BugPowder Weblog
Regular slugs of news for the UK Small Press Comics Nation (huh?)
November 30 2008

Her Peculiar World: An Interview with Karrie Fransman

Karrie Fransman is published in the Guardian, makes mini comics and also publishes her work online. Bugpowder decided to have a chat to her and this is what she said:

Can you introduce yourself for the benefit of those unfamiliar with your work?

Yup, sure. Hello there! I'm Karrie Fransman, a 27-year-old Scottish girl with scraggily hair and a little bump on my finger (from refusing to hold my pen like an adult). I've been drawing comics for about four years and scribbling pictures and telling stories since forever (another symptom of refusing to act like an adult, I guess). My comics are mostly autobiographical, with a chunk of magical realism. I also do an autobiographical comic strip for The Guardian each Friday on the back of [their tabloid-sized supplement] G2 called My Peculiar World.

Please tell us a little about your comics. You've been published professionally, but continue to self-publish. How do you balance those two aspects of your career?

Well, I still have a full-time job as a creative advertiser so I’m kinda juggling three aspects of my career at the moment! I started out getting published in the Girly Comic anthology, then moved onto self-publishing and selling at all the usual conventions beginning with B (Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham...why does no-one hold one on Barbados?). Then sold for a short while in Camden market at the infamous London Underground Comics stall. Recently I’ve been focusing on publishing online and getting my new website up and running with stories, strips and blogs at www.karriefransman.com (designed by the lovely Phil Spence.) Phew!

I'm rocking a bit of a superhero lifestyle at the moment: advertiser by day/cartoonist by night ...along with all the other passionate comic artists out there I guess! But I'd love an eight-day week for just a bit more time to do the arty, experimental comics.

How did you get your stuff in the Guardian? Did it take a long time? Did you submit your strip to any other papers?

Ha ha! Everyone wants to know this. Well, firstly, I found out the address of Steve Bell's grandmother and then found a length of rope, a large sack and…nah, just kidding. I simply sent off ten samples of my comic strips to the editors of thirty-five newspapers and magazines. I'd set myself a goal of writing and uploading one comic strip a week since January 2008, so I had about twenty to choose from. I was just lucky that my favourite paper got back to me rather than the Daily Mail! But I'm a firm believer in upping your number of submissions and thus upping your chances. Art is so subjective.

Please tell us something about your working methods. About how you get and record your ideas, and the process of putting a strip together.

As my day job involves coming up with ideas, I've got a bit of a case of mental diarrhoea. It's sorting the good from the shit that's more difficult. So, um, the ideas part is easiest for me. Every time I have an idea for a strip, hear a conversation, have a memory from something from my childhood, I write it in my mobile phone. Then I add it to a veeerrry long list on my computer of ideas for strips (and art works/stories/plans to take over the world). I try to be quite disciplined in telling a story in a strip. Often there are two or three jokes I want to put in but I make sure I only do one. I have to fight against my tendency to want to cram everything in; strips are such small spaces.

I can tell when a strip excites me 'cause I can't wait to draw it, but my ultimate criteria for choosing what to draw is whether or not I think people can relate to it. I believe as an autobiographical comic artist it's important not to be too self indulgent!

Now for the science bit...I'll scamp up a few scribbles of how I want to map the strip out. I have a guide-line template I use that's roughly 30% bigger than the final version. I try to mix it up a bit with varying panel numbers and sizes. I then get to my favourite bit, good old-fashioned drawing (usually curled up on the sofa with some kind of food stuff in my left hand). I use one of those clickity-click pencils and then ink it with a plain old black biro. I like the varying softness of line you get and they're easy to...erhum... 'borrow' from work. Finally I hit the computer; scanning it in, shrinking it, neatening it up the scribbles, deleting the food stains and colouring it in Photoshop CS. That's my least favourite bit as I can't equate the freedom of drawing comics with the oppression of sitting in front of a computer for three hours with your eyeballs slowly drying to a crisp.

The whole process takes about five hours per strip. I really should try and cut it down; time is money after all. But I like the whole hand-made, crafty feel and so I try to avoid too much computer corner cutting. Still, at the end of the process I have to force myself to step away from the computer, stop doing final tweaks and go play outside in the three-dimensional world, where the ideas come from in the first place.

Which cartoonists are you enjoying at the mo'? Small press or otherwise.

Whoo-hoo. Great question! I get so excited about all the brilliant comic artists out there and all the directions they're moving the medium in. I've got so many crushes. At the moment I'm loving Eleanor Davis. She rocks and is really true to her small-press roots. Her smallest doodles have so much psychological maturity and such big stories in them and she's got a grasp on design and colour that I'll never have *sigh*. I'm also reading a lot of old Posy Simmonds at the moment as I want to have her career! It must have been even more difficult making it as a female cartoonist in the ‘70s. Then there's Mark Stafford who I was really awe-struck to have the fortune of meeting the other month. Lee Kennedy is another natural. Fantagraphic's anthology Blab is always a great place to see what's happening where art meets comics; comics with collages, history comics, silhouette comics. The possibilities are endless. Most of the other artists I rate sit on the boundary between art and storytelling: The Clayton brothers, Marion Peck and my absolute all-time favourite Paula Rego. Not to mention picture book artists like Kit Williams and Maurice Sendak. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! They fill me with envy and energy.

What are your thoughts on the indie comics scene in this country?

I love it. It was my first introduction into the comic world and I love meeting all these creative, eccentric, cartoon-type characters at all the conventions, and seeing the weird lenses through which they view their world. The Web and Mini Comix Thing was my first con and there's still mounds of brilliant, creative work there and at Caption too. The underground scene's been an absolutely essential environment for me to learn, experiment and play in. My only frustration with the UK indie comic scene is that more people are hiding at conventions and not getting their brilliant work out there. There is an increased awareness of graphic storytelling among newspapers, the film industries, publishers, boutique shops, literary festivals etc, which we can all be grabbing with both hands. Plus getting indie comics out of conventions and into the big, wide world means reaching a more varied audience. When I sold my comics at conventions I’d get mostly white, British blokes, from twenty-forty, who’d been reared on a steady diet of DC and Marvel, where as when we set up shop in Camden it was 50/50 girls and boys and anyone from grannies to goths to, um...gothy grannies.

Karrie Fransman, thanks for your time.

Check out Karrie's website here.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews
November 28 2008

The new issue of Whores of Mensa is out now! It's inspired by all of our favourite French ladies, and is chock full of biography, autobiography, H.P.Lovecraft-inspired cabaret fantasies and more!

Visit our website for previews and ordering info. And don't forget the Whores of Mensa blog, where you can get all the latest news on Mardou, Ellen and Jeremy's latest exploits.

Thanks for reading!

# Posted by Ellen Lindner
November 22 2008
# Posted by Stevo Tillotson
November 12 2008

don't forget, it's the thought bubble comic festival in leeds this saturday.
on the banal pig table, gareth "man man" brookes will be unveiling his new 64 page epic "can i borrow your toilet?", and i'll have copies of the brand new banal pig number 4.

# Posted by Stevo Tillotson
November 11 2008

I have a new blog....

It's about comics, cartooning, cartoon art, and general goings on in the UK comics scene... and beyond!

(logo designed by Richard Cowdry & Dan Locke).

# Posted by Richard Cowdry
November 8 2008

The Many Lives of a Cartoonist: An Interview with Marc Ellerby

Marc Ellerby is a cartoonist working and living in Essex. He mostly produces auto-bio, slice of life comics, but is also working on a fantasy series. Here he tells Bugpowder about balancing paid and unpaid art gigs, making his own mini comics and why the worst thing that can possibly happen to a monster hunter is that she misses the bus!

Can you introduce yourself for the benefit of those unfamiliar with your work?

Sure thing. I've been making comics professionally for over two years. Although I do work for mainstream indie books like Love The Way You Love for Oni, I perhaps enjoy doing my own mini comics even more. I've had work published in anthologies like Put The Book Back On The Shelf (the Belle & Sebastian graphic novel that Image put out a few years ago) and have dabbled in the odd bit of illustration, but it's comics where my heart lies.

Please tell us a little about your comics. You've been published professionally, but continue to self-publish. How do you balance those two aspects of your career?

Well, I don't think I balance the two aspects very well to be honest. I do my own small press books because it keeps my brain from going stale and to bring in some extra money, but if I get a job from, say, Image, then the small press goes out the window and The Work begins. But yeah, I try and do both, the small press scene is really vibrant and appealing and it seems that I get more exposure from that than I do from my professional work. Plus I find that bringing out more and more self-published books helps develop my art and sequential narrative style.

In terms of my comics, well, my minis are mostly autobiographical (Ellerbisms, Venal Muse) but I'm starting to explore different genres like fantasy, but in a tongue in cheek sorta way. In the last couple of months I finished working on Oni's rock and roll romance title Love The Way You Love, which is a sorta shojo manga inspired graphic novel series written by Jamie S Rich, so I guess the interacting themes from both sides would be emotions and perhaps romantic encounters.

Could you tell us a little more about your experiments with genre?

Well, I've ventured into odd comedy with my Polar Opposites series (where two penguins don't get along, some might say [they are] OPPOSITE to one another) and I'm currently writing a fantasy story about a girl who hunts monsters, but deals more with her troubles getting the bus to hunt these monsters than the actual hunting. But that's a comedy too, deep down. I guess I drift off to other venues when I get bored of working on the same thing all the time. Like, I started my Ellerbisms diary comics because I was getting bored of drawing the same characters and plot in Love The Way You Love. Switching things around keeps the brain fresh.

As someone who writes and draws their own (small press) comics, can you tell us about how you work? Full script? Thumbnails to finished art with dialogue afterwards? Some other way?

I normally note-take to begin with, setting out ideas and then bang out a script that's mainly dialogue exchanges (making mental notes as I go along.) From there I thumbnail in full, then I let it sit for a day or two, return to it, give it a once over and start drawing. As I draw, I often change things around or add bits here and there, but, yeah, it progresses quite quickly I guess.

You mentioned manga. Is that something you're personally into and, if so, how has it informed your work?

I'm into it to a certain extent. I mean I can't really stand that Naruto and Bleach sorta thing, but I do think there's a ton of amazing manga out there. In fact the last three books I brought were all mangas. I'm into the mature "serious" side of manga, so works by Takehiko Inoue, Osamu Tezuka but especially Taiyo Matsumoto. I think he's one of my favourite artists ever.

I do like the Eastern way of storytelling, but I think with these three artists in particular, they honestly don't give a shit what manga demographic they should be in. Like if you read Shonen manga, 80% of it's the same but these three stick out to me because their storytelling's totally different and they all have fresh and independent styles. I love Matsumoto's jagged, rough line work, Tezuka's slick, animated characters and Inoue's mood and pacing.

Which cartoonists have influenced you and how can you see that influence in your comics?

Matt Groening, Andi Watson and Bryan Lee O'Malley. I think growing up with the Simpsons has had such a huge impact on me, like the early series were fried gold, but I picked up some of his Life Is Hell books and I love the way they're sorta crudely drawn but still have an appealing charm about them. I used to draw Bart a whole lot when I was younger and I guess some of it's stuck with me (especially with the eyes and hands.) Andi Watson is the best comic artist in England, FACT, and I love his storytelling and layouts, whereas with O'Malley I think every 20 something year old cartoonist finds him an influence. Scott Pilgrim opened a lot of doors with not only the themes he's exploring (video games meets relationship introspection) but also the way he's releasing his books, I think he's one of the few Western creators to really "get" manga storytelling and how to make a multi-volume series work. Plus his linework is fucking sick.

What's the five-year plan for Marc Ellerby, cartoonist?

I guess the ultimate goal for any cartoonist is to make a living from doing what you love, so I hope that sorta happens. I also hope to be well into my graphic novel series, which has a working title of Tara Noonan: Monster Hunter.

Which comics are you really into at the mo'?

There's some great UK small press stuff coming out at the moment, which I get a little bit jealous of as they're so good. Adam Cadwell's The Everyday is something that I always look forward to. He's got a clean Clowes style and they're similar to my Ellerbisms in that they're a diary comic. Lizz Lunney's books are always a treat. They're the true definition of laugh out loud, they're so good.

Marc Ellerby, thanks for your time.

For more on Marc's work, visit his blog or Ellerbisms. Richard Bruton of the Forbidden Planet International Blog and Fictions reviews Marc's comics here and interviews Marc here.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews

Paul Gravett has more info......

I am getting in touch with [readers of Bugpowder] because you create and maybe self-publish your own independent comics and graphic novels. I hope you may be interested in exhibiting and selling them at the second free COMICA COMIKET being held on Saturday November 22nd 2008 - that's two weeks this Saturday - and the Saturday following the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds.

The Comics Comiket is being held in both the Nash and Brandon Rooms upstairs at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, on The Mall in London. It's all part of the Comica Festival now in its 6th year. For the full programme see my site here:

Here's the link on the ICA's site which also include how to get there:

and here's a fun video made by Oli Smith and London Underground Comics who are helping produce and promote this year's Comiket:

There's a Facebook page too here:

...Here are some of the practical points :

1. Table Hire: we're offering quarter tables, based on standard tressle table size, at £8 per quarter, and the most any single exhibitor can book is two quarters, ie one half, for £16, to maximise the number of creators and publishers taking part.

2. Booking: Simply email me back asap with the confirmation of whether you'd like one, or two, quarter tables. You can pay for these on the day in cash please.

Contact Paul directly for further details: paul [at] paulgravett [dot] com

# Posted by Dan Fish1000
November 7 2008

The COMICA FESTIVAL runs Nov 14-26 and includes the 2nd COMIC COMIKET for small press publishers of comics and manga. Paul Gravett's site has the lowdown, and it looks like an action-packed series of events this year. (Look for Comiket info about 2/3 down the page.)

# Posted by Dan Fish1000

Final reminder for....
Handmade & Bound

Artists’ books, comics and zines.
Saturday 8 November 2008
St Aloysius Social Club,
Phoenix Road, London NW1
(nearest tube Euston).
12-6pm. Free entry.

The Evenings entertainment...
DJs and bands, including
The Slim Reaper and Her Magic Powers.

For further information: handmadeandbound@googlemail.com


# Posted by Richard Cowdry

Yay, comics are having a Christmas party!

Alphabet Bar in Oxford Circus, London is the venue, organised by the good people of London Underground Comics. Saturday 13th December is the date. There will be comics, dancing, and (maybe) Santa!

Discover LUC's shocking plans for 2009, and more on the Christmas do, at the link.

# Posted by Dan Fish1000

David Baillie writes:

"Just a quick note to say that I have my first ever story in 2000AD this week, and I am completely over the moon. I've written a bit of a love letter to the comic on my blog here

Also, awesome animator David Hailwood has animated a couple of my Zombies Interviews strips from Accent UK's Zombies book of last year. I think they're really cool, and I believe the plan is to do a couple more, possibly with some UK Indie celeb voices. They can be seen here...

And finally my autobio comic, The Belly Button Bubble Chronicles is trundling back to life after a break of a few weeks. I'm hoping to finish it off before the year is out, meaning (fingers crossed) I'll have drawn 52 episodes in 64 weeks...
New updates at http://davidbaillie.net"

# Posted by Dan Fish1000