Video: Talking Trebitsch with Richard Barr

Author Richard Barr remembers how Andy Luke discovered Trebitsch Lincoln. In this twenty-five minute interview, we talk about the great chameleon’s interest in his family, mysticism and the Nazis.

On Richard’s question to why Trebitsch was so obsessed with travel, I think a part of it has to do with Story. His own tale was for him a fixation therefore he used to travel to bolster his identity and create new dialogue, weave sub-plots and twists, and to make an end or sequel when the going got tough. It matches with his early love for the arts, his first biography and the self-image was doubtlessly reinforced by press coverage.

Richard Barr has written for NI Screen, The Big Issue and on toilet walls throughout the world. He is the co-creator of Axel America, with Andy Luke, and writer of comic strips for Hold the Phones! and We Shall Not Be Stapled. The Last of the Little Atlanteans featured in this year’s Gruesome Grotesques Volume 2, and The Dismemberment of Corpses featured in free e-mag, The Scum Gentry.

The Weariness of the Unsolicited Project Manager

My touches of depression generally come from recognisable causes (grief, stress, displacement), and completely unrecognisable causes (feeling completely shit despite major accomplishments). The latter was something we talked about in Nimlas Studio’s Mental Health in Fiction show, where the round-table was full of useful insight. Show’s two hours, bear in mind, but, wow.

The illness has seen me doing less press this month.  Ten years ago I lapped this stuff up and made sure to Mark McCann made time to interview me for Following the Nerd, which made for a thorough discussion of conspiracy theory, news and entertainment, and I was pleased with how that turned out.

ftnaxel

 

 

 

Also, a nice phone call from Caiman O’Shea, which found it’s way to Corncrake Arts Magazine.

corncrake

There’s also a second piece on the way from the Downbelow B5 Introcast, and an discussion of Mad Max 2 with Travis and Patrick of Reel Comics Heroes pod.

After a solid year working on Axel, I’ve felt I’ve lost the fresh-faced cogniscent speaker I was and am not always able to deliver as entertaining a presentation as I might have five years ago. Last week my health was failing and I’ve thought seriously about giving this career up.

On the other hand, I went out to the pub last night and a lot of people bought books, talked to me, embraced me and filmed a chat I was having with PJ Holden into an interview. Look at those lovely smiles.

So I probably won’t give up in hurry.

Interview with Adam Lively, poet of Rainy Days

It’s quite nice watching an evolutionary leap running through both the Belfast comedy and poetry circles lately, and it’s not restricted to both Down and Antrim I’ll wager. Last December, while loyalist protestors…actually can we stop calling them that? The protest isn’t what we disapprove of – its the litter, the violence, the tying bags of shit to lamp-posts, it’s the rioting. So, last December, while loyalist rioters pushed the city into gridlock folk took part in Operation Sitdown. Pubs and clubs were filled with commerce to make up for the protests which lost Belfast hundreds of jobs, myself included. This later was co-opted by the City Council to become Backin Belfast, but of course, as it was run top-down rather than grassroots, they messed it up. Still, we had LAD to keep our spirits up.

I met my friend Adam Lively for a pint. Adams a more pleasant creature than me. Intently gentle, self-sacrificing, a little jittery but a little is alright, calm and silent with a black observational wit. I had a camera on me to ask him about his poetry collection, Rainy Days, a title which well sums up our capital.

You can buy Rainy Days through the Lapwing site and Paypal. It’s £10 in print or £5 digital, and they’re currently running a 2-for-1 offer from their vast e-book range.

Cheers

Andy

Workshop / Bacon Sammich of Doom

TitanCon, Belfast’s premier Game of Thrones festival starts tomorrow, with a drink andbook readings at McHughs. As noted, I’ll be trying out an idea I’ve been working towards for a while, The One Day Magnicent ComicBook Factory. (link courtesy of Hilary Lawler, ICN)

The Facebook group for The Magnificent Factory is here. Please don’t tick the yes box if you’ve no intention of going to the con. We recognise the neediness of people like that, but it doesn’t mean they get fresh custard.

There’s also a new edition of the rewarding 2d podcast up. Last weeks featured an interview with my wing-man, Factory assistant, and Irish comics nexus, Paddy Brown. This time, you can hear an interview with me, as Ciaran Flanagan and I talk about the most important issue facing the country right now: Will I and Ger Hankey be working on IDW’s Transformers comic?

Now, What do you get when ten plus comixers from different backgrounds put together a silent story about a fight past deliriums and pop obsessions to prevent oneself from dying?

All words and pictures copyright their respective creators. Thanks to the ADF people for accommodating.

BACON SAMMICH OF DOOM creators at the Arts and Disability FOrum

Market Matter: Black Panel Phil Barrett

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

Phil Barrett Interview

Phil Barrett is an acclaimed and respected Irish cartoonist, who returned from Canada a few years ago with a style hybridised from the best of both country’s cartoonists. Readers of The Black Panel Diaries series are familiar with my ravings about the great sales of his work at Belfast markets. Over email, Phil tells me this approach has already outsold his online sales this year.Phil Barrett

Oh, and everyone else loves his gear too.

Andy Luke: Hi Phil,

Paddy (Brown) suspects the reason many people pick up your books is the quality line and brush-work. For people who have never picked up a Phil Barrett book, could you please give a brief description of why they might?

Phil Barrett: Ultimately I suppose I’m trying to create an intriguing story to keep the hypothetical reader reading even if they have no clue as to where it might be leading. After you’ve read one of the stories you should kind of know what I’m getting at with the ideas therein but not quite be able to put it into words. Most of the stories are an elaborately constructed set made to look like a blind alley. Hopefully everything else from the artwork to the presentation should serve this end.

AL: Could you tell me about your own experiences selling at comics markets and community fairs?

PB: In my experience selling my own books at fairs and so on has been something of a revelatory missing link. Previously I’d just distributed my comics as best I could via comic shops and other similar shop based outlets where you dropped off a few copies sale-or-return and hoped for the best (often hanging about the shop to see if anyone ever picked them up). There is something thrilling about witnessing the public handing over money for your books – ‘There are real people reading these things!’ When you put so much into their construction, the pride and satisfaction of seeing them go off the table and out the door is not to be overrated.
festival_covAlso you get to meet other cartoonists doing the same thing. Cartooning can be a lonely oul game and the camaraderie and healthy competition is a good boost.
The Black Panel distribution table is an excellent outlet and straddles the best aspects of the comic shop and community fair – an open-minded but not necessarily comics-savvy crowd looking for something original – what could be better?

AL: Is there any chance we’ll have you over at the Black Panel for a signing this year to meet your adoring masses?

PB: ‘Adoring masses’!?! I think you mean a non-repulsed handful!
Once I get something new together to shill – I’ll definitely be up.

AL: What are you working on at present and when can we expect to see your next print comic?

PB: At the minute I’m finishing up some new material for a collection of short pieces that the publishing arm of the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry are going to put out. Hopefully that should be done for mid-May in time for the Bristol Expo.
There should also be a self published mini-comic ‘Ricky’ before the end of May – rejigged from a previous anthology appearance.

matter_01_cov
AL: If a reader had only to pick up one Phil Barrett comic do you have one you’d be most proud of?

PB: The Matter blue one ‘Stagnant Pool’ is probably the one I’m most happy with. Even though its a good few years old at this stage it’s probably the one comic I’ve done so far where the potential at the time was fully reached – it doesn’t read as if I wrote it at all! Plus it’s funny in parts. ‘Blackshapes’ is also worth a gawk though it came out a bit more serious than me.

matter_01_sm_01 matter_01_sm_02

Above: Samples from Matter: A Stagnant Pool

AL: And readers of your work might also enjoy which comics by other artists?

PB: I would have no doubt those readers would probably enjoy any other homegrown comics available on the Black Panel table – I think they share the slightly mordant humour and surreal worldview of much of the Irish output.

AL: What sort of print runs do your comics usually have and how often do you go back to press?

PB: Unfortunately I’ve never kept accurate figures. I usually print at home on demand and at the moment it’s wholly through fairs and markets and the odd internet order that the comics are distributed. Since it’s been around the longest, the Matter Blue one is probably the bestseller at what I’d estimate at 400+.
AL: You seem to be quite good at selecting disparate images in your comics narratives. (Especially in the blue-covered Matter: A Stagnant Pool) What advice would you give to the kids who want to make a name for themselves as comix storytellers?

PB: Focus on the storytelling more than the comix. It’s the story that people respond to – once they get past the surface of the artwork it’s the story that keeps them reading. It’s worth spending as much time tweaking and honing the story and how it flows as it is on the more obvious return of polishing the artwork.
Keep a sketchbook and use it – ideas disappear as quickly as they appear unless they are noted down. The ‘stagnant pool’ story is practically a jigsaw patchwork of image ideas tacked together.

The Black Panel Diaries season continues over the next month at Alltern8, covering the 2D Festival in Derry and The Point Village Festival in DublinPhil Barrett will be appearing as a guest at both of these events.

Phil’s website is http://www.blackshapes.com/

Publisher Tom Humberstone – Launching Solipsistic Pop #2

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

“Solipsistic Pop is a biannual anthology designed to spotlight the best in alternative Comic art from the UK.”sp2cover

The first issue was part fashionable show-off object full of comics such as,

“Meanwhile”: Robbie Wilkinson’s deranged fantastic Kahlenberg and the fever mind demons of the Social Security Agency offices.

Rachel Reichert beautifully colouring a spider into a butterfly.

Monotone sleepwalking and premonition by Anna Saunders.

Phil Spence’s iconic Ninja Bunny, unconfined in Eastern landscapes

Friendship and stability amongst the televised generation, in Tom Humberstone’s real “Special Guest Appearances”

manifesto pop

Tom is the one of the great folk identified with Solipsistic Pop and with Volume 2 launched only a few days ago, it seemed we might like to read an interview with him.

Andy Luke: Hi Tom, I really enjoyed your American election coverage.

Tom Humberstone: Thanks Andy. That seems like a long time ago now. I really miss it actually. I’m hoping to return to America for a prolonged period of time again as soon as I can. If only for the bagels…

Solipstic Pop Fashion

AL: I get the impression Sol Pop people are all young, thin, talented and incredibly gorgeous. What’s in it for old wrinkly jaded fatties like me?

TH: No, I’m pretty hideous. But if the work implies an inherent beauty within all the contributors, I’ll take that compliment. There are some artists involved in Solipsistic Pop who I’ve only spoken to via the internet. The work is, of course, the most important consideration when putting together the line-up. Physical appearance should have very little to do with the artists or the audience. Maybe I should have gone for a funny answer though…

quadropticon01

AL: In your reading, do you have any particular stand-out favourites? For me Mark Oliver’s “Quadropticon”, a comic which will be readable whichever way up you hold it, is quite seducing…

TH: It’d be unfair for me to single out any particular highlights of either book. Best to leave that to someone more objective. Most reviews of the first book selected different pieces to discuss which is what you hope for with an anthology. Everyone taking part is in there because I love their work and want to publish it so it’s safe to say I’m a massive fan of everyone involved. You’re right though, Mark’s Quadropticon is an amazingly inventive piece and well worth wall space in anyone’s house.

Solipstic Pop Manifesto

Above: An excerpt from Kieron Gillen’s manifesto, full version here.

AL: I really enjoyed the text piece manifestos by yourself and Kieron Gillen. Is that attitude and ethos indicative of how Sol Pop came about? Is everyone involved a drinking buddy with a mutual awesome feel towards each other’s work?

TH: Kieron’s introduction was a wonderful addition to the book and something which still manages to put a smile on my face. The manifesto I wrote with Matthew Sheret was something that was written to lay the groundwork for what we wanted to see happen in the UK comics scene and the comics industry in general. It set an agenda for Solipsistic Pop and Sheret’s We Are Words + Pictures. Most of the points in it are fairly self-evident and those working in comics wouldn’t see anything in there that seemed revolutionary at all. But the point was to collate those thoughts and somehow use them to form a blueprint for what we wanted to achieve over the next few years.

Some of the artists in Solipsistic Pop are good friends who work in entirely different fields but whose work has always seemed appropriate to comics in my opinion. When I set out to make Solipsistic Pop, I knew I wanted the contributors to be a mix of established alternative comics creators, up-and-coming creators, and people working in other media giving comics a try. The result is a a varied mix of surprising and fresh approaches to the medium which I find really exciting.

(SOME IMAGES MISSING)

AL: There’s a conscious decision not to make a comic but a packet of comics, with inserts and inserts. This is a hark back to the comics with free gift days, or calling attention to detail?

TH: It’s not so much trying to mimic a specific ‘free gift’ approach but more about making the most out of a physical object. With so many fantastic digital options available to comic creators and publishers, there really needs to be a *reason* for the comics to exist in print. Beyond the high production values of the organic inks, high quality paperstock, and lithographic printing techniques – I also wanted to make each volume a boutique object that is uniquely suited to the content and theme of each book. The first book contained mini-comics as a nod towards the humble small-press UK comics scene and my fondness for the charm of crude, photocopied booklets. Both books come with a newspaper insert which references a Sunday funnies approach. A tradition which informs the American comics scene and which has thus informed our understanding of the artform too. These additions are carefully considered and, if anything, have more in common with the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern approach to publishing.

AL: How is it funded? Surely production and distribution costs eat up a lot…. (the free style bag-for-life is kinda pretty)

TH: Yeah, Philippa did a superb job with that design. I fund Solipsistic Pop myself. Using savings and whatever freelance work comes my way on top of my full-time job. It’s a struggle. And it has meant that publishing my own work has had to take a slight backseat. But it’s worth it. I’m incredibly proud of these first two volumes and I’m already excited about my plans for Solipsistic Pop 3.

AL: There’s a question I should have asked you but my girlfriend just broke up with me. What was the question and it’s answer?

TH: Oh… um… wow, this is awkward…

You buy a copy of the newly released Solipsistic Pop via their website. Volume 1 was subtitled and themed “Broken” and the new edition, “Middle”

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