Treading the Boards

If you’re near Glasgow this week you can get along to ‘Guide Gods’, were performer Claire Cunningham explores religious narrative and faith through dance, live music, humour and audio interviews with religious leaders, academics, deaf and disabled people, and me.

Guide Gods

Claire’s website has a list of this week’s dates  and according to Composer Derek Nisbet on his Guide Gods blog, the show “is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival.”

Recently I’ve struck up rather nice working relationships over Open Mic sessions with musician Jim McClean  and actress Lindsey Mitchell. To this end we’re working on a play together, a condensed Game of Thrones play. We’ll be performing the comic act at the Sunflower Festival, TitanCon and are talking of a screening of the play at a well-known Belfast gallery.

Writing this, I’m surprised that my voice is making the transition to theatre. This last year, it’s been all about the writing. Writing prose over, scriptwriting for comics, feels refreshing and liberating. I feel like I can earn some money if I work hard enough. Unlike comics. a beautiful medium, were grossly underpaid workers are slowly subsumed by a culture of silverfish turned woodworm rot.

Ahem…

Writing prose is enough of a departure from scriptwriting to enthuse: I feel like an amateur who can achieve professionalism and a paycheque. Knowing I have a lot to learn is a great feeling. I’ve been encouraged by the Belfast Writers Group and open mic audiences at Skainos and Lindores. Last month, I applied to return to university on a Creative Writing Masters so I can up my practice.

Parting shot to the world of comics (for now), is the short, Bottomley – Brand of Britain. The product of much research, it’s been adapted with care by artist Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins. Here’s how editor Jonathan Clode pitches it:

Horatio Bottomley, patriot and publisher of John Bull, the newspaper of the people. But behind his rousing public speeches and staunch support of the troops hides a conspiracy that would reveal one of the greatest swindles of WW1.


That’s Bottomley’s mistress, Peggy Primrose, in Panel 4, putting her hat back on after it was knocked off in the squash.

The tale appears in To End All Wars, a remarkable 320 page graphic novel with  stories by a number of established underground comixers. It features the return of the  remarkable Steven Martin of WW1 comics series, Terrible Sunrise, as well as Jenny Linn-Cole, The Pleece Brothers, Sean Michael Wilson, Joe Gordon, Selina Lock, Steve Earles, Robert Brown, John Maybury and shedloads of others.

The book is released on July 17. Copies are available for pre-order now on Amazon or, at the same price, direct from publisher John Anderson at Soaring Penguin Press. Costs £18 all inclusive and proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

Paddy Lynch – Countdown to Dublin Zine Fair (1)

In the run up to the two-day event taking place at The SupaFast Building near Capel Street starting Saturday, I decided to have a chat with a man well known on both the comics and zine scene, the interesting Paddy Lynch.

Page 11, Issue 1 of Lynch’s Last Bus

Page 11, Issue 1 of Lynch’s Last Bus

Patrick, hope you’re well! It’s an exciting time to be you so it seems. Big Jim, (your book about the infamous trade unionist leader), Stray Lines (a cutting edge anthology with the Hughes brothers, the Judge brothers and the Barrett man) How would you introduce yourself and your work to someone at the Dublin Zine Fair who has never heard of you before? Y’know. If I’m sitting on the other side of the room.

Paddy:
Hi Andrew. I’m very well thank you -very excited about those two projects that you mentioned. It’s been a good while since I’ve released anything substantial so I’m very much looking forward to getting these books in front of peoples eyes.

Generally I would introduce myself as Paddy Lynch, and if I’m asked to describe my work I would usually say it’s ‘observational slice of life fiction’ or perhaps ‘kitchen-sink tragicomic character studies without the tragedy, or comedy’. Is that too evasive? I guess I’m quite interested in how people reveal the flaws and weaknesses that unite us all through their actions, despite whatever outward impression they may give off. That’s a theme that seems to keep coming up again and again in my work.

Andy:
You’ve done quite a few of these fairs now. How would you define your relationship with the punters?

Paddy:
Andy, you should know better than to ask me to define anything. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fight with a punter, so I imagine our relationship is pretty solid. That hardest thing I find about this is battling preconceptions of what ‘comics’ are, but I find people at zine fairs are usually quite open-minded and very receptive to the type of work I produce. I often do better at these events than I do at the more traditional comic convention.

Last Bus by Paddy Lynch

Last Bus by Paddy Lynch

StrayLines, A Comic Book Anthology from Paddy Lynch on Vimeo.

Andy:
This weekend, what are you looking forward to most?

Paddy:
Meeting punters, chatting to them and other zine/comic makers and the general inspirational boost you get from this. Hopefully seeing new work from people such as Elida Maiques, Colm Wood, Phil Barrett, Deridre deBarra.

Andy:
Anything you’re dreading? You’re not allergic to nuts are you?

Paddy:
The inevitable question – “so what new material do you have?” Unfortunately I have no new books ready (Stray Lines is set to launch in late September, and Big Jim will be out in early 2013). But it will be a good chance for people to pick up the various mini comics that I don’t sell online.

LARKIN !‘Big Jim’, written by Rory McConville and published through O’Brien Press.

LARKIN !‘Big Jim’, written by Rory McConville and published through O’Brien Press.

 

Andy:
And finally – any message for the people out there reading this thinking, I’d love to be able to be adored for my version of Bat-Man / recipe for anti-government brownies, and wondering how to get there?

Paddy:
Don’t wait on someone else’s approval to do it. Making and self-publishing a zine/comic/whatever is an incredibly rewarding and empowering thing to experience.

Thanks for the chat Andy- see you on Saturday!

Andy:
My fingers are covered with printer ink and my bag has four things in it. Plenty of room for comics and zines then.

Stray-Lines-217x300 (1)

You can find out more about Paddy’s work at his website, http://www.patrickl.net/ including updates from the Big Jim project.  (Which respectfully, ICN ran an exclusive on in February) You can learn more about Stray Lines via the website or go direct to  http://www.fundit.ie/project/stray-lines-a-comic-book-anthology

The Zine Fair is managed by Sarah Bracken. Click through the image below to go to her website. 

Dublin-Zine-Fair

The questions in this interview were built from models supplied by London’s bounciest superhero, David Baillie.

 

Don’t Get Lost Making A Graphic Novel

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

I’ve been making comics since childhood, since 1997, for other people to see. I practiced as a scriptwriter, drawing my own comics out of necessity. I’ve made around forty, and last year I made my first attempt at a graphic novel.

No one can tell you, as fact, what the right way to make a comic is. You do not have to purchase Bristol boards, you are not obligated to work with brush, or colour. (Heck, you can use a sandwich bag) You don’t have to pay printers a grand. As a comic strip artist, instructions per conformity like anatomy reference books are a choice. Successful use does not necessarily demonstrate a link in narrative content with the medical discoveries of Vesalius or DaVinci. Comprehende?

flow

notebook

“Just do it”

I chose to work without script or thumb-nails and used an A8 (shirt pocket) note-pad with (light) 60gsm paper. A4’s wide open space is agony to me and the comfortable intimate pocket-book suited my wish to develop a sporadic style. “Don’t Get Lost” was based largely on personal experience rather than research and so I could dive straight to work at any point in my day. Many professional comics artists draw page designs on A5 (half a sheet of paper, the standard for many small pressers) and photocopying them by twice the size to A3 (121%) for use with a light-box. This is then pencilled to the page to form layout structure. I’ve even heard a tale of one professional who takes directly his A5 thumbnail to finished computer art. With this, the energy and spectacle of flow is retained and a good reader can notice and feel the difference.

My pencil work developed quickly to look confident. In one 24 hour session I unconsciously worked up thirty good pages in twenty-four hours. This didn’t happen creationist style, I’ve about twenty pages of shoddy, stumbling early work to prove it.

It’s worth mentioning my prior intentional experience with the 24 hour comic challenge is one that I will be repeating, and would recommend to any artist embracing a challenge. If you’ve not seen my 2007 comic ‘Gran’, I suggest book-marking this download page for an idea of a great 24 hour comic.

The accompanying video filmed in August 2008 is a bit waffly but gives an interesting insight into the strip’s content and that notable notebook.

My early experiences with using a gel pen at bus stops on Don’t Get Lost….that sentence finishes itself. I have little understanding of inking practice outside tracing, it’s clearly much more. Spending time on reference guides would have been a useful discipline to cultivate. That said, I did manage to put my corner-shop biro to some use. I’m becoming aware of how many great artists use the humble, unassuming biro. Paddy Brown works consistently in red biro, and the results blow the lay-man’s socks off.
Graphic Novel Coming

I didn’t set out to create a graphic novel of 300 pages – it just happened that way. First, it was 40, then 150 and so on. Eighty pages in, the notebook went missing for a day I mentally screamed and wept and my insides nearly bled. Then it turned up, and I do believe I kissed the book repeatedly, pocket fluff and all. Then copied it, anally.

Sally-Anne Hickman’s diary comics inspired: looking drawn fast, relaying honesty, immediacy and reality. Her choice of start and cut-off points and the length of sixty pages, longer than most mini-comics at sixty pages made them feel like novels. I strove to replicate this, breaking my work into chapters, the first a 144 page pocket comic-book.

First 80 pages

Fridge Comics

The Other 120 pages

I was working part-time at a stationers and spent my staff discount on two magnetic white-boards and a batch of cheap magnets. A sob of regret dismembering the notebook. The pages were numbered along each row. Staple-bound comic books work in supplements of fours and for a 144 page book I had to work things out in advance.

Once I’d done this, I took 36 A4 sheets, folded them and lightly numbered the pages in pencil. The pages were removed from the boards and lightly white tacked until I ran out began stripping posters from my walls.

Graphic Novel Fail

A big problem with this method of assembly could be in production: carting precarious stickys to a copy shop results in confusion with much slimmer volumes. Many copy-shops will specifically ask for .jpegs or .pdfs but I was lucky to have access to the use of the university photocopy room off-semester, when students were busy studying their parent’s satellite wide-screens. Three copies were made at this point: one each for the critical faculties of John (Robbins) and the conscientious Matt (Badham) I bound the comics using a single elastic band, a method Sally uses for her sixty pagers that is surprisingly great. I re-read the completed work, noting changes and sent these out in the packages.

Reviewing comics is a lovely job, one I’ve found gets progressively harder the more I do it. In this case, it was an opportunity for my editors to alter the narrative. Concerns were expressed. John and Matthew were made aware my narrative was a damn disturbing one. There are places in the narrative were characters are plunged into shock and despair, sickening states. While DLG is light and enjoyable in many places, at core a survival narrative, these moments don’t have the immediacy of drama as device that the latter do. This was compounded by other subject matter: media social panics and ambiguities in regional translation. Telling narratives of other people led Matt to raise concerns that, without their consent, I could be overstepping ethical codes. I’d changed names and altered appearances, but the occasional photo-realistic style didn’t help. I certainly didn’t want it to look as if those portrayed could be identified even though I was almost sure they could not. It’s just a mini-comic based in a small town that no one from there is going to read, right? Almost wasn’t good enough, and I pondered making changes for quite a while.

By this time I had moved back to Northern Ireland. Unlike mainland UK, Canada and the States, we don’t have Kinkos, Staples or photo-copiers in corner-shops as common place. Copying seems pricier. I graduated straight onto the unemployment line and a friend’s sofa, the book sat on the shelf. I took my single copy on the road to the 2D Festival were I showed it off to a few, including an attendee who advanced me £4 for a copy before I lost his contact details. I also made mini-comic previews of selected scenes in the book.

The accompanying video from June 2009 shows how I set about making this 16 page mini from one A4 sheet preceded by the formative stages of another. It also shows a copy of the preview I sent Matt and John. Warning: Contains disturbed complexion and over-dramatic pauses related to an all-night stint before deadline.

Webcomic On

Having produced those many pages made for good therapy and a sense of accomplishment. My stubborn nature and need to set a discourse off persevered. A friend I’d showed it to loaned me his scanner. I knew enough to host the images on my livejournal account, which has enough permanent storage space to hold them and to set up a free blogspot which was more accessible and would allow me to post in advance should I need to take a day off.

Some pages were muddied with dirt, wear or pencil smudges that deleting had to be applied to selected areas. I chose not to get bogged down, not wipe energy or construction in this. Ralph Kidson remarked that the pencils in my work may be a form of colouring, which I think is quite a good way of looking at it.

dont get lost

Don't get lost totems

The new year was coming in and it seemed as good a time as any to launch the webcomic. However, other factors got in the way and I was too busy to promote it properly. I sent Matt and John courtesy emails, and quicker than imagined, word spread with links on Forbidden Planet, Bugpowder.com and the blogs of Richard Cowdry and Paddy Brown welcoming me to the world of webcomics. I doubt this would have been possible without these connections made over time.

I’d had some success posting preview pages on Twitpic over the summer. Pete Ashton has an interesting piece here on Neill Cameron’s venture doing something similar. This did more good than posting in communities were I’m less an active part, such as Digg and Delicious.

Were I to fill every comic forum with links, I would not obtain my objective. The narrative has many strong themes: sexual abuse through rape and it’s effect on secondary survivors, paedophilia and the media panic surrounding it. Blogging without links was once considered bad practice. I intend to build this over time, as the narrative unfolds. Linking to communities who deal with those issues and their resources I’ve found useful, outside of my pithy scribbles. If the strip is commented on too, all the better for making another community.

With 300 pages scanned in and another 50 to do, I have a comic out that doesn’t look as polished as other web-comics but is a damned formidable read. Don’t Get Lost is updated on Thursdays and I hope you’ll find something there to suit you. As all things, in time.