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.

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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.

Article

#ComicsAtDCC 2017

The biggest weekend for Irish comics is here: Dublin Comic Con. Thanks to Declan Shalvey, the hashtag #ComicsAtDCC began on Twitter, making the job of easily identifying what’ll be available that little bit easier. I’ve gathered a bunch of titles here from what I know about and what I could pick up info about online.

All Ages Comics

Going by my own experiences attending Dublin Comic Con in the past, the All-Ages titles are few and far between. I’ve collected the few that I know about here, to make things easier for readers with kids to find something age-appropriate for them.

Fate by Anthea West. Click here for our review.
Freya, Written by Tracy Sayers, Art by Trisha O’Reilly
Wren #13, Written by Paul Carroll and Jason Browne, Art by Jason Browne, Lettered by Phil Roe
Rabbit and Paul Cover
Rabbit and Paul, by Seán Hogan. Click here for our review.

Small Press

The remainder of the Irish small press, as far as I know, is not quite as suitable for children as the above comics. While some titles may be – it’s a judgement call by parents – there are some that might traumatise kids.

The Guards
The Guards, Written by Shane Ormond, Art by Kevin Keane
Chuck, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Conor Carroll
100-times-cover
100 Times, by Katie Fleming Deluxe Edition launches at Dublin Comic Con with additional material. Click here for our original review.
Brain Fetish Cover
Brain Fetish by Kinga Korska. Click here for our review.
Carrie & Rufus, by Ben Hennessy
The Broker, Written by Wayne Talbot. Massive creative team listed in review
Will Sinister, Written by Hugo Boylan, Art by John Quigley. Check out our review here.
Clone, by Hugo Boylan, Tara Ferguson, Rebecca Reynolds and Kerrie Smith. Check out our review here.
Hoda Machine, by Leeann Hamilton
Red Sands, Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, Art by Cormac Hughes, Colours by Triona Farrell
How to Live With Your Cat, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
Meouch, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
The Waves That Breaks, by Aaron Lotsy
Frozen Waste, Written by Aaron Fever, Art by Clare Foley
The Fort Night Comic Project, Written by Dave Hendrick, Art by Peter Marry, Colours by Dee Cunniffe
solstice-1-winter-cover
Solstice, Written by Danny McLaughlin, Art by Nathan Donnell. Books 3 launches at Dublin Comic Con. (As far as we are aware!)
project-crossroads-cover
Project Crossroads, Art by Seán Hogan, Stories by Hugo Boylan, JP Jordan and Adlai McCook, Colours by Stephanie Reville and Dearbhla Kelly, Letters by Kerrie Smith, Flats by Louise Fitzpatrick. Check out our review here.
Solo-Q by Jeklly Draws

Special Mentions

Sometimes, writers and artists work on things that aren’t comics. Launching at DCC, or just released this year, are:

Maelstrom, by Paddy Lennon – Book 3 of the Flare Series
A Little Book of the Coen Brothers, a Sketchbook by Brian Burke

A Death in the Family, by Paul Carroll, launched at K-Con earlier this year

Guests

As well as all of that, attendees will also be treated to the presence of a few of Ireland’s greatest comic creators, including Will Sliney, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, John Cullen, Triona Farrell, and Robert Carey. Anthea West and Leeann Hamilton, whose books can be seen in the list above, are also on the billing.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. There’s a lot to look at it, so many books worth reading, and so many artists and other creators whose work cries out to be picked up.

I’ll be in attendance as a vendor this year, but I had the utmost pleasure of getting to review a lot of the upcoming books for this year’s event. For those who don’t know, I’m Paul Carroll – just breaking into comics, hence the plethora of new books. Because Comix Ireland is a one-man show, you won’t find reviews of anything (or by anyone) I’m involved in (with) here, which includes anything by Gareth Luby, Tracy Sayers, or Jason Browne of Buttonpress. There’s objectivity, and then there’s bias, and the line gets a little bit finer the closer you get to a book. As for every other book on the list, you’ll likely see reviews popping up ahead of other events. I personally can’t wait to see what these amazing creators, and the ones who aren’t on this list, have to offer in the years to come.

Reviews

Review: The Broker

Launching at Dublin Comic Con, The Broker is the first book from podcaster Wayne Talbot. The book has an interesting publication history (and it’s not even out yet!), originally intended to be released across three anthologies by Lightning Strike, and changing creative teams when it stood out by itself. The original creative team consisted on Wayne Talbot as writer and Miriam Abuin on lettering, both of whom remained throughout the entire project. For the book’s first act, pages 1-10, Ruairi Coleman served as artist, with Timothy Brown on colours. For the remainder of the book, Brian Corcoran assumed the role of artist, with Talbot picking up colours. Ciaran Marcantonio resides over the book as editor as it reaches convention tables for the first time.

The plot of the book seems less tedious after putting the book’s history into words; conceptually, it’s simple, and thematically appropriate for the current political climate. Talbot deals with corruption, brutality and conspiracy throughout three acts, pacing the tale incredibly well across each part. The protagonists are believable in almost every aspect – we’ll let the team away with the superb reflexes of their heroes due in part to the fact that comics allow a certain distinction from reality. Nothing is held back between the twists and turns of a plot centring around Brokers with their own visions of how the world should run, and wicked and scrupulous means of achieving their goals, playing with lives as chess pieces.

Readers can be understandably concerned when they hear about the change in artist between two parts of the story, but fear not: Coleman and Corcoran’s styles compliment each other well. Where Coleman dealt with some of the more explosive scenes of the book, relying on dynamic movements between panels, Corcoran deals with the forensics in greater capacity, picking apart the plot with a fine pen. It helps that each artist deals with a different primary protagonist, with Corcoran and Talbot creating a new tonal quality to the book as it enters its second act. Talbot and Brown’s colours blend well together, and while I would personally question one particularly vibrant background colour choice, Talbot succeeded in completing the colouring of the book as well as any seasoned creator could hope.

Between them, Talbot and Brown created a theme of colours to track throughout the book, working with Abuin’s lettering to tie the whole piece together neatly. Reds carry violence, purples hint at the presence of the antagonists, and oranges case a light on Catelyn’s past.

The risks involved in changing teams are many, but a book like The Broker was perfectly designed to make use of it in the best way. I would question it if the division in acts wasn’t apparent in the writing, too, and any reader should worry when they see such a drastic change in a book’s lineup; thankfully, The Broker blends its second team’s styles with its original creators.

A couple of side notes before I finish: I love that there’s a soundtrack to listen to while reading the book (interior back page, for those of you yet to read the book), and; Catelyn is perhaps my favourite single character from an Irish small press book. As well as being incredibly Bad Ass, she has a few choice panels that really stand out for me towards the end of the second act. When you’ve read the book, then you can ask about it if you don’t immediately spot what makes her so relatable.

I look forward to something new from Talbot, whichever creative team he works with. And, while this is no criticism of The Broker, I’m thankful that the next project he’s announced is less contemporary in nature, so that we might see more of how he creates, and less of the current politics that fills newsfeeds daily.

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Wayne Talbot: @waynetalbot

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin

Ruairi Coleman: @ruairicoleman

Timothy Brown: @artoftimbrown

Brian Corcoran: @_brian_corcoran

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

Reviews

Review: Will Sinister

One part Western, one part ‘whatever-we-can-call-Boylan’s-creative-madness’, Will Sinister is one of a few new books launching at this year’s Dublin Comic Con; we were lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy. Hugo Boylan (MalevolenceHigh FantasyBlack White and GreySuperhero Helpdesk… you get the picture yet?) teams up with artist John Quigley (Malevolence) and letterer Kerrie Smith (Girls Like YouSuperhero Helpdesk) to bring us a new tale of death, violence, and broken expectations. With Dearbhla Kelly on cover colours, it makes for a pretty package with a rustic interior.

There’s an expectation from the book’s beginning for there to be some traditional gun-slinging and contextually appropriate racism (maybe not slurs, exactly…but hate), and in many ways we’re not disappointed. There’s a clear divide between the “cowboys” and natives, and an unravelling tale behind this particular snippet of history.

Typical of Boylan, there’s a twist in the feel of the book; also typical of him is the unpredictability of when something like this will happen. The particular splicing of spirituality with the Western tale is reminiscent of Jonah Hex and Preacher, and while the later arc of the book raises a few questions about the history of the comic’s scruffy protagonist that aren’t quite addressed, the blending of the natural and the supernatural works incredibly well in Will Sinister, while preserving the character’s dodgy integrity.

Quigley’s art gives the story a rustic, wild feel, perfect for the brutality of the dark reality of the era. Expertly capturing distress, agony and disgust, and he creates a visually disturbing narrative, with a few choice character designs standing out. As a bonus, the book contains the concept art for Sinister and his most intimate, primal companion. Perhaps its a bias for Irish small press, but it stands out as one of my favourite representations of the character.

Adding to the tale are Smith’s experienced lettering hands. There’s a sense of power given to certain characters, and the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are broken down further still with her inclusion in the book.

If I had to criticise the book, my one judgement would be that I felt like we’re left with a loose end or two by its final page, and no promise within its pages of a follow-up. Maybe it’s a personal thing, and a familiarity with continuing narratives across multiple books, but when a book ends the way Will Sinister does, I’d like to think there might be something to come later, and an opportunity for unanswered questions to be resolved. Don’t let it put you off picking up Will Sinister at Dublin Comic Con; think of this as an excuse to keep an extra close eye on future releases from this team of creators.

(Update: the story will continue. Confirmed by Hugo Boylan shortly after this review went live.)

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

John Quigley: @johnquigley209

Dearbhla Kelly: @dearbhlala

Kerrie Smith: @pocketkerrie

Article

Photos from DECAF, April 23 2017

On April 23rd, we saw the first Dublin Eight Comic Arts Festival: DECAF. Organised by Dublin Comic Arts with panels by The Comics Lab, the event saw to showcase some of the amazing comic art in Dublin with a market, panels, and a few familiar elements from The Comics Lab that were a welcome sight for those who arrived with kids. More on that later.

Entering the Fumbally Stables, attendees were greeted by Matthew Melis and Debbie Jenkinson, two of the organisers for the day. Matthew put together the market side of things, while Debbie arranged the panels. She was also responsible for the massive selection of comics for sale on the way in, from her, Sarah Bowie, Matthew, Paddy Lynch, Philip Barrett and more.

Julie Nick and Katie Fleming sat the first table as attendees entered the main market room (and we the first to be accosted for a photo!) Julie brands herself as a cartoonist, with a sketchbook and Pulp Stories Vol. 1 to show off (along with an amazing new print!). Katie, on the other hand, is a full-on comic creator, as artist for Helion and creator of 100 Times and 100 More Times (NB: gay werewolves) under her belt (along with a ton of prints!)

Nikki Foster and Hugh Madden were next in line. Nikki had a range of zines of varying sizes with her, which helped to showcase the variety of styles available in the Irish comics scene. Hugh had a range of strange tales featuring anthropomorphised animals – obviously I had to get my hands on them.

Pushing the limits of awesome strangeness were All Things Thom and Miriam Rodriguez. Thom had possibly the widest range of things with her, from t-shirts to stickers, prints and zines – including The Thom Guide to: What To Say When You Don’t Know What to Say, which she says she’s used at parties. Miriam had a range of Spanish-language comics with her, including one that had she censored on a second printing – roughly translating as ‘things that are a pain in the ass’, and featuring said pained-ass on the cover.

Seán Hogan and Dylan Drennan extended the diversity of Irish comics available on the day at the next table down. Seán brought Project Crossroads and Rabbit and Paul with him, respectively a sci-fi-fantasy-horror anthology and all-ages comics about a boy from Bally’O’Jhaysus who buys an anthropomorphised rabbit. (Try saying that with your mouth full!) Dylan, AKA Skabag, had Gayboy with him, a fun collection of artwork from someone who’s only just entering the scene with a book.

Next in line were Clare Foley and Karen Harte. Clare is a traditional artist, creating her books in watercolours, and accidentally reminding people that she can draw hands really well. (We joked about this on the day. It was probably funnier then.) Karen is one of the editors and organisers of the MINE Anthology, a collection of artwork and comics about and in aid of the Repeal the 8th/Abortion Rights Campaign.

At the end of the row were Sarah Bowie and Luke Healy, joined here by Charlot Kristensen who designed the poster for the event. Sarah is one of the organisers of The Comics Lab, and had with a wide range of comics and zines, including one about how she’s not related to David Bowie. Luke had a huge collection of comics of varying prices and sizes, showing off a multitude of stories and skills.

As well as having a market on the day, DECAF also provided an opportunity for people to tune in to two panels; Karen Harte led one, about activism and comics – following the successful publication of MINE, joined by three of the contributors to the book. She was followed by Luke Healy, Clare Foley, Katie Fleming and Olly Blake (pictured above) as they spoke about their inspirations in comics, and what they’re working on now.

As well as panels, the Comic Labs also brought along drawing exercises for adults and kids alike, which took the burden of entertainment off some parents for a few minutes.

Attendees were also encouraged to partake in the Comic Swap, where books could be traded or bought from the table, based on what people brought with them.

The event was also catered by Kev’s Kitchen, providing hot, cold and baked foods, along with a range of drinks.

All in all, it made for a fun day, and only the first for Dublin Comic Arts. They’ll be returning on July 23rd, this time at the Dublin Food Co-op in Newmarket Square. If it’s anything like the weekend’s event, it’ll be one to spend a day at.

Web Series

Commerce | CO/MIX Episode 4

It’s all fun and games until there’s money to be made. The business of comic books takes some probing to fully understand, and a summer’s worth of conventions to understand. From the point of view of independent artists, small publishers, and one of Ireland’s leading mainstream book publishers, the business of comic books is full of competition, statistical awareness, and the need to fit into the plans of Ireland’s retailers.

Robert Glick / ComicBooks.ie (featured)
Robert Glick is an American comic book broker and grader, living in Ireland. He operates ComicBooks.ie, and runs the monthly Geek-Mart event.
http://www.comicbooks.ie/

Will Sliney
Will Sliney is a Cork based artist currently working on Marvel Comics’ ‘Spider¬Man 2099’ with Peter David. He has previously worked on ‘Fearless Defenders’ (Marvel) and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ (Egmont/Titan). He published his debut graphic novel, ‘Celtic Warrior’, with The O’Brien Press in 2013.
http://sliney.blogspot.ie/

Emma Byrne / O’Brien Press
Emma is a graphic designer and illustrator working within The O’Brien Press as Design Manager and Art Director. She designs the covers for the company’s books, and works with the writers and artists of the company’s graphic novels.
http://www.obrien.ie/emma-byrne

Eoin McAuley / Lightning Strike
Eoin is the owner and publisher of Lightning Strike Comic Books, one of Ireland’s leading independent publishers. Based in Dublin, they produce an anthology comic book, ‘Lightning Strike Presents’, among a growing range of titles, including ‘Afterworld’ and ‘The Life and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (with Dublin Comic Con).
http://lscomics.com/

Paddy Lynch / Cardboard Press
Paddy is an illustrator and sequential artist based in Dublin. He hosts the Dublin Comic Jam, and co¬founded the Comic Labs. He illustrated ‘Big Jim’ (The O’Brien Press) and is co-¬owner of The Cardboard Press.
http://www.patrickl.net/

Anthea West
Anthea is a sequential artist and cartoonist from Dublin. Her debut graphic novel, ‘The Earthbound God’, was published in 2013. She is currently producing ‘Fate’.
http://dustbunny-studios.com/

Triona ‘Tree’ Farrell
Tree is a sequential artist and freelance illustrator from Dublin. She is a former member of the Superhero Help Desk, and has produced two comic books; ‘Swords & Sisters’, and ‘Azure Capricorn’.
http://treedesigns.portfoliobox.me/
CO/MIX was produced as part of the M.Sc. in Multimedia in DCU, 2014-2015, by Matthew Ashe, Paul Carroll, Darragh O’Riordan, and Ciarán Byrne.

Matt: Matt is a Fine Art graduate from IADT, experienced in video exhibitions, visual effects and 3D animation. He worked as Director of CO/MIX. He runs The VR Agency as its lead producer and editor.
https://ie.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-ashe/70/769/970
http://www.thevragency.co/

Paul: Paul is an English graduate from Mater Dei, and a freelance writer and multimedia producer. He worked as Producer of CO/MIX. He runs Comix Ireland, and assists in the organisation of the Geek-Mart.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/paulcarroll1
http://paulcarrollwriter.com
http://comixireland.com

Darragh: Darragh is a Marketing graduate from DIT, and worked as web developer in Javascript on the CO/MIX project.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/darragh11

Ciarán: Ciarán is an experienced graphic designer and sound designer. He led the sound engineering and graphic elements of CO/MIX.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/mrciaranbyrne
http://soundcloud.com/adeyhawke

Web Series

Convergence | CO/MIX Episode 1

With the rise of Internet culture and the volume of comic book adaptations hitting the big screen, the effects on comic book culture are an eventuality. With social media and new technologies allowing content to spread more widely, artists and fans experience comic book culture in new ways, positive and negative.

Paddy Lynch / Cardboard Press
Paddy is an illustrator and sequential artist based in Dublin. He hosts the Dublin Comic Jam, and co¬founded the Comic Labs. He illustrated ‘Big Jim’ (The O’Brien Press) and is co-¬owner of The Cardboard Press.
http://www.patrickl.net/

Stephen Lynch & Tina Branigan
Stephen, AKA Widdle Wade, is a voice¬-actor by trade, as well as costume and prop¬-maker. A regular to the convention scene in Ireland, he is also a member of the Emerald Garrison. Tina, AKA Cyanide Kisses, is an alternative model and cosplayer, and coordinator of volunteers at Dublin Comic Con.
https://www.facebook.com/WadesWiddleWorkshop
https://www.facebook.com/CyanideKissesCosplay

Anthea West
Anthea is a sequential artist and cartoonist from Dublin. Her debut graphic novel, ‘The Earthbound God’, was published in 2013. She is currently producing ‘Fate’.
http://dustbunny-studios.com/

Emma Byrne / O’Brien Press
Emma is a graphic designer and illustrator working within The O’Brien Press as Design Manager and Art Director. She designs the covers for the company’s books, and works with the writers and artists of the company’s graphic novels.
http://www.obrien.ie/emma-byrne

Will Sliney
Will Sliney is a Cork based artist currently working on Marvel Comics’ ‘Spider¬Man 2099’ with Peter David. He has previously worked on ‘Fearless Defenders’ (Marvel) and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ (Egmont/Titan). He published his debut graphic novel, ‘Celtic Warrior’, with The O’Brien Press in 2013.
http://sliney.blogspot.ie/

Eoin McAuley / Lightning Strike
Eoin is the owner and publisher of Lightning Strike Comic Books, one of Ireland’s leading independent publishers. Based in Dublin, they produce an anthology comic book, ‘Lightning Strike Presents’, among a growing range of titles, including ‘Afterworld’ and ‘The Life and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (with Dublin Comic Con).
http://lscomics.com/

CO/MIX was produced as part of the M.Sc. in Multimedia in DCU, 2014-2015, by Matthew Ashe, Paul Carroll, Darragh O’Riordan, and Ciarán Byrne.

Matt: Matt is a Fine Art graduate from IADT, experienced in video exhibitions, visual effects and 3D animation. He worked as Director of CO/MIX. He runs The VR Agency as its lead producer and editor.
https://ie.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-ashe/70/769/970
http://www.thevragency.co/

Paul: Paul is an English graduate from Mater Dei, and a freelance writer and multimedia producer. He worked as Producer of CO/MIX. He runs Comix Ireland, and assists in the organisation of the Geek-Mart.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/paulcarroll1
http://paulcarrollwriter.com
http://comixireland.com

Darragh: Darragh is a Marketing graduate from DIT, and worked as web developer in Javascript on the CO/MIX project.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/darragh11

Ciarán: Ciarán is an experienced graphic designer and sound designer. He led the sound engineering and graphic elements of CO/MIX.
https://ie.linkedin.com/in/mrciaranbyrne
http://soundcloud.com/adeyhawke

Article

CO/MIX: Understanding Comic Book Culture in Ireland

COMIX Logo

Taking a look at comic book culture in Ireland, CO/MIX is a web-documentary – soon to be web-series – produced by the production group at Blivet.co as part of DCU’s M.Sc. in Multimedia.

The series, which launches on June 1st, explores four core concepts: Convergence, Connection, Community, and Commerce. Through interviews with some of Ireland’s leading figures in the community and industry, and attendance at over half a dozen events covering the spectrum of what’s on offer in Ireland, CO/MIX provides a glance into the world of comic books from the point of view of four relative strangers to the community.

Interviewees include Will Sliney (Marvel), Anthea West (Dustbunny Studios), Emma Byrne (O’Brien Press), Eoin McAuley (Lightning Strike Comics) Stephen Lynch & Tina Branigan (Widdle Wade and Cyanide Kisses) and Paddy Lynch (Cardboard Press).

Directed by Matthew Ashe, and Produced by Paul Carroll, with Web Developer and Marketing Manager Darragh O’Riordan, and Designer and Composer Ciarán Byrne, CO/MIX is a launch pad for understanding the community and industry in Ireland, from the publishing, convention, artistry and fandom perspectives.

Subscribe Comix Ireland’s newsletter or to Blivet on YouTube to keep up with the series.