Tag Archives: Comics

Black History Month events at YSJ

The School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy will be celebrating Black History Month this year with an exhibition of student work and a programme of exciting events.

3rd October 3pm – 4pm Quad South Hall

hermione-granger

Interview with Noma Dumezweni

Noma is an internationally recognised actress. She has undertaken several Shakespeare roles including Paulina in the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Winters Tale and more recently Alice and Mistress Quickly, as well as working alongside Jude Law in Henry V.

Amongst numerous stage roles, Noma recently directed, I See You at the Royal Court and appeared in the award winning A Human Being Died That Night which toured to the Hampstead Theatre, the Market Theatre Johannesburg and Brooklyn Academy of music in New York. Both plays explore reconciliation and South Africa after Apartheid.

Currently, Noma is cast as Hermione in the sell-out Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End.

This event will be a discussion about Noma’s roles including in A Human being Dies that Night, I See You, and for the RSC in the west end, a production of Henry V with Jude Law

Event starts at 3.00pm, all guests to be seated in Quad South Hall for a prompt start.

This event is FREE but booking is required. Please visit the YSJ online shop to reserve a space.

5th October – 27th October Arts Foyer

York/New York Exhibition

Earlier this year, English Literature students from the ‘Literature at Work’ module were tasked with developing and creating materials that could be used as part of York St John’s Black History Month 2016 exhibition.

Students have created, developed and curated a range of materials which allow us to celebrate the culture of Harlem, New York, right here on our ‘Old’ York campus. The materials include film, collage, photography and 3D models. Each work is an original and unique take on the cultural history of the Harlem Renaissance.  Please come and explore the work and learn a little more about this exciting moment in black cultural history.

5th October 5pm – 8pm Arts Foyer

York/New York Exhibition Launch Evening

The exhibition will be officially launched with an evening of discussion and live music. The students responsible for the art work and curation of the exhibition will be on hand to talk you through their work and the cultural value they place on the Harlem Renaissance and Black History Month as cultural experiences. The evening will be sound tracked by a four piece jazz band playing wonderful music from the likes of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. Come and enjoy a glass of wine with us and celebrate this evocative and enriching cultural moment.

This event is FREE but booking is required. Please visit the YSJ online shop to book your tickets.

26 October, 5.30pm -7pm De Grey 016

Black History Month: Comics Reading Group with Dr Adam Smith

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Black Panther and Power Man: Marvel Heroes of the Civil Rights Era

Meet T’Challa and Luke Cage, better known in their heyday as Marvel superheroes Black Panther and Power Man. Among the first African-American superheroes to appear in mainstream American comic books each character’s origins are bound up in both the Civil Rights Movement and the popularity of Blaxploitation cinema in the 1960s and 70s. Now, thanks to Netflix and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both characters are enjoying global popularity for the first time. As part of YSJ Black History Month we invite you to join us for an informal discussion of some of these characters’ most celebrated comic-book appearances.

Email Adam Smith (a.smith3@yorksj.ac.uk ) for a reading list.

This event is FREE but booking is required please visit the YSJ online shop to secure book a place.

27th October 6.30pm – 8pm Arts Foyer

An Evening with Jack Mapanje

To mark the end of York St John’s Black History Month events, human rights activist and award-winning poet Jack Mapanje will be reading from his latest poetry collection Greetings From Grandpa. Jack will also be discussing his memoir And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night, and reflecting on his time as a political prisoner in Malawi. There will be an opportunity to ask Jack questions about his work, and he will also be signing copies of his poetry. In addition, the winner of the YSJ Black History Month Creative Writing Competition will be announced, and there will be a chance to hear the winning entry.

This event is FREE but booking is required. Please visit the YSJ online shop to book your tickets.

Friday Feature! Interview with Marvel Comics writer Al Ewing!

Al Ewing began writing short stories for 2000AD, he then worked on several other projects before moving on to his debut novel in 2007 – Pax Britannia: El Sombra. Currently Al is the lead writer for Marvel Comics’ ongoing series Loki: Agent of Asgard.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since a very young age – once they stopped doing ‘creative writing’ exercises at school, I found other outlets for it – short plays, sketches, short stories and various other bits and pieces. I picked up the basics of comics scripting from a few places – there were samples floating around in things like annuals and Warren Ellis’s COME IN ALONE column – and during 2001 I sent off my first submission to 2000AD, which was accepted the following year. That was the first time I was ever paid for my writing, and it all snowballed from there – I gradually made more sales and got some assignments, and after ten years or so enough people were paying attention that I could get American work.

Do you prefer writing shorter stories or long arching narratives?

I tend to prefer short stories – usually my longer narratives are made up of shorter stories, with each issue or chapter being relatively complete in and of itself. I enjoy long-form narratives, but I prefer to have a rough idea of the ending in mind and then find my way to it organically in short jumps, rather than have the whole thing plotted out from the get-go. I usually have the big beats in mind, and let the rest come together naturally.

Any advice for writers wanting to get into the comics industry?

Don’t rely on being noticed. Don’t rely on anything, in fact.

Start small and finish what you start.

If there’s somewhere, like 2000AD, that accepts unsolicited submissions, read their guidelines carefully – don’t send in something badly spelled and wrongly formatted and expect them to look past it, because it’ll go straight in the bin without a word read.

Nobody owes you a second glance or even a first one.

If you can’t tell a story in a maximum of two pages – and I’m being generous – you’re not a writer, so learn to do that first.

Try not to bother working writers while you learn – writers aren’t editors, so the help they can offer is limited, and if you can’t develop a realistic sense of how good a piece is when you read it back, you’ll never amount to anything anyway.

Persevere, because you will be rejected many, many times.

On the bright side, what with the web and various self-publishing tools, it’s never been easier to write something, finish it, and get it drawn and self-published. Nothing is holding you back from getting something out there – even if not paid for – except yourself.

Do you think that, with the success of superhero movies over the past few years, the market for new characters has been harmed in any way?

I suppose audiences are more comfortable with characters they know, but that’s been the case for a long time – since before the recent superhero movie boom. Having a book with an entirely new character has always been a bit of a gamble, and to be honest I can’t think of the last one that really took off. I don’t know how Talon’s doing with DC – that’s probably the newest example.

What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be in a darkened room with a specific drink at hand? Or is it more social for you?

At this point, deadlines are very useful. If someone says ‘we need this in a X days’, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Not that I’m not motivated before then, but I have a tendency to noodle a little in the early stages and having a clear goal-line in mind is a huge help.

Solitude is good for working, music is good – I find playing the same track over and over until it’s just a general mood that doesn’t impinge on your consciousness can help a lot. Caffeine is good, but I’m trying to cut back. The internet is great for easy research, but bad for keeping focused – distraction is only a click away. It can take a lot of willpower not to succumb, but again, if I’m up against a tricky deadline I find myself getting very focused.

Showers are good for working out thorny plot points. Without fail, there will be a part of any issue I get badly stuck on and have to walk away from – take a shower, walk to the post office, do the washing up. Usually the answer that comes to me is to remove something I was clinging to, which turns out to be the thing that was stopping me from finding the easy solution.

In your opinion, what is the best way for a new writer to get a publisher to read their work?

Get published elsewhere first. Which sounds like a Catch-22, but with the exception of that very first unsolicited submission, it’s how my career has worked. That’s why it’s so important to have places like 2000AD that accept unsolicited submissions – and why it’s so important to put your own stuff out as much as possible. Even if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt. It’s practice.

At some point every writer will receive a rejection letter, what’s your coping mechanism for when that happens?

Look at what was wrong and try not to do it again. If there’s no indication of what was wrong, it’s a bad rejection letter. Either way, get back on the horse as soon as possible and start thinking up the next idea. A rejection letter is permission to send a new thing.

Do you think writers should constantly be publicising their own work? If so, how?

I think writers should, in the modern age, attempt to publicise themselves. I have no idea how to do it. Cultivating a cult of personality is one way, but that can trap you in a persona – I was “the weird writer” for a while, and it limited me. These days I enjoy being a virtual hermit, within reason. I try to be open and friendly, thank people when I can and answer any question I’m asked as politely and professionally as possible. But I like keeping my interactions relatively private and personal.

That said, I think if I was doing a creator-owned book, I’d be much more pro-active about spreading the word far and wide.

Who is your favourite superhero and why? Has it changed because of who you’ve worked for?

When I was a kid, I liked the Hulk, because he was big and green and viscerally interesting, and then because I was the right age to appreciate the intricacies of Peter David’s run. I don’t think I have a favourite superhero these days – Morrison’s Batman came close, but once he left the character lost me. My favourites these days are probably the ones I’m working on – I have a huge attachment for Luke Cage and company. But then, that’s part of the job – you find yourself caring very strongly about the characters you write.

Any sneaky hints about your newest series, Loki: Agent of Asgard?

It’s a lot of fun! I’m enjoying seeing the reaction online to each new twist – and there are a lot of twists coming. Beyond that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Friday Feature: Interview with Benjamin Goldsmith

 

benji goldsmith portrait

Benji Goldsmith is a writer of comics and resident comics expert at Travelling
Man in York. He runs sequential art workshops for school children, is a proud
member of York based writers group, and is currently working on a comic with artist Abz-J-Harding.
They plan to release the book in both web and print format later this year.
Benjamin was born in Coventry, England and raised in Cheshire. He originally
started out as a sound engineer and music producer, moving to the area of
Teesside in 2006 where he obtained a B.Sc. in Music Technology with frst-
class honours. 
 Since graduating University Benjamin has done everything from providing a
sound installation for The Old Truman Brewery at Brick Lane in London as part
of Free Range to producing his own electronic music (which has been aired on
BBC Radio) and more recently his work as a flm composer and sound designer
for a multi-award winning flm and animation company based in York called
Glass Cannon.
Benji’s creative focus has steadily shifted over the years towards another of his
greatest passions, comics. He now feeds all of his time, passion, energy and
creativity into writing.

 

Q Whats your work gonna be about?
A I’m currently writing the first book in a series of comics inspired by the representation of
Wolves throughout history, mythology and folklore. The story is routed in speculative fiction,
quite dystopian in tone and heavily conspiracy laden. It focuses on sociocultural factors and
explores themes such as industrialisation, social inequality, spirituality and identity.
Q How did you find the artist to work with?
A It was actually a case of serendipity. The artist I’m working with named Abigail J Harding is
a customer at the shop where I work in York called ‘Travelling Man’. That’s how we got to
know each other and also how I discovered her art. I was completely blown away by her
talent and immediately asked her to do a book with me.
Q Which authors inspire your writing?
A If we’re talking comics then Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka without a doubt. In
terms of prose I would have to say Philip K. Dick, H.P Lovecraft and likes of Kerouac. I have a
broad taste in reading.
Q When do you find time to write?
A I carry a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I go and tend to use my phone a lot for
note taking. I write at every spare minute I get, which is most evenings and whenever I have
time off from work. I have a strong work ethic and tend to give myself very little downtime.
Q How have you scheduled yourself?
A I set myself fairly rigid goals and objectives for every month and then every week. For
example with the book i’m currently writing; I aim to have the outline and structure for the first comic finished by the end of April and then scripting will be completed throughout May.
I’ll then break those sorts of things down into smaller milestones week by week to ensure I
keep on top of things.
Q Do you have anyone proofread for you as you go?
A I’m part of a writers group based in York comprised of friends who also write for comics. Through that group I’m able to gain valuable feedback and commentary on my writing, it’s like having a team of editors. I think a fresh perspective is always welcome and absolutely invaluable.
Q How have you gotten the connections in the industry that you do?
A I’m quite lucky because I work for a chain of independent comic shops which have strong
ties to the industry and association with things like ‘Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival’.
This undoubtedly affords me greater opportunities to network, make contacts and get advice
and guidance from people in the industry.
Q What other works have you been involved with?
A I’m a fresh face. I worked/studied as a sound engineer and produced electronic music for
years. My focus seems to have naturally gravitated towards writing over time. My fathers a
writer and a poet amongst other things, it could be his influence on a subconscious level
perhaps. It started off with a bit of work writing reviews for comics blogs and then I began
submitting pitches for short stories to comics anthologies; one of which was accepted recently and i’m about to begin scripting for. I’m basically working as hard as I can and throwing myself head first at the industry. The aim with the book i’m currently working on is to have a 6-page preview printed and ready to take to DICE (Dublin International Comics Expo) in late September, to publish the comic online shortly afterwards and then launch the comic in print around mid November at Thought Bubble.
Q Know of any good alternative literature events for people?
A I was hoping you guys could maybe tell me about one or two…as a writer trying to break into the comics industry it’s all about the conventions for me, but I’m always open to writing for different mediums and being involved in anything that might help me improve my writing skills.
Q Dogs or cats?
A Definitely cats, they’re naturally aloof, clean, tidy and good at taking care of themselves….a
bit like me 🙂

Important Links:

www.benjigoldsmith.com
www.twitter.com/benji_goldsmith
www.facebook.com/AbzJHarding
www.abz-j-harding.tumblr.com

Interview With Indie Comic Writer Jack Fallows

 

Jack Fallows

Jack’s Self-Portrait

Jack Fallows is a comic book artist and illustrator from Newcastle Upon Tyne. He has been self-publishing comics for the last 12 years and reading/making them his entire life. He worked at the Travelling Man comic book shop for 5 years, where he founded the Paper Jam Comics Collective in 2007. Between 2008-2011, he delivered workshops in schools, libraries and youth centers teaching young people how to make their own comic books. This eventually led him to pursue a career in primary teaching. His work has been sold and exhibited internationally and his latest title Axolotl has been reviewed highly. For more information on his works, go to: http://jackfallows.com/

 

What inspires you most? Do you act on all inspiration or choose which ones will be worth it?

I consume quite a lot of art and I think that’s an important thing to do regardless of which creative sector you’re working in. I’ve had movies inspire my music, I’ve had paintings inspire writing, I’ve had music inspire comics etc. I find artists who care about their craft and who have something new to say most inspiring. But what motivates me to sit down and do things is really just looking back over the last thing I did and hating it. It sounds kind of cynical but being able to pick fault with your own output, striving to make it better and wanting to make sure it isn’t the last thing people see before you die really lights a fire under you. 

If you do any contract work or commissions do you just do what they’ve asked for or strive for something inspired?

It really depends on the client. I do a lot of commissioned work in the local music scene here in Newcastle and that’s always a lot of fun. Lots of the bands and promoters know my work now and give me a lot of free reign to take the seed of an idea and put my mark on it. Because I teach full time now and don’t need the money as much as when I was self-employed, I’ve decided these are the only commissions I’ll be taking on for the foreseeable future now. It can get extremely arduous and self-deflating working with clients who are trying to get an end result from you based on work they’ve seen by other artists, without really considering your own merits or limitations. Unfortunately, even as a freelancer, you mostly have to subscribe to the motto of ‘the customer is always right!’

Have you ever started writing anything and changed it radically mid-way through because you’ve been inspired differently?

I don’t think I’ve ever sat down with an idea and stuck with it right until the end. Even the act of creating something changes it from an abstract notion in your head to a concrete thing in front of you. A lot of the time, I’m making decisions as I go, especially with illustration work and with prose. Comics don’t have quite as much leeway because you have to consider everything at the same time but they do constantly evolve and change.
Is it okay to have multiple projects going at the same time?

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I’ve spent most of my creative career under the assumption that it isn’t okay to have multiple projects going at the same time. In the last year or two, however, I’ve been trying it out and the results have been incredible. Instead of trying to plough through those not so enjoyable projects and really struggling to motivate myself, getting behind on deadlines, scolding myself etc. I’ve been balancing those out with other, smaller and easier jobs. That means all the projects are getting done faster and to a better quality, and I’m not going gradually crazy. I guess everyone works differently but I’d definitely recommend trying it both ways to see what works for you. Of course, the danger with taking on multiple projects is spreading yourself too thin and not being able to manage time properly. But as long as you’re sensible and keep dates and deadlines in mind, you should be okay!

How do you begin your writing/drawing?

It’s different for each project. With longer stuff like The Big Bang, I started by deciding on everything that needed to happen in an issue. Then I broke that down into events, pages, panels etc. Then I wrote a script for the whole issue and kind of did thumbnails as I went to make sure everything flowed okay. After that, I took it a page at a time and pencilled, inked, scanned and shaded each page in order, on A3 paper that would be reduced to A5 for print. But I found this really laborious so I’ve taken a completely different approach for my new (and I believe, better) title Axolotl. A lot of this, I’m making up as I go along. It’s an anthology of short strips, so I can dip in and out of each story depending on whether the ideas/motivation are there. This way, nothing is forced and I’m having fun doing it – which will always improve the quality of the output. I’ve given up on adding greyscale because I don’t think the results are worth the effort – at least not with my work – and I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making striking images in pure black and white. I’m also working entirely in A5 Moleskine sketchbooks now and drawing when I’m out and about in coffee shops and pubs etc. which breaks up the monotony of sitting at a drawing desk alone for 8 hours and gives the stories more context.

What about music, do you do lyrics or music first?

From time to time, I’ll be humming away and come up with a little song in my head that I’ll then set music to. But usually, I just mess around with different instruments and if a nice sounding riff or melody emerges, I’ll let the mood of that dictate what the song will be about and set lyrics to it. I love making and performing music but I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing, most of the time.
Do you then use an editor to finalise your work?

When I’ve worked on anthologies, there has usually been editorial input. Alexi Conman worked as a co-writer and editor on The Big Bang but that was a very natural, collaborative kind of arrangement. If I’m self-publishing, I take complete, megalomaniacal, creative control over everything that happens. I think listening to and acting on feedback from peers is really important though, so I’ll often take works-in-progress along to the Paper Jam Comics Collective meetings to see what people think.

When you were younger did you decide to become a writer/artist/musician/teacher?

Since I was about 5 years old, I’ve always enjoyed writing and drawing and making comics and playing songs. I think everyone pretty much keeps doing the things that they enjoy for as long as they enjoy them and I’m still not tired of any of it. It wasn’t until I had to start thinking about GCSE subject choices and A-Levels and job prospects that I started researching ways to make money from any of it. While I was self-employed, I started running comic workshops for kids and realised that I loved the creative challenge of teaching and that’s what led me down that career path.

Should new writers accept working for free?

A horrible drawback to working in the creative sector is that unfortunately, yes, it is the industry standard for you to prove your salt for no money to begin with. That’s why it’s best to do this while you’re still in education so that you can make inroads and do some networking before you’re out there in the big wide world. I did a lot of free gig posters while I was at university and that’s why I’m being paid to do posters and album artwork etc. now. Writing and drawing are extremely competitive fields and getting yourself noticed is a big challenge. Equally, you need to realise your own worth and not be afraid to make that step into saying ‘you need to pay me for this service’ when the time is right.

Any advice for aspiring writers or students?

If you don’t enjoy writing or drawing or whatever it is you’re hoping to turn into your career, don’t bother. You’re setting yourself up to either fail or somehow succeed against the odds and be unfulfilled for the rest of your life. Enjoying what you do enables you to keep things fresh, stay motivated, meet deadlines, improve your craft and put out the kind of work that people want to pay you to do. The worst thing that can possibly flash into your brain is ‘Hey, this seems really popular and lucrative, maybe I’ll give it a shot’. I often meet people new to the comics scene, who have seen a handful of superhero movies and come to conventions with an idea for a 500 page graphic novel. You need to take the time to understand what you’re getting yourself in for before taking a dive as big as that otherwise the rejection can be really discouraging. Dip your toe into lots of things and figure out what inspires you the most.

A long time ago you told me that things get so much better after high school. When would you say are your best years?

Hopefully I’m yet to have them! My school years were pretty rough but everyone has different experiences. I think I might have just been listening to ‘You Were Cool’ by The Mountain Goats a lot when we had that conversation.

How do you market your self-published works?

I go to comic conventions, get work stocked in comic shops and use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Etsy and my own personal website online. I’m very proud to say that the comic scene is extremely welcoming of new-comers, so don’t be afraid to use any of these avenues if you’re looking to get involved.

For more of Jack’s writing, artwork and music, go to http://jackfallows.com/