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.
The Comix Company is run by Dexter Cockburn, publisher and maker of underground porn comix. Featuring some great cartooning and lots of spunky action. He also publishes other creator such as Aaron Lange above.
Douglas not only creates his own fascinating comics, he often works with a raft of other interesting creators including Sean Azzopardi, Jon Paul Milne and Olivia Sullivan who all produce amazing work of their own.
ComicScene does a good job of representing the current UK Small Press comics scene as well as more mainstream comics entertainment news – it’s like an online comic fanzine that also publishes a great set of books all about the history of UK and US comics and some fine comics of their own.
Dan White’s Cindy & Biscuit is a fun and inventive series and 184 pages for £4 on digital is an absolute bargain.
Dan’s other series Sticky Ribs has received praise for its macabre and unsettling nature. It focusses on horror but remains accessible, not the least because of Dan’s great design and cartooning chops.
A “road zine” by Bruno Pires. Beautiful typewritten texts reminiscent of the fanzines of the 80s and 90s, accompanied by excellent photographs. Brevário could also be a “perzine”, that is, a personal zine, where the author put some pieces of his experiences.
A very beautiful fanzine in an edition of just 50 copies. A pleasant surprise for a “first” fanzine. We want more …
This one also has a lovely little write up
This is the most recent and is one I’ve read and enjoyed myself, I can recommend Peter Bangs zines.
It’s been a year since the publication of Barking, Lucy’s debut graphic novel – if you want the long version of what I thought about it, go read my review. TL-DR version, it’s an ambitious approach to the medium that hits the mark and delivers an impressive view into the altered reality of a hurt mind.
Livor Mortis Zine is a DIY zine maker fascinated by decay and urban landscapes. He’s not just an individual maker, he’s a frequent collaborator so there’s a wide range of works to be found. His lo-fi approach and obvious sense of humour come through in his work.
NOTE – I have collaborated with Livor Mortis Zine on a zine
Stay Kind! publish their own zines including perzines and various themed anothologies
As a distro -here are their own words
Stay Kind! is especially interested in publications related to racial justice, gender and sexuality, youth voice, animal rights, violence intervention and prevention, mental health, and personal narratives, as well as educational and informational publications.
I love a perzine and this includes something about Bravenet which, in reality is just a boring web service provider, but with that and the cover made me think of how you could use it as a great name for people confronting their own self-limiting learnt behaviours and I was off on a thought.
It’s an elaborate fantasy about trapping Brett Kavanaugh in an elevator and forcing him to listen to me. It’s about being sad and weird and victimized in high school and growing up to be even sadder and even weirder and more victimized and being really, really fucking angry about that. By julia eff.
NOTE – I have been published and distributed by Colossive Press – I won’t be highlighting those publications
I have loved Colossive Press’ zines since I first saw Croydon Spaceport (a hugely enjoyable and funny zine about the UK’s first failed spaceport) and High Precision Ghosts – one of the most interesting formats for a zine I’ve ever seen.
With the Cartographies series they’ve really found a fascinating format to show case creators.
I like Austin English’s approach to curating his store, it’s eclectic and personal and carries a great breadth of interesting comics. It’s unfortunate that postage from the US is so expensive as it makes it very prohibitive to get anything over to the UK, but what can you do?
If you’re in the US – go for broke!
Check out this interview on The Comics Journal, a lovely long one, where he lays out his thoughts very clearly
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…).
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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’?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
UltraViolenta is 35€ per 5 issues bundle on sale here
How long have you been publishing zines?
Fanzine Ultra Violenta is an artistic fanzine founded and edited in Portugal by art director Miguel Correia since the beginning of the astonishing year of 2020.
This visual and conceptual exploration project brings together several artists, most of them from Portugal, but also from around the globe.
To this moment the collective consists of 28 artists and we believe that by the time the 12th edition is issued they will amount to 50.
So far there are five issues available and numbers 6 and 7 are already in the editorial stage.
What do they include?
Each edition has a unique theme and compiles the works of up to five artists from different artistic areas. Each artist will freely interpret the chosen theme. On each edition the artist is given a textured and coloured sheet as a means to entice the creative process as well as to create an editorial guideline. There are no additional briefings or any other conditioning to the artists’ process apart from the given sheet.
The final results have been rather expressive and varied with compositions ranging from the punk and grunge culture to the urban graffiti culture, and even extending to the Dadaist movement’s manifestos.
This project takes us back to a pre digital time, a time where information was scarce and transmitting it was best conveyed through these fanzines, thus, making them the preferred method of divulgation of a given ideology by artists, music bands, photographers, writers and illustrators. Fanzines are mostly self-published and they are created using simple production methods in which artists make use of a myriad of different techniques. From photography, drawings, collages and cutouts to the use of risographs and even taking advantage of the iconic Xerox printers’ very unique expressiveness. All these were used to create a new form of transmitting art, a form that people could share between them and through which they could assert and discuss opinions on a given matter.
What inspiration keeps you going?
Fanzine Ultra Violenta’s goal is to encourage this form of artistic expression and to enfold the participating artists in a creative process of sharing and experimenting.
all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
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.
is the first fanzine I did with my 15 year old sister. We decided to make a project based on the things we’re both good at: Illustration and History. The idea of this project is to explore and show in small condensed booklets some topics from the History of Portugal that people know less about (or just things we love and want to share). Also to teach kids in a very short and illustrated way. The first edition was a success and we even did a second edition that is currently sold out.
Who published it?
Me and my sister Maria did it all and published it ourselves
How long have you published it for?
We first published it in February 2020.
What does it include?
The book is a compilation of both illustration and text about history.
What inspiration made you start?
I wanted to draw queens’ portraits and my sister loves history so we combined both!
What inspiration keeps you going?
Our inspiration is mainly fun and knowledge. Still, we love the feeling of teaching our readers in an easy going way. Keep on researching about history and keep illustrating cultural artefacts and things we know that are important for our country, culture and for what we are.
all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
Thanx to Miguel Correira for organising and translating this interview a version of this interview in the original Portuguese can be found here
João Oliveira and Guilherme Ferrugento, authors of
Spooky Action At a Distance I
How long have you been publishing it?
The first edition of the zine was published in January 2020. It will be an annual publication with the next one to be published in the end of 2020 beginning of 2021.
What does it include?
Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’ theory referred to ‘quantum entanglement’, which states that the measurement of one particle will instantly influence another particle, regardless of how far apart they are.
The idea of the publication was for each one of the artists to produce an image on alternate days as a way to inspire each other to draw more. Each image could take no more than 20 minutes.
The images would then travel back and forth between Brussels and Coimbra through the magic of instant messaging.
The drawings were then selected amongst nearly a hundred made between November 2018 and June 2019.
What inspiration made you start?
We used to push each other to draw during Uni and when we went our own ways this was how we managed to keep inspiring each other despite the physical distance.
What inspiration keeps you going?
The ability to stay connected through our art and to take a peak at each other’s way of seeing and representing the world.
all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
On our zinelove chat facebook group Miguel Correia has been regularly posting links to his zine UltraViolenta. On the back of what he was doing I tracked down a group for Portuguese zinesters and asked to join. Miguel politely said it was there to help build a scene with Portugal and, being the nosy sod I am, I got to chatting with him about what it was like there at which point he kindly offered to float out a set of questions to his group and see what came back.
I asked a rough set of questions –
Who publishes their work?
How long have they published it for?
What do they include?
What inspiration made them start?
What inspiration keeps them going?
It turned out to be pure gold. We’ve got five great zinester interviews lined up for the week, all of which feature work that I would dearly love to own myself.
Hope you enjoy them all, AND if you are a Portuguese speaker you can visit these interviews over on Miguel’s site in it’s native tongue.
I’d like to give a thank you to everyone that has contributed to this and an even bigger thanx to Miguel for organising and translating these interviews. I hope you enjoy this work as much as I did and that you go an seek these peeps and their work out.
all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dangerous Days – Making Blade Runner
Steve Howe – All My Yesterdays
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.
Devil Dinosaur by Jack Kirby
Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head and tell a little bit about why?
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.
Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?
Mount A Rescue
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
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.
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.
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?
AY – Yeah, 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.
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.
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?
AY – In 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Tezukawas. 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.
ZL – I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the Mike Diana obscenity caseand 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!
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 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.
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?
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.
ZL – So, 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!!
all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.
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.
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.
Harlem Heroes art by Steve Dillon
Canon Fodder written by Mark Millar art by Chris Weston
Tyranny Rex written by John Smith art by Steve Dillon
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.
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.
G is for Deep – Doseone
Exiting Arm – Subtle
On Thin Ice – Gods Wisdom & Lucy
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.
Can you name the first three creative peers that come into your head?
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.
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!
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!”.
Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover
Revolver cover by Shaky Kane
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 SKRAWL. Escape 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.
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.
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.
RAW cover by Art Spiegelman
Rubber Blanket cover by David Mazzucchelli
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?