Archive for November, 2008

An Interview with Willie Hewes

Posted in Interview with tags , , on November 6, 2008 by comicmole

(Mole note: all relevant website links are at the end of this column – enjoy!)

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Comic Mole:  At the moment you don’t have a particular webcomic in production, however many of your comics can still be read for free online and you are the creator and editor of the webcomic anthology site ‘Webcomic Shorts’ – so having had quite a bit of experience with the medium, what role do you feel that webcomics have within the genre of sequential art?

Willie Hewes:  I think webcomics have been (and are) really great in getting a diverse group of people into drawing their own comics, including me.  It’s made it so much easier to get your stuff out there, and get people reading it, and get feedback, and get communities of comic creators to feed you enthusiasm and share ideas.  Costs for publishing a webcomic start at 0, and I think that’s very important for new creators.

Running a comic on the web can also be a useful indicator of whether a concept is going to work or not.  Drawing a graphic novel takes a long time, and we can’t all afford to take a year out of our normal schedules to work on something that may or may not find an audience.  The web allows you to test that, more or less.

CM:  An interesting thing about your work is that some comics are available online and others are only available in print.  You have also recently set up the new small press publisher, ITCH, which has preview pages for comics on the site with the entire comic available to buy in print.  How do you decide which comics to put online and which to keep as print-only editions?

WH:  For the most part I put the comics on the web that aren’t available in print.  ITCH is about printed books, and I do think it’s harder to sell books if the content is also online, although I’m aware there are compelling arguments to the contrary.

That said, for the collected Amaranth, which will be out as a graphic novel later this year, I plan to run the entire story as a regular webcomic, as well. I want the book to come out first, so I can sell the book alongside as the story unfolds on the web. The web is a great way to reach a wider audience, and getting stuff out there is what it’s all about, so I want to try that combination to see how it goes.

CM:  How did you get into creating comics in the first place, and when did you first put them online?

WH:  I started drawing comics in my uni gap-year where I wasn’t doing anything except role-playing and lounging around with friends (those were the days). I was reading webstrips like Sinfest and Ozzy and Millie, and thought it would be fun to do something like that.

I started putting GothBoy online early in 2002, on what was then Keenspace. Keenspace was a massive collection of webcomics ranging from cool to what-is-wrong-with-you in quality, so I felt the standard wasn’t too high for me to get involved, even though I couldn’t draw very well.  I’m still learning to draw now. Once I get good enough I’ll throw a big party.  Ha!

CM:  Your work shows that you have a sampled a range of different drawing media – what are some of your favourite materials or techniques for creating comics?

WH: When I started, I worked with charcoal, because that was what I had (no really, that’s the reason).  I stuck with it for a long time because it gave my work a unique look, and I enjoyed working with it.  I gave up on the charcoal a while ago now, because of the mess it creates, and also because my tastes have changed.

I like clean-looking work now, with sharp lines that are in just the right place, so I’m trying to draw like that more. Charcoal really doesn’t work like that though, so it had to go.  More recently I’ve worked with manga tones from Manga Studio.  They’re cool, but also a bit limited. Either I need a lot more tones, or I need to come up with something new again.

In the same time, I’ve also gone from using brush and ink, to using a brush pen, to using marker pens, sacrificing artistic bragging points for speed.  I always feel like I’m not getting enough done fast enough. But then I produced GothBoy: Something Big in a very short time, and in the end I wasn’t too happy with how it turned out visually.  So there’s a tension between spending ages and ages, and turning out sloppy work.  I’m still not happy where I am, so I’ll keep trying different ways of working and different media.

CM: As well as drawing your own, you often collaborate with other creators as a comic writer –  who, or what, would you say are some of your biggest inspirations and influences for both drawing and writing comics?

WH:  When it comes to writing, I write about stuff that moves me.  My life is the biggest inspiration. I recently found myself proclaiming I don’t do fantasy, but then I realised that all my comics have fairies and vampires and angels and crazy stuff in them.  So actually, fantasy is all I ever do!

It’s not escapism fantasy though; it’s about situations and feelings that exist in the real world.  It’s all just a big metaphor, like Ivy says in Amaranth.

There’s a distinctly gay streak in my work as well, I guess, and it’s not just yaoi fangirlism.  Many of the people close to me are gay or bi, and I waste a lot of time on the gay blogs and watching gay films and what have you.  There’s something about the coming out thing that really fascinates me, all the working out who you really are, and the conflict with yourself and the angst and the drama… there’s just so much material.

Or maybe I feel left out, because I didn’t have a difficult coming out at all.  It went like this:

Me: Actually, it’s a girl. I think I’m bi.
My mum: Oh, OK.

Just like that. 🙂 Homophobia and ignorance make me really angry, and I like to write stories that have gay characters just as a normal thing.  It’s like saying “Look! Gay people! Deal with it!”

Also, I enjoy drawing hot guys getting it on.  For the obvious reasons.

CM: You created and now edit the anthology website ‘Webcomic Shorts’ – could you tell us a little about it and why you chose to create it?

WH:  Webcomic Shorts is a handy collection of short comics on the web.  I like short comics, and I think it’s a shame they’re not very popular on the web, it seems.  Most webcomics are ongoing and have an endless quality to them, like they’ll always be there, moving but never getting to their destination.  I like things that have an ending.  I enjoy closure, whether the ending is happy or sad.

Part of the reason short comics are not very popular on the web is that all popular webcomics update regularly, they have to to get the traffic, because that’s just how the internet works. Short comics can only update a set number of times, and then they’re done, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be forgotten. So I thought it would be a good idea to string a lot of short comics together in the same place, so you get regular updates AND complete stories. That’s the idea.

Webcomic Shorts is on an updating hiatus currently, because I’ve been very busy setting up ITCH and finishing off my own comics. It can start up again as soon as I have more comics to put up though, so if any readers are sitting on a short comic they should get in touch. It doesn’t matter if it’s been published already; Webcomic Shorts is like an archive of short comics worth reading, wherever they’re from.

CM:  What advice would you give to someone who wants to start making their own webcomics?

WH: Start with a short comic! And get it hosted on Webcomic Shorts! Ha ha!

I do think it’s important for first time creators to start with a project that has an end. And not an end after three volumes and 56 chapters, but after, maybe, 1 chapter. 3-4 scenes, 2-3 characters, THE END.

Drawing comics is fun but it’s a lot of work. There seems to be no shortage of young, ambitious creators starting or trying to start on a full-scale digital graphic novel, with little appreciation for just how much time and effort that’s going to take, or how much they’re going to change while they’re working on it (even you will grow up). There are so many webcomics that are drifting, on hiatus, or abandoned because it was just too much for the artist to keep going, and I think that’s sad.

I think that if some of those people had paced themselves a little, started with smaller projects, had those smaller successes to build on, maybe they’d still be making comics now. It would also save people from having to put the “I’m sorry the early art is so awful =_=;;;” message on top of their archives. If you’ve never drawn a comic before, you’re going to learn a lot over the first few pages. Don’t make those mistakes in the early parts of your magnum opus, that’s just dumb.

Oh, and to writers looking for artists: chances are learning to draw will be quicker than finding that special person. You CAN learn to draw, you can do it in a couple of years if you’re really trying, especially if you’re young. Just my opinion.

CM:  Do you read any webcomics yourself?  And if so, what do you like most about them?  Are there any webcomics you would recommend others try?

WH:  I’m really behind on my webcomics reading, actually. I have a big folder in my favourites of webcomics I should be reading, that I don’t get around to. The only ones I regularly read and Questionable Content, although it annoys me, and Planet Karen, although that’s been updating sporadically recently. I also love Templar Arizona, Gunnerkrigg Court, Teaching Baby Paranoia, Darken, Rainbow Carousel, and others. Much of the list is a bit predictable, sorry. ^_^

What I like about webcomics is their great variety and immediate accessibility. There’s a lot of really great stuff you can find just by surfing around. What I hate most about them is when you catch up with the current page and there’s no more, and it’s the middle of the story arc. It’s like when the DVD schizes out in the middle of a film you’ve never seen before, and you can’t watch the rest. Graaargh!

CM:  What are your plans for the future, comics-wise?

WH:  Draw MOAR!

I don’t really have any long term plans, I’m drawing a short comic for a contest and one for the Ahead anthology. I want to do another GothBoy mini, because it’s easy, laid back work. And then… who knows? I’d like to collaborate more with other artists, work on my drawing style, keep busy.

I’m also working with other people to publish their comics, which I won’t say anything about yet but you’ll hear the news on the ITCH website first. And I’m working with Karen Rubins (artist for Dark) and John Aggs (artist for Philip Pullman’s John Blake) to pull an anthology together that has a manga style aesthetic, but is aimed at a mature audience. A lot of manga fans are growing out of kiddie manga and finding there’s not that much to move on to. We’d like to offer those folks a “global manga” book they can enjoy.

It will be called Ahead, and is set to be released at the start of the next year. We’re taking submissions now, so get in touch if you’re interested.

CM: What is your favourite dessert?

WH:  Dessert?  Um, I like cheese. Cheeziz R my savioR.

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Useful links:

Willie’s webcomic page

Webcomic Shorts

ITCH Publishing

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Willie Hewes’ Webcomics

Posted in Column with tags , , , on November 6, 2008 by comicmole

(Mole note: all relevant website links are at the end of this column – enjoy!)

Willie Hewes' 'The Toll'

Willie Hewes is ‘a girl who likes sad things, but sometimes they are funny’.  In fact ‘Willie Hewes’ is the pen name of a comicker who currently lives in Bristol but hails originally from the Netherlands.  She has been making comics for about six years now and is showing no signs of stopping, having created the anthology website ‘Webcomic Shorts’ in 2007 and the small press publisher ‘ITCH’ in 2008.

Willie Hewes has collaborated with other small-press artists as a writer in the past, but mainly takes on both writing and art duties for her comics.  Several short comics, many with an otherworldly twist, can be found online nestling together on a page of her website.   Therefore today, instead of investigating one comic in depth, the Mole will be sweeping the ol’ magnifying glass over each short comic in turn for a brief review. Read on…

First up, ‘The Suckiest Angel’ is a funny little 5-page comic about an angel that doesn’t feel he’s as good as the rest of the heavenly host.   The art style is simple and in pure black and white, which gives a graphical feel to the pages.   It might have looked better with a little more detail, but in general this is a solid short comic offering.

‘Free Z’, another 5-pager, hits home because it is based on a true story and it has a message of acceptance to impart to its readers.  The main character is a teenager whose parents send him away to a therapy camp to try and ‘fix’ his homosexuality, and he wonders whether he will have to live a lie forever.   As well as the message, another stand out point about ‘Free Z’ is that the text is in the form of a poem, which is rare in the world of webcomics.   Art-wise, it is one of the artists’ older comics on the website so the drawing is less polished, but its well worth a read for its uniqueness.

‘The Toll’ is a beautifully coloured 4-page comic about a troll guarding a bridge – you can’t pass without paying a toll… I especially liked the way the troll was drawn, and the way the pages are coloured is imaginative and worth checking out.

‘White Saints Day’ is an 18-page comic which is a little sad, in a gentle way.   It is about the one day in a year when the statues of the ‘White Saints’ come to life to bless the people of their city.  However not everyone considers this a blessing… The art style used for the backgrounds, ink wash and hand-drawn linework, perfectly suits the medieval atmosphere of the comic.  The character designs don’t fit in quite as well, but the page layouts are effective with a good balance of pure black and white as well as shading.

Comedy 10-pager, ‘Hero/Villain’, is an amusing glimpse into the life of a terrible villain who meets a noble and pure hero.  This has ‘just a bit of fun’ written all over it, and a slightly more cartoony art style in the backgrounds complements this nicely.   Characters are a bit lacking in detail (especially round the hand area) but as this is a simple comedy it doesn’t impact on the reader’s enjoyment of the comic as much as it would on a more serious piece.

And last but not least, Willie has uploaded online versions of her 4 Gothboy mini comics, for our comic-reading convenience.   The characters appearing in these were introduced in her previous Gothboy webcomic, an older comic that no-longer updates, but has a large archive still online.   The 4 short stories are entitled: ‘Normal’, ‘The Thingy’, ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Ghost in the Machine’. In ‘Normal’ lead character No gets happy, and there is also a random happiness in the air in ‘The Thingy’ and ‘Just Dance’.  To contrast, ‘Ghost in the Machine’ is a gripping cyberpunk thriller about disembodied spirits in artificial bodies!  The artwork is a bit more unpolished in these comics – they’re mainly drawn with ink and sketchy charcoal.  However, the inked faces and hands and smudgy charcoal bodies of the characters are often really endearing and cute.

All in all some interesting comics to sink your teeth into, and most are short enough to read easily whilst relaxing with a cuppa!  In addition to these comics, Willie Hewes keeps a profile page and a blog on her website, as well as an interesting links page where she recommends some different webcomics and writes a little about each.

In my next post I will be quizzing Willie Hewes on the role of webcomics in the genre of sequential art, her inspirations in both writing and drawing comics, and whether she’s a fan of ice-cream… or maybe something completely different?  Catch you next time!

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Useful links:

Willie Hewes’ webcomic page

Start of the older Gothboy webcomic

Webcomic Shorts

ITCH Publishing

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Welcome to Comic Mole Investigates!

Posted in Other with tags on November 3, 2008 by comicmole

Hi and welcome to Comic Mole Investigates!  Before I dive headlong into the proper posts I thought I’d give a brief introduction to myself and what this blog is here for, so here goes!

My name is Vicki, I’m British and I’m in my mid-20s.  I got interested in small press comics about 3 years ago, very soon after getting into drawing my own comics.  Almost as soon as I started buying others’ work I wanted to write about it, and 3 years on I still am.  Hopefully this blog will provide a useful and interesting resource for people who are just getting into UK small press comics, those who want to know more about certain creators, or those who are simply looking for something new to read.  It will cover both printed books and webcomics, and note where some comics cross over into both formats.  Unsurprisingly, more about me can be found on the About Me page, and more about the blog can be found on the About this Blog page.

In addition to the main review posts, I hope that the extra pages I have created for this blog will be useful to readers – as well as the ‘about’ pages mentioned above there are Comment Guidelines, my Contact Information for those who would like their comic to be reviewed, an Index of Creators and Publishers, and an Index of Comics covered in the blog.  This should make it easy to search for a particular review or find out where to buy a certain comic.

Saying that, not all of the blog posts will be straight-up reviews, there will be several post categories listed on the right hand side of the screen under the links to the extra pages.  Here’s a brief rundown of what these categories mean:

Column – An introduction to, and recommendation of, a particular comic or artist. Usually swings more to the positive than a full-blown review, but should mention any prominent points that some readers may not like.

Event – A post to highlight an event that’s coming up and whether or not I am going to be there.

Interview – A question-and-answer interview with a comic creator.

Other – Any posts that are not do not fall into the other categories.

Review – An in-depth look at a particular comic. Usually covers the story, characters, artwork and extras, as well as the facts about the work (when produced, price etc.). Reviews are usually a bit more balanced than a Column, taking into account the positive and negative points of the work (although they usually still constitute a recommendation – I’m not here to ridicule creators’ work, if I don’t like something at all I probably just won’t review it).

Thoughts On… – Hopefully there won’t be too many of these! Thoughts On… are reviews that are rougher around the edges – a bit of food for thought rather than a properly constructed review.

So there you have it! Hopefully I have covered all of the essential points about this new blog, so now I’d better go and write some content – please enjoy!