BugPowder Weblog
Regular slugs of news for the UK Small Press Comics Nation (huh?)
January 26 2009

European Cartoon Competition: "European Union and Citizenship". The winners of the European Level will be awarded a cheque of Ä6,000 for the 1st prize and respectively Ä4,000 and Ä2,000 cheques for 2nd and 3rd prize.

# Posted by John Robbins
# Posted by Richard Cowdry
January 20 2009
# Posted by Andrew Luke

Scott McCloud talks life, comics and webcomics, and UK Small Press's own Dan Merlin Goodbrey gets a mention towards the end (16mins in):

# Posted by Dan Fish1000
January 18 2009
# Posted by Stevo Tillotson

A Solitary Habit: An Interview with Francesca Cassavetti

Francesca Cassavetti is the cartoonist behind A Very Nasty Solitary Habit and The Most Natural Thing in the World. In this interview with Bugpowder she gives us her thoughts on making autobiographical comics and the independent comics scene in this country.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm, where do I start?

I have been making mostly autobiographical comics for a number of years, although I only plugged into the small press scene in the last year or so.

My most popular one to date is The Most Natural Thing In the World (I really regret the long, unwieldy title so tend to refer to it as TMNTITW), which I started to keep me sane after my second child was born. After a few unsuccessful attempts at interesting a publisher, I finally put it out last year as a mini comic in four parts and it seems to touch a chord with people. I am in the process of getting it printed as a collected edition in one volume (Bugpowder edit-to-add: this has now been done).

Most of my comics are based on my life, either straightforward reminiscences, or an event may spark a train of thought. Some are based on a true incident, some are more like riffing on a theme or trying to find some humour in a situation. Party Pieces came from meeting up with a college friend I hadn't seen for twenty years, while Paris Break was a way of exteriorising and making sense of some feelings I'd had since childhood.

That said, I have just collaborated with Dan Lester for his latest anthology and I would like to stress that I am not a sexually frustrated Jewish man...

I could go on or you could ask me another question.

Please tell us about trying to get The Most Natural Thing In the World published. How did you approach publishers? Were there are any 'near misses'? Any publishers that you thought might bite but didn't?

Truth be told, I didn't try that hard or that consistently.

Also, I think the time wasn't right. I gave up after sending it to Harper Collins and Hodders long before the British started to wake up to the whole idea of comics for adults. I gave it to an agent when it was still half finished and she didn't get any takers. I sent it to Cape about four years ago and got a nice reply but, again, they weren't quite sure what to do with it.

I went to see Knockabout many, many years ago with a strip I was doing back then, and they suggested I should go to comic conventions. At the time I couldn't see the point as I had nothing to sell, not having clicked that I could simply put something together myself and that it could be acceptable. I thought I needed the seal of approval of a publisher. Also, comic convention spelt superhero to me and I knew I didn't fit in there. It wasn't until I happened to meet Gary Northfield on an Indesign course last year that the light went on, and I realised that there was a scene I could be part of.

On the making comics side of things, are you self-taught artist or have you taken classes?

I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pen, and after school I got a diploma in graphic design. We did a bit of life drawing at college, but I just draw a lot, mostly people. My 24-hour mini comic A Very Nasty Solitary Habit is about just that. Obviously as a trained graphic artist, putting a book together is not that difficult, and the computer only makes things that much quicker and easier. As long as you have taken the time to write and draw the bugger firstÖ

Before you plugged into the small press scene, how did you distribute your comics?

Before I discovered the small press scene, I simply didn't distribute my comics. I occasionally showed them to friends. I had some strips that ran in a few (now defunct) publications: Fabian Carr About an A&R man ran in Studio and Bloke in a Dressing Gown and New Man in Bitch.

I guess Most Natural Thing strikes a chord as it's a universal subject. People have babies, always have, always will; and no matter how much you think you're prepared and you want them, the way your life gets turned upside down always comes as a shock. It's a constant process of adaptation that lasts until your kids leave home. I tried to be fairly non-specific, and stick to a straightforward pregnancy and birth to make it as easy for as many people as possible to relate to. I wanted to deal with a psychological journey (hey, that makes me sound really clever and intellectual) while taking a wry look at the ludicrousness of human behaviour rather than any kind of medically accurate drama.

We're all ridiculous at times, we all feel overwhelmed, but in the end most of us get through it. And come out the other end, certainly less carefree, but also hopefully less selfish and stronger human beings.

Pretentious, moi?

How do you juggle being a (presumably) busy parent and cartooning?

To begin with it was very difficult. I had to learn to seize the moment and work in short bursts. When they were tiny there were naps and evenings, if I wasn't too exhausted. Then came the drop-in creche when I could rush home for a couple of hours then rush back to pick them up. And then with school you get the luxury of much larger chunks of time, and over the years, as they get more and more independent you reclaim that time and use it far more efficiently than you did in the past. And then they grow up and leave you, a burnt out manic shell unable to relax as you feel you have to use every spare second to produce something creative. Or is that the drugs?

I tend to carry a sketchbook around so I can always jot stuff down or do a sketch if I'm at a loose end or on a train or whatever. Actually sometimes I lug it around for ages without getting it out and then I'll have a flurry of creative activity. I wish I could get to one of those drawing events that people organise occasionally, but I tend to hear about it after the event and then they always seem to happen in the back of beyond like New Cross (no offence intended to people from those parts but it's a hell of a schlep from here).

What are your ambitions as a cartoonist? Would you like to make a living at it?

I suppose to be recognised by my peers, and to be read by a wider audience would be nice. Obviously it would be great to make a living making comics but that's not the driving force.

I'm fortunate enough to make a bit of money from commissions, but I also earn a living as a freelance subeditor, which is very agreeable. Ultimately I can please myself with my comics and if they speak to other people too, then that's a bonus.

When I was a young whippersnapper I had ambitions to be a famous cartoonist and then over the years I realised it was easier said than done and that no one was going to come and find me. I needed to get off my arse, draw the strips and maybe show them to people.

At the moment I'm pretty happy with the way things are going, although one needs to keep producing or one soon starts to feel frustrated.

Francesca Cassavetti, thanks for your time. Francesca's blog is here.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews
January 17 2009

Passionate about Comics: A kind of Interview with Richard Bruton

Richard Bruton is an ex-comics retailer and lifelong comics fan. His reviews, posted at the Forbidden Planet International Blog and on his own blog, Fictions, are essential reading for anyone who loves comics. We asked him two questions and he responded with some comprehensive answers that actually worked better as one article/essay. Here it is:

I'm a 37-year-old comics fan brought up in Birmingham on a diet of Marvel UK, Herb Trimpe Hulk and weekly Spider-Man. But it all changed on a couple of fateful days; firstly finding a copy of Marvel Superheroes 388 and being introduced to Alan Moore and then there was the day I discovered Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham and realised that comics could have shops [devoted to them] as well.

Fast forward a few years and I become a 16 year old comic fan who blags a job sorting out the basement at Nostalgia & Comics.

The job, unbeknownst to me, is going to last 19 years.

Possibly the longest Saturday job in the world.

Certainly the most enjoyable. Nostalgia & Comics is a great comics shop and over the years I've made many, many friends there.

As I get older my tastes in comics change and I get more and more involved in the running of the shop. The manager, Dave Hopkins had an attitude that, as long as we didnít screw anything up, we were able to do almost anything we wanted to promote the comics we loved. It's a perfect approach really and fostered a great friendship that lasts to this day. It also meant he didn't bat an eye on the days where I'd decide to spend hours completely redesigning the shelf layout, or do bizarre new window displays or a host of other things.

With one of these big changes I deliberately set aside an area of the shop just for the comics I wanted to promote. This led to contacts with the burgeoning UK scene of the time (Paul Grist's Kane, Gary Spencer Millidge's Strangehaven, Nabiel Kanan's Exit and much more was out at this time in the UK, whilst it was the time of Strangers In Paradise, Bone, Vertigo, Sandman, Preacher et al in the US - a great time for the medium).

In time, just putting the good stuff on a shelf and selling the hell out of them wasn't enough and I started compiling a monthly reviews newsletter for the shop. I called it Propaganda and made one area of the shop into the Propaganda shelves.

I reluctantly left Nostalgia & Comics in 2006 when we moved up here to Yorkshire. But Nostalgia & Comics wouldn't leave me and I really found myself missing my regular contact, not just with comics, but with the friendship, camaraderie and involvement of being in the shop. Over time I started blogging about my time at Nostalgia & Comics over at my Fictions blog. (Nostalgia & Comics & Me posts - all 20 of 'em)

Well, this came to the attention of Kenny Penman, one of the directors of Forbidden Planet International (owners of Nostalgia & Comics since 1997). He asked if I wanted to start doing Propaganda reviews online at the FPI blog. I think initially we agreed that maybe one a week would be about right. That was February 2007. It's now October 2008 (NB: Bugpowder apologises for any delay in posting interviews;o) and there are 149 Propaganda posts on the blog. It's been a great learning curve doing this, and although I can still look at some of my reviews and wince at the writing, thereís hopefully enough good writing to outweigh the bad.

As well as my reviews I'd like to think that everyone out there realises by now that Forbidden planet International is not some horrible comic retail chain. The passion of people at FPI is comics, pure and simple. Just have a look at the webstore, with its large UK Small Press section. Or the stuff Joe Gordon highlights on the blog. Joe is the main blogger at FPI and over the years has shown tremendous support to the UK scene. Then there's Kenny Penman and Jim Hamilton, two of FPI's directors. Both with an incredible passion for comics. So much so in fact that they're more than prepared to put their money where their mouths are and have recently formed Blank Slate books with the express intention of developing a comics publisher in the UK with more in common with Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf than with Marvel, DC or 2000AD. I'm continually surprised that FPI often gets a sniffy response in the UK comics scene and hopefully between the FPI blog, the Propaganda reviews, Blank Slate and the sterling work of countless passionate staffers we're changing that perception. (I would point out here that Blank Slate is completely separate from FPI. Kenny & Jim are investing an awful lot of their own money into it and it's not connected to FPI in any way.)

Propaganda at the FPI blog is all about comics. I'll review anything I've read. From cutting edge bizarre stuff to the latest Batman to children's comics to small press. I set no boundaries on what I'll read and consequently, no boundaries on what I will review.

One great thing about doing the reviews has been getting back into the UK small press comics scene after many years out. I last looked at UK small press in a major way many, many years ago when Pete Ashton used to run Bug Powder as a small press distributor and I had a load of his stock on my shelves. Since then, one thing and another has meant I've lost touch. But following the 2007 Birmingham Comics Show I picked up a few books and loved them. Then a few more. And more and more. Helping this refresher course in UK small press has been the relationship with the London Underground gang. Every once in a while Oliver Lambden sends me a huge bag of books to look through and possibly review.

The important thing for anyone reading this to realise is that there's no way I can possibly keep up with all of the great UK comics being made. And because of this I keep putting out the call for any UK small pressers to get in touch and send me their work. If I like the work I'll review it, if I don't like it, I won't. It seems to me there's no point writing a nasty review of something from the small press. After putting your time and effort into making comics, the last thing you need is a nasty, critical review. The other thing about the small press review that we do on the FPI blog is that I'm certainly not trying to blag loads of free comics. In the small press world I'm well aware that margins are ridiculously tight. So I'm only borrowing your books; I send them back to you when I'm done so you can make money off them and make more. Seems the fairest way to do things to me.

The only other thing I'll say is that I'm still a bit of a luddite regarding webcomics. I hate reading on screen and it's very rare I'll review a webcomic because of this.

Hopefully it makes a difference. Possibly the nicest moment of the whole gig so far came at 2008's Birmingham show when Sean Azzopardi came up to me and told me that he'd had a sale just that morning directly from the review of Twelve Hour Shift I'd posted on the FPI blog. That was lovely. I'm hopeful that more of the reviews I do will translate directly into more sales for the folks I'm reviewing.

Bloody Hell! Nice bloke. I wouldnít send your books back if asked to review them. Iíd hoard them, probably never get round to writing the review and then sell them on E Bay when you became the next Eddie CampbellÖ

Everyone should read Richardís reviews. They should also read his highly entertaining posts about his time at Nostalgia & Comics.

And, as he said, if you have a comic that youíd like him to review, get in touch via his blog.

Cheers, Richard, for that overview of your involvement with the British comics scene so far.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews
January 16 2009

Scratchy, Messy People: An Interview with Rob Jackson

Rob Jackson is a cartoonist living and working in Manchester. Here at Bugpowder we decided to chat to him about his comics, art education and thoughts on the small press scene. Hereís the result:

Please tell Bugpowder a bit about yourself and how you got into making comics.

Iíve been drawing mini comics for eight years. Itís hard to remember back that far as to why I started, but I met Colin Mathieson (of Accent UK) and Shane Chebsey at a comicsí mart at Sachaís hotel in Manchester and they had mini comics for sale. They inspired me to finish my own. I had already started doing my first comic Train to Shanghai, which is an autobiographical story of my 36-hour train journey from Harbin to Shanghai. After that I did a couple of short story compilations and then Cafť le Guillotine, which is my comic about the French Revolution. Then I did my Random Journeys trilogy, which seemed to go down well. Then my newer ones On The Banks of the Mighty Croal, Bog Wizards and my latest one 8 Stories which is another collection of short stories.

Are you self-taught or do you have you had a formal art education?

I did a fine art degree at Salford. In the last year I did cartoons on great big sheets of paper, which the lecturers didnít like at all, and made a few comic books too that I have never sold to anyone. I had got into manga and the Ď60s underground stuff (Crumb mainly) and started drawing them. I guess that answer should go with the first question though as thatís when I started drawing comics for the second time in my life, as I drew hundreds of pages of comics as a child.

There's a lot of variety in your work, in terms of subject at least. Any ideas why that is?

I am easily bored and donít like doing the same stuff for too long. I like to try all the different genres. When I have a new idea I like to be able to do it in any way that seems best suited to it.

Which cartoonists act as your comic-making inspirations?

Iíll make a list: Crumb, Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar, Ted May, Mardou, Daniel Clowes, Jesse Reklaw, John Porcellino, Yoshiharu Tsuge, Taiyo Matsumoto, and some cool underground Korean comics I got while I was over there.

Is art how you make your living?

Sadly not, I have a boring office job.

Which of the artists that you mention do you see reflected as an influence in your cartooning style?

Porcellino, Sfar, Trondeim and Jeffrey Brown too. They have scratchy, messy ways of drawing people.

What were you doing in Korea?

When I left college I wanted to go teach English in Japan. But I couldnít get a job there as I had no teaching qualifications or anything so I went Harbin in Manchuria, China and taught there for three months. Then I got fired and went to Shanghai by train as in my comic. Then I came back and went on the dole for a while and tried to get another job in Japan. Once again I failed and went to South Korea where I taught English for 6 months until I got fired again and came home via a month holiday in Japan. I was really bad at teaching English but it was a very good laugh, apart from the work, and constantly being firedÖ

What are you trying to do with your comics? Make a living, express yourself, push the medium, all of these? What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a cartoonist?

Express myself I guess. If I donít draw, I get depressed with my totally non-creative job. I donít expect to make a living, but Iím trying not to lose loads of money any more. My strengths would be trying lots of different things and not getting stuck with a particular shtick and then carrying on with it forever. My weaknesses are drawing people, and my animals all look like weasels. Though I quite like the way I draw people.

What do you like about your style of drawing people?

Theyíre nice and cartoony and good for looking sweaty or worried. Iíd like to try a story where they are trying to show more subtle emotions though.

Whatís next for Rob Jackson comics-wise?

Iíll have something new out for Bristol Comics Coní I guess, though I donít know what itíll be yet. I might do a Bog Wizards 2 or a sequel to On The Banks of the Mighty Croal possibly set in the Pennines, or something new.

Can I add Viz in as one of my influences? I read that for years at school when I had given up on all the other comics.


You've done travelogue. I wondered if you were influenced by any of the other cartoonists out there who have done this: Craig Thompson, Oliver East et al.?

I hadnít seen either of them when I did Train to Shanghai. Just after Iíd finished it I saw Guy Delisleís Shenzhen and he stays in an identical hotel to me in that book. They are mass-produced in China. With On The Banks of the Mighty Croal I was influenced by Jiro Taniguchiís The Walking Man for the drawings, but Iíve added in loads of writing to make mine into a somewhat sarcastic walking guide.

Any advice for aspiring cartoonists?

Try and get reviews from all the usual websites (Comics Reporter, Optical Sloth).

Which cartoonists, small press or otherwise, are you really digging right now?

I really look forward to anything new from Ted May and the Trondheim ĎDonjoní series.

Oh, and tell us a bit about Korean comics.

Most of them look just like manga but they have a thriving underground and small press comics scene, a bit like here, too. The best thing for them there is that they have very cheap printing so you can sell a 200-page full colour book for £5. I bet the prices have gone up since I was there but compared to here itís very, very cheap. Sadly, Iíve forgotten how to read Korean since I left so I canít read the creators names on my books anymoreÖ

Rob Jackson, thanks for your time. Rob's blog can be found here.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews

London Underground Comics website has a new look, and a mysterious teaser image....

...Not to mention a new video - I suspect these numbers refer to some great mystery tied in with the whole LUC plans for 2009 - But then I always was the insightful type.

# Posted by Dan Fish1000
# Posted by Dan Fish1000

EXPRESS YRSELF! - Open Mic Night at APF2009

After all the fun of the Alternative Press Fair, get ready to show the other aspects of your creativity! Pick up an acoustic guitar, read from your zine, play out a comedic sketch or lay bare your inner most feelings for the world to see! Go on, itíll be fun!

Oh yeah, and itís free!


# Posted by Richard Cowdry
January 14 2009

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. Hereís 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.

# Posted by Bugpowder Interviews
January 9 2009


Martin Eden, of O Men fame, writes:

The O Men 2.7
Vixen is kidnapped and held in a booby-trapped mansion where nothing is what
it seems. This is it! Everything has been leading to this issue - and it
features two huge twists that will turn the entire O Men series on its head!
Available now from http://www.comix.org.uk/theomen

# Posted by Jez Higgins
January 7 2009

Bringing together the worlds of alternative comics, zines, self-produced art-books, poetry and diy/punk culture for one amazing day, like a great colourful blacmange that you canít eat. Meet the artists, see their work, buy some if you like it. THEN relax and enjoy an exciting evening of music, song and melody, starring the Singing Sensation of the Nation, Mr. Trent Miller (& The Skeleton Jive).


# Posted by Richard Cowdry
January 4 2009

Sgt Mike Battle is up to issue 12, and is looking better than ever:

# Posted by Dan Fish1000