Full details – exhibition to raise money for Vietnamese charity combating child trafficking

Full details have now been announced on the exhibition I mentioned in a previous post.

Reminder – A friend of mine (livormortiszine) mentioned they were contributing to a charity sale to raise money for Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a charity working in Vietnam to help rescue and care for victims of human trafficking, street children, and other young people.

The event is being organised by Livy Nelson.

The call out is asking for artworks that can be sent digitally and reproduced as A3 prints, although it is possible that they will also accept physical items through the post, but it’s best to talk to the organiser before arranging that.

Here are the details –

if you are on instagram you can follow her account here
facebook – here

all content copy right their respective owners

Planned exhibition to raise money for Vietnamese charity combating child trafficking

A friend of mine (livormortiszine) mentioned they were contributing to a charity sale to raise money for Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a charity working in Vietnam to help rescue and care for victims of human trafficking, street children, and other young people.

The event is still in the planning stages yet, but I thought it would be good to let people know now so that they can express interest or follow organiser, Livy Nelson on social media to be kept up to date with plans.

The call out is asking for artworks that can be sent digitally and reproduced as A3 prints, although it is possible that they will also accept physical items through the post, but it’s best to talk to the organiser before arranging that.

Here are the details so far –

if you are on instagram you can follow her account here
facebook – here

NOTE – amount shown below is a typo – they’ve rescued 1,000

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

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

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

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

Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure Steven Tillotson

ZL – Hi and thanx for agreeing to this interview!

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

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

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

I Love This Part Tillie Walden

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

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

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

A Projection Seekan Hui

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

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

A Quiet Disaster Alex Potts

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

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

Artifical Flowers Rachael Smith

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

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

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

On A Sunbeam Tillie Walden

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

Breakwater Katriona Chapman

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

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

Butter Tubbs Donya Todd

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

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

Days Simon Moreton

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

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

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

Deep Space Canine Comic Book Slumber Party

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

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

Victory Point Owen D. Pomery

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

Desolation Wilderness Claire Scully

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

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

Escape From Bitch Mountain Comic Book Slumber Party

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

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

Follow Me In Katriona Chapman

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

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

Goatherded Charlo Frade

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

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

A City Inside Tillie Walden

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

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

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

Metroland 1, 2, 3 & 4

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

Grey Area Our Town Tim Bird

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

Internet Crusader George Wylesol

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

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

Zebedee and the Valentines Abs Bailey

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

Ismyre B Mure

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

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

It’s Cold in the River at Night Alex Potts

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

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

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

Tower in the Sea B. Mure

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

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

Maleficium Edie OP

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

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

The Rabbit Rachael Smith

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

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

Marble Cake Scott Jason Smith

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

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

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

Mimi and the Wolves Alabaster Pizzo

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

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

Parsley Girl Matthew Swan

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

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

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

Permanent Press Luke Healy

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

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

Seasons Mike Medaglia

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

Walking Distance Lizzy Stewart

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

Retrograde Orbit Kristyna Bacynski

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

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

Something City Ellice Weaver

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

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

Swear Jar Abe Christie

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

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

Terrible Means B. Mure

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

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

The Beginner’s Guide to Being Outside Gill Hatcher

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

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

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

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

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

What We Don’t Talk About Charlot Kristensen

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

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott Zoe Thorogood

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

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

The Flood That Did Come Patrick Wray

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

RM

Casey Nowak 

Patrick Kyle

Sophia Foster-Dimino

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

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

The Great North Wood Tim Bird

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

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

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

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

https://averyhillpublishing.bigcartel.com

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

RockInktober – Day 4 – Glam Rock, lycra and big hair

Here’s some inspiration for you

Listen to Dogs D’Amour ‘A Graveyard Full of Empty Bottles’

I bought this in the cheap bins in the record shop at the back of the Kingsway Cente in Newport. It’s been a part of my life ever since, it is one of my favourite records ever as the emotion in Tyla’s voice is so about me.

Don’t buy the remixed versions, they’re no good.

Rockinktober

Just for fun I usually do a personal version of #inktober that I call #metalinktober – but this year I thought, what the hell, let’s start #rockinktober and set some art challenges for the group (or anyone else for that matter) and also take the chance to put some focus on bands and albums that I like.

Here are the prompts and I’ll be posting up the images at 00:01 UK time each day. Where there’s a band and album, I’ll be posting the album cover for you to be inspired by.

Feel free to email through the contacts page and share far and wide if you’re so inclined!

the short list – João Oliveira and Guilherme Ferrugento – Portuguese zinesters

Find João here

website               instagram

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

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.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

Small (press) oaks – Gareth A Hopkins

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

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

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

 

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

Gareth Hopkins - portrait

Find Gareth Here

He’s @grthink everywhere

website         twitter          instagram

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

 

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

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

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

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

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

Rob Liefeld
Rob Liefeld

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

Sal Buscema

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

Paul Jon Milne

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

 

Tom Ward

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

Lucy Sullivan

H-8-9

Everything else

Concrete/Field

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

The Leaf Library

The Leaf Library
The Leaf Library

Walter Gross

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Blood Initiative - Wake Up And Smell The Tear Gas

Young Blood Initiative – Wake Up And Smell The Tear Gas

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

 

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6473IMG_6475IMG_6476

Small (press) oaks – Ken Meyer Jr

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

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

 

Ken Meyer - Head shot

website         store envy        fine art america        pixels

facebook         instagram       twitter 

 

Over to Ken

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

 

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

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

A recent piece commenting on the murder of George Floyd

 

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

empress_orig
Private commision – Empress

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

the long list interview – Sarah Harris

Marvel corner box trading cards

**this is another very late post up of an interview – i think this has sat around for nigh on 8 months – so, please do bear that in mind when reading?**

When we talk about scenes we often talk about those creators working within a group, style or friendship circle. Rarely are activists who buoy up those scenes referred to or approached. Yet, as often as not, it is these individuals who make a scene vital. Not just because of their financial or social support, but because they organise and raise awareness, sometimes even being the creators of the support network that bring the scene together. Sometimes, arriving on their radar is something of a badge of approval.

Some of these people are purely activists, some are also creators themselves, and that’s what we have here with Sarah Harris. A creator who is also one the heroes of a scene, in this case UK small press comics and sometimes zines. This interview was done long while ago and I’ve been very slow in organising myself to get it live – so in the meantime, Sarah has since contributed to the comics anthology The Whore Chronicles, as organised by Anthony Esmond.

In this, I was particularly interested in how a fan moves into the role of a scene activist and sometime organiser. I think this is a fascinating interview, not just because of the insight into small, fan led occasions, but because Sarah is such an engaging person to talk to.

You can find her on     twitter     facebook     instagram

handmade flip-book

ZL – Hi Sarah, let’s start with the obvious question, can you tell us a bit about yourself please?

SH – I’m Sarah Harris, and in the grand scheme of comicky things I’m nobody remotely important. I’m just someone who has loved comic books for a number of decades, buys thousands of the little buggers (for other women it’s shoes and handbags, for me it’s paper pamphlets), and even reads about half of them…

 

ZL – What’s your history with comics?

SH – Like a lot of people of my age, it’s hard to remember a time before comics were a part of my life, as, in the *ahem* 70s when I was a nipper, ALL kids read comics. We literally had no other entertainment 😊 There were like 2 TV channels or something, not that my parents let me watch either of them, or there was tree climbing – and that’s no fun on a rainy day. So, I read real books when I wanted to feel intellectual, and comics when I wanted to be entertained – they were my equivalent of cartoons or computer games for young ‘uns nowadays, I guess.

Generally, though, I wasn’t following any specific comic from week to week until 2000AD which was the first one I had a proper newsagent subscription for. Before that I’d just spend my pocket money on spec on whatever looked good that week. I was lucky enough to get 2000AD from the very first issue at the age of 9 due to 1) a cool TV advert that said that the launch issue came with a free frisbee! (comics didn’t generally have free gifts back then and dear god I wanted that piece of round throwable plastic!) and 2) my dad being a huuuuuge science fiction fan who had given up on having a son to pass his passion down to – he saw an opportunity here to get me hooked on Heinlein and Wyndham and Van Vogt and Phil K Dick and Asimov and Aldiss and Bradbury and Arthur C Clarke, and it totally worked.

2000ad issue 1 cover

2000AD and, while it lasted, the wonderful British girls’ horror comic Misty, were my weekly obsession until the mid-80’s, when I moved away from home to work my gap year before university, and for the first time discovered that there were actual comic shops! Until then I thought they only came from newsagents, because I’m a twit.

Those shops were the original Denmark Street Forbidden Planet and a shop in Nottingham that might have been called Strange Tales (my gap year job was with IBM and I moved around between their London, Warwick and Nottingham offices) – and they blew my tiny miiiiiind. I was aware of American comics before this point, obviously, but I thought they were just all superheroes, which I had absolutely zero interest in (I blame Pat Mills for that 😊 2000AD was very snooty towards capes and spandex). But at Forbidden Planet and that Nottingham shop I discovered Swamp Thing! and Elektra Assassin! And Watchmen! I mean yes, they are all kind of still superheroes 😊 But they were more, I dunno, “edgy” 😊 and the art was amazing (and in some cases painted, which really sung to me). I was hooked…

I never looked back from that point, soon after came the time of Sandman and Vertigo, spooky narratives and lots of gorgeous painted and collaged artwork, and I was totally in my element. Horror, supernatural and sci-fi stories have been my lifelong sweet spot ever since.

 

ZL – What was it that made you start COLLECTING comics rather than just reading them

SH – Hmmmm… good question. I don’t think that I realised I was collecting at first. In the 90’s we had the big speculation boom with all the foil covers and variants and craziness – but that was mainly happening at the more testosterone-fuelled end of the superhero market, especially with the launch of Image – and that wasn’t ever my thing. All a bit too macho for me, all those muscles and pouches 😀

So, I figured that I was a reader but those “other people” were collectors.

Of course, by the time we got to the new millennium I had a converted garage full floor to ceiling with long boxes, containing many thousands of comics I’d not even got around to reading yet, and I couldn’t really deny any more that I was a collector (today I’d say hoarder 😊 ) – but it definitely crept up on me…

I carelessly lost all of that original collection (long sad story, sob! I could have retired on it!!) in the early 2000’s and for years I resisted getting back into comic collecting as it had hurt too much to say goodbye to them. I didn’t set foot in a comic shop again until around 2012, but from then it was a very slippery slope, and here I am again with a room full of boxes. This time around I’ve even started going back to the silver and bronze age and buying back issues of all those classic superhero comics I turned my nose up at for so many years. Turns out they are pretty good! Who knew???!!

 

ZL – When and why did you moved from collecting into FANDOM?

SH – To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know what “fandom” means. It’s a relatively recent term, I think, I can’t remember hearing it before a few years back, and I tend to associate it with big groups of people who rabidly support a TV show and get all arsey and defensive about it on twitter.

I don’t think I’m like that. Except maybe a bit with the Battlestar Galactica reboot (best show ever!!!!! If you don’t agree, fight me!!!)

I came late to conventions. I did go to lots of signings in the 80’s/90’s (mainly at Forbidden Planet in London and Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham) – but I never went to a UKCAC or anything like that. A lot of the guests were from the “superhero” side of things that, as we’ve already established, I stupidly thought I was too good for 😊 and I didn’t have any comic book reading pals to go with – everyone else I knew had grown out of them like you were supposed to and got into alcohol or drugs instead.

home made cosplay suit of full fantasy battle armour and sword

My first proper convention was LSCC (London Super Comic Convention) 2013, I think. I wasn’t really overly fussed about it in advance, I went as company for a non-comic-reading illustrator pal who wanted to see Artists Alley, not really knowing what to expect, and I had a blast! After that I went to quite a few, especially enjoying the more grass roots comic shows like True Believers (which is local to me and I haven’t missed one since they started).

My kids were young at that point and I had nobody to look after them while I went gallivanting, and they had no interest in comics (heathens), so if I wanted to go to a con for the day, I had to somehow get them interested enough to want to come with me. The route to that was cosplay – they really enjoyed the dressing up, and I got to buy comics while they did so. As a bonus, I discovered I was quite good at making their costumes and it was a fun hobby for a while (they have since outgrown it and I now just go to cons on my own, and no longer have to build armour for the privilege :D)

 

ZL – What differences do you see in the comic world since you first got involved, for example, how do you feel about getting closer access to creators through social media?

SH – I don’t know that I’m best placed to answer this one – as I don’t think I am really that closely involved in the “comic world” now, and I certainly wasn’t back in the day. I just read ‘em 😊

The question about how much I’m influenced by creators’ views and opinions and actions now is an interesting one though – the whole “can you separate the creator from the art”. I think I am pretty good at that. I don’t think that someone needs to be a wonderful person for me to enjoy their art or their writing. If you start going down that road, there are very few great pieces of music or classic works of literature that you couldn’t pick holes in. I think that’s a generational thing, more than anything. I think we old gits just got used to the fact that the people who created the art we liked weren’t always nice people! There are limits, obviously, but if it is just a case of someone being a bit of an arse on twitter, or not lining neatly up with my own politics, then I don’t care. If they make good comics, I’ll still read them.

 

ZL – What got you involved with the small press?

SH – All credit/blame here goes to the Awesome Comics Podcastepisode #8 (I think), 3 years or so ago. I had seen small press creators at their tables at various cons, but I had never had the courage to actually stop and look at any of the comics, figuring that I would be given the hard sell and end up buying a load of naff homemade comics that I didn’t want (sorry guys!!).

It was the week before Melksham comic con and the organisers had put a link to the podcast on their facebook page, as the ACP guys had done a kind of preview rundown of what was going to be at the con. I downloaded it for a listen in the car – mainly to see if they mentioned anything I could use to get the kids enthused – and they had Shaun Dobie on as a guest talking about his comic Descending Outlands. It was due to have a new issue launched at the con, and it sounded right up my street (I’m a sci fi girl, as previously discussed), and I decided to pick up a copy. Already knowing that the comic sounded good removed my fear of being hard sold something I didn’t want and gave me the guts to approach the table…. dressed as Rocket Raccoon 😊

From then on – having discovered that some small press comics are actually very good!! – I sought out reviews and recommendations from the Awesome chaps and other sources and have bought a TON of small press comics since. I still mainly buy mainstream comics, but small press is definitely a big part of my reading repertoire now.

Also, everyone is so damn friendly! I’ve made a load of new friends in the small press crowd, which was a real unexpected bonus side effect, after being a total loner in my comic reading hobby for the vast majority of my life.

 

ZL – What was the tipping point into organising a small press day at your local comic shop?

SH – I think I just wanted to contribute in some way. Suddenly I had this great new circle of friends who all make comics. I didn’t have any urge to make my own (which they all thought was weird 😊 ), but I wanted to join in or help somehow…

At the same time, my LCS (Incredible Comic Shop in Swindon, Wiltshire) moved to a much larger premises, and didn’t really have enough stock to fill it all. I asked if they would consider stocking some small press and they said yes, as long as I did all the work and they didn’t have to pay for anything 😊 So they gave me a couple of shelves, and I asked a few creators I knew to come along for a signing event to launch the new “department”. We had 5 tables, so it was like the world’s smallest convention, but it went down really well with the shop customers, and everyone had good sales – both the creators who were there – and those I had stocked on my small press shelves.

4 - shop event image 23 - shop event

ZL – What made you think it was worth doing a second time?

SH – The fact it went down so well the first time, I guess.

To date I’ve organised two small press signings at the shop with multiple creators (5 or 6 tables), and a couple of individual events for more mainstream artists. The first small press event was the best attended of the four. Unfortunately, as time went on, I think that the novelty of small press product and signings wore off for the shop and its customer base, and it is now very difficult to shift independent product there.

 

ZL – What support did you get when setting up the initial event and how did that change over time?

SH – There was definitely more enthusiasm at the start from the shop themselves – for the first event they printed leaflets and posters, and paid for online advertising, and most importantly, when customers came in store in the weeks before the event they were keen to tell everyone about it.

It made a difference when the shop was pushing hard on local promotion. Mainly they used flyers, (in store, but I also put them in the local library, on noticeboards etc), posters and locally targeted paid facebook ads. I also put links to the events on local community facebook groups, although I’m not sure how much good they did.

I did try to get the local newspaper to show an interest too, but they were spectacularly disinterested.😊

By the second/third event that support had all but gone, sadly, but perhaps that was down to me not cheerleading strongly enough. Also – at first, probably due to the novelty of it, the actual small press product was really moving off the shelves, so that was clearly a plus point for the shop, cash going through the tills… but the shop’s customers very quickly moved back to their Marvel/DC heartland and sadly it was difficult to keep their interest up in the indie stuff. To the extent that the last couple of events were so poorly attended that I was genuinely embarrassed. I felt so bad for the creators turning up to a field of tumbleweed, and that (combined with some health issues) has put me off doing any events this year. I am not writing them off completely forever, though.

It is even hard to sell Image / IDW / Dark Horse etc books to that crowd! These aren’t generally people who go to comic cons at all, so there was no “brand recognition” for any of the small press stuff. If it isn’t Marvel/DC IP it is a very hard sell. Therefore I can’t really blame the shop for moving their promotional muscle back behind things that are more likely to generate them actual funds.

Other people – such as the Awesome Comics Podcast, and Stuart over at True Believers – were great at both publicising and attending my little events, because they are heroes – but the podcast in particular covers the whole country, and it’s not easy persuading people to come to Swindon for the day! 😀

a comic if i ever saw oneIMG_8430

ZL – You mention the idea of ‘brand recognition’ and the difficulty in maintaining an interest from customers in small press creations. I’m wondering how much, you think, considering the fact that these comics can be 24 pages in length and take sometimes a year between issues and are often created in thanx to Kickstarter backers, how much do you think that robs them of a chance to sell well?

SH – It is difficult to maintain interest yes, I found it easier to sell one off comics or ones where there were already a few issues out, so they could buy up a set at once.

A few customers at the Swindon shop tried to put some of the small press stuff on their pull lists and were told that they didn’t really work that way as not diamond distributed plus it could be a long wait. They weren’t too impressed! They are used to monthly or fortnightly titles.

 

ZL – That’s an interesting consideration, with the environment you’re trying to sell in – these are comic shop buyers so they’re likely to be people who want regular publications to deliver regular updates and that’s likely to be an important sales point. Do you think that comic shops are a good place to sell these sorts of semi-annual comics creations?

SH – It’s definitely a different world for those used to having a pull list of regular ongoing comics. They like one offs or already complete collections best…

But in general, at least in a comic shop, you have a captive audience of people who actually already love and read comics… but who very rarely go to comic cons or have any other exposure to small press stuff. Most in our shop didn’t know the small press existed until we introduced them to it!  So, yes, I think it is a good place to sell small press IF you can keep the momentum and interest up.

Some customers weren’t interested and considered the small press stuff to be inferior in some way to their big 2 faves, but most were enthusiastic, at least at the start.

 

ZL – Just to loop back on something you said, there’s a point I want to pick apart a little more about advertising and expanding the audience for buying comics and particularly the issue of expanding that reach beyond the normal ‘monthlies’ crowd. It seems to me that, in general, comics is very much concerned with talking to comics people and we’re very locked into that closed circle of ‘collecting’. I think local advertising of an event can be an opportunity to open things up and I wondered if you felt the same, because there’s a dynamic here that I’m seeing, in terms of, with the flyers in store and with the facebook advertising, it’s still talking to the converted. Whereas, I’d say, you attempted to get the information out to a wider public. Had you considered that dichotomy before, was that why you were trying new places to drum up interest?

SH – Hmmm. Tricky question, and I don’t know all the answers. The best results we got for attendance at events were when the shop did targeted facebook advertising in the local area (so not just to the people who follow their page, they targeted anyone interested in comics within a 30-mile radius) and also when they printed flyers (which I distributed all over!) and posters. When they stopped doing this the attendance fell off significantly, but that was probably also down to natural attrition.

The creators themselves pushing the events and the fact that the shop carries their books, also helps a lot. Some are a lot better at that than others.

collage art and drawing from one of Sarah's hand made books

Whether we can get people into the shop who aren’t already interested in comics at all is the big question. It is possible that some of the small press titles might appeal to them more than the pro comics especially if superheroes aren’t their thing. The shop is very Marvel/DC heavy though, so that might put them off.

I actually found that the small press comics that were a little more arty or different sold a lot better at the shop than more trad superhero style stories. I think for the fans of more traditional types of comic stories, they would rather buy their usual pro titles and didn’t think the small press alternatives looked up to their standards. Whereas for an artsy autobiography comic, for example, Marvel and DC don’t really have an alternative offering for that.

With hindsight, I should have bought more of that alternative kind of stuff in and less of the traditional stuff. But I thought I would need lots of “normal” comics to transition my “normal” customers!

You live and learn…

 

ZL – OK, but I’d still say that most of that advertising was going to the ‘converted’ though.

SH – Ah. I didn’t explain myself properly. By facebook advertising I meant the shop originally paid extra to promote to local people but outside of their own page followers.  You can serve an advert to everyone within 30 miles of Swindon who likes comics, conventions, etc. That was what worked really well.

For the later events they stopped doing that and only posted on their own page (the captive audience, as you say).

Ditto with the flyers, I took those all over the place, local conventions, other shops, the library, the local market etc. Anywhere I could get the word out. But then for subsequent events they didn’t print any flyers.

So yeah basically, when they advertised beyond the existing shop base, it worked. But that costs money and they clearly didn’t think they saw enough return from the first one to justify that expense again. (I think they are wrong about that, they made plenty on their margin on the small press stuff alone, and I know that some of our event visitors bought standard shop stock while they were there too…)

a page reflecting Sarah's interest in street art

 

ZL – Ah – you did answer clearly, I think I was not clear enough!

I was thinking that the advertising, the flyers in the shop and even the facebook ad, they would be to people ALREADY interested in COMICS, rather than just general PEOPLE, the expanded audience I was thinking of. That’s what was interesting – only you tried something that took it to PEOPLE and not COMICS interested. You put it out on community message boards, went to the library, stretched to reach a different audience. I just wonder if that had continued where it would have gone. Maybe I’m deluding myself, I’m good at that! I seem to think that there must be better ways to get comics in front of people than we currently have.

Here I’m thinking about a little rant I had on twitter a while back, where I questioned whether graphic novels or comic magazines are actually likely to expand comics readership. I also question whether these individual, slow running comics are best served by being published individually on a slow timescale and whether something more on the model of 2000AD might not serve them better? Maybe even a group website along the lines of something like Aces Weekly or Study Group where brand and content can be regularly pushed, a wider base can build momentum? Maybe even advertising used to monetise the work?

I guess that’s a lot to ask you, so maybe a fairer question would be, how likely would you be to sign up to something like that – an anthology with regularly changing strips, either online or physical, or a combination, where the content gets packaged up at the end of a storyline, much like 2000AD monthly?

SH – I guess the Comichaus anthology is along those lines. That came out regularly every month and was pretty good. And, also the Dirty Rotten Comics anthology was similar in format. Not sure if either are still going though.  Anthologies are often a tough-ish sell in my experience as people flick through and judge it by the weakest looking story in the book. Trick is not to have any weak stories!

 

ZL – How does it feel to have stopped?

SH – Let’s say “paused” not stopped – never say never 😊 Another interesting question. To be honest, I totally feel like I failed. I should have worked harder at keeping the customer base interested in small press, written weekly reviews for the shop website, rotated the stock more often, been in store more often to hands-on sell stuff… But there was a limit to how much time I could devote to what felt like a losing battle, week in week out. And stock wise – I had already spent a hell of a lot of my own money buying comics upfront that are still sat there a couple of years down the line, stubbornly refusing to sell – and it gets to the point where you have to draw a line…

It was an experiment, to see if I could get the locals excited about small press enough to sustain a section of the shop, without it being any work or expense for the store owners – and it looked for a minute like it might work… but in the end, I failed.

That doesn’t take away from the success of the first two events though – they were a lot of fun, and lucrative for the attending creators, and I’m proud to have – at least temporarily – expanded a few Wiltshire comic readers’ horizons.

cover for Sliced Quarterly

ZL – On a final note, you mentioned earlier that your comic friends think you mad because you’re not trying to make your own comics. I find that interesting, because I know you’ve made your own books before (I’ve added images throughout the interview), and some of those are pretty comic like to me. Also, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that you’re working on a short comic story, but I can’t find where I saw that, so maybe I’m just back to deluding myself again?

SH – Yeah. I’m slowly dipping my toes in with a short 5 pager I’m doing for an upcoming anthology that I can’t talk about yet and before that I did a cover for Sliced Quarterly, so I seem to be getting involved!

(EDIT – This was a strip that appeared in The Whore Chronicles co-ordinated by Anthony Esmond)

 

 

go look – Amelia White

I came across Amelia White’s art by complete accident – she has a name similar to another account I follow, but a style very different to that one. I liked her approach to texture in her paintings and her silly come absurdist sense of humour.

Fun things are good in hard times!

(click on images to follow links)

Meelz Art - website
website

 

Meelz Art - etsy
etsy

Meelz Art - red bubble
red bubble

 

Meelz Art - twitter
twitter

 

Meelz Art - instagram
instagram

 

Meelz Art - facebook
facebook

 

 

go look – Fanzine Ynfytyn

fanzine ynfyntyn - insert
issue 10 – out of print

I’m not really sure how I stumbled across Fanzine Ynfytyn (from Emma Falconer), but I’ve looked over Emma’s site and picked through the previews of her zines and enjoyed her perzine work a lot.

She seems tohave lived a fun and interesting life and she tells her stories in a friendly , engaging voice.

(click on images to follow links)

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - shop
shop

 

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - website
website – a note on a rainy night

 

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - other website website
website – emma falconer

 

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - instagram
instagram

 

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - facebook
facebook

 

 

fanzine ynfyntyn - flickr
flikr

 

 

go look – Sajan Rai

Sajan Rai’s approach to colour and character design is very modern and exiting as it, but the subject matter is very different to anything I’m seeing elsewhere, drawing on worn and damaged images and a distinctly Asian idiom.

To me it’s all very fresh and intriguingly different.

(click on images to follow links)

Sajan Rai - website
website

 

Sajan Rai - Patreon
patreon

 

Sajan Rai - shop
web shop

 

Sajan Rai - twitter
twitter

 

Sajan Rai - instagram
instagram

 

Sajan Rai - facebook
facebook

 

 

go look – Anne Mette My Paaske

Anne Mette My Paaske is an illustrator and artist. Her work uses all king of media, including stitching and smudging!

I love what she achieves with her mark making, everything looks organic and alive. It often reminds me of pressed flowers.

(click on images to follow links)

 

Anne Mette My Paaske instagram
instagram

 

Anne Mette My Paaske The Tennis Manifesto 2

 

 

 

Go look – Christian Inkpen

Christian Inkpen in progress comic page featuring coastal imagery of sea plants, a harbour wall and boats in dry dock

It’s a very relaxed and loose style, feeling captured and observed, but also instant and unplanned

It’s a calming world to visit

(click on images to follow links)

 

christian inkpen's websitewith works in progress and recent commisions
website

 

https://www.instagram.com/christianinkpen/
instagram

 

 

Go Look – Sleepsutra

I saw a write up for Sleepsutra that sounded interesting so I went and looked up Won-Tolla

Sleepsutra

I enjoyed the artwork I saw and the ideas it raises, it looks like an interesting little project

facebook shop

It deals with sleeplessness and the experience of insomnia, drawing upon the creators own life

instagram

Looking for inspiration

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


cropped-19-9.png

Question for the morning!


What one work of visual publishing would you like to own the original art from?

Post pictures if you can, please – links even better

I’d love one of the silent pages from Reverbstorm by John Coulthart – this page or the one with the trolleys filled with the dead.

Horrific and disturbing but moving and emotional.

John Coultard – Lord Horror – Reverbstorm