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.

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Reviews

Review: Fate

One of Ireland’s longest running web comics is taking its first three chapters and going into print. Fate, by Anthea West, is launching with a collected volume of its first three chapters (and an exclusive print-only prologue!) at Dublin Comic Con this year. The book comes with cover colours by Triona Farrell, a map by Katie O’Meara, and additional colours by O’Meara and Rebecca Nalty. Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter earlier this year, West is ready to bring her beloved back to the convention floor.

Fate is an all-ages comic that combines West’s great sense of humour with a fun and vibrant adventure story. Following the misfortune’s of the only talking dustbunny – later named by another character as ‘Bunny’ – Fate builds up a large, fantastical world with each twist and turn. In a world populated by humans, fauns, dustbunnies, mermaids and demons – and probably a whole lot more – there’s a lot to be discovered with every turn of the page and addition to the site.

West’s sense of humour and style of illustration are perfect for her intended audience, painting a colourful story world filled with friendly and easy-on-the-eye protagonists, and menacing beasts with their eyes (and stomachs) settled on hunting down Bunny. With her art loaning itself equally well to its adorable protagonist and all the nastiness that aims to devour him, readers are in for a visual delight.

The book is certainly a lot less serious than most of the other titles released by Irish creators, but that doesn’t stop it dealing with themes of friendship, prejudice, and finding courage as an unwilling hero. While it’s still quite early in the tale, there’s a lot to uncover within the story about the world, its people, and the things that bind them together. Definitely one to check out, especially if you’re looking for something child-friendly from the Irish small press creators.

Check out Anthea on Twitter at: @antheawest

 

Reviews

Review: Clone

Clone is another new comic from Hugo Boylan, one of Ireland’s most prolific small press writers. This time, he’s teamed up with Tara Ferguson on the story, who also took up the role of artist for this mind-mess of a comic. Joined by Rebecca Reynolds on colours and Kerrie Smith on letters, this is one of those books that makes you question everything from dinner to your reflection (and, in some cases – like mine – your twin brother.)

I was warned that this would be a weird book. I did not expect this sort of weirdness. It’s the sort of lingering weirdness that akin to sand on a beach, getting everywhere, even long after you think you’ve cleaned it all up. But it’s also akin to the lasting sensation of a good drink. It’s maybe not good for you, but you want it to last a little bit longer.

When dissecting a comic, I don’t normally start with the letters, but as Smith’s intelligent design in the book comes early in the story, I’ll start there. A pair of stories unfolding simultaneously in the book’s opening pages requires either (a) the audience to figure out which is more important or (b) smart lettering. Smith helped with the latter, adding opaque speech bubbles to the messy subplot of the first act. (I mean messy in a “get it off me” sort of way; on a narrative level, it worked incredibly well.)

The story deals with a lot with identity, responsibility, regret, and insanity. There’s not a lot to say that won’t spoil the book that’ll spoil your appetite, so let’s say this: I really enjoyed the story – which isn’t for everyone, but which is worth trying – and while I won’t say it had a nice ending (nice in the “you look nice” sort of way), it was ended well. Nothing in the story is “nice”, which is perfectly fine for a book that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Ferguson’s art style is simple, but suitable. With a relatively complex story to tell in a few short pages, there’s no room for playing around with mind-numbing artwork – though I can see something more complicated being suitable for her storytelling in the future, if this book is anything to judge her taste and style by. I should note, simple isn’t a bad thing. Simple makes the story tell itself, and simple worked. The visual elements of the book were, when they weren’t supposed to be otherwise, easy on the eye. There’s a lot to fit into the book – a lot that’s supposed to look the same, if the title didn’t give that away already – and she didn’t let herself down.

Adding the Reynolds’ vibrant colours, we’re given a slightly chilling dichotomy of easy-on-the-eye images against a story that might make you want to rip your own eyes out – just to be safe that what you’re not seeing isn’t there.

Again, this isn’t a book for everyone, but fans of sci-fi horror would probably find something they like in it. It’s worth trying, and it’s worth telling Hugo and Tara how insane they probably have to have been to write this book. The comic launches at Dublin Comic Con on August 12th.

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

Tara Ferguson: @TaraaFerguson

Rebecca Reynolds: @brobexx

Kerrie Smith: pocketkerrie

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

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Reviews

Incandescent Memories #1-3

Brian Burke, one of the creators of Incandescent Memories, sent me all three books for review. It’s been some time since I actually received them – and I already had a hardcopy of one, so I was able to see the sort of quality intended in the printing of them – but various complications got in the way of actually writing a review (including thinking I had already done so, and not realising for another few weeks. Life is difficult sometimes.) But here we are: three issues of a comic by Brian Burke and John Devlin. As per usual, I don’t get overly critical. (The Irish comic creator circles are quite small, and they’re all so lovely it’s difficult not to become friends with them. Being a voice of reasoned applause and pointing out things I like is easier for me on a personal and editorial level.)

Collected Comics

The first thing that one should know when picking up Incandescent Memories is that the book collects several stories in each issue. Each issue holds one thing in common, aside from its creators’ names on the cover: The Bandit King. Serialised across each issue, it’s the one continued narrative throughout each book.

Otherwise, the books present us with separate, fun stories from each of the two creators.

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Taking turns in writing and illustrating each others’ work, Burke and Devlin give us a fun look at what each of them is capable of. Issue 1, the bumper four-story book, contains stories with each creator taking alternate roles, as well as providing solo stories where they act as writer and artist.

The first issue remains my favourite, but it has the benefit of containing more stories than the others. While readers can’t reasonably expect the same volume of work every issue from these two creators, it works as a great introduction into the sort of material the two Dublin creators like to make. The additional concept art in issues 1 and 2 also help to show off the drawing styles of each artist isolated from the actual stories within the books.

Overall, Incandescent Memories is an exciting comic to watch as new issues are released. With the continued tale of The Bandit King – a humorous fantasy story – written by Burke and drawn by Devlin, returning readers have something to look forward to, while new readers have additional stories to entice them into the potential of each creator.

Highly recommended, and a good sign of things to come from Dublin’s comic crowd.

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Reviews

Review: Project Crossroads

Seán Hogan, the mastermind behind Project Crossroads, sent me a copy of the book for review. For reasons I’ll describe at the end of this post, I lost so many proverbials when I read it. Combining the talents of eight of Ireland’s up-and-coming creators, this is a book I’ve been looking forward to ever since I was told about it at Dublin Comic Con. (Also, usual stuff for my reviews: I like to point out what I like, and whether you agree or not is entirely up to you. I’m completely conscious of any bias I might have towards projects, and you should be too.)

Those Lost at the Crossroads

Project Crossroads is an anthology of three stories, all illustrated by Seán Hogan, with colouring by Stef Reville and Dearbhla Kelly, assisted by Louise Fitzpatrick, and with letters by Kerrie Smith. The stories were written by Adlai McCook (Retired), JP Jordan (Shift), and Hugo Boylan (Ducksworth’s Last Stand).

Retired

Do you like Men in Black? Do you like cool alien designs? Retired tells the story of Britain’s only Man in Black, in a post-alien-attack world. It’s fast-paced, begins with a sense of dread, and makes a clear point about the successes and failures of heroes. There’s not much else one can say about the story without spoiling it, but you can expect: some amazing looking aliens, colours that pop off the page (you’ll love the aliens; not all at how Hollywood makes aliens look, and in the best way possible), spaceships, and a wicked shot of London.

Shift

For the fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer out there (that’s a lot of people, right?), Shift is the story of a house-party in Ireland, and its immediate aftermath. It has everything you can want in a YA Horror story: humour, believable characters, a twist (every story needs a twist), and something I’d only have to redact from this review before publishing it. Jordan’s print-comic debut sets a high bar for his future in the industry. With no disrespect to McCook and Boylan, Shift was my favourite story (of three awesome tales!) from the book. (I grew up with Buffy, even when I was probably too young for it, so there’s definitely a good genre fit.) Shout-out to Reville for the tonal change in colours to match the turning point in the story. (Also, look out for a few Easter Eggs in this one!)

Ducksworth’s Last Stand

Every tale has a twist, and I don’t want to spoil Ducksworth’s. What I can say is that, while there’s a big jump in the story, Boylan manages to maintain a continued narrative about the titular character. It’s clever and a little bit distressing (if you’ve read my other reviews of his books, or anything else he’s written, you know to expect that) and it caught me completely off guard. A little bird also told me that artist Hogan may have had some input into some of the more vile aspects of the story, with their combined efforts in writing and illustrating the tale making this a disturbing conclusion to the anthology. (Which, of course, is what we expect.)

Bonus concept art!

I’m a sucker for concept art, and Hogan has provided. All manner of monster are covered in the back of the book, part of the preparations for illustrating the stories as they exist now. From the aliens and the humans to a redaction and a furious Ducksworth, the concept art provides an interesting insight into the creation of Project Crossroads.

Project Crossroads will launch at Thought Bubble this weekend. For those of us unfortunate enough to not be able to attend the Leeds convention, there’s an Irish launch of the book in The Big Bang in Dundrum on November 9th. Somehow, all eight creators of the book will fit behind a table for a signing.

One More Thing

At the start of last month, I sent Seán a wee message of Facebook. I’ve been holding off talking about it in too much detail since then, but here we go: in a first for Comix Ireland, I’m working with the creative team of Project Crossroads to make a short documentary about the creation of the book. Production is still underway, but here’s a sample screenshot I sent to Seán as an idea of what he can expect visually:

Seán Hogan Interview

I may have captured him talking while making that. Anyway, the documentary will be released later this year. (I am acutely aware that it is November already.) As well as exploring the creation process of Project Crossroads, interviews with the creators have so far provided a few gems for those interested in the comics industry in Ireland as a whole.  With a bit of luck, a fair amount of effort, all the tea, and probably some weeping, I’ll be backed up when I say that you won’t want to miss it. Watch this space, and the ol’ social media. My excitement for this project knows no bounds.

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Reviews

Review: Black, White & Grey

Hugo Boylan – the twisted mind behind Malevolence – sent me on a review copy of his new book with Rapha Lobosco, Black, White & Grey. As with all my reviews, I have a tendency to focus on the positive – especially true when I know the creator. Consider this a ‘Why you should buy this comic’ post (because I know this is one I’d love to have a physical copy of!)

Black Lines, Grey Morals

Hugo Boylan is, in my mind, a horror writer. The first book of his that I read was a horror, so the genre sticks in my head. This new book contains five stories: DreamweaverDay JobMurphy’s DayHeavy Black, and Black Neptune. It’s hard to tell which one disturbs me most. Conceptually, they’re all different. As stories, they’re paced differently, and rely on different scare tactics. The twists, the intrigues, the Big Bads, they vary between each story. And while it’s true to say that Boylan writes horror, and that each story contains elements of horror, there’s a greater depth of genre available in this book, when one looks at the stories separately.

Heavy Black is certainly closer to science fiction in terms of its content, while Murphy’s Day relies on the expectation of an incident to keep the reader guessing, set in an otherwise contemporary world. The final story in the book, Black Neptune, is extracted from a larger story, but contains enough of the tale to raise the question that a good story ought to: just what is going on?

To complement Boylan’s writing, Rapha Lobosco fills in the pages with – you might guess from the book’s title – a blend of black, white and grey artwork. Artistically, it can appear as a choice between colouring the art, or telling a story in black and white line-work. Conceptually, especially in a collection, the use of black, white and grey creates different atmospheres for the stories. Those told in black-and-white only are the stories that rely on twists and contrasts; what appear to be simple stories take sharp turns in the opposite direction.

When grey is introduced, we’re given two different uses of the colour; Heavy Black makes use of grey to emphasise the darkness of space (the story taking place on-board a craft in space), whereas Murphy’s Day uses grey as a means of dropping us in the middle of the story wondering where we might be taken – there is no clear-cut jump, only a wait for the shift in the story, something we have to drift through, like searching in murky water for a prized jewel. (Analogy spoiler alert: we find the jewel.)

Added to the stories are an original script – which is a nice addition from Boylan – for Dreamweaver, and concept art from Lobosco – always something I like to see at the end of a book. With a dark and dreary design pulled together by the book’s letterer, Kerrie Smith, we’ve given an impressive collection of stories from two of the finest up-and-coming comic creators in Ireland.

Black, White & Grey launches at Thought Bubble 2016 (that’s this coming weekend, folks). It’s a clever collection of intriguing stories, definitely one for fans of horror, and receives an all-round recommendation from me. You can check out Heavy Black on Taptastic in its entirety if you want a taste of what the collection is like.

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Reviews

Review: Solstice #1

I first met Nathan Donnell of Revolve Comics in 2015, at a cosplay convention in Dublin, back when he was working with another company. With Revolve, he’s produced Solstice, a fantasy comic that I picked up from him at Q-Con expecting, at the very least, some beautiful art.

Winter is Coming, and It’s Here to Stay

Solstice Chapter 1: Winter was my first time encountering the writing of Danny McLaughlin, the Derry-based publisher of Revolve Comics. I didn’t buy the comic with any expectations; after all, my purchase was to support an artist I knew. I was pleasantly surprised when, following a busy day at Q-Con in June, I found myself sucked into the incredible world McLaughlin had built within the pages of this first issue.

The world is stuck in an eternal winter. The comic’s hero, Finn, has the task ahead of her to become the new Herald. As the story unfolds, she must track down and kill the Winter God’s wolf totem. Until she can do that, winter will never end.

It was an interesting premise, one that kept me gripped the entire time, post-con exhaustion be damned.

Combined with the stunning art of Nathan Donnell, this is a story worth diving into. Coloured in a cold blue, Solstice is the epitome of winter, with dashes of other colours through the book used sparingly and for maximum impact. And it’s colour, used in this way, that really brings Donnell’s artwork to life. With a very green second issue on its way, it’ll be interesting to see how effective it’ll be as the series continues.

diabetes type 1 comicIn the meantime, Revolve Comics have put out a free comic about type 1 diabetes. You can check it out on their website while we wait for Spring.

Celtic Clan Cover
Reviews

Review: The Celtic Clan 1-3

Nigel Flood from Punt Press sent me The Celtic Clan 1-3 to review. Looking at this from a Road So Far point of view, I’ve combined the review of the series to this point into one post, taking a look at series overall, rather than on an issue-by-issue basis. As always, I aim for the most positive aspects of a book as much as possible in my reviews.

Another Irish Superhero Story?

For such a small country, our comic creators love to create large teams of Irish superheroes. Buttonpress have one. Cremona Press have one. And, though they also release other titles, Punt Press have one. There’s always a problem with scale when it comes to superhero stories – just how many characters should you attempt to fit into one story? – and I think for the most part, Flood and co. have the max figured out. The Celtic Clan featured in the book, if you ignore the additional ensemble of supporting heroes, is enough to make the difference on the panels, and allows for a few different stories to be told at once.

I should say, I preferred Flood’s other work – The Globalists – but there’s a lot of fun to be had in the pages of The Celtic Clan. It’s definitely a more jovial comic, not quite on the all-ages spectrum of Buttonpress comics, but with a lot of the humour that a more violent comic needs when the cast are wearing spandex.

Villainsssssss

When I initially read the comics, I thought the idea for the villains was a bit…silly? I’ll settle on silly. I even thought that when I was tired and made my notes for this very review. Several days later, and taking into account everything I’ve already said, I revise that statement.

The villains of the comics are snake people. Yes, snake people. Lizard people, maybe. But definitely reptilian in nature, with a fun throwback to one of the strangest conspiracy theories we still occasionally hear about – the underground lizard people who rule the world!

Flood takes advantage of this to cast an eye back into Irish history, and manages to create a greater sense of mythos within his comics than three issues should really allow. (Bravo on that!)

The books are fast-paced, and artist Frank J Right succeeds in driving the story along expertly, and fleshing out the details on a wholly bizarre set of characters, seemingly without issue.

(And, it should be said, the characters vary in so many different ways. There’s a cat-man, lizard-people, a pixie-esque-woman, a classic warrior, a barbarian-ish old man, a speedster in spandex, and a monster made from whatever the ground can provide, be it turf, concrete or street poles. Despite the massive mix, he manages not to deviate from his style, and depicts everything skilfully.)

All in all, The Celtic Clan is a fun series. It’s worth checking out if you like superhero comics and want to support small press. How long we’ll have to wait for issue 4, however, remains to be seen.