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Welcome to Treehouse

Did you have a gang hut when you were young?  A place you hung out with your friends and shared ideas?  A place where you could not only try to understand the world, but also create one of your own?  Treehouse, the comic collective, is kinda like that. 

They are a large group of like-minded, creative individuals with such a huge amount of talent it was really hard deciding if this interview with 6 of the members should be split into separate artists sections.  We kept them together in this interview because the thing is...the thing that makes Treehouse, Treehouse, is that; they are a team.

Of individuals.

Cover art of Treehouse 6, by Avril Smart

Cover art of Treehouse 6, by Avril Smart


Tell us a bit about yourselves as individual creatives and what each of you bring to the Treehouse Collective.

Neil Scott: My name is Neil Scott and I am an artist based in Dundee.  I studied Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone and graduated in 2008.  I make comics but also use sculpture, photography, video and performance in my art.  I have a couple of recurring stories in Treehouse: Bad Eagle, an inept but endearing bird, and Door to Door, anecdotes from my experience as a postman (my day job).  I also like to try and experiment with form and story length in my comics but also try and include an element of humour in most stories.

Balazs Lorinczi: I’m Balazs Lorinczi, originally I’m from Hungary, currently living in Dundee. I’m doing a series called Human Resources for Treehouse and I’m planning to do it for a while. It’s a light hearted urban fantasy series.

Ross Purdie: My name’s Ross Purdie. My contribution to Treehouse #6 was story titled: One Gran Army, about a grandma who hunts vampires. I’m a Glasgow based freelance artist. I’m currently focusing on illustration and concept art, but I’ve recently found myself becoming a bit enamoured with the idea of being an artist/writer… so yay comics!

David Robertson: I’ve always loved comics and started making them when I was a kid. Kept it up ever since. I’ll let the other folk in Treehouse decide what I bring!

Rebecca Horner: I'm a soon-to-be 4th year Animation student at DJCAD, specialising in comics. I live and breathe drawing, and comics are pretty damn cool.

Norrie Millar:  I had read comics since I was small, fell out with it but still read what I had, went to Art School, slowly started to fumble back into it, nearly failed because I wanted to make comics, worked as a screen-printer in a manufacturing factory, decided to go back to Uni and study Mlitt Comics Studies, best decision I ever made. No idea what I bring to Treehouse – stubborn perseverance?

Neil Scott

Neil Scott

 

What brought you to joining the Treehouse Collective?

Neil Scott: Treehouse was founded by Stuart McAdam and myself in 2013 following a collaborative comic we made as part of an art project.  We both wanted to have a platform to share independent comics made locally and knew of a number of creative friends who were making or wanted to make comics.  We approached the initial members (featured in Issue 1) with the idea of a comics collective and everybody was really keen.  The first issue was published in December 2013 and we've just kept going from there!

Balazs Lorinczi:  I found an issue in Waterstones and I thought “hey, it’s an underground anthology but it is distributed in a major book shop as well and it seems like I would fit in with my stuff. Maybe I should shoot them an email, it seems like a good opportunity”. So I did.

Ross Purdie: I was showing an old pal of mine some of my concept work that had a bit of a narrative to it and he advised me to get in touch with Neil Scott (the Treehouse high heed yin) and try out submitting a story.

David Robertson: I contacted them through the e-mail address in the magazine and offered my services! They accepted a comic with issue 3 and happily every issue since. 

Rebecca Horner:  My friend Jules Valera (existing Treehouse member and autobiographical comics extraordinaire) encouraged me to go in for it sometime last year, then several months later I got over my shyness and asked to join! 

Norrie Millar:  I met fellow Treehouser's Neil and Andy (Herd – of “Pandyland” fame) at an exhibition of Andy's, actually I'm pretty sure Avril would probably been there too, at Tinroof, an artist's studio/exhibition space here in Dundee. Neil was friends with a close friend of mine, found out I was going to study the Mlitt and asked if I would be interested in contributing to an anthology comic he and Stuart were planning. I said yes on the spot.

Balazs Lorinczi

Balazs Lorinczi


There are quite a number of you, can you tell me a bit about how it works when you’re pulling an issue together? How does something go from being an idea that you want to make into a strip to actually being in the comic anthology? Is there an informal (or formal) lead editor or art director, for example?

Neil Scott: We set a deadline for submissions to each issue and once that has passed I collate all the comics we have in the Dropbox into the comic layout.  As far as there is an editorial process, it is just in the sequence of the pages within the issue based on how it flows for a reader.  We very specifically set out not to have editorial control over individual creators' work so people felt able to produce whatever kind of comics they want.  If there was ever anything problematic or overtly offensive submitted we would have to discuss if it was appropriate for our anthology, but that hasn't happened yet! 

The only constraints we set are that a comic must be in black and white or grayscale and cannot be more than four pages long.  This means there is a fairly egalitarian feel to the anthology with no one creator getting the lion's share of pages.  The uniform black and white helps us keep a visual coherence across all the wildly different art styles.  We invite each of our members to have a go at a cover design, which I then try and echo with the inner covers.  It's all pretty informal really! 

Ross Purdie: We can submit anything we want in any style so long as whatever it is not gratuitously horrible and offensive.

David Robertson: The page limit per issue is 4 pages. There’s a “secret group” as they’re called on Facebook, and we can post ideas, questions, whatever on there as we go along. Once we’ve done the work we post it fait accompli into the Treehouse Dropbox.  Neil and Stuart are the editors and they put the issues together.

Rebecca Horner:  Based on my one-issue experience, you draw whatever you want, upload it to the Dropbox, then voodoo magic happens and a comic is born.

Norrie Millar: There's absolutely no limitations or direction given to contributors, other than a maximum 4 page submission size, it's in black and white, a good grasp of common sense and no explicit/racist content. With each issue we have a good balance of returning contributors and new stories, some people are happy to just work toward a single strip while others like to have continuing strips or contribute more frequently – a healthy mix which means we aren't fighting one another for extra pages. I was interested in having a strip that told a story throughout a number of issues so people reading would have a familiar story running with each issue.

 

You have your own individual projects that you work on separately from Treehouse. How do you manage the balance of this, individual ambition or ideals versus the collective ambition? Are you quite competitive with each other?

Neil Scott: Having worked in the creative field for a reasonable amount of time and, also having seen a fair amount of comics creators talk about their work, I'm happy to say Treehouse is one of the least ego-maniacal groups I've had the pleasure to be part of!  We meet up regularly to discuss the comics and our own work and the collective atmosphere is really supportive.  I'm always super proud whenever any of our members are recognised for their own work – like Norrie Millar receiving a (well-deserved) nomination for the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Currently I’m only working on stuff that’s for Treehouse, so it’s no issue for me. I don’t think anybody could compete with anybody, each style is so distinct that there is really no point. At least that’s what I think.

Ross Purdie: I’m kind of the new guy in Treehouse. #6 was my first one. I don’t feel competitive at all. I’ve come in with the intention of contributing to whatever I found when I get in the door. (It is always the case that, when you’re through the door, what you find is never quite what you expected.)

I don’t feel contributing to the books periodically conflicts with my own ambitions as I still own the stories I put in. In the longer term I intend to compile a fully coloured anthology of my own contributions and use this as a folio piece to showcase my ability.

David Robertson: I make my own Fred Egg Comics, and keeping that up while being in Treehouse has been interesting. I’m not sure how it would even manifest in practical ways. I can say that Treehouse is a priority for me. Any Treehouse event or project gets serious consideration from me.  I see both Fred Egg and Treehouse Comics as being mutually beneficial. It’s really inspiring to meet up with the team and discuss comics. They’re a talented bunch. Personally, I don’t consider myself competitive with anyone else in comics.

Rebecca Horner:  I have a tendency to juggle many things at once - I take a break from one project by working on another one. Treehouse is a new and exciting challenge!

Norrie Millar:  I make my own comics and free-lance as well but I always make time for Treehouse, it's a great pressure release and I can have fun - experimenting with my drawing and writing. It always becomes a priority and any events, comicons and launches that happen I do my best to make sure I'm helping out at them. We're all busy people so it's a great way to catch up with everyone and have some good chat and I've had some particularly good chat with David Robertson at many of these events. I don't think there is much competitiveness, we all help each other as much as we can, it's meant to be an enjoyable experience, comics are so much fun, so while we push and nudge each other, it's never a case of one-upmanship.

 

Norrie Millar

Norrie Millar

Tell us about your individual proudest moments working, both in comics in general and also with Treehouse specifically.

Neil Scott: I feel really happy whenever I meet people who have read our comics and have gotten something genuinely enjoyable from them.  It's crazy to me that Treehouse has become what it is even in this short couple of years from a conversation that Stuart and I had, probably in his kitchen.

Balazs Lorinczi:  I’m really proud that I could be part of Treehouse. My work never saw print before, although I was making comics for a few years now, back in my home country but that market is so small, I didn’t think it was worth putting money in it.

Ross Purdie: Being brand new to comics my proudest moment was dropping a link to my first finished webcomic on a professional forum and basically being told: “you’re better than most for where you are... get a letterer and come back later thanks, bye...”

In Treehouse specifically: Just hitting my first deadline with something I was happy to put my name on.

David Robertson: Getting comics done at all is something I’m proud of. Every panel, page, story and book you make is a mountain to climb. There are many and endless reasons to not make comics, and only one to do so. With Treehouse specifically, I’m quite proud of having contacted them from outside and joining the ranks. It was a bit intimidating, when you see the quality of work they were putting out from the word go.

Rebecca Horner:  I never linger too long in being proud of myself, but it's a really cool feeling to be able to hold a physical thing with your work in it (Treehouse #6, and UniVerse's Anthology Five).

Norrie Millar:  We just launched Treehouse #6 and I'm extremely proud to have been a part of it since #1. Treehouse started in Dundee and it's gone to comicons from the very North of Scotland, to the South of England and all the way to Helsinki. I think that's something pretty special and to still have people interested in reading and also contributing, still amazes me. In a good way!

As an individual, the very fact that I'm actually making comics myself, I still find incredible. I never thought it would be something I would be able to do, so putting out my comic at the start of the year was mind-blowing, then to find out I had recently been nominated for two SICBA awards because of it, is just crazy. Hope that's not too big headed to mention but I'm still bowled over by it all!

 

It's fantastic news, Norrie, and well deserved!  Can you talk about the most interesting (or challenging) experience you’ve each had working in comics?

Neil Scott: When I am making comics the most interesting part for me usually occurs between the (extremely) rough draft I make of the initial idea and the final inked out version.  I usually do the whole piece on the paper before scanning it in and the part that I love the most is the minute decisions you have to make about every part of the layout.  Tiny adjustments to panel size, word placement, facial expression have such large ramifications and it is a challenge I enjoy wrestling with in my little comics cubby hole in my studio.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Working for a writer who was paying for my work (not much but hey, its still making comics for money!) and made me redraw half my panels. It was annoying but made me a better illustrator at the same time. I also had to alter my style a bit which was very frustrating but as time went on it became more and more natural and in hindsight it was a very useful thing. It pushed me towards a more accessible style and to a higher technical level.

Ross Purdie: There was a moment I knew this is going to be a major life thing for me… It was about 3am and i was tanking through some inking with hours and days of work ahead trying to get finished on time for the deadline.

People will tell you:

'Inking has a knack to it...'

Whether digitally or traditionally you have to get warmed up and get in the zone in order for your brain to travel up your arm. I believe this is true, as you will generally find that when you’re inking and you get up from your desk for any reason and come back, your lines will be weakened by the shortest abandonment.

So anyway… 3am... timber frame walls + storage heaters = cold flat. I am sitting with my feet perched on a just filled hot water bottle balanced on an empty orange box of crackers.

As I was inking I became distantly aware that my totes were getting way too hot. In fact the wee rubbery bits on the sole felt like they were melting, after a while my feet just went numb from the pain of overheat, sort of stuck to the hot water bottle.

I kept inking.

David Robertson:  Again, it’s all interesting. There are many disciplines to doing comics: getting ideas for stories in the first place; laying out panels to the best effect to get things across; creating characters in visual and philosophical terms; drawing (including pencils, inks, tones, colours), using computers for enhancements; lettering; writing in the strict sense of using words, i.e. dialogue, captions. There is so much work to be done on every page, yet for me it is all subservient to storytelling. Comics are meant to be read. All the work should really be invisible and people should read through a comic without thinking about any of this.

Rebecca Horner:  My biggest challenge so far is that I've decided to make an 18-page comic in my 4th year at uni, alongside making a short film. Watch this space.

Norrie Millar:  Every comic has a new challenge! Comics take so much work, especially if there's only one person involved in it's production, script, art, colouring, lettering and that's not even mentioning the desire to improve the core draftsmanship skills of each discipline. It's extremely tough and challenging but it's also extremely worthwhile and rewarding. Thumbs up for making comics.

Rebecca Horner

Rebecca Horner

What do you think is the key to engaging with your audience? How much attention do you pay to what is popular / controversial / trending, and how much of this makes it into your work?

Neil Scott: I pay exactly zero attention to what is popular I'm afraid.  I just try and make stuff that I am interested in or makes me feel something in the hope that it will make others feel similarly.  If a comic or character makes me laugh or I think it is cute or has some kind of pathos, then I can put it out and hopefully at least one other person will enjoy it!

Balazs Lorinczi:  Honestly and, this is just my humble opinion, I don’t give a hoot about current trends, I just do what I want to do. Nobody pays me to draw something else, so it's on my own time, from my own money.  I’m doing the ideas that are in my head that I want to get out. All I can do is hope that it’s something there is an audience for.  Although, I always liked easily digestible stuff compared to the more abstract art projects and I try to make my stuff friendly to an average, but open minded reader.

Ross Purdie: I do tend to gravitate towards whatever it is I myself or other people are clamouring for. For example so much of the internet is weary and moaning about the saturation of psuedo-WASP male protagonists and lack of non-sexualised, diverse female leads.

In response to this, I instinctively wanted to create a middle aged female character and make her appealing and (hopefully) compelling to read. (Hence One Gran Army).

I freely admit this is a type of pandering, but once I got into it and started to get her voice I really got invested in it.  Also, where else but comics are people going to find this stuff that they clearly want?

David Robertson: The key is having something happen that makes a reader subconsciously feel “What? What’s happening here?” and keep on reading. I don’t pay any attention to what is popular / controversial / trending. I may have accidentally landed on some of those occasionally, but it’s not a calculated move. I do comics so that I can do whatever the hell I want. No-one is paying me, and so I call the tune.

Rebecca Horner:  Being relatable in some way. I definitely notice other people picking a current trend and being able to create something cool related to it, which is admirable. I don't actively do it myself, but I think everyone's influenced by what's going on around them in some way whether they mean to be or not. I'm a big sci-fi fan, so that influences a lot of my work. Space is everywhere.

Norrie Millar:  I think it's as simple as that you have to be honest with what you create, the audience can see bullshit straight away and it turns people off instantly. Or maybe that's just me. 

Ross Purdie

Ross Purdie

How are you finding getting your work out there, in terms of using digital platforms and comic book shops?

Neil Scott: It's actually a bit of a long game.  We've been quite lucky to have a friendly and encouraging following on things like Facebook and Twitter that lets us interact with comics fans and people who like what we do.  We have a new online shop where people can order the anthology directly from us. Getting the books in shops is a slow process but we're getting there. 

Waterstones in Dundee and Glasgow have been great about promoting local creators like us and the specialist comic shops have been good too.  Conventions are a big thing for meeting people and getting the books out into the public.  Scotland's independent comic scene is going through a bit of rapid growth at the moment which is cool to be a part of.  Although we should probably start incorporating cosplay into our displays because that is definitely what the kids are into these days.  Honestly, if you advertise any opportunity for cosplay you will have about 5,000 people show up in full costume, guaranteed.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Unfortunately I’m currently a bit too occupied with other things to be bothered with distribution and coverage so I just trust the good and committed leaders of Treehouse and hope it's going to be enough for something.

As far as I can see the main struggle is to get people read your work. It’s not Marvel or DC, it’s something different, something new which they have to learn to relate to and that is usually a big barrier. They don’t now what this is, there is no connection, a recongisable name or image so lots of folks just can’t be bothered with it.

Ross Purdie: Digital is easy. I’ve recently started a page on Tapastic.com (sort of like YouTube for web-comics where creators get a slice of the ad revenue). There seems to be plenty of platforms out there.

As far as shops go: that’s next steps for me once i have a book sized story finished, but I’m told Treehouse is stocked far and wide.

David Robertson:  Really okay. I send out information to different websites and comic shops. Some of them are interested, others aren’t. Social media creates a little circle in which you can post updates, previews, excerpts, etc. Why not, it’s fun.

Rebecca Horner:  I gently pimp out my work on the usual social media platforms.

Norrie Millar:  I've never seen it as a problem, we've put Treehouse out ourselves and the stores that we've approached have been very accommodating. The internet is a great way to put out work.

 

Who are your top 3 creative influences and why?

Neil Scott: Charles Schulz, Chris Ware, Kate Beaton – they are just three individuals who have inspired me into making comics but there are hundreds more.  Anybody who has an honest and singular approach to the medium.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Only 3? Let’s see: Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola and Doctor Who.

Ross Purdie: Caravaggio: When i was a student and found myself in a dilemma I would ask myself: What would Caravaggio do? The answer was usually: “murder someone then run off to Malta” So i grew out of that, Ryanair just isn’t as cheap as it used to be… but yeah Caravaggio is my all time hero because his paintings are really, really good.

Iain Banks, a writer who is sadly no longer with us. I’m from Dunfermline and he is from North Queensferry. I used to read his books and be utterly blown away by the idea that a guy wrote this incredibly rich otherworldly stuff a few miles down the road from me.

I once had the privilege of meeting him at a reading and at the Q and A afterwards my pal asked him: do you ever feel discouraged by the perception of people who look at sci-fi books as really geeky and sub-literature?

He thought for a moment and said:

'I don’t worry about that. Committing to a genre is a philosophical choice. Would you rather be a pianist and *tink, tink, tink* on a lovely old piano… or would you rather get fired into into it on a big mad f**k off electric organ with buttons and levers all over it??? Like... (waving his arms around) *DUM DUM DUM DUM DOOOOOAM!!!!*'

Hero.

Patti Smith, proves you don’t need an amazing voice or virtuoso band behind you to be sublime at what you do.

David Robertson:  I’ll pick three from three different fields. Comics wise, I feel I am very influenced by Peter Bagge. His humour, rhythm of telling stories, viewpoint on life, dialogue and pacing. I consider him an absolute comics master. His brilliance can be overlooked because his stuff is just so easy to read.

I am a great admirer of Frank Zappa. His music is endlessly varied and rewarding, and his philosophies on life are so inspiring. Highly intellectual and utterly down to earth at the same time. He encompasses the universe and the gutter at once. He is eminently quotable!

I really like Chris Morris. His breakdowns of the media in the 90s The Day Today and Brass Eye were stunningly brilliant. Jam was so powerful on the radio and on TV and Four Lions was a great film too. His fearlessness in his art is mind-boggling. I want to cheat and throw in another. I have loved Russell T.Davies since Queer as Folk. His Doctor Who was so good. I have just re-watched the Cucumber and Banana series, and his work is unparalleled in telly.

Rebecca Horner:  Eek! Lots of people. First three that come to mind are:

Eyvind Earle - he was an artist at Disney back in the 50s, and his work on Sleeping Beauty made a huge impression on me as a child. He saw the world in a unique way and translated it into these gorgeously vibrant, detailed paintings.

Darwyn Cooke - he wrote and drew one of my favourite DC stories (DC: The New Frontier), and his style speaks to me on many levels.

J. H. Williams III - his layouts, man! I look at his work to kick myself into trying to do more interesting things with page layouts. They are spectacular.

Norrie Millar:  Salvador Dali.  The guy did everything and anything he could: drawing; painting; writing; film; animation, it didn't matter, he was always learning and working, never limiting himself to just one discipline, always exploring and trying to improve, not caring what people thought. He was what also led me to discovering David Lynch and Mobius.

Mogwai, I've been listening to Mogwai since around 1998 and they've sound tracked many long nights of working. I've seen them live three times which isn't that much considering how long they've been going. I've worked out so many stories while listening to them and they're pretty fearless with what they want to put out and work on.

Katsuhiro Otomo, I read a lot of his stories at an early age. I was still reading the Beano when I read first Akira and, while I forgot a lot of the details and short stories as I grew older, I never forgot the feelings I got when first experienced his work. If something sticks with you for that long, then it must be good!

 

What are your preferred inks and paper / digital package for creating comics with?

Neil Scott: I work with mechanical pencil, black india ink and a fine brush on standard bristol board primarily.  If I am doing anything digitally, I'll scan in hand drawn stuff and work in Photoshop.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Photoshop and sakura pigma micron pens. I’m so cheap I don’t bother with paper at all. I know, I should be ashamed, but for now I don’t think it will make too much of a difference.

Ross Purdie: I’m all digital at the moment. For comics I work in manga studio 5 about 98% of the time and only nip over to Photoshop when I need some more varied brushes. MS5 really is great for the price. It makes it a lot easier to keep things neat and tidy.

David Robertson:  I draw on any old paper really. It’s disgraceful. I’ve been using Faber-Castell pitt pens, and a Pentel brush pen. The latter recommended to me by folk from Treehouse.

Rebecca Horner: I use pretty much anything I can get my mitts on, but my main go-tos are a Pilot Fude Brush Pen and my trusty sketchbooks, and if I'm working digitally I'll use Manga Studio and Photoshop.

Norrie Millar: I'm a hands on kinda guy. Pencil and paper, I've started using brush and ink and I don't think I'll change for a very long time. I colour digitally but I'm also a fan of watercolour, inks and acrylics. Anything with a nice wash.

 

What is your favourite piece of artwork on your wall right now that you did not create. Or, what is your favourite comic storyline that you did not write.

Neil Scott: Uh, I think Ghost World is a pretty great storyline, self-contained but with a real feeling of place.

Balazs Lorinczi:  If I could put artwork on my wall it would be a Duncan Fegredo Hellboy drawing. My favourite comic book storyline is a really hard choice but maybe: The Invisibles, Planetary and Daytripper.

Ross Purdie: On my wall I have an ink drawing of a samurai horseman my girlfriend did. Trust me: it’s awesome.

David Robertson:  I will go with the first, as the second is too difficult. I have three artworks on my wall (the rest of the wall space is covered in bookshelves). A sketch of Warlock by Jim Starlin; a page from Star Wars Dark Empire 2 by Cam Kennedy; and a painting of Dan Dare and the Mekon by Ian Kennedy. I can’t pick a favourite though!

Rebecca Horner:  I have a print by James R. Eads called Hello, Beautiful World. It's pretty.

Norrie Millar:  It's not on my wall but I have a signed copy of the comic Daytripper, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba which has the simplest of drawings, just a quick sketch, of the main character as a child and it just means the world to me.

David Robertson

David Robertson

Your latest issue, Treehouse # 6, is out now, which is something else to be proud of, how was the launch party?

Neil Scott: We held the launch party at Tin Roof Studios, an artist collective and studio space in Dundee.  The party was excellent, we made an indoor Camp Treehouse with teepees, campfire and a Gamezebo for playing boardgames.  We also had individual panels from the comics enlarged and put up on the walls for people to examine.  The only snag was that the delivery company managed to not deliver the comics, despite their guarantee of “next-day delivery”.  Everybody who came along was very understanding despite us having no new comics for sale.  We all read the one copy of issue 6 and had a swell time anyway!

Ross Purdie: Party was all-right yeah.

David Robertson:  Um, the launch party was good, despite the books not arriving until the next working day! There was playing of games and vinyl records (notably Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds).

Rebecca Horner:  Telestrations and War of the Worlds, what more could you want?

Norrie Millar:  The party was excellent! It's just a shame #6 never turned up, haha! I could do without hearing the War of the Worlds soundtrack for a while though, I think that record was looped the entire night.

 

What is next for Treehouse?

Neil Scott: Carry on expanding and showcasing Dundee and the rest of Scotland's independent comics creators!  Our next issue will be out in early September and we're considering the possibility of a collected omnibus of the comics so far.  We only produce 200 copies of each issue so once they have sold out they are no longer available except in digital versions and it would be good to have something to introduce new readers to.  We'll keep everybody informed of our activities on Facebook and Twitter!  We'll also be returning to Thought Bubble in Leeds later this year so hopefully see some more comics fans there.

Ross Purdie: At the moment we are a vaguely harmonious unit, but it has been my experience that everything resembling an institution composed of more than 2 humans and one robot will eventually  invite some form of corruption… and it won’t come from the robot.  So yeah, we should be due some of that soon. Onwards and upwards.

David Robertson:  Issue 7. I’m doing the cover, and we’re planning on having an exhibition at Arbroath Library Art Gallery.

Rebecca Horner:  More comix!

Norrie Millar:  Start prepping for #7, we'll be going down to Leeds again this year for Thought Bubble in November. Keep doing what we do and keep having fun!

 

Bonus question: If you had the option of having Flight or Invisibility, which would you choose and would you use your ability to fight crime?

Neil Scott:  I actually listened to a segment on the This American Life podcast discussing this exact question.  Apparently there is a sentiment that people who chose invisibility are inherently sneaky and dishonest, but people who say flight are delusional because, given the choice in reality, they would actually choose invisibility.  Despite this pessimistic view on the problem, I'd take the accusations of being delusional and choose flight so I could zoom around fighting airborne crime.  If I really ended up choosing invisibility then I suppose you would never be able to track me down to confirm your suspicions.

Balazs Lorinczi:  Flight and no, I’m not hero material and I’m not fancying martyrdom too much. I would just chill out with the birds. Or try to help emergencies, but not fighting crime.

Ross Purdie: Have to go with flight just for getting about. If you’re invisible then public transport would be tedious as all hell.  I don’t think I’d go out of my way to fight crime. I’d favour small acts of kindness, like maybe flying about delivering stuff you wouldn’t trust to the post.

David Robertson:  I’d choose flight, and maybe fight crime if I could be bothered.

Rebecca Horner:  Flight! Possibly not for crime-fighting purposes, since the ability to fly wouldn't make me any more physically threatening.

Norrie Millar:  Flight! I'm far too sexy to be invisible.

 

Well, quite.  If you would like to keep track of just how sexy the people of Treehouse can be, please, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter: @TreehouseComic and, you can also buy their comics at: http://treehousecomic.bigcartel.com

The Personal and Professional, David Robertson

Cover of Dump 3, by David Robertson

Cover of Dump 3, by David Robertson

Dump 3 is a collection of many different stories from other comics David Robertson has created.  It also includes the work of Damon Herd, Donna Law, Neil Paterson, Ludi Price, Keara Stewart and Pam Wye and its published under David's own publishing label; Fred Egg Comics, based in Dundee.

The stories are dry, funny and, what makes it really compelling, is how recognisable the characters are, something that's often missing from comic books.  David's energy and world view shines through each story helping to make this a refreshing read. 

He took some time away from his circular working desk to talk candidly to Redbird about his work, it was a great talk.
 

Can you give us a bit of background, where did you grow up, do you come from a creative family?

I grew up in a housing scheme called Mid Craigie in Dundee. My Dad drew sometimes – for birthday cards. For some reason we had an electric organ at one point and my Mum played bits of tunes on that.  I remember my sister drawing too, and practicing her recorder!
 

How did you get into creating comics and what is it about this medium that makes it the best platform for your ideas?

David Robertson's Fred Egg Comics logo


David Robertson's Fred Egg Comics logo

I've read comics for as long as I can remember. I liked drawing pictures and I liked writing stories, so it was probably natural to start doing comics. I actually made up my signature character Fred Egg when I was 7 or 8.

I don’t know if comics are the best platform for my ideas but the medium is my favourite to work in. It’s the most difficult to work in, the most challenging and the most rewarding. I do like writing just text, but there are many subtle storytelling effects that you can play with in comics that you can’t do in regular writing. Visually speaking, prose really is just a load of words put one after another. There are pacing effects and a use of silence that you can employ in comics. The audience for comics has to be able to read a comic and look at it at the same time, and you can switch gears as you go along. I think that process can be off-putting to some people who “don’t know how to read comics”. The presentation of some ideas as comics is intrinsic to those ideas. Presented in another medium, they would not work.
 

There is a really strong Scottish influence in Dump 3, but you’ve also produced comic strips that have been included in American anthologies as well, so it’s clear your work speaks to wide audience.  Can you tell us a bit about how you create a character and a story that you know an audience will connect to?  Also, do you think American audiences differ greatly from the UK?

I never know an audience will connect to my characters. I operate only in hope. I guess I have things happen to characters that I trust will involve readers, in that they will want one outcome or another.

There are superficial differences between US and UK audiences. It’s often stuff you don’t think about that is brought to your attention. I did a 2 issue comic series called Berserkotron based in a high school, and I had a few comments from US readers on how wacky the school was, because they wore uniforms.

Berserkotron, Page 14

Berserkotron, Page 14

The humour in Dump 3 is very dry, but there are also some quite touching observations, such as the illustration of the pencil case your son brought to help you create.  Are you a fan of Jeffrey Brown’s comics and could tell us a bit about writing / drawing from your personal experience.

Sure, I like Jeffrey Brown. I remember reading Be a Man and Every Girl is the End of the World for Me. I liked those titles, thought they were funny. And I enjoyed Conversations, that he did with James Kochalka. I am a big fan of Kochalka.

November, Page 11

November, Page 11

I write everything from personal experience to some extent. It’s all informed by my viewpoint. Even It’s Dehli Belly - a story where I decided to write what I hoped would be an appropriate and moving comic about Crohn’s Disease, which I have no experience of whatsoever. Once I’d researched it, it was still filtered through my thought processes.


It’s Delhi Belly!, Page 1

It’s Delhi Belly!, Page 1

But really I guess the question is more about dealing with personal events and those of people I know. I don’t name any other people or institutions, unless it is an innocuous statement. It is a fine line. You have to maintain your privacy, while still putting something of yourself into the stories. That is a real challenge.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from It’s Delhi Belly, there was a story in Dump 2 called Everything, which was a 24 hour comic wherein I laid out my personal ideas and philosophies on the most important things to me in life. Some of the pages for November in Dump 3 are very personal too. Again, I never name members of my family, but I will express my feelings towards them.

Everything, Page 1

Everything, Page 1

Can you tell us why Garfield is in there?

I used to work in a local radio station as a technical operator, a job which involved moments of doing a few things simultaneously with pinpoint accuracy, followed by periods of merely babysitting the equipment, until the next round of activity. Each day, the local paper would be sat in the studio and, on one occasion, I read the Garfield comic. I cannot remember the exact setup and joke, but it was something like Jon talking about his car and in the third panel Garfield sneered that it was a crap vehicle.

I absentmindedly drew in another panel wherein Garfield was lying flat on his back with tire tracks leading up to him, running over his body and disappearing into the distance. Amused by this, I went back to my next round of technical operating. The next day, another smart-ass comment from Garfield, another fourth panel wherein he got his just desserts. I realised that this fourth “comeuppance” panel worked in practically every single Garfield strip. So this idea sat around in the back of my head, and when I was doing the 30 Day Comic challenge I pulled it out for that. The final one in which he obliterates himself from time itself seemed like a good ending to the project.
 

November, Page 16

November, Page 16


The social media feed drawings are great, an interesting mix of commentary on commentary.  What other aspects of our current popular culture are you interested in putting into your comics?

Thanks! That was really just a case of thinking, 'I don’t like that.' Once you’ve decided you want to make comics, you walk around looking for what would make a comic all the time.

I am interested in how technology has affected our daily lives, and have done stories on that, but I don’t really consciously think; 'which popular aspect of culture shall I tackle today?' I am interested in lots of different things and, once I’ve done my comics, some of them might fit under that banner.
 

November, Page 4

November, Page 4

In a world where large comic producers tend to dominate the comic industry, how important is the indie comic scene? 

I guess it’s very important? But like all these things, defining exactly what the indie comics scene is can be difficult. Some people talk about anything that isn’t Marvel and DC as being indie – so that’s the likes of Image and Dark Horse, IDW, whatever. There’s a lot of stuff out there. For my part, I think the small press or mini-comic scene is a great place to be with a lot of freedom to do whatever comic you want.

I sometimes see the small press being talked about as positive, in the sense that; it's a good stepping stone to get noticed by the big publishers. That can happen and it's great, but really I believe in it as a thing unto itself. Amazing and beautiful work is being produced by self-publishers, the likes of which could not be dreamed of by Marvel, DC, Image, or any of those companies. It just isn’t in their remit to publish that kind of comics art.
 

The Orb, from Dump 3

The Orb, from Dump 3

It's hard work being an independent artist, it requires a large amount of motivation, tenacity and drive, not to mention support from family and peers.  Can you tell us a bit about how you motivate yourself to complete a comic and how you deal with success?

Funny, recently I was feeling motivational as well as motivated, and so I posted on Facebook and Twitter:

“Comics people! It is time to make comics now. Go and make some comics.”

Which I thought was direct and to the point, 'Come on, let’s go!' sort of thing.  I got a few different responses, the likes of;

“Okay”,
“I wish I could”
and
“Why bother?”, the last of which I replied with;
“the answer to your question is comics.” And really, if that answer doesn’t make sense to you, maybe you shouldn’t make comics then.

A couple of things that come to mind in staying motivated to do comics. You have to handle the fact that your comics will never live up to your hopes for them. You’ll have great ideas which are perfect because they are in your mind. The only problem with these is they do not exist. So you work and put them to paper and they disappoint you. But, they do exist now. Then you do another one.

Secondly, comics are time consuming. You are likely to be working on a comic for months and years that will then be read in twenty minutes. Those are the facts and you have to decide it is worth it to stick at that.

As for dealing with success, I’d have to define what success I’ve had. I’d say someone saying “I liked your comic” and talking about it with me is a kind of success. I deal with that by saying 'thank you!' I’m grateful for all the good things that have happened to me because of my love for comics. I’ve met good, interesting people and been involved in some cool projects. I try to stay open to new opportunities, experiences and challenges that present themselves to me.
 

What a Difference a Day Makes, from Dump 3

What a Difference a Day Makes, from Dump 3

What does your working desk look like?

It’s a regular round table. I draw hunched over this thing and it’s killing my back. I have to get an angled desk. I have a lamp; a pile of layout books with stories I’ve done in the past; another pile of folders with past originals; a pile of paper and tracing paper; pencils cup; ruler; eraser and other accoutrements lying around. Tablet is also usually knocking around. Under the table is a container with watercolour paints and the like in. My table is often covered in my kids’ action figures. Off to the side of the desk there will be, more often than not, a pile of comics and books and what have you, that has built up and been put to the side in order to crack on with the next thing.
 

Can you give us a hint as to what your next comic ‘Zero Sum Bubble Gum’ will be like?

More of the same, only better! All the bits you liked in Dump 3 will be accentuated, all the bits you didn’t...there will be no more of that. I’m actually about a third done on Zero Sum Bubble Gum. What can I confirm without giving anything away? I’ve laid out the front cover. There’s a full colour painted strip for the back page and I will be looking at the effect of technology on humanity in at least one story, which I completed today!
 

Bonus question: Chris Ware’s comic ‘Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth’ includes a highly flawed superhero character.  If you had the powers of Superman, which of your vices or flaws would you indulge in the most?

I guess I could eat and drink whatever I wanted in ridiculous amounts, couldn’t I? Does Superman get fat? I don’t think he even needs to eat. Or breathe. He’s weird!

 

Superman is indeed weird, how could he fly around in space if he truly needed to breathe?  If you would like to read your very own copy of Dump 3, you can purchase it at Fred Egg Comics, via this link: http://fredeggcomics.bigcartel.com/products

You can also follow David on Twitter @FredEggComics and explore his website.

Panels Publishing - The Power of the Group

Comic books are one of the most influential art forms of the last century, with its impact felt on film, television, video games, libraries and more.  Superheroes tune into the part of our psyche which believes (or wants to believe) that we can overcome adversity, that it’s possible to be effective in the world, that we can be a positive force and that being different is a good thing.

So it’s little wonder why artists and writers are drawn to working in the comics industry, but, it’s a tough industry to get started in and having creative talent and drive doesn’t necessarily mean your work will be going up on the shelves.  The big comic publishers like DC and Marvel, are businesses and are mostly interested in publishing work that they believe will return the most profit.  It makes sense from a business point of view, but it lacks variety and it makes it harder for new talent and new ideas to get into the world.

Panels Publishing are different.  They are a team of 6 creative, talented individuals who, on graduating from the MLitt course at University of Dundee, joined forces and set themselves up as a comic publisher which is interested in the variety, new talent and new ideas.

Erin Keepers, Panels Writer, was unfortunately unavailable for the video call but was there in spirit.

Erin Keepers, Panels Writer, was unfortunately unavailable for the video call but was there in spirit.

Although spread out across the UK and America, the Panels team got together virtually, for a video call interview with Redbird.

Cosmic, written by Erin Keepers and illustrated by Letty Wilson.  Published by Panels.

Cosmic, written by Erin Keepers and illustrated by Letty Wilson.  Published by Panels.

 

Starting your own artist run comic publishing label is a big project, but it has precedence in companies like Image.  Was the story of Image an inspiration to you?

Cale: Oh definitely, our aim is to help new comic writers and artists get started in the comics industry.  Selling and publishing independent comics is at the core of what we do and it’s why we set up Panels.  Image was a huge inspiration because it was founded by artists and writers, who wanted to own the copyright on their work and escape the restrictions of more commercially driven publishers.
 

Jessica: We were inspired by the concept of setting something up that was for everyone, something that would help emerging talent get published.  We want to bridge the gap between finding your feet when you’re just starting out and having something solid, something published and available for other people to enjoy.

 


What do you find are the benefits of working together online in a creative group?
Jessica: We had been working together on the comics course in Dundee and found that working with so many different creative people to be really productive.  So it’s that creative environment we wanted to establish with Panels.  Initially we had thought about making it a pub or a coffee shop, because we wanted a space that provided a good atmosphere for creative interaction, but it just wasn’t feasible. The beauty of Panels being online, is that we can pull together talent from all over the world as well as locally.  It gives us access to a much bigger creative group.
 

Weird Moose, a comic by Letty Wilson

Weird Moose, a comic by Letty Wilson

Nathan: And being a combination of writers and artists we all bring something different to the table.  For example, when we were working on Sosmanaut, we were trying to figure out how best to show what was going on simultaneously throughout the ship.  I’m a writer, not an artist, but I came up with the idea of showing a cross section of the ship.


What are some of the challenges you face as an independent publisher?
Cale: The main challenge is making sure our work gets out there, it’s a lot of work getting established and we are getting a really positive response, but we’re not on ComiXology (owned by Amazon) and that makes it harder.  That said, having independent comics out there is really important, to us and the wider comic community, so it’s worth striving for.
 

ComiXology is a bit of a beast, do you think that the future of comics is going to be purely digital?
Faye:  There are a lot of advantages to digital comics.  You can do things with animation in digital comics that you just can’t do with print, but equally you lose the collectors if you do everything in digital.

Cale: Yeah, there’s room for both.  There is an experience element to holding a comic or going into a comic book store that is lost in digital.  I think you’ll continue to see a combination of comics in print and digital and some years one will be more popular than the other, but it’ll balance out.

Jessica: One benefit of digital, is that we can put new work up very quickly. For example, for Free Comic Day, we got together online and said, right, what should we do?  Within the hour we had decided to use a comic Nathan and Letty had worked on as a submission piece, up and ready to download for Free Comics Day.  It’s great to be able to be reactive like that.

 

Sosmanaut the Cosmanaut, a comic by Nathan Langridge and Isaac Hoar, published by Panels

Sosmanaut the Cosmanaut, a comic by Nathan Langridge and Isaac Hoar, published by Panels

Faye has recently joined the Panels team as an artist, how did you find her?
Letty: Faye actually joined our flat before she joined Panels!  She came in as a new flatmate and then joined the team.  Faye is a brilliant comic book artist as well so it’s great to have her on board!


Letty, you have been doing most of the artwork in Panels comics and you’re work is really beautiful.  There are some lovely colour choices in Cosmic, which Erin Keepers wrote.  How does it work when one of the team approach you and Faye with a new comic script they want illustrated?
Letty: They normally will email me something and I’ll say, I’m too busy leave me alone!  We’re working on a series of comics called From the Deep, which includes The Stoorworm.  We did two and then Cale came to me with the third one and I was like: No Way!
(group laughs) I enjoy the character development side of things, working out what people would look like, what their wardrobe is etc.  And it takes time, there was a character for one piece I didn't get quite right the first few times.  I made him too handsome.  I had to make him fatter, add more stubble. 

Cale: A lot of my inspiration comes from TV shows, so I write them in as references in the script.

Faye: Yeah, having good references like that is really helpful when we’re drawing out parts of the script!

 

Letty and Faye, what are your art tools of choice?
Letty:  I pencil and ink everything by hand, onto old fashioned bristol board, then scan it into the computer to clean up and colour digitally. I use Photoshop CS6 and a bamboo tablet for colouring - it's old and cheap but I haven't managed to break it yet.

Faye: The materials I use depend heavily on the project; but the ones I use most frequently are nib and ink on paper, or Paint Tool SAI on the computer.

 

Panels comic books feature a lot of good strong female characters, which is something that’s been lacking in the genre for a long time (The Ballad of Halo Jones being a major exception.) With that in mind, what’s important to you about portrayal of female characters and what did you think about the latest Avengers movie?
Jessica: Its important to have female characters who are in charge of their own destiny.  The Avengers films were starting to do that, which was great, but in this latest film they turned the Black Widow into the Hulk’s love interest.  It completely diminished the character.  I mean she is supposed to be a super spy!  They had a great strong female character and they just didn’t know what to do with it.

Cale: Yeah that was really disappointing.  We need more strong female characters in comics and films.  The Female Thor comic saw an increase in sales of something like 30% over male Thor comics, so it’s something people want, there’s a definite market for it.  Marvel are better than DC at female character development, but there’s still a long way to go.
 

Meteor, a comic by Letty Wilson, published by Panels

Meteor, a comic by Letty Wilson, published by Panels

Panels are responding to that demand with the female characters featured in comics like Meteor and Cosmic.  Is accurate female representation important to you?
Jessica: Yes.  We want to present female characters who do their own thing, who have freedom and aren’t just there to support someone else’s role.


What are the best things and the worst things about Comicons?
Letty: Best thing about cons is going round seeing loads of new works and stealing ideas / getting inspired for new projects. Worst thing is probably getting home too tired to make anything of all those ideas. 

Nathan: (Best things) 1. When people pick up your book, read a bit, then smile or laugh, or compliment it verbally. Double points if they buy it too.  2. Buying someone else's stuff and realising there are other people with the same sense of humour or similar ideas. That you aren't alone in the universe.  (Worst things) 1. Not having enough time to leave the table and look at everything properly.  2. Spending a long time travelling and lugging suitcases around. Super tiring.  3. Sometimes Jess doesn't allow us to eat at the table.  

Jessica: Utterly untrue!

Faye: Best thing about cons is meeting all the new people and finding out all their individual reasons for coming.  Worst thing is the lack of proper breaks - they're so tiring.

Cale: Best Con stuff is meeting other creators. We're all always so crazy excited to meet each other. Everyone is so nice.  Worst thing is food truck lines.

Jessica: Best thing about cons is meeting other people and getting to see what they've made. Worst is probably the travelling and the cost can sometimes be pretty high.

 

Tell us who your top 5 major influences are.
Letty: 

Letty Wilson, Artist

Letty Wilson, Artist

  1. Noelle Stevenson is amazing and funny and clever and is also a really positive example of the trend of big publishers picking people up based on webcomics/ self published work.

  2. Evan Dahm is vastly underrated, and I think everyone should read Rice Boy - it's online for free and it's got an amazing blend of simple, stylized artwork with epic storyline and engaging characters. 

  3. Adam Warren's art style is great, and I'm always looking at it when I feel like my own is straying away from what I want. 

  4. Tove Jansson, who created the Moomins.  Its always worth returning to both from a writing and artistic perspective, plus her other illustrative work is fantastic - she did illustrations for The Hobbit which I think are unequalled. 

  5. Zoological/ scientific illustrators like Audubon and Archibald Thorburn were a huge influence when I was growing up.  I was massively into wildlife and wanted to be able to draw creatures with the accuracy and dedication of zoological artists.
     

Nathan:

Nathan Langridge, Writer

Nathan Langridge, Writer

  1.  In terms of comic writers, Scott Snyder. He's had an absolutely incredible run on Batman. 40 issues of near perfection. He writes very big, over the top action, but there's always good character arcs and dialogue, meaningful themes running through.
     
  2. Probably Grant Morrison as well, lots of crazy stuff, always pushing boundaries even in the mainstream.
     
  3. Daniel Clowes writes a lot about loneliness and depression, but with a dark cynical sense of humour, which I really appreciate and try to replicate.
  4. Kurt Vonnegut for surreal sci-fi. One of my favourite authors. Slaughterhouse-Five is one of my favourite novels.

  5. Isaac Asimov for more classic sci-fi. My uncle bought me his Robot Series (The Caves of Steel etc.) for my 13th birthday. Hugely influential on modern sci-fi, and definitely shaped me personally.  Ooh and Jeff Lemire! Ooh and Jason Aaron! Ooh and Brian K. Vaughan! Ooh and Matt Fraction! Ooh and Rob Williams! Ok, I'm done.
     

Faye: Influences aaaah so many!

Faye Stacey, Artist

Faye Stacey, Artist

  1. Leyendecker - flawless anatomy just omg so wonderful (also, fun fact, his art was used as the main base for TF2).
     
  2. Aubrey Beardsley - amazing ink work.
     
  3. Arthur Rackham – again, inks, holy cow!
     
  4. Herge - some of the panelling in Tintin is amazing, especially Tintin in Tibet.
     
  5. Emily Osborne - Emily is my best friend and she has a really unique style, it's hard not to be influenced by someone you've spent so much time with (http://rabbiting.tumblr.com/)
     

Cale: 

Cale Ward, Writer

Cale Ward, Writer

  1. Brian Michael Bendis

  2. Matt Fraction 

  3. Grant Morrison 

  4. Will Eisner

  5. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure Hour)

 

Jessica:

Jessica Burton, Writer

Jessica Burton, Writer

  1. Kelly Sue DeConnick

  2. J.K Rowling. First author that made me think, man, I wanna do that! Also Harry Potter were the books I'll never stop reading.

  3. Jacques Tardi, amazing French comics writer+ artist, creator of Adele Blanc-Sec, and It Was the War of the Trenches.

  4. Russell T. Davies, writer and producer who brought Dr Who back to life in 2005.

  5. Honestly, I'm with Faye on this one, these guys influence and inspire me every day.


Will Panels Publishing become the new Superheroes of independent comic books?  They’re creating beautiful work and bringing new talent into the light.  They’re showing us that being different is good thing, they’re being a positive force and overcoming obstacles to bring us fresh characters.  They are providing us with a glimpse of what the future of comics could be.

Support their work, check out their website, scan the shelves of their online shop, follow them on Twitter @panelscomix and join them on Facebook.




Fantastic Plastic - The Art of Jordan Speer

While doing a bit of shelf surfing in Gosh comics, London, an A5 size comic caught our attention.  The artwork was neon bright and toy like, shining out like a lazer beam amid all the other indie comics.  Its called QCHQ and is the creation of American comic artist, Jordan Speer.  He took the time to talk to Redbird about his work.

 

Have you had a good response from UK comic fans?

To be honest, most of the feedback I get is through social media and I can't always pinpoint where it's coming from.  That being said, I have received some very kind, encouraging emails from people in the UK!

 

You studied painting but your work is almost entirely digital, what brought you to making digital art?

My first love was 3d art, but it was always just a hobby. I've always drawn and painted, and working in 3d helped me better understand forms. I studied painting because I was more comfortable there - I could sit down and draw anything if I put my mind to it, but trying to do this on a computer was clunky and difficult.  I'm not sure why I came back to 3d. I dropped out of school so painting became too expensive . . . I'm sure that
had something to do with it.

The way you create your artwork is really interesting, using two different digital packages to create an image, which you then tweak, print out and scan back in. Why use this combination?

I use the different programs for different reasons. I do all my modelling in an old(ish) freeware program called Wings3d.  I've been using it since I was 14, so I'm very familiar with it's behavior and can work very quickly in it. It also only allows you to hit "undo" one time, so it keeps you on your toes and focused, not much room for mistakes. I don't know if that's suppose to be a feature or what.   I print/scan all my images because for the most part, rendered 3d images are super creepy. They are too perfect... the spheres are too round and the cubes are too sharp and everything looks too correct.  Printing at a low DPI scrambles the colours a little bit, obscures some details and makes it seem less generated.


Your tumblr features a great animation you did for The Lemons and the little loop of the car driving past cacti is brilliant, full of character.  Do you enjoy animating your creations?

I've only recently started to animate in 3d.  It's very fun!

 

Those glossy textures and colours are what really caught our attention, can you tell us a bit about why your environments and characters are created to look so plastic and toy like?

I try to think of my images as little dioramas while I'm making them, and also 3d renderings are really plastic looking by nature. I've never really been interested in realism, but I like the idea of something looking realistically fake if that makes sense.

What were your 3 favourite toys growing up as a kid?

Lego, micro machines, and a tiny inline skate from my sister's barbie that would generate sparks when you ran it across a surface. 

 

Your Blanks Zine is a cool idea, how is this project coming along?

I forgot that was still up on my blog! I haven't done anything with that in several years. At the time it was my way of trying to do a  "get people involved" thing in my hometown.  Maybe in the future I will try something similar again.  

 

Your artwork is reminiscent of Jim Woodring (for the colours and surreal environments) and you make good use of true isometric and 3 point perspectives.  Can you tell us a bit about your influences?

I am a big time Jim Woodring fan, and he is an influence.  A lot of my influences are in comics (old and new) ... John Pound, Al Jaffee, Antoine Marchalot, Lale Westvind, and Alex Degen  are some off the top my head.  I think the main influence for using an isometric perspective is from playing computer RPG's like Diablo and Final Fantasy Tactics when I was younger.

You can see more of Jordan's artwork by checking our his Tumblr and Facebook pages.  You can also find his work for sale in Gosh comics (if you're in London) or buy online from Happiness Comix.

 

 

 

Norrie Millar's Duality

Duality, the latest work from comic artist Norrie Millar

Duality, the latest work from comic artist Norrie Millar

It's always been a theme that's interested me. I’m a massive Sci-Fi fan and films like Solaris had a big influence on Duality. I think that what interests me the most about using this theme within the comics medium is that visually, anything is really possible. You can show countless realities in the space of a single panel, each panel could essentially be a world within itself, any sequence of panels that followed could also be alternate realities and worlds. Comics have the potential to show the reader countless worlds, existing at once and that's not even mentioning the negative space between the panels, the gutter, and an infinity of space. It's a really exciting concept and theme to play around with in the comics medium and can make for some really effective compositions and layouts.

Without giving too much away, do you think it’s fair to say the main character, David, is not in control of his life at all?

(Our hero, David)

(Our hero, David)

Absolutely and he was definitely written with that in mind. He's the kind of person who tries to understand and control all the problems in his life but does so in a completely erratic manner. Everything that happens throughout the course of the comic is due to the mistakes he has made. He is trying to make sense of all the decisions happening around him but unfortunately, by making the wrong choices, he becomes the major complication of the book, all up to the point where someone eventually has to step in and say, "Hey, ok, that's enough."

When the character of Matilda breaks the fourth wall and climbs through the panels, it was like she was acting in place of you as the writer.   Is Matilda your alter ego in this comic, your split self?

I suppose in a way, yes, ha! When I first started the comic, it was going to be an illustrated version of myself that stepped onto the page but it just never really clicked right. The thinking behind Matilda was to have an omniscient character to serve as the narrator, who was constantly connected to the cosmos, the universe and every living, self-conscious thing.

The idea was that everyone would have a different "version," of how this character should look and with David, Matilda represents something that means a great deal to him, more of a parental figure, someone who is there to help him on his way and help him grow in the right direction.

I think if the character was based on my own appearance it wouldn't have quite the same level of emotional impact for David. At that point, she essentially represents an avatar for him.  There is a great deal of trust that David already has with Matilda so I hoped that it was easier for the reader to accept the, admittedly, quite strange occurrences toward the end of the comic.  I think that what’s interesting is, despite changing the character I still see large parts of my own personality that remain in the dialogue, whenever I read her sections, I always imagine her, not entirely with my voice but with all my inflections. I don't know what that says about me as a person but it certainly makes things interesting!


Comics are an especially labour intensive art form.  How long has Duality been in the making?

Ages! The original idea actually came from a dream that I had a few years ago now that just seem to stick with me and at that time I hadn't even really seriously considered making comics. Drawing comics was something I had played around with at most as I was never super confident in my drawing skills at that point and I had never imagined even writing one but it wasn't until I had started the University of Dundee's, MLitt Comic Studies, that I had the confidence to really try and make something tangible of it.

Once the opportunity to actually create it came up, I jumped at the chance. The script only took a couple of days to write although I was always making little changes as I went along but after a very brief, false start, it was clear that it just wasn't possible at that time to work on it. Once I finished all the commitments I had, I went back into it last November (2014) with a new approach to the visual style and it took roughly 7-8 weeks, spread over the holiday season to have the whole project finished.

You have some positive quotes from other artists on the back of Duality, which must be a great thrill!  Are there any comic artists you are a real super fan of?

It was unbelievable to have that kind of feedback. These are creators who I really admire, who have positive things to say about something I created and I find that really quite mind-boggling but also, incredibly encouraging for someone just starting out.  Comics have always been a major part of my life and I will always have a place in my heart for artists like Katsuhiro Otomo, Albert Uderzo, Alex Toth and all the incredibly talented individuals who have graced the hallowed halls of 2000AD.

Currently, I'm a super fan of Dan McDaid, so to have him provide a quote for Duality was just the best, I'm also enjoying Francesco Francavilla, Sean Murphy, Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon, Ming Doyle, Cary Nord, Mike Allred, Jeff Lemire, Becky Cloonan, Ramon Perez and that's just off the top of my head! I could go on forever, I just like everything! I'm like a big art sponge.


Tell us a bit of what are you working on now.

 I've recently drawn a few short stories, one of which will be placed in the DJCAD's "Anthology," which I believe will be launched at this years DEE-CON, anime convention in April, I'm involved and contribute to TREEHOUSE, a Dundee based, comics anthology and we just had our #5 launch in March and an #6 launch pencilled in for June/July this year I believe.

I'm currently illustrating some more short stories, which are always fun and I'll also be taking over the drawing of a comic called Malachi Jones. As far as my own projects go, I've also got another Sci-Fi comic planned that I'm hoping to work on and finish this year and also some shorter stories about an imp-sized, Grim Reaper to the animals of the forest. I also fit in as many commissions as I can. It's good to keep quite busy.

Tell us how we can get hold of a copy of Duality.

Seeing as it was only intended to have a small printing the number of copies at the moment is quite limited so the easiest way at the moment is through myself directly. I'm hoping to have it an a few smaller retailers in Scotland at as many comics conventions as I can get to!

I can be contacted through my blog and anyone can keep up to date with all the happenings of the availability of Duality through that or Twitter.

Norrie Millar’s comic, Duality is available to buy online for £4 per copy (excluding postage) by contacting him at: norriemillar.wordpress.com

 
 

Shelf Surfing...

We went shelf surfing in London's Gosh Comics and found some great stuff, which we are working on bringing to Redbird as soon as we can!  Please keep checking in on us.  You wont have to wait long.