NDC member, Carol Adlam has been the Djanogly Artist-in-Residence at their Museum of Archaeology since May 2016. The results of her tenure can be seen from 25th November, 2017 – 25th February, 2018 at Lakeside’s Angear Visitor Centre.
The Thinking Room is a multi-layered graphic narrative project that incorporates visitor responses to the museum and its artefacts in a series of reportage illustrations, as well as in a short graphic story called Buried (In the Thinking Room). Both Buried and the overarching Thinking Room project draw on layered narratives, palimpsests, and the real historical narratives that have shaped the Museum and its environs today, from Roman Margidunum to medieval Keighton. Large-scale reportage illustrations and pages from her comic are on display in this exhibition.
Carol is a graduate of the Cambridge School of Art (2014). Her work was shortlisted in the World Illustration Awards 2015 and was nominated in the ‘New Talent’ (Research and Knowledge Communication) category in 2016. She has held residencies at Nottingham Castle Museums and Galleries (2014, 2015), the University of Derby, and the National Army Museum, London. She is the illustrator of the graphic anthologies Ministry of Women (2016), The New Wipers Times (2015), the short graphic novels Amy in Love (2016) and Suzanne’s Story (2014), and several children’s books. More of her work can be seen here.
September’s NDC meeting took a seriously technological bent, characterised by much chin-stroking by the initiated and much head scratching by the less experienced, appropriately introduced by Nottingham Hackspace advocate and web comic aficionado, Nat Titman. It also featured multiple shameless plugs for Nottingham’s excellent Comicon (October 14th)
Our first speakers were Will Starling and Adam Willis, the creative entrepreneurs behind the recently published Filigree comic and fledgling Magoria studios, a newly formed but potentially exquisite beast hoping to plug a gap in the UK’s indie publishing market. They have an ingrained rapport that translated into an amusing presentation, provided interesting feedback on the decision making process they followed when establishing their imprint and the choices a young business of this kind has to make, such as relate to printing and branding.
Thankfully we also got to see lots of Adam’s ethereal artwork. The room responded warmly to their ongoing quest to publish cool stuff, and most were left both juiced up and dangling at the prospect of finally reading What Makes a God, clearly the Moby Dick of the Magoria world. Their presentation perfectly encapsulating the sometimes fractious but obviously fruitful relationship between artist and writer. Was this the 2017 equivalent of catching Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early days of Marvel? Let’s hope so? Will Magoria be at Nottingham Comicon (by the way – 14th October!)
Next, word from the wonderfully frank Cryoclare about her anarchic Gibson-tinged retro-tech web comic, Drugs and Wires, recommended for fans of downbeat science fiction and 90’s design aesthetic. Her presentation posed the question, ”Is making a web comic a good idea?” My personal response was “definitely not” as the level of technical acumen required is certainly considerable, but many of the group clearly took inspiration from Cryoclare’s practical knowledge of Mastodon, Gravilix, Patreon and other techy things. Her passion for the medium was obvious and matched by her deep level of knowledge, it is clear there is much to learn here.
The relentless mechanics of drip-feeding a web comic to online hordes of quivering, jonesing net-heads seemed like a daunting task, but one that Cryoclare was definitely up for. In more familiar territory the group discussed the practicalities of doing the conventions circuit (if you didn’t know, Nottingham Comicon is 14th October at Trent University Newton Building). The old black and white .v. colour debate came round again, as did the joys of having fans tattoo your artwork on their skin (on this occasion, on their head…their head!)
This year NDC are splashing out with nibbles and drinkies and seven artists drawing live for y’all, talking about stuff as they display their talents. Their styles range from the graphically realistic to the simplified cartoon, and each is very uniquely their own. With a bit of tech help, the process will be projected on screen for all to see, but between each artist we would love it if you, our audience, brought along your favourite under-rated comic, web comic or graphic novel and told us in under 8 minutes why we should make sure it is on our Christmas wish list this year. Finally, if you can bring along some munchies and drink to add to the fuddle, that’d be dandy. See you there!
One of our audience is searching for a local writer to team up with to work on a crime/thriller/noir story set in the city in the 1930s – 1950s. Christopher Held is an artist with a vision and experience working in the gaming industry. He has previous experience of long-term projects (which every comics book is) and envisages it as a production and publishing that will be self-financed. Christopher can be contacted here. And if you are puzzled by his email address, Christopher is German.
Okay, Alan Moore needs our support like God needs a fan club, but he is kinda local and every time he opens his mouth pearls issue forth, most particularly, in this case, his raison d’être for being so firmly rooted and growing in Northampton, something those of us in NDC committed to Nottingham can relate to.
This is a compelling series of eight five-minute films put together for the European culture platform ARTE (co-funded by German and French mainstream media, incidentally) that ranges across Alan’s thoughts on bug-bears like the death of culture, the scourge of Tony Blair, the curse of complexity and, predictably, Brexit (predictably because nobody on the continent can get their head round what the feck us Brits are playing at, and so ARTE were bound to ask the question of the great sage).
At some point in the future we are hoping to entice Alan to NDC, on the understanding we don’t splash his name across a banner trailed behind a Spitfire flying over Slab Square. So look out for some enigmatic blurb in our future events publicity, maybe sometime next year.
Always delighted to promote local selling opportunities for all you zine, indie and self-publishing comics producers.
First up, on 23rd September is the first (I think) Nottingham Independent Print & Publishing Fair to be held at our friends and sponsors the Nottingham Writers Studio down in Hockley. For fuller details and the booking form for a space go to beesmakehoneycc.com/.
Then, naturally, there is the city’s very own Nottingham Comic Convention on 14th October at Trent University’s Conference Centre on Goldsmith’s Street. Tables for this are now fully book but NDC have generously been granted a space by the organisers and we are more than happy to sell locally produced work, provided you dab in with holding the fort during the day so we can stretch our legs. Go to nottinghamcomiccon.co.uk/ for full details.
Our first speaker this evening was Jay Eales, a fixture in the Leicester comics scene, speaking on the realities of collaboration, with special attention paid to the life of a freelancer. Jay’s CV is nothing if not diverse – from 70’s throwback Violent to content in the American Splendour DVD Extras, which sent me scurrying to dust-off my somewhat neglected copy. Specific mention must go to “an introduction to clinical trials for children”, which I think wins the no-prize for most obscure brief for a comic presented to us (so far, anyway). Jay talked us through the sometimes circuitous routes to seeing your own work in print and provided sage advice for would-be collaborators – “Don’t be a d**k!” The group found amusement in excellent references to fibrous stools (you had to be there) and his views on Warren Ellis’ approach to publicity. As an aside, Jay claimed to be reading from a script – if so this was a script full of great improvisations!
Coventry University Course Director Francis Lowe’s enthusiasm for delivering one of the country’s top animation/illustration courses was on display in full force. He discussed his displeasure with the ‘idealised’ (ie semi-pornographic) approach to drawing humans chosen by many students, and emphasised the singular joys of capturing unusual and unconventional body shapes, thus avoiding anodyne approaches to anatomy. His treatise on the nuance of drawing body fat was a revelation! Francis bravely confessed his disturbing habit of sketching strangers in bars and nightclubs but reassured us it was only borderline stalking. His talent and ability to deliver an interesting and funny presentation was obvious – Francis was undoubtedly the lecturer we all wished we had at university – overlooking his habit of demanding to see students’ Moleskins (sketch books), any time, any where, and making them sing if they can’t be produced… scary stuff!
Comic creator and indie publisher Selina Locke posed the question, “What do you mean, there are no women working in comics?”, which just happens to be the title of her forthcoming book from Five Leaves Graphic. Thankfully her title was not rhetorical as the audience were quickly made to appreciate women are and have always been omnipresent, if under-represented. Selina delivered a passionate presentation informed by research for her book covering 200 years of U.K. comics history. We were informed about some female creators who, unfortunately, have been airbrushed from history and learned something new about Ally Sloper, the origins of Rupert the Bear and the mysterious title The Silent Three, an enigmatic strip that demands further research. Selina reminisced about her own contribution to the medium, The Girly Comic, and impressed us with both her collection of underground feminist comics and the relentless progress of the Inking Woman exhibition, leaving the room upbeat about the future prospects for laydeez who do comics!
One of the joys of NDC is being able to alert people to new publications emerging from our streets, especially self-published comics, on-line or hard copy, and this week we have one of each. Filigree is a beautifully coloured and graphically haunting futuristic piece written by Will Starling with art by Adam Willis. It is 16 pages long and published by Magoria Studios, but I have no idea of the price. Having sent me a pdf copy, my reply emails have bounced back, so I know no more than that it is definitely available from Mondo Comico and maybe other Nottingham comic stores. If you are out there Will, please get in touch!
The on-line comic is realised by Cryoclaire, aka Mary Safro, and written by Io Black. Called DRUGS AND WIRES: Everything Went Wrong, it’s about ‘what happens when the future that never was meets the past we… poke fun at’, but you can find much more about the concept and the series on their excellent and very enterprising site here. Also accessible is an earlier incarnation of Drugs and Wire called Dreamspace, which makes imaginative use of the digital medium, plus hard copies of the series (there are currently three in the series) and a selection of striking grunge T-shirts and other merch. Hopefully we can talk Cryoclaire into doing a presentation for NDC towards the end of this year.
There have been better times in which to launch a new comics publishing venture, but so often the worst of times can prove the best of times, if you can hang in there until an upturn. With so many small publishers struggling to survive, it is heartening to hear that those enterprising people at Five Leaves Bookshop (opposite the Council House Tourist Information Centre) are dipping a toe into graphic narrative. Five Leaves Graphic is an imprint of Five Leaves Publishing, which spawned the independent bookshop, and while the publishing side has streamlined its lists since establishing the shop, the recent growth in adult interest in comics makes a modest venture into graphic novels an intelligent move for a niche publisher. Their ambitious brief is to publish translations of extraordinary work from overseas that are overlooked by English speakers because they don’t have the language, and a casual stroll round any bookshop next time you are on the continent will tell you just how rich and varied the possibilities are. For example, you can count on one hand how many bande dessinee have made it into English, despite the extraordinary quality of so many French titles.
But Five Leaves Graphic will also be giving consideration to home grown work that sits at the margins but fits comfortably with the Mothership’s radical and literary concerns. Their first publication is a very modest 36 pages long and retails at just a fiver. Titled East of Aleppo: Bread, Bombs and Video Clips, it is a true story Nottingham cartoonist, Brick, stumbled upon regarding the R.A.F.’s rather hush-hush bombing campaign in Syria. In the autumn, look forward to What D’you Mean, There’s No Women in Comics!?, a potted history of women in the UK who work/ed in the comics medium. Written by Selina Lock, the driving force behind the seminal Girly Comic, this heavily illustrated study hints that Five Leaves Graphic will also be making a notable contribution to the culture of comics.
I admit it, I’ve been way too slack about keeping our blog up to date, mostly because at both these meetings I was too enthralled with our speakers to remember to take notes. You promise yourself you’ll set to while the memory is still fresh, but then some client notices one of your characters only has three fingers or the Photoshop file you saved with, you believed, 25 layers has somehow become flat as a pancake when you open it! Fear not for the future, though. NDC has finally found somebody enthusiastic and literate to take loving care of this side of our operations. Many thanks, Chaz.
It’s disrespectful to the generosity of the five speakers at these two meetings to gloss over their stimulating presentations this glibly but…
Carol Adlam talked us through a number of projects she’s recently been involved with that might broadly be called educational, including an up-date of The Wipers Times for our own Sherwood Foresters, a challenging commission for the Ministry of Women, and her current work as artist in residence at Djanogly Art Gallery. Working in this genre (what has recently been labelled ‘applied comics’) embroils her in that thorny problem of how to pack in the information while at the same time producing something accessible, engaging and exciting. It is a fine balance that stimulated much discussion among our audience. Nicola Streeten needed no introduction after the runaway success of her Billy, Me and You memoir of the traumas her family went through during and after the loss of their little boy, but it was her work as an academic, researcher and co-founder of Laydeez-Do-Comics that was her focus for the evening. The women’s decision to invade the testosterone-dripping sanctum of the Angoulême International Comics Festival and take it by storm are well chronicled elsewhere (not least in INK!, see below), but she imbued the telling with a spin that raised more than a few belly laughs. It also made this correspondent acutely aware that NDC needed to revisit our gender balance (now almost level pegging, but where are the ‘toonists from the ethnic minorities, I ask?).
The second meeting cranked up the humour as MoT civil servant and keen comics consumer, Chaz Wright, delivered a sort of ‘what I most like about comics’ tirade that made you wonder if, in the light of the lunacies of Brexit, comics were the only thing keeping him sane. The audience was keen to corner him on politics, but no, “I’m sorry, I can’t discuss politics,” which I guess has something to do with his signing some strip of official secrets paper. No such restrain was shown by Steff Humm, creator and caretaker of the new comics website and newsletter, INK! I can’t for the life of me remember what Steff talked about but a slide titled, ‘Can we isolate the books we read from their social context?’ has stuck in my mind, along with a terrifying image of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Either way, the discussion afterwards made me look at anxiously my watch in anticipation of leaving enough time for the great Matt Booker (D’Israeli to the uninitiated) to spread his wings and crash. In a highly amusing presentation (mostly thanks to his wonderful comic timing) he presented his catalogue of breakthrough commissions, almost every one of which was wrapped up with, “I wasn’t invited back.” But after all these crash landings Matt has risen time and again to find himself in his present position of being very much in demand and a mainstay of the British mainstream. His was a heartening, encouraging and tenacious presentation that included the wonderful observation that he still considers the indie world of self publishing and zines, where he started, as akin to the R&D Department of the comics world.
Our thanks and my deepest apologies to all our guests, but I leave you with some of Matt’s stunning artwork by way of compensation…