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.
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.
As 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.
In 2007, Jason Browne was part of the creative team that launched Buttonpress Publications, with its flagship title The Wren. Set in Dublin, and featuring a team of superheroes known as the Flying Column, The Wren is Ireland’s longest running small press comic. It’s an all-ages story about heroism and trying to find your place among people who knew your parents better than you ever could, while trying to figure out how to balance life as a superhero with school. In a rare moment when Jason isn’t working on The Wren or any of Buttonpress’s other books in the series – Artos, Thimble and Stoat – he’s been working on a graphic novel that’s set for release later this year: Cahoots.
The Wren is the longest running Irish small press comic; do you think there’s anything special about the book that has let you keep it going all these years?
Yes, perseverance! In an industry that is mainly an adult medium nowadays, deciding to work in an all ages could be shooting yourself in the foot. But! I went with heart instead of head when deciding to go for it.
What made you decide to introduce new characters like Artos, Thimble and Stoat?
Hibernia had become such a rich environment. We had spent a lot of time building the background to the world and there was such a diverse choice of avenues leading to other great stories. They needed telling.
Running four comics at once, how much guidance do you give your writers for their stories to keep them tied together?
So, I know the characters pretty much inside out before even starting the first panel. For example, with Stoat. Ciaran Marcantonio and myself had initially a totally different idea for the character but then the lightbulb moment. I enlightened Ciaran to the idea and he was totally on board with it. It is then fleshing out story, plot, characters and environments. Once we were happy, the drawing began.
I always have a basic plot idea for as to where I want to go with a character. Writers are very clever and adaptable people and so they take my plot and weave their magic.
Each of the current characters are based in different areas of Hibernia and so story crossovers are not usually a problem unless purposely intertwined (see War of Fal!!)
How did it feel giving up some of the creative process to other writers?
YAY! But seriously, a collaborative project is what fires my creative engines and so love it.
You’re one of only a few all-ages creators in Ireland; what made you want to release a book like that when Ireland was still developing its small press scene? Have the younger readers made it more worthwhile?
So, to create all ages books, is to like all ages books. It’s my favourite genre in comics and literature. Also, cartoons being my favourite visual media.
If you take the Incredibles, Boom Studios Power Rangers series and Harry Potter. All generally considered all ages and initially aimed at a young audience, yet adored also by adults. I am one of those adorees! (is that a word?) Luckily readers of all ages read our books and get what we are doing with such a diverse cast of characters, relationships and settings. I remember a comic podcast reviewing the Wren issue 2 and thought “Superheroes in an Ireland doesn’t work!”. We are now on issue 13 of said book and so my advice is believe in your story, writer, and characters, and they will deliver. It is still mind blowing to think that people of all ages, await your next issues. That and getting to fulfil a passion, make it all worthwhile.
What can you tell people about Cahoots, which you’ve been teasing bit-by-bit online?
NOTHING! Muhwa ha! (Editor’s note: this is about as clear an answer anyone will ever from Jason on this one until he’s ready to release it!)
What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?
Don’t do it for fame or money. If that is your initial goal, go on X Factor if you can sing or buy scratch cards to get on de telly. It’s an art form and so like all art forms, it has its ups and downs. If someone spends time writing a script for me to draw, I want to deliver the best I can to compliment the words and in doing so, creating a little piece of magic, i.e “We made a comic book!”
If your passionate about the medium, go for it but it takes work (that dreaded word!), like everything else.
Aside from Cahoots, what’s next for you in the world of comics?
Buttonpress is heading to the U.S! So, we are lucky enough already to be on sale in so many countries, including the U.S but this will be our first comic con there. Baltimore Comic Con 2018 is our destination and will be sitting and chatting with giants in the comic book world, so no pressure…eep!
War of Fal makes its debut later this year, we will be in Dublin this year for Small Press Day, and lots more but will be announced later in the year (Wink!)
With Thought Bubble’s comic convention on its way this weekend, Aaron Fever (Ship Wrecked, Frozen Waste, Artos) is launching Swift, the latest interpretation of the superhero genre from an Irish writer. The creative team involved gathers a lot of experience and talent in one issue, with line art by George Kambadais, colours by Rebecca Nalty, letters by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou, and Declan Shalvey as Editor. I was fortunate enough to get a digital copy sent to me by Fever for the sake of this review.
Swift is a classic coming of age story, about a wheelchair bound teenager waking up on the sixteenth birthday to discover he has a superpower, and needing to figure out his place in the world with this sudden change. (That’s all you get out of me on that; aside from a no-spoiler policy, I’m not here to summarise the book for you!)
Compared to other superhero books by small press creators, it makes a delightful change. We’re not given a world-saving hero in Swift, but a real, human boy who just wants to paint. We’re not given a star athlete turned Superman-knock-off, or a team of eclectic Irishness in spandez. Fever uses the genre to tell a story about how a boy finds his place in his family, and in the world.
Kambadais and Nalty perform excellently together, giving us a charming family tale with the spark of Marketing Buzz that the heroes of Swift seem to demand. There’s a lot of movement throughout the comic, with the feel of a montage rippling through the pages, loud splashes of colour making up for the silence of paper (or the whirr of my laptop fan.) With the additional of Ostmane-Elhaou’s letters, the comic guides us through one of the more difficult times in a person’s life (growing up; not all of us go through superhero training at the age of sixteen) with all the excitement of possibility, and the dread of change, blended in a way only comics can achieve.
I adored this book. There are no other words for it. Perhaps it’s the superhero fan in me, or the Young-Adult-obsessed reader that’s yet to give up on the classic coming-of-age narrative, but I didn’t want to stop reading the book once I’d started, and wanted to go back and read it again once I’d finished. It doesn’t bury itself in unnecessary complexity; Swift is an honest story, packed with wit and humour. If you’re fortunate enough to get to Thought Bubble this weekend, this is one for your shopping list.
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.
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.
Sometimes, writers and artists work on things that aren’t comics. Launching at DCC, or just released this year, are:
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.
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
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
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
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 (Malevolence, High Fantasy, Black White and Grey, Superhero Helpdesk… you get the picture yet?) teams up with artist John Quigley (Malevolence) and letterer Kerrie Smith (Girls Like You, Superhero 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