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!

Advertisements
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.

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

Reviews

Review: Red Sands

‘Mad Max’ meets vampires in Red Sands issue 1 from Lightning Strike Comics. I received a digital copy of the comic from the book’s writer for review. Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, illustrated by Cormac Hughes, coloured by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Bob Kelly, the book collects two parts of a tale originally published in Lightning Strike 6 & 8.  

While the divide in the story as a result of how it was originally published it slightly jarring (right up until the next page turn, that is), each part of the story presents the reader with different sets of information, and charges the tale with tension amidst the dystopian history lesson. Years of working in comics – and a collection that would leave casual buyers in awe – have prepared Marcantonio for the creation of this horrid world, haunted by a burning sun, long nights, and bloodthirsty vampires. There’s a nice blend of tension-building with the narrative guidance of the book’s protagonist, providing us with all the information we need to understand what’s happening in the moment, without providing all the answers.

Hughes’s artwork loads itself well to the style of the story. Snippets of gear changes and exploding blood bags capture quick movements, while lines of tension are drawn between panels as characters square off against each other, poised for strong words. With the addition of Farrell’s colours, the story is brought to a dark and bloody life. Cool blues and stark yellows dominate the pages of the book, with deep reds drawing bloodied warning lines throughout the book.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Dealing with issues of parentage, survival and the common good, this vampire dystopia is much more than meets the eye. The book is reminiscent of classic genre flicks from the 80s and 90s, from Mad Max 2 to From Dusk Till Dawn, with a climate change apocalypse thrown in for good measure.

While the exact cause of the events that led to Red Sands is still uncertain, one thing is clear: dying is almost inevitable. The sun will burn you up, human or vampire. The vampires will drain you as quickly as you drain your fuel tank. And, if Red Sands Testament (Writer: Marcantonio, Artist: Robert Carey, Colourist: Ruth Redmond, Letterer: Miriam Abuin) is anything to go by (a bonus story at the back of the book!), the battle is being fought on all fronts.

Red Sands is definitely one to check out for horror and sci-fi fans, and to give readers a good idea of the sort of stories Marcantonio can tell ahead of his upcoming graphic novel Neon Skies.  

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

Cormac Hughes: @fhiacha

Triona Farrell: @treestumped

Robert Carey: @robcareycomics

Ruth Redmond: @ruth_redmond

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin

project-crossroads-cover
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.

black, white & grey cover
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.

Ness Cover
Reviews

Review: Ness #1

A few weeks ago (okay, more than a few weeks) Rob Carey put out a call for people to review Ness #1. Having been mostly absent from the Blogosphere since he sent me the digital copy of the comic, it has taken a considerable amount of time to produce a review – which, as with all of my reviews, functions best as a shopping guide for those with an interest in Irish comics.

Not the Nessie You Think You Know

As I set out to write this review, I asked my brother what was the first thing that came to mind when I saw ‘Ness’. His response: Nessie. As in, the dinosaur-monster from Loch Ness. And that’s the premise of Ness: there’s a monster in the lake. The difference is, this one is made of nightmares and tentacles, and any sightings you might have it are likely to be short-lived – like you. Drawing upon Lovecraftian horror to back up this Made of Nasty beastie with some Made-to-Feel-Genuine folklore, writer Chris Welsh gives us a fresh take on the myth of Loch Ness.

With a cast of four protagonists to guide us through the first issue, a believable excuse for their being there when they are, and an intriguing storyline filled with suspense from its dark beginnings, Welsh is definitely onto a winner with Ness.

Supported by deeply engaging art from Rob Carey, which perfectly captures an imagined Scotland and the nightmare that is their Nessie, and alluring colours from Dee Cunniffee, Ness is a comic worth checking out for fans of Fantasy, Horror or Adventure stories, but not for the feint-hearted. It’s gruesome and gory, and all things wonderful this time of the year.

Even better is that the second issue is on its way already! Following a successful Kickstarter campaign – and I’m not surprised in the slightest, given the first issue that Carey graced with me – we’ll be seeing the new issue pretty soon, with expected delivery dates for print copies in December this year. (It’s a horrifying Christmas present to mysellf, and I can’t wait!)

Malevolence Cover
Reviews

Review: Malevolence

Launched at Dublin Comic Con, and then again in a library in Clonmel (because libraries are cool, and that’s where the artist lives), Malevolence is a new horror comic from writer Hugo Boylan and artist John Quigley, with Dearbhla Kelly on Colours and Kerrie Smith on Letters. John asked me, before I met him at DCC and talked the ear off him (and attempted in vain not to be sold almost everything from his table), if I would review Malevolence. As usual, don’t take the review too critically – I know I won’t while writing it!

Twisted

One word sums up the book. Twisted. From Boylan’s writing, to Quigley art, Kelly’s colours, and even Smith’s lettering. The individual elements of this comic twist together to make something uniquely engaging. I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot for you, but the basics you need to know about Malevolence are these simple facts:

1. The comic takes place across three decades.

2. The comic is filled with fleeting moments of madness.

3. The comic wouldn’t make much sense without Kelly and Smith’s contributions.

Colourful Dread

Most comics can get along with a strong story and a skilled artist. Black & White is an acceptable standard for storytelling. But colour brings this one to life. Colour is the only way we know when we are within the story. Colour invites us through three decades of horror. Without colour, an element so vital to this book, everything else would need to change. The book would need to be re-panelled, re-organised, maybe even re-written to a more linear story. But linear is common. Colour allows for Boylan and co. to create their non-linear nightmare.

Colour is the vital piece of dread that the books need to truly come alive.

When Smith’s lettering gets taken into account, the genre of the book is really played up expertly. There’s a lesson to be learned from letterers all-over about how to turn a writer’s words into part of the art itself within Malevolence.

The book builds upon a beautifully horrid concept and executes it in terrifying fashion.

You can get your hands on Malevolence – and you really should – from Hugo Boylan and John Quigley directly. Hugo can be found at @HugoBoylan; John can be found at @johnquigley209.