Chronicling the Everyday: An Interview with Adam Cadwell
Adam Cadwell is a cartoonist who specialises in autobiographical comics. Bugpowder decided to chat to him about his work and also about being the main man behind Manchester Comix Collective. Here’s the result:
Please tell us about your work as a cartoonist and about Manchester Comix Collective.
My work as a cartoonist or comic artist, or however you say it, is really for my own pleasure. I've been drawing a web-comic called The Everyday for the last two years and I self-publish it as mini-comics. I've had a few pin-ups in published comics and I'm currently working on a great story for The Chemistry Set called Feckless with writer Stacey Garratt. I'm also drawing a back-up story written by Kieron Gillen for the new series of Phonogram from Image Comics. I get a little money (and I mean little) from the mini-comics but mostly I draw comics for the enjoyment of it. I hope that one day it will be my career. I just need to keep at it, trying new things and getting better at it.
As for my role as the Manchester Comix Collective guy, I set up the site as a way for artists and writers to get to know each other. I'd met a few comic creators at uni here and when I worked at Travelling Man, but I kept hearing about more out there beyond the drizzle of the city, guys like Jim Medway and Oliver East, and I thought, why don't we all know each other? I've found at comic shows that there's a really open, friendly nature about the comics industry and felt we needed a bit more of that in Manchester. It's not such a big city that we should be estranged from each other. So I set up the Manchester Comix Collective using a customisable social network site called Ning, as a way to get everyone together, share work, arrange to meet up and to collaborate. It's just over a year old now and it's working pretty well, we have monthly Drink 'n' Draw events*, we've exhibited at the two biggest UK cons of the year and I think it's developed the comic scene here quite well.
*Creators get together in a bar. They drink, they draw.
You publish mini-comics and also publish your strips online. Why not one or the other? What are the benefits of doing both?
I like to have my comics in paper form, as nice little objects to keep and give to people and to sell and read on the loo, but I'd also like a wider audience to read them and it's very hard to do that with just mini-comic distribution. The web-comic gets my work out to readers all over the world and it's really nice to get comments and feedback a day after you've drawn something, it spurs you on to draw the next [comic]. The benefit of doing both is that the online readers have something to buy if they like the comic enough. I try to make the print versions as nice as possible for those who have already read the strips, and the minis reach an audience who may not be avid web-comic readers. They can then follow it online too or find out when the next issue is out.
Where would you like to see Manchester Comix Collective in, say, two years time (or even five years)?
I'd love for it to still be around and be the place people think of when they think of the Manchester comics scene. I'd also like to not be the only guy running it! I'd like to see more of the artists on there see some success. I'd like if we'd completed a collaborative project. I have a few in mind right now including an anthology, but they are very tricky thing to get right so I'm considering it quite carefully. I'd like for us to be involved with more events in the city. Manchester's in need of a comic show of any kind. I'd like to organise a really open show, which would attract non-comic fans and kids who could take part in workshops, which are actually good and not an afterthought, as well as being a comic industry event. So many ideas, so little time, right?
Any advice for anyone who wants to set up a simlar kind of social networking site for their own area? What to do, what not to do, mistakes you made or didn't?
I think the main thing for sites like this is to give people an incentive to join that they don't get from having their own site or blog. In the Manchester Comix Collective's case it's the chance to find other comic creators in the same city and interact. The extension of this is the Drink 'n' Draw, where you can do the same thing offline. So my advice would be to think about what the site has to offer, focus on that and promote it however you can.
Likewise, any advice for anyone who wants to make comics to distribute as mini comics or post online?
For mini comics I'd say put some effort into the production of them. There's far too many photocopied comics with a coloured paper cover out there, which is fine, but unorginal. If you want them to sell and catch people's eye, make them something special. You've drawn your comic now look into different ways of printing, binding, presentation and design. Do a little research. It will pay off. Then get them into as many shops as you can, call them up and most will have a small press section.
As for online comics, again make it special. Make it different from the other 80,000 webcomics out there. I'd avoid the usual genres of the medium, computer game humour or wacky pirate/ninja/monkey/cowboy/robot comics. Even diary comics are getting oversaturated (ahem). There's no need for it to be a gag strip, any kind of sequential narrative can work, and benefit from, being online.
Where do you want to be in five years as a cartoonist?
In five years I'd like to be working on a creator-owned series, have finished one of my graphic novel ideas and have The Everyday collected into a book. And be filthy rich.
Lastly, which comic creators are you into at the mo'? Any emerging talents that you want to big up?
Who am I into? The new talent who inspire me and who I've found recently would include Jillian Tamaki; she drew Skim written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki, which recently won an Ignatz for Best Graphic Novel. Her work in that is stunning, and very elegant. Some of her pages had me shaking my head in disbelief. Danny Zabbal is doing some beautiful work too, he's just started a webcomic called Journey in the 6th Dimension, which works as a kind of short story collection but tied together by a twilight zone style device. It's a very inventive way to do a webcomic and I enjoy his characters a lot. And Joe Quinones makes me very envious. His style is so slick and full of character. There's a lot more of my peers that inspire me, like Marc Ellerby, Chris Doherty, Nikki Cook, Liz Greenfield and loads more. However the first three cartoonists I mentioned are still new to me and all make me try harder as an artist.
Adam Cadwell, thanks for your time.
Edit to add: just noticed that Adam is setting himself up as a freelance artist. He's very talented, but it's difficult times at the mo'. So, if you can commision him, do so! If you know someone who might be interested in his stuff, please point them in the direction of his website, which has lots of cool art on.