South Park – 200 And Won!

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

“We promised we’d not let any harm come to Mohammad”

– Stan

south park happy 200 and won

Critics hit on the notion early South Park had a quality of nonsense lost to the later infiltration of celebrity appearances and “messages”. I concede I’m a minority proudly of the view that early episodes were not very good. Furthermore, they were without direction. The motif of offending everyone looks stronger when not so crass, when plush Kenny dolls are not inserted into every artifice and orifice. The attack on celebrities by South Park celebrates powers of parody, and questions a society that, however uneven-handed, elected them. The Simpsons comes under less fire for it’s pandering employment of idiots, ad-men and war criminals. South Park is an act of communication: so why do Western brats whine about “messages”?

tom cruise is a fudgepacker

Parker and Stone approach the milestone 200th gracefully, celebrating incarnations of the show along the spectrum. Beautifully self-referential, the newly offended Tom Cruise does what any melodramatic villian does. He assembles together other offended celebrities to launch a class action lawsuit against the town. Desperate to avoid destruction, they manage to cut a deal with Cruise: he has always wanted to meet the prophet Muhammad.

superfriends

From there to the Super Best Friends, a Justice League of Deities where Stan might enlist Muhammad’s help. Except that some Muslims have forbidden it, already parodied in the Park as a threat issued to the mediocre Family Guy staff. 

Other implications included a threat on Danish cartoonist Go’morgen Danmark and an auction house turning down Danmark’s efforts to help the victims of the Haitian earthquake. 

That, and stealing teddy bears and teachers from children.

bear bomb

(Hushed tones) “Oh, is that okay?”

(muffled) “I dunno”

Between the airing of ‘200’ and ‘201’, Parker and Stone received death threats from Muslim extremist predictables. The decision spurred Comedy Central to censor ‘201’, bleeping out every pronunciation of Mohammad and (presumably by implication), the customary final speech which included not a mention of Mohammad.

Growing up in Northern Ireland where people were murdered one another over for religion, I saw the hypnosis for enslavement to cover for trades of arms, property and drugs. For most of the people on this planet, we’re pissed off with Abu Talhah al Amrikee, Westboro Baptist Church and Tom Cruise. Worse, we’re embarassed. Then, it’s all a bit too tiresome really.

The censorship strips back the layer of visibility: the episode has little to do with Mohammad, or even the image of a representation of Mohammad. It’s about what can and can’t be shown in a clips episode. It doesn’t affect the creation of a piece of art which is most parts epic Hollywood blockbuster like Longer, Bigger and Uncut or Imaginationland. A homage to great superhero cartoons and comics and theatrical drama. It’s about making people laugh and engaging them with surprise and thorough Story. Less than three minutes into the Muslim censor-fest of ‘201’, this is made abundantly clear.

The message is obviously about the power and bleeping. This was a bleeping great episode all the same.

Parker and Stone anticipate many moves ahead with subtle kind gestures. Careful, entertaining and attuned. Some things hardly need to be communicated, but I’m going to go there anyway: It ain’t The Wire, but it remains one of the smartest shows on American television.

Spoilers are censored. If you’re religious, maybe you can forgive me?

(IMAGE MISSING)

South Park Online is currently not streaming ‘201’ presumably until the heat blows over. Or Mecha-Streisand calms down and forgets about the torrents.

Ralph Kidson on Working with Daleks and Animals

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Interview Ralph

Ralph Kidson is the creator of Captain Dolphin, Sad Animal and Envelope and Stick. He’s also the funniest cartoonist in Britain. Around the late nineties, his unique work inspired a cult readership, the sort of cult that sometimes accidentally pee their pants when laughing. Maybe.

His recent booklets include “Doctors’ Waiting Room”, a work of masterful observation, cracking comedy skills and hidden manifesto for alt. comics distribution. “Animal Jobcentre” followed directly and in much the same way records the ludicricousness of the everyday through his unique “RalphieVision”. “Dalek Home Guard” arrived fairly shortly after. Here, Ralph uses the the language of “Dad’s Army”, a classic British sitcom about WWII troops, to create a bridge between old and new and dark and comic-lite interpretations of the Daleks.(Update: Or so I thought. Having seen the trailer for this week’s ‘Churchill’s Daleks’ episode of Doctor Who, I wonder if he might have had foreknowledge of it’s content.)

I bunged a few pairs of briefs in the wash, and sat down to ask Ralph some questions about his work.

Andy Luke: I was wondering if you could clear something up for me? I heard a story from Pete Ashton that you produced a comic on a door, with hinges acting as staples. This apparently was sold at the art auction at the Caption comics festival one year, with the buyer having some difficulty getting it onto the bus..

Ralph Kidson: It wasn’t a door, not as big as that! Me and a guy called Rich Smith (Teenage Suicide) got together to make a giant free-standing comic for one of the ‘Sofa’ Brighton small-press group’s gallery shows. There were about 3 or 4 of these shows in the mid-90’s…anyway, it was Rich’s idea, I blame him. We went and bought about 10 big ( 4 foot high, I’d say,x 2 foot wide ) sheets of plywood, painted ’em white, let ’em dry, then painted a really awful comic on the ‘pages’, plus a cover and back-cover. It was ‘bound’ I think by just drilling 2 holes in the side of each sheet, then tying ’em all together with cord or string.
We set out to make it as offensive as we could, with lots of babies and grannies and wheelchair-bound folk being slaughtered in a supermarket, lots of swearing, references to Satan etc., in the hope that a local newsman might wander in, see it, and write an inflammatory piece about the show corrupting the minds of young Brightonians or something. Bit of publicity, get the punters in…but no-one batted a fucking eyelid!

AL: A layman might look at your comics and think they’re junk. Asides from writing great pacing and dialogue, the panels are often actually quite detailed and worked. I’m also aware you have a fine portrait skills. So why the minimalist approach?

RK: Um, I dunno, I’ve just always drawn comics like that. I think that really all comic strip or book art is a very codified way of reforming what we see around us. The key thing for me has always been clarity of expression, having the image work completely in sync with the words or ideas, and not distract from the ‘whole’. I really really hope that people don’t read my stuff and get held up every other panel thinking ‘Jesus, what’s wrong with that guy’s ARM…why is his HEAD so big?’ or stuff like that,
that’s the biggest no-no for me in comics.

AL: Undoubtedy, you’ve got skills and a ready audience. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered writing for paying professional publishers. Is there anything there that’s a realistically tempting avenue to pursue? I know you’ve been featured in Cerebus, Dee Vee and probably loads more…

RK: Yeh, I’m sure there are plenty of avenues like that, but I’ve always been blind to them. I think I’m pretty fucked-up and self-defeating, always have been. Now I just do the comics ‘cos it makes me happy, and send ’em out to people I like, and don’t think about the rest.

AL: You’ve taken to stapling single sheets for your work. On my copy of your latest book, Dalek Home Guard, it’s hand-numbered 03/2010. How do you manage that high level of personalisation with all your comics? I’d find it an endurance trial. Don’t you worry that having something of a cult following might be more than you can cope with?

RK: I’m more concerned about unsustainable global population increases. And the warts on my cock.

AL: Are there any amusing or frightening stories to be told from the church of Ralphie? Has anyone offered you their virgin daughters, or slid a stick and envelope under the toilet door?

RK:Once at a Caption this girl came up and said ‘Oh you do Captain Dolphin, I’m a big fan’, so I said ‘Oh great, thanks, that’s really nice of you…so what do you do?’…
and she went ‘Nothing. I’m mad.’ And she wasn’t joking.

AL: Can you tell us a bit about your influences, comedic or informative?

RK: Comedically…Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson, Johnny Hart, Sergio Aragones, Gary Larson, Garry Trudeau, early Jim Davis, Johnny Ryan, Spike Milligan, Alex Graham, Dennis Worden, Bob Burden, Peter Bagge, Mack White, Kaz, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dave Sim, Modern Toss, Eric Morecambe, The Mighty Boosh, Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Sean Lock, Willans & Searle, Ambush Bug, babysue, Charlie Brooker, Steve Bell, Scott Musgrove, the BRILLIANT Roy Tompkins, Maaike Hartjes, Mawil, Lewis Trondheim, Ken Campbell, Chris Ware, Lisa Holdcroft, early John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Terence ‘Larry’ Parkes, Mark Marek, the Viz boys…and a shit-load more I can’t remember, probably. AquaTeamHungerForce!
Other comics folks I love…Jim Woodring, Alan Moore, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Gilbert Hernandez, Chris Webster, Gary Panter, Kev O’Neill, Mike McMahon, Julie Doucet, Kirby & Ditko, Frank Quitely, Rich Corben, Moebius, Manara, Frank Thorne, Brendan McCarthy, Frank Miller, Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson, Chester Brown, David Lloyd,  Kilian Plunkett, Joe Sacco, Terry LaBan, Tanino Liberatore, Frank Stack, Steve Gerber, Gilbert Shelton, Malcy Duff.

Other artists…painters like Morandi, Redon, Friedrich, Guston, Paul Nash, Ravillious, Bocklin, Cecil Collins, Manet, Baselitz, Peter Doig.

AL: I notice you gave a shout-out to Paul Rainey’s ‘No Time Like the Present’. What’s on your reading list this month?

RK: A 1970’s paperback book-sized collection of early Lee & Ditko ‘Doctor Strange’, gorgeously coloured inside. Three-issue Marvel Knights ‘Strange Tales’ from last year, lots of crazy alternative types tackling the Marvel Universe, great fun. ‘A Land’ by Jacquetta Hawkes…a poetic history of Britain from Pre-Cambrian times, when it was seabed, to the present day. Razzle readers’ letters page.

Hope that’s okay for you Andy…

AL: That oughtta keep me atop Google listings for a few months.

RK: Cheers, Ralph

AL: Cheers, Andy

Ralph’s work is available by writing to Ralph Kidson, 3 Langridges Close, Newick, East Sussex, BN8 4LZ. Please add 50p (£1 for non-UK) for postage and packing.

 

ORIGINAL COMMENTS

nice interview. can someone who works for a grown up publishing house and distribution empire get it sorted that all of his back catalogue is put together in one great big compendium with a range of greetings cards, animated shorts on E4 and t-shirts please. Everyone should have Ralph Kidson’s work in their lives and I’ve never been more serious in my life, well, possibly when I was saw my first nipper being born, that was pretty serious but apart from that, the above.
Posted by skip-rat media small press dept. on 15 April 2010 21:10
Great interview with a great talent. And by the way Andy I have your book about your late granny.
Posted by DAVID LLOYD on 18 April 2010 07:48
If anyone would like to contact Ralph, he’s availble by email at btinternet.com, ralphiek
Zum Comics Kidson archive of the first two issues of Captain Dolphin is around and Paul Rainey deserves a link

Ah, thanks David. That it got to you was one of those things I meant to follow up on, but it got away from me. Twisty turny all over the road lifetime piling up.
Posted by Andy Luke on 18 April 2010 17:53

Scroobius Pip – Poetry in (e)motion

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

http://titanbooks.com/products/uk/10750-poetry_in_emotion_the_illustrated_words_of_scroobius_pip/ scroobius - back cover intro

Artists across the Atlantic picked up their instruments to accompany Hip-Hop poet Scroobius Pip and lay new dimensions to his range of pieces. The illustrations largely draw from the language of comic strip, although only CJ McCracken’s work employs speech bubbles, and they’re quite suited. In his introduction, Scroobius recalls being shown a comic book on philosophy and finds the subject matter accessible because of the form it was presented in. As fair a testament as any to the excellent alchemy at work within this book. Each of the artists bring very different styles to very different works.

scroobius - intro

The scribbly scrawly of beserk and abandon of Cowfree relating Scroobius’ head time in ‘Rat Race’.

Ben Williams, On Thou Shalt Not Kill, delivers meticulous AND free-form zine culture sigil art.

Damian Claughton’s Phonogram-esque designs, impressing style and warmth and class, at home with this piece of book: professional and managing simplicity.

Joe Cunningham’s contribution to “When I Grow Up” which approaches like your favourite dog: full of love, bringing belonging and an ounce of silliness. Cunningham is part-Herge.

Anthony Gregori and Michael Spicer on “1,000 Words”, underwater mysticism, with a fairytale quality which would have been at home in the DFC.

CJ McCracken’s shaped orange and greys, sliding and angular, going for that slacker webcomic feel.

Mister Paterson’s living tattoo man, frozen with animated arms, alike a comix real treatment of a DC character in “Shamed”, the empathic and undoubtedly stark relation to homelessness.

scroobius - artists

sb_cover.jpg.size-230

Often from darkest places, Scroobius is and Co. are on missions to retrieve and return with insight and inspiration. This is most evident in “The Magician’s Assistant”, a love poem and hell rage on the subject of self-harm. It’s deeply compassionate in realism to the point. The most effective work I’ve seen on the matter. It’s an engaging survival call which illustrator translates perfectly the integrity of in sketchbook and scrapbook collage. Both artists come across as nothing less than genuinely important and brilliant.

From dark places also come delightfully frivolous works, which impart experiential wisdom. Matt Frodsham and Pip team up on a wonderful blend of these matters in “Waiting for the beat to kick in”. Poetry in the form of structured short story, Scroobius relates meetings with characters from some of his favourite old films. Elwood P Dowd (Harvey), Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything), Billy Brown (Buffalo ’66) and Walter Neff (Double Indemnity) are each encountered by the narrator on his journey through the city. Frodsham illustrates their attempts to offer advice in exemplary cine noir style. Like Pip, his senses have paid close attention to the screen and the record re-envoked here is a joy to see.

The theme of advice runs through the book, subject to scrutiny and so rarely annoys as preachy. Scroobius etc seduce, and employ the fine coffee table edition quality print to good effect. Titan Books have generously made this 104-page hardback accessible by putting it out for a tenner ($17.95 US/$21.50 CAN). The book’s (possibly uncredited) designers provide the collection a strong visual feel which give it an extra showiness.

The piece is lined with a great set of sleeve notes from Scroobius Pip to you, the reader. Decorated with a fine assortment of gig posters there to show off how pretty they are. And they are. On the whole, a well-rounded package and one I’ll return to. Built to last. Thanks guys.

Update: You can buy the paper-back edition of Poetry  in (e)motion from publishers Titan at the reasonable £9.99.

1000_Words_Scroobius_Pip__Pg1_by_aNg76

 

scroob41 when i grow up scroobius pip joe cunningham

War and Art – The Human Cost

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Easter Monday saw the emergence of an anthology I’ve been awaiting for several years. “War: The Human Cost” features 260 pages of strips and art   from addicted to war - the high cost of militarismfrom 17 countries. The acclaimed Spain Rodriguez contributes a short on faith-based terrorism and Hannes Pasqualini comes in with 8 pages of silent comic on dehumanisation amongst soldiers. Documentaries include the alliance between Francisco Franco and the Catholic Church after the Civil War, Vietnam, Camp X-Ray Guantanamo.

Child Soldier

Above: Excerpt from “Child Soldier”

Paper Tiger Comix editor Sean Duffield,

“The comic strips include well researched stories from around the world (Tibet, Afghanistan, Israel & Palestine, Liberia, Iraq, Uganda, etc.) which cover everything from human rights struggles, war veterans & PTSD, political imprisonment & torture, child soldiers (a narrative based on UNICEF reports), refugees /asylum seekers, peace campaigners, the arms trade, corruption/ conflicts of interest, millitary spending, propaganda to humour & satire.”

There’s also work from “Peter Kuper, Alexsandar Zograf, Ulli Lust, Mazen Kerbaj, Abu Mahjoob, Nelson Evergreen” and other underground cartoonists and established commercial artists.

£1 from every purchase of the not-for-profit book goes to the well-respected NGO, CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade).There’s also a CD included with the package.

“The CD features well known artists who support the project, such as Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sly & Robbie, DJ Spooky, Blue King Brown, Zion Train, The Levellers, Big Youth & Twilight Dub Circus, The Groove Corporation & many more.”

A mammoth project, yes. Paper Tiger have made use of a the interest in such a project in order to bring it to the public.

AK 47 Tale2

AK-47 Tale Page 2

The book has taken many years to get ready for release. In common with other independent comix press, the halting block is one of finances for printing and distribution. In order to publish the work Paper Tiger Comix needs to raise £3000, the final half of the amount needed. See the green box for how they plan to do it,

(Accompanying images in original article: Camp X-Ray Guantanamo and Patronage War)

To my mind it’s taken this project too long to get to this stage. Paper Tiger Comix and Sean Duffield have a strong track record with previous publications. Paper Tiger’s model at Indiegogo appears to allow donations-for-donations sake, donations which encompass a discount on pre-orders (and free shipping to anywhere), and a grander scale of VIP incentives.

The creators of Phonogram, as I commented last week, might have been tempted to produce a 3rd series if the Patronage model of artist sponsorship was more prevalent. The comics industry status quo is to reward (even established commercial) artists several months after product has been sold. By going ‘Patronage’, Paper Tiger is wisely making use of an already existing audience for an unpublished product. There’s every indication that the money raised will surpass that aim fairly quickly. There are many ‘for-profit’ publications which could attract this kind of audience sponsorship.

Expect to see “Patronage” continue to enjoy a resurgence over the next number of years. Smart music industry artists (ie. not the BPI) have been increasingly using this model since the rise of the internet. I suspect progressive independent builders in the digital downloads market will in the future add a Patronage facility to help with pre-production costs for the art and sponsorship of print-on-demand services.

‘War: The Human Cost’ addresses an international audience. Proceeds will go to CAP (Community Art Projects) “a constituted Community Group based in Brighton UK), to fund future activities” The money donated to (London-based) CAAT, will fund their work in regulating arms companies and taking action against illegal arms deals.

And those look like fine comics.

UPDATE: You can still get a copy of this fine collection from http://www.papertigercomix.com/?page_id=9

Alltern8′s Foray into Digital Distribution: i-Dream

The following was part of my series of columns for the now-extinct Alltern8.com; in this case, about their comics and music sales platform, iDream, now also extinct. Reprinted here for archival purposes.

I-Dream, the digital distribution service from Alltern8 offers books, computer games, music photography and comics. It’s the latter that interests me the most. With the attention lavished on Longbox, Wowio, Myebook and all things Sony and iPad, it’s no wonder you may not have heard of it until recently. i-Dream is currently in Beta and has been live for only two weeks.

idream carousel

At £24.99 a year to sell your work, i-Dream might be more than some creators starting out can justify. The distribution service’s minor but joyful feature for me is a 50% discount offered to students, which might help offset some of the damage Peter Mandelson has been doing to their collective creative psyche. Although in Beta, Alltern8 CEO Alex Agricola has promised an early adoption subscription offer for the first year to creators and publishers. His discount? £24.99.
“The price for years membership is set at £24.99, but until we are happy with content choice, it will be FREE. Keep in mind you would be looking at £30-£60 per show, which would have a limited audience of a few thousand if lucky. I-Dream will eventually charge £24.99 but already had a viewing audience of up to 100,000 per month (at present and rising)”
As a creator, I took Alex up on his offer to test it out. i-Dream set-up is a non-app, with simple and quick registration. I also had to ready a sample image file, a cover and the price I chose. For comics, .pdf files appear to be the norm. I sync it up with my Paypal address, and I’m good to get 100% of any sales I make.
Thumbnail images can be uploaded in jpg, png or gif, and preview files must be jpg, png or pdf formats. Main files are currently jpg, pdf, exe or zip,allowing for folders of images or cbr files. In this case, it’s recommended instructions on how to get the reader are included. It occurrs to me that this allows the same level of adaptability in production and consumption as most if not all of Alltern8’s rivals. Or producer’s allies, as I like to think of them.
As we’re aware, comics distribution was hurt badly by the exclusivity deals Diamond signed with publishers in the mid-90s, and shops who had no option but to sign with Diamond. Alltern8, as with several digital publishers listed above, offers non-exclusivity. You can sell your comics through i-Dream and other venues as you see fit.

The sale or return field is always going to be more financially secure for publishers than buying retail space. What I think will really work for this is Alltern8’s multimedia context. The forums and columns provide i-Dream with supported content. Alex Agricola had this to say,
“Probably the most important message I am getting across here is that the alltern8 and I-dream plan is to become one of the most focused content sites on the net. Hence we have achieved such high net ranks in a short space of time and without millions of monthly visitors (16,000th in the UK, 132,000th in the USA) “

“Focused content aimed at a focused customer base…. meaning a high value visitor base of potential customers for all those subjects in the site.” – Alex Agricola, Alltern8/i-Dream

For over a decade, I’ve contributed a vast amount of comics journalism: much self-publishing and contributing to community outlets. Bugpowder, Borderline, Tripwire, Forbidden Planet and Comics Village, to name but a few. That Alltern8 has been the first site to offer me some financial reward and incentive for this stands as a testament to their want to invest in the creative scene. (Actually, they talked me out of abandoning the practice altogether, but that’s another story) Of note recently, is the addition of Shane Chebsey to their ranks. The man behind Smallzone Distribution and co-organiser of the Birmingham International Comics Show is a well-known hub for creative communications and is helping i-Dream through it’s early days.
“At this time Shane has come on board with the idea and very much see the common purpose we are both looking to promote and Alltern8 and I-Dream will be very evident at this year’s BICS .”
Interest in i-Dream from the comics community has been slow to begin with. Already there are downloads available from famed Outcastes creator Tony McGee, the distribution-savvy Markosia, Bugpowder’s Dan Fish and Ian Sharman, creator of Alpha Gods. This number pales in comparison to twenty plus musical collectives are already signed.
“We have yet to market this actively and are very much aware of getting it exactly right for the users before blowing the PR trumpet in any big way. I want to iron out any issues early and make sure it’s in a format everyone likes.
As with all things, new projects take time and we prefer for people to join by word of mouth (for good reasons) that avoid us due to overwhelming press.”
At present, i-Dream has a way to go in site functionality. The search facility needs work, creator urls would help for referral purposes. While monitoring it’s progress, I’ve noticed other bugs being fixed, so my comments may be defunct by the time you read this. Improvements happen in parallel with Alltern8’s growth and Alex hints that other new features are to be revealed as well.
Wowio is recovering, Longbox has just launched in beta. How I-Dream will fare in the iPad future times is part guess-work. While the year’s subsciption for creators is free, I would recommend they take advantage of the offer, before i-Dream moves out of Beta stage. Baskets for eggs, and what a lovely basket it is too.

(See also Tim Bouquet’s interview with Alex Agricola about i-Dream)

Interview with Lara Philips, Creator of Ministry

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

lara_phillips_main1

Lara Phillips is the creator of Ronin Studios’ Ministry, a book which takes its name from the central location, a magick industrial complex and research facility of the dark arts. Set on Crowley Island, it concerns David Hanson’s survival within the facility. Having been impressed with the first issue, I sat down to have a chat with Lara about the work and became more impressed.

Alltern8: I’ve read elsewhere zombie classics and modern works such as ‘The Waking Dead’ are influences. How about those that are not so readily apparent? What other media do you feast on, horrible or helpful?

Lara Phillips: Well, I find all my influences helpful even if they give me nightmares. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a classic that’s stood the test of time and of course, Clock Work Orange. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is something that influenced me in issue 2 when dealing with Hanson’s mental breakdown. But if Ministry can summed up in a few words it would be a quote from Blake’s Second Coming – “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Alltern8: If I read right you’re based in Africa? What have been the opportunities in making comics and the response relating to The Ministry locally?

LP: South Africa is still coming into its own as far as horror’s concerned. Most of the comics here are humorous and political. Still I’ve had a great response from comic readers and have quite a strong following. I also very blessed to have my students at Style Design College as test readers. They’re always asking after my characters as if they were asking after old friends.

Alltern8: I’m looking at Page 15 of Issue 1, it’s well laid out, a marvelously brushed Renaissance engraver style beating scene. It seems you enjoyed drawing that. Do you think violence in narrative is over-employed? Surely there are many other great story devices…

LP: Hmmmm, that’s a tricky one. To be honest, I do think violence is too common in comics today. If overused, violence can definitely desensitise the reader. I’ve tried to build to the violent scenes – to use them as climatic moments rather then just titillation. Every act of violence in Ministry reveals something about the character committing it. With North, violence is just a means to an end, a form of control. With Hanson, it always intensely personal.

Alltern8: How much of The Ministry comes from reading about government figures involved in sex rings, black ops, Guantanamo Bay etc.? Where are the labs for research that make up a lot of the content of The Ministry?

LP: When I was born, Aparteid and racial segregation in South Africa was still a reality. The police were a force to be feared and the government had the power to make people vanish when they wanted. I think that has been one of my biggest influences.

The labs….hmmmm….the labs in Ministry are based on Crowley Island. Their sponsors wanted them in an isolated place in case of a occult fall out. Which of course, is exactly what happened.

Alltern8: Without naming names, I read on ‘Incoming’ you’d received some negative feedback about a rape sequence in The Ministry #3. There are some notes there about the context. Could you accurately re-present the feedback and how you feel about it?

LP: Oh, that scene….I’ve had a lot of feedback on that, locally as well. Most people thought that it was spot-on, violent without being titillating. Liam Sharp was very supportive and really gave me some comforting advice. Some critics were more upset by the nipples shown than the context. I don’t understand that – if someone’s shirtless, you’re going to see nipples. In the context of a rape, that’s NOT a turn-on for the reader and if it is, then that particular reader is a sicko. I was most concerned about the reaction of female readers but so far, a lot of women have related to the character being assaulted.

Alltern8: Talking about rape as part of a realistic horror narrative, if you’re a (spiritual) artist, seems okay to me. However, there’s no payoff, it’s a psychologically and socially fragmenting process. Without giving storytelling specifics away, how do you cope with that?

LP: Rape was one of the issues I wanted to deal with when I did Ministry. It’s more common in comics today than ever. Often once a women is raped in a comic, her life is shown as being over – she’s no use to anyone and she’ll never get over it. Bullsh*t! I wanted to show a character who is a survivor. She gets raped and still manages to overcome the trauma. In Ministry, the focus is not her rape but rather how she emerges triumphant from the trauma. I didn’t deal with this lightly – I based the scene on an experience that happened to a close friend of mine. She’s one of the strongest people I know and went on to become a black belt in kickboxing. At a later point in Ministry, I’m also going to deal with male-on-male rape. So that should stir up a hornet’s nest.

Alltern8: Talk us through the process of creating the average page of The Ministry. You’re an inking addict, but where does it start?

LP: Inking addict – that’s me. Well, I start with my rough thumb nails based on the script I’ve written. When that’s done, it’s onto neat pencils. I do my pencils in pale blue pencil so that I can ink straight over them. I really put the details in the inking. My biggest influences with shading has to be Sin City.

Alltern8: You frequently cite Lovecraft and Lynch, and the setting is named after Aleistar Crowley. Briefly say something about one aspect of your experiences with each of these three characters. Who are they and their works to you?

LP: I first discovered Lovecraft in a very dark time in my life – my mother had just died and my father was a nutcase. I loved the pessimism of his work – the concept of the cosmic abyss just beyond our sight. Many of his themes echo throughout Ministry. Lynch was discovered in a happier time – I had just met the man who would become my husband and he introduced me to Twin Peaks. The seedy underbelly of the American Dream is what I love about Lynch’s work. Twin Peaks is the kind of town I always imagine Hanson growing up in. As for Crowley, well, let’s just say I was the kind of kid who read everything and my normally conservative high school had a copy of his biography.

Alltern8: What can you tell me about Ronin Studios and the part they play in making The Ministry?

LP: Ronin has allowed me to interact with other independent comic professionals, especially Anthony Hary who has been very encouraging. My biggest professional support however would be my letterer Bernie Lee who letters Ministry from Issue 2 onwards. He’s marvelous.

Alltern8: What sort of frequency and narrative plans do you foresee for the book? Can folks buy the book in digital form, perhaps through Alltern8’s iDream facility?

LP: As Bernie and I are the entire creative team and both of us work, Ministry comes out 3 – 4 times a year. It’s available both at Indyplanet and the first issue is available through Alltern8’s (DEFUNCT) iDream facility (search ‘Lara Phillips’). As far as narrative is concerned, Ministry is filled with twists and turns. With the very gates of Hades opening, it’s going to be one hell of a joy ride.

Comicking Extra

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Collected comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. The easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.

The Comic Book Alliance new logo
The winning competition entry by Greg Powell (Source: Birmingham Mail)

comicbookalliance logo

The CBA website can be found here.

 The Best Comic of 2009 – Well Du’uh!

My copy arrives tomorrow through Amazon. The Best Comic of 2009. Is The Best Comic. Is. The Best. Order it.

There’s a free version of Issue 1 available online. Up there.

Related: Writer Kieron Gillen talks to John Parker about The End of Phonogram. Gillen is on top form again: Right-on creative politics, play dead gestures with howls, a provocateur sowing securities. This touched me as a bit of historic comics journalism. The piece is a fortnight old, so there have already been vebalised consequences to the talk of a patronage system.

singlesclubtradeforpreviewstb

I would like Series 3 please.

New Dr Who, Easter Weekend.

Can’t bear the wait for next weekend? Want the junkie shot of gossip?

Rich Johnston has much of the cool new video footage in one place or another.
There’s information on episodes unaired at the time of writing in this behind-the-scenes by Neil Midgely in The Telegraph.
If you fancy something shorter and spoiler-free, try Jason Arnopp’s interview with new producer Steven Moffat, from 2008. No ‘Press Gang’, but he does a great anecdote about the process behind ‘Blink’.

Space Avalanche: The Dark Knight

dark knight

 

Three UK Comics Festivals In A Weekend : More Reports

Hi-Ex Festival, Inverness – Blogging by Alexi ConmanSarah McIntyre and on the Sonic’s Ring Podcast

UK Web and Mini Comix Thing blogging by Hugh ‘Shug’ RaineAlastair MaceachernAmy LettsLizz Lunney and Simon Perrins.

There’s also an interesting businessy type article by J.G. Fisher here (link unavailable)

Schmurgen Con 4 – Blogging seems slow to arrive on this one, although word has filtered out on the first British comics award for a few years, with Tony Lee nominated for every award. Apparently the awards ceremony followed the model pushed by Tony a few years ago and my expansion on that laid out here on Alltern8 a few months back. Eagle Awards, take note, this is what the people want
Called out on cue, Paul Rainey won the Best Writer/Artist award and David Baillie also scooped an award. More details to follow.

Blatant Self-Promotion

I’m being interviewed via a spoken word performance by Harry Goodwin on 15-16th April for the Bookartbookshop event. (‘Gran’ will be exhibited there for the final fortnight of the month) Then I’ll be at The Black Box for the Belfast Sunday launch on Sunday 18th. (Get in touch if you’re in the area: a tie-in drinks-fest is in the works) Copies may also be available at Gherkin’s Alternative Press thing on 17th April Middlesex of which more details here.

If you have an area you’d like to see covered, or a story to share, I can be emailed at drew.luke(at)gmail.com on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’. I’m also on  TwitterFacebook and right here on Alltern8.com My  webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.