Tag Archives: Interviews

Interview – J W Murray

This time we have an interview with Edinburgh comic writer J W Murray. He currently has a Kickstarter running for a new collection called Short, Dark & Peculiar.

Cover artwork by Jon Aye

What got you into comics in the first place?  Is there a specific book that made you want to make your own?

I got into comics kinda late – I see a lot of creators who were into comics as kids, but I really only got into them in my mid-20s – Auckland library in New Zealand played a pretty major part in that. I read the entirety of The Invisibles, written by Grant Morrison. Can’t say I understood half of what was going on, but I loved that comics could be so mind-bending. It really set the world of comics apart from any other medium I’d ever experienced.

The thing that really prompted me to think of making comics was actually the act of writing a novel. My writing style is succinct – it has its flourishes, but mostly what I’m doing is writing scenarios in the present tense so that it feels like the action is right in front of the reader. I get annoyed with too much unnecessary detail or navel-gazing – as a reader, I mostly just want to “see” what’s happening. So while I was writing this book, it occurred to me that if I was doing my job well, what I’d essentially be doing is conjuring up a comic. The logical next step was to add pictures to my writing.

You dip into a number of different genres in Short, Dark & Peculiar.  Do you have a favourite to work in?

I really love a good conceptual, creepy horror story. If I could have written M. R. James’ Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad I’d consider my contribution to literature totally fulfilled.

I also like a bit of sci-fi because I’m happiest when I have carte blanche to make up places and events without the burden of getting it right historically. For The Blue Men of The Minch, which I worked on with Zhou Fang, that was based on the “real” mythology of a specific place. I got a little obsessive about making sure the ship model was plausible and putting it in a time context when there really were kelp traders going to the Outer Hebrides. It’s much easier when you can just say “it’s the future” and skip the research.

Artwork from Hugh Madden, J W Murray, Steven Ingram,
Jon Aye, Bob Turner, Zhou Fang & Morgan Russell

Are there any genres you feel are more suited to comics than others?

Not really. I think as long as you change your style to adapt to the story, you can do anything with comics. I mean, Tamara Drewe has shedloads of prose – you wouldn’t want to draw it in the same way you’d draw a Hulk comic, but it still makes perfect sense that it’s a comic. I’ve seen philosophy and physics tackled with comics – there really doesn’t seem to be a limit to what you can do with them!

You’ve written a prose novel before.  How do you find the experience of writing a comic vs prose?

A lot of my comics start out as a conversation – I’ll have an idea of what’s going to happen, then I just build up dialogue between characters. Once I’ve got the rough shape of that, I’ll split it up into pages and panels, adding in more detail and action along the way. There’s a really pleasing process to it and a puzzle element when you’re figuring out how to distribute the scenes and where to put the page turn. When I’m writing prose, I guess I just start writing – it’s far less structured! I managed to write myself into all kinds of corners while I was writing my book, Izvalta – the challenge was to find my way out of those corners so that the plot and motivations all made sense. In the end, I was really happy with some of the solutions I came up with – but it was seriously hard work!

Artwork from Morgan Russell

How did you go about choosing the artists to work with?

I basically approached anyone whose work I liked and who I knew I’d enjoy working with. If you’re a local artist, be warned, I’ll probably try to work with you at some point!

Artwork from Zhou Fang

Were any of the stories in Short, Dark & Peculiar written with a specific artist in mind?

Yes yes! The Blue Men of The Minch with Zhou Fang was written for him – he wanted something folklore-y. Walk into the Sea was specifically for Morgan Russell – because she has a fascination with the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep – there’s a page in there which is full of exotic undersea weirdness. Volcano was written specifically for Bob Turner, and that wasn’t typical at all – in that Bob makes wordless comics, which is interesting territory for a writer. Essentially I just came up with a detailed scenario – he picked it up and ran with it and it looks awesome.

Artwork from Bob Turner

As well as working with artists, you’ve illustrated some of the comics in the collection yourself.  Is this something you would like to do more of?

I have mixed feelings about illustrating. I’ve definitely said in the past that if I had a choice I’d only ever do the writing – and that’s not just down to laziness – I think there’s a magic to collaboration that I miss out on when I’m illustrating my own stuff. For the front cover for SDP, I suggested a bunch of ideas to Jon Aye and he came back with an incredible array of riffs on those ideas – the final result is definitely not an idea that I pitched to him – it’s far far better! It’s been that way for all of the collaborations – all the artists have come up with amazing ideas and approaches I’d never have dreamed of.

All that said, I’m really looking forward to my next big illustration project – it’s going to be totally grotesque, which should make it lots of fun to draw!

Artwork by J W Murray

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us J W!

You can, and should, check out the Kickstarter for Short, Dark & Peculiar right here!

Interview – Hari Conner

Today we’re taking a look at the work of Edinburgh artist Hari Conner.  Their webcomic Nyx in the Overworld is currently in the midst of a kickstarter to fund a print run of the comic.  You can check out the kickstarter here.

How did you get into comics in the first place? Was there a particular comic that made you feel you wanted to use this as your art from?

I actually didn’t read a lot of comics, and wanted to be an author when I was a kid. Sometimes I found it hard to describe body language or action in the way I wanted, and way easier to draw it! At school I was always drawing comics in class, and did complete stories that were hundreds of pages long (but obviously not very good, as I was about 13).

What inspired Nyx in the Overworld?

I’m interested in how similar narratives and monsters pop up in myths and fairytales all across the world, as well as stories that mess with story tropes.

Clearly you enjoy video games. How did you go about adapting a game like story into a comic?

I think it was more about adding old school video game elements to the story!

The Kickstarter is already funded which is awesome! You have some artists lined up to do art for some stretch goals. Can we give them a shout out?

Yes! They’re all really cool and varied artists who produce really incredible work –
You can find the comic Peter Violini does art for at The Sisters,  Faye Simms does the art for The Foldings, and Felix Miall has his drawings up on his Instagram, where there’s a link to his shop with his book of illustrated fantasy short stories.

Nyx started off as a webcomic. Have you had any problems adapting it from a webcomic to a book?

Personally I really love reading printed books of comics, and ideally want to print every comic I do, even if it starts off online. So, I kind of made sure I had good static versions of each page as I went, for if I managed to get it printed.

What do you listen to while you are drawing?

I normally swap between podcasts, audiobooks and music – drawing is pretty much what I do full time, so I try and switch it up. I often listen to audiobooks I probably won’t get around to reading like classics or big non-fiction books, and the adventure zone is my favourite podcast/thing at the moment, that everyone should listen to if they aren’t already.

Can you give us some links to some great webcomics you’d recommend?

There are so many webcomics that are absolutely amazing!! I’m gonna tell you a few and definitely forget a lot that I really like… pretty much everyone I follow on twitter is an artist that draws an amazing webcomic tbh.

I already linked to The Sisters above, it’s an urban fantasy comic with a lot of geeky jokes and horrible demons and occult stuff, it’s awesome and quite different from a lot of other stuff I’ve seen around.

I’m doing some guest art for Inhibit and Shaderunners soon, which I’m REALLY excited about because they’re both comics I love and have been reading for ages. Inhibit and Kingdom of Awakening are both by Edinburgh artists and Extremely Good.

Also Yellow Hearts and Witchy which are also queer fantasy comics… I think I have a tendency to go THIS IS AMAZING and then realise it’s a

pretty similar genre to the kind of work I want to do oneday. But they are amazing, though. AMAZING.

Also this: Verse
and this: The House on the Cliff
and these: Undine Adventurer

Drugs and Wires

Honestly this was a terrible question to have asked me there are so many good webcomics that I love a lot??

Thanks Hari!

You can find more of Hari’s work here and be sure to check the kickstarter here.

Creator Interview: Stref’

Stref’, aka Stephen White is an edinburgh based  illustrator and comic artist.  His first graphic novel ‘MILK+‘ was published in 2011 with his second book ‘Raising Amy‘ following hot on its heels at the end of the year.  To continue our investigations into the workings of local creators, we sent over some questions for Stref’ to answer…
For up to date info and an interesting insight into his artistic process please check out Stref’s blog.

What are you working on?

I have just finished drawing my latest graphic novel, ” X ” and have just had my first cartoon humour book published, ” RAISING AMY”.

Your graphic novel ‘MILK+’ used a variety of styles and settings, how important is it to your creative process that you be able to use a wide range of approaches?

I like to approach each project with a style that I feel best suits it.  I work on a wide variety of scripts and they demand very different visuals to work properly as individual projects.  Changing styles also constantly challenges me, but I realise that I have no distinguishable look to the body of my work…which could either be seen as a good or a bad thing!

You write, draw, ink, colour and letter your work- is this through necessity or do you like it that way?

It’s a bit of both…I couldn’t afford to pay someone to colour or letter for me…also I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to that stuff!

Is there any difficult stigma you have to put up with trying to make thoughtful comics in the science fiction genre?

I don’t think about that stuff…ideas come to me and I scribble them down regardless of whether people want to look at them or not…like cleaning the cobwebs out of your brain.  I switch styles as much as I switch genres-always trying to be thoughtful and funny-though not always succeeding!

What was the last comic you read and what did you think of it?

The last comic I read was CLiNT,which I enjoyed very much.

Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes?

Calvin and Hobbes.

Creator Interview: Magda Boreysza

© Magda Boreysza
© Magda Boreysza

Magda Boreysza is a comic artist, animator and illustrator.  She divides her time between Edinburgh, Sweden and New Orleans.  Magda’s comic series ‘Toastycats’ is soon to reach its sixth issue, for more info check out Magda’s blog and website.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m putting together the 6th issue of Toastycats, which will have more pages and more colour than previous ones. I’m also developing ideas for graphic novels. I’m generating a lot of ideas in general, and trying to organize myself so as to actually get those projects done.

Some people feel that the word ‘comics’ comes with some unfortunate stigma they would rather be without and prefer terms such as ‘sequential art’ or narrative ‘illustration’- where do you stand on that debate?

I’m often hesitant to use the word ‘comic’ when I describe what I do to people who have little contact with the form. But I’m equally uncomfortable with ‘sequential art’ or ‘narrative illustration’. Those are incredibly dry terms and make comics sound like a total drag. So I do say comics. It’s short and it has a good ring to it. We need to use the word until it looses its association with comedy and funny papers.

Do you have a specific grand plan in mind for Toastycats or do you just work on it as and when it seems appropriate?

It’s certainly something that I plan to continue for a long time, and I would like to publish it more consistently than I do now. I think that it improves with each issue. When I first started, there was no plan at all. I didn’t think that there would be more than one issue. Then I made another one, and another… with each, I’m getting a better idea of what I want to do. There’s been a lot of experimentation, and some things worked while some didn’t. I think that I painted myself into a corner, somewhat, with The Seed, because it just keeps expanding and I feel like I need to continue it in each issue, when I would actually much prefer to have all the issues be self-contained. So, I’m contemplating whether I should remove The Seed and just publish it separately as a graphic novel.

I also try to improve the print quality. I think that I’ve hit a point at which it makes more sense to have Toastycats printed lithographically, which has given the whole endeavour a real boost. At some point I might start experimenting with the form a little more. We’ll see.

What was the last comic you read and what did you think of it?

I recently read ‘Laika’ by Nick Abadzis. It’s such a well crafted story, and very moving. I was floored.

Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes? Discuss

Both. They are both great.

Creator Interview: Malcy Duff

Excerpt from 'The Weather and The Weather Forecast' (c) Malcy Duff

Malcy Duff is a comix creator, artist and musician currently working from edinburgh.  We recently sent a few questions his way via email to catch up on what he is up to- enjoy!

If you want to find out more about Malcy’s past and future work please check out his blog.  His new comix ‘The Weather and The Weather Forecast’, ‘Faded Book Spine’, and ‘Writing Postcards in the Visitor Centre’ can all be obtained by emailing the contact details on his website

What are you working on at the moment?

I have this rule where by I don’t tell anyone the project I’m working on because if I do it will never get finished, so….

In the past you have exhibited your work in a gallery setting as well as through publications- where, if anywhere do you see your non-printed work developing in the future?

I’ve had an idea but again I better not say.

What degree of similarity is there between the way you create your music and your comics?
I think a massive degree.  I’ve often thought one way people could read my comix is as if they are music.  My favourite artists who work in a number of mediums, you can tell it’s them when you look at their art, whatever the medium.  Maybe they made a painting.  Then a bike wheel.  Then a remote control.  Then a cake.  And you know by looking at each piece of work that it’s them.  It’s hard to understand what it is about the work, but it’s definitely them.  These are intuitive emissions and shouldn’t be overanalyzed.  I think when you do overanalyze these things you can start to create parodies. I hope if you listen to my music you can hear, if you wish, the connections yourself.  The process is probably similar in the way that I form ideas and develop or improvise on top of them.  The major difference is that mostly I will work collaboratively on music and that changes things slightly.  Control is easier to lose when you work with someone else, and that’s a guid thing to lose.

What do you feel the differences are between comics and comix?
If you dig under the last letter of comix you will find some treasure.

Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes? Discuss

If you’re asking me to choose one I would choose Peanuts.  I have a nostalgia for Calvin and Hobbes but only because my brother read it when we were growing up and Calvin really reminds me of him.  I never really liked it very much.  I like pictures of snow so it coaxed me in sometimes, but the snow seemed to be the only thing I could relate to.  I’m looking at the light from this computer screen light up my hands and I can see all the wrinkles, crosses, pimples, lines going through my nails, jim henson rocks, wisps… clearly, all over my hands as they age.  There are 60s compilations of Peanuts with these really clunky Ben-Day dots for shading which they themselves become characters and abstract forms in the strips.  They make it look like the book has acne.  That’s why I choose Peanuts.