Sunday, 23 November 2014

Through the Woods - a collection of graphic stories by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Emily Carroll's signature.
As mentioned in my previous post Emily Carroll was in conversation with graphic novelist Isabel Greenberg (part of the Comica Festival) at the British Library.

Before I went along to the event I picked up a signed copy of Emily's book from Gosh Comics. As you can see the book was worth buying for the signature and its accompanying drawing alone.

The book is beautifully published by Faber and Faber. I hope you can see the use of texture and gloss on the dust jacket in my photo, it is even better when you can run your hand over it. The stories include the webcomic His Face All Red and it is a great adaptation but I think I prefer the online version though perhaps it is because I have not got used to the printed version yet. The rest of the stories are new to me and I think my favourite is the introduction - it brought back one of my worst childhood fears. Emily says her book is for all ages, it is perhaps a bit too scary for very young children but I think older kids and adult fans of horror in a fairy tale format will love it.

During their conversation Isabel Greenberg and Emily Carroll spoke of their love of fairy tales and the inspiration they take from them, though for both this is just a starting point - their stories take on a life of their own.  The conversation took the form of a dual presentation but the emphasis seemed more on Emily's work than Isabel's, maybe because of Isabel's tendency to skim over her own slides. Though Isabel did mention the good news that she will have a new graphic novel out soon.

Emily spoke of her experiences at college - that she had been told she could not draw and in the end quit her course. It seems that she sometimes had a difficult journey to where she is now, in the sense that she has very much made her own way. Maybe this attitude helped when working in a comics medium that is so new. I got the impression that Emily loves making webcomics and I hope she will continue to do so because there is something magical in the way she uses the format but I also hope she will make more printed books, Through the Woods is a wonderfully spooky read.

You can see Emily Carroll's webcomics, including His Face All Red, on her website.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Emily Carroll - webcomics, book and UK events

More information is available on the Simon & Schuster website.
Emily Carroll is one of my favourite webcomic artists - partly because I love her stories but also because of the way she uses the medium. In her latest comic When the Darkness Presses she increases tension with her page designs, illustrations and page turns - as the plot builds it takes courage to scroll or click through to the next bit of the tale. She never overplays her storytelling, it gradually unfurls and a lot is left to the imagination. My experience is that her stories have a tendency to haunt the imagination for a long time.

So I am delighted to know that she has published a book with the wonderful title of Through the Woods and she is coming to the UK to promote it. From what I understand Through the Woods is mostly new stories but also contains one of her scariest webcomics His Face all Red, I will be interested to see how this story has been adapted.

Emily will be signing Through the Woods at Gosh Comics in London on November 17. On November 18 she will be in conversation with Isabel Greenberg (another wonderful graphic novelist) at the British Library as part of the Comica Festival.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Alternative Press Takeover 2014

The Alternative Press Takeover was held last Saturday at the wonderful Bishopsgate Institute near Liverpool Street Station in London.

From the Alternative Press website:
"In the first event of its kind, AP will be bringing the small press to a new audience – championing zine-making and DIY alongside radical publishing and bookselling."

I arrived an hour after the event had started and it was already becoming busy, my impression from Twitter later that day is that it was regarded as a success by the people selling their zines. I hope this is true because I'd like to go along again next year to buy more stuff.

Because of other commitments I had a limited amount of time and since then have become aware of what I missed out on but I am very pleased with what I bought:

Book 1 of The Black Project by Gareth Brookes
The Black Project is now an award winning graphic novel published by Myriad Editions but started its life as a series of zines - this is the first of them. Gareth uses a combination of embroidery and lino cut in his artwork - it is wonderful stuff.

Part 1 of Hundred Metre Garden by Elliot Baggott
A complete version of this story is due to be published by Great Beast Comics in Autumn 2014. Elliot did a beautiful drawing for me (the bloke in the onesie was drawn while I watched) in this limited edition zine printed for the event.

The Snow Queen and other stories by Isabel Greenberg
A glossy and beautifully made zine printed by Great Beast Comics. There is a humour and a charm about Isabel's work that is appealing to all ages. She is the creator of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth recently published by Jonathan Cape.

At the End of your Garden and Food Dudes by Lizz Lunney
Lizz Lunney is very funny on Twitter, I've been wanting to get some of her zines for ages so am very pleased to finally own a couple. The zines are as amusing as her tweets, I will definitely be looking out for more of her work. You can see some of it on her website.

The Beast Issue by Tiny Pencil
As with the first two issues of Tiny Pencil this anthology zine contains extremely high quality pencil work and is beautifully produced. If you are a fan of zines, illustrations or pencils have a look at the Tiny Pencil's fabulous website.

There is something very special about zines, they are mostly handmade and you can sense the care put into them by their creators. If you haven't been to this kind of event before do give it a try, you can't beat buying zines directly from the person that made them.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Rabbit Stew - a self-published zine by Viv Schwarz



Viv Schwarz is well known for her picture books - Welcome to your Awesome Robot, There are Cats in this Book and more. See her website for her full range.

Those of us following her on Twitter will also be aware of her self-published work. In many cases, as with Rabbit Stew, seeing projects take shape via regular online updates.

Rabbit Stew was created in 24 hours (two twelve hour sessions) as part of the November 2013 book festival in Plymouth. Viv's inspiration for the story was taken from a rabbit skin in Plymouth Museum. Go to Viv's blog for more information about this event and to see the original drawings.

Viv says in her blog that Rabbit Stew is not a children's story and that it contains disturbing scenes. However I feel that the story captures a real sense of the way that the mind of a child can sometimes work. There is no sex or bad language in this story and it does not promote violence. Rabbit Stew addresses issues that everyone has to come to terms with at some point in their lives - death, grief, the reasons why people might eat animals, or animals eat other animals and the importance of respect. Reading this story might help some older children work out their own ideas on these issues but for children who aren't ready to process these thoughts it could be upsetting. For me it was charming, at times funny and definitely thought provoking. My daughter isn't ready to read it at the moment but I hope she will one day.

The story centres around a small girl and her efforts to terms with grief and death in her own uncompromisingly logical but recognisably childlike way. I don't think that it is giving too much away to say that a rabbit dies after an accident, that it haunts the girl's family and that the little girl is keen to show it the respect she feels that it deserves. Rabbit Stew also has a wonderful portrayal of loving parents trying to work together to find a way to nurture and encourage their child even when they are feeling distressed themselves - I did feel sorry for the little girl's dad at times!


Rabbit Stew is a beautifully made zine, mine came with the bookmark you can see in the photo and even the addressing on the envelope has charm - it was such a pleasure to receive this package. The story is engaging, it has an honesty and raw energy to it that, yes, is sometimes disturbing but it is disturbing in a good way - it makes you think about things. I am a vegetarian but I think that people should make their own decision about whether they want to eat meat and that, ideally, this should be done in a humane and respectful way. It is rare to see anyone exploring these ideas and I am very glad when they do.

Rabbit Stew is available in Viv's online shop.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hourly Comic Day by John Campbell

As far as I can tell Hourly Comic Day is John Campbell's idea.

The challenge is that on February first of whatever time zone you are in you make a journal comic for every hour you are awake and the idea behind it is to see how different people spend their day. Judging by the Hourly Comic website it has been running since 2006.

John Campbell takes it a little further for himself. During the month of January he makes a journal comic every day. Here is January 03, 2012 go to his website for more examples.

I have seen these comics in past years and always enjoyed the insight they give into other people's lives.  This year I decided to join in myself. I decided to keep corrections to a minimum, one of my biggest mistakes is that I called my strip "24 Hour Comic" which is something else entirely *sigh*. To be honest there was no time to make major corrections during the day and one of the biggest challenges I found was to fit in time to scan my drawings and put them together in a readable format - no chance of me uploading each hour as some people did.

To see more examples of Hourly Comics you could try the hashtag #hourlycomicday on Twitter. Viv Schwarz, Sarah McIntyre and Things by Dan did some brilliant journalling and there are many more in the Hourly Comics 2014 forum.

Why not try it yourself next year? It is not as hard as you think and I found it very interesting to record my day in this way, if possible I will do it again.


Note: When I went back to see what had been uploaded to John Campbell's Hourly Comic website it appeared to be down. If you want to read more on this subject you could try this article about Hourly Comics 2013 by Zainab Akhtar that includes the factoid that John Campbell's idea is based on something that Scott McCloud came up with. Over on Forbidden Planet International Richard Bruton is putting together a 2014 round up.