Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thought Bubble 2010 review

This year's Thought Bubble convention in Leeds was the best yet. I think it was the best run, best attended convention that I have been to in the UK, an event that showcased great artists of every stripe. With each successive year that I have exhibited (this was the third) I have been busier, and this year I was pinned behind the table the whole time, barely able to get out and look at the other other stalls. I really enjoyed doing a show so close to where I grew up, too, hearing the accents of my youth.

While I couldn't get out and meet as many people as I wanted to, I have some links to people's work that I really liked.

The first one is Kristyna Baczynski, I wanted to speak to her, maybe learn the secrets of her amazing work. Alas she was always busy, but it was pretty plain how good it was. Take a look at this!

In a similar vein is young hero of British comics, Luke Pearson. Luke seems a good man, he is a match for any of the top contenders of the US scene. Rumour has it that Ivan Brunetti and Adrian Tomine are looking over their shoulders in fear as Pearson casts his long, slight shadow across the Atlantic.

I submit the very funny comic stylings of Timothy Winchester without comment, as frankly, he never pipes down.

I bought something fantastic from Octavia Raitt but I can't find a link to where you would get it and I can't tell you what it was as it is a present so I guess no one is the wiser and no one ever will be.

It was a real thrill to meet Simon Gane, an incredible comic maker who, to my shame, I hadn't heard of a few months ago. His work is genuinely inspiring.

And finally, I got a copy of Thank Goodness For Herald Owlett, a comic with a great style that promises much more from its creator.

That is all I can remember, as I am very tired, and very old.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My last post

I really can't believe the response to my last post. It has appeared all over the place. I thought a couple of dozen people would read it and take it to heart, and I pretty much knew who those people were. I figured they could ask me to clear up any points in person!

For the most part it has been taken in the spirit it was intended, though it's dispiriting to see it re-posted elsewhere without my proviso that there is always room for hobbyism and art for art's sake. People can do what the dickens they like! I spend my whole life telling people to draw for the joy of it.

I think I made one point badly. When I say "don't read comics", I mean "don't read comics to learn how to construct a story". And even then I'm being harsh, but I know a number of people who never crack open a prose book and it drives me up the wall. Being able to sit down and concentrate on reading something for an hour or two is extremely useful and good for your brainium in the modern media age.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate

I've been in apartments overseas where there were four times as many people resident and making a living off their own comics than manage to do it in the UK. Over the 12 years I've been active in UK indie comics, I've been constantly impressed by the standard of skill within our comics community, and horrified by the way people eventually disappear, unable to sustain themselves or their work.

The points below are what I've learned doing indie comics as a career. There's always room for art for art's sake, for hobbyism, but these are the lessons I've learned for those who want to escape that prevailing mood. I've turned off comments because, while you're welcome to disagree, I don't really want to argue about it.


1. Maybe living in the most expensive place in the country is not the best idea anyone ever had

If you want to do comics for a living, here's an idea: don't live in the capital. London may be the thriving, beating heart of UK culture, but if you want to stop working in a shop and doing your comics in the evening, try living somewhere cheaper. Which is to say, anywhere.

2. Small press: it is not 1994 any more

There are comics on the internet now. If you're good enough, have a decent website, and keep a reliable schedule, you can have a whole career there. The notion of the primacy of a photocopied quasi-zine "small press scene" in the UK is ludicrous. 1 in 4 people in the world can speak English. Questionable Content has half a million readers. It is not rocket science.

3. Make comics for people who don't make comics

Why is anyone other than your comic making friends and a few select interested parties going to read an art-damaged visual tone-poem about the inside of your psyche? Learn how to engage and entertain people. It's a profoundly useful skill.

4. Forget what you learned at art school and read some business books

You need entrepreurial chops to make a living from your art, or the help of someone who has them. It's not that hard. You copy someone who has already succeeded. It usually works.

5. Making money from art is not vulgar

Art is a commodity. It makes people feel something. It raises the greater sum of human happiness. It increases the gaiety of the nation. It has a value.

6. Making pamphlets is ridiculous

Comic book pamphlets are largely read by ageing comic book fans looking for a monthly fix. Generating two such booklets a year is not medicine enough for anyone. Don't fetishize the object, it is part of another era. There are now many better ways to reach an audience.

7. Diary comics: stop it

If your only comics outlet is a diary comic on the internet, you are wasting your time and your energy. The success stories in this field are the product of people with strong, often eccentric personalities and a robust visual vocabulary, capable of turning their lives into a compelling narrative. The 200 people who read your diary comic, on the other hand, all make their own dull diary comics. Or are about to start.

8. Read some actual books

If you want to learn how to construct proper narratives and tell good stories, stop reading comics. All you'll ever do is produce watered down versions of the things you like. Read actual books, the hard ones without pictures in them. Comics are baby school, reading prose is hard graft.

9. A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate

The affirmation of your work by your friends in a small scene means nothing. No one is going to tell you that your work is bad to your face and risk being ostracised. Seek the widest audience for your work, if that's what you want, then ask yourself why things are or aren't working.

10. Being ambitious doesn't equate to being unpleasant

Being ambitious doesn't mean destroying the opposition. There is plenty of air to go round. It means doing your best work without simultaneously apologising for it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NEWW 2, Giant Days, Thought Bubble

I'm back on home soil after my adventures in Brookyn and at New England Webcomics Weekend. My trip to the USA has filled my with vigour, although that vigour is currently manifesting as jet lag. I can tell you that during the brief window of time that my brain functions correctly at the moment, I feel like a million dollars.

New England Webcomics Weekend was a great show, a banner example of a well-run small convention. It was great to meet so many enthused readers, especially on Saturday, when the wave of people barely seemed to stop. Easthampton is hardly a well-connected metropolis, so it was quite something to see how many people attended.

I also got the chance to meet some creators who, if I'd run into them before, I'd not really ever had chance to talk to. I'm sure that if I try to list everyone that I met and liked, I'll leave someone out, but I know for certain that I finally got to spend quality time with Karl Kerschl of The Abominable Charles Christopher, comic machine KC Green, Becky & Frank of Tiny Kitten Teeth, and the suspiciously charming Sara Bauer (Hey Pais) and Tom McHenry (Non Canon). Oh and Jorge Cham of PHD Comics, who flew in in a helicopter of his own design*. I apologise to anyone whose feelings I have brutalised, I remember meeting a lot of other people, all lovely. All of you.

* I may have misremembered this

It's the final week of my Giant Days miniseries, I've had some very kind emails about it, a great response. Many of them asked if and when the series will return. At the moment I'm not sure, I'd prefer it to be ongoing than an occasional side-feature, and I can only draw one of those at once. Talks are going on in back rooms under flickering, unshaded bulbs, keep watching the chimney for a puff of white smoke.

This weekend I'll be at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, exhibiting my wares and doing my best to charm and delight. I've got a panel at 10.30 in the morning about "digital comics", I'll either be dead serious and tell you the basic true facts, or do a series of jokes, either way you will get your money's worth. I'll write a little more about this show later in the week.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

New England Webcomics Weekend 2

I am currently in the USA, priming myself for a train trip to Western Massachusetts for New England Webcomics Weekend! On Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th of November I will be selling my wares at Easthampton Eastworks. Tickets are still available on the door for local types and it should be a splendid time. On Sunday you can look forward to Christopher Hastings taking me on, Frost-Nixon style, in a head to head interview of a sort previously unseen at ANY EVENT.

I will have a variety of red hot items for sale, including a few show-exclusive items

* A B&W collection of all the Bad Machinery comics so far called "A Feral Flag Will Fly", in a nice big format (NEWW and Thought Bubble shows only)

* My Dr Who & Amy Pond prints (I have 20, so apply early)

* Buttons & Stickers

* All the Scary Go Round book collections

* Fixed-price postcards

* Lady Gaga and We Will Do Our Best posters

* A selection of tshirts available in the "Dumbrella Apparel Zone" and the "Topatoco Clearance Area"

I hope to see a few of you there!