Archive for Anna Fitzpatrick

‘Legends’, an anthology by IndieManga

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2010 by comicmole

‘Legends’ by IndieManga, 130 pages, A5, black and white with colour covers, £6


“What discerning eyes have you,

to notice here our humble book,

now there’s just one thing to do,

open it and have a look!” - Legends

And thus begins my adventure into Legends, the newest anthology from the comic circle IndieManga.  This book contains five short comics revolving around the central theme of exploring fantastical tales, and in some cases their ties to the real world.

Every member of IndieManga is featured here: Kate Holden, who was one of the winners of this year’s Manga Jiman competition, Anna Fitzpatrick, who writes and draws Between Worlds, Sally Jane Thompson, who created Little Thoughts, Rebecca McCarthy, who’s writing also appeared in IndieManga’s first anthology ‘Origins’, and this time they introduce a new member in the form of Sarah Burgess, who also writes and draws the webcomic Far-Out-Mantic.

Below I’m going to give an example of a page from each comic in the anthology to show their different art styles, and also say a little about what I took away from the story in each short as well.  First up is the 23-page Lucky, by Sarah Burgess:

Lucky is about a lowly squire who loses his pride and joy – his silver-haired horse – to some otherworldly thieves.

The story overall is well-paced, carrying the reader through the fantastical events with ease.  The ending could possibly have used an extra page, just to slow it down and give it more impact, though it closes out with an interesting resonance to the real world.  Similarly to her webcomic, Far-Out-Mantic, Sarah’s art for Lucky has a sketchy, emotions-first-accuracy-second, kind of feel to it.  This means elements like her characters’ expressions and the organic flow of a lot of the pages, are practically perfect.  However, some parts come across as rushed or even just anatomically wrong, which jerks the reader out of the story a little.

But what will bring you back in though is the hand-written text.  Hand-drawn speech bubbles settle comfortably into the layout of each page, and parts where the text breaks free and takes your eyes all around the page as you read are really quite special.

Sharing Lucky’s page count of 23 is the next comic – Vitality, written by Rebecca McCarthy and drawn by Anna Fitzpatrick:

Apothecary shop assistant Bryther had been drinking a vitality elixir to keep herself going thorugh a day’s work, but when the shop gets demolished one day she gets a lesson in how much of a good thing might be too much.

Unfortunately I didn’t quite ‘get’ this story.  It felt very much like it was trying to say something, but I’m still not entirely sure what that thing was.  The plot begins in quite a slice-of-life way, focusing on the main character and her shop, but then introduces a lot of characters and big world events in quick succession.  The reader does not really have enough time to digest all of this information before being taken back to a focus on the main character again for the ending.  It seems like this story either needed to be much longer, with time given to introduce world events and the significance of these characters within them, or more stripped-down and simplified to fit into a shorter page count.

Art-wise, this comic has a painterly feel brought about by a use of flowing organic shapes to portray real human anatomy, rather than reducing the forms down to a more graphical style.  Backgrounds are present and correct, and range from a riot of sketchy detail that can be hard to follow, to some wonderfully balanced and atmospheric scenes.  It seems like some of the pages were a labour of love for the artist, and some were more rushed through.   As a lover of small press endevours, I feel that the atmosphere brought out by the tighter, more considered, pages in Vitality makes this comic worth reading.  However a more mainstream audience would probably expect the entire comic to be presented at this standard.

The impact of popular fantasy stories is considered in the next comic from the Legends anthology: A Walk – or a contemplation on fairy tales, viewpoints, creativity and growing up, by Sally Jane Thompson:

A Walk is 11 pages long.  The story follows a young girl, who at the beginning is being read to before bed.  As she hears the tale being read to her, a beanstalk begins to grow out of the book, and take her on a journey where she encounters lots of the stories and artistic styles that inspire her as she grows up.

These inspirations range from simple fairy tales to sparkly romance, into realism, and even some tinges of menace.  As she interacts with each scene the girl visibly grows up, and at the end of the comic she clicks the lid back onto her pen as an adult artist.

This comic is obviously a very personal one that portrays several stories that have been inspirations or influences on the creator’s own development as an author and artist, perhaps also as a person.

Many different artistic styles and drawing media are used throughout this comic.  The girl herself is always drawn with Sally’s trademark brushpen strokes, which both links her character to Sally as a person and brings all of the disparate art styles used in the comic together as one piece.  As she takes her walk we pass panels drawn in a shojo (girl’s) manga style, simplified cartoons, patterns inspired by art nouveau, use of natural media, ink and screentones.  Its a completely wordless comic, but you won’t miss the words at all.

Also making quite a sparing use of text is the next Legends entry: the 15 page 5 Finger Discount, by Anna Fitzpatrick:

In 5 Finger Discount, when a girl tries to steal a transformation potion from an old witch, an amazing transformations occurs…that could get her into a lot of trouble.

Stand out characters here are the old witch and the horrible blob monster you can see on the page above.  They’re gloriously grotesque!  The entire comic is of course drawn in Anna’s signature painterly style, but compared to Vitality, which she also drew, the screentones used here are of a larger scale (meaning that the dots are larger and further apart than the screentones used for Vitality).  This means that some of the forms of the characters and backgrounds are a little bit less solid and more confusing to the eye, but it also gives the comic a lighter, more airy feel than Vitality, and thus its own personality.

The digital text used for the lettering in 5 Finger Discount is certainly very readable (which should be the first priority), but its also a little jarring over such natural-feeling artwork as Anna’s.  On the other hand, the hand-written sound effects used here (such as the ‘wugableeugh!’ in the page above) are a real high point of the comic – perfectly legible throughout, balanced very nicely with the artwork on each page that they are used on, and suiting the unique personality of the story extremely well.

Showing yet another side to the personality of IndieManga as a group is the final entry in the Legends anthology, the 17 page Adventure, by Kate Holden:

At a foreboding castle in the desolate mountains, a group of three adventures goes toe-to-toe with an ancient foe and his army of automaton minions.

…did I mention the foe had epic flares?

The story and chracters in Kate Holden’s Adventure are pretty simple and archetypal: plucky heroine, brutish warrior, semi-naked elf…but the injection of Kate’s own personality makes it into a fun quirky parody piece.  Her villain here is a good example: you can tell that he’s an epic foe right out of a fantasy story or RPG, but he also has a bit of a shonen (boy’s) fighting manga look to him.  On top of this he wears a superhero-style mask, but forgoes the cape-and-tights for 60s style flares instead.

You might think that all of these influences would make for a bit of a muddled comic, but nothing could be further from the truth – its a very streamlined reading experience.  The only thing holding it back is that, though the experience is fun, it is perhaps not quite hilarious enough as a parody comic to surmount the use of the very stereotypical characters and setting.

But setting aside,a high point to look out for throughout Adventure is the creator’s proficient use of solid blacks and whites in her artwork, giving a punchy, eye-catching finish.  The only hiccup in the art is that, with such a structured style, it seems like buildings and interiors in the backgounds would need to be drawn with straighter, more confident, lines in order to make the best use of accurate perspective and have more impact alongside the characters.

Presentation:

Legends is a tidy and good-looking little book.  Its perfect bound with black and white interior pages and full colour covers.  The covers have a matte finish which gives a high quality look and feel to the book.  A unifying, tongue-in-cheek, graphic design style throughout the book really brings the creators’ different styles together and makes this anthology into one cohesive volume.

The price was a bit hard to find as it wasn’t printed in big friendly numbers on the front cover like you get with a lot of comics.  This may have been a conscious decision not to mar the cover design, and the price was mentioned in the blurb on the back, but something a little easier to spot would have been helpful.

If you enjoy UK manga, or dare I say it even small press comics in general, then I think you will find ‘Legends’ by IndieManga to be a rewarding pickup.  As their name suggests, the group is inspired by manga, but certainly not a slave to stereotypical ‘manga’ art tropes.  Barring some confusing sketchy pages pulling the reader a little out of the experience, overall I was struck by the unique personal creativity on show here – something that is hard to find in the mainstream, and I’m sure one of the reasons why us avid readers love the small press so much.

More books are available, including their first anthology ‘Origins’, on the IndieManga website.

Sarah Burgess has an ongoing webcomic, ‘Far-Out-Mantic’, and more of her work can be found on her portfolio website.

Kate Holden’s ongoing webcomic is Fan Dan Go, and she also has a portfolio website.

Sarah Jane Thompson also has a portfolio up online, plus an art blog.

Rebecca McCarthy has a website/blog.

Anna Fitzpatrick regularly updates her webcomic Between Worlds, as well as keeping a portfolio site and an art blog.

A review copy of this comic was provided.

‘Between Worlds’ Part 1, by Anna Fitzpatrick

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by comicmole

Between Worlds Part 1 by Anna Fitzpatrick, 56 pages, A5 perfect bound booklet, IndieManga, £4.00, rated teen 13+

First-off, this review focuses on the black and white print version of Part 1 of Between Worlds (as detailed above), but there are other ways to read this comic too.   There is a full-colour, larger format, special limited edition printing of Part 1 available from IndieManga for £15.00, or if you can’t wait to glue your eyeballs to both this Part and the beginning of Part 2 then check out the full colour webcomic version of Between Worlds on DrunkDuck (you can also leave comments for the author there on a page-by-page basis if you want to).

It is cold on the night of the aging King Bergen’s birthday, and a light snow has started to fall.  A grand speech has been planned, but as the King prepares to give it he is taken ill.  It seems that one of his four Knights, the female soldier known as Lynx, is tormenting him in his dreams.  Lynx herself however is confused.  Is the King simply suffering paranoia brought on by old age, or is something more sinister afoot?

Immediately upon starting this comic I felt pulled into its world.   I could almost see my breath in the chilly air and watch the snow float by.  There was also a creeping sense of melancholy brought about by witnessing the aftermath of the old King’s fall from virile youth to confused old age, and perhaps his nation with him.

Within this nation resides the protagonist, the Knight Lynx.  She is somewhat reminiscent of Oscar from Rose of Versailles:  a female soldier who holds a high rank and seems to be successful, but comes across as an isolated figure who doesn’t completely understand those around her, and whom no-one can become particularly close to.  She is an intriguing character, obviously very capable but perhaps harbouring a hidden weakness or pain.

We don’t get to learn an awful lot about her though as, although Part 1 is long compared to a lot of small press comics, it very much reads like a prelude to the main plot of the series.  The pace of reading is also relatively slow, so over the story’s 36 pages plot events only begin to unfold.  This is not a criticism however, as like many readers I appreciate an author giving their story the time it needs to unfold at a pace that suits it.  Just like the period manga series ‘Emma’ by Kaoru Mori, I can see a lot of readers enjoying the attention to detail and inclusion of quiet moments here.  The only thing that worries me is that the story seems like it could be quite long, so I hope that the creator keeps producing material and that ‘real life’ doesn’t get in the way, like it can do with longer side projects.   Here’s a reason why, so we can see more artwork like this:

This page is from the webcomic version, but in case anyone is worried that the painted pages might turn out muddy in black and white they actually hold up very well.  I can’t get a good scan of my copy of the comic without ruining the binding, but I’ve mocked up a quick example of colour vs. black and white with some astounding Photoshop wizardry:

As you can see, the tones on the page are well balanced for retaining their impact in black and white, and the book is balanced nicely like this throughout.

After those examples I’m not sure if there’s anything else I really need to say about the artwork.  As you can see the comic is digitally painted in full colour for the webcomic and special edition versions, and desaturated to greyscale for the black and white edition.  The painting style has an organic feel, with important elements being picked out in either very dark or very light linework where appropriate to the background colour.  Highlights such as snowflakes or points of light add an ethereal and fantastical feel to the world.  Some pages of the comic seem like they had more care taken over them than others however, with some devolving into a sketchiness that is perhaps a little too uncontrolled to hold up to the rest of the book.

On the right above is the A5 black and white edition of Between Worlds Part 1, next to the larger special edition version.  Both books are very well presented.  The black and white version has full colour covers and is trimmed and perfect bound into a neat booklet, rather than stapled.  All of the text in the comic is clear and easy to read, tho perhaps a little large in the special edition version.  Digitally produced text bubbles stand out rather a lot from the more natural feel of the painted pages behind them, but personally I would rather be able to read a comic clearly than be bogged down by less readable hand-written text.  Colouring the text bubbles slightly in the colour versions of the comic is a nice touch that helps to integrate them with the look of the page behind.  Perhaps hand-drawing the speech bubbles themselves though might have helped to link them to the page a bit more successfully.

As well as 36 pages of story, both the normal and special edition books of Part 1 include several pages of interesting extras.  All in all the books each have 56 pages, of which 12 are extras.   These include many concept sketches and a two-page mini comic called ‘Juno’s First Day’.

Between Worlds Part 1 is the beginning of a story with a lot of promise.  A feeling of melancholy and uncertainty in the nation of the old King Bergen is reflected in the introduction of the isolated protagonist, the Knight Lynx.  And apart from a few rather rushed looking pages, the organic, otherworldy style of illustration makes this a comic to seek out and enjoy.

The best way to immediately read some Between Worlds is by visiting the webcomic.  And to see more of Anna’s artwork, why not visit her website, or art blog?

A review copy of this comic was provided by the publisher.

New Comic: Between Worlds

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by comicmole

betweenWorldsCover

Tis the season of new comics (October Expo season that is), and this year the IndieManga table will be the home of this delicious-looking new edition of ‘Between Worlds’ by Anna Fitzpatrick, alongside IndieManga’s new anthology ‘Legends’, which also features more work by Anna.

Between Worlds first debuted last year as a full-colour limited-edition run.  This new volume is a black and white version of the atmospheric hand-painted comic, friendlier to the more price-conscious among us at £4.

However, if you can afford the £15 price tag, I still recommend asking Anna if she has any copies of the limited edition left for sale, as the artwork really sings in full colour (as you can probably tell by the cover image above).

To see more of her work, check out Anna’s art blog Between Two Worlds.

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