Tag Archives: comics

Creative Community

One of my happiest memories from childhood revolved, perhaps unsurprisingly, around books. We didn’t have a television, and before bed, we gathered in the living room. Dad would read aloud, mother would sew or knit. My brother and I would draw while we listened, or I would practise my various needlecrafts too. I listened to Lord of the Rings, Douglas Adams, Alan Garner, Narnia – all manner of classics that fed and shaped my growing mind. It also formed my sense of how best to work.

In my teens, hanging out with other creative folk, we developed something similar – we would gather at someone’s house, bring books, sketching paper, writing equipment. Some of my happiest teenage memories are of groups of us, quietly working in the same space, listening to music, sharing our inspiration. I’ve been able to do similar things of late with Tom, James, and occasionally Tom’s son Cormac (who is a fine musician). Inspiration flows best where it is shared. Creating alone can be an isolating experience if you are a sociable person. Sharing space suits me far better. Such sharing enables collaboration and the movement of ideas, it creates nurturing, productive environments. There’s much benefit in feeling supported and being part of something bigger than just yourself.

The internet offers all kinds of spaces and communities where creative folk can interact. Some of them are inherently competitive, where folks are fighting for resources and opportunities. I don’t tend to go in for those. Most publishers have private spaces for staff and authors – those can be wonderful, sharing wisdom and taking everyone forward through mutual support. There is such a ‘back room’ here at pagan and pen, there is a community underpinning this blog, and it’s something I love being a part of. It’s not the same as working in shared space, but it is helpful and valuable none the less. Many of the spaces that enable people to chat and interact fall short because they don’t offer any way of taking things forwards. Facebook is a nice resource, but it doesn’t lend itself to making. I like www.deviantart.com because there is a sense of community there and folk helping each other improve. Most such spaces are little more than talking shops though, and there’s scope for doing so much more.

My fabulous agent, Killing the Grizzly, is going to launch a new collaborative space for comics folk. I don’t yet know the full plan, but the mission, as described on facebook, is as follows – “bringing together communities as part of the process of creating, producing, and promoting new creative works.” This sounds good to me. It won’t of course be quite as much fun as buying a big house and filling it with arty people, but it could just be the next best thing, and it’ll be far more widely accessible.

(If I am ever disgustingly successful, I will very likely do the big house full of creative folk thing.)

Webcomics and Copper Age

(Written by Tom Brown)

tentacles!
tentacles!

 

Sequential art storytelling (most popularly referred to as comics in the west, elsewhere as manga , manhwa etc) is very much in the process of leaving its dependence on the world of print publishing behind. Webcomics and content tailored for mobile and hand held devices are the newest medium for this (frequently and sometimes justifiably, overlooked) art form.

What this means, I think, is both, a great deal, and very little. Very little because, it is really only a change in the way the stories are delivered. A great deal because this is an industry that has, in the west, been dominated by two large companies for the most part. These companies have been gatekeepers of content, deciding which stories reach the largest audience (and, in many cases, which creators are able to continue their work). Webcomics allow nearly anyone with Internet access, to create and publish. The results of this will be a glut of content, and a fair amount of interesting chaos for some time, most likely.

I’d like to take a step back from the question of format and delivery for a moment to talk about my relationship with the art form. I am in love with the potential here, and thrilled when the boundaries are pushed and something exceptional is achieved. It happens, all too rarely (partially, I believe because of the confusion between medium and genre) and heartbroken, when I see the same tired stories told over and over again with only minor surface changes. At its best, sequential art can tell any sort of story, in a way that no other medium can. Even, now and then, create a sort of contemporary mythology, combination of word and image that are “true” if not accurate. Stories which can surprise, inspire, horrify, touch and resonate. Touch, if only briefly, the numinous. This would be the grail or gold ring, certainly, and working together with Bryn (as Copper Age) I feel that this is something we may very well achieve. We hope, at the very least, to entertain.

 You can check out the Copper Age webcomic at www.itisacircle.com and anyone who joins the newsletter http://groups.yahoo.com/group/copperage this weekend gets a free pdf story as well.

The Dawn of the Copper Age

Copper Age bannerI’m not refering to ancient history here! Today the Copper Age webcomic launches at www.itisacircle.com – kicking off with a story called ‘The Blind Fisherman’ – a mix of art and pictures, but not exactly traditional comics stuff (and no men in spandex thumping each other!)

This is a project I’ve been working on with Tom Brown for some years. I interviewed Tom on this blog a bit back, so you might want to hunt that out. I’ll be here today, with assorted posts about what we do, and why, and how.

Below is something to set the mood, giving you a flavour for the landscape in which our characters are trying to survive. (For more insight, have a look at www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com )

 

 

The fog by night is darker, deeper, shrouding everything,

No stars shine through, no moonlight glimmers,

All sounds are muted colours dim, there is no hope here,

No hope at all, only cold and damp malevolence.

 

Dawn comes queasy grey to light another joyless morning,

Cold light without colour lacks the power to warm my heart,

I’d dream of something better but I don’t know how to picture it,

There is no hope here, no hope at all.

 

The world is bleak with apathy, too willing to accept it all,

The empty listless life, the sunless mournful days and night terrors,

Fear becomes your companion, familiar and cruel,

There is no hope here, only poison in this world.

 

The chill within my bones has been with me most of my life,

If I ever knew true warmth I forgot about it long ago,

There is no salvation and no heroic rescue,

When the monsters are inside you, there’s no hope at all.

Interview with Tom Brown

I’ve been working with artist Tom Brown for some years now. I knew he had pagan leanings, but until we sat down to do this interview, I didn’t appreciate just how deeply that runs for him. Tom is a comics artist, he does book covers, tattoo designs and other such comissions. He also writes with much poetry in his style, and strange humour. After much deliberation, I did not include the bit of the interview where he accidentally invented an artist – the great medieaval Norwegian Yikes…. it was a rather rambling digression (although much fun). When I asked about favourite artists, Tom said ‘Yikes’ and I couldn’t resist going ‘haven’t heard of him’ and it all went a bit off the rails for a while.

Annamare Nightshade, by Tom Brown
Annamare Nightshade, by Tom Brown

Bryn: When did you realise art was something you were serious about?

Tom: Oh… gods. Very nearly as far back as I can remember.

 Bryn:  So you’ve always drawn?

 Tom: Also as far back as I can remember. Yes. (Lions a lot at first, as I recall)

 Bryn: Why lions?

 Tom:  No idea! They caught my imagination I suppose. No real reason why I should have been drawing lions at all! Then, some interesting attempts at drawing from dreams.

 Bryn:  What is your favourite thing to draw at the moment?

 Tom: Oh…! Ok difficult one…. figures from shared dreams, and landscape. Preferably at the same time, though I’m having some new ideas as of very recently. Tentacles are a given!

 Bryn: That’s the second mention of dreams. Those are important then?

 Tom: Absolutely. the sleeping and waking sorts.

 Bryn: Now for me, dreams (both sorts) have an inherently spiritual element. Is it the same for you?

 Tom: Yes, it is the same for me. It has been so, as far back as I can remember.

 Bryn: When did you become consciously pagan?

 Tom: Consciously, it would have been around the time Cormac was born. So for around seventeen years I think, it predated him by about a year. Though, have realized since that in all important ways, I have been looking for a name for the way I experienced the world for long before that. Again, probably as far back as I can recall.

 Bryn: Do your beliefs influence your art in any particular ways?

 Tom: Impossible for them not to. I would say, in all ways. My sense of the numinous is the foundation of my art, I think. Or… more particularly, the numinous, in everything.

 Bryn: You just used one of my favourite words. Numinous.

 Tom: Mine too! Wanted to found a school of art around it when I discovered it.

 Bryn: Who are your favourite artists?

 Tom: Bosch was an early favourite. Then discovered engravings, Albrecht Durer. Rackham, Dulac… Then… I discovered the symbolists! *gasp* Odilon Redon, etc. On the other side, Dr Seuss… Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola, Miyazake. If I begin listing those currently working in sequential art this will become a very cumbersome list! Oh and Dave McKean’s work for the Sandman books.

 Bryn: If you weren’t doing art, what might you be doing instead?

 Tom: Don’t know how to answer that, really. Can’t imagine it. I can think of a lot of things I would love to do in addition to visual art. (important distinction. Writing is art, photography, music etc) Music would be one, actually, writing another, teaching, interested in film as well. Ritual. More things I want to study than I can possibly list.

 Bryn: Where can people find your work online?

 Tom: Most comprehensive would be the deviantart site – http://copperage.deviantart.com/

Also Serendipity http://www.serendipityartsales.net/Brown_T_Index.html

 

It’s now possible to buy t-shirts and at least one poster featuring Tom’s work from www.zazzlecom/copperage  Anyone interested in seeing what Tom and I do together, have a look at www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com – its the weekly newspaper for Hopeless – an island off the coast of Maine, USA, which Tom invented some years ago, and I have since been populating with strange characters and entities. In a matter of weeks, we should have a webcomic at www.itisacircle.com – a story based in the same setting as The Hopeless Vendetta. In the meantime, news and interviews with other comics people get posted at www.itisacircle.com/blog