• London Small Press Expo Stuff I

    I’ve a few new things at the new Thing, i.e. the London SP Expo which replaces the Webcomix Thing. It’s this Saturday at Goldsmith’s College – details here.

    First up is this:

    I’ve finally got into print the comic I improvised last year for the 100 days project. I serialised roughly the first half online, and will put the rest online at some point in the future, but for now there will be this 50pp black-and-white-and-red-all-over A5 landscape-oriented comic for you to enjoy. Claire and Benoît meet in a shower of rain and fall in love. But will the past and basic human weakness scupper their future together? It’s a love story in 100 pictures.

    Also on sale will be Tozo Chapters 3 and 4 for those who haven’t had a chance to get their hands on them:

    More tomorrow!


  • Webcomic readership survey

    I have a webcomic called Tozo which updates weekly here – maybe you’re a reader?

    I’ve published each chapter in print form (four so far) and when Chapter 5 is complete have been toying with the idea of collecting them together in one book – a number of readers have mentioned that they would be interested in a ‘trade paperback’ (TPB) version. The costs of this are not inconsiderate (colour printing is not cheap) so I decided to canvass my online readership as to whether they though this was a good idea. It’s often been reported in the comics press that pamphlet comics are fading in popularity compared to the TPB and I was interested to see if my readers agreed. Here’s what they said….

    Firstly, I realised after I’d created the survey that the questions may not have been phrased particularly succinctly and did not delve too deeply, but I wanted to encourage people to participate and ‘make it quick’ seemed the best way to do this. Consequently, it’s perhaps not very scientific but at least it gives me an idea.

    Secondly, I have a considerable readership that picks up comics from me at conventions and shops and never even looks at the website so this does not take their views into account. I shall have to canvass them in person as best I can.

    Q1: In very general terms, I read…

    Perhaps not surprising from a survey of webcomics readers, digital comics appear to be the most popular format. Whilst a lot of people mix it up, those who read only pamphlets are most definitely in the minority. My answer would have been: mostly trade paperbacks.

    Q2: I’m a reader of the Tozo webcomic and:

    “Might” is an awfully non-committal word isn’t it? I look forward to your purchases… What I was trying to establish was how many people are prepared to double-up in their reading habits and read different formats of the same thing. For myself, I don’t often buy print versions of the webcomics I read so I’m not one to talk, and I think most webcomic creators know that a majority of their readers are there for the free stuff, which is absolutely their right.

    Q3: Would you be interested in paying for a PDF version of the printed comic (i.e. with all the extra pages that the webcomic readers don’t get to see)?

    This was the most interesting answer of the survey for me. I was expecting this to be 100% “No” or thereabouts. Perhaps this reflects the rise of the iPad and the fact that reading from a screen isn’t as painful or inconvenient as it used to be (we’ve an iPad at home and I’ve been completely converted I must admit). The ease and low cost of creating PDFs certainly make this an income stream worth pursuing.

    Q4: Would you buy a collected version of Tozo (Chapters 1-5 in one book)?

    The people say “Yes”! Interesting to see how many are happy to have both print forms. I’m not a completist myself though I know lots who are.

    Q5: What would you consider to be a fair price for a Tozo collection (full colour, paperback, 140 pages)? [US$1 = £0.65 = €0.75]

    About $20 a go, then? I think it should be possible at that price, but no promises.

    Q6: How would you prefer to see future print versions of Tozo?

    Another interesting set of answers. Collected editions seem to be the way forward, but still quite a few people want both those and pamphlets too. I’d be interested to know why that is. Note that ‘only pamplets’ barely makes it onto the graph. Poor old pamphlets.

    I’ll have to think about how to action this – a semi-regular release of pamphlets keeps people interested over the time it takes to produce the page count for a collected edition (and is extra income of course) but is more hassle to create and maintain in terms of stock. Interesting stuff.

    Thanks again to those who took part -if you’ve any further comments (some people have already mailed me to expand on their answers – thanks) then they are very welcome here.

  • Frank & Maggie

    The disadvantages of living in an old house (damp cellars, lethal wiring, temperamental plumbing, general lack of straight edges due to subsidence) are often swept away by the power of history.

    I live in a flat, created from the division of a Victorian house – like so many in modern London. From the census reports available online, I can see that for the first part of its 140-year history this was one big family home: in 1881 that of a silk agent, in 1891 an insurance broker, in 1901 a typesetter. Large Victorian families with a few domestic servants.

    But in 1911, exactly 100 years ago, there’s Frank and Maggie.

    For some reason, the large house has been converted into two dwellings, just as it is today. The upper two floors are occupied by a family with three children who, judging from my present neighbour, would have made a huge noise stomping up and down the stairs. In my home, on the ground floor, are a young couple just starting out in married life.

    They’re both twenty-five years old and the census return lists them as having been married “under one year”. Newly-weds in what is probably their first home together. Frank was born in the nearby docklands of Rotherhithe, quite a tough area, but is educated and works as an engineering clerk. He fills in the census return with a neat hand – you can tell it’s his writing from the signature at the bottom of the form. Perhaps he works near the stamping grounds of his youth, taking the new electric tram that runs from the end of the street, but has moved to a better neighbourhood to provide a more comfortable home for his wife.

    Maggie is from the then slightly genteel suburb of Tottenham, north of the river. I wonder how they met? She has no occupation listed and may well spend her time by the range in the kitchen where I’m now typing. Perhaps she’s thinking about visiting the city to watch the forthcoming parades for the coronation of the new king. Perhaps she’s keenly following the activities of the suffragettes. Or perhaps she and her husband have a more traditional relationship, and she’s happily expectant.

    What struck me when I first read the census entry was that they were listed as “Frank ” and “Maggie”. Not Francis and Margaret, as you might expect on an official record, but the names they called each other, still getting to know each other properly after their recent marriage. It might be absent-mindedness on Frank’s part, or just his down-to-earth Rotherhithe upbringing. But it’s a little bit of warmth and intimacy on an otherwise formal, grey document.

    I hope they have peaceful lives, but a terrible war is looming and Frank’s still young enough to serve – it seems an intrusion to search the records any further. But for now – the now of a hundred years ago – I’ll imagine they’re cosy in their little home and wish them a very happy new year.

  • New Year’s Honours

    The Queen Mum is amongst some very auspicious company in Richard Bruton‘s ‘Best of Year’ list on the wonderful Forbidden Planet blog. Thanks Richard! The FP blog does some excellent work in promoting UK comics so make sure they’re on your favourites list.

    And if you’ve been tempted to check out the QM in action, then I’m happy to say you can still buy her FP-recommended minicomics at the revamped Scribblehound shop.

  • Thought Bubble

    Thought Bubble was brilliant. I don’t know what else to say really… it was one of those events where the magic seemed to happen. Here’s a bit of magic – a statuette of the Queen Mum by brilliant cartoonist Rick Eades that was much admired for the rest of the day:

    Pic stolen from Sarah McIntyre.

    I know this is a cop-out, but here are some reports that show the fun and diversity of the festival far better than I can.

    Thanks to everyone who came and said hello or bought something, and thanks to the organisers for really putting the ‘thought’ in Thought Bubble (oof!) that made it the huge success it was – it really sets the standard for other events. A wonderful way to end the convention year (for me, at any rate).

  • Thoughts bubbling 5

    My final post before I hit the road for Leeds and the Thought Bubble Festival – which is already under way with talks, exhibitions and presentations.

    At my table I shall have:

    • Tozo Chapters 1-3 – sign up to receive Tozo 4 in the post at a special rate!
    • Queen Mum Adventures 1-2 plus a commemorative royal engagement portrait with evey comic!
    • Birdsong/Songbird anthology
    • Prints – lovely Xmas presents!
    • Badges – free!
    • A cheery smile

    Look forward to seeing you there!

  • Thoughts bubbling 3 & 4

    I’ve posted about Solipsistic Pop #3 previously and finally got my hands on a copy at last Friday’s launch party. A poster and stickers, a pencil and sweets – it was all rather lovely. I spent the following Saturday morning happily rotting my teeth and reading brilliant comics.

    To complement the release of SP3, there’s also PS3: Matt Sheret has produced a new edition of the newsprint comic Paper Science. Paper Science was one of the first of the recent wave of newsprint comics that have taken advantage of the services of the excellent Newspaper Club – I’m hoping to produce something of my own with them in the new year.

    (pic stolen from Matt Sheret)

    This edition of PS aims to be SP3’s naughty vajazzle-wearing sister – containing strips with a slightly more adult sensibility than its all-ages sibling. Naturally, this means a bit of Queen Mum action!

    It’s sort of like a ‘summer special’ story, just right for warming up the chilly November days. Paper Science has a load of excellent contributors from across the small press scene – it’s a very funny read and only £1!

    Both SP3 and PS3 will be on sale at Thought Bubble (and most of the creators will be there too) but you can read more about them (and order them) from the SP site and We Are Words and Pictures.

  • Thoughts bubbling… 2

    “Royal greetings on this rather lovely day, Queen Matrophiles! It gives me great pleasure to announce that my great-grandson (the dull, balding one, not the saucy ginger one) has finally popped the question to his gold-digging, social climbing bimbo beautiful girlfriend! As part of the National Festival of Rejoicing, all Queen Mum Adventure comics will be half-price at the Thoughtbubble Festival this Saturday, and will be accompanied by some hand-crafted commemorative piece of collector’s item crap that I’ll be hastily knocking together on Friday afternoon. You may now continue with your unbounded joy.”

    Previously: Interview with Ellen Lindner.

  • Interview with Ellen Lindner

    © Ellen Lindner

    Next Saturday I’ll be at the Thought Bubble comic festival in Leeds, a great event with a nice mix of mainstream and small press comics. Just the right size to be fun and sociable (and profitable) – I’m really looking forward to it.

    As part of the build-up I’ll be posting about a few projects where my comics are appearing, but first I’m turning the focus towards my table-buddy for the day at Leeds: Ellen Lindner.

    Ever since I first met Ellen, I’ve been fascinated by her comics work with its variety, dynamism and strength of purpose and so it was a great pleasure to spend some time interviewing her in order to learn more. The resulting discussion was particularly interesting because although I think of Ellen as a friend, I discovered that a lot of assumptions I’d made about her and her work were incorrect. It just shows you should never assume anything, even about those you think you know well.

    Make yourself a cup of tea, sit back and read the interview.

  • MCM Expo Report

    I’ve got out of the habit of reporting on events as they are often little more than “I sat at a table and sold things and talked to nice people” which doesn’t always make for an exciting read, especially if you don’t remember to take any photos. However, the MCM Expo is an event that has made me stop and think on both occasions that I’ve been there.

    Although it’s very well organised (and many thanks in particular for the warm welcome that the comics village organisers provided) it’s an event where comics are only a part of a much bigger show. And if I was a teenager who liked dressing up with my mates, I suspect I too would breeze past the strange people selling bits of stapled-together paper on my way to something far more interesting, interactive and sparkly like a cosplay parade, wrestling demo or a new game/tv show launch.

    I sold as much as I had at the last Expo I attended and, thanks to a bit of cost-cutting, I increased my profit which was very satisfying. However, most of my comics sales went to other creators and my sales to the ‘public’ were primarily my prints of superheroes/TV characters. It will come as no surprise that a run of a print of Totoro sold out pretty quickly on day 1 and a hasty overnight reprint run sold out by lunchtime on day 2 (hope Studio Ghibli aren’t reading this).

    And I suppose this is what makes me pause for thought. If people aren’t here for the comics (or at least my comics) then why should I be here? It’s lovely to see someone buying one of my pics but that’s not really why I’m sitting there all weekend (and Friday, if I’d wanted). Is it to keep my profile visible and make sure I’m seen on the convention circuit? Is is to nerdwork with industry types and make connections?

    Thankfully, one of the many nice things about MCM Expo is that it’s cheap enough for exhibitors to attend without having to ponder these things too hard (if I lived some distance from London it might be a different matter). As my bus home scooted across a rainy Tower Bridge I decided I was overthinking things, and should be grateful that comics are included at all. It’s a really enjoyable weekend, great for people-watching and catching up with friends and making new ones (along with committing the usual faux pas of forgetting names and faces, which I managed rather too spectacularly in one particular instance).

    And I did enjoy myself, thanks primarily to the good company of my table-mates Cliodhna Lyons and Joe Decie, who made the times of quiet trade much more bearable with their chat and good humour (my contribution to our collaborative Hallowe’en giveaway comic below), and to the generous and good-spirited small/medium/large press stalwarts of Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Timothy Winchester, Warwick JC, Garen Ewing, Dave West and Colin Mathieson, Anna Jay, Neill Cameron, Luke Pearson, David Lando, Joe List, Claude Trollope-Curson, Will, Lou and Nikki, Jess Bradley and others (phew!) who I chatted to, drank with or just admired from afar.

    The moral is: sometimes, it’s just nice to get out of the house for a bit.

  • MCM Expo

    It’s the MCM Expo in London all this weekend. And that means fan art – you know the type of thing:

    Come join the comics/tv/film/games/cosplay madness! Here’s my review from last year. There’s a very interesting mix of comics stuff this time around, loads of which I’m unfamiliar with, so I’m bringing my pennies in the hope of making some discoveries. I’m sharing a table with small press/big laugh stalwarts Cliodhna Lyons and Joe Decie. See you there!

  • Solipsistic Pop launch party

    Tom Humberstone has announced the details of a launch party for the new edition of the anthology Solipsistic Pop of which I’m a very happy contributor. Here’s the flyer (using some artwork from my story – I’m honoured!)

    I went to the last launch party for SP at the late lamented Cross Kings pub and it was a lot of fun – comedians, bands and lots of nice comics people too. SP3 will be on sale so do come along and celebrate this fantastic book! (It’s also available for pre-order here).