British Comic Awards nominations

Today the nominees for the first British Comic Awards were announced, and they’re an absolutely phenomenal collection of awesome comics made right here in Blighty.


Thing is though, these nominations aren’t really for the likes of me and my friends. They’re probably for you.

Yes, you. I know you really enjoyed reading Watchmen, and yes – it’s great that you know Ghost World was a comic once (Really? Well, it was) – but do you own any of the books in those pictures above?

My friends and I, see, we own them all. We all get really excited when these creators do new stuff. But we’re awful at telling people we don’t know about them. So go out and buy Don Quixote, or Goliath, or Hilda and the Midnight Giant, or Nelson, or Science Tales, or The Accidental Salad, or Bad Machinery, or Girl & Boy, or Hemlock, or Tuk Tuk (although I can’t find a link to that in an online shop, so you can borrow my copy).

Scribble them down, or go to Amazon, or do whatever you need to do to find these stories and then read them. They’re a terrific collection of comics, and you should spend money on them.

1000 Words

Thought Bubble comic festival‘s full lineup has been announced today, including a little event Mike Bennet and I are throwing together; 1000 Words.

1000 Words is a collection of very short talks about comics & culture, by people who love both. Nine speakers will be talking about the things that inspire them, whether that’s games, music, or moving pictures, with each talk lasting fifteen scintillating minutes. Following them will be a keynote by one of comics current stars, who has thirty minutes to tell the world how their industry & their interests collide.

Running from 11am-4pm on November 17th, guests include Emma Vieceli, Anne Hollowday, Si Spurrier, Laura Snapes, Kristyna Baczynski, Hannah Donovan, Andy Belanger, Kate Brown and Antony Johnston, with a keynote from Kieron Gillen to wrap things up.

You can see a few more details over on the Thought Bubble website, and we’ll be revealing some of the topics over the next few weeks over on the Thought Bubble blog.

Thanks to Clark and Lisa for giving us the chance to put this on – it’s going to be a lot of fun!

I’ve been judging comics

As I mentioned in June, I helped to judge this year’s Koestler Awards entries. The winners have been announced, and you can read through a huge .pdf of this year’s winners over at the Trust’s website.

OR you can visit the exhibition, curated this year by Sarah Lucas. It opens on the 19th of September, down at the Southbank Centre, and I’m excited to see what she’s selected for this year’s show.

I’m also on the committee for the British Comics Awards, and yesterday we announced the contenders for the Young People’s Comic Award. It’s judged by readers, young readers, and I’m excited to see which they select.

What is the cultural significance of comics?

Kieron asked me that the other night. I gaped like a fish for a bit before he qualified the question ‘Why would you telling [a room full of designers] something about the workings of comics have significance to them? Why comics?’

And it’s sort of not a question. It’s like asking ‘Why is telly?’. But also not. It’s about stating one’s personal stake in the medium, and using that a lens to say why that medium is important.

So here’s my go;

1) They can be anything
2) They are simultaneously easy and exhausting to read
3) I feel utterly isolated during the reading of a comic
4) …

I had a fourth, but it ran away from me while I was writing 3.

Six pages and process

This evening I spent a few minutes chatting about comics to the local chapter of the IxDA. Last time I spoke at an IxDA night I was a bit too light on process for a lot of the audience, so this talk was almost entirely about process; a blow-by-blow account of how Kristyna Baczynski and I created a comic as resident creators at last year’s Thought Bubble festival.

Rather than retype the whole thing, I thought I’d write about the impact the residency has had on my working process. Some of it feels self-evident, but only in retrospect. At the end of the post you’ll find a list of things I referenced in the talk, as well as a link to specially discounted Paper Science collection (to say thanks for reading that far down/coming to the talk).

First up, some background. I publish an anthology, and I read a lot of them.

Independent anthologies, by and large, aren’t greatest hits collections; they’re a chances for creators to experiment or show-off. Often because they’re unpaid, and because the audience is a subsection of a niche.

Kristyna and I knew that we could created something fun and playful, while packing it with more story than our six pages should allow. We could tell a story, while offering little snapshots into the wider world the story existed in.

We could do that by manipulating the brain’s desire to finish things. Closure is how Scott McCloud refers to the thing the brain does to connect panels to panels and words to pictures. Matt Fraction‘s excellent talk The Batman Dreams of Heironymus Machines shows how that closure extends into the real world, and how you populate comics with your own world.

And so we took from the world around us – Leeds Library was where the residency was based – and brute forced a great big world into a short story about a girl looking for something.

We had a lot of fun that week, speaking a story aloud to one another, finding out about our shared processes and interests and basically having an extended comics ‘date’. It was grand. From a distance of nine months, I think four things proved their importance that week.

Our first day together was spent working out where the other person’s head was at. In terms of how we work, what we wanted to do with comics, how we wanted to spend the residency.

At the time that could have risked being a waste, but it meant we were in a way better position to be clear about things that would help or hurt the project, and when different approaches to work would be useful. Basically, a day learning one another’s boundaries was incredibly valuable in the long run.

We worked out what we wanted to deliver pretty quickly. It evolved over the week, but we spent time making sure we were working off of the same template, ‘Let’s do a six-page comic, and let’s have these characters and this library as the central through-line’.

We didn’t have a brief, so this was critical to us being able to communicate well throughout the making of the comic.

Kristyna’s thumbnails were so tiny. So so so tiny. But with tiny nibs and tinier rubbers she kept framing and reframing panels and structures and the flow of the story, which led to changes in the script which led to changes in the thumbnails and so on.

None of it was polished, little of it clear to anyone but us, but it proved the comic would flow and that the story could be told.

The reason we shared so much of our process – the reason we spent a week in and out of one another’s notebooks – is because the finished comic wouldn’t be happening for a long time. We knew it’d be a while before Kristyna could squeeze a concentrated burst of attention on it into her schedule. So we swapped every tiny piece of knowledge we could so that, when the time came, she could just zero in and Get It Done.

In an ideal world all four of those things would play a part in every project. I think I’ve definitely worked on things where a notable failure to think about or apply one of those has scuppered a job, or at least left everyone feeling a bit dirty at the end.

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For those of you looking for more links, I also referenced the work of Adam Cadwell, Julia Scheele and Tom Humberstone, in particular the latter’s anthology Solipsistic Pop.

You can also find out more about Phonogram, ‘Marvel method‘ scriptwriting and Alan Moore’s scripts using the internet.

EDIT: I also see that Kieron’s Decompressed deals with ‘Marvel method’ writing this week. You should have a listen.

As a super special bonus the collection of the anthology I publish, Paper Science, is available for just £5 plus postage. That’s half price. You should totally buy it before I change my mind about that.

Thanks to Kristyna, and to the folks at IxDA London.

Words and comics

Kristyna posted these preview images of our collaboration, “Due Returns”, when she wrapped work on them a few weeks ago. Super-pleased with how this story came out. It’ll be in the second Thought Bubble anthology, published by Image Comics in November.

I’m going to be talking about how this comic came together at an IxDA night in London on August 22nd. It’s at LBi on Brick Lane and it all kicks off around 6.30. Come!

Paper Science in review

At the start of 2011 year I decided to publish Paper Science – the comics anthology I edit – in a quarterly edition for a minimum of four issues. That fourth issue came out in February (this year, 2012), bringing Paper Science to a close for the foreseeable future as I turn my attention to, you know, being a freelance copywriter.

You can buy a collection of those four issues, wrapped in a lovely cover by Philippa Rice, for just £10 plus postage.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. I wanted to evaluate how that year went, partly for my benefit and partly because I think some of this might be worth sharing with other independent creators. As a rule we aren’t that good at sharing information about financials and process, and that’s not a rule I’m at all fond of. As a result, some of this is going to seem a bit obvious to a lot of people. I’m okay with that; I’d rather not assume any knowledge at this point.

This is a long read and not for everyone, so proceed with caution… Continue reading