Long list interview – Adam Yeater

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

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

WARNING – GORE and some SEX

Adam Yeater being David Cameron

You can find Adam here

webstore                youtube                facebook

 

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

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

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

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

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

Spewing Insects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zines and mini-comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Yeater at a con

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

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

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

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

Shrooms

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

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

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

World of Knonx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rumpelstiltskin

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

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

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

AY – What community. The comics community? 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Blood Desert 2

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

Lake of Korz

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

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

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

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

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

The Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smashing robots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watercolour art - included with orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pig Monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boiled Angel - Mike Diana
Boiled Angel – Mike Diana

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

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

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

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

2100ad

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

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

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

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

The Fatties - Judge Dredd
The Fatties – Judge Dredd

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

Shrooms watercolour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

World of Knonx 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

workstation

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

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

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

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

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

So Many Comics

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

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

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

Drawing

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

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

The Lottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Desert 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World of Knonx

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

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

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

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

ZL – Thanx for your time Adam!

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

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

Lopping off head

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

Small (press) oaks – Morgan Gleave

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

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

Morgan Gleave photo

You can find Morgan here

website          ko-fi          twitter          facebook

 

Here’s Morgan

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

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

 

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

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

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

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

The Prodigal - Mal Earl
The Prodigal – Mal Earl

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

Hellboy - Mike Mignola

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

Pete Fowler

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

Kazana art by Ed Doyle
Kazana art by Ed Doyle

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

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

portrait
portrait

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

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

Cat
Happy Cat – work in progress

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

Thank you!

Morgan Gleave image 3
Morgan Gleave

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Adam Yeater

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

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

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

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

 

You can find Adam here

webstore                youtube                facebook

 

Over to Adam

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

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

Which creators do you remember first copying? 

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

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

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

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

The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta
The Barbarian by Frank Frazetta

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

Small (press) oaks – Daniel Bristow-Bailey

AC3_p04
Anxious Comics – issue 3 page 4

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

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

 

You can find him here

shop

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

instagram                      twitter                      facebook

 

Screaming_p02
Screaming page 2

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

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

 

Which creators do you remember first copying?

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

moebius_edena
Moebius – Edena

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

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

Shelton_freakbros
Gilbert Shelton – Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

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

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

 

Which creators do you most often think about?

Lynch_TwinPeaks
David Lynch – Twin Peaks

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

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

Gareth Hopkins - NO NEW IDEAS

 

 

 

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

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

 

Hannah Lee Miller
Hannah Lee Miller

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

 

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

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

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

Screaming_p08
Screaming page 8

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

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

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

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

Gareth Huntbegins
Gareth – Hunt Begins – work in progess

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

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

Gerald
Gerald – work in progress

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

 

 

BARKING review – The River Runs Through

Lucy and BARKING can be found here:

twitter           facebook           website           BARKING at Unbound

 

BARKING is the story of a woman whose breaking heart also breaks her mind. Death cracked her reality, making the black dog her new shadow in life.

This is a harrowing book. Bleak and painful with no easy solutions and little in the way of kindness shown throughout. At this time of lockdown, it was affecting in odd ways. The most emotionally charged scene for me was when the main character walked through an underpass, it captured the scene so perfectly I was suddenly struck by the reality of being locked in for months now. Similarly, that sense of an altered reality felt uncomfortably close, like a shadow casting over me, like an itch scratching at the back of my head throughout.

1.Hounded Pg2-3

I mean to say, you’re not going to walk away from a reading with the sense that all’s well and good with the world. You are going to walk in someone else’s footstep for a time though. For me, there are times that it’s a walk uncomfortably close to my own path. I can tell you that there are moments where it feels very much like reality is on the page, even when that reality is genuinely all in the mind.

BARKING is a bravura work. A work centred wholly on emotion and the depiction of personal experience.

BARKING swims in black, mental and physical. Scratched onto paper; sometimes kinetic and neurotic, sometimes fluid and loose and occasionally still and filled with captured life and place. It’s hard reading, mentally but easy to follow. It’s no simple drama, it is a gothic horror drenched in sturm und drang, the melodrama turned up loud.

In terms of story, it starts with Alix fully immersed in a psychotic episode, being chased by the police. She is sectioned and admitted to a hospital for treatment where details of what led to her breakdown come out as Alix slowly walks back to reality. It’s a simple story of breaking and climbing from the wreckage. As well, though, it is a highly structured and carefully put forward work of literature that is neither linear nor straightforward. It drops you in the reality of Alix straight away and plays one little game with plot. The real heart is not the plot, nor the skills, it’s the story as experienced, the altered reality that you’re dropped into. A first-person narrative constructed as a first-person reality. Visually building delirium in a way that first-person prose never could.

2.Commit-Final Spread

To slip back to prosaic for a second – this is a work where it’s got so much going on you can almost never know what to talk about. I could just list the amount of moments where the drawings are beautiful, the images reflect each other structurally or the textures just look totally incredible. I could detail story moments that pulled me up and hit close to home, but that would never give a flavour of the whole experience.

So, I’m going to do something a bit looser here – different ways to think around this book.

 

The river runs through as an itchy line of darkness

In literary studies the use of themes, similes and metaphor are very important. Often what marks the literary worth is the quality of language, the intelligent use of simile, and how it helps highlight themes and character traits. Maintaining consistency of subject can reinforce your major and minor themes. It is similar in music as well as film. Characters will have the same tune or the same framing to create a consistency that allows the creator to trigger reactions and connections that build subconsciously within a work. Leitmotif, in other words.

Lucy runs the River Thames through the work constantly, the lines of the drawings hark back to the lines of the dark waters. The river is both the site where reality fractured and the altered reality that Alix treads through every day. She can’t help walking through it, dripping and at points almost drowning in it.  Whether it’s hanging over her head or rushing round her ankles, the tow of the dark tides is as constant a companion as the black dog belittling her.

Scratched onto the page

And really that scratching active line is the major leitmotif at work, it holds up players as puppets, it drags bodies around and down and curls them into balls. The free, loose movements and their frantic pace fluid along the width of the page are suddenly dragged upward and tied together in the cramped environs of the hospital.

The lines scratch in and out of the narrative darkening and lifting with Alix’s own distance from reality.

 

Staring reality in the face

Lucy communicates a lot of what happens through her art, whether that’s the chaos in the mind or the emotional state of her characters. The way Alix holds her hands to her chest and peeks round corners that aren’t there tells you all you need to know about her mental state and how fragile she feels at that time.

Her environs blur off into lines of black so that you know they just aren’t reaching her, reality is just floating out of reach. What strikes hardest though, for me at least, are those moment where detailed sketches of real places are included. There’s something about the nature and approach of those drawings that’s so rich that it interrupts the darkness and identifies itself as REAL reality, the world truly impinging on Alix’s mind. It’s a strong metaphor and a simple method of communicating an incredibly complex concept. They are also very beautiful images that you could happily look at for a long time, so they also provide much needed breathing space in a difficult read.

Location-Print

Leaning on genre to create form

Whilst reading and re-reading BARKING for this review a couple of things popped up that struck me as very relevant to BARKING and how Lucy handles the story.

H-8-9

The latter was a blog post by M John Harrison that I’ll quote in full.

‘For maybe five decades, maybe more, I didn’t want my life to be what it was. It was perfectly ordinary, but I didn’t want to be in it. Writing and climbing were escape routes; I developed a bad memory to deal with the rest. Only now, after I’ve spent a few years in a life I want, do I see what an odd admission that is to make. People seem quite horrified by it; I don’t want to live among people who aren’t. How do you write about a life like that, legacy of your own poor management of childhood & adolescence, except veiled in concepts such as “haunting”, “navigation failure” or,” behaviour after a disaster”? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Living is the endless discovery that you’re weirder than you thought, & you’ll never retrieve any of it except via the metaphors you’ve had all along. That seems to have been one of the advantages of genre fiction for me’

A great way of talking about where genre transcends its own limits and becomes literature where tropes and ideas become a way of making the normal seem strange so we can more easily examine it.

Before that, on international women’s day, there was a thread on Frankenstein and Mary Shelley that discussed the backstory of its creation with many comments chimed in that she had created a whole new genre of fiction from that one novel. Now you can argue the case for or against that, and I would say what she did was build upon the existing structure of gothic novels and make that her own. What made it her own was that she had something to say and took a form and structure that helped get her point across whilst adding what she needed, where she needed it to keep to the path of personal truth. You could also argue for it being proto surrealism convincingly and likewise you could say it leans heavily into symbolism or romantic poetry. Whatever you want to take from a discussion of the structure of that story, the reality is, what drives it is not clever genre tropes, no inversion of expectation, what drives it is the very human drama it describes and plays out. However much lightning and drama it blows at you, at the heart you care because those characters exist as real emotional beings that speak truthfully about someone’s feelings or experience and you engage with those and that drives your interest.

1.Hounded Pg4-5

BARKING certainly shares themes with Frankenstein, with its questioning of who or what is a monster and the worth of science.  But more importantly, it deals with the humanising of the monster, of building a portrait of the world experienced by that monster to drive an axe through accepted norms with the sharp blade of humanism.

 

BARKING is not setting fire to genre and making something new. What it’s doing is building a work with a frame of genre and in reality, it doesn’t lean into those tropes in any meaningful sense. What I mean by this is that some may see the haunting in this novel as a ghostly experience, the tarot reading as a supernatural signifier. What I experienced when I read it felt utterly divorced from trope and genre style. You’re not seeing someone writing a spooky or scary story for the sake of shocks, it’s an affecting method of portraying the experience of Alix, a way of putting that experience out there for you to go through and experience yourself. The genre elements are almost like a sugar coating for those who don’t want to deal with the idea that this experience is a reality, the reality of Alix. It cushions the blow for those unable to accept altered reality is still reality for those in it.

By which I mean, it seems a genre story but it’s not using supernatural elements for terror, but to make explicit the hidden experiences of the mind. It is a work of surrealism in the true sense. Surrealisms aim was, according to leader André Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality“, or surreality. That, for me, is clearly what BARKING both aims to do and delivers with great élan.

 

You’re always talking nonsense

Oddly, in comics, particularly literary comics, the use of lettering and ‘sound effects’ is rarely used to convey much either psychological or audible experience. There are few works that aim to make use of integrating words in design and layout, at least with western traditions. The two series that took these techniques and ran with them to astounding effect both appeared in the 1980’s and we’ve rarely seen any experiments drawing upon either Cerebus or American Flagg. In fact, with the consigning of thought balloons to the ‘childish’ era of comics, psychological insight has come to be delivered through literary dialogues that read more like journal entries than experienced existence. Distinctly purple prose revealing no personality or emotion.

Word screeds

Lucy digs heavily into the opportunity that words in comics can deliver, sometimes drowning the scene in the negative aggressive self-hating screed constantly playing in Alix’s head. A screed at point almost completely unintelligible, sometimes rolling along in the background and sometime on point, ripping into her in the moment.

It’s an odd thing to call a comic creator brave for using one of the basic tools within their arsenal, but equally, considering how frowned upon the technique has become, it shows a commitment to delivering her message with all of the powers available to her to make it work.

 

BARKING is a big work. A work that roars with power and rage in the hope of making people feel the terror experienced by many encountering the mental health system and societies reactions to those in the grip of mental health issues.

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

 

This is the end

 

 

Phil Elliott – other things I found along the way

Michel Fiffe

appreciation – http://michelfiffe.com/?p=1851

Interview – https://www.factualopinion.com/the_factual_opinion/2011/10/second-city-the-paul-duncan-phil-elliot-interview.html

First Comic Newshttps://www.firstcomicsnews.com/phil-elliot-interviewed/

Tom Murphy at Broken Frontier reviews In His Cups –http://www.brokenfrontier.com/in-his-cups-collected-tales-from-gimbley-review-phil-elliott-fast-fiction-comics/

Eddie Campbell

http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2008/10/fter-writing-about-british-small-press.html

Eddie Campbell writes about the 80s small press (of which Phil was such an influential part) available on SEQUENTIAL and Kindle:

Dapper John: In the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club

Kindle (all devices)
SEQUENTIAL (iPad only)
Ed Pinsent
Lambiek.net
Paul Gravett

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributors – art page

Below are some interpretations of Phil’s style or characters, just for fun

Gimbley image is by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Gimbley image by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Deadface - Ilya - with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Deadface – Ilya – with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Gimbley - Robert Wells fan art
Gimbley – Robert Wells fan art
Gimbley - Mark Russell Olson fanart
Gimbley – Mark Russell Olson fanart

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – A gallery

Part of the reason this has taken so long is the search for images or, more fairly, my reaction to looking at Phil’s work curated on the internet. Not only is there a lot, but it’s all damn good and i could lose myself in it completely.

Below is a gallery of every image I sourced for these articles, just so you can see them all in one place and realise the breadth of ability at work.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – round-up

Martin Hand
Martin Hand

Martin Hand – comic writer and artist

The Suttons
The Suttons

Phil’s sheer craft and drawing ability – his ability to keep going is to be admired. The Suttons is my favourite work by him and I hope he’ll do a complete collection one day soon.

He’s like the British Herge – he’s got a very distinctive style – which will fondly remembered – unlike many of his 80s small press peers he’s still doing new material with new people and still evolving.

I don’t know Phil in real life beyond Facebook but I was very pleased to buy some Suttons pages off him – and I’m always pleased when he likes my work on f/b… 🙂

 

 

Ed ‘Ilya’ Hillyer – comic writer and artist

I was pondering repro of a panel from Deadface (with Eddie Campbell) where I pastiched his style for a flashback sequence of a panel or two… filling the bosses’ quiver!

Deadface - Ilya - with added Phil Elliott pastiche
Deadface – Ilya – with added Phil Elliott pastiche

 

Simon Russell
Simon Russell

Simon Russell – comic writer, artist and editor

The tone of Phil’s writing, both visual and textual, is entirely unique to him. No matter what style he adopts, it’s this that makes it stand out immediately as a Phil Elliott comic.

 

John Freeman
John Freeman

John Freeman – comic writer and editor

I feel like I’ve read Phil’s work my entire adult life, since the first time I discovered it on the Fast Fiction stand at the Westminster Comic Marts. An extraordinary and I would say influential talent on the UK independent scene, constantly surprising and innovative, the quintessential “tryer” who deservedly made it to the mainstream and whose work continues to delight. Yet, despite knowing Phil’s work, he isn’t a creator I know socially, so I have no scandal to relate!

I’m just hoping for more of his work and that more people support it.

Gimbley
Gimbley

 

Morgan Gleave

Morgan Gleave

I feel like I’ve been aware of Phil’s work for as long as I’ve been reading comics… certainly since I started collecting seriously in the 80s. Phil is a legendary creator who deserves serious recognition for his place in comics history, in the U.K. if nowhere else!

I love the inherent simplicity of Phil’s work… it’s a beautiful style, that has remained consistent for a long time. I imagine Phil goes through a lot of plotting and planning to get this timeless feel.I was very honoured to have one of my drawings reinterpreted recently by Phil for issue 1 of The 77.

I feel like I’m just getting to know Phil personally, having connected over our work on The 77. He’s been lovely about my work and very supportive. 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Laurence Campbell

Laurence Campbell
Laurence Campbell

Laurence Campbell – comic artist

Hello Phil, you won’t have a clue who I am but I just wanted to say I have fond memories of your work.

The cover to Escape magazine #3. Art by Chris Long
The cover to Escape magazine #3. Art by Chris Long

There was a time I had felt I had grown out out comics like X-Men and was looking for something more, something with a bit more depth and something I could relate to. At the time comics were changing, there was a buzz in the air. I was still far away from being a comic artist at that point but I was looking for influences and different styles, I was eating this stuff up.

I discovered independent titles like Escape Magazine which at the time I found at the time a little too adult for me and later Deadline which seemed to speak to me more back then.

Deadline

 

Later when I was starting to think about being a comic artist I would l see your name on books when browsing in Forbidden Planet, looking for something more. It was good to see comics which were not done the Marvel way when being told at the time that was the only way to do it. It gave me the confidence to carry on.

 

I also have fond memories of UKCAC’s, going at first as a fan and later going with the start of a portfolio and seeing your name on the pin up in the booklets for the years I went. I still have some of them now. Your image in UKCAC88 looking back is wonderful. I wish I had bought it! Full of confidence and just a wonderful image.

So, thank you for broadening my horizons.

Laurence Campbell.

 

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Rainey

Paul Rainey

Paul Rainey – comic writer and artist

Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover
Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover

During my teens in the 1980s, I made a purposeful decision to broaden the comics I read from UK newsagent and American superhero to now include Escape, the comics art magazine. It was here that I read Eddie Campbell and Phil Elliot’s work for the first time. Obviously, this seemed like quite a leap, but Phil’s rounded, energetic, Tin Tin styled drawings helped with my transition. I loved Phil’s work. It enjoyed being a comic. It rolled around in the language that all other comics had foolishly forgotten about and then invented its own. There has always been a sense of contentment in his work even back then, of an artist comfortable in his own skin.

If fourteen year-old me ever thought that Phil’s work is limited to only carrying his unique vision, then I was proved wrong very quickly. Early on, Escape published Doc Chaos, a sci-fi strip written by David Thorp which I loved and still have my copies of. Phil’s priority was never style or mood at the expense of the story.

Another collaboration I enjoyed very much was Second City, a four issue series written by Paul Duncan and published by Harrier Comics. Then there was The Greenhouse Warriors, written by Glenn Dakin and self-published, all copies of which I have also kept to this day. I was so impressed by the latter, that I contacted their printer and used them for my 1990s comic, Memory Man. Recently, Phil has reprinted strips he drew with Eddie Campbell for Sounds during the 1980s. What I like about these works, and others, is that it’s often difficult to see where Phil ends and the collaborator begins.

 

I think that Phil is definitely under appreciated. I often wonder how differently he may be perceived by the comics-hive-mind today if he had had the opportunity to illustrate a years in the making graphic novel written by Alan Moore. At a time when Phil’s peers were chasing gigs at 2000 AD and DC, Phil was working for Sounds and Fantagraphics and pitching Real Ghost Busters strips to Marvel UK. (This approach to work that I always imagined Phil to have, has been an influence on me). I remain delighted by Phil continuing to make comics like Malty Heave with Rob Wells and The Last Man with Michael Powell. The man’s an inspiration.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Russel Mark Olson

Russell Mark Olson
Russell Mark Olson

Russell Mark Olson – comic creator

 

Elliott is one of the best cartoonists in the biz. In an industry cluttered by the scritchy-scratchy uncanny valley of layered upon layered digitally produced comics, Phil’s work represents the clear directness of deliberate storytelling. No superfluous marks. Everything on the page is in service to the narrative. There’s no ego, just consummate craftsmanship.

ES EF - page
ES*EF – page

 

Coming from the States, I was completely unaware of Elliott’s body of work until very recently. Ever since, I’ve been trying to make up for that shortcoming. Those of us in the current barnstorming UK indie press scene owe so much to him and others like Paul Grist and Eddie Campbell. He deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of indie comics and should be required reading in all corners of the industry and beyond.

 

As I said, I’ve only recently come to his work (after backing ES*EF), but very recently, I purchased a prototype promo piece from him and he included as a surprise, a page of original art, presumably from an upcoming issue of Malty Heave. To top it all off, it was mailed rolled up inside an old box of clingfilm. Diamonds in the rough and all that.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Alex Fitch

Alex Fitch
Alex Fitch

Alex Fitch – pod cast and radio presenter

Taboo #3 featuring Phil Elliott - Cover by Michael Zulli
Taboo #3 featuring Phil Elliott – Cover by Michael Zulli

I first came across Phil’s work in the form of a couple of memorable short stories in Steve Bissette’s Taboo anthology, and then probably like many people saw his name crop up as a sympathetic colourist on a number of British comics. His colouring of Paul Grist’s work and British kids’ comics has been great, and it’s a shame that although he’s a talented colourist, there haven’t been more mainstream comics that he’s had the chance to write or draw. The ones he has been involved with have been terrific, in particular his Cold War aliens graphic novel – Illegal Alien – that Dark Horse released some years ago.

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

I think Phil’s place in comics history is to have been part of the terrific Escape generation, making memorable comics in collaboration with the likes of Grist, Glenn Dakin and Eddie Campbell. I don’t think he’s as well known as he deserves to be, but by the people who do know his work, it’s rightly well appreciated.

I came across Phil’s crowdfunding campaigns for his collaborations with Eddie Campbell that were serialised in Sounds magazine; seeing that all three were going to come out as separate volumes, I emailed him to ask if he might bring out a slipcase for the trilogy, when the third one hit kickstarter. We exchanged a few emails and he said that while doing a number of slipcases wouldn’t be viable, he kindly offered to make me a bespoke case to put my copies in, so I have a one of kind box-set of The Mammy, The Wonders of Science and Rodney – The Premonition! (Which was much appreciated)

Phil Elliott - Handmade box set for Alex Fitch
Phil Elliott – Handmade box set for Alex Fitch

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Duncan

Paul Duncan
Paul Duncan

Paul Duncan – writer

 

Phil is the restless giant of the small press. Since I have known him, off and on, since the early 1980s, Phil has explored every avenue and type of publication. Writing, drawing, lettering, colouring, editing, publishing – he can do it all. Fearlessly.

He is prolific. He is diverse of subject. He is relentless. He cannot be pinned down. He supports so many other creators and publications. He is willing and giving. He delivers!

He is a collaborator. He will write for others, he will draw for others. He will support others.

He is a leader. He was there at the start of Fast Fiction and helped kickstart a movement of diverse talents. He spearheaded many titles for Harrier in the UK, giving many talents a wider audience, and then leapfrogged into America, doing likewise with titles for Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, and Dark Horse.

Undoubtedly, Phil’s greatest artistic achievement is Gimbley, a character who is all too human and fallible, and who may be occasionally melancholic, but ultimately understands the ironic qualities of life.

As for history? Fuck history – his work will live on!

By 1986 Phil had built up a diverse portfolio of work (Gimbley, Doc Chaos, Sounds) and I had not, but we both thought it would be a good idea to go to Paris, visit the BD publishers, and try to sell our ideas. We arrived in Paris, and walked along the Seine, admiring the Bouquinistes. Just as we arrived at a stall selling comics, a motorbike pulled up, threw down a pile of new comics bound by string, and whizzed off. The comic at the top of the bundle was Second City, a comic Phil and I had worked on together, published by Harrier. How auspicious was that?! Needless to say, it wasn’t. We visited publisher after publisher and they were not interested in what we had to sell, not helped by our lack of the French language. Still, the publishers arranged the meetings just before lunch, and so Phil and I dined heartily at the publishers’ expense, dissecting whole fish and quaffing wine and coffee.

 

best

-paul duncan

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Michael Powell

Michael Powell
Michael Powell

Michael Powell – comic writer

 

Phil is a fantastic storyteller. It’s amazing how many different genres he can turn his hand to and yet still be recognisably Phil. We’ve worked on horror and sci-fi together, I’ve seen Phil produce work that’s funny, surreal and philosophical, sometimes all at the same time. He’s also a great writer too.

 

 

Phil has been there at every key stage in contemporary comics history. From Fast Fiction to Sounds, Escape, !GAG! and Blite, Phil’s always been there. He’s illustrated comics for mainstream publishers too, bringing that unique Phil Elliott style to Ghostbusters and Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd

Phil’s been producing comics professionally since the 1970s but he keeps getting better! The new art Phil’s produced for Circus DeNiro is I think some of the best of his incredible career.

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Nevs Coleman

Nevs Coleman
Nevs Coleman

Nevs Coleman– reviewer

Tupelo - page 2

Matt DeGennaro and Phil Elliott’s Tupelo is sadly now out of print (although you can pick up copies on Amazon), Tupelo was originally published by Slave Labor Graphics in 2003 as a four issue mini series, and then published as a trade paperback featuring a cd by cult band Famous Monsters. I was working in the late Comic Showcase at the time and was staggered by how much each issue just… got it. Understood and recreated the atmosphere in my head. The sticky floors, the toilets with broken doors, the kids proudly showing off their home-made ‘X’s, the drone of the men who are too old in the head to be there. The Outside that oppressed with silent hostility. The outrage at the huckster hypnotist who stands in for every soulless advertising exec who preys on the insecurities they created and profits from them with promises of false hope.

Tupelo - page

They are, indeed, brilliant. Phil is some kind of Art Ninja Genius, distilling the page down to only its essential lines. Like a Toth, a Parobeck or a Kurtzman, this process looks like it’s easy, but it’s really the total opposite. Lesser talents can hide their weakness behind flashy layouts, unnecessary cross-hatching and other short cuts. If you’re working as Phil does, every flaw is going to scream out of the page at you. It never happens in Tupelo. The story pages are a beautiful discordant symphony. The… backmatter (hate that word) is both inspiring and a perfect approximation of prison letters, Zig Zag/Maximum Rock ’N’ Roll era music journalism and Punk Manifesto, with one issue containing an ideology that makes the likes of Fight Club sound like playing RATM too loud in your bedroom after your Mum’s asked you to clean up your room.

Tupelo

Phil is an astounding talented artist who’s just published In His Cups: Collected Tales Of Gimbley. It’s bloody good stuff and you should obviously all go buy it.  Ideally, he’d be on a regular book and there are no end of comics being published that if I were given editorial responsibilities on the title, I’d just say “Give it to Phil. He’ll make it work.” Personally, I’d hire him to redraw all those Todd Loren knock-off rock biographies as and when he felt like it while he got on with whatever made him happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Robert Wells

Robert Wells
Robert Wells

Robert Wells – comic writer and artist

 

Phil is a great artist who seems to be able to draw anything and make it look easy (FYI, he is also really good at DIY) and his slightly surreal / not-quite-autobio stories are like poems in comic form.

(Editor’s note – he really is – look below!)

Although he’s worked for all sorts of publishers in the UK and US, Phil has a particularly important place in the history of British indie comics. The letters exchanged between Phil and Eddie Campbell, as well as the various rejection letters and other correspondence that they published at the back of the three collections of their Sounds strips, are as important and interesting as the strips themselves. Those books really should be collected by a big publisher, as should Phil’s Gimbley strips.

Malty-Heave-01-S1
Malty Heave

I met Phil for the first time in 2014, in the foyer of the Odeon in Maidstone.  I was living in Maidstone at the time and we had a mutual friend (a neighbour of mine who’d been to college with him) who kept promising to introduce us. When she moved away, still not having introduced us, I sent Phil a message through Facebook to say hello, and he replied asking if I wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy with him and his nephew. So, we met, we saw the film, and after we’d seen it, we went back to his house, my wife joined us, and Phil and his wife cooked us dinner, having never met us before.

We’ve remained friends since then and I have shared tables with him (or had the table next to his) at several events. I still remember the amazing, Moebius-like, A3-sized drawing he did of a spaceship landing on an alien world that he effortlessly (or seemingly-effortlessly) produced the first time I sat next to him at an event, and then sold way too cheaply. I wish I’d bought it. However, as one of Phil’s Patreon supporters, I’ve received a lot of other art from him over the last couple of years, as well as various other bits he’s sent me, like the paintings he did for Department of the Peculiar Goes POP! issues 1 and 2. It was a pleasure to get to work with him on Malty Heave #1 and I’m looking forward to working with him again on #2.

Department of the Peculiar Goes Pop - pin-up
Department of the Peculiar Goes Pop – pin-up

Phil is a generous artist and a generous friend.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham
Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham – comic writer and artist

 

Phil Elliott has always been an inspiration to me. I first got involved in comics way back in the 1980s and was part of a kind-of second wave of creators who were part of the British Small Press scene back then, who gravitated around Paul Gravett’s Fast Fiction mag. People who were already established on the scene at the time included Ed Pinsent, Woodrow Phoenix, Ryan Hughes and…Phil Elliott. Phil’s work was astonishing to me, because he seems to draw nothing from the traditional British style of cartooning and instead took from the clear line style of European cartooning – something rare in British comics. He was one of those people who appeared fully formed with a mature talent immediately. A big contrast to my own inadequate scribblings (And didn’t I know it).

ES EF - page
ES*EF – page

Years later I had chance to work with Phil on a couple of projects as a writer. At first I wrote him full scripts, but as the work developed i wrote less and less, because he is so talented that I realised that I could just leave it to him to come up with better visuals than I could ever describe. All he needed was the briefest panel description and the dialogue and he could run with it, filling the panels with action and humour. Phil is effortlessly easy to work with. He is incredible talented and modest. I’d work with him again in a second if he ever wanted to.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett
Dan Abnett

Dan Abnett– comicbook writer and novelist

Phil is one of the real unsung giants of British comics.

His work is always touching and utterly distinctive, and I’ve always thought it an injustice that it hasn’t been more widely appreciated. Perhaps it’s the very nature of what he does best – very quiet and personal stories, often with a logic bordering on realistic dreaming – that has resulted in him being overlooked far too often. His stories seldom shout, and thus may get drowned out by the more flamboyant work of others.

Pool Tales
Pool Tales

Admirably, he has never compromised to “fit in” – his style remains true and perfect and unique. His work is long overdue the appraisal and proper recognition it deserves. In my opinion, he is a true artist – by which I mean singular creative voice – and his place in British comics over the last decades has been massively underrated… as is so often the case with true artists. Plus, of course, he’s an enormously nice person.

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – David Hathaway-Price

David Hathaway-Price
David Hathaway-Price

David Hathaway-Price – artist, writer, editor and curator of online zine archive

 

A small tribute to Phil Elliott

In His Cups - Collected Tales of Gimbley
In His Cups – Collected Tales of Gimbley

A couple of years ago, Tony Esmond was kind enough to invite me onto the ‘The Awesome Comics Podcast’, to chat about my fanzine archive, and to talk about all things fannish. I’m pretty useless behind a microphone (not helped by having a strong aversion/phobia about talking on the phone at all), but I was pleased to be asked near the end of the interview to recommend a small press comic that I thought people should read… The fact that my choice was ‘In His Cups: Collected Tales from Gimbley’ perhaps gives you an idea of how much I respect Phil, and just how highly I regard his work. Being a gentleman of ‘a certain age’, who often looks back and tries to make sense of his past and poor choices in quiff height, this collection really spoke to me. Of course, the frankly exquisite art may also have something to do with my appreciation of the work.

Mr Day and Mr Night with Glenn Dakin
Mr Day and Mr Night with Glenn Dakin

Right from the very start of comics fandom there had always been Strip zines of course, but the Fast Fiction explosion (and the proliferation of High Street Print Shops, which meant that you could get your zine printed off that day, rather than hanging around and waiting weeks for a ‘proper’ printer to fit you in somewhere) gave an outlet for people to start telling all kinds of stories (slice of life, rather than men in tights). Still living in the depths of South Wales in the early ‘80’s, and only visiting London very rarely, I missed out on both the ‘Crackers’ evenings and the opportunity to visit the Fast Fiction table as much as I would have liked. A shame, as I probably missed out on the great majority of the comics being published by the small press at that time. Without Phil, and the rest of the guys and girls paving the way, we might not have ended up with the thriving small press scene we are enjoying now.

 

If I remember correctly, I first contacted Phil to ask if he would give his permission for me to add his strip zine ‘ELIPSE’ (1977) to the archive; generous to a fault he of course agreed. Not only that, but about three years ago he contacted me, explained he was soon going to be moving home, and asked if I would like his zine collection? He wanted no money, he just wanted to know that they were going to someone who would look after them. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the man’s character and generosity, I don’t know what would.

The Day the General Came - with James Robinson

Thank you, Phil, you’re a treasure.

 

David Hathaway-Price

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – David Hine

David Hine

David Hine – comic creator

I first met Phil Elliott in the late 70s. I was aware of him through the fanzine culture and we were both contributing artwork to The Panelologist fanzine, which also featured some art by David Lloyd among others. I contributed to the fanzine Elipse, co-edited by Phil and soon after that we met for the first time at the UK Comic Art Convention, probably in 1979. I had a fanzine of my own, Joe Public Comics, and was bloody hopeless at selling it. We didn’t have tables, so it was a case of approaching people and persuading them to buy a copy. Phil grabbed a bundle of my ‘zines, went off and sold a couple for me. I was impressed.
Elipse fanzine 1977
Elipse fanzine 1977
This weekend I dug out some of my old fanzines and came across Elipse #3 – the very issue that I had contributed to. I had forgotten that this was the first time anyone published one of my full comic-strips, a lightweight horror story called “A Video-phone brings you so much closer to the one you love.”
In the editorial section, Phil had written up my bio where it states that “His major complaint with comics is the way commercialism perverts artistic talent, and says he won’t be satisfied until we get rid of deadlines and money.”
That seems a bit presumptuous for someone who had never worked to deadline or been paid for anything. Clearly I had set my sights on a high standard of aritistic integrity. Had I made it in indie comics back then I might have been able to pursue my goal of creating personal comics while starving in a garret. Instead I was cursed to spend a lifetime working to deadlines and getting paid for it.
I had also completely forgotten that when Phil gave me my copy of Elipse at that Comic Con he apologised for “erasing the penis.” I have made it my lifelong quest to get as many penises into comics as humanly possible, with a fair amount of success, but this was the first one to get censored – and in my first non-self-published work too! In retrospect it’s quite interesting because the knobless bloke looks like some kind of gender-neutral character – very advanced for 1978. (Editor’s note – an incident that Phil clearly remembers – check out this interview!)
Elipse - Censored Panel - David Hine
Elipse – Censored Panel – David Hine
We subsequently met up at various comics gatherings, mostly at the Westminster Comics Mart where I also met Paul Gravett who, with Phil and others like Glenn Dakin and Eddie Campbell, had set up the Fast Fiction collective of small press publishers.  Phil went on to work on Paul’s Escape magazine and became something of a superstar of the small press world. I never really fitted in, failed to make it into Escape and ended up on that path to mainstream comics instead.
Vignette Comics
Vignette Comics
The years went by and I pursued an up-and-down career in comics while Phil seemed to disappear from the scene. In the comics world if you don’t turn up at conventions, or at least have an active social media presence, you don’t exist. It’s the rule. When we finally met up again at the Malta Comics Convention in 2017, I apparently greeted Phil with “I thought you were dead!” We had a very pleasant time over the weekend, reminiscing about the old days, as we middle-aged grey-hairs are wont to do. On the way home Phil gave me a copy of In His Cups – The Collected Tales from Gimbley. I had seen a lot of these in various publications but it was only when I read them as a collected body of work that I realised just how good they were – surreal, oneiric, often disturbing and always hilarious.

 

Phil’s work with Fast Fiction and Escape has cemented his place in the history of British comics. He went on to work for Marvel UK, Rebellion, Dark Horse, DC, Fantagraphics, a whole string of publishers, collaborating with all kinds of writers, but for me those Gimbley tales stand out as the purest expression of his art. The conceit of a middle-aged man recounting tales from his youth is remarkably effective. I really should have asked Phil how it feels to look back on those stories from the perspective of the middle-aged creator. And also how much of it was autobiographical.
Maybe it’s better not to know.

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Paul Gravett

Paul Gravett

Paul Gravett – Publisher and journalist

 

Phil Elliott and I go way, way back, to our school days (different school but we’re both Essex boys).

Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover
Escape Issue 5 Phil Elliott cover

Personally, Phil was crucial and instrumental as a friend, artist and designer at two key points in early 1980s UK comics history. First, the creation of Fast Fiction, both the Westminster Central Hall Comic Mart table and the anthology that he and Ian Wieczorek soon evolved out of it, notably designing the cool logo. I remember how Phil, Ian, Eddie Campbell and I used to use the PMT camera at pssst! magazine’s offices in London unofficially on a Saturday morning to reduce and prepare the artworks for FF Magazine’s printing. And secondly came the launch of Escape Magazine in 1983. Peter Stanbury and I picked out a panel by Phil to put inside the subscription prospectus and chose him to draw the first issue’s wraparound cover. Phil even found us our first issue’s printer local to him in Maidstone. We knew his quirky, bittersweet Tales from Gimbley had the spirit, style, suit and quiff that belonged in Escape. Inspired by Hergé, Swarte and more, Phil’s work personified ‘La Ligne Claire Anglaise’.

I’ve continued to admire and enjoy his work since, and it was a delight to have a reunion a few years ago, when we found each other over a lunch in the National Comics Centre in Angoulême during the city’s annual Festival. Neither of us could have imagined back in those old schooldays how far the comics world would change and grow, and how it could bring us back together.

Cheers to you, Phil!

Paul

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Glenn Dakin

Glenn Dakin
Glenn Dakin – creator and collaborator
Man From Cancer - Page
Phil’s work has a beautiful stylised quality, he can draw the most outlandish things and make you accept them.
When I decided to make The Man From Cancer (Marvel UK) all about marine life characters, I knew Phil was the perfect artist for it. If I wanted a character answering the phone, he would draw them as an enormous squid, and it would look weird, but perfectly natural.
Also Phil is a great natural storyteller, I never once had to write him a script for any of our comics, I would just rough out the page, and he would immediately ‘get it.’
To me, Phil is one of the great UK comic artists, a mixture of the aesthetically pleasing ‘clear line’ style, with an almost Ditko-ish nightmare lurking at the edges.
Something that captures that troubling quality to Phil’s work, when I first went to Australia to stay with Eddie Campbell, I wrote a little strip about a dream I had, and my first feelings on arriving in Brisbane. I sent it to Phil to draw up, and he captured something under the surface of my remarks… The strip ended up being printed in Steve Bissette’s horror anthology, Taboo! I was always found it funny that my holiday at Eddie’s ended up in a horror comic…
Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy – publisher, Colossive Press and contributor, Broken Frontier

The clarity of Phil Elliott’s work and his gift for storytelling have made him a master across genres. However, the work of his that has carried me along for the last thirty-odd years is his epic Tales from Gimbley sequence – a wide-ranging series in which a middle-aged man looks back with the benefit of hindsight at the antics of his generously bequiffed younger self.

Back in the day, in the shoes of young Gimbley, I chuckled along in recognition of his misadventures and reflections on drinking, the artistic life, friendships and relationships. Now, looking at them through the other end of the telescope, alongside old Gimbey, I love them just as much for their wistful treatment of memory, emotion and the passage of time.

And, in possibly the biggest thrill of all, I’m now lucky enough to have the original artwork from a few of those iconic pages – pages that I’ve read so often down the years that they are imprinted on my brain. Let’s raise a glass to Phil Elliott – one of the true godfathers of the small press comic scene, as both an artist and an activist.

(In His Cups: Collected Tales of Gimbley is available here, in print or PDF)

image0image1

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Russell Willis

Russell Willis by Hunt Emerson

Russell Willis – writer and founder of the Sequential comics app for the iPad

Phil Elliott was a massive influence on my me. It was his Gimbley strips in Fast Fiction that helped consolidate my interest in comics outside of superheroes. Had it not been for Phil and his small-press buddies, I would most likely have given up on comics altogether at the age of 13.

Doc Chaos
Doc Chaos

Instead, in 1983, I launched a “non-superhero” fanzine called Infinity and in the editorial of its first issue I wrote about how the work of Phil Elliott had inspired me. In the second issue of that mag, we had a lovely little Gimbley tribute from Graham Cousins.… And I loved featuring reviews of  Escape and Doc Chaos.

The fanzine attracted letters from the notables and upcoming notables of the day but I was truly delighted when I got a letter from Phil – right at the end of the zine’s run.
Running that fanzine was one of the most exciting and formative periods of my life, and without Phil’s work, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
Cheers, Phil

 

Gimbley image is by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Gimbley image by Graham Cousins and was included in the Infinity #2 which came out in early 1984
Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – guest contributor – Graham Johnstone

Comic creator Graham Johnstone talks about Phil’s work and influence

 

Page from Dead Trees
Page from Dead Trees

 

I first became aware of the work of Phil Elliott in the mid 1980’s, probably first in Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury’s Escape, and thereafter in a number of his lovingly assembled self-published comics.

I’d grown up with comics: Marvel had taken me to the point that I considered comics a unique and important art form and wondered what more they might do. I’d seen the American Undergrounds and the more experimental RAW, but Elliott seemed to be part of a distinctly British evolution of comics. In America there seemed to me, on the one hand, the melodrama of Marvel/DC, (and their offshoots into the nascent independents), and the other hand the brilliant, but almost painfully ironic re-appropriation of pop culture RAW. In Britain, I was aware of the gently fictionalised autobiography of (Elliott’s Fast Fiction magazine colleague) Eddie Campbell, but Elliott seemed to have struck on something different: an exploration of personal life and inner dilemmas (like Campbell) yet in a more poetic form. That’s also true of different talents emerging from the Fast Fiction diaspora like Chris Reynolds and Ed Pinsent, but I think Elliott arrived first and the others were most likely influenced, or at the very least, inspired by him. I know he certainly inspired and influenced my own work of the subsequent years, and what we published in Dead Trees.

He has a fine artist’s sensibility, that’s evident not only in his highly personal content and poetic approach, but also in his visual range and experimentation. To explain this, I’m reminded of a famous conflict in painting ‘the battle between line and colour’ with the former favouring detailed draughtsmanship and the latter building up images with tone and colour. To relate this to comics, think of one extreme as the Ligne Claire penmanship made famous by Hergé, and the other as the impressionist brushwork of say Milton Caniff. The early Tales from Gimbley show Europhile Phil absorbing Herge and progressing to the more expressive line work of the Belgian master’s successors. Like Serge Clerc or Yves Chaland,

Yves Chaland

Elliot mastered the art of varying line weights, to create a camera focus depth-of-field effect, while foregrounding the truth-to-materials (another critical hobby-horse) of ink lines on paper. Elliott’s able to balance: black, white and tones; space and detail; cartooning and realism – often in a single page. We can find all of this in a single Tale from Gimbley story involving a salvaged cigarette machine (In his Cups: Collected Tales from Gimbley page 130). If that all sounds the preserve of connoisseurs, let’s not forget that the versatile Elliott could also satisfy the more mainstream demands of Ghostbusters, without losing himself in the process. I could go on and on, the point is though, it’s hard to find examples of comparable stylistic range and mastery in comics or, I’d go further, any other visual art. He radiates a sheer love of drawing, and at his best, artistry with every element of it.

Phil and I met only met once. At around the turn into the 1990’s, I was invited to participate in an exhibition of upcoming local talent at (I think) the first Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GlasCAC), organised by Frank Plowright and colleagues. I bumped into Frank, who told me that someone had liked my work, and would like to meet. I was delighted that it was Phil. He proved as urbane and charming in person as on the page, and his interest in my work probably spurred me to take it into the world and publish Dead Trees. We’d hoped to meet again at UKCAC, sometime in the 90’s. However, by that time I was already juggling comics with a full-time job, homemaking, and a lengthy commute, with the result I didn’t make it to the Con. In those days before instant communication, I wasn’t able to let him know in advance, sadly leaving the impression I’d sauntered round the con and not bothered to find him.

I’ve hung onto my Gimbley pamphlets and picked up Elliott’s published collaborations with other creators. I was delighted to pick up In His Cups, with all his Gimbley work (so far) in a single volume. I’ve always felt Phil never got the full recognition he deserved – compared to say his similarly talented contemporary Eddie Campbell – and it’s a joy to see his increasing profile over recent years. I look forward to seeing ever more of his work and am delighted you’re recognising his achievements in this way.

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – my personal view

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

Gimbley
Gimbley

 

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

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

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

Fast Fiction

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

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

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

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

Phil Elliott – great creator

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Phil Elliott
Phil Elliott

See Phil’s work here

Patreon              Website           The Art of Phil Elliott – facebook page               twitter

 

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

 

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 – 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 – Phil Elliott

Phil Elliott has been a comic’s mainstay for over 40 years!

His art is always beautifully designed and his range is impressively able to suit many genres. moods and purposes

he’s amazingly funny and clever at depicting humans and their emotional experiences

(click on images to follow links)

facebook art page

Go Fund – 2020 publications from Birdcage Bottom Books

Campaign finishing Wednesday, March 11 2020 3:00 PM

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

The artwork is all very individual and exciting

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

Really, really exciting comics here!

(click on images to follow links)

2020 publications from Birdcage Bottom Books

http://kck.st/2Sd82Ig

 

Here are some examples from the campaign page

 

Flop Sweat by Lance Ward
Flop Sweat by Lance Ward
Eddie's Weel by Patrick Dean
Eddie’s Weel by Patrick Dean
The Burning Hotels by Thomas Lampion
The Burning Hotels by Thomas Lampion
Woods by Mike Freiheit
Woods by Mike Freiheit

Malarkey by Novemeber Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Short List – Asa Wheatley

Kickstarter

Asa Wheatley –   twitter       web              Sammy Ward –  twitter      web

Michelle Marham –   twitter      web       instagram     patreon

Emma Graveling –  instagram

Emily Pearson –  twitter     web                  Kat Willott – instagram        web

Title

ZL – I was interested by the fact that most of the stories in the anthology were about female protagonists and made the connection that the artwork was also drawn by women artists, was this a conscious decision or did it just come about organically?

AW – Much of the media that influenced me growing up had strong female protagonists, Buffy, Tomb Raider, Terminator and I think this has ended up being reflected in the work I produce. More often than not I tend to write female protagonists and this anthology is no different. The choice to have only women artists wasn’t something I had decided from the start it was more something that occurred naturally as the anthology progressed. Kat, Sammy and Emma I all knew personally before starting the anthology. Kat I had originally worked with on Tails of Mystery and in its early stages this anthology contained a Tails of Mystery story but I felt it didn’t fit the tone but I still wanted to have Kat contribute to the story so wrote something that I thought her art style would complement nicely.

Sammy, I had wanted to work with for a while and Sprouting was an idea that she came up with in its earliest form and we fleshed out together with me writing it and her illustrating. Emma’s work I had seen previously and thought it’d be a great fit for the kind of story I was planning with Finders Keepers. From there I realised that the artists were all women and thought why not just stick with that and see how it goes. It wasn’t hard to find extremely talented women artists, Michelle I met at a convention, one of the MCM’s I believe, and Emily I was a fan of from her work on The Wilds and I had seen her posting on twitter about looking for cover work. And with that I had all the artists I needed.

ZL – I’m always interested in how a writer works with the artists on a story, so I was wondering whether the approach varied between each artist or whether there it varied between each story?

AW– So for some of the stories I wrote them specifically for the artists. With these I tended to write a little less detail leaving the artist to make decisions about placement or character look. The way the main character of Sprouting looks for example is all down to Sammy. I trusted in her design and she delivered fantastically. For Hanging in the Darkness the script was pretty sparse with much of the exact dialogue coming post art because I wanted the short to act as two stories within one, having worked with Kat before as well I was happy to leave a lot of it to her and the choice to have much of the final panels only lit by candlelight was her idea. Whereas with A Witch’s Penance I hadn’t worked with Michelle before, so I wanted to make sure I gave her as much as possible to work with and she absolutely smashed it. Some of my favourite things in that story are things that Michelle came up with without any direction from me at all.

For Finders Keepers I finished the story and just handed that over to Emma and asked her what she would be interested in illustrating to sit alongside it. I think the only illustration I requested was the final one. And then for the cover, which was completed before any of the interiors I gave Emily a brief synopsis of the stories within and she designed a few covers initially with us both agreeing the one that went on to become the actual cover our favourite. So, with each artist I took a different approach but the one thing I made sure not to do was restrain any of them.

 

ZL – What are your plans for the anthology and the stories in it, will A Witches’ Penance going to be ongoing, will there be further issues of the anthology sooner or later and will they feature the same artists or are you interested in finding new artists?Tails of Mystery issue 1

AW – I have a couple more anthologies planned for the future but the stories within Sprouting & Other Tales of the Curious will not be continued. I wanted to portray that these stories all resided within a bigger world around them and that there was maybe more to each of them if you looked but the stories are themselves complete. A Witch’s Penance is the most open ended of the four stories, but I wanted it to reflect the world it was in and the characters it contained where nothing is ever finished for them and the world keeps moving even if they aren’t around.

 

Tails of Mystery issue 2
Tails of Mystery issue 2 cover

ZL – You also write Tails of Mystery with artist Kat Willot, are there any plans for this title or any new titles planned?

AW – Yes, I’m currently working on the script for issue 3 and once that’s all done Kat will start illustrating the pages. Tails of Mystery is going to be a 4 issue complete mini-series so as of writing this we’re half way though the series. Within the first issue of Tails of Mystery we also featured a small back-up fantasy story titled World Weary centred on a Gnome barbarian and a Half-Orc monster hunter and we may also be working on some more stories for those characters in the future.

 

 

Tails of Mystery issue 1

Tails of Mystery issue 1 cover

 

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Sprouting and Other Tales of the Curious

 

Kickstarter

Asa Wheatley –   twitter       web              Sammy Ward –  twitter      web

Michelle Marham –   twitter      web       instagram     patreon

Emma Graveling –  instagram

Emily Pearson –  twitter     web                  Kat Willott – instagram        web

The Brief

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

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

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

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

The Detail

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

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

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

Finders Keepers Page 3
Finders Keepers – page 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprouting PAGE 2
Sprouting – page 2

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

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

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

Artist page
Artists page

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Douglas Noble

 

shop online

twitter                                 instagram                                  web

 

ZL – In my mind, Jazz Creepers is your first anthology and did amazingly well. From a personal note, I was just jealous at the fact you got Sarah Horrocks, Gareth Hopkins and Paul J Milne all in one anthology, 3 favourites of mine! Why did you decide on an anthology and what was the experience like organising contributions?

 

DN – The title jumped out of a conversation Paul and I were having, and after a couple of days of it rattling around my head I found myself seized by the urge to make that the title of an anthology. The look and feel of it was pretty much all there from the off, even down to the design of the cover and the idea to integrate art from the past into the comic, and it really coalesced after talking it through with Sarah Gordon, who is also in the first issue.

As an anthology Jazz Creepers has only two rules: Florid, and no autobiography.

After that I just asked people who I knew or who’s work I liked, told them the rules and let them get on with it. Of course, not everyone was available, or able to contribute, but I was extremely lucky to get exactly who I had first imagined in there in there. I knew everyone involved would make great comics, so was very hands off in terms of editorial involvement.

Organising how everything fit together was maybe the part that I enjoyed the most. There’s a specific aesthetic to Jazz Creepers: ripe fruit, velvet, the masquerade, and peeling paint. It was fun to try and preserve that in the flow of reading the comic, flitting between stories in a way that made sense, making sure everything fitted in, and making sure that the design of the comic helped the whole cohere into something that reflected the intention.

The award seemed to say that it did. Next time, it’ll be even better.

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

DN – I came to comics fairly late, though having thought about it, I keep revising the date back.

Was it Colin McNeil’s splatterpunk take on the world of Judge Dredd in Chopper: Song of the Surfer,with its splurging sunset golds and russets, violence refracted to the abstract through a kaleidoscope of colour? Or earlier, John Ridgway in Doctor Who Magazine; lines scratching into the page, nervous and febrile, pushing the TV show toward the epic? Or before that, maybe The Quest for the Gloop, with its wild flights of fancy, it’s weird worlds and textures?

 

 

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

DN – It’s a grand museum this. A great sweeping thing of interlocking chambers and vaulted ceilings, a museum with weight behind it, so it’s only fitting that it should house my vast obsessions and passions.

The first chamber: A visitor walks up into an enormous blue space, like a summer sky, and there in the centre of that space is a golden column, quite thin, with a black sphere atop it. The visitor can walk around and around it, and, if they reach out and squeeze the sphere, it will make a noise.

HONK!

03-01
Harpo Marx

At that sound screens drop down from the ceiling and the image of Harpo Marx flicks across them, mute, in constant motion. Running and chasing and doing impossible things. Unlike anything and utterly true to himself.

 

The second chamber: A green room, like the colour of a hillside at dusk, clover flowers on the walls. In great slashes of charcoal, the art of Carol Swain.  Swain’s work is something that stays with me, and towers over comics in general. There’s an essentiality about it, a truth to it. Her landscapes of borderlands and between places speaks to the places that I grew up. The elliptical tilt of her stories is an angle that appeals to me.

03-02
Carol Swain comic page

The Third Chamber: A room full of old nitrate stock, and in the centre a candle. Old peepshow machines lining a wall, each with a different Guy Maddin film playing. I think the reason I enjoy his work so much is that it explodes the normal tools for building stories and finds new ways to say things. It takes fragments of the past, grafts them onto current techniques, and produce a glorious hybrid – something that never existed but should have. Something like his recent Seances builds a wonderful, never to be repeated experience from the bricks of lost films.

03-03
Guy Maddin

 

ZL – What one publication would you choose if you had to choose something for all the world to read?

04-01
Flannery O’Connor The Violent Bear It Away cover

DN – Under my benevolent fist, my troops will round up my people and force them to brutalist storerooms where everyone will be provided with a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away. They’d be given strict instructions to devour it, to give in to it; in short, to be the good and loyal citizens that I demand. They will thank me.

It’s a sensuous, lyrical book, tense and muscular, about the awful weight of destiny and the race to outrun it. It starts with the death of a prophet, and follows his nephew as he rejects both a religious and a spiritual life. There is fire along the way. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

 

 

ZL – If you could live for a day in the body of any creator and experience what it was like for them to create, who would you choose?

05-01
Sculptor Elisabeth Frink

DN – I’d choose a sculptor, because it’s a medium that I haven’t really worked in, and the physicality of it, the fight and the heft of it is something that appeals. I think that Elisabeth Frink is wonderful – the textures and life that she managed to put into her work is something that seems almost channelled rather than decided upon.  So, Frink then, building up one of her shattered ravens, or facing the solidity of making something real.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019