Interviews

Drag Queens and Comedy: An Interview with Chris Fildes

Kickstarter has become a safe haven for new works in the midst of the pandemic, a place where creators can turn to have their books shared with the world while conventions remain artefacts of the Before Times. Among the ranks of Irish creators putting their own through Kickstarter is Chris Fildes, writer of Fanny Galactic and the currently funding Crime&D’Sorder. The books centre on the drag scene in an English seaside village, bringing a new wave of comedy to Irish comics. Chris was kind enough to agree to an interview in the middle of his campaign – almost fully funded at the time this interview is going live.

It’s an awful cliché to ask a writer where they get their inspiration from, but I have to ask: why drag queens, and why now? Where did the characters come from?

Chris: I thought of the idea for the first book while watching a drag show in Dublin about 5 years ago. The performers wind machine had seen better days and I started to think about what would happen if it exploded. I then came up with this story in my head of this drag queen waking up in the future Buck Rogers style. So that’s how it started. I decided to make my characters a little older as I wanted a mix of fun, naughty humour but with the undercurrent of having been around and seen it all over the years. This lets me look at some weighty topics such as homophobia in 1980’s Britain (where I grew up), dealing with HIV and how growing up gay back then affected the characters – and still affects them.

How much of your own experience with the drag community came into play when writing this book?

Chris: I used to be involved in an annual Irish charity fundraiser called Alternative Miss Ireland. It started in 1987 in a small nightclub before coming back in 1996 hosted by Irish drag royalty Panti. It first went to see it in 1998 shortly after I moved to Ireland. I loved it so much I ended up building their website and going to committee meetings. It was such fun. It wasn’t just drag – it was a pastiche of a beauty contest so anyone could enter. I think a dog entered one year. What I loved about it was it was a bit rough around the edges and things would often go wrong – if we were lucky! I’ve always been drawn to slightly off-kilter entertainment and this really got me. I haven’t really been involved for years but it was a huge inspiration. 

We already know that Crime & D’Sorder is a comedy, but what else can people expect from the book? Is prior knowledge of Fanny Galactic required?

Chris: No prior knowledge required. All you need to know is in the first book Fanny Galactic’s pub gets blown up and she ends up in the future. There she discovers a world taken over by drag queens presided over by a friend of hers. The second book looks at the pub explosion scene from book 1 from the perspective of one of her friends caught up in it, and explores what happens next. The first book was a sci-fi comedy romp whereas the new one is more of a thriller/horror with comedy moments. It’s still funny (I hope) but it’s more serious and more the tone I’d like to take the series in going forward. I’d actually rather people start with this book to be honest – they can be read in any order. So we look at how and why the world got taken over by a drag queen and how Fanny’s friends get caught up in it.

Sybil D’Sorder

You moved to Dublin recently; how have you found the reception of the Irish comic community given the current state of the world? What are you most looking forward to post-pandemic?

Chris: Oh I actually moved here in 1998! I only started connecting with other Irish comic creators during both Kickstarter campaigns and haven’t had a chance to meet anyone properly. It’s my intention to get more involved now we can meet up. I’m so thrilled Little Deer Comics has opened up a stones throw from my house in Stoneybatter so this will give me a nudge to check out new Irish comics and start getting involved.

Editor note: Little Deer Comics has a store lease for 9 months, so don’t miss the opportunity to see it before it’s gone!

My mistake! We’ll have to make sure you get properly introduced to people soon! Back to the comics for now, what’s coming next from the world of Fanny Galactic and the drag queens of Dublin? Or will you be steering your craft to explore other areas of interest to you?

Chris: I’m hoping if this book is successful to work on the next instalment 20,000 WIGS UNDER THE SEA which continues Fanny Galactic’s time travel adventures – this time on the Titanic. This is going to be such fun. I’ve plans for more books in the series but I’m trying to work out how to get them out. CRIME & D’SORDER is a shorter comic than the first book and I’m not sure whether to split the new story into 2 books or do it all as one (which will take much longer). 

Violet Crime

I’m also working on some other stories too as I’ve been working on Fanny Galactic for a few years now (I first started plotting it nearly 7 years ago) and would like to spread out a bit. I’ve fully plotted a medieval horror story which I’m really, really excited about. It looks at a particular well known story in a very different way. I’m a big fan of David Lynch and this is scratching an itch to do something darker and more experimental. It came to me fully formed one night I couldn’t sleep – it scared me a bit as it felt like it was poured into my head from somewhere else…

Once this Kickstarter is done I’m going to finish writing this. I also have a new story I’d love to work on, which is an LGBT sci-fi love/adventure story. It’s an epic tale and the first issue I have mapped out and I think it could really work and lend itself to an ongoing story. So I need to balance that with budget and also wanting to carry on working with artist Edward Bentley on Fanny Galactic as I love our collaboration. At the moment it looks like there will be a gap before I start a new Fanny Galactic but I think it’s good to spread out and try a few other things. I’m going to be taking both Fanny Galactic books to Thought Bubble and it will be great to see the reaction and see what people think about it. 

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to talk to us! Be sure to check out Crime&D’Sorder on Kickstarter – the campaign ends on September 30th! From the sneak peek we got before the interview, this is the sort of book the Irish comic scene needs.

About Chris:

Chris is a new Irish comics writer born in the UK but based in Dublin for the last 20 years. Last year he Kickstarted his first book FANNY GALACTIC : TUCK TO THE FUTURE about the adventures of a time travelling drag queen. It funded in under 3 days so now he’s come back with a follow-up CRIME & D’SORDER. He grew up on a diet of 1980’s Doctor Who and 2000ad and which inspire both his humour and writing.

Follow Chris on Twitter @IamChrisFildes

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.

Interviews

Life, Death and Irish Comics: An Interview with Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a Dublin-based writer and comics creator. He made his start in writing with Irish folklore books, before starting to work in comics. In this interview, ahead of the release of Life & Death from Limit Break Comics, Paul was given questions from his creative partners, Gary Moloney and Gareth Luby. (Side-note: Paul is the editor for this site, and aside from writing about himself in the 3rd person, also suffers from not knowing when to shut up.)

You’ve worked a lot with properties and characters created by others (Meouch, The Wren, Chuck), how different was working on Life & Death to those projects?

The big difference for me was the creative control in the stories at a script level. There was a lot more freedom to play around with ideas in the script when I was working with my own characters. It’s much easier to “kill your darlings” in a script when you don’t have to worry about the artist’s emotional attachment to a character or an idea. (In some cases, the killing is also literal in Life & Death – decisions like that don’t really happen with the likes of Wren unless Jason Browne requests it, or with Frankie unless it’s a target.)

After that, it comes down to finding the right artist for the story. It’s the total reverse of how I’d previously worked on comics. I learned a lot more as I worked on the book – and as Limit Break Comics was coming together – about what I’d look for in a collaborator, which should in theory make the process more fluid next time.

What was it about the stories in Life & Death that meant they had to be told in a comic?

The short, obvious answer is that I needed the art to make the impact for these stories. When I wrote the scripts, there was a real sense of trying not to overwrite everything, to allow the other creators to pace things and make the revelations and twists more apparent in their own ways.

Colour is a big part of that. Blood Bounty and Mourning Coffee rely heavily on reds, while Death and Taxes needed more everyday tones, and Wake the Dead required a change of colours from orange to green – my experiences in writing prose fiction warned me way in advance that that would make for some sloppy, boring writing to get the point across.

You’ve recently taken on the duties of penning The Wren, what drew you to the character and what do you hope to explore in your run?

I was approached by Jason – the artist and original writer for The Wren – to take over the series after our work together on Tomte: The Warrior Elf. It was the first book I’d read from the Irish small press community (aside from work by Anthea West, who I knew way before I knew there were people in Ireland making their own comics!) It’s a fun character to write for and to think up stories about.

I’m very much about returning to the roots of the comic as much as I can. The first season (issues 1-12) built up in a big way. Now that Jack is back in school, in a new home, and knows much more about the superhero society, we have an opportunity to play with his secret identity a bit. Jason has some ideas about how he wants the main plot for the season to go, but otherwise I’ve something of a free reign with characters and where they’ll appear.

There’s obviously a lot of pressure with this; aside from the work of Anthea West, who I’ve known since the days of Bebo, The Wren was the first Irish small press comic I read, and the longest running small press title in the country. I like to think Jason’s faith in me is well-placed. He’ll still be a big part of the plotting process, and he’ll likely have something to say about the direction I take with certain parts of the story, but that’s a safety net for me, and it means I can throw out some crazier ideas with him and see what’s interested in before scripting it.

You colour and letter a lot of your own work, can you explain your approach to those disciplines?

Lettering was the first thing I tried in comics that wasn’t writing, and it came as something of a necessity. Having some understanding of the Adobe suite, I thought, was enough. It’s not a bad start, knowing how to use the programs, but it took some feedback from a few people to really figure out what I was doing wrong. The first Meouch books had been readable, but that’s about it. So I learned as much as I could, and I looked at different ways other letterers worked to see how I could do more than just throw words onto the page.

With the colouring, I started with flatting a couple of short Meouch stories. When myself and Gareth were working on A Knight’s Tail, I wanted to try colouring it myself. Gareth finished off the colours on that one, making it a lot more vibrant and giving it more depth than I’d managed, but I’d at least figured out the palette for the story.

When it came to colouring the stories in Life & Death, I was a little more aware of using colour as a storytelling tool. Colour choices define the world in which a story takes place, and the shifting tones on a page can inform the reader of characters’ emotions and the atmosphere on the page, working in tandem with the artist to make the storytelling pop. I spent the project seeking feedback from Gareth and Gary about colour choices and tones.

It was exhausting, to say the least, trying to balance a day job and a few other responsibilities with the comic work. A big takeaway from it is more confidence and awareness in the additional processes in storytelling when it comes to making comics, which is now etched into the back of my mind any time I start writing something!

Your first prose stories were based on Irish folklore in the 21st century; can you tell us how you approached this adaptation?

Adapting stories always comes with some difficulty. I took some liberties with the way in which some stories were told. The first book, Balor Reborn, takes the story that defines how Balor can be killed and turns it on its head. With everything else that followed, I sought to find something interesting about a creature or a god and make a new story out of it. Irish folklore is wrapped up in Irish history and informed by the introduction of Christianity; the Famine and the notion of sin become as integral to some tales as the blood-ties of the gods and the relationships between different heroes in the old stories.

I try, as hard as I can, to stick to the original story as close as possible, but sometimes liberties have to be taken. Whenever I have doubts, they’re usually cleared up by a friend of mine who has an interest in Irish folklore – who just so happens to read ridiculously fast – so I can clear up whether I’m making something up from scratch or if in bringing the story to the twenty-first century, I’m “allowed” to do what I do.

And, of course, within the books the old stories are real. They’re actual history, lost to the passage of time and hidden in plain sight as just stories.

You have recently launched Limit Break Comics with Gary Moloney and Gareth Luby. How did this come about and what is the idea behind Limit Break Comics? What can we expect?

There’s a bit of a background story to this, going back a few months. I’d been talking to Gary about an idea for a fantasy comic, but didn’t have a name. He’d suggested Limit Break, but it sounded more like an anthology name to me. Nothing really happened after that, until the three of us started speaking about setting up a label together over some drinks. We threw around some names, some of which were cringy, some of which were pompous, and none of which I was sold on.

At some point, the name popped back into the conversation.

By that time, myself and Gary were looking to publish our collections of short stories, so it made sense to have a brand name to trade under. We were both working on some fantasy and sci-fi ideas, which fitted the name, so we mentioned it to Gareth.

The idea behind Limit Break Comics is to provide a voice for storytellers. We have a few other ideas in mind for our online presence, and a few ideas for books in the works. The main thing for us is to be as an open and welcoming as possible. It’s how we all ended up becoming friends in the first place, first with myself and Gareth at the Geek Mart, and then the two of us with Gary at last year’s Small Press Day. We’re all about being supportive of each other and providing honest feedback on comics throughout the production process. It’s allowed us all to learn a lot about comics, and about how to talk to people about them.

There are more exciting things in the works for Limit Break Comics, including the first Meouch stories under the brand. In the meantime, we’re focusing on getting our names out there, on attending some events, and on helping each other grow as storytellers.

You have always been an avid follower and supporter of the small press scene in Ireland. How do you feel the scene has progressed since you first became a follower of it, and who would you feel are the stand out creators/up- and-comers in your eyes?

I properly became aware of the Irish small press scene in 2015. I was in DCU doing a Master’s in Multimedia, and my group for my thesis settled on doing a documentary on comic book culture in Ireland. This meant having to familiarise myself with a few new names. Anthea helped with that, but mostly my knowledge of who’s who came from attending events. The first Small Press Day, and the subsequent Dublin Comic Con, allowed me to talk to more of the indie creators in Ireland.

All of that in mind, it seems like there are a lot more people making comics than there used to be. At the very least, I’m aware of more of them, and of the different roles people assign to themselves. A few things disappeared over the years – Lightning Strike stopped doing their anthologies for a while – and more creators were releasing different sorts of work that 2015-Paul would have loved to talk about for the documentary.

The big change since I started following the scene is the number of people finding professional work. Ireland has an abundance of colourists working professionally, now, and almost as many people who’ve drawn Spider-Man comics. The Comics Lab stopped functioning independently, becoming part of DCAF, and more comic related events have sprouted every year. It means there’s a lot more opportunity to find markets in Ireland, but it does also mean the potential for some overcrowding.

It’s almost impossible, now, to figure out who’s due to make their professional break. I’d like to think that some people – like Hugo Boylan – will have their creator-owned comics reach the wider market. Colourists tend to move into the professional scene more quickly, here, and part of that is likely because of the support network between established pros and the small press creators. Sometimes the idea that everyone in Ireland knows each other is both accurate and helpful. As a community, the comic crowd are consistently dragging each other up.

In your first release on Limit Break, Life & Death, you have written stories focusing on horror or supernatural themes; what draws you to this genre?

I grew up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is the short answer. When I was in primary school and definitely not supposed to be watching shows like that, I became enthralled. There’s something special about supernatural stories, to me; almost everything about them can be ordinary, until you hit one little detail. Buffy is just a regular teenage girl to most people, but at night she’s the warrior at the Hellmouth. Willow is the school nerd who discovers herself in college; her coming-out story runs parallel with realising her magical potential.

I like taking something ordinary and twisting it. Mourning Coffee and Death and Taxes are just office stories, until their respective twists. My novel, A Death in the Family, is a story about a Millennial getting a new job and things not going as smoothly as he’d anticipated – the fact that the job is that of Grim Reaper is just a matter of genre.

It’s the same with any genre narrative, really. With Life & Death, I needed to identify mystery in regular life. With Meouch, it’s about needing to find little quirks to reality in as funny a way as possible, while The Wren is about needing to see the hero inside normal people. The beauty of writing, whether for comics or for prose, is that it allows us to look at the world through a different coloured lens.

Interviews

A Year in Small Press: An Interview with Gary Moloney

Gary Moloney is a Cork-native, currently based in Dublin. On Small Press Day, he is due to launch Mixtape, his debut collection of short comics, with Limit Break Comics. .

As a writer, how did you find the process of getting started in comics?

For me that’s where the problem lay, getting started. I’ve always been writing in some shape or form, but I hadn’t written for comics in a long time. I’d talk about it, jot down notes about potential stories, but I’d never get stuck in properly. There was a lot of messing about coming up with excuses not to write, but once I did actually put pen to paper (or more often than not ink in the printer) I got a lot of work done. It’s amazing what a good creative kick up the ass can do, so I have to thank last year’s Small Press Day for that.

The process of learning the craft of comic-making was an interesting one. Most of what I had done before comics was prose work. I had written a comic back in Transition Year as part of a workshop organised by Cork City Library (it’s terrible and with all hope shall never ever again see the light of day), so I knew about the format of scripts etc. As well as that, I used to do quite a bit of comics critique and reviews online, so breaking down why a comic worked or didn’t was nothing new to me, but some of the technique, tools and tricks remained elusive. Luckily, it’s easier to learn this stuff than ever before. This is a subject that has been written on by Scott McCloud, Jim Zub, and many others. So I looked to them and worked from there. Strip Panel Naked was just kicking-off properly and Hass’ breakdowns were of a massive help.

I was lucky as well that just as I finished my first comic project; Lex Iniusta, that a comic storytelling class opened up in the Irish Writer’s Centre with PJ Holden (artist extraordinaire and world’s nicest man). If you have the opportunity to do one of those courses or any workshops of the kind, it is fantastic learning experience. It provided me with the momentum to keep going and I haven’t stopped since.

You’ve worked with a lot of different creators; what’s your process in finding the right person for each story?

Oh man, there are so many factors to consider. I used to write scripts blind and find an artist that suited them later, but I’ve found that to be less rewarding an experience for all involved. It’s just the wrong way to go about it in Small Press and I’ve learned from each subsequent project. Nowadays, I start with a pitch which will include a logline and general outline of a story. I also typically have a first draft of the script prepared. I may have an idea at this point of who I’d like to collaborate with from the people I know through the scene, friends, or from the various online portfolios that get shared about on Twitter from time to time. How do you know if someone is right for a project? Well, you look at the emotional heart of the story and the feeling you are hoping to invoke, look for collaborators who fit with those.

When I find someone I am interested in working with I reach out to them via email, explain who I am if I don’t know them personally and pitch them the story. I keep it succinct and to the point. People don’t need your life story in these initial exploratory emails. I’ll always link to my portfolio so they can see work I have done in the past. You’ve got to be professional about it from the start. If they are interested, I talk with them about the story a bit more, find out what their schedule is like and see what ideas they have. It’s at this point if I have a first draft of the script that I’d send it to them. Meeting up with people to hash out a story over coffee can be very useful if possible. I’ll nearly always do another draft of the script with the person in mind once they are on board.

There is no point in denying it either, you have to look at your budget (if any). You should ideally be paying your collaborators something, even when they are people you are friends with. It may not be a full page-rate, but it should be something. Be open and frank about what you can afford. Your collaborator is going to be your partner for whatever project you are bringing to them and the foundation of a good creative relationship is honesty. You’d be surprised what opportunities can present themselves when you approach someone with a plan. I’ve been lucky to get the chance to work with some of my favourite artists on the scene because of this. Again, it is all about being professional and presenting yourself as such. You are asking people to take time out of their lives to work on a project with you. It’ll take way more time for them to draw your script than it did for you to write it. So be conscious of that fact. You should approach any discussions as to deadlines with the same honesty and frankness.

Ultimately, it may come down to one question. Can you afford to do this story with this artist at this time? Sometimes the answer is going to be no and you’ll have to adjust accordingly. The truth is that it is going to be hard for you as a writer in comics. At the end of the day, you are the project manager. You are going to have to pitch yourself to people. It is rarer that people will come to you looking to collaborate. If it does? Great, you are well on your way, but you’ve got to bare that in mind when approaching potential collaborators. What I say may seem like it just applies to artists, but it goes for colorists and letterers too.

Sample page from Weapons of Mech Destruction

How do you approach the storytelling process throughout the production of the comic?

There’s a process?! Why didn’t anyone tell me? My approach isn’t anything revolutionary, it is all about tweaking as you go. Everything starts in a notebook for me. I just find it easier to hash things out once there is something on a page and I’ve found that hand-written stuff works best for me. It’s easier to break story when it is a tangible thing that you can scribble out or add to in the margins. I start with a premise or character and work from there. At that early stage, I’ll have an idea about the theme of the story and maybe some of the key visuals or pieces of dialogue. The first draft of the outline will be handwritten and include a detailed page-by-page breakdown. This is easier to do with shorter stories. This will be refined once I commit the outline to soft copy. I use that as the basis to begin scripting and edit as I go. Once the first draft is does, I circulate to a few trusted friends for their feedback. I’ll tweak things here and there once an artist is on-board, sharpening the dialogue as the linework comes in so that the lettering draft reflects the linework.

What’s been most helpful to you, as a writer, when working with different creators?

It certainly helps that I’ve gotten on well with all of them. I’ve had the honour of working with some incredible talented people over the last year, much more talented than myself. What I love most about collaborating with them is the passion and creativity they’ve brought to each project. Apart from being delightful to work with, they’ve each taught me something about the craft that I didn’t know before. So what’s been most helpful has been their insight and approach to the medium. Each project has been a masterclass in comics storytelling and my collaborators the greatest of teachers.

You write in several genres. If you could only pick one to write a book under, which would you choose, and would you expand on an existing story you’ve already written?

It would have to be science fiction. It’s a genre that I love precisely because of how broad it is and the storytelling potential that it offers. From space fantasies to high concept narratives, you’d never feel stuck for choice or limited in anyway. All of the short stories that I’ve written are made to be read as standalones rather than backdoor pitches. However, part of the draw for me as a storyteller is building these worlds for your characters to inhabit even for the short amount of time you may spend with them page-wise. A story needs to have a definable world. In my head I have additional stories for some of the characters or worlds featured in Mixtape, and maybe someday those stories will be told, but I am much more interested in exploring and creating new worlds. As Edna Mode said “I never look back darling, it distracts from the now!”.

You’re relatively new to the Irish small press scene; how has it been for you so far?

It’s been phenomenal. This is something that anyone with a passing knowledge of the scene is aware of.  What I love about the Irish comics scene is just how open and inclusive it is. Ask anyone with a passing knowledge of the scene and they will tell you how tight a group it is. Everyone knows everyone (cliché, but no less valid), they all go for drinks together and support each other’s work. They are just really nice bunch and a pleasure to be around. I’ve been lucky to make some really good friends over the last year which has made integrating into the Big Smoke a lot easier.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Don’t wait for permission. Shut up, get out there and do it. Indie comics is punk rock, there are no gatekeepers. Find likeminded people and let your voices be heard. I can’t promise you it’ll be easy, but if you want to tell stories in any capacity you’ve got to take that first step.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

Now that Mixtape is going to be out into the world for everyone to see (screams internally), I have one or two more short projects that I am working on with some killer artists which I should be able to talk about soon. Other than that, I’ll be doing what I have been up until now.  I am going to keep writing and developing ideas, aim at completing some longer projects. Last year at Small Press Day, I set myself the goal of having a book out for this year’s event and I managed that. This year, I’ve set myself another goal, but that would be telling. So I’ll be working towards honing my craft and putting myself in the best position to be able to achieve that.

On the Limit Break Comics side of things, I am going to be working on the Panel Addicts initiative. We have so much talent here in Ireland across the all aspects of the comics creative process. I want to be able to showcase those people and provide a central hub for their work.  Twitter has become the de facto home for the comics crowd to promote their work and over the past year, more and more creatives have been posting short comics/sketches there. A more permanent home is needed to archive this material so that it isn’t forgotten. So we are taking inspiration from the Sketchblogs of yesteryear and putting together a regular blog that will feature comic art and short stories. More importantly, what the blog will provide is a forum for a collective of Irish Small Press creators. We going to start out slowly, but we hope to be able to expand it over the coming months and open up submissions in the near future.

Interviews

Killer Cats and Sketch Cards: An Interview with Gareth Luby

Dublin based artist Gareth Luby started his comic career with Frankie – a killer cat with a penchant for violence and puns. While working on the first story, he was chosen to work on Marvel sketch cards. Just recently, he’s been involved in the launch of Limit Break Comics.

The bare-bones idea behind Meouch was Frankie; what can you tell readers about your inspiration for the character?

Well basically Frankie is based on my cat. When he was a little kitten, I always felt he was plotting my demise. He was a funny kitten. I would imagine what he was thinking as he tore my hands apart playing with me… I had an idea of a kitten who would be the world’s most deadly assassin. Using Frankie’s features, I sketched out the Original Frankie. (Which looks nothing like the Frankie you see today BTW.) I wanted to have a fun character that was not too serious and you could have fun with. That’s Frankie in a nutshell.

How did you approach drawing the first story?

Drawing the first story was intimidating to say the least. I really wanted to get across who Frankie was and also have fun with the story. I had a few things going against me. One, I had never drawn a comic before, and I knew my limitations working in the medium. And two, I was never that confident in my art at this point.

So I sat down with friends who worked on the book and bounced ideas around. I never planned out a single page, I just went for it. I know now that this was a really, really bad way to approach drawing a comic.

Anyway I pieced it all together and we (Gareth and writer, Paul Carroll) got the first Meouch Comic out for Dublin Comic con 2017, and I was happy to say it was very well received.

Frankie recently appeared in a Fantasy anthology. How did you approach the character design in a new settling?

I had bedded down the Frankie design by the time the Anthology opportunity came up. Paul Carroll, who writes all the Frankie stories, thought it would be a great opportunity for Frankie to reach a much wider audience.

Paul wrote a fantasy story that placed Frankie in a medieval setting: knights, kings, and castles etc. It was really fun to work on, I was much more confident in working on this story. I was happier with the character design and more confident in my ability to tell a story visually.

It was great to work Frankie into a Medieval setting. He got armour which was a nod to my favourite comic character, Thanos. He got a massive Buster Sword from Final Fantasy that a cat could not possibly wield (but Frankie does) and he gets to battle the Dark Knight – not Batman but Doggo Shady, Frankie’s nemesis!

So all in all, I was very happy with the story from Paul and my art. Myself and Paul collaborate on the colours for the story, and it looks amazing. But the really good news was that it was immediately accepted for the anthology, so we were really happy that people loved Frankie as much as we did, and felt him worthy to include in their anthology.

Before Meouch was released, you started work on the Marvel Sketch Cards. How did that come about?

The sketch cards came about on the back of my warm up post it note sketches.

I would always do a quick sketch on a post-it note before I did any major art sitting, or just sometimes for fun. I would work on a post-it as a small canvas so I’m not committing to a big piece of work, and it would warm me up for everything: pencils, inks and Copic Marker colours.

I started posting these up on my Instagram, and thought nothing more of it. The more I posted, the more popular they got, and one day I received an email saying that my work was really good and they liked that I got a lot of detail into a small space. The mail went on to say that they were looking for artists to work under the Marvel umbrella on a Sketch Card project. Obviously I thought it was some kind of scam, no way was someone affiliated with Marvel asking me to draw for them, but a few mails back and forth and I agreed to do the work. It was amazing to get that package delivered with all the sketch cards and the Marvel artwork guidelines. It may not a big deal for some but for me at that stage, I was on cloud nine. I had free reign to draw nearly all of the Marvel universe on these, and I went tooth and nail at it. I got all the cards approved and away they went. I never thought much about the completed cards after that but my Mum Googled me one day and found that one of the Deadpool sketch cards I did sold for over $200. I was shocked to think that someone would pay that amount of money for something that I drew. It was an amazing feeling and a serious confidence builder.

I have since worked on an exclusive set of X-men cards with these guys and have recently been given the go ahead by Marvel to share the work I did, so you can see them on my Facebook and Instagram.

What’s your process for working on the cards? How does this vary to your comic work?

I found the hardest part of working on the cards was the absolute limitless amount of characters I had to work with. I did receive a 5-page blacklist of characters that I couldn’t draw due to licensing issues i.e. NO FANTASTIC FOUR at all. But I got to draw most of my favourites and loads of characters I never ever thought of drawing before. I mostly did headshots on the cards due to their size, but I did push my ability on them going for half-body shots to full-body shots on the small trading cards. My most challenging card was in the X-men run when I managed to fit seven characters onto a single card. I was proud of that one and it got a special mention in my approval mail from the guys at Marvel, to quote them “Well done on breaking the mould man.”

So I made it a point to try and challenge myself on this project, not content with the safety of a headshot, but taking the time to see what I could pull out of the bag.

You’re involved with the running of the Geek Mart. What can you tell readers about it?

The Geek Mart started out as a small market run once a month and now quarterly in Dublin. It grew in popularity very quickly. I would like to think the team behind it, being Paul Carroll, Niall Fox and myself, have built a community through the Geek Mart. It gets a lot of interest and word of mouth. We like to give newcomers to the geek community a launch pad for their work, be it crafts, artwork, cosplay or anything they would like to showcase. We are a small event run by geeks for geeks. So if you are looking to break into exhibiting your work but don’t feel you’re ready for the massive Cons, we are always open to new vendors and can be found on Facebook.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Just go for it, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. It is really fun to create something original and to see people enjoy it.

Tips I would give is if you’re an artist, draw every day. I can’t stress that enough, because it’s the only way you are going to get better at it. You will never be perfect, even the seasoned professionals still push themselves every day, because there is never a perfect drawing. In my eyes, I can look at a Jim Lee Batman drawing and think, like 99% of the planet, that it is amazing, but I sure Jim will see the errors he made and will always try to improve upon them.

Practice your sequential storytelling. This is a trap I fell down and I only recently discovered I wasted a massive amount of time. If you want to draw superheroes and that’s it, then do that. If you want to draw comics, you will not learn anything from doing this, You need to be drawing storytelling pages, because this is what the people hiring artist to work on comics will look at. You can show them you can draw Captain America, but they need to be able to see that you can draw Cap fighting a horde of Skrulls on an alien planet while trying to get his hands on the Teseract. And that is a totally different skill set.

I have fallen into the whole of drawing Pin-ups and not drawing more comics, and this has hindered my progress as an artist.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

Following on from what I just said, what’s next for me is practice. I will be drawing Frankie’s first full Meouch comic – Paul Carroll has written a really action packed and funny three-issue arc for Frankie, so I look forward to cutting my teeth on that.

And when I’m not working on Frankie, I will be practicing my sequential Artwork.

I plan to take a year out from doing shows and Conventions and just solidly work on enhancing my skills as a comic artist. Like I said before, I love drawing comics and I want to be able to draw them much better than I can now. This is definitely not going to happen overnight, it won’t even happen over the twelve months I plan to dedicate to it, but I know for a fact that I will be better, and on a more focused road towards my goals.

Interviews

Sci-Fi, Horror, and Breaking into Comics: An Interview with Raymond Roche

Raymond Roche is a writer and comic creator, releasing his books under Two Pugs Publishing. Following on from his debut book Soma: Eden, he released Dem Bones in two parts with artist Fiona Boniwell. During his day job, he works as a civil servant.

Dem Bones is a far-cry from your first book, Soma: Eden; how did it feel jumping from one genre to another?

Much, much easier that you might think. There’s a school of thought that all stories are Western (Cowboys, that is) stories. That’s true up to a point. A writer can tell the same basic story and rework it for a different genre. The Seven Samurai – The Magnificent Seven. I think it works best if the writer can maintain the same theme common to both genres. Soma and Dem Bones look and read radically different, almost as if there are two very opposite Ray Roches at the same keyboard. Maybe there are, who knows. Soma is about grief, Dem Bones about secrets. For me it’s about getting the message across and which genre or taxonomic writing style suits that best. The writing part is easy.

Although… Soma is an emotional journey the reader is fooled into believing will end well and staying in that headspace for months of rewrites isn’t something I’d recommend. Dem Bones is another matter. Dark, horrible storyline, but because I used humour so freely it doesn’t feel dark and after much consultation with my editor, Colin O’Mahoney, we made the decision not to show too much. My favourite panel in Soma is an officer being attacked by the alien creature, while my favourite panel inDem Bones is of an innocent schoolgirl gazing enraptured at a painting in the National Gallery. I felt less constrained with Dem Bones because I was creating the rules of their world as I went along. Soma had to follow certain semi-rigid SciFi rules to be acceptable, mostly science and the mechanics of space travel. Whether we like it or not, certain Hollywood franchises have informed the reader’s psyche and their expectations. For Dem Bones I was creating an alternate Dublin where magic and superpowers are every-day, paradoxically mundane. I felt less that I had to please an audience and more that I was writing these characters for my own enjoyment.

Do you think your day job helped with the writing of the book?

Yes. Without question. Dem Bones began as a writing exercise one lunchtime. I was feeling that Soma was never going to happen and to cheer myself up I started writing funny dialogue. My wife and daughter both had said “For God’s sake, write a comedy next time, please!” I write what I know. A lot of years working on the inside has given me insights into the workings of An Garda Siochana. I took all of that and turned it upside down. The Forensic Lab, The Cold Case Unit, Biggstown Garda Station etc are based on real places and people but seen at a “Dutch angle” because I’m a perverse human being. I don’t write a story if someone else is doing it, and doing it better than I can. Dem Bones is littered with real-world references, but also I satirise events and procedures, people and bureaucracy. It’s up to the reader to decide which is real and which is the alternate Dublin. The people I work with do a tough job and lighten the mood with sometimes dark, inappropriate but oh, so very necessary humour. I hope that shows in the book.

How was your experience with finding a market for the book? Is it something you think you could repeat?

There’s a huge demand for “more of the same” stories, and not just in comics. When I first pitched the concept of a Crime Noir set in an alternate Ireland I included bios of many, many characters and situations so really the Dem Bones world is a “Sandbox” version of Dublin Police. It’s a world where future stories might be anthologies or one shots. I have a lot of them to choose from. Finding a market? Getting the book into shops is a problem. Unless they know you or the comic is mainstream, it’s easy to see why a retailer might be hesitant. They have only so much shelf space. So far, Dem Bones is selling well, through conventions and word of mouth but it helps if the shop-owners push the comic. I’ve sold lots to the Guards, who have heard that there’s a comic about their world. The characters, especially the female detective, have attracted attention. The plan is to do more and hopefully get the right attention. Create a readership one book at a time. As long as the reader wants another one, I’ll write it.  One important factor in selling a book is location. Craft marts or toy oriented meets might not be as successful as a dedicated comic convention. Depending on your skill set and product: Fully mature material will always be a tougher sell than superhero fare.

Compared to most creators in Ireland, you’ve gotten a late start in comics. How do you think that affects the sort of stories you tell?

I stopped reading comics when I was 15. Back then, demand was high but supply sphincter tight. I’m so new to this that I haven’t read some of today’s household names and tend to read trade collections or comics recommended by people in the business. My stories tend to be about an issue or emotion and they are ALL autobiographical. Being late to the party means I bring my own bottle, I suppose. When it comes to the sort of stories I tell, it’s down to the sort I’d like to read or is anyone else doing the same thing? I don’t write superhero stories because I don’t understand them. Superheroes, that is. I get angsty Batman but not floaty cape rippling Superman, The Black Monday Murders but not Nothing-Really-Happened-But-We’re-Having-A-Gigantic-Crossover-Event-Life-Changing-Crisis-on-Six-Earths. Being ancient, I have read a few books, done a thing or two, and see the world differently maybe because I don’t understand Social Media. My stories tend to start in one place and end up somewhere else entirely by design. Hopefully, that makes them unpredictable.

Is there anything about your process that you’d do differently on your next book?

My process is clear. I have a list of genres, characters, events, mashups, themes I want to throw rocks at and I start with a word. I move on to an event, work backwards to the beginning, add plot and jokes later. That’s not going to change. I might try not worrying so much and talking about comics, ad nauseum.

What was the first thing you did when you decided to enter the Irish comic scene?

I made lists. Of everything. You get that, EVERYTHING, I wanted to do. Some are feasible, some not, some too funny to say out loud. Some will need an Ocean’s 11 approach. I’m working through those lists. Top of that list was: Talk to people who were already doing what I wanted to do, Indie comic makers, but more importantly comic fans.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Don’t just jump in. Start in something else, get a grounding in art, a portfolio course, creative writing, journalism anything. Take what you learn outside and apply it to storytelling in comics. Start small. Don’t do what I did: A 28 page SciFi one shot? Hell, no. Look for a local creative team and make 1 page or 4 page comics. Get to know people at conventions and retailers, read what’s current, marry an artist. Well, that’s more than 1 tip.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

My next book is a Horror Western called The Talking Gun. It’s set after the American Civil War and it’s about friendship. Don’t tell anyone, though: It’s hush-hush. Part 2 of Dem Bones is due out (editor’s note: since responding to my question, Dem Bones part 2 has been released – check it out at Small Press Day!) and it should surprise the people who bought Part 1. The next SSDD is about a hostage negotiation situation at a magic sperm bank and is titled “Heist, Heist, Baby.” Besides that, the future is about conventions and talking to people at comic-related events and helping others with my story. If they get something from my experience then that’s a win.

Interviews

Horror in Watercolour: An Interview with Clare Foley

Clare Foley is an artist and illustrator based in Dublin. She works in watercolours, creating a unique style in the Irish comic scene.

What made you choose watercolours as a medium through which to work?

This is a question I get a lot. Truthfully, the watercolour was an accidental find. When I was initially searching for how to draw my first comic, La Grande Breteche, I tried a lot of different media and drawing styles. I was in college and we were constantly being drilled about developing a style. I didn’t have a particularly well defined style or even a favourite media. I found that the watercolour produced a really moody image, and so I stuck with that for the first book. I sort of fell in love with it in the process of drawing that book. People seemed to react well to the style, so I stuck with it for other projects, and it ended up becoming what I’m known for! I know that answer isn’t particularly meaningful, but a happy accident can be how you find something that works.

You’ve done a lot of horror work; do you ever envisage working in other genres?

It seems that I keep being approached for horror comics! I get a sense that this is because it suits the watercolour style. Once your work in a particular genre gets out there, you get offered similar work.

I think my strength as an artist is mood and atmosphere, and those are some of the same ingredients for good horror. Certainly a lot of the media I consume (and a lot of my favourite books, films, comics and other inspirations) have a somewhat heavy dark atmosphere to them, though are not necessarily horror genre. I would be perfectly happy to work on a comedy or a kids story, but it seems for now I’m destined to do a bit more spooky work…

How do you think your style might work with different types of stories?

I work in a highly stylized way, so there are some limits of course. I’d love to work on some other genres, they would provide a much greater challenge for me. I have something extremely whimsical in the works for much later, and I’m really looking forward to working on something much more irreverent and colourful.

Your first book was an adaptation of an older work; how was that process for you?

Adaptation is an interesting process. I chose someone who was long dead and therefore well outside copyright so I could really mess around with the story and make it my own. I took a lot of liberties with the story and I’m sure Balzac is spinning in his grave. Adaptation at a distance, as I did, is a great way to really play with a story and bend it to its absolute limit without stepping any toes (hopefully!).

Page 1 from Last Stop, written by Gary Moloney, Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

You’ve worked with a lot of writers over the past year; what’s your process for working with other creators?

Continuing on from above, I had to learn how to work with other creators after adaptation. Working with writers is a totally different experience, and very rewarding. It’s exciting to try and bring someone’s vision to life while offering your own unique direction, emphasis and aesthetic to it. I love seeing how two different artists can take the same script and produce such different work. The people I’ve worked with have all been fantastic collaborators, and have taught me different ways of brainstorming and creating together. (Most recently @jp_jordan, @m_gearoid & @writeranonymous)

If you were starting from scratch, would you do anything differently?

I don’t think so. At the end of each comic I always look back and think “I would have done so much differently if I was beginning now” but that’s just showing that you’ve grown and learned from the experience. I think overall I don’t regret any choice I’ve made in terms of the stories I’ve worked on or anything else. It’s been great.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Stop talking about it and start doing it. Everyone has ideas. They’re only worth a damn if you try them and you follow through.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

I’ve got two stories coming out at an event shortly, featured in different anthologies. I’ve got a new project just confirmed yesterday which I’m really excited to be involved with, and hopefully two other release announcements shortly. Sorry to be vague, just keep your eyes peeled!

Interviews

Street Art and Going Solo: An Interview with Hugh Madden

Hugh Madden is a comic creator and street artist. His work includes The Duck and the Duchess and Madame Moustache, as well as commissioned art around the streets of Dublin.
You work alone on your comics; is this a conscious choice, or are you just waiting for the right collaborator? 
I work alone mainly because I started out knowing nobody who wrote/drew comics so I had no-one to collaborate with. And over the years, I’ve developed a way of writing and drawing that is very interlinked and also completely allover the place and nothing (including dialogue, plot, faces) is finalised until I’ve inked it. And even then I’ve tippexed out entire panels and thrown out pages. I like the freedom to be able to change everything around on a whim and I could only imagine how frustrating it would be to work with someone like me. I like the IDEA of collaborating with someone (Goscinny and Uderzo always made it look good! (see attached)) but I suspect it wouldn’t work and we’d both end up frustrated.
How do you decide which ideas to work with if you’re working solo?
Usually it takes me a day or two of playing around to figure out whether an idea is just a flash in the pan or if I can make something out of it. It’s usually starts off something like “What if A did X?” and then I work out who A is, what A looks like, the style I want to draw A in, what is X? All those things can fluctuate wildly. Depending on the character I’d do research on how they dress, where they’d live, develop other characters for them to interact with, work out who is in A’s way, are they a simple villain or more complex? And often the idea will just fall flat. Sometimes it’s because the plot won’t work, or the setting is wrong, or the characters don’t connect with the plot once they have been developed or much more likely it’s just something derivative and it takes you a while to realise that. When that happens I just put them away, hoping that someday the right plot for the characters will come along or vice versa.
But even when everything seems fine in my head, when the characters, plot etc meld perfectly, it can end up going off the rails. Sometimes the characters develop on the page differently from how you thought they would and then you are no longer able to corral them along to the ending. Other times you just get stuck and can’t figure out how to get from page 5 to page 7. When that happens, I just put it aside for a few days in the hope of being able to look at it with fresh eyes.
But the best test is always when I ask myself, are you interested enough in these ideas/characters to waste time making this comic? And if the answer is yes, then I go for it!!​

What’s your production process like? Do you script the whole book first, or do you make it up as you go along?
As I’ve said, my production process is a mess. I generally know how and where the book is going to end but if the book evolves I’m not wedded to it. Often the biggest hurdle is figuring out how the comic starts. I generally squash character design, page lay out, thumbnails and script onto the one page, so one page of dialogue can be scattered over several pages of doodles. I usually go back and number the dialogue so that I know what panel I want it to be in but that is more of a guideline. Anything can change on the page. Normally I have a solid idea and layout concept in my head for 4-5 pages at a time and by the time I’ve finished pencilling those pages, I know what to do with the next batch of 4-5 pages.  I don’t wait until I’ve finished pencilling the comic to ink a page. I usually start inking early once I am convinced that the page is ready. (And partially so that I stop worrying about whether it will ever be ready)
Your art has popped up along the streets of Dublin; how did that come about? Do you think it’s beneficial to experiment with art like that? 
This is part of the Dublin Canvas project (www.dublincanvas.com) I saw a poster in relation to it when the project was still in its beta testing stage and kept an eye out until it was looking for more submissions. I applied and one of my submissions got chosen and I have applied every year since. Both my comics and my street art tie in to Irish history and folklore and I think that working on a different scale and with different tools keeps me from getting bored in one medium. And I always find that experimenting sparks inspiration.
You’ve been getting involved in the Irish comic scene more and more; have you faced any barriers to entry? 
The only difficulty I had with getting into the comic scene here is finding out about it. Often the only way I hear about an event/market/festival is when I am told about it by people at a different event/market/festival. The actual applications are usually straightforward it’s the finding out that is difficult.When young people stop by my stall and talk about how they want to get into comics, I  tell them about the different events I attend and how they can apply for them too and they often seem surprised at how easy it is to get a table.

How have you found the process of finding an audience for your work? 
Finding an audience is without doubt one of the more difficult parts of comics and always the thing I think about after I’ve made the comic (ie too late!) I’m always struggling to find an audience but I think/hope that if the art is good enough the audience will eventually find you. It’s important to keep putting your stuff out there on facebook/instagram/twitter where ever you can but going to markets etc is a really good way to find out who your audience is. Because you will always be surprised at who makes a real connection with your comics and it feels great when they do. But I have about 100 followers on twitter so take all my advice with a LARGE grain of salt!!
What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics? 
Just do it. Don’t hang around waiting for the right day or the right pen or the right atmosphere. Just sit down and force it out of you. Make it short and self contained but do it! Because your first comic is not going to be good. I know that mine wasn’t! And the sooner you finish your bad first comic, you can do your better second comic and your even better third comic and so on and so on.  You won’t get better sitting on your hands or day dreaming.
My second “one tip” is to sign up for a table at one of the markets because that way you have a deadline to get your comic finished by and there is no greater inspiration than the knowledge that you need to make something/anything!! to put on your table!
What’s next for you in the world of comics? 
What’s next for me is to finish inking my second “Madame Moustache” comic, I have a children’s comic about Vikings that I have to finish and I have about 30+ pages of a graphic novel I would like to continue. And of course I have that drawer full of unfulfilled characters and unfinished plots  to get through!
Sleep Tight
Interviews

Dustbunnies and Horror: An Interview with Anthea West

Anthea West is the Dublin based creator of Fate, an all-ages fantasy story that began in print and turned to the web. As well as Fate, she’s released The Earthbound God – a fantasy graphic novel – and Sleep Tight – a short collection of horror comics.

Anthea West

You’ve been working on Fate for a long time now. Did you always plan on releasing it as a webcomic?

Short story: Yes. Long story: The plan was to release it as an issue series until chapter 3 and then start releasing it was a web series along with the issues. However, I soon realise, after chapter 2, that printing and selling issues were a handful and pretty expensive over time. I went back and tweak a few things in the original chapters, coloured them and placed them on the web while discontinuing the issues. I enjoy selling graphic novels far more than issues anyway.

If you were to start again now, would you do anything differently?

I would have changed some plot things, very minor things that no one else would have noticed except me most likely. I would give myself more time between chapters to not only write and layout pages but to get a month’s worth of pages completed. A buffer is a webcomics best friend as the old saying goes.

Your Kickstarter last year was fully paid on the first day. What do you think helped with that?

I think it was a good mixture between being involved with the Irish comic community for years beforehand, having already built a small audience for Fate since 2015 and I had recently joined a webcomic collective called Ink Drop Café some months before the Kickstarter. They are such a wonderful and welcoming group and they helped a lot with the advertising of the KS over the month. They were also there to give a lot of moral support and advice and I’m super indebted to them.   

What would you advise to other creators looking to Kickstart a book?

Build your audience first. Advertise what you’re creating long before the Kickstarter. Get your name out there, let people know who you are and sort of things you are creating. Remember that Kickstarter is a platform, not a guarantee of success. You’re only going to get as much as you put in.

Sleep TightAs well as all-ages fantasy, you’ve also worked on horror. What made you work in a different genre?

I’ve always enjoyed horror. Not so much as getting spooked in the middle of the night but that’s a given when you consume the scary stuff. I had always wanted to make some horror comics, I use to write a lot of horror in my teenage years but I just never really got around to it. The final push was when the 100th person told me I could never do horror or “serious” stories because of the style of my artwork.  Let say, spite can be a wonderful motivator.

If you could only work in one genre, and you had to choose between all-ages fantasy like Fate, or horror like Sleep Tight, which would you choose?

Fantasy, no question. It’s a bit of a cheat answer as fantasy spills over into other genres easily such as horror and adventure while still being fantasy. Besides, my horrors are all shorts, fantasy tends to be where my long-form story ideas live. I have a lot of long-form stories planned for the future.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Just start making comics. Don’t worry about perfection, or about being good. Good will come later. Right now just hop in and learn. Start with short stories, work up to issue-length stories and if you want to, move onto graphic novel length. Making comics and sharing them online or IRL is getting into comics.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

More Fate certainly. That should be returning after its long break in June. This summer or next September I’ll be releasing another, longer, horror anthology called Interloper, so keep an eye out for that. My patrons over on Patreon get previews and sneak peeks into that every week. I’m also near the end of writing my all-ages graphic novel, Ash Tree, a story where a young girl called Aisling is shrunk and forced on an adventure with a hyperactive fox and has to learn, very quickly, how to be brave.