

There seems to be a lot of opportunity to build up a large amount of guilt around having your expectations for success and having to reconcile that with reality and having to deal with the creator’s own sense of worth and expectations of what makes that work worthwhile?

RM – I didn’t expect any anxiety. I expected to care, but not anxiety. The way we work, we get emotionally invested in every creator and we don’t want to let them down in any way. A lot of them we’d consider good friends. I feel massive amounts of guilt when we take tough decisions, but everything we do is done with good intent and never about our financial gain. There have been some lows, especially in the early days where we probably made some mistakes due to lack of experience or lack of resources. If a book doesn’t sell enough it’s always our fault and we just have to try harder. We do the best we can.

Mimi and the Wolves Alabaster Pizzo

ZL – I think emotional investment is probably the least thought out part of anyone’s initial business plan, it’s almost always ‘Where do I get the money to make this?’ What advice would you give about remaining emotionally healthy when getting into publishing?

RM – I don’t think it’s taken a massive toll on us; we can sleep at night and I can look every creator in the eye because I know we’ve cared about each book and done our best. I’d say you just have to be very honest and aware of your capabilities. You also need a business model where you and the creator share success, so you’re all working towards the same goal.

Parsley Girl Matthew Swan

ZL – I’m thinking not just about being a publisher, but also considering your creators’ emotional wellbeing now. At the start of becoming a publisher did you begin by managing the creator’s expectations, or did you start to realise they needed managing?

Or, have you been lucky to work with creators that are already realistic? I hope you’ve never found yourself dealing with a creator whose work you thought had gone successfully into the market where they were devastated that it had been a failure, and I wouldn’t want to open old wounds for anyone.

I am intrigued though about what you do when something goes very badly or very well, what challenges does that offer you as a publisher, particularly a publisher that has managed long term relationships with a number of creators.

Permanent Press Luke Healy

What happens, say, if they’re disappointed in responses or sales, but you’re proud and can see that they could go on and achieve more – what do you feel is your role in that situation?

RM – A lot of the time we’re the creator’s first experience of working with a publisher, which is a responsibility that we take seriously. I like to think that we’re a really good publisher to start a career with as we’ll look after them as much as possible and also not rip them off or keep any rights that we shouldn’t. We’ve worked with a number of creators who have gone on to bigger publishers and we always feel great about that. It’s a feather in our cap and means we’ve done our job right. It also helps the sales of their books with us if the creator is then being marketed by a bigger company.

Seasons Mike Medaglia

ZL – You don’t take submissions of work so how do you find new creators to work with? Do you actively search out creators on social media or through word of mouth from other creators or did you start this with a hit list of creators you wanted to publish? Basically, how does a work or creator get on Avery Hill’s radar and how do you think about prioritising that work for publication? Is that approach to do with being curators as much as publishers, about carving a space in comics that looks like the shape of your tastes?

Walking Distance Lizzy Stewart

RM – We’ve always had a very loose list of creators that we’d like to do a book by at some point. A few of those we’ve managed to tick off in recent times, such as B. Mure, Lizzy Stewart and Kristyna Baczynski. We like the process of curating what we do; seeking out the creators in various places. We follow lots of people we like on social media and Patreon and always seek out new creators at shows. If they’ve self-published it’s a big bonus as then you know they can get a project completed and also understand a lot of the production side of things as well. Getting submissions ends up taking lots of time and 99% of the time we’ve had to pass on the projects, so it’s not particularly fun for us. We’ve also now got such a large roster of existing creators that we really want to leave space for them to come to us with new projects as well.

Retrograde Orbit Kristyna Bacynski

ZL – I noticed that you hired outsiders to fill non-editorial roles and seeing how considered your other decisions have been, I’m presuming that’s because you valued the editorial role most? Would that be fair to say?  

RM – I think having someone freelance as an editor would be a loss of control over the relationship with the creator that I wouldn’t particularly enjoy. I think so much of what we do with Avery Hill and what makes us different is that it’s locked into mine and Dave’s taste and aesthetic and it’s that influence that we bring to bear on the creative process. It would be hard to relinquish that input and those decisions to someone else and then having to just market and sell something we didn’t feel like a tiny bit of ourselves had been involved in. That’s pretty much why we don’t publish works in translation that other publishers have put out or why we don’t really like taking finished projects.

Something City Ellice Weaver

ZL – How much editorial input do you have in any work that you produce or does that vary depending on the creator?

RM – It varies greatly. There are some creators that basically just want us to proof-read it and then there are some that want input at every stage of the process. I’m happy with either scenario really, we try to work however they’d like to work. Ideally they would rough out the whole book in a way that’s legible and I’d then go through and make suggestions on structure and pacing and anything I don’t think is right in the story. Then they go off and start drawing it and I’ll give input as and when required. Then feedback on dialogue and any bits that might need redrawing if they haven’t come out right. Mostly I just make suggestions and leave them to determine if they agree with what I’m saying. I like to make it clear it’s their book and their vision and I’m just asking them questions to make sure they’ve thought about all of their decisions. Just because I don’t like something or don’t think it’s the right decision, it doesn’t mean they should change it. It’s their work and they have to be happy with what ends up on the finished page.

Swear Jar Abe Christie

ZL – Philosophically, what do you aim to achieve through your input? 

RM – Really I think we consider ourselves more project managers than editors. We’re there to help them get it done and make sure they’re happy with the results. We’re enablers, and that can take many different forms; mainly it’s about keeping them confident in their ability to complete it and helping them where necessary. It’s more people skills than anything.

Terrible Means B. Mure

ZL – Considering what’s going on in the comics market are you worried about your future sales or are your sales firm outside of the direct market of comic shops thanks to your use of book distributors? To add to that thought, what are your opinions about the future of print comics both here in the UK and in the US as well? 

RM – I think the direct market is definitely on its last legs, but there’s still a place for specialist comic shops in whatever comes out of it. I feel like in the UK, where shops are a lot less reliant on Diamond and already use multiple distributors and wholesalers, we’re in a good place to weather what comes next. Although obviously the full repercussions of Covid on top of all of this are still working their way through the system. We sell a lot of books through bookstores and directly through our online store so we’re prepared for whatever happens. But the relationships we have with a lot of comics stores are vital and without them I’m not sure what the wider industry would look like in this country. I don’t think the answer is just to become a small part of the wider book industry, we still need our specialist places to champion this medium.

The Beginner’s Guide to Being Outside Gill Hatcher

ZL – What do you think your company’s legacy has been in the market place and in creators lives so far?

That’s a slightly loaded question I know! But I think this is one of those issues of appreciation.

Tom Spurgeon used to say that he thought comics has this built in attitude towards believing everything that has not got a run for 100’s of issues behind it is a complete failure. I’m with him in believing this is completely wrong headed.

To put it in personal terms. You’ve also introduced artists who are now published with other companies and have therefore then gone on to create more work.

If you sit back and reflect upon that, how does it make you feel about your efforts?

What We Don’t Talk About Charlot Kristensen

RM – I’m proud to see our creators go on to greater successes. Publishing the first books of people like Tille Walden, Zoe Thorogood and Charlot Kristensen will be a great legacy. I hope we’ve given them a good experience and platform to jump off from and that they’ll come back one day when they have a personal project they want to do that doesn’t fit anywhere else. I think the way we do things has also influenced publishers like Good Comics, who put out great books. I’m not sure beyond that at the moment, we’re still going and I think will only get stronger, so the full extent of what we’ve done isn’t clear to us yet.

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott Zoe Thorogood

ZL – Do you see yourselves continuing to grow in terms of output and staff numbers or do you feel you’ve reached a good balance of what you can achieve within the limits of your energy levels?

RM – We’ve just hired someone to do the bookkeeping which means that I don’t have to do it anymore and to me that’s the most exciting thing to happen this year!

The Flood That Did Come Patrick Wray

ZL – Right – to lighten things up and spread some love. Which three creators would you recommend people search out if they were fans of Avery Hill books?

RM

Casey Nowak 

Patrick Kyle

Sophia Foster-Dimino

ZL – What’s the last (non-Avery Hill) comic or zine that you read that made you really think about what it was talking about or how it was using comics?

RM – I only very recently started getting into manga and it’s totally reinvigorated me. My main favourite is 20th Century Boys which might be the best comic I’ve ever read. It’s an incredible lesson in storytelling structure and the art is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Working with creators like Tillie Walden, Charlot Kristensen and Zoe Thorogood who are heavily influenced by manga has really made me appreciate what that language can bring to comics and I think some of the most interesting things happening in the US and UK area mesh traditional UK/US comics and manga.

The Great North Wood Tim Bird

ZL – I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us and for giving such honest answers. I hope you enjoyed the process!

RM – Thanks for the opportunity to talk about some of this stuff, it definitely made me think!

ZL – And finally – please plug away anything you want to plug!!

RM – You can check out all of our titles in our store!

https://averyhillpublishing.bigcartel.com

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

Thought Bubble recommendations – 5 favourites for Friday

Check out 5 of our favourite creators from the show

groups and individuals

Mindless Ones, Silence & Pals

including site favourites Paul Jon Milne, Dan White, Fraser Geesin, Gareth Hopkins & Hitsville UK

New to me – Mathilde Heu who has a very lithe art adaptable art style

Claire O’Brien – whose zine Music Venues of Leeds is one I’ve seen around and liked the look of, but didn’t know who had made it!

Another new one (to me) – Alex Assan – with a long running web comic with a great premise – Shade Runners

Site favourite Lucy Sullivan who is amazing – check out our review of Barking

the long list interview – Jog the Blog

As with many things modern in my comics world, I first learned about Jog from a link on Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter site. This was when Jog was on the Comics Comics site. 

For me, you can’t argue with the worth of Jog and his writing. I absolutely believe he represents the best of his generation in comics; diversely read, positive and generous in his attitude, unapologetic about his tastes, whilst honest about the merits of each work. Most admirable, I find, is the way he is so invested in communicating an experience rather than objectifying the quality for a work in competition with other works. That’s a rather contorted way of saying that he has no interest in building a canon or arguing ‘Best Of’ value, he wants to talk about what he sees within a work and puts it all in context to ensure you understand where his experience comes from, not to set works against each other.

A Jog review is an open discussion of the value he obtained and the issues he encountered when reading a work. It’s the tale of a quest, with the hero being the experience and the context given is the landscape within which that hero battled and grew. 

If you’ve ever read a review by either Tom or Jog you will possibly feel as I do, that it seems fitting that the former led to the latter. Both made reviews feel like free verse and sometimes stream of consciousness. They were never simply précis and quick judgement, they dug within the work and divined from its innards. What Jog’s works did was go deeper still and tell you what he felt and why, how that work functioned to elicit those responses. Critique not criticism and honest reflection not judgement. You learned as much about his thinking as you did the work dissected.

His prose was golden, where reading Tom’s reviews sometimes felt like drunken chats with friends, Jog felt like a guide describing the land he led you through, it’s history and geology, then telling tales around the campfire. 

What was best was that works both literate and crass were treated equally but their qualities were never equated, there was no argument that a crass work was art because he enjoyed it, there was no shame in liking trash and no anti-intellectual hatred of literature, everything that produced a reaction was worth it for that reaction, not because of how it personified Jog’s coolness. That’s why he is cool. 

It’s an aspiration of mine to achieve his spirit and generosity to all and everything, so getting to interview him is a satisfaction close to reading his work regularly and a huge honour. 

Find Jog on

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listen to Comic Books Are Burning in Hell on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

How are you Jog?

J – Pretty good, just hoping I don’t have to do an interview today– oh fuck.

ZL – Ha!

I always like to start an interview by finding out where and when the person was born, where they were raised and where they are now. How about we begin like that?

Katzenjammer Kids

J – I was born in Pennsylvania to a middle-class family. I’m the oldest child. My youngest sister has kids now, very little kids, and I’ve been thinking about the role of adults in my early youth. I have been reading comics for as long as I can remember, and a very big factor in that was my mother’s aunt, who was basically my grandmother– my mother’s mother died when she was very small. Angie was somebody who read comics very keenly, going back to stuff like the Katzenjammer Kids, as it ran in the Depression. She was not an artist, or an academic, but she had the eye that develops when you pay close attention to a particular type of art. The first comics she would get for me were reprints of old Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse strips, which the publisher, Gladstone, had reoriented into comic books; I think she may have sensed the style of them as akin to those comics of her youth, in that she would always get me those before the Donald Ducks, or the other little kid comics. The propulsion of those strips was incredible – my eyes just flew along them, and I absorbed everything. I’d recite the stories later to kids on the school bus. I was six years old. 

Floyd Gottfredson
Mickey Mouse

I think I carry part of her with me; she’s been gone for a while now, but I’ve found that what I value in myself is a sort of intuitive sense in understanding the strength of images that I think she had as well. I’m not a trained critic. I never studied criticism in school – never took an English class or an Art class that wasn’t pressed onto me by a school curriculum. I went to Catholic schools until I was an adult – early on I was in some of those advanced placement programs that obnoxious people won’t shut up about online, but I burned out pretty fast; I almost flunked my senior year of high school. Then, I sort of just did what I wanted at a local Catholic college, studying politics and law, and I did so well that I got a scholarship to do postgraduate studies at a state school, which was nice, in that I didn’t wind up with six figures’ worth of student loans. I still had loans, but not nearly so much. I was completely mediocre at advanced academics, and I started working the first of several office jobs the moment I got out of school, because, well: you’ve got loans to pay off. But I’ve had it pretty good – I’ve worked full-time with no serious gaps since I stopped being a student, up through today. Knock on wood.

Recommended by Jog
Lale Westvind
Grip
(click image to go to buy it)

Anyway, my point is: I do not consider myself a professional writer, which is a specific and precarious trade, the situation of which can only be bettered through the solidarity and care of practitioners who navigate the writing trade to make their living. Only the most successful writers can earn enough to live on from one form of writing, so being a writer demands a versatility that comes from frequent, intensive work, and a great deal of legwork in hustling up gigs. In contrast, I am an occasional writer; I try my best to do no harm, and I offer whatever support I have to writers — I love writers, and I know a few — but I feel it is very crucial to understand the material differences between one who writes sometimes, to ‘express themself’ or whatever, and one who has made writing their job: you cannot traipse around stepping on the livelihood of others because you are a free spirit, nor should you wear the pretense of understanding the compromises and the struggles of writing as done by those who must write to eat, to sleep, to live. So, I do not fancy myself professional, though I do travel, sometimes, in the professional sphere, where I try to watch my elbows. 

ZL – I know you started off with your own blog on blogger, Jog the Blog, and I wondered why you started, what was it in your life that jelled at that moment in that way to start you off? I’m wondering back to an interview you did with Tom Spurgeon. In it you mentioned you just wanted a place to have the conversations you couldn’t with your friends as they weren’t interested in comics at all. I’m wondering, was that false modesty or honesty at that time,as in, do you feel like you were really hoping to roll it out into something more like the experience you ended up having?

Jeff Smith
Bone

JHa haa, it’s not modesty at all; after middle school, I just never had any friends who were interested in comics. We were all into movies, basically. But I was reading comics too. The only time in my life I ever really stopped was for a few years in high school; I was sick of superhero comics (the Clone Saga was going nowhere!) and I’d started spending my pizza delivery money on anime– I very clearly recall thinking as a teenager that anime was the natural evolution of comics, which was best left behind like a vestigial tail on the human embryo. But even then, I still read a few – my freshman year of college, Dark Horse started putting out the first phone books of Akira, and those caught my eye at the Waldenbooks at the mall. I’d sort of remembered Jeff Smith’s Bone from Wizard magazine and the back covers of Shadowhawk, and I’d never gotten to read that — the local comic book stores were very superhero-driven —

Chris Ware
Acme Novelty Library 4

so I mail-ordered a few of the trades, and I got ACME Novelty Library #4 as a free gift, and that really hit me hard. The only comic that hit me harder was this old Kitchen Sink anthology from the ‘90s that I found in a remainder store while on a family vacation to the shore: Twisted Sisters 2, all women. Very post-underground, and it blew the top off my head because I did not know comics could do things like that. Showing ‘pornographic’ things without wanting to arouse you; showing illegal, ‘bad’ things, depicting characters making bad choices – but not in the framework of a horror film, of a set narrative type with one of a few set denouements. Just being the thing, showing the stuff. Saying “this is it.” 

Twisted Sisters 2

Twisted Sisters broke the Taboo of Content for me. ACME broke the Taboo of Form, because those early Chris Ware comics, the stuff in the Quimby the Mouse collection, those tragic flowcharts of doomed love and death– it hammered into me that comics were a type of language, as opposed to an imperfect vehicle for delivering certain types of stories. There was a third taboo that was broken later on, but I’ll save that for later. Little cliffhanger, oooh! I’m Brian K. Vaughan!

I eventually got back into comics in a serious way because of Free Comic Book Day. Put me on the fucking website, I’m a testament. I’d read about the first FCBD, 2002, in the local newspaper, so I went to the Scranton comic book shop – Comics on the Green, still there.

Jim Woodring

The first year of FCBD was a little wooly – they weren’t just giving away the official books at the store, but a lot of their single-issue backstock, so I got a bunch of Jim Woodring comics, some weird items. I bought stuff too: a Phoebe Gloeckner book, because I remembered her vividly from Twisted Sisters; some of the Milligan/Allred X-Force issues, since I recalled Mike Allred from Wizard, and he was another one I’d never gotten to see up close. I came back the next week, and the next, and I just got back into comics in the biggest way, and I had absolutely nobody to talk to about it, so I did the natural thing for hopeless people and went online.

Phoebe Gloeckner
Rick Veitch’s
The Maximortal

I liked message boards. I posted on Comicon, the one founded by Rick Veitch– one of the random comics that caught my aunt’s eye back in the day was a Veitch solo issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so Roarin’ Rick had entered my life at age 9 or 10; glad he’s still kicking, very much enjoying his new Maximortal issues. I’d actually already been reading The Comics Journal – I saw an issue at Borders Books in late 2001, and I’d thought “oh, I used to like comics” and I understood maybe 20% of what was being written in that magazine, but I not only stuck with it, I started lurking on the shores of the lake of fire that was their message board. 

And, right around that time, in 2002, this guy Dirk Deppey started writing the Journal’s weekday blog, ¡Journalista!, and a very big part of his coverage was linking to various discussions happening among comics blogs. And, after a few years– I’d never actually connected with anybody on message boards, because those places tend to become dominated very quickly by superstar posters, and from there a hierarchy is established; lesser voices get ignored. It didn’t help that I tended to go long when I wrote, which made my posts particularly easy to scroll past. Starting a blog seemed ideal, because it could be my own little dictatorship, where I would control all the dialogue, where people would have to voluntarily come to me through the comments section, where all inter-blog communication could be done through tedious exchanges of small essays – it was like Camelot. 

I started Jog – The Blog in the summer of 2004. I was working a summer job in the office of a local politician at that time, and I launched my first post from one of his computers. He’s no longer with us, but I know it will thrill him in Heaven to learn that a great cultural boon was struck from misuse of official resources.

ZL – I started reading your reviews when you were on the Comics Comics blog where, it seems to me, your authorial voice was very much mature and fully formed. How long did it take for you to feel like you’d found your voice and what was it that marked that moment for you?

J – Well, again – like most writers-on-comics going back to the fanzine era, I don’t have any formal education in criticism. I think the first critical writing I ever saw was some of Harlan Ellison’s essays on media when I was maybe 14, 15 years old, and I was trying to read SF– the first writing I ever got paid for were really awful SF stories I wrote and sold online as a teen. I mean, prayers up to the editors who deemed me worthy of paying, but those were pretty bad stories. The best of them was about the effect motion picture editing had on the dreams of people in the very early 20th century, inspiring one man to subconsciously invent a jetpack of sorts, which he then uses to visit a famous filmmaker, whom he discovers has had his mind permanently expanded through prolonged sex with a tentacle creature from beyond the stars; have I mentioned I was watching anime? Steampunk hentai aside, movies were really the engine of whatever critical faculties I developed. As soon as my family got a computer with internet access, I was going around on horror movie sites and message boards, which eventually led me to the whole small scene of quasi-academic writing that surrounded UK publishers like FAB Press. My immediate ancestor in critical writing is a guy named Stephen Thrower, who used to be in the band Coil, but also ran a cult movie zine called Eyeball. I was a little late (and on the wrong continent) to get into any of that, but I did ask my mother to get me his Lucio Fulci book, Beyond Terror, as a Christmas gift one year, which– my parents are very supportive of me, but when my mother looked at the FAB Press catalog, she found it so pornographic and offensive that it actually sort of freaked her out. I mean, Harlan Ellison freaked her out too – there’s a lot of sexual violence in “A Boy and His Dog”, actually, so this wasn’t the first incident; she still got me the book, because she wanted to encourage me, but she pleaded that I not ask her to deal with FAB Press any more, because she personally could not bear it. So, from that day forward, I made sure to save my own pizza delivery money to send to Britain so the devil Harvey Fenton would not cast his shadow upon her again.

Justin Green
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary

Beyond Terror rewired my brain. I’d read criticism, but that was the first book that made me think critical writing was something I’d like to do. Thrower’s way of creating a simultaneity of the artist existing both within history and within the confines of their own autobiography, while the work exists both within and apart from them, expressed in a very maximalist and obsessive, completist style, was attractive to a boy like me who always longed to understand the outside boundaries of whatever I was thinking about; to ascertain the system which contains the terrifying chaos of existing. As a child, I spent some years in extraordinary fear of God – I would compulsively beg Him to kill everyone with a wave of his hand, and then beg Him not to, over and over; it’s like what Alison Bechdel describes in Fun Home, but explicitly religious. Or, Justin Green in Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, but without the sexual element. I lived those comics, man. 

Seeing an author like Thrower, who dared desire to consider everything – it was profound. Nightmare USA, which he did later, is the best book I’ve ever read about film. More recently, he watched every Jess Franco movie, which is more than 200 feature films, and wrote two huge books about that. I’m not saying my work is really like his, but he’s the lodestone for me.

I didn’t really explore any past comics critics until after I’d started writing myself. Carter Scholz, who embodied the extremely specific and unsparing ideas of quality inseparable from The Comics Journal– Gary Groth invented that voice, but Scholz perfected it. His prose novel, Radiance, is the greatest work of fiction ever written by a comics critic. Or Bob Levin, who folds his writing about comics into these digressive personal essays that loop around and fold into the essence of the comics he covers; his was the blogging voice before blogging existed. I love his work very much, but I didn’t know him at first.

When I started blogging, I did it every day. Every single day, I posted some piece of writing, no matter how small. I think I went a little over 1,000 days without ever missing a post, and that’s really how I learned to write. It’s a cliche, but I only learn how to do anything by doing it; and, I was reading widely from basically every other writer-on-comics out there enough that I was able to refine my approach and begin to figure myself out. It helped a lot that I was a student when I started, so I had some free time to work with; I was able to apply the habits that I developed there to a world where I’d have to start working. And, obviously, I had all the advantages of being unmarried and childless — which frees up a great deal of time and money — and simply being a white guy, with the presumption of authority and insulation from abuse that still comes with that.

God, I was just looking at that interview I did with Tom Spurgeon– back then, I was waking up at five in the fucking morning every day to post my precious gems online. Rise and grind! Who the hell was that guy?

ZL – To jump around in time a bit here, what’s the timeline of Jog the Blog to Comics Comics and how did that all come about?

JThe thing with blogging is that it’s never just you for very long. There was a critic at that time named Alan David Doane – he was a controversial figure back in the day; Bill Jemas knew who he was back when Bill Jemas was running Marvel. Within a year or so of my first post, ADD asked if he could repost a review I’d done of a Kevin Huizenga comic, Or Else #2, on his site, Comic Book Galaxy. He was the first person who’d ever deemed my writing interesting enough to be seen outside of my own site. I started writing little reviews for his site too, and eventually I covered some stuff by the nascent PictureBox, which was Dan Nadel’s publishing project.

I reviewed Matthew Thurber’s Carrot for Girls on Comic Book Galaxy — I believe PictureBox had sent them review copies, and the site’s editor, Christopher Allen, had asked if I’d wanted to cover them — and one of their first large books, Paper Rad, B.J. & da Dogs, by the art collective Paper Rad, on my own site. This was all in 2005. 

For some reason, the way I wrote about those things caught Dan’s eye. Maybe because, in those days, people would still raise questions about whether certain books were ‘really’ comics or not; I recall when Kramers Ergot 4 had first come out in ‘03, there was a bunch of chatter on the TCJ board about whether these were truly cartoonists in the book, instead of gallery art and/or illustration people stretching the definition of comics past where form was truly interesting and vital. I think people similarly did not know what to do with Paper Rad, who had fingers dipped in video art, installations, etc. As it happened, I had a glancing familiarity with their video work from lurking on the Something Awful message boards — which were kind of a cultural hub at that time, because there was a lot of piracy in there — and I was able to put together some talk of their thematics as it applied to their comics, instead of fussing over how ‘comics’ the comics were. At least, I think that’s what happened. Maybe I’m just the only one on the internet who reviewed it.

Paper Rad B.J. & da Dogs

Comics Comics was initially a newsprint magazine with an online presence; Dan and Tim Hodler were the editors, with Frank Santoro involved as, I believe, an editor-at-large. They started off around 2006, but there were only ever four issues of the print magazine. Tim eventually asked me if I’d wanted to do something for them, so I was in issues #3 and #4 of the print magazine. These would come out years apart, it wasn’t a monthly thing. The Comics Comics website was initially a personal blog for the editors, but they gradually started adding more contributors; Tim eventually asked me if I wanted to be part of the site, so I started with that in 2010. I don’t recall if he specifically asked me this, but what I mostly did was transplant a weekly blog feature I’d had going since the beginning of Jog – The Blog, THIS WEEK IN COMICS! By that time, my blogging had slowed down, so I just moved the main recurring part of the blog over to Comics Comics; in that way, Jog – The Blog was absorbed into Comics Comics, in the way Comics Comics would very soon fuse with the TCJ website in 2011.

ZL – To keep going backwards further, how well did Jog the Blog take off? What was happening, if you can remember that far back, in terms of views, but also in terms of attention and other review opportunities that came about?

J – I made friends, which was the original goal. Many of the most precious people in my life I met through comics blogging. But the issue then, after you have made friends, is: what are you still doing? I would say that I greatly liked the very presentational style of communication blogging offered; I am very bad at person-to-person talking. I mostly just stay quiet. I really love to write, though, as hard as it is sometimes. When I’m writing, I very occasionally feel like I’m catching something foreign to the innumerable minutes I spend inside my head, like there is life and thought beyond what I can readily articulate by considering it. Plus, I’m very arrogant, and when I see nothing out there that’s interesting about a good book, I become like St. Paul, issuing epistles with eyes raised and spit spilling from my lips. 

As for attention, I was surprised that anyone thought I was a good writer. Like, my first big Jog – The Blog post was actually a post I’d first put on the TCJ message board about a Dan Clowes comic, and absolutely nobody had liked it there. Nobody had particularly liked anything I’d written on a message board. I think comics blogs just had a different readership – when I started out, it was still a small enough scene that you could read all the comics blogs; everyone sort of knew each other, even if they never wrote directly to one another. There also wasn’t a huge separation between readers and bloggers– even less than there usually is in comics. 

None of this actually lasted for very long. Arguably, comics blogging was already dying as a DIY thing at the time I started, but two factors really hit it hard. First, it’s an unpaid, hobbyist thing; people get older, start families, or look for opportunities to make money from their hobby, which typically doesn’t involve running a blog. Second, the whole idea of online as a mass of small scenes was starting to collapse; you can pretend you’re just writing because you want to write, but everybody does want people to read their stuff, and as options expanded, readers began to gravitate more toward group blogs– as, to be fair, they always mostly did with the larger generalist sites, a la Boing Boing or the AV Club. The blogosphere was thus invoked into the collective side-hustles of its denizens, and now there is no blogosphere – there are just blogs. This is a blog we’re on now. But a blog is now something that a social media platform must lead you towards, rather than acting as the platform itself.I collaborated with a lot of people. Brian Hibbs was very generous in letting me and many others write for the blog of his retail store, Comix Experience. I actually did an extraordinarily bad, juvenalia-laden column very early for about a year for an publisher-cum-online platform called Komikwerks – a guy named Patrick Coyle recruited me for that, I think only a few months after Jog – The Blog started. I have the weird distinction of having written movie reviews for comiXology, back when they were trying to have a CBR type of presence; before they were bought by Amazon and became like gods. And, quite early on, I think in 2008, I started to collaborate with Tucker Stone, who was a blogger whose site was rapidly turning into a compendium of writing and media. I am still part of The Factual Opinion today, via the podcast Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, which I do with Tucker, as well as Chris Mautner, a TCJ mainstay who has been a very dear in-person friend of mine for eons — I have literally watched his children grow up — and Matt Seneca, whom I met pretty much the moment he began blogging, at the age of 11 or something. I still envy his youth.

ZL – My perception of Comics Comics is that it was more than a site that talked comics and more a community shaped around an ideology or maybe more aptly, a perception and reevaluation of what commercial comics meant and what comics could be. Having said that, it was an online site, so it’s hard to know how much the contributors felt it was a community as opposed to a space they wrote in. Which is an odd way to shape a question, but a great way to make a statement!!

So, did you feel like Comics Comics was something of a community that supported a way of seeing comics that wasn’t necessarily well represented at the time and did it feel like you were actively a part of shaping it whilst also being supported by?

I’m asking because it seemed to bring that argument about comics more attention and those ways of looking at work, to me, seem more common now. I feel like Comics Comics and Dan Nadel helped cement a set of arguments about how skilled and mainstream work, non-literary and non-underground work that is, can still succeed in being fascinating and inspiring for those making work despite lacking greater depth to its content.

J – Comics Comics was very much a community – probably the first one where I felt entirely at home. But I did not feel I had much of a role in shaping its perspective, because I came in pretty late – quite a few years after Dan and Tim had started up. They’d been together at least since the first issue of their arts revue, The Ganzfeld, in 2000. I’m sure they underwent their own evolution, but by the time Comics Comics started up in ‘06, they’d already pretty much cultivated their perspective, which I now would broadly define as viewing comics through the lens of drawing, of construction, apart from what I will call “the tyranny of content”: the notion that what a comic is about, controls what it is. I might be guilty of historical determinism here, because I also see this a step in a process which goes back to Kramers Ergot 4 articulating the idea of the visual and textural as preeminent in comics above ‘literary’ qualities; and, before that, the Fort Thunder idea of comics as a divination of motion and place, which was itself paired with a radical rejection of ideas of property and permanence: those artists were settled as a community in an repurposed factory (from which they were ultimately evicted), and created comics that were sometimes strictly for personal or local distribution, until outside publishers like Highwater Books came around. Comics Comics I see as a broader manifestation of those ideas; inevitably broad, I think, because they were promulgated as much by curators and critics as by artists. Mind you, PictureBox’s actual publishing slate was considered very ‘experimental’ by the wider comics industry, and obviously there was writing there that considered qualities beyond the purely visual. And, I suppose there was also an embrace of the sensational qualities of ‘trashy’ or generic work that stemmed from the power of their making, which you still hear espoused on the popular YouTube channels of today.

So, I don’t think I helped shape any of that, because it was already manifest. I think I was considered sympatico to such ideas – if anything, I probably pushed it further into commercial, depoliticised territory by running a fucking shopping list column as the major part of my corpus. I think everyone who wasn’t there from the beginning was in the same boat; Jeet Heer evidently feels very strongly about a traditional sort of literary, alternative comic, or the good qualities of newspaper strips as hailed in the manner going back decades. I mean, if you actually look at interviews with Chris Ware, to give a ‘literary’ comics example, he talks as much about comics as musical composition than about writerly qualities, so none of this is very cut and dry. Dan loves a ton of old strips. 

But I did feel like I ‘belonged’ at Comics Comics in a way I’d never felt at other group sites, no matter how much I enjoyed being in those places. The unsparing ‘big tent’ quality was very exciting. Most group sites back then said they were being inclusive of the form — and most of them, I think, sincerely meant that — but much of the work that was posted boiled back down to superhero comics before long, because those are the comics that come out every week, with interlocking story parts to track, and a ready volume of allusions to study aloud. Superhero comics thus facilitate the most writing; theirs is the hegemony of volume. I mean, I liked a bunch of superhero comics; I wrote about them a lot in the ‘00s, but I wasn’t following them that closely– and, if you don’t follow them closely, you have to learn to tithe a bit of your mind to keeping track of the discourse, lest you begin to feel very aloof from comics itself. Comics Comics, for me, was a genuine break from that predicament.

Recommended by Jog
Hagiwara Rei
Ripples
(click image to go to buy it)

ZL – Considering how many venues you’ve written for and the increasing sense of history or wider community associated with those places like Comics Comics or The Comics Journal did you feel anything different about working those venues than you did work your own blog?

J – If it’s a new venue, at first I try to adapt myself to the general tone of wherever I’m writing; this usually lasts for two pieces, after which I either absorb everything into my own voice, or lazily revert to my starting position – take your pick. The few times I wrote for Comics Alliance, for example, I would think to myself: this is a much bigger platform than usual, so I need to think about how to adapt the topics I’m passionate about to what their very distinct readership will be interested in seeing. I wrote a Steve Ditko piece for Comics Comics and a Steve Ditko piece for Comics Alliance, and they are completely different things, because the Comics Comics piece was for a venue I’d been writing at regularly and had become essentially my online home, while the Comics Alliance piece was a deliberate attempt to articulate the appeal of Ditko’s later works in “Comics Alliance” terms. That turned out to be really a big tangle, and the editor, Andy Khouri, did a lot of work whipping it into shape, so it probably wound up even more a native Comics Alliance piece than I’d anticipated. Definitely, when I’m working in print– I feel the weight of permanence, and it takes a while to sort through that. Some editors have been kind enough to have me back several times in their publication: Zack Soto & Milo George in Studygroup Magazine; Zainab Akhtar in Critical Chips; Kristy Valenti in the Complete Crepax. I always like the pieces I’ve done in later volumes more; I need to find my groove.

Comets Comets was an artist group. It wasn’t just Blaise Larmee; I would associate Jason Overby with them just as readily. Their ideological dispute with Comics Comics was more fundamental; it was tied to their practice as artists, working in abstracted or prismatic expressions of life-as-experienced. They embraced pranks, trolling, and shock tactics as inseparable from human exchange as it exists online. Or, that’s my broad and reductive interpretation; they were obviously not a perfectly unified group.

Overby, I associate with print work and short comics isolating and distending aspects of the comics form — pages with just grids and words, or drawings that are just partial representative forms, ‘unfinished’ — much more so than Larmee’s all-encompassing media refractions. If you can find a copy of Overby’s book collection, The Being Being, it’s a very interesting snapshot of the experimental work happening in minicomics at that time – contra, I suppose, the analytic connoisseurship that made up much of the Comics Comics body of writing, or Dan’s particular interests in publishing visionary or very local expressions of comics via books-as-objects – your CF, or Leon Sadler, Yuichi Yokoyama. Or Frank. I don’t think anyone at Comets Comets even knew who I was – it was a difference of artistic values, and I’m not an artist. They were opposed to the Comics Comics idea, to which I operated as a corollary– as happens when you align yourself with a group. 

ZL – How did it feel when Dan and Tim shuttered Comics Comics and moved to TCJ? Did it come with a sense of success or progress or even just a sense of wider opportunities, or did it not really register as different for you? It must have paid at least, or not really?!

J – It was definitely exciting, insofar as Dan and Tim got to keep their promise that they were going to start paying me once some money had come in. 

Even more selfishly– this was not my first time around with TCJ. In 2004, the same year I started Jog – The Blog, Dirk Deppey (whom I first mentioned 90,000 words ago) became managing editor of the TCJ print magazine. And, one of the projects he really wanted to do was a special issue on the topic of shōjo manga – commercial manga for girls, which had already become a formidable presence in comics as read by young people. The problem was, not many among the Journal’s regular contributors knew anything about shōjo manga; it wasn’t exactly a typical TCJ fascination. So, Dirk put out an open call online, and the shōjo manga issue of TCJ (#269, July ‘05) also wound up being the It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World of comics blogging in the mid-’00s. I was Arnold Stang. It was the first time I’d ever had any writing in print.

I really fucked up with the Journal. I did a few small reviews after that, in addition to the daily blogging and whatever other guest spots were on the agenda, and then Tom Spurgeon, rest his soul, decided that I should take over his regular column about superhero comics. I mean, I was doing a lot, why couldn’t I do that too? Turns out: I couldn’t! I just shit the fucking bed. The first column I turned in was so bad that Gary Groth overrode Dirk and refused to even print it. I got a second one out that was ok; that one saw print. And then I just never finished another one. I became totally paralyzed. I should have been ready, but I wasn’t. 

So, to the extent that anybody at TCJ even remembered who I was by the time 2011 rolled around — Dirk had left the print magazine in ‘06, and the Journal entirely in ‘10 — my name was in the ‘wash out’ column. The idea that I would then do 300 or so installments of a weekly column was absolute fantasy. I mean, writing a column for that long is hardly impossible; I’d worked as a local newspaper correspondent for about a year, around ‘02, ‘03, and there were guys at that paper who’d been doing weekly columns for 15, 20 years without flagging at all. CBR used to have columnists who dashed ‘em off for ages. I just figured I was a fuckup. But then I did it, because I figured out the secret.

ZL – I know I definitely liked seeing your capsule reviews and recommended buys, I felt like those capsule reviews were just perfect for your style and absolutely fascinating. It felt like you did a lot of leg work and research for those. Is that the case and what made you think of approaching posts in that way?

J – Here is the secret. THIS WEEK IN COMICS!, when I started it in 2004 on Jog – The Blog, was a completely utilitarian thing – it was just a list of comics that were coming out that Wednesday, which looked good. I used it as a reference for myself. When Comics Comics asked for me to bring it over to them in 2010, I personally felt it was too meager a thing to post on a site that wasn’t my own, so I started adding pictures or a little introduction on top of the shopping list. By the time the TCJ iteration rolled around in 2011, I’d formulated this whole idea, where the column would go in two directions: the top half would be a small essay on something I had read that past week (THIS [PAST] WEEK IN COMICS), while the bottom half would be the shopping list of interesting things that were coming to Diamond-serviced comic book stores that Wednesday (THIS [COMING] WEEK IN COMICS). 

But really, it was all a trick. The secret to getting the column done, I’d found, was (1) having both a regular deadline, and (2) having an assured subject matter. I’d realized I had both – the column (1) had to be out in time to be useful to readers, and (2) I could always guarantee that I’d have a list of forthcoming comics I could riff on. And, because of that, my mind was freed of all its complexes, and I was able to write and write and write in the top half, which was really the major body of my critical work for those six years.

Recommended by Jog
GG
Constantly
(click image to go to buy it)

It took a while to do. Those columns took three or four hours to write – sometimes more if I really went off on the top half. I already knew a lot about what was coming out — I mean, comics isn’t actually that big a place, and by 2011, I’d read a really enormous number of comics, because I wasn’t watching any tv, or going to the movies much, or playing any video games, or really interacting seriously with any media besides comics — so I didn’t need to do a ton of research, although there’d always be a few things I needed to look up, in addition to the normal work of going through the release list and picking what seemed like it might be good. I cast a very wide net, and I tried to focus on new or unknown artists, or small publishers. But the top half was always absolute self-indulgence, beholden to nobody’s idea of import but my own. Tim was the editor, but he never told me what to write about; not even once. He just trusted me.

ZL – What did it feel like doing that work? Was it always satisfying or was there a mental or emotional toll? I guess that’s an oblique way to ask why you decided to step back, what was it that led to that decision, or was there just a path you walked that ended at a point as there was nowhere else to go?

J – Having said all that I just said, I eventually got to the place where I began to feel that the column had become counterproductive, if not actively harmful.

I mean, what was that column? A codification of comics that mattered, according to me. But: it wasn’t simply that, it was mediated by whatever Diamond was sending to comic book stores that week. By 2017, when I quit, this represented a very limited selection. In fact, I would say that years before that, the most interesting artists — the ones who would most benefit from the visibility a site like TCJ could offer — were completely divorced, materially, from comic book stores, and certainly from Diamond Comic Distributors. They were excluded from that on a systems level, because they typically didn’t have the money or access needed to hit the order minimums Diamond had instituted years earlier, partially in response to the ridicule Diamond would attract when they would arbitrarily refuse to carry art comics like some of PictureBox’s, because they didn’t feel those books met the format or the appearance of professionalism necessary to dignify American retailers. 

A column like mine could offer them access, but it didn’t, because I wanted to keep things predictable by drawing from a list of items that would probably show up in certain places, rather than throwing myself into the vagaries of availability or paying close enough attention to who had put new works up for purchase at their online store. So, in continuing the column as it was, I’d created a fake idea of “comics” that acted explicitly to preclude the more interesting and deserving works. And when you realize you’re doing that, you have to ask yourself: why am I continuing? Is it vanity? Do I enjoy the power of slamming the gate shut in working people’s faces? Do I just want money? I was making $50.00 per column, which comes out to about $2,500.00 per year, which is more than a great number of art comics practitioners make from their own work. 

What I had to learn is that when you are a critic, you are building a reality. The moment you release anything to the public, you are no longer writing all the rules: what others see you doing, is the construction of an ideal world, in which the things that are valuable in art are presented. Do you want this world, this ideal, the very stuff of this reality, to be mediated by those forces which act to exclude the liveliest of the art; to concede, implicitly, that this is the terrain of reality: capitalist peculiarities cast as laws of physics which comics must obey? When goofball journalists read ‘comics’ through the lens of superhero movies, that is exactly what is happening: the invocation of critical reality, defined by the desires of the market, so that the market becomes the same as the art. They are not the same thing. If I was a professional writer, subject to the compromises working people make to put food on the table, I would have a different perspective, but part of the deal of not being a ‘writer’ in that sense, is that I can just choose to do something else. And for a long time, I didn’t – and I realized that was abhorrent.

On top of that, I’d started to become very tired. It was taking me longer and longer to do the column – at least some of each one I would have to do between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, because that was when Diamond would finalize their list for the week. It’d gotten so that I’d go to sleep as soon as I got home from work on Monday evening, and then I’d wake up at 2:00 AM on Tuesday to do the column, and then I’d go to work after that. By the time I pulled the plug I was basically Julianne Moore at the end of Safe, and that definitely contributed to my decision to just shut the column down instead of trying to reconfigure or ‘reform’ it. I felt I could do better work by writing in-depth about works that I like in a focused essay format, which is where I’m at now. 

You can’t just think about yourself in this. You have to think about the effect you have on others, including those who’ve given their whole fucking lives to this thing, you know? You can’t pretend you’re alone, that’s like driving a car without ever turning your head. 

This is entirely my perspective, and it was my idea alone to quit. 

Recommended by Jog
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LAAB
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ZL – What did it feel like doing that work? Was it always satisfying or was there a mental or emotional toll? I guess that’s an oblique way to ask why you decided to step back, what was it that led to that decision, or was there just a path you walked that ended at a point as there was nowhere else to go?

J – Having said all that I just said, I eventually got to the place where I began to feel that the column had become counterproductive, if not actively harmful.

I mean, what was that column? A codification of comics that mattered, according to me. But: it wasn’t simply that, it was mediated by whatever Diamond was sending to comic book stores that week. By 2017, when I quit, this represented a very limited selection. In fact, I would say that years before that, the most interesting artists — the ones who would most benefit from the visibility a site like TCJ could offer — were completely divorced, materially, from comic book stores, and certainly from Diamond Comic Distributors. They were excluded from that on a systems level, because they typically didn’t have the money or access needed to hit the order minimums Diamond had instituted years earlier, partially in response to the ridicule Diamond would attract when they would arbitrarily refuse to carry art comics like some of PictureBox’s, because they didn’t feel those books met the format or the appearance of professionalism necessary to dignify American retailers. 

A column like mine could offer them access, but it didn’t, because I wanted to keep things predictable by drawing from a list of items that would probably show up in certain places, rather than throwing myself into the vagaries of availability or paying close enough attention to who had put new works up for purchase at their online store. So, in continuing the column as it was, I’d created a fake idea of “comics” that acted explicitly to preclude the more interesting and deserving works. And when you realize you’re doing that, you have to ask yourself: why am I continuing? Is it vanity? Do I enjoy the power of slamming the gate shut in working people’s faces? Do I just want money? I was making $50.00 per column, which comes out to about $2,500.00 per year, which is more than a great number of art comics practitioners make from their own work. 

What I had to learn is that when you are a critic, you are building a reality. The moment you release anything to the public, you are no longer writing all the rules: what others see you doing, is the construction of an ideal world, in which the things that are valuable in art are presented. Do you want this world, this ideal, the very stuff of this reality, to be mediated by those forces which act to exclude the liveliest of the art; to concede, implicitly, that this is the terrain of reality: capitalist peculiarities cast as laws of physics which comics must obey? When goofball journalists read ‘comics’ through the lens of superhero movies, that is exactly what is happening: the invocation of critical reality, defined by the desires of the market, so that the market becomes the same as the art. They are not the same thing. If I was a professional writer, subject to the compromises working people make to put food on the table, I would have a different perspective, but part of the deal of not being a ‘writer’ in that sense, is that I can just choose to do something else. And for a long time, I didn’t – and I realized that was abhorrent.      

On top of that, I’d started to become very tired. It was taking me longer and longer to do the column – at least some of each one I would have to do between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, because that was when Diamond would finalize their list for the week. It’d gotten so that I’d go to sleep as soon as I got home from work on Monday evening, and then I’d wake up at 2:00 AM on Tuesday to do the column, and then I’d go to work after that. By the time I pulled the plug I was basically Julianne Moore at the end of Safe, and that definitely contributed to my decision to just shut the column down instead of trying to reconfigure or ‘reform’ it. I felt I could do better work by writing in-depth about works that I like in a focused essay format, which is where I’m at now. 

You can’t just think about yourself in this. You have to think about the effect you have on others, including those who’ve given their whole fucking lives to this thing, you know? You can’t pretend you’re alone, that’s like driving a car without ever turning your head. 

This is entirely my perspective, and it was my idea alone to quit. 

Recommended by Jog
Ronald Wimberly
LAAB
(click image to go to buy it)

ZL – What does it feel like having stepped back from that regular schedule and what do you do with all of that time you have now?

J – I was haunted for a while. My body chemistry had altered itself around my Monday activities, so there was literally a lingering physical effect for a few months. And I felt some regret – I’d post a tiny mini version of my column sometimes on Twitter for a year or so after I quit, because I’d feel, compulsively, like I was letting good books sink into the abyss without anyone mentioning them. This messianic impulse is neither healthy nor productive, and I’ve tried since then to focus on doing what is more useful: running my social media accounts with a lot of links and (hopefully) useful words about interesting artists; writing in a purposeful and focused way.

I had a dream around the time I quit.

I dreamed that I was in a casino by my parents’ house. Grant Morrison was there, giving a talk in one of the lecture rooms. I started playing with my phone, and I did not notice that the lecture had ended until Morrison came up to me. “I haven’t seen you writing much lately,” he said. I wrote a lot about Morrison on Jog – The Blog, but I have no reason to believe that Grant Morrison has ever heard of me. “I’ve been very depressed,” I said, “and I haven’t been writing at all.” I had never told anybody about being depressed; I’m not even sure if I was, but I told this to Grant Morrison in my dream without any hesitation. “I understand,” he replied, touching my shoulder as he left.    

ZL – Do you ever see yourself coming back to those schedules and venues or taking something up more involved again? 

J – Oh, I’ve gotten the itch a few times to start a Patreon, but I suspect I’d burn out quickly and disappoint everyone. Who knows what’ll happen in the future, though? Maybe I’ll start streaming video games while reading aloud from back issues of the International Journal of Comic Art. I think that would really dazzle everyone, and restore comics to the circulation numbers of 1952.

ZL – Podcasts about comics really seem to be the new blogs and I wondered what the appeal of a podcast is over a written piece and whether you think a podcast can be as valuable for deeper consideration than those written articles?

J – The appeal of a podcast is that it is 1,000,000,000,000% easier to talk about something than write about it. Even in the first few episodes where I was scared out of my mind about speaking, I still knew that what I was doing was way fucking easier than even the shortest column I’d write. I mean, you can make podcasting harder – you can really produce the thing, and do scripted segments and have pro radio shit like ‘planning ahead’ and all that, but my ideal of podcasting is to create a document of a conversation between people, which you then push out into the ocean in your little bottle.  

But, I really need to make something clear about Comic Books Are Burning In Hell; I’m like Krusty the Clown, you know? I roll in, do the part, shake some hands, and it’s back to the limo (i.e. my gaming chair). Tucker does the production work on the show, like the posting of it, and the audio effects, whatever editing is necessary – keeping track of what’s what. Chris and Matt do the recording sometimes, they contribute stuff. Besides making declarations about what we should talk about, I contribute nothing; I think the only time I had anything to do with the actual recording of the show is one time I did an episode that was just me giving a monologue, and even then Tucker had to add in the songs at the beginning and end, and actually put it online. So, it’s very easy for me to sit here like a jackass and say podcasting is easy… but it’s definitely easier than writing, gimme a break. 

Plus, I get to hang out with my friends, which takes us back to my original blogging impulse. As far as the external value of this, I think hearing a number of different perspectives bouncing off one another is compelling in a live-recording setting in a way that dueling or complimentary essays probably aren’t, because you have the immediate reactions, the little tests of perspective – or the building of ideas quickly among people. And, there’s the parasocial aspect too; we didn’t do the show much in 2018, 2019, but the pandemic got us started again because we really wanted to be with each other — to be with other people — and I’ve heard that listeners really enjoy having us around as the social program has become more constricted by necessity.    ZL – What would be your ideal role in comics, if you could have any you wanted? I’m really intrigued by this because, unlike many critics and reviewers you genuinely don’t seem to be interested in rolling it into a creator gig in the industry.

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There’s something about comics that sort of implies that if you think about these things it’s only because you want to be a part of those things. I think that probably has to do with the history of many commentators and much of the modern Western industry, well at least US and UK industries, coming from a fan, and fanzine more specifically, background.
There’s no criticism implied in this, I’m very much a creator that also reviews and some of my favourite creators are also my favourite reviewers, like Sarah Horrocks or Frank Santoro.

J – This goes back to what I said earlier about not being a professional writer. Not to impugn the power of fiction in our lives, but a job writing comics is really not very different from a job writing nonfiction, in the wide view. I think there is the lingering sense among genre comics readers that a gig writing comics is the awesome apex of a creative life, and while it’s possibly the great ambition of some of those practitioners, it is fundamentally a Writing Job. You hustle up what assignments you can, until you are maybe, hopefully, someday in the place where people come to you with gigs. You do your best; maybe sometimes you get outside your own head. It is magic, but you still exist in the world of economics – painfully so in the United States, where there is less aid for those deemed unproductive.

I have never been part of that world. I don’t really long for the golden idea of writing comics, because I’ve never been part of that broader trade. I do demand payment when I work for someone who’s not a close friend, of course – if you’re throwing your work out there for free you’re fucking over the people who need the money to live. I believe that solidarity is crucial, as paying gigs continue to shrink.   

ZL – What, if anything, do you think unifies the works that you enjoy, is there any one thought or feeling that you could pinpoint to say, that’s the kind of thing that’s going to mean I enjoy something, or is it more a matter of a work hitting at the right time and place and maybe another occasion it wouldn’t have felt the same. I guess, what I’m asking is whether there’s something, say, spiritual, attitudinal or aesthetic or just a vibe that a work gives off that you can sniff out and know you’ll enjoy it before you’ve even cracked it open.

J – On a recent podcast, Tucker told me that I tend to value works that communicate a total worldview. Which is to say, comics that evoke an entirely personal means of processing the stuff of reality. It’s funny, because I usually find myself addressing both the inside and the outside of a work: that which I feel is crucial about how the book operates. Sometimes, this branches out into a larger point about the surrounding context – “the critique of wisdom,” which addresses the manner in which a work is positioned in ‘comics’ and how its operation departs from the manner in which it has been plunked into the stream of commerce. Often, works have qualities that defy the manner in which they are contextualized, which I find to be a useful means of focusing attention on the work itself – demonstrating how it defies the categorizations forced upon it. Absolutely, you must never, ever just talk about the context; the context must be a means of drawing attention to the true qualities of the work, or else you’re just farting in the direction of marketing, and contributing to a managerial system that rewards connoisseurship and clever framing without necessarily benefiting the understanding of art, or the situation of artists.

Or, I could just become absorbed in detailing the cadence of the thing; the way it enunciates, it sings.  

ZL – Do you ever want to come back to maybe go deep and do something really rich, a book or a retrospective of a creator – I just imagine you getting to do a monogram series for maybe 10 creators where you really put them in context historically and do some heavy dives into their work. 

J – I’ve had a few informal deals to write small books for small publishers in the past, and I’ve always dropped out at some point in the process, because I don’t have the discipline to write very far into five digits. I become very negative about what I’ve written if I let it go for too long without posting it or turning it in for publication – and then I get caught in endless revisions. If I was a professional I’d have had to get over those neuroses, but as it is I’m limited in how long a piece can get before I decide it’s actually shit and I want it dead. It is such a blessed relief to reach the end of something! I think to write a book I’d have to just agree with myself to lock what I’ve written in a chest and force myself to move on; to force myself outside of my own head. Or just construct something of many small parts. Like comics are constructed, I suppose. I’d like to write a book. Somebody might find it in the future, and realize that I was once alive.

ZL – On  zinelove we’re all about sharing and context, so I wondered if there are any peers still active you feel you like to recommend to our readers?

J – If we’re talking about my contemporaries, the spirit of comics blogging is most alive today in Tegan O’Neil. She started out a bit before me, and still works in a very strong, unique voice that marries a comprehensive grasp of history to personal fascinations – with a rigorous skepticism of what informs those fascinations. Her piece on Tom King from last year is the best writing I’ve seen about the tricky character of ‘quality’ writing in corporate superhero comics, with all the baggage that comes with merely being a corporate superhero comic. Her blog is here, and her Patreon is here.  

In terms of critical peers of today, I’ve been really fascinated with Bubbles – it’s a very lo-fi print zine with an extremely specific point of view: art comics and weird manga. There’s long interviews and tons of short capsule recommendations, but it’s the totality of it that I really enjoy. Their whole crew is different from the usual people you see writing about art comics and manga online; it feels like a genuinely unique gathering of firm perspectives, which is really necessary if the critical discourse is going to go anywhere valuable. There are really good writers on TCJ too, though. Very recently, Helen Chazan wrote this terrific piece on an awful-looking Stan Lee biography from a major academic press, picking apart how even prestigious considerations of Stan the Man repeat the same old promotional cliches he wrote for himself decades ago – a critic who can offer sobriety on this topic is rare and valuable. I also love seeing Austin Price write about manga; his review of Taiyō Matsumoto’s recent work was some of the best stuff I’ve seen about an oft-mentioned artist who is not always treated with depth. I really hope he continues.    

And, I want to shout out my friend Sean McTiernan, who is my favorite podcaster in the world (discounting the pantheon of gods who record with me, of course). He’s a very refined comics reader, but his podcasts are fixed series about types of media that he finds interesting – right now he’s doing one short (20-40 minutes) episode every day in October, working through found footage horror movies. He has a fantastic episode on the old BBC1 hoax newscast Ghostwatch; how it both evokes the texture of British newscasting to unsettling effect, and also folds into its story the very sensational, fear-mongering reportage on sex crimes in British media as an unspoken, maybe unconscious firmament for its narrative. Hundreds of Pixelated Dead Bodies – great shit.      

ZL – Last question! Could you name one creator or creation you think has gone unrecognised that deserves some love?

J – The third taboo that was broken, back when I got back into reading comics — after the Taboo of Content and the Taboo of Form — was the Taboo of Quality. 

Right after I’d gotten back into comics, in 2002, the Comics Journal released the second in a line of LP-sized themed specials: Cartoonists on Music. There were articles in the front half, and then lots of new comics in the back, presented in that large, square format. I’d heard of a few of those artists, but the one that really caught my eye was this guy named Gerald Jablonski, who filled the entire fucking page with what had to be 30 or 40 tiny panels, absolutely stuffed with dialogue emitting through wild curly word balloon tails from tiny characters. What the fuck was that? I mean, what the fuck, I couldn’t read it!

Gerald Jablonski
Cryptic Wit

Not long after, I noticed an advertisement in a normal issue of the Journal for a solo comic by Jablonski: Cryptic Wit #1, which he had published that year with a grant from the Xeric Foundation (one of the few comics-centric artist grants, now sadly gone). I sent in a postal money order to his address, and he sent me back his comic, which was absolutely nothing but the same types of comics I’d seen in that Journal special. Every page had 27 or so panels, and panels had upwards of 50 words of dialogue each, unless they had absolutely none for dozens at a time. Every story was exactly one page long, and each of those pages concerned one of three scenarios: (1) a boy and his uncle who argue about something through prolonged, pun-laden exchanges, absolutely each and every one of which ultimately reveal that the boy’s teacher at school is an ant; (2) barnyard fables involving talking animals which are typically overwhelmed by the narration of Farmer Ned, who has a very low opinion of the state of the world and a very high opinion of the quality of his own storytelling; and (3) wordless, psychedelic battles between angelic and/or mutant boys.

This was, almost exactly, the wrong way to make a comic. If you’re doing a funny comic, you need a precise trajectory for the gags. If you’re doing a narrative comic, you’re supposed to strike a prudent balance between words and pictures. Everything about Cryptic Wit was utterly counterintuitive to any idea I’d ever had about how a comic was supposed to work – and I fucking loved it! I was completely enthralled! And I realized, eventually, that it was both extraordinarily weird and hyper-normal: a series of jokes, of exchanges, piled into a staggering accumulation of information.

And I realized, then, that one can absolutely succeed in failing to obey the rules of presumptive interest.

Gerald Jablonski has released exactly four comics: Empty Skull Comics (Fantagraphics, 1996); Cryptic Wit #1 (self-published, 2002); Cryptic Wit #2 (self-published, 2008); and Cryptic Wit #3 (self-published, 2012). A collection of some of the Cryptic Wit stories was subsequently presented in a very large format, in a book titled Farmer Ned’s Comics Barn (Fantagraphics, 2017) – my pull quote on the back of that is the proudest I’ve ever been of having my words plastered helplessly upon the work of others. 

I have no idea what the artist is doing now, because he isn’t online. When you’re online a lot, you begin to feel like in order to exist, you have be there all the time. I was a blogger; I was online every day. I still am. You’re encouraged to be available at all times, if you’re a writer; you’re told you need a social media presence, because that’s how you promote yourself. To let everyone know you’re relevant and working. If you skip a day, everyone will forget you. You’ll die. In fact, you’ll have never even existed, your bones washed away by the tide of content. 

But I know Gerald Jablonski is working. I know plenty of artists are out there working. And I want them to know, in an interview they’ll never read, that I fucking know they’re alive and I believe what they’re doing is good. I am very content with shouting into the abyss. 

I was a blogger.     

ZL – thanx for all your time answering these questions!

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

I was a blogger.     

ZL – thanx for all your time answering these questions!

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

the short list – Rodolfo Mariano – Portuguese zinester

Find Rodolfo Mariano here

website         instagram

Thanx to Miguel Correira for organising and translating this interview a version of this interview in the original Portuguese can be found here

How long have you been publishing?

My first comic book/zine was self-published in 2012 while I was in art school, 12 pages of cheap drawing A4 paper, xerox printed.

My latest comic zine was printed and published last July, 36 pages, colour covers, professionally printed.

What does it include?

For a long while I’ve had my work featured in some zines made by other artists, small illustrations, covers, drawings and sketches… However my main activity, the heart and soul of my artistic work, was making comics using traditional media (pen, pencil, brush and india ink). 

What inspiration made you start?

At the time I was yearning for being able to design, print and publish my own comic books, my own titles and projects. Simultaneously I had another goal too, I really wanted to reach an audience because comics themselves tend to beg for having readers to whom books/zines/objects are small treasures. In Portugal there’s a tiny indie small press scene, which I’m still learning the ins and outs of, it was a very pleasant surprise back when I’ve started printing and selling my own books/zines getting to know such an awesome community. Since then I’ve been making friends and slowly growing my audience along the way.

What inspiration keeps you going?

I love the freedom to plan, create and publish my own comic books and be able to reach multiple audiences while growing as an artist and be part of a creative, open-minded, diverse community. Overall print as a medium with all it’s character and apparent limitless possibilities suits me and my creative process very well. There’s a long road ahead full of wonders, there’s no reason not to keep going.

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

Small (press) oaks – Law Tissot

Cidade Cyber

There’s something beautifully Victorian Gothic about the penmanship of Law Tissot. His designs are perfectly simple and easy to read, just great cartoon designs, but the page is filled with marks and texture and grandly surreal landscapes. I can see the influence of Druillet and Giger in his work, but I’m much more deeply reminded of Jim Cawthorn’s approach to texture and line and the scratchy art of Bryan Talbot in Luther Arkwright or Nemesis and Matt Howarth’s whole approach, but the design just has a greater sense of PUNK about it.

Find Law here

instagram facebook

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

I started reading comics very early. But I’m sure Jack Kirby made the first revolution in my life. The characters, spaceships, aliens, armor, weapons … all dynamic scenes. This is always very beautiful and exciting.

Jack Kirby inked by MIke Royer

(Comecei a ler histórias em quadrinhos muito cedo. Mas tenho certeza de que Jack Kirby fez a primeira revolução em minha vida. Os personagens, espaçonaves, aliens, armaduras, armas … todas as cenas dinâmicas. Isso é sempre muito bonito e emocionante.)

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Definitely Jack Kirby since always. But I need to talk a lot about the guys from Métal Hurlant magazine: Richard Corben, Enki Bilal, Moebius  and Philippe Druillet. Much more Druillet, I believe.

(Definitivamente Jack Kirby desde sempre. Mas preciso falar muito sobre os caras da revista Métal Hurlant: Richard Corben, Enki Bilal, Moebius e Philippe Druillet. Muito mais Druillet, creio.)

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

I really like underground comics, the freedom of fanzines and independent publishing. I have always tried to be an important author in the alternative scene. That interests me today.

(Eu realmente gosto de quadrinhos underground, a liberdade dos fanzines e da publicação independente. Sempre tentei ser um autor importante na cena alternativa. Isso me interessa ainda hoje.)

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

As I said, Jack Kirby and Philippe Druillet have a lot of influence on my imagination. But today there is a lot of H.R.Giger in my art.

H.R.Giger

(Como eu disse, Jack Kirby e Philippe Druillet tem muito influência na minha imaginação. Mas hoje há muito do H.R.Giger na minha arte.)

Which creators do you most often think about?

I like to discover new fanzines. Distant artists with new ideas and new comics. These things happen all the time, talents that vibrate hidden. Treasures ready to be discovered. I want to see this happen.

(Gosto de descobrir novos fanzines. Artistas distantes com novas ideias e novos quadrinhos. Estas coisas acontecem o tempo todo, talentos que vibram escondidos. Tesouros prontos para serem descobertos. Eu quero ver isso acontecer.)

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

Fábio Vermelho. For being a new friend I made recently. There is always so much to see in your art. All an urban atmosphere and psychobilly that attracts me. (Instagram @fabiovermelho)

Fabio Vermelho

Guilherme Santos (Moleton Fantasma) has a genius narrative ability. He takes his characters to places I would like to go.(Instagram @moletonfantasma)

Guilherme Santos

Henry Jaepelt has been an old friend since the 1980s. He still does many things that interest me. And its graphic universe is very powerful. It is impossible to remain indifferent. (Instagram @henryjaepelt)

Henry Jaepelt

(Fábio Vermelho. Por ser um novo amigo que fiz há pouco tempo. Há sempre tanto o que ver em sua arte. Toda uma atmosfera urbana e psychobilly que me atrai. 

Guilherme Santos (Moleton Fantasma) tem uma capacidade narrativa genial. Ele leva seus personagens por lugares que eu gostaria de ir.

Henry Jaepelt é um velho amigo desde os anos 1980. Ele ainda faz muitas coisas que me interessam. E seu universo gráfico é muito poderoso. Impossível ficar indiferente.)

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

Cidade Cyber

I live in the extreme south of Brazil. I’ve been doing my comics and zines for over three decades, basically within cyberpunk sci-fi. I draw my comics every day and leave them where I can.

(Eu vivo no extremo sul do Brasil. Tenho feito meus quadrinhos e zines por mais de três décadas, basicamente dentro da ficção científica cyberpunk. Eu desenho meus quadrinhos todos os dias e os deixo onde posso.)

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

Cidade Cyber – A Limusine Surrealista de Miss K

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

Small (press) oaks – Alberto Monteiro

Today is Brazilian Independence Day and I thought we’d celebrate that this week by talking to a number of Brazilian creators about their influences and inspirations. Now, I have very little knowledge of the Brazilian zine and small press zine, but I’ve certainly picked up a lot of interesting creators to follow over the last few weeks.

Alberto Monteiro has an incredible style, beautiful and stylish, an amazing sense of colour and great design sense, everything has a chunky sense of physicality to it that really caught my eye.

Find Alberto here

Instagram           flikr

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

I have always been interested in visual works, colors, shapes, and since I am already 55, in my childhood everything was printed, everything was paper, newspapers, magazines, etc. I think that from a very young age, a creator who always impressed me, among many, was Guido Crepax. With that thought-provoking streak and futuristic atmosphere, or not, full of the elaborate charm of the 70s psychedelic.

Guido Crepax

Which creators do you remember first copying?

As I said before, Guido Crepax’s work was very exciting for me, but I don’t remember trying to copy it. I would try, if I had enough skill, to copy several others, like Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Rich Corben, Jack Kirby …

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

I liked comic books as well as great painting, and I thought I could become a Picasso, because I also admired him a lot, lol … And I was already making my oil paintings, around 1981, or even earlier, I don’t have enough strong memory to go further than that, lol …

Picasso

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Currently I see Mattotti as a great artist in drawing and painting, I like neo-expressionists like Baselitz, Immendorff, Penck (RIP) and several other painter artists who created great canvases mainly in the 80s.

Which creators do you most often think about?

I don’t think much about the work of others, I have seen and discovered several artists through the internet, mainly instagram. I like informalism, creative freedom and jobs that always surprise.

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

Casaes, is an artist I know and lives nearby, he does a very exciting job, has a touch of mystery and the line keeps that dark atmosphere even talking about everyday things.

Rafael Sica (here, here and here), as well as the first one I mentioned, also makes comics and besides the apparently simple line, his characters use a very interesting and unusual body expression in the comics.

Ordinário, 2010 – Rafael Sica

Finally, I know another artist that I cannot fail to mention, Fábio Zimbres, who is exceptionally expressive and surprising, has a totally free streak and I think it is up to great modern and contemporary painters.

Fabio Zimbres

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

I am working daily with drawing and painting, I try not to create a border between drawing and painting techniques, I always use brushes and acrylic paint, on any type of support, but I prefer paper. I use work as a pure form of expression and keep a lot of what I saw and see from comic books, taking this narrative mixed with my own idiosyncrasies to my work.

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

L u s t

Small (press) oaks – David Robertson

I know the name Fred Egg Comics better than I know the name David Robertson, but only because I’ve seen his comics mentioned by many of the people I follow.

What’s fascinating about David though, is that, as well as making comics, he talks and thinks about them and has a cultural reference more deeply steeped in fandom than mine. In fact, some of his strips drawing on sci-fi and Star Wars fandom are some of my favourite strips of his. You should check out his work as it’s very personal but very personable.

I’ll also add that he collaborates with some very good artists.

Fred Egg Comics logo

You can find David here

website        shop          blog          twitter

you can also find him on Comichaus if you subscribe

Over to David

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

Comics creators have a tradition of being minimised, if not made completely invisible, by the publishers of their work. So, the comics I would enjoy from companies like IPC and D.C. Thomson would pointedly not tell me who had done the work I liked, certainly in the 1970s. I didn’t have a name to attach to the style. So, it may be someone creative in the pop music field. I always loved music and was a big fan of The Police, getting all their albums for birthdays or Christmas as they came out.

The Police
The Police

Which creators do you remember first copying?

I was a big reader of Eagle and Starblazer comics and was fascinated by the extreme colour and shading contrasts, especially in characters’ faces, in the work of Ian Kennedy.

Dan Dare art by Ian Kennedy
Dan Dare art by Ian Kennedy

I also loved the comics of Jack Kirby, including his late 1970s Captain America and early 60s FF and Incredible Hulk, which were being reprinted in the UK.

Jack Kirby

I specifically remember looking at how Kirby drew fingers and copying that. Lastly, I used to watch Bugs Bunny and Danger Mouse cartoons on TV, drawing the characters from what was shown on screen. This was before the days of video and DVD, so you had to try to grab what you needed in a hurry.

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

I never thought that about any creator. I liked certain artists but didn’t think I would be as good as them. More the opposite, actually. I was obsessed with Al Williamson’s art for years (still am), and for a while was always trying to reach his style.

Al Willaimson
Al Willaimson

I realised all I could manage was a subpar version of what he did, and really even if I did manage to be “as good” as him – I would just be a Williamson clone. Trying not to be as good as other artists has allowed me to draw in my own style.

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

When I see good writing that ties story points or themes together in a good way, I get inspired. Sometimes I’ll be watching a programme on TV or reading about a group of people making something together, working hard on it, and I think I’d love to do something like that. Recently it’s been a documentary of making Blade Runner and reading Steve Howe’s book on playing guitar. Then I remember my field, my area for doing work like that, and giving something to the world, is in my comics. It does inspire me to get to work.

Which creators do you most often think about?

I think about comics creators Peter Bagge, Jack Kirby, James Kochalka, Carol Tyler, TV writer Russell T.Davies, Film director Stanley Kubrick, TV and film maker Chris Morris, actor Leonard Nimoy, musicians Prince, Frank Zappa. I think about their creative work, and how they talk about their creative work.

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

Zook and Max by Tim Kelly
Zook and Max by Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly is a cartoonist who I first came across in an APA 20 years ago. I love his style, and his humour. Even when I don’t know where he’s coming from, I always enjoy his work.  I’ll mention Tucker Stone of Comic Books are Burning in Hell. I always admire his storytelling, humour, insight and fearlessness. To me, that was the original comics podcast. Lastly, I’ll namecheck Treehouse Comics, launched by the two artists Stuart McAdam and Neil Scott, who I’ve enjoyed working with over the years.

Treehouse issue 5 Cover
Treehouse issue 5 Cover

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

I make comics, read comics and write about comics. My most recent Fred Egg Comic book is Mount a Rescue, which is an anthology written by me, with art from me and guest artists too. My own comics and articles have appeared in various anthologies, journals, magazines and websites. I contribute to workshops and podcasts. I’m a regular on That Comic Smell podcast. Other Fred Egg Comics I publish are the titles Bell Time; Berserkotron; Break the Cake; But a Dream!; Dump; Wow! Retracted; and Zero Sum Bubblegum. I love comics.

Previews of my latest comic book Mount a Rescue can be found here

Process posts for comics I am working on currently can be found here

Podcasts I appear on can be found here 

God Bless the Posties

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

Los Angeles November 2019
Los Angeles November 2019

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Long list interview – Adam Yeater

We spoke to Adam a little while ago about his influences and inspirations and found his answers intriguing, so we decided to dive in and dig a bit deeper. We just kept on going with it all until we ended up with a mammoth interview going into every corner of his mind, from practice and accessing his creativity, to grafting to make a living outside of the norms of the mainstream.

I think it’s a fascinating look into the practice, experiences and the will to succeed that powers Adam, as well as a window into the wider world of underground creators.

WARNING – GORE and some SEX

Adam Yeater being David Cameron

You can find Adam here

webstore                youtube                facebook

 

ZL – Hi Adam! Thanx for agreeing to this interview, hope you enjoy it. 

Let’s get introductions out of the way. For anyone that doesn’t know, can you tell us your name, where you grew up and where you currently live?

AY – My name is Mr. Adam Yeater. I grew up a swamp rat in Florida and traveled around a lot. I finally settled down in Arizona as a desert rat. I went from one Florida to another. 

ZL – For a little bit more background. You clearly enjoy underground and mini comix, so how did you first find out about them and what were you interested in before you started reading them?

AY – I discovered zines through the early Death/Grind Metal scene in the 90s. There was no internet so everything was done via snail mail. I used to get so much great printed matter. Demo tapes, fliers for bands, albums and review zines. I eventually started my own zine called Subliminal Message. We lived in Ohio in a shit hole little town. Trying to get high, fighting, reading comic books, listening to Metal, Punk Rock, Hardcore Rap and skateboarding.

Spewing Insects

I was a very industrious broke ass 14 year old kid. I found a way to get some of the mainstream metal record companies to send me promo stuff for their bands for review. I was getting stacks of stuff in the mail. The record companies were mailing backstage passes to me! My mom thought I was running a mail scam.

I once did a phone interview with Chris Barnes when he was in Cannibal Corpse. Chris called for an interview and my mom picked up the phone. He was like “Are you a fucking kid? Holy shit! I usually do interviews with old dudes?” We talked for an hour and half about Metallica selling out. It was amazing. I idolized these weirdos and was getting to just hang out with them. 

I did an interview with Cro-Mags right when the original singer got out of prison. I did an interview with Entombed for my high school newspaper! I even interviewed the Goo Goo Dolls when they were on Metalblade Records just for the hell of it. Those metal bands were my heroes. They treated me as an equal and I was this punk kid. They all encouraged me to keep at it. I was getting first hand knowledge of trying to make a living as a creative in American society from them. The good and bad. 

ZL – What did it feel like the first time you ever spoke to one of your heroes? It must have felt pretty excellent, right?

AY – It was awesome talking to those bands, it was a real rush. I would get so nervous. I got to hang with some of the bands before and after the shows. All these dudes just embraced me as one of them. I am super tall, so I looked a lot older than I was. I was also a big nerd for the metal scene so I was turning them onto all this other new stuff I was getting. I think they saw me as an oddity. Then we moved to Tucson where there was no metal scene. 

ZL – Is that why you stopped making your zine then, moving to Tucson?

AYYeah, moving from Ohio to Arizona. The scene was pretty lame in AZ. No bands would come through Tucson at the time. So I ditched the ‘zine and started a Grindcore band with some friends. We did pretty well for a local death metal act. We played shows with Napalm Death and smoked a ton of weed with Sadistic Intent, that was cool. 

Lots of drugs and drama, bandmates stealing from each other. . . even more drugs. It was a very fucked up time in my life that I am happy to have survived. 

ZL – At what point did you get back into zines and start to think that self-publishing comics was something you could do or that you were good at and wanted to do more with, to just keep going and going and see how far you could take it?

AY – After the band and metal zine I started printing my own mini comics and comic books. I really got into self publishing and art because I had nothing else really. My last “legit” job was as a janitor before I decided to do art and publish full time. I figured I would rather starve as an artist than starve scrubbing shit off toilets. Art is the only thing I have ever been really good at. So I just keep doing it. 

zines and mini-comics

ZL – Circling back to get a bit more from your background for a minute, what first turned you into a comic reader and from there, did you move to be a collector or fan, if that distinction makes sense!! And where in all of that did you start making your own comics?

AY- I was into comics a lot when I was young as a collector and fan before I moved into extreme music. I was keeping up with the medium but was focused on the death metal band I was in.

After the band. I was doing paintings and fine art for quite a while. I had also done comics on the side but my fine art was doing well. Then the housing market crashed and nobody was buying art for foreclosed homes. 

Luckily I had been doing an extreme comic strip in the metal ‘zines and in the mini comics I was doing. I saw that a local comic convention had started. So I printed them all up and booked a table. I sold out of my first printing and a bunch of art. That is when One Last Day started. 

ZL – How did that feel, selling out of books like that? I’m guessing it must have been quite a boost as you carried on and set up an online store! What was the convention like, if you remember at all, did you have a good time there chatting and meeting fans and creators? A lot of people talk about how much the community at a convention matters to them, was that important to you at the time?

AY – It was a real boost. From that little bit of seed money I have been able to keep the ball rolling and have kept printing comics ever since. The comics scene in Tucson in the early 90s was really small and bare bones. It was me and like 2 other indie guys actively printing their own comics. I have encouraged and fostered so many people to make their own comics since then. Many writers and artists from the Tucson scene are now in the mainstream and indie comics system. 

The couple who started the Tucson Comic Con have been the best thing for our local comix and art scene. Rather than neglecting local and indie comics they embraced and promoted them. I was so lucky to be in a place where the local comic convention focused heavily on independent comic artists. 

Adam Yeater at a con

I see kids that I taught inking classes to that are now publishing their comics on Amazon. Kids that now give me their books and thank me for all the support and inspiration I gave them. It is humbling. Before the ‘rona I was leaving 1000s of mini comics all over town instead of fliers for the last 15 years. It has exposed people in this town and state to my art and a world of comic books they never knew existed. 

ZL – Speaking of coronavirus, I’m wondering how much that has affected your income currently? Do you rely heavily on con sales or do you have a whole set of ways to get sales, which is a terrible way of asking that I’m really interested in how you generate sales for your work, what venues and sources and what sort of percentage of sales comes from them. Have you got a regular set of fans that buy everything, are you using email communications, just facebook?

AYIn today’s art and comics world every successful artist has to be a little bit Andy Worhol and a lot of P. T. Barnum. Otherwise nobody will give a shit about you. So I have a ton of different ways to move my stuff. The website is my main hub but I do small zine fests and shows whenever I can. I have been doing OK but had to switch gears during the crisis. My online sales picked up so that helped a lot. I also have new books coming out all this year. I think that helps too.

Comic conventions at one time were a really good source of income when I first started doing them. I was making great money. Every year it has become progressively less of a viable option for creators like me. The big comic shows are just pop culture festivals. The last few years a lot of the larger shows could care less about indie comics. Table prices and entry fees are way too high for a self publisher or upcoming creator to make any money. Especially out of state shows. Hotel, travel, etc. Because of this I was only doing smaller zine/comic shows and focusing on my online sales already. The virus was a great reason to really focus on my online presence. 

Shrooms

ZL – I first saw your work through a facebook group, one of the indie comics groups that sort of specializes in small press superhero and space operas, and I was wondering whether you think those groups help the creators reach more readers, or whether they are all more community pages as in it’s all people that want to make comics and they’re all working to support their own bubbles? (Obviously I’m exaggerating a little, they often have horror and then there’s oddball work that pops up, but there do seem to be a lot of big boob bad girls and massive muscles in some kind of genre thing. )

AY- I look at social media differently than most. I talk shit about comics on it but I have never used it as a political soapbox or a place to talk about my “personal journey”. I post my art and comix. That is it. I speak through my art. I like to “post and ghost”. I feel I am a healthier person for it. 

This year I have slowly been taking my art off all the platforms. They are not an unbiased purveyor of ideas. Like the original internet was intended for. Social media is making us all sick. Scientifically proven sick. 

World of Knonx

I have grown to hate the self imposed censorship imposed on social media by advertisers and cancel culture. We as artists should have the right to dictate our expression by taking risks. Without having to worry about some simp nerd in Silicon Valley shadow banning or blacklisting us. 

These leeches profit heavily on ALL of us. Especially artists. They work to infringe on our rights and hinder our freedom to express. The platforms are privatizing our existence. Fakebook and the Twits are just digital emotional vampires. 

They should be paying you a fee to use your content and sell it to their stupid advertisers. They make billions off you and you know what you get, a little dopamine for that “like”. Wow, sweet trade off. Not!!

We all need to stand up in some way as artists. Post fucked up art and weird shit all the time! I wanna see a sea of artistically drawn dicks and vaginas. Shitposts, and fucked up memes on my “news” feed. Random acts of artistic defiance. We need confrontational art more now than ever! I want to see original artwork that pushes against cultural dogmas and shitty societal norms. 

Instead I see oceans of fan art and trash pop culture mashups. Useless e-rage and cat pics. Art without confrontation is just advertising at this point. 

ZL – Now, that’s an interesting one, because there are two sides to the argument on this and I sort of flop wildly between the two without any great reason. I can see why social media is not going to allow seas of dicks – they are easy triggers to SEE, so they’re easy to switch off to maintain acceptability, it seems pointless to me, but is important to a lot of people, so… There’s also the issue of managing genuine freedom to express and people posting images of tentacles raping 6 year old girls and how you manage to monitor that, so it’s just EASIER not to try and figure it and blanket ban it all. 

What I think calls bullshit on their motives for me is that they’ll censor that, but allow neo-nazi lies or channels where people openly spout homophobic, racist or sexist bile. There’s a stinking dichotomy there that calls a lie to their talk of community and keeping us safe from damaging content. 

I certainly wouldn’t want to have to be the poor sod that sifted through all of this stuff to check it though!

Pippa Creme and the Pearl Necklace - Dexter Cockburn
Pippa Creme and the Pearl Necklace – Dexter Cockburn

Equally, with work like yours or – to call in someone else I follow who is always getting bumped from facebook – Dexter Cockburn – who does some great porn comics. I see these things as being completely ok and not deserving of banning, but seeing cape comics and how innately sexualised and soft porn like the women are made to look, that makes me feel very dubious, it seems wrong in that context, as it’s so pervasive and so unspoken and clandestine. 

AY – Exactly. It is weird how the mainstream sexulizes it’s heroes. The guys look just as bad. It is a form of repressed erotica. I think it all looks so funny. Balloon shaped breasts or the massive man bulge. There is a big market for that stuff so more power to them. 

It just seems erotica in comix is ok for some and not others. The censorship online is selective. Dexter is a comix friend of mine and a great example. The guidelines are so ambiguous and filled with jargon it becomes nonsense. 

I totally get censorship for criminal reasons. That is a no brainer. What I saw was not that. 

I saw the platforms actively destroy the online followings of some extreme horror artist’s I was following. Some of us had built large fan bases on Myspace and brought our fans over to FB with us. When FB started shutting accounts down it crushed a lot of those artist’s online communities and sales. A lot of artists had to start all new accounts with different names causing them to lose 1000s of followers. Some just gave up or stopped posting extreme art all together. They are still doing it to some of the Ero Goro artists from Japan. It is really fucked up.

Rumpelstiltskin

ZL – That’s part of the curse and benefit of social media though, they give and then they take away when you’ve made them successful. I do wonder what we can do about that though, maybe they should migrate back to Myspace, maybe the whole retreat to mailing lists is the answer? I don’t know, we need community spaces but we need them to not go dark and end up being hiding places for crime or the dark web. What do you do about it, eh? Maybe you should start curating work into new mail lists and have link sites for different peoples’ interests!!

AY – I like that idea. I have always wanted to do a monthly brochure of underground creators. Like a double sided mailer. I might do one for the Smalll Press Express to hand out at shows. Getting the word out is why I do the YouTube channel. Nobody is shedding light on the best part of comics. The odd, voiceless, strange and marginalized. I think anything that promotes the underground scene and unites indy comic artists is good. I feel every little thing helps. We are all in this sinking ship together. The mainstream comics people keep poking holes in the boat. The indy creators have to keep bailing it out.

ZL – Moving on from that unanswerable conundrum… Is community important to you and comics? Is publishing and buying and communicating with other creators a way of building a place in the wider world for the kinds of things that you enjoy and the kind of things you want to make?

AY – What community. The comics community? 

It just saddens me so much lately. The internet and social media had so much potential to dissolve physical, cultural and social boundaries to our communication around the world. 

Instead most people have developed the attention span of a gnat. I doubt anyone will actually read all this. So I am just gonna lay it all out. How I see it as an outsider looking in.

There is a massive world of art and comics that is ignored in the west. It is where I exist as a creative. I work with toy making friends in South Korea and send comix pages to Artizines in Spain. Send instant messages to slap sticker artists in Japan. All in a few seconds!! This used to take weeks, even months via phone and mail. Many here just take this shit for granted. 

I had a “stick poke” tattooist from Taiwan ask if she could use one of my mini comic images in her little shop. How sick is that!! I live for that!!

I have worked with 100s of the most creative and amazing artists from all over the world. I have had enough love and inspiration from the global art community to last me two life times!!

 

The American comics community is a weird story. My books sell well. My fans are awesome. First time readers always come back. I do really well at every comic convention I have ever done, even small ones. I have printed, sold or given away thousands of my mini-comics, floppies and magazines. All over this crazy earth. 

Somehow I have largely existed as an outsider in Western comics. Other than a few supportive cats in the southwest comics scene like Brian Pulido. I feel like they largely just ignore my comics. I have had a few pros refer to my work as ‘zines’ as a sort of insult. 

Blood Desert 2

I started Blood Desert as a big middle finger to the whole corporate comics crowd. The main character is stuck with a permanent middle finger. Good luck co-opting that sucktards. 

Lake of Korz

When I complete the World of Knonx series I wanna only make comics that are a massive fuck you to that whole unimaganitive self indulgent English centric corporate comics world. I wanna make comics for shitheads all over the world like me.

Most of the comics in the mainstream indie world are leftovers from that hokey auto-bio movement. All of them are still pining over Crumb and Pekar to this day. 

Who knew making super boring comics about your masturbation habits and history no one cares about would be considered as works of high literary art. I guess it is an easy claim to make when the critics also work for the publishers of said high grade comic “art.”

That is just the indy crowd. At this point most people’s knowledge of modern comics comes from dopey stupor hero comics and movies that are made for mouthbreathers by ex-television writers. 

These books are made by “Professional” comic book writers that get top billing over a bunch of lazy artists. These are the same “professionals” who waste their time all day on Twitter and YouTube race baiting each other and blathering nonsense about politics. Somehow they can never seem to get books out on time or any real work done. Go figure. 

The Square

Can we all just agree that the comics Youtubers are totally obnoxious. Normal people do not care about all your dumb nerd drama. The “comics news” channels love to foment drama in the industry to make money off of more views. They live to promote division among creators. Mind numbing 4 hour live streams of inane political blather. Interviewing the same old industry jobbers about some dopey superhero comic they made 20 years ago. Effete dorks gushing jizz in their whitey tighties over their wonton nostalgia.

These formerly bullied nerds bully each other constantly online. Doxing, Blacklisting, Censoring, Attacking and Canceling each other. Bunch of grade school kid popularity bullshit. I want absolutely NO part of either side’s dysfunctional cult. These sad people must love to live in a heightened state of anxiety. 

There are 100s of amazing prolific working storytellers chomping at the bit to talk about and sell their titles. Why not interview and promote these creators. Artists who choose not to engage in either side’s petty childish games. Those creators are largely ignored or admonished for not taking sides. 

The industry seems to only want to dwell in nostalgia? A Nostalgia that actually hurts creators. I really wanna talk about Alan Moore. 

Let’s all wax about the greatness of Watchmen ONE last time and finally let it go. Watchmen is the comic book Alan Moore won’t even have in his house because of the disdain he has for the American comics industry.

Comics culture could care less about Alan. They talk about his work gushing with praise. Then they call the man a nutter behind his back. 

The majority of the comics press treated him like a clown and discounted his opinions at every turn. 

Watchmen, the comic they keep in print just so Alan does not regain any of the rights back. 

By promoting and working on Watchmen in any way they are all pretty much saying fuck you to Alan. It is just accepted by everyone. “Oh well! We should just keep screwing this dude cause we all really love those characters.” It is shameful.

Smashing robots

Shall I go on about the other creators that were screwed by this “industry”. Seigel, Shuster, Kirby, Finger, Simon and so many more.

The House of Morons track record with creatives is just as terrible. It would take all day to list the Big two’s transgressions against their freelancers. 

All their Editors in Chief make millions while their freelancers get crumbs.

Or maybe there is hope in the price gouging comic book store owners. They did nothing but complain about Diamond and the Big 2’s scams non stop for years. Then they still lap up everything they do or make like pablum. Accepting and still embracing this constant abuse. Over and over and over. I wonder if the majority of store owners are into BDSM? 

Should I bother mentioning all the sex predators that the major comics companies have been covering for?

So now after a long career and all my hard work building a loyal following I am supposed to kiss ass and play nice as a potential artist for them. I am supposed to work on shit I don’t care about? I get to beg for a job doing interior pages for less than minimum wage and no healthcare? No thanks. I am busy building my own worlds not piggybacking on the stolen worlds of others.

The US comics “industry” is kind of a total joke to me at this point. 

Watercolour art - included with orders

ZL – It sounds like you are existing as part of a community though, maybe not an American comics community, but an international underground art community, does that seem fair to say? 

AY – I was actually becoming a big part of the community for a popular comics Youtube channel for a minute until I was excommunicated. The two creators that host the channel constantly espouse to be a bastion for indie creators. As Maury Povich likes to say…” that is a lie.” 

The channel blacklisted me because of a mini comic I did showing cartoon portraits of accused sex predators and general jerks working in the American comics industry. 

I am not part of Comicsgate or any other stupid comics cult. I am not a lecherous ogre who harasses women at comics shows. I am a boring family man who makes weird comics. I speak through my art not by posting constant drama online.

I made a mini comic that someone didn’t like. That was it. Instead of finding out my side of things related to the matter these hosts just booted the videos my comics were featured in off their channel. They also had admins remove my posts off other platforms related to them. I was blatantly censored by these “artists.”

So looking back I think it had nothing to do with that mini comic. They have featured sexually violent work like Vigil’s. My stuff is tame in comparison. I feel they were threatened by my output and my dopey little youtube channel. Which is laughable. 

I have worked tirelessly my whole career to support marginalized creators in my community and around the world for over 20 years. 

At this point I would rather work with the people who get what I do and dwell in quiet obscurity rather than work with these kinds of self-serving troglodyte hacks that are so prevalent in the medium of modern mainstream comics and the art world. 

Most of these “pro comic artists” are just glorified fan artists with a little bit of stylized skill. I think that’s why all their books are so derivative of all the other stuff in the mainstream lexicon. They dwell in constant nostalgia and their work is proof of it. 

I actually feel sorry for them. To have so little faith in yourself that you have to try to take down other artists is such a sad pathetic way to live. 

One thing you can count on with some artists and comics creators. Their egos are as fragile as glass.

Comics culture in the US is steeped in all this kind of nonsensical dogma. It has become an idiotic cult of reactionary clones with Youtube and Twitter accounts. 

Pig Monster

ZL – Thinking about that wider world of community and how there’s always been an underground arts community and sometimes people travelled through them, often linked to universities or small art publications. Do you feel like that community is something that is now easier to achieve and to curate for yourself with social media, but it involves a lot of effort and commitment to do that and that’s why it takes those in a scene, those dug into that creative feeling, to do that kind of curation?

AY – I guess It is easier to find new stuff now, but there is a lot of oversaturation online. Lots of skilled but boring fan art. Way too much fan art online. 

All the crowdfunded stuff is pretty boring and derivative of the mainstream comics they say they hate. Plus there is a high failure rate. Very slow/low delivery rate on those projects that nobody likes to talk about.

I kind of wish the companies cracked down on all the IP theft at shows and online the way they do obscenity. Before the pandemic the comic conventions in the states sucked for indie creators because of all the fanart.

ZL – Yeah, that seems to be a big issue all round, but it’s also tricky as a lot of indie creators make bucks doing commissions of existing mainstream IP. I also think that the move from mini comics and zines to pop-culture sources and attempts to be as professional as professional comics has done a lot of unspoken damage. Yeah, sure, you get a lot of a crowd, but how many are BUYERS?

AY – That is why I stopped making any kind of fanart about 15 years ago including commissions. I think fan art and commissions are a crutch for artists to lean on.

To me it shows a lack of ability to tell stories or have faith in their own creations. They are too afraid to go all in and only make and sell their own comics. They wanna draw cool spidey pin-ups not tell stories with art. There is a huge difference between the two kinds of artists.

The best Mangaka spend their whole careers telling these long form epic stories. We should aspire to that aesthetic not do a bunch of cool variant covers. 

It is easy to draw an existing IP. The design and imaginative work was done for you. You are just a human copy machine. It takes a lot of time and faith to go all in on your own ideas. I think a lot of artists try it and just give up and fall back on selling fan art at shows.

I do great at shows without any fan art. You don’t need it. I think selling fan art actually hurts indie creators. They are selling books for our competition. 

If you just offer people something new and different and work hard to sell that work they will buy it. I offer people something that is unique. Not just another Deadpool print or sketch.

ZL – Do you see yourself as part of a comics lineage, either style or approach wise? Do you feel it’s important to leave your own mark on the world, hence the making of items rather than posting online, or are you interested in building a space for now or are you trying to just get out what needs to be got out to keep your brain quiet?

AY: Comics lineage is less of a thing now because of oversaturation in the medium. Everyone can make and print their own comics now. So the key is to have your own style of storytelling. I don’t like the autobio comics genre but at least they know how to tell a story. 

That’s why I think physical media is still very important. An artist is not curtailed by the formats of printing anymore. You can adjust your style to any kind of printing process now. It used to be the other way around.

Aesthetically I want my work to be as beautiful and be as prolific as Osamu Tezuka was. Dark and creepy as Hideshi Hino‘s. Confrontational and cooky as Mike Diana‘s. With a mad dose of the dark action of a 2000AD Magazine. 

Boiled Angel - Mike Diana
Boiled Angel – Mike Diana

ZL – I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the Mike Diana obscenity case and the outcome of that ridiculous situation? It was big, even in UK comic magazines at the time. I remember them telling him that he wasn’t even allowed to draw AT HOME and that they would be coming in to check that he wasn’t drawing! So, I guess there’s that as a check to what we were saying about social media silencing creators, it’s not like it’s a new phenomenon, sadly. 

AY – I started getting into making fucked up comics at the same time as him. I was making One Last Day which is nowhere near as extreme or pornographic as Mike’s stuff, but it was really violent. His case scared me into being real careful who I sent my books to. 

ZL – When did you first encounter Mike Diana’s work, then and what’s so inspiring about it?

AY- I have seen more of his work recently. I like the absolute absurdity of it. It was so hard to get out here in the west coast unless you ordered it. I am not a big fan of pornographic or cheesecake comics. I do like some of the cruder stuff that is just too weird to be arousing. The work exists more as a piece of weird art rather than porn in some odd way. I have not gotten to read a ton of his stuff. He is actually a big fan of mine on Instagram. The punk rock kid in me loves seeing a block of “likes” by Mike. I have mailed him a bunch of my comix for trade.If he is reading this “Yo man! You gotta mail me some of your books!” Heh! 

2100ad

ZL – I’m also intrigued to know how you found out about 2000AD as my understanding is that it’s not well known over in the US. What’s your favourite strip from there?

AY: I got a huge run of the re printed 2000AD and Dredd comics from a comic store when I was 13. I really love the old Rogue Trooper strips the most. They were some of the best sci fi war comics made essentially. Those artists were all emulating those old Action war comics they were reading

Rogue Trooper - War Machine by dave Gibbons and Will Simpson
Rogue Trooper – War Machine by dave Gibbons and Will Simpson

Rogue Trooper – War Machine is a work of comics art. It definitely inspired a lot in my Blood Desert series. “The Fatties” stories in the early Judge Dredd strips are some of my all time favorite comics. I have read them a hundred times. It is just so nuts. I love that line between absurd and gross.

The Fatties - Judge Dredd
The Fatties – Judge Dredd

ZL Oh yeah, those early works were really UK punk as punk can be! I’m surprised you like Rogue Trooper more than Nemesis though, Pat Mills and especially Kev O’Niell’s art is extreme as extreme art gets in comics back then. You mention in many interviews I’ve read that Japanese comics, particularly horror comics, have been an influence. How much influence do you see from Japanese horror comics in small press and self-publishing circles, it’s something I see a lot of in the creators I follow for sure, but I’m wondering what your experience is?

Shrooms watercolour

AY – I follow the underground Japanese scene pretty well. I am pen pals/friends with some of the newer japanese horror artists. It is funny. They all wanna get published here and I want to get published there. 

There are huge barriers in Japanese comics for Westerners. I would kill to get World of Knonx published in Japan. It is specifically designed and made for a world audience. It needs no translation. Manga publishers should be more open to Western comic artists the way we have.

I have grown very weary of all manga flooding the market lately. Most of it is just nicer formated versions of reprints of that older stuff I read in the 80s. It is not the weird upcoming stuff you see on the shelves. 

The American publishers bend over backwards to reproduce a lot of Manga but largely ignore American artists working at the same level of productivity. It has become a one way street. 

ZL – I see that a lot of publishers seem less inclined to have cartoony horror, they seem to have decide it must all be cheesecake or more realistic, I mean, you’re not going to see the likes of Shaun McManus on Swamp Thing art chores nowadays, which seems absurd because cartooning lets you play up emotions or gore without it getting all pornographic and seedy. I wonder if part of it is that as well, they want everything in that style. It’s also something that’s changed in horror as well. You think about something like Saw and how realistic those horror movie effects are compared to, say Friday the 13th, it’s changed what horror is. You could laugh at those things, not so much Saw, they’re far more EARNEST and wanting to show things REALISTICALLY.

AY- Yes! Exactly. I have been embracing the cartoon aspect of comics very heavily. Cartooning is dying in comic books not just in the horror scene. Comics have lost the ability to move the fans to a desired emotion.

I think it has to do with the industry’s reliance on writers. Artists are usually more creative and experimental than writers. Artists think in images and writers think in words. Writers can hammer out stories all day. The storytelling artist has to really think about every panel in a conscious way and how it will move the story. Images should drive comics not inane narrative. I should be able to understand the story in a comic by just looking at the art. If not then both the writer and artist have failed. Being able to type does not automatically make your stories interesting. Kirby’s cartooning made all those comics great not Stan and his stupid dialogue. 

 

Personally I don’t wanna spend 12 hours drawing the perfect building in a panel that no one will care about. I wanna move the story. Cartooning creates a fluidity through the pages that perfect structure loses. Manga is great at moving you through a story in that way. 

World of Knonx 2

ZLSo, in all of the ways you make things and with all of your feelings about being a part of US comics and international makers, what place do you see your new youtube videos playing into what you do? Is it more boredom relief or is it a way of pumping up awareness of the community you enjoy?

AY: I do the YouTube channel for fun and to shed light on independent creators. I also wanna try to create a new narrative in comics. Not just regurgitate the one fed to us by reactionary corporate comix culture.

ZL – Why the trash talking of something at the end? I ask because I have this pet theory that there’s a strong link between people doing underground comics currently, especially over the top gross out ones, and wrestling and I’m wondering whether that’s a bunch of nonsense I’ve made up, or whether this is like the trash talk between wrestlers, a funny sort of way to make a point about something, to build some low stakes drama? Or, is it a way to disarm a serious point by making it funny! 

AY: A little bit of both I guess. There is some carney action to all creatives who do it for a living. I think a long life as an artist hardens you. 

Comic book artists could learn a lot from Tattooists. Talk to a hardcase who has been making money everyday drawing. The one doing it in your hometown the longest. That is someone who can teach you a lot. They have had to put up with so much stupid shit from customers and society. They have a confidence and respect for their trade few artists do. They have real confidence that is inspiring. They won’t even fuck with some stupid walk-in. They are not gonna deal with some kid who wants a shitty Mickey Mouse tat. Some hokey fan art commission bullshit. People pay them good fucking money for their original style, skill and creativity. Comic artists conceded all that when they settled for being what amounts to storyboarders for ex-TV writers. 

Artists have to always remember Western society devalues you at every turn. You really have to learn to sell your art and self. Your skin better be real thick. You hear “no” and that “you will fail” constantly! You will work your ass off just to barely make it in most creative fields. 

ZL – Yeah, that really comes with the territory, especially if you’re coming at it from an underprivileged background, art seems to still be a very middle class opportunity and still seems to need strong patronage to make a living, so if you’re aren’t populist or aren’t from the right background you need to get money from somewhere else or learn to live cheap. 

AY – Starting out it is always a struggle in any field but comics has kind of embraced and even fostered failure among it’s creatives. A perfect example. No one with the talent level of Tim Vigil’s should ever be living in poverty. Which he pretty much is. If Tim started in tattoos he would probably be pretty set by now. Instead he chose to work in comics. 

ZL – You seem to be really knocking out your comics and developing an amazing backlist. I remember sharing a video where, I think that you were drawing a page from The Lottery, where you were filling in your spot blacks with this chunky dip pen nib and that just seemed like it would take a long time to get work done! So, I’m wondering whether you’ve changed up a gear and started doing lots of work, or am I just in circles where I’m seeing you pop up and you’ve been constantly busy for a long time?

AY – I mainly use a brush for large areas. Sometimes a fat nib. I have had the same process for the last 10 years. I have always had a pretty good work ethic with my art but my tools are just that. Lots of trial and error for the first 5-10 years. I had no one to help or any training. I am a lot faster at inking with some modern stuff but it is still the same process it has always been. I try to only work full time M-F 9-5. I love creating so much I get addicted to it. I will draw 18 hours straight if I am not careful. 

workstation

ZL – What inspired you to get making, not necessarily the style you make, but the actual circumstances behind you getting yourself together to put out comics instead of just sketching or posting online? What is the difference for you between posting online and publishing?

AY – Posting online is just a form of promo to me. Online is so ephemeral. I feel printed comics and animation is the best way to tell new stories and get them out. Period. It is hard to say what inspired me to start creating. I can tell you how I create though. 

I have always hated the idea of needing drugs, a muse or constant inspiration as motivation. It is not a sustainable model. It is a crutch for lazy artists to lean on. We all can learn skills and borrow from influences to make pretty art but real creativity comes from our imaginations. 

Clive Barker said it in interview after interview for years! He spoke of how fostering the imagination is being lost and even stifled in today’s world. He stressed the utmost importance for working artists and children to have an active and focused imagination. He is the greatest living horror artist of our age. The Poe of our time and everyone completely ignored him!!

Well I didn’t! I would meditate and do mental exercises daily for years to try and imagine whole working worlds. Clive was 100% right. I don’t get artists’ block or any of that shit. 

So Many Comics

This is gonna sound super new age but it is the best way to explain it. With short meditation techniques I can light the fire of creativity instantly now. It can keep me awake some nights if I let it. My mind’s eye fills with the most moving and colorful images you could ever imagine. I have learned to embrace it and snatch stuff from the ether. It’s like a true form of art magick. When I break into the astral plane of endless creativity it recharges my inner being and overwhelms my soul with love, and joy. I am flooded with new ideas constantly. The Buddhists actually have a name for this place but the name escapes me. 

ZL – I remember reading that Moebius, Jean Giraud, the French comic artist took a similar approach, that he drew all his Moebius strips in a semi-conscious state of meditation, so it seems reasonable for you to do the same! 

AY – Exactly! I have read that and felt a kinship with him. I think Jim Woodring works in a similar fashion as well. 

Drawing

ZL – Yeah, I’ve read that about Jim Woodring as well.

Looping back a second to The Lottery, I really admire the style of character design, the shapes you put down on the page, that I’ve seen in that. I’m guessing, from what you’ve just said, that much of these things arrive semi or fully formed? How much planning do you put into character design and story content and then could you give a general idea to how you approach a story and what you’re trying to achieve with your stories?

The Lottery

AY: Like I said prior, the initial ideas will come like a flood or in pieces. I will mentally “hang on” to my favorite ideas and build a story around them. Once I get most of it all sorted out in my brain I will do some general super loose thumbnails of a story or idea or the whole book. Sometimes I will start with a one shot style story and expand on it. The one shots will inspire more stories or ideas for other worlds as well. 

ZL – I know we touched on this earlier, but I’d like to dig deeper into whether you’re making money and what sort of sales you’re achieving, because, you know, I’m just damn nosey!
More seriously though, I think part of making and why people cease making is an unrealistic idea of what can be achieved within an arena. The amount of people coming into comics and underground comix all thinking they’ll end up on Adult Swim or bankrolling a comfortable life always saddens me. You know they will get worn out banging their drum to sell 10 copies and lose hundreds because they completely over print. 

Which is a very tortured way of asking whether you make money from your comics or, at least break even? Are you happy to tell us numbers of sales and if not exact amounts of income, what sort of percentage of your income comes from your comic sales and for context, the kind of lifestyle you currently live?

AY: I grew up pretty poor. I was out on my own at around 17 with zero money. So it has not been an easy road for me in art and comics. I am not complaining, I have made good money off my comix.

I print modestly with print on demand services. I can print a few copies up to a few 100 at a time. It just depends on demand. You don’t need to have a warehouse of stuff. I focus on the stuff that does well.

It took a long time but I am in a great spot on my own. Because of the virus a lot of the mainstream crowd are kind of sitting around with their dicks in their hands. While I am hammering out stories. I am 100% owner of all my titles. I am not an LLC so a corporation can’t get my “creative content” without my direct consent. 

Luckily I don’t really need them. I have done the math, I make way more per page and book then I ever would with a publisher. I can create, print, promo, mail and repeat. I have no need for censors, editors, publishers, stores, mob run distro or other middle men. They are all just standing between me and making the profit from my books. 

No one will admit it, but the Cerebus model is still the best model for creators to sell their comics. If you are serious about ownership. More people should have the same faith in their work as Dave Sim does. Only without being a total jerk. 

ZL – I’m guessing your politics don’t mesh with his, but I think Dave Sim is definitely someone who has lessons for self-publishers and creators alike. If you were going to pass on any of his advice, how would you summarise what you’ve taken from his example?

AY – His politics aside he was pretty cantankerous in most of his interviews but he was not afraid to speak his mind. Everyone is so afraid to speak up in fear of never getting or keeping that “sweet corporate comics gig”. 

Dave was right about a lot of stuff. If you can’t stand up for your own work then who will? Before I started reading all his interviews I thought he was just a jerk but now I kind of get his anger. I could only imagine what the mainstream tried to pull back then when they saw he wouldn’t play ball. What’s worse is nothing has changed really. All the shit he was raving about in comics is the same or even worse. 

I think he was really hated by the industry when he started speaking out about all the shadiness going on. It always felt the comics press started attacking his political stances after he started to state his opinions about the practices of some of these publishers. I don’t agree with him on a lot of stuff politically but he never backed down and stayed true to his ideals. I admire him for that. 

Comics has a long sordid history of trying to silence voices they don’t want to hear. It has happened to me and many others still to this day.

Blood Desert 3

ZL – How long has it taken to build up your back catalogue and what sort of tail end do you currently see on your titles, are we talking release and then forget it, sustained sales over months/years or occasional bumps when you get new titles out?

AY – It took 20 years to build the whole catalogue of large format stuff. I have printed 100s of different minis along the way. I now just mainly sell my larger format floppy and magazine stuff that does well continuously. I do have a goal to be able to fill a whole small magazine size comic book box with all my different floppy comics and mags. 

ZL – And how far away from that goal are you? 

AY – I have never actually checked. I would say I am well over halfway there. 

ZL – How do your sales and income compare to where you thought you’d be when you first started making your comics or did you not really care about that, other than not losing money?

AY: It is a weird thing that exists in indie comics. It is like they are ashamed of making money. 

You hear so much altruism in indie comics. “It is not always about the money man.” Tell that dumb shit to a career tattooist. They will laugh in your stupid face while they make $200 bucks an hour and drive off in their fully customized Dodge Challenger. While you stand there with a handful of comics and empty pockets. 

We should look at indy comics like tattooing or a little like a one man touring metal band or rap act. People wanna buy my books for my nutty unique style. So, yeah I am doing better than I ever could have dreamed of in such a dismal backwards looking field. I would rather be like a Tech 9 or Frank Zappa in comics. 

ZL – Last question, for you as a fan now, if you could get everyone in the world to read one of your books or series and a book or series by someone else, what would it be?

AY: Out of all my books I would say the World of Knonx series is my crowning achievement. I dumped every skill I have developed into one massive tale.

World of Knonx

Park Bench – by Christophe Chabouté. It is one of the most amazing comics made in the last few years. It is one of the most beautiful comics ever made. It flows like water. It is the zen of comix. I cried the first time I read It. 

The Park Bench - Christophe Chaboute
Park Bench – by Christophe Chabouté

I only make silent or wordless comics. So that is mainly what I am into. It is more common in European comics. So I try to mainly follow works coming from there. 

Comics should move us and excite us. Gross you out or move you to a new place emotionally. Not just be inane 80s TV sitcom serials. I am only interested in comics that exist and aspire to be comics. I have no interest in storyboards with dialogue. 

ZL – Thanx for your time Adam!

AY- Thanks for this in-depth interview. It is not often I get to talk deeply about things in comix that I care about. I never really get to explain how I create or how I truly feel about the medium.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak my mind. To everyone who has ever supported me and my art. I truly frikkin’ love you all!! 

Lopping off head

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

Small (press) oaks – Gareth A Hopkins

Gareth was given an award by this site, so obviously we think he is great. I actually think his work is fascinating both in it’s evolution and it’s ability to be some of the most human and moving comics I’ve read without anything figurative or linear even being hinted at.

Which, to pick apart that sentence means that I think Gareth produces some amazing, human and meaningful comics. It also means that watching the evolution of his art style and his writing is as much a fascinating story as the work he produces.

His sudden explosion into colour work made me smile and breathless, but none of it surprised me as much as the warmth of Petrichor, possibly one of the truest works of modern poetry and of comics you could hope to encounter. Honestly a masterwork that should be read far and wide.

 

I’ll let him blather about himself now, rather than run off my mouth anymore.

Gareth Hopkins - portrait

Find Gareth Here

He’s @grthink everywhere

website         twitter          instagram

buy Petrichor (editor’s note — I’m telling you not asking you)

 

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

It’s a genuinely tough one to answer. When I first started reading 2000AD it was just a bunch of stuff by a bunch of people, and slowly it would have dawned on me that it was actually people behind the drawing and the words. The panel I remember having the most impact on me was from Harlem Heroes by Steve Dillon and Kev Walker, with a soldier getting stabbed in the back by a lady in cycling shorts – there was the violence, but it was so stylish, and loads of negative space. I think the first artist I really paid attention to was Chris Weston, especially on Canon Fodder. The first writer I distinctly remember having an influence was John Smith, a lot of my school assignments had stop-start rhythms and mentions of ‘bursts of white noise/static on the spine’ stuff like that, which I was trying to nick directly from Tyranny Rex.

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Timewise, it’s hard to separate them, it was a big glow of influences all at once. Looking at when I was 12/13 or so, I was copying scantily clad women by Liam Sharp, Batman Adventures by Mike Parobeck, non-footed muscle-bound superheroes in the Liefeld age of Marvel House Style and Strontium Dogs by Nigel Dobbyn.

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

Haha, I remember looking at Marvel Superhero comics and thinking ‘well, if I can’t work out how feet work, just make them a nondescript arrow shape, or hide them behind a rock or some smoke. So, Liefeld. There was definitely a sense of ‘if they can get away with it, so can I’ which I don’t mean pejoratively.

Rob Liefeld
Rob Liefeld

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

Man alive, this is a tough one. Most of my cues for inspiration come from musicians at the moment, I think. A few years ago I was reading a feature about Doseone that had a quote about him being one of the decade’s most important artists, and I don’t know if they meant art-artists, or musician-artists, but it redefined what an artist could be for me, and I spent a lot of time (and still do, really) trying to catch some of that sense when I make visual art. His approach to storytelling when he made the Hour Hero Yes albums with Subtle was probably the biggest single influence when I started making The Intercorstal, and ‘Less Is Orchestra’ which he made with Alias is one of my favourite albums of the last few years. There’s a line in it that goes ‘My zodiac sign’s “Don’t Feed The Animal”‘ which is just incredible. Lately I’ve been really influenced by God’s Wisdom & Lucy and their solo stuff, they share a lot of the elements I find inspirational in other art forms, which is a DIY attitude and distinct, individual voices that aren’t too fussed about whether people understand where they’re coming from.

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

I’ve already mentioned Doseone, so let’s put him in the drawer for a second. Probably the other one is Captain Beefheart? In terms of, if he can shout ‘A squid eating dough in a polyethelyne bag is fast & bulbous, got me?’, then I can make a comic about car parks that’s coloured in highlighter pens. The mainstream comic artist I talk about the most is definitely Sal Buscema, without a doubt. And in the small press world, it’s impossible not to look at the energy Paul Jon Milne puts into his comics and not immediately want to do something with as much… guts? as he puts in.

Sal Buscema

Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head?

Paul Jon Milne

Grave Horticulture by Paul Jon Milne
Grave Horticulture by Paul Jon Milne

 

Tom Ward

Merrick The Sensational Elephantman by Tom Ward
Merrick The Sensational Elephantman by Tom Ward

Lucy Sullivan

H-8-9

Everything else

Concrete/Field

The 50Hz Hum Of Power - Concrete/Field
The 50Hz Hum Of Power – Concrete/Field

The Leaf Library

The Leaf Library
The Leaf Library

Walter Gross

The Fra Mauro Highlands - Walter Gross
The Fra Mauro Highlands – Walter Gross

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

I’m Gareth A Hopkins, an artist and comics creator. I live in Essex with my wife and two kids, I think about ghosts a lot, drink terrible coffee and really hate gardening. I’ve been making comics for a long time, but only really thought I could do anything with them since 2016. I usually do everything.

I’m working on a short story collection called Explosive Sweet Freezer Razors which will be made up of 15 or 16 different short comics – one of those, Bullwise, will be appearing in the next edition of Emanations, and ‘Thunders’ is currently available to buy.

Bullwise Gareth A Hopkins page 2 RGB
Bullwise Gareth A Hopkins page 2

I’ve got a week’s residency coming up in September as part of Young Blood Initiative’sWake Up And Smell The Tear Gas‘ programme of events – details here:

Young Blood Initiative - Wake Up And Smell The Tear Gas

Young Blood Initiative – Wake Up And Smell The Tear Gas

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

 

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

The Short List – Russell Mark Olson SKRAWLLORD

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

SKRAWL can be found on Kickstarter

 

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

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

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

 

Interview!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

RosiePackwood-ascend
Rosie Packwood – Ascend from SKRAWL

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

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

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

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

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

Gallery of contributors

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Small (press) oaks – Morgan Gleave

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

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

Morgan Gleave photo

You can find Morgan here

website          ko-fi          twitter          facebook

 

Here’s Morgan

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

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

 

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

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

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

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

The Prodigal - Mal Earl
The Prodigal – Mal Earl

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

Hellboy - Mike Mignola

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

Pete Fowler

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

Kazana art by Ed Doyle
Kazana art by Ed Doyle

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

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

portrait
portrait

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

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

Cat
Happy Cat – work in progress

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

Thank you!

Morgan Gleave image 3
Morgan Gleave

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Adam Yeater

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

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

He also posts on youtube, showing his collection of smallpress comics, mini comics and zines.

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

 

You can find Adam here

webstore                youtube                facebook

 

Over to Adam

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

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

Which creators do you remember first copying? 

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

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

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

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

The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta
The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Rachael Ball

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

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

Rachael Ball

Rachael can be found here

twitter                     instagram                     tumblr

 

So, here is Rachael

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

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

KONTIKI
Kon-Tiki and I by Erik Hesselberg

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

Giles - Grandma

 

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

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

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Same as above.

 

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

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

BRECHTEWENS
Brecht Evens

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

 

Corona Diary by Ottilie Hainsworth
Corona Diary by Ottilie Hainsworth

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

I recommend them. They cost 12 Euro

EMMIVALVE
Emmi Valve

@dreamhouseartletter on Facebook

Emmi Valve - Dreamhouse Art Letter facebook header

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

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

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

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

THEPATSYPAPERS CHARACTER SKETCHES copy
The Patsy Paper character sketches

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

 

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

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Robin Barnard

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

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

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

Find him here

website                   facebook                      twitter

or click the image links for Robin’s comics

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

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

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

img_7179
Carmine Infantino

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

 

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

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

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

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

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

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

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

STAR JAWS 35
STAR JAWS 35

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

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

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

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

What Men - Robin Barnard
What Men – Robin Barnard

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

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

Star Jaws 36 - cover
Star Jaws 36 – cover

The Superheroes Special - cover
The Superheroes Special – cover

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

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

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

Almost everything I have ever created is on my website.

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

Thank you

THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK
THE COSMETICALLY POWERED HULK

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Ben Nunn

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

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

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

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

You can find The Secret Protectors here

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It’s over to Ben now

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

John Romita Jr
John Romita Jr

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

VHS scroll
VHS scroll

 

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

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

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Frankie Boyle

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Sam Dempsey
Sam Dempsey

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

Rhys Wootton
Rhys Wootton

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

 

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

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

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

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

Guff Canyon
Guff Canyon

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Adam Wheeler

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

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

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

http://kck.st/2CKH9pP

You can find The Secret Protectors here

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Over to Adam

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

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

 

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

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

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

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

Spawn 300 by Todd McFarlane
Spawn 300 by Todd McFarlane

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

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

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

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

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

 

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

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

InstaSave
Ben Nunn – 2000AD submission from sample script

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Praise Image

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Daniel Bristow-Bailey

AC3_p04
Anxious Comics – issue 3 page 4

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

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

 

You can find him here

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

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Screaming_p02
Screaming page 2

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

moebius_edena
Moebius – Edena

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

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

Shelton_freakbros
Gilbert Shelton – Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Lynch_TwinPeaks
David Lynch – Twin Peaks

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

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

Gareth Hopkins - NO NEW IDEAS

 

 

 

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

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

 

Hannah Lee Miller
Hannah Lee Miller

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

 

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

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

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

Screaming_p08
Screaming page 8

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

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

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

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

Gareth Huntbegins
Gareth – Hunt Begins – work in progess

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

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

Gerald
Gerald – work in progress

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

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.