Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An Infinite Universe: an Interview with Madéleine Flores

With a passport almost full to bursting, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the internationally-raised Madéleine Flores resides in Florida, but her debut graphic novel, The Girl and the Gorilla is published out of London. A charming all-ages book about reading, writing, self-belief, and—well—hanging out with a gorilla, it was published by Blank Slate in Autumn 2010 and currently sees her in contention for an award at this year’s Stumptown comics fest.

Not content to simply win our favour by drawing a special dedication in our personal copy of the book, Madéleine provided not one, but two very special illustrations for this mini-interview. A drawing machine—and one of the nicest folks we’ve had the pleasure of talking to—we were excited to hear how the story arose from boredom at work (like all the best ideas), her desire to write something she would have liked to read in middle school, and what her five favourite books of all time are.

To begin with we wanted to ask you a little bit about your background, both personal and creative. We know you’ve studied in at least three different countries and speak several languages, for example. Who’s more well-travelled, you or Carmen Sandiego?

Heehee, Well, to start off at the very beginning, I breathed my first breath of life in Texas -Yeehaw~! But quickly shuffled on over to Germany, where I spent most of my life, then a quick stop in Georgia, then scooted down to Florida and went up north to Minnesota for a bit and decided that I liked the Florida weather more!

I think moving around might have actually helped push me in the direction of becoming an artist, because always changing schools and addresses made it difficult to make new friends, but the one consistent thing anywhere I went was pen and paper.

I think Carmen Sandiego has the leg up on the traveling - but I'm catching up! My passport is almost full now!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Strange Kind of Courage: an Interview with Peggy Adam


Without a doubt, the absolute highlight of our time running Avoid the Future has been getting the opportunity to translate Peggy Adam's graphic novel Luchadoras for Blank Slate Books. Originally published in French by Swiss publisher Atrabile in 2006, it's a powerful story set against the backdrop of the Cuidad Juarez female-victim homicidesUsing fiction to expose real-life atrocities, Adam places the reader directly in the middle of the oppressive setting of Juarez, examining the atmosphere of misogyny, exploitation, and corruption that gave birth to these horrific crimes.

As the book packs its bags and prepares to go off to print this week, we thought it was the perfect time to officially invite Peggy for a chat about the Luchadoras and her work in general. Passionate, and eager to show her support to those affected by these issues, she tells us about what inspired her to create the book, how it relates to her other work, and the symbolism present within the story.

First released by Atrabile in 2006, Luchadoras has now been published in several countries and languages. Did you imagine that it would be greeted so enthusiastically by publishers outside of the French comic sphere?

When I was writing the story, I was hoping it would be published in Mexico. That still isn’t the case, but with the book having been published in Spanish, I haven’t given up hope of seeing it there one day... at least so the women of Juarez know that somebody is talking about their situation outside of Mexico, and that we’re supporting their fight. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

New videos from Noah Van Sciver & Elio

First it killed the radio star, and now it's coming for our beloved indie Cartoonists! Recently launching YouTube spots for their latest comics are the right honourable creators Noah Van Sciver and Chris "Elio" Eliopoulos.

Van Sciver's Blammo #7 is currently available for purchase over at his blog now. As you would expect from the guy Martin labelled as his man to watch in 2011, this latest issue is worth every penny, and features some of Van Sciver's best work yet (the stories Who are you Jesus and Buried Alive come highly recommended).

Although we haven't read Elio's Monster Party! yet, the video alone sends our substantia nigras and ventral tegmental areas into a dopamine-producing frenzy. That, coupled with the fact that it's being put out by the unstoppable quality-publishing behemoth that is Koyama Press makes it essential reading. It's yet to be released, but you should all go add Eliopoulos' blog to your RSS feeder of choice in order to swoop down on it like the comic-loving hawks you are as soon as it becomes available. 

What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Autobiography at the Heart of Everything: an Interview with Luke Pearson

Taken from Hildafolk, published by the acclaimed NoBrow Press as part of their 17x23 series

As you’d expect from one of the leading lights of Britain's new wave of young creators, the quality of Luke Pearson's work seems to develop just as rapidly as the scene itself. In a critical climate where work is often polarised into the two extremes of art and entertainment, Pearson’s latest comic, the spell-binding contemporary fairytale Hildafolk, feels just as at home in publisher NoBrow Press' visually intelligent catalogue as it does between good old fashioned yarns like Bone and The Adventures of Tintin in my bookcase.

We thought given the comic's spellbinding setting, it would be easy for us to stay on topic in the following interview. Oh, how wrong we were. The combination of our foam-mouthed enthusiasm for his work and his considered, insightful answers gave way to a conversation that refused to be contained. Moving back and forth between subjects such as his development as a creator, his perspective on comics as an auteur medium, his relationship with children's books, and the status of the British comic scene and beyond, it was a real pleasure, and one we've been looking forward to sharing with you. 

Why comics?

It's probably a similar story to most people. I was above average at drawing as a kid, I liked comics and so obviously I started drawing my own. It was a way of entertaining people and at school it was kind of a way of showing off and attention-seeking, which was an important vent for a shy kid like me. I liked being funny and gross and seeing the reactions people had and I still get that same buzz now, though I'm probably not as gross or as funny any more.

I always wanted to be either a comic artist, an illustrator or an animator just because these were jobs where you got to draw fun things. I'm not sure I knew what the boundaries between those were or if I was even aware that there were any, it was all just drawing to me. Which in some ways is how I still feel about it, in that I don't just look at and think about comics when I'm making comics, I feed my knowledge of what makes good illustration and animation into what I'm doing. But in a way I arrived specifically at comics by necessity.

As a kid I thought of comics as something I could do until I figured out how to make a cartoon. But it dawns on you that it takes a ton of people to make a cartoon and only one person gets to decide what really happens in it. Since I was never going to be confident or assertive enough to be that person and I was more interested in telling my own stories than in the act of animating itself, I realised that wasn't going to satisfy my ego.

Obviously in the last few years I've become more wrapped up in and fascinated by the vast, storytelling potential of the medium and all that stuff. I'm not doing them begrudgingly because I can't make a cartoon. But ultimately comics suit me because it's the medium in which I can have the most control over the most things with the littlest input from anyone else.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Guest Review: Rondal Scott III on Expansion Part One by Malachi Ward & Mat Sheean

In what marks Avoid the Future’s first ever guest post, we gave Rondal Scott III—the creator of the awesome Strange Kids Club blog—free reign to review the comic of his choice. Known worldwide as the man who puts the "goo" in "good taste", he didn't disappoint.

“Billions of years ago the universe was a smaller, denser place, teeming with intelligent life.”

Thus begins Part One of Expansion, a “three part epic science fiction comic” co-created by artists Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward, which sets out to explore just how vast the recesses of the universe can be through the eyes of two, estranged travelers. As collaborators, Sheean and Ward’s work seems to complement one another seamlessly with no single panel wasted or left unattended. Those familiar with either artist’s previous work will likely appreciate this subtly even more so as neither individual’s style takes precedence over the other.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

An Interview with T.J. Kirsch (Part Two)

A potential cover for a potential collection. We're going to personally bug him until it becomes a reality.

When I told T.J. Kirsch that we were going to focus this second (and final) part of our interview on his education, the Oni Press-affiliated artist suggested that I should make ironic quote marks around the word. Far too humble, he has the unique experience of transferring from the Savannah College of Art and Design to the comics-specific Kubert School, and it seemed like too good a chance to pick his brains about the rarely-explored subject.

In addition to quizzing him about his University years, we force him to make like a stool pigeon and give up the goods on the latest She Died in Terrebonne print editions, as well as reveal the origins of his recurring Slim Johnson character. 'Education', ha!

Click here for part one.

As an artist, what do you think are the keys to creating a good detective story?

I'd say find a good writer! What you need is a solid story, and relatable, distinctive characters. Of course as an artist, I'd say the artwork end of it is pretty important too. Take a look at what guys like Chester Gould did: very distinctive characters, great storytelling, and gritty art that's at least grounded in reality. I draw inspiration from him as well as Jordi Bernet and his Torpedo work, but there's so many great examples of great detective comics. Of course you can't leave out all of the great Batman artists and guys like Will Eisner.

Monday, 7 March 2011

An Interview with T.J. Kirsch (Part One)

A sneek-peek of Kirsch's art in the upcoming third volume of Oni's Amy Devlin Mysteries, written by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir

T.J. Kirsch is a blood-thirsty mercenary of an artist. Born with blood in his eyes and a pencil gripped tightly in his hand, he’s a firm believer in the benefit of working in collaboration with a wide variety of writers. Although he’s best-known for his work with Oni Press (Uncle Slam Fights Back!, Jam!), T.J.’s spent the  past five or six years honing his craft with a diverse list of cohorts, including Agreeable Comics’ Kevin Church and So... Buttons' Jonathan Baylis.

Fresh off of completing online detective story She Died in Terrebonne with Church, Kirsch has swiftly found himself drawing another sleuth, this time for Oni Press via their Amy Devlin Mystery series. In the first part of this two-part interview, we caught up with T.J. to discuss his latest work, his thoughts on working with writers, his latest comic for Top Shelf 2.0, and his dream projects.

You’re currently working on the third installment of the Amy Devlin Mysteries series, Lost & Found, with writers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir . How did you get involved with the team behind the book?

I’m working with Nunzio and Christina, along with Editor Jill Beaton. All three have been great to work with - very receptive and complimentary to the work I've done so far.

Well, I'd been bothering Oni quite a bit trying to find another project after I did Uncle Slam Fights Back!, and I ended up doing some shorter pieces for them last year. First I illustrated a story for the Jam! anthology, and then a backup for the Resurrection series. After doing those, I tried out for another project that went to another artist, but they needed someone for this Amy Devlin book—it's exactly the stuff I like to draw. I had drawn another detective [Sam Kimimura, of She Died in Terrebonne] for a while, so they saw I could do something in that same vein. I read the first book and loved it, which had some great art by Christopher Mitten. The second one hadn't come out yet, but it has since, and it's just as good. It's a great series, and the books are also really nice-looking hardcovers, thanks to the design and production work of Eric Skillman and Oni's Keith Wood.