Wednesday, 13 June 2012

ATF @ ELCAF: 600 Second Talks

Hello Future Avoiders.

Martin here, writing this on a break from stuffing countless amazing Nick Edwards illustrations into a Keynote presentation because–in case you haven't heard–Avoid the Future is coming out of hiatus to host 600 SECOND TALKS at the debut edition of ELCAF this weekend.

For the two or so of you who haven't heard about the festival yet, our friends at Nobrow are throwing the greatest comics party to ever hit Shoreditch: the East London Comic & Arts Festival on the 17th of June (2012, naturally). Go check out the exhibitors list now, here, and the events programme here.

Following on from Paul Gravett's conversation with Blexbolex (in which they discuss the latter's mind-bending tome No Man's Land–which Judith and I recently translated for Nobrow), I'll be on from 4:30PM hosting 600 second interviews with Nobrow, Blank Slate and SelfMadeHero creators:

(in reverse alphabetical order)

with a special half-time presentation by animator Nicolai Troshinsky!

Sounds like it's going to be fun, huh? Come on down to the festival this sunday at The Village Underground, where Judith and I will be hanging out all day before the talk–me primarily with Laurie J. Proud over on the Blank Slate table, who will be signing copies of his monolithic Peepholes collection.

See you there!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

One Question Interview #26: Ben Newman

Picture of The Bento Bestiary nabbed from our friends at Nobrow

As even the most casual ATF reader knows, the way to my heart is through a momentous amount of kaiju references. With that it mind, it shouldn't be hard to figure out why Ben Newman - illustrator behind Nobrow's fantastic yokai-inspired compendium The Bento Bestiary - has forced us out of our hiatus with this volume-length and video-packed answer to our long-standing question about his favourite monsters. This one's got it all, folks: Mattel, Ultraman, late 80s anime, more Ultraman, and the mighty Garamon; so sit back, relax, and enjoy what just might be my favourite One Question Interview yet:

Q: Our favourite monsters in The Bento Bestiary are Taimatsu Maru, Nue and Wanyudo. Whom are your favourite monsters?

I was thinking about this question as I was falling asleep last night and as I desperately tried to enter Slumberland I started to think back to what my earliest experiences with monsters were in my childhood. I was born in January 1982 which was the year Return of the Jedi came out into cinemas and although I was mere weeks old when it was released, I believe this was a point in time where movie and television merchandise was starting to hit an all time peak. When I think of all the difficulty my parents would have at Christmas trying desperately to buy the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Thunder-tank or Optimus Prime or whatever the relentlessly new cartoon phenomenon was governing the brains of children everywhere, I feel awful that I would cause them so much stress and money year after year. Especially now, as an adult, when I understand that excess money is not easy to come by and, with the gift of hindsight, can look back and see how my parents struggled to make ends meet while trying to please their children. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that, as a child, I loved toys especially Monster toys and this is the basis of my fascination with them as a grown up. So to answer the question (rather than write a dull mini autobiography about presents I have received at Christmas over the past 30 years), I have decided to compile a top ten of favourite monsters (in no particular order) that I feel have influenced me a great deal growing up and within my work.

10. Hordak (from The Evil Horde featured in the He-man and She-re cartoons)
Crazy evil Mohawk skull with a up-turned collar? Check. Bat encrusted battle chest plate in BLACK? Double check. Deemed to be far more bad ass than Skeletor (was skeletor much of a bad ass? His high-pitch-maiden-like-screeching voice makes me think otherwise), Hordak really knew how to turn heads in his little furry black pants and knee-high, steel toed boots. For me though, the very graphical, symmetrical look of his face pulls the right optical nerves and has done since I was a wee nipper, just watch the grainy video below to believe me.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Latitude 2011: We're hosting a UK Graphic Novel Panel!

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be at Latitude Festival on the 17th July, hosting a graphic novel panel featuring the venerable William Goldsmith, Darryl Cunningham, and Julian Hanshaw. Who the hell do these plucky comics people think they are? Rock stars?

From the Latitude website:
Three of the UK’s most heralded graphic novelists discuss and read from their recent works from Jonathan Cape and Blank Slate Books. William Goldsmith presents Vignettes of Ystov, an engrossing story cycle set within a fictional “vaguely Eastern European” city. Darryl Cunningham talks about the real-life experiences that inspired Psychiatric Tales, his collection of stigma-busting accounts set within an acute psychiatric ward. Winner of the Cape/Observer Comica Graphic Short Story Prize, Julian Hanshaw gives insight into the Vietnam-inspired The Art of Pho, which has been described as “part travelogue, part dream, part cookbook”. Chaired by Martin Steenton, of comic arts blog Avoid the Future. 

It's going to be loads of fun, and although I'm sworn to secrecy at the moment, I can promise that there are going to be plenty of surprises, a wealth of never before seen material, and maybe even an announcement or two made. Tickets are available here. See you there!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Review: Root Rot, Edited by Michael DeForge & Anne Koyama

Koyama Press | Edited by Michael Deforge & Anne Koyama | Softcover, 72pp, Colour | ISBN 978-0-9784810-9-4 | $12.00

I'll begin with an admission that I probably shouldn't state publicly: I’ve grown to really dread reviewing anthologies. This doesn't mean that I hate the medium—nothing could be further from the truth—it's just that my patience (read: failings as a writer) means that it's often difficult for me to find something meaningful to say about them outside of listing a bunch of isolated observations about different strips.

With Root Rot, none of that hesitancy exists. You only have to look at the editorial duo behind the book to know you’re in good hands. In the red corner: the widely-heralded, eye-gougingly brilliant, two-time Doug Wright award winner Michael DeForge. In the blue corner: you have the one-woman indie publishing powerhouse, “Kickass” Annie Koyama. Instead of grappling each other in the middle of the squared circle, they combine their might to create an anthology-making tag team of epic proportions.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

One Question Interview #26: Mark Andrew Smith

The Skull Bros in... action (?); from Gladstone's School for World Conquerors Issue 1.

Part Teen Titans, part Harry PotterGladstone's School for World Conquerors makes it's debut in comic shops this week, published buy Image. Written by Mark Andrew Smith, (best known as the writer behind The Amazing Joy Buzzards and co-creator of the impressively varied Popgun anthology) and illustrated by Armand Villavert (with colours by Carlos Carrasco), it follows the misadventures of the students of the titular academy--a school for the children of the Earth's greatest super-villains--as they uncover its secrets and the alarming truth behind the superhero community.

With a day to spare before release, Mark kindly accepted our offer to answer a question on the new title.

Q: How did the concept and design of Gladstone's School for World Conquerors come together?

For Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors the concept all started with the title.  It was an appealing name and something mysterious.  I really wanted to wander the halls of this school and discover what it was all about.  From there I brainstormed around 20 characters and from those about 6 really stood out.   The characters that jumped off the page at me were Kid Nefarious, Mummy Girl, Ghost Girl, Martian Jones, and the Skull Brothers.  After the art came in for the characters from Armand I had them firmly locked into my mind and the writing just flowed with that creative ammunition.  
The character design for Gladstone’s was instant once we selected our main characters.  Armand did sort of a “usual suspects” police lineup of them and it stuck.  He nailed them perfectly the first time and there were no comments, notes, or suggestions for revisions from me to him.  I think that really speaks volumes about Armand’s talent. 

A line-up of the Gladstones students (click to enlarge). Mummy Girl's our fave.

Bonus Q: In your opinion, what is it about the superhero concept that has caused it to be so enduring?

I think it’s just kind of a fantasy to be a character that can do all of these incredible things.  The mind is the limit of what can be done.  I think for me the characters are also very compelling.  Gladstone’s we’re doing our best to build an entire universe of heroes and villains and it’s been a fun road creating the world of Gladstone’s.

A huge thank you to Mark for answering his question. Clearly a sucker for punishment, he's casually agreed to return later in the year for a full-length interview, where nobody will  be able to accuse us of cheating for asking more than one question. We're looking forward to it. 

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sunday Comic: Noah Van Sciver

© Noah Van Sciver, 2011

Not content with being one of our absolute favourite creators to emerge within the last few years, Noah Van Sciver submits himself straight into our hearts with this special guest comic. With convention season upon us, it's only right that we be reminded of their worst, most despicable qualities, right? Right.

Noah's latest comic, Blammo #7 is available to purchase now via his blog, and worth every goddamn penny, if you ask us. With content moving seamlessly between laugh-inspiring comedy and genuinely touching examinations of the human condition, Blammo is more than just a return to the classic single-author alternative comic floppy format. Rather, it serves as a reminder of how much potential that format has to chronicleand showcasethe trajectory of important creative talent. You should buy all seven issues, and then join us in the sweaty-palmed agony that is waiting for his graphic biography of the young Abraham Lincoln, The Hypo, to be released. We can't wait.

Huge thanks go to Noah for making our weekend with this submission. If any creators out there are interested in pitching a future Sunday strip to us, please get in touch via the usual address. Shazam!

Friday, 29 April 2011

One Question Interview #25: Simon Gärdenfors

Photo: Gusten

Much like eating a fun-size Snickers on a diet, today's One Question Interview may a little tiny bit of a cheat. Ever since Swedish cartoonist/ musician/ TV personality Simon Gärdenfors' gave us a glimpse of his extensive candy packaging collection during our interview promoting The 120 Days of Simon  last year, we've been filled with confectionery curiosity. Recently launching a Kickstarter project for a cartoon starring a popcorn judoka, and currently working on an graphic memoir which takes its visual cues from classic candy wrappers, it's clear that to understand Gärdenfors, you must  understand the inside of his cupboards.

Unfortunately, when we came to him to ask for his list top ten wrappers, boxes, and sachets, he told us that Swedish website Preview 11 had already beaten us to it. Fortunately, those forward-thinking question-nappers are allowing us to post the list in English here. Hoorah!

What are your ten favourite examples of candy packaging?

#1: Double Dip 
- Sherbet (UK)

The charmingly hateful characters make my heart melt. The silliness of the packaging combined with the colours make it magic. It has new packaging now, and it’s not attractive at all—the characters are drawn in a way that is just not pleasant.