We’ve fallen behind a bit with blogging about meetings recently – hoping to catch up over the next wee while…
19th February 2019
The meeting was held at Nottingham Hackspace and was advertised as “The Panel Show”, with all NDC members invited to “Bring along your favourite comics thing and let us know why you love it.” Here’s Dorothy’s report:
Many thanks to everyone who brought along their favourite comics pages for discussion. Here are snippets from the evening.
As the intensity of feeling increased, the picture expanded to fit the entire page, with the comic suddenly losing its margins. Do printers and publishers cope with this? Yes! It was a problem in the olden days, but not now.
Nat: ‘the intensity is being turned up on the visual grammar until it is overwhelming’
Matt: ‘Comics representing states instead of simply things’
Yotsuba is an adopted 5 year old who becomes slightly more cartoony when she is being mischievous. Azuma draws a cartoon Dad with a moustache scribbled onto him. The cartoon is ‘real’ and the moustache is clearly added. Clever!
Dan picked the spread from Goscinny and Uderzo’sAsterix in Spainwhere Asterix accidentally invents bullfighting. This was masterfully done with minimal colour, so that the red cloak that literally falls into the ring is the main splash of colour as it takes up different shapes. The background drops out as the action and movement take over in the repetitive scenes that are so hard to get right; and really do come to life here. Steff pointed out that, ‘This is more theatre than TV’ with big gestures.
We’re moving both in space and time (months of the year and meeting start-time).
NDC meetings will in future be hosted by the Animation course at Nottingham Trent University – many, many thanks to the University and especially to the head of Animation, Jeremy Moorshead, for this opportunity to collaborate.
The new venue will be the Waverley Lecture Theatre, and we’re shifting to odd-numbered months of the year (January, March, May, July, September, November). So the next meeting will be MAY 21ST.
The lecture theatre is in the Waverley Building, on the corner of Waverley Street and Peel Street (Google maps). It’s close to the Arboretum, and a very short walk from the NTU tram-stop. We’ll have to be out of the building by 9.00 p.m. so we’ll be starting meetings at 7.00 p.m. sharp (with doors opening at 6.45 p.m.), and we’ll be changing the format of meetings slightly.
For those who’ve got used to staying longer on Tuesday nights, at 9.00 p.m. we’ll be repairing to the pub round the corner, the Gooseberry Bush, for more informal socialising.
The lecture theatre is a lovely space – not too big, with pretty comfy chairs! It’s very well equipped for presentations, with a document camera as well as a networked computer, so speakers can – if they like – just bring some comics along and display pages as the basis for a talk, rather than having to put together a PowerPoint show.
We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings in this great new space!
Two major upheavals in the NDC universe took place at the end of 2018. First, Brick announced in December that he would be stepping down as the principal organiser of NDC due to health issues and family commitments. Around the same time, the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, our home for meetings since the beginning in 2016, announced that they would not be able to renew their lease on the building at 25 Hockley due to a proposed rent increase. The building is now being run by Carousel as a DIY art space with space to rent either as studios (one of which has been taken by the Writers’ Studio) or for events. Unfortunately at present NDC, as an organisation run entirely by volunteers and dependent on donations, cannot afford their costs for event-space.
Regulars will have noticed that our meeting-locations have been dotting around a bit this year, with the next one in April taking place at City Arts, a few yards from Carousel (see Upcoming). We are currently in negotiations about a new regular home and hope to have news on this soon.
On the organisation front, a number of people have come forward to form a new organising committee to take some of the burden off Brick’s shoulders. If you’re interested in helping out, in however small a way, just let us know!
Hope to see as many as possible of you at City Arts on 16th April.
Paul McCaffrey talked about working in comics and illustration, and that elusive work-life balance: ‘The work-life thing is an interesting concept,’ he mused wistfully, as if it was something that totally eluded him. And so this presentation was rich in detail and variety: robots and zombies, comics set in different times and places…. One fascinating project he was involved in was the illustration of a book about a boy with Tourettes syndrome. It can’t be sold as a children’s book, because of the swearing, and it can’t be shelved as a graphic novel, because it looks like a children’s book! I was particularly intrigued about Paul’s commission from a company working in wearable technology, to create a comic strip about their product. The product may not have taken off, but the idea of using comic art to promote ways of working with new technology is exciting.
Some of Paul’s recommendations for those starting out in comics included Birmingham’s ‘Comics Launchpad’, something definitely worth checking out. But this review can’t do justice to the wealth of drawings that the unjustly modest Mr McCaffrey showed us. Work for Macmillan, Heinemann, NME, IDW, Marvel, DC, Aces Weekly, Omnivistascope… and on.
Brick filled us in on sound effects or ‘audio visual language’ as it is known to some academics. These are best used sparingly, like the punchline of a joke. Silent sound effects: symbols and illusions, can be more effective. But here are some of Brick’s salient points:
– There is a list of sound effects at comicbookfx.com though many are dated and are parodies of themselves. Many are violent, reflecting their source in decades mainstream comics, but there’s no sound effect for starting a car engine.
– Take a look at Robert Petersen’s ‘The Acoustics of Manga’.
– In creating your own sound effects, they need to be…
Easy to read
Dissimilar to any other word
– Make sure that the sound effect fit into the region, environment and period that is being shown. For example, a 1920’s phone does not go ‘Ring, Ring…..Ring, Ring’.
– Comics would benefit from people who specialise in sound effects.
Brick wrapped up his fascinating and thorough talk by explaining how he’d found a way to represent music (perhaps the most difficult of all SFX for comics creator to grapple with) in his work on classical composers. Flowing patterns give a feel of the sounds being represented without off-putting, complex musical notation.
Long time NDC stalwarts Nat Titman and Gareth Howell banged the drum for Nottingham Hackspace and bodily dragged the NDC crowd through an interactive session that had the room wielding marker pens with furious abandon!
We started with a lucid explanation of the Hackspace manifesto. If you didn’t know (I didn’t), Hackspace is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of cool tools and deadly devices available on the cheap for collaborative or personal projects. If you like the idea of getting your hands on a laser cutter or an angle grinder whilst simultaneously giving the finger to B&Q – get down there (click here). As an aside, if you had ever speculated about the origin of Nottingham’s very own tiny perplexed rabbit plague, speculate no more. It was those damn meddling Hackspacers!
Nat and Gareth are the local heroes behind the Hackspace Comics Making Group who meet on the first Thursday of every month to talk comics, make comics and eat comics (probably). Anyone with an interest in sequential art gubbins should check them out. They welcome artists, writers and fans of any calibre, inexperienced or otherwise. They emphasise an open, friendly environment for those wishing to experiment with making their own graphic narratives, and insist on an appropriate “comics/life” balance (‘comics ain’t the be-all and end-all of life, man’ – sage advice). They showed us examples of a few funny exercises they use for getting the ol’ grey matter warmed up. Daniel Zadik’s panel giving “Q” from Star Trek the cold shoulder and the exercise messing with the proportions of Leonardo Di Caprio’s face (turns out he always looks basically the same) spring to mind as providing much mirth. (To see more, N&G’s presentation to NDC can be found here.)
So, on to the meat and potatoes, the world famous – NINE-PANEL COMIC MAKING CHALLENGE!!!! First the audience was reshuffled to tables of not less than four people. N&G had come up with a list of genius pitches for a number of short comics stories. (The concept of “the pet translation device” deserves a trade paperback in its own right!) Then each table member was invited to pick a pitch to develop, no two of the same allowed on the same table. On pre-panelled A3 sheets, with the instruction not to use pencils and all use the same type of pen (provided), a room full of aspiring comics creators set to with hammer and tongs, turning their neat pitches into the messy realities of Panel No.1. This was then passed to their left for the next budding Dave Gibbons or Hannah Berry to continue the story… and so on to Panel No. 9 and the totally unplanned but wonderfully bizarre climax of the piece.
What a great experience! At a table with three actual artists and two talented amateurs, I learned a lot about the difficulties of perspective, keeping a story moving and the narrative cul-de-sac of referencing obscure 70’s sitcoms with collaborators who weren’t born ’til this millennium! Surprisingly the group managed to knock out a few pages that actually hung together. Honourable mention must go to the “sick puppy’s” table, though. Every story they came up with inevitably descended into a degenerate nightmare of some kind – kudos to you!
However, rather childishly, my personal highlight of February’s NDC has to be Brick sticking his size 13 boot straight into the “gender-specific” toilet issue during his introduction! Brilliant!! Come on man, get with the programme….
Nobody tells me nuffin’! It’s what ‘appens when y’beard’s white… Brick
It’s always fascinating to listen to somebody from an associated craft, such as film or theatre, enlightening us on the quirks of their profession as much as the particular skills set demanded of their art. As a ‘boarder’ churning out storyboards ten to the dozen, Robin French sounded continually prey to the whims of directors and writers, and in a trade where speed (up to 100 panels a day!) and a total lack of ego are of the essence, not to mention being fluent in everything from draftsmanship to storytelling, through cinematography, staging, animation, and acting. Robin highlighted a handful of areas where ‘boarding’ techniques overlapped with those required of comics, specifically staging, cinematography (particularly the infamous 180˚ rule), shading and backgrounds and/or grids. Usefully she rounded up with some core information about rates for the job (interestingly the first guest to talk money) and a selection of useful reference books, most notably Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre.
As always after one of our guest presentations, there was a lot of back and forth with the audience, with questions and discussion, which warmed us for the remainder of the evening in the company of our slightly depleted brains trust from Nottingham University (Carl Buckland was sadly indisposed). Harriet Lander asked us to consider representations of Sapho, the archaic Greek poet from Lesbos (not the bone condition!). She presented three images depicting the writer, two by Victorians Simeon Solomon and Charles Mengin, and one from a 1970s Playboy cover, inviting us to compare and contrast. Given that we know almost nothing about Sapho, she would seem wide open to interpretation and use by comics creators, and Harriet flipped through examples found in on-line comics and, of course, Wonder Woman. Perhaps most curious was the example from My Little Pony, but what surprised NDC members most was that academia had buried so deeply into an analysis and consideration of fan art. “Is nothing sacred!?”
Lynn Fotheringham‘s highly animated focus was exclusively on Three, the repost to Frank Miller’s pumped up and grotesquely if brilliantly distended 300. More specifically she honed it down to just two pages of Three in which Terpander relates the story of the 300 Spartans to Arimnestos, a narrative comic creators Kelly, Gillen and Bellaire pithily reduce to just eight panels! If this sounds somewhat limited as the basis for a 15 minute presentation and discussion, be aware that the NDC audience has never been more animated or forensic. Undoubtably folk relished the deep analysis of content, style and colour of those two pages, and you could see Lynn making mental note of points they raised she maybe hadn’t considered before. We could have gone on into the night, and that made us think we need to do more of this deep focus stuff at future NDC meetings.
Our thanks to our guests for providing one of our most stimulating and interactive sessions. – JSC
Despite some determined humbuggery from curmudgeonly participants, myself included, December’s NDC had a real festive air. Guest artists and friends of the group, Cryoclaire, Adam Willis, D’Israeli, Sally-Jane Thompson and (briefly) Brick put on a live drawing show that was less seedy than it sounds and did not feature any jolly old men with bellies like bowls full of jelly (thankfully). Astonishingly all the projection tech worked perfectly and we got to see cool and disparate artistic styles appear like magic before our eyes – from tiny stylus to huge fat marker the artistic tricks on display were numerous. You could literally hear the wheels turning in the heads of aspiring artists in the crowd, assuming you weren’t chewing a mince pie too loudly. There was also an opportunity to explain monosyllabically exactly how our pen-smiths wrestle with Photoshop to achieve at least some of the wonderous effects modern comic books display. Thanks to all who contributed to the fuddle and the excellent doodle wall, which exhibited some strikingly good drawings from audience members who had clearly been hiding their light, along with several nasty caricatures of members of the group.
In the end – Futuristic 90’s slacker vied with ferocious “extreme close up” Zeus and Victorian mummy Panya for the rooms affections. The real winner was Christmas…..ho ho ho. As an aside I think D’Israeli coquettishly teased the group with news he is now drawing enjoyable Hellboy spin-off Withchfinfder – seems like a match made in heaven, with all those Victorian monsters to play with! Exciting stuff for the old school geeks in the room.
NDC’s meeting on the 14th November was introduced by the affable Josh Franks and opened with a personal, insightful presentation by Jade Sarson, who’s central themes of “food, friendship and sex“ are vividly showcased via her Manga influenced style, making a big impression on members of the audience who had not encountered her work before. I was particularly struck by the raw emotion of her “feels like noodles” splash page which evoked dark moods I think most of us can relate to. Jade explored how pivotal events in her life had shaped and influenced her artistic style and the whimsical worlds of Café Suada and For the Love of God Marie – tea tinged comic books which deal with subject matter relatively unusual for the medium whilst retaining the sense of fun – catharsis through comic art!
Jade was followed by long-term friend of the group Sally-Jane Thompson who provided a demonstration of building atmosphere and mood through the use of locations and backgrounds in comic art. This was a fascinating insight into the process behind the pictures. Sally’s minimalist images create maximum effect with sparing amounts of ink; members of the group took great inspiration from this approach. Food for thought for those of us not familiar with building “sets” for our paper avatars to interact with. Sally won points from the group for setting work in Nottingham – not just obvious locations, like Sherwood Forest, but in satisfyingly mundane ones, like Vicky centre bus station. For some reason seeing this obscure location pop up in sequential art provided a real jolt of recognition! Questions around mood, genre vs location and layouts provided grist to the mill – the group obviously learned a few tricks from SJT.
Last up, Corrine Pearlman provided a dry and funny talk, walking us through her entertaining life-story, fully immersed in sequential art gubbins. From her early days producing disturbing health pamphlets (a reoccurring theme for NDC speakers – a gateway drug perhaps) to an unusual incident involving a Jewish alter ego. I am sure Corrine’s talk proved motivating for members of the audience not in the biz as she laid out how she escaped the clutches of Pizza express to build the now well renowned Myriad Editions publishers, purveyors of diverse and unusual comics who, in a pleasingly cyclical fashion, gave our first speaker Jade a leg up in the biz after she won their well renowned Graphic Novel competition. Corrine came across as a bit of a legend in the biz who continues to contribute in a big way. She is also owed a debt of thanks for her work setting up Laydees Do Comics, which provided “inspiration” for our very own group (i.e. we nicked the concept).
Complements of organisers with a smile, Kev and Kel Brett, NDC were given a complementary table at this year’s con, which we shared with new local indie comics hub, Magoria Studios, and the more established comics web magazine, INK. Both INK and ourselves were essentially collecting email addresses to expand our mailing lists and spread the good news, but I made a point of trolling round the tables before the floodgates opened to the public to see if there were any local comics creatives present we weren’t aware of. Remarkably, I returned to assume the position with cards from no less that 11 (note 11!!) creators working within striking distance of Nottingham, if not in the city itself. Hopefully we’ll be seeing and even hearing from them at future meetings, but we were also snared by those canny podcasters, Awesome Comics. With a brief firmly locked into the orbit of the small press and indie publishing world, they are a service that is rapidly gaining a reputation for airing fantastic interviews with movers and shakers who aren’t reluctant to offer up advice and warnings about getting into DIY comics. You’ll find our snippet in Podcast 120 (which tells you how long they’ve been going), somewhere around 44:50 in. (Note to self: must do something about my droning voice!!)
Talking to people and from what I overheard, this year’s con was another great success, largely because Kev and Kel put such an emphasis on making it a family event, rather than a hard-nosed selling gig like so many of the other cons in this country that increasingly aspire to San Diego’s commercial standards. As a token of our appreciation, NDC donated £20 to the Poppy Appeal, one of the charities Nottingham Comicon sponsors from its profits. – JSC
Cornered at Nottingham Comicon, NDC blathered into a mic about (guess what) NDC, who and what we are, and some of the stuff that has spun off from our meetings. Awesome Comics provide an entertaining and useful service to small press and indie comics publishers. It’s a bit laddie, but if you can get past the giggling (not difficult) there’s a wealth of excellent information laced through any one podcast. Find them here, and for the NDC bit, you’re after No. 120, 44:50 in.