Interviews

Ireland’s Newest Comic Site: An Interview with Aaron Fever and Clare Foley on IrishComics.ie

Ireland has had its events closed for 16 months. That’s been almost a year and a half of no conventions at which creators could showcase new work. If not for an uptake in digital platforms for communication, like Discord and Zoom, it would also have been a year a half during which Irish comic creators would not have spoken nearly as much as they have been. Out of one series of Zoom calls comes Ireland’s newest comic website: IrishComics.ie.

Joining us today, as part of the Comix Ireland revival, are two of my co-founders of IrishComics.ie: Aaron Fever and Clare Foley.

Where did the idea come from? What excited you about it when it first came up in conversation?

Aaron: Well like you said, we had a year of weekly zoom calls between us talking about how we were all trying to make independent comics and how much of a struggle that can be. As part of those conversations we also talked about what we hoped the future of the Irish comics community would be coming out of the pandemic. A big theme in all of that was just how important supporting each other is and how difficult things can be when we’re trying to hussle individually. 

I remember talking about my early days of writing articles for websites and how they were a great source of pot-luck entertainment. You’d go to check out one thing but stick around to read something else. I feel like Twitter etc has removed a bit of that culture due to picking and choosing who you follow but I think there’s a demand for it now that folks have become wary of social media.

I won’t lie and pretend that I also didn’t mention Eclectic Micks as an inspiration. It’s a great example to show that when Irish comic creators work together, good things happen.

Clare: The weekly Zoom calls began around the time I was really struggling creatively, I was just floundering without any sense of “comics community” that I’d usually get from events, conventions, meeting up with friends… It left me very unmotivated to create anything. The calls themselves began as a general catch up and chat about what work we’d be trying to complete for next week, but we began to really talk  about the scene, our future careers, and how we could best support each other.

The idea seemed quite natural, especially in light of how digital all our lives had become. When the idea began being discussed, it very quickly snowballed into something really possible, and I think we were all quite excited by it.

What’s the purpose of the site? What’s it for? Who is it for?

A: I’m jazzed to hopefully draw some eyes to different Irish comics people might never have tried otherwise. Do you like one of my comics? Well here’s another cool one next to it. And vice versa. Maybe you’re a big fan of Anthea but never had heard of me before. Great, well now you can see we’re all part of the same community of creators.

It’s free, none of us are gonna make money directly from it (in fact, we’ve put in money) but the hope is that we can raise all of our profiles and provide a place for every Irish comic creator to come and contribute and get some new admirers. Get your name out there. Let’s show what we can do.

C: I think when we talk about ‘Irish Comics’ as a concept, it’s scattered across a lot of different websites and platforms, which all update on different schedules or maybe quite infrequently.

The idea of the site really simplifies it down – if you go there any week day, there is a new comic page. If you click around, there are loads of other stories.

As Aaron said, maybe you read a page and want to see more from this writer. Maybe you read a page and want to see another story from this artist. Maybe you’re curious about the creative team. It’s all easy to find more of.

It’s also the kind of site I’d be happy to send to someone a bit less familiar with comics, as it serves as a sort of sample-plate of some cool comics, and is a bit more enticing than linking to a series of different Twitter threads, or a ton of different artist websites.

What do you hope will come from the website’s existence?

A: You know from experience, I’ve said this phrase maybe a 100 times during the build up to this: A rising tide lifts all boats.

I really hope everyone involved both currently and in the future gain support and valuable interactions from putting their comics on the site. I hope it becomes a great hub for both showcasing your work and interacting with the rest of the Irish comics community. 

I also hope it gives the world, and Ireland, a great sense of the length and breadth of what Irish comics are. What is our style of comics. What makes us stand out.

C: I really can’t add much to this – there is strength in numbers, any success that any of us have can help us all. The Irish comics scene has so much great work to show, this will hopefully act as a place to showcase some of that talent.

How does a site like IrishComics.ie fit into your own plans for making and disseminating comics?

A: I have two successful Kickstarters under my belt but honestly I’m still struggling to make content regularly due to printing costs and relying on events to be able to sell comics. 

I’ve already pivoted a lot of future plans to releasing primarily through IrishComics. I’m not making much money selling physical copies so why am I sinking myself financially to keep printing things at scale? I just want people to read my stuff. So here, read it on our site!

C: I don’t generally have my comics online – I tend to sell physical copies. Although I could put comics on my own website, there is a very narrow window of traffic that goes there. And although social media is good for sharing stuff, it tends to be seen by the same series of people.

Having a website that updates daily showcasing lots of different stories is a great way to share some of your work with a lot of different people, without the pressure of enormous printing costs.

How do creators get involved?

A: So obviously, despite some experience, this is a new adventure for us. This first week or so we just want to make sure the lights stay on and we don’t accidentally blow something up. But pretty much straight after that we’re inviting folks to contribute. We want to get as many people as possible involved. Get the boats on that tide, haha!

We need completed comics (short or longer form) to post, a new page going live each week, sent to us via irishcomics@gmail.com.

Now, we want to be putting our best foot forward and showing off our community in the best possible light so there is a review process involved. Basically, if we feel like your comic might not be quite ready we may not be able to accept it. But we will give clear feedback and try to steer a creator in the right direction. 

Why hasn’t something like this been done before?

A: Honestly, I think it’s because professional comics treats its creators as individuals. Work-for-hire artists. We’re isolated often by the industry.

I’m sure there are other versions of this site around but I think our community has only recently seen a boom in creators. Maybe the last 5-8 years or so? It takes time to find an identity. I’m hoping maybe we can help push that process along. 

C: Well the idea really grew from discussing this very question. I’m sure the idea has been discussed before, and there are probably versions of this in existence. Maybe the fact that there’s no profit-making mechanism in the website; it really is just a place to showcase some work. The focus is really on bringing people together, and I hope it achieves that.

What can you tell us about your own stories on the site?

A: Oh boy, me and Hugh have been working on Mr & Mrs Van Helsing for over a year now. It actually started from an idea Hugh had for a couple of monster hunters and has evolved significantly over time. Think about what it would be like if your favourite married couple hunted trolls and werewolves. It’s a bit like that, haha. I’m really excited for everyone to see it. I’m proud of what we’re doing (don’t tell Hugh I said that).

C: I was working away on ‘Sredni Vashtar’, the Saki adaptation, during our Zoom calls – I used them a bit like ‘homework club’ to finish it off in time! It was around that time we were discussing the site, so I was delighted to have some new work to go up on it.

The story is totally bizarre, and I love it. I’ve made some changes that I’m sure have Saki whirling in his grave. It involves a violent ferret goddess, and a little girl with a wild imagination.

I also did the art for Paul’s excellent story ‘The Fiend in the Forest’ – I loved working on this, and I think it turned into such an atmospheric and spooky tale. I was delighted Paul brought me on to do the art for this one, I think it was a great fit and I’m glad I got to help it shine.

IrishComics.ie launches on July 10, 2021 with the first pages of each of the five stories. From Monday 12, the pages will begin publishing on a daily basis:

  • Monday: Srendi Veshtar by Clare Foley
  • Tuesday: After Yesterday by Jaime Lalor
  • Wednesday: Mr & Mrs Van Helsing by Aaron Fever and Hugh Madden
  • Thursday: Eyes by Anthea West
  • Friday: The Fiend in the Forest by Paul Carroll

Subscribe to the site to keep up with the comics as they’re published.

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