21st Sep2015

Episode 148 – Return To Oz with Skottie Young!

by Chris Thompson

With Skottie Young …
Returning to the traditional model of Skype interviews, I pick up my conversation with writer/artist Skottie Young (Rocket Raccoon, Giant-Size Little Marvel: AVX) after our initial meeting at SDCC back in July. If you haven’t already heard that, then you can listen to it here.
We discuss how Skottie ended up working on the Oz books with Eric Shanower, what he thinks about all the Marvel variant covers, and take a brief glimpse at his new series I Hate Fairyland. There’s definitely more to be discussed, so look for a follow-up (and a related special) soon.
To get in touch, send feedback or submit projects for consideration, please email reviews@popculturehound.com. And if you missed last week’s episode (or any others) you can find them right here or subscribe via iTunes.
You can support Pop Culture Hound by clicking here to make a donation or pressing the DONATE button below. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, and will help us to maintain the site and get new equipment.

Chris Thompson’s Twitter: @popculturehound
Chris Thompson’s website: popculturehound.com
Orbital Comics’ Twitter: @orbitalcomics
Orbital Comics’ website: www.orbitalcomics.com
Skottie Young’s Twitter: @skottieyoung
Skottie Young’s website: skottieyoung.com
Copyright © Chris Thompson 2015

18th Sep2014

Episode 101 – Introducing Pop Culture Hound with Greg Ruth!

by Chris Thompson

With Greg Ruth …
How do you follow up the amazingly frank Episode 100 with Scott Snyder (which you can still listen to here)? I really don’t know … So instead, I’ve decided to do something completely different with Episode 101, and get my good friend Greg Ruth (Conan, The Lost Boy, Indeh) to interview me!
Taking the approach that 101 usually indicates an introductory unit, Greg and I chat about what comic/s meant the most to me growing up, how an Aussie like myself ended up at a comic shop in London, where the Pop Culture Hound name came from, and why old books just smell so damn good! It’s either going to lose me a lot of listeners or, somehow, help you all feel more connected … I’m hoping for the latter.
To get in touch, send feedback or submit projects for consideration, please email reviews@popculturehound.com. And if you missed last week’s episode (or any others) you can find them right here or subscribe via iTunes. You can also support the Pop Culture Hound podcast by clicking here to make a donation or pressing the DONATE button below. Your contributions are greatly appreciated and will help us maintain the site, get new equipment, and encourage us to keep going on those cold lonely nights.

Chris Thompson Twitter: @popculturehound
Orbital Comics’ website: www.orbitalcomics.com
Greg Ruth’s Twitter: @GregRuth
Greg Ruth’s website: www.gregthings.com
And if you missed my first chat with Greg about his work, you can listen to that right here:

27th Feb2013

Episode 29 – Symbiosis with Steven Sanders & Melksham Comic Con!

by Chris Thompson

With Steve Sanders & Hayley Spencer …
It’s a slightly shorter episode this week as we recover from the wonders of London Super Comic Convention. I take a moment to look back at how the weekend went and to plug some of our upcoming UK shows, including Melksham Comic Con and Thought Bubble.
Then I chat with writer/artist/world-builder Steven Sanders about his ambitious and revolutionary Kickstarter campaign for Symbiosis. We discuss the impact Our Love Is Real had on his career, what Symbiosis actually is, as well as some of the legal and business issues involved.
If that’s not enough to ‘kickstart’ your week, I also chat with Hayley Spencer, the organiser of Melksham Comic Con. We look at the origins of the show, what it takes to run a not-for-profit organisation, and how Kickstarter can be used to make events happen.
To get in touch, discuss sponsorship opportunities or submit projects for consideration, please email reviews@popculturehound.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: @popculturehound. And if you missed last week’s episode (or any others) you can find them right here or subscribe via iTunes. You can also support the Pop Culture Hound podcast by clicking on the DONATE button below. Your contributions will help us maintain the site, get new equipment, and encourage us to keep going on those cold lonely nights.

Steven Sanders Twitter: @stevensanders
Steven Sanders website: studiosputnik.com
And if you want to get in on the Kickstarter for Symbiosis, you can find that here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/570044257/symbiosis-a-creative-commons-art-book
Melksham Comic Con Twitter: @Melksham_Con
Melksham Comic Con website: www.melkshamcomiccon.co.uk
And if you want to get in on the Kickstarter for Melksham Comic Con, you can find that here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/komix/melksham-comic-con-2013

21st Nov2011

Event – Uli Oesterle & Mawil in Conversation

by Chris Thompson

While 99% of the comics community were in Leeds for Thought Bubble (and reminding us of that fact every five seconds), a small handful of us held the fort at the latest Comica Festival event at Gosh! Comics in London. This time around it was for a conversation with German artists Uli Oesterle and Mawil, who are both published by Blank Slate Books.

The discussion, which started just after 7pm, was preceded by a signing with the pair who really looked after everyone that made it down. Sadly I couldn’t get there beforehand, but the smaller numbers ensured some amazing sketches for those who did … I was quite jealous when I saw their handiwork later on.

The talk itself was interesting but, unlike the two previous discussions, lacked the deft hand of Paul Gravett when it came to moderation. As a result, it didn’t feel like there was as much to write about or to make sense of, but I’ve done my best to summarise what was said in the notes below:

  • Uli uses thumbnails to create rough layouts for his comic pages. Much of the work is done digitally using a Wacom tablet, then the finished page is composed and put together.
  • A lot of his work is done by inking the page digitally and ‘scratching the white out of it’. It’s very much about economy of time and maximising the amount of work that can be done in the time that he has.
  • Hector Umbra, his first book through Blank Slate, is a combination of fantasy, noir and surrealism. Book One was published in Germany back in 2003 and was part of a planned series of three. In 2007 Uli moved to Carlsen Comics who decided to release it all as one volume.
  • He worked on Hector Umbra for 8 years, but could only spend about 3 months a year on it. Uli lives in Munich and says it’s expensive, so he has to take on other illustration work to make ends meet.
  • Uli decided to adopt the ‘typical graphic novel format’ as used in Germany to tell his tales. The use of the term ‘graphic novel’ has taken off over the last 4-5 years and was first introduced to help publishers penetrate the lucrative bookstore market.
  • Uli didn’t read a lot of comics when he was growing up (outside of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), and between 10-20 he didn’t read them at all. Superman, Spider-Man and the other costumed heroes held no interest for him.
  • In his early 20s he started drawing comics because he wanted to tell some specific tales. He didn’t have any particular influences since he hadn’t been reading comics prior to this.
  • Much like Frederik Peeters, a lot of his storytelling influences comes from cinema, particularly the work of David Lynch. He loves ‘spooky stories’.
  • He appreciates the work of Mike Mignola, but wouldn’t credit him as a direct influence on his work in the way cinema is.
  • Uli feels it’s important to guide the reader along, so he often uses one ‘colour family’ in his work and will change it to reflect a change of scene.
  • For Uli, colours can communicate time of day, mood, atmosphere, etc. Colouring and drawing are simply functions in service to the story itself.
  • Lighting is also really important to create mood. It’s all about emotions and helping the reader to experience these emotions.
  • He takes a lot of photos to understand how things look – doors, windows, exteriors, etc. – but admits it’s much easier to just Google them when he’s feeling lazy.
  • When asked why he chooses to work in comics, Uli says ‘it’s inside him’. Since his early 20s it’s been important to him and he just has to get his stories out. Despite being the most time-consuming, he still feels it’s the best medium for him.
  • Storytelling is very important to Uli. He wants to hook the reader and not leave them feeling confused. With that in mind he can never separate the story from the art – they’re both equally important and need to work together. The same goes for colouring which plays a big part in his work.


  • Mawil (which sounds a little like ‘Marvel’ spoken with a German accent) was born in 1976 and grew up in East Berlin before the Wall came down. He was 13 when it finally did, so he has a clear view of what it was like before and after.
  • Growing up he read a lot of comics. These days his idols are mostly French, though he doesn’t know why. Like many people he cites Tintin as a major influence early on.
  • He often wonders if there would have been more comic artists from East Germany if it had been encouraged or they had been exposed to it early on.
  • He admits that the country would’ve been too small for him if things didn’t change, but they did and he still lives in Berlin today.
  • Mawil didn’t really know what he wanted to be, but he definitely wanted to do something with drawing (preferably comic books). Unlike Uli, he’s able to spend most of his time working on comics because he lives quite simply and doesn’t have a family to support.
  • Most of Mawil’s work in Home & Away (his most recent book for Blank Slate) comes from fanzines he worked on in Germany. He’s happy to work in colour or black & white based on necessity and the resources available to him.
  • He doesn’t consider himself a colour specialist, but has embraced it as certain fanzines have gone to colour.
  • In the graffiti story featured in Home & Away, Mawil originally used some cheap markers to colour the tale. He doesn’t always know why he makes the choices he does, but feels it’s good not to think too much about these things.
  • Mawil does a page a month for a German newspaper and always tries to keep it different so it’s not boring for him or the readers.
  • He often uses the character Sparky O’Hare (in addition to his own character) to comment on his stories and showcase different methods/styles of storytelling.
  • He’s comfortable working in Photoshop, but much prefers working by hand.
  • Earlier this year Mawil went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) and was surprised at the universal appeal of his work. He wonders if the East German experience is more Westernised than he thought.
  • He often takes a sketchbook with him when he goes out, but usually just writes things. He calls himself a ‘lazy guy’ and prefers to draw things the easy way rather than making them more detailed or difficult.
  • Mawil feels that some books use too many words, which makes them less effective. Sometimes it just takes the right expression or mannerism to communicate something.
  • Both artists made mention of Bastien Vivès and expressed their admiration for his use of ‘silence’. Uli feels that ‘even in silent panels there is text … subtext’. Silent books can be amazing if done right, but it is a very niche market.
  • At this point, Blank Slate translator Iz Rip spoke up to answer some questions about Mawil’s work. They really loved his stuff and were surprised that no one had approached him earlier about an English translation. They now have him and Uli, but feel there is still a lot of untapped talent in Germany.
  • Blank Slate picked We Can Still Be Friends as the first Mawil release because they liked it the most and it was the most popular in Germany at that time.
  • Iz says that translating can be quite difficult when it comes to the use of slang, tense, etc. but both Mawil and Uli’s books are very faithful to the originals. She finds German quite easy to translate thanks to similarities with English.

Sadly I didn’t get any photos this time around, but it was great to have this fascinating and  insightful look behind the scenes with two great German artists. Despite being poles apart in both style and content, Uli Oesterle and Mawil made a wonderful double-act. Thanks once again to Comica Festival, Gosh! Comics and Blank Slate Books for a great night out … Take that, Thought Bubblers!

09th Nov2011

Event – Comic Gosh!p Book Club (Batman: Year One)

by Chris Thompson

Although I missed the inaugural get-together of Thinking Comics‘ new comic book club last month, I was more than ready for the second one tonight (November 9). This time around the focus was on Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One, as well as Josceline Fenton’s excellent webcomic, Hemlock. Josceline herself was on hand to share insights into her work, though I can’t say the same for that slacker Miller.
I arrived about 5 minutes late and things were already well under way. In total I counted just over 30 people, so there were a number of us standing (or leaning) on the periphery. Not bad for the second meeting of a group discussing comics. There were also tea-making facilities and some yummy Bat-cake for afterwards, thanks to the fine people at Gosh! Comics London.

A lot of interesting points were raised by those in attendance, and there was a definite freedom to speak up if you felt inclined or just listen quietly if you preferred. I’m used to going to events at Orbital Comics here in London, but at Gosh! I felt a little out of my element. Fortunately that didn’t last long and I was starting to ease in by the end. I’ve collated some of the thoughts and findings in bullet point below for those who couldn’t make it and are interested …


BATMAN: YEAR ONE by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli with Richmond Lewis (DC Comics)

  • Mazzucchelli’s work on Year One was compared to Alex Toth, Milt Caniff and various European styles.
  • John Miers suggested that (at least in Frank’s mind) the Batman saga is book-ended by Year One and Dark Knight Returns since they both appear to take place in the same universe.
  • The fast pacing of the book helps you to fly through it, and that could only be achieved in a comic book. The comic form also allows for two distinct narratives – Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne – with a possible third in the form of Selina Kyle.
  • I mentioned that Mazzucchelli was most likely chosen for the storytelling he brought to the book. Batman and Bruce Wayne were always more or less prominent depending on who was providing the narrative. For example, in the closing moments of the book when Gordon loses his glasses, everything is seen in brief flashes and shadows without any great detail. This is something Miller probably couldn’t have achieved himself.
  • There were some obvious comparisons to Taxi Driver, especially when Bruce heads into the night incognito and ends up tangling with the hookers and their pimp. Perhaps Frank was channeling a little Travis Bickle?
  • If Year One is the beginning and Dark Knight Returns is the end, then did someone at DC consider All-Star Batman & Robin to be the middle arc? That’s what Steve at Gosh! suggests.
  • It was noted that the colours had been re-done for the trade paperback, and the efforts had been quite worthwhile. Unlike George Lucas and Star Wars, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to go back and fix things.
  • There was also a great discussion about whether Batman is actually a super-hero … Is it powers, the costume or the heroic acts that make a hero super? The concensus, I believe, was that actions mattered most, so by that count Batman is a super-hero. I’m sure there’s still some who disagree though.

HEMLOCK by Josceline Fenton (hemlock.smackjeeves.com)

  • Josceline started doing comics when she was about 10 based on a How To Draw Manga book her father bought. She’s trying to move away from the direct manga influence, but it’s still what she’s known for.
  • The idea for Hemlock first came up in 2006, then resurfaced again in 2008 with Starvation Soup.  It finally came back as its own series (with changes) because Josceline loved drawing The Witch (Lumi).
  • The Snail House (Richmond) became a much bigger part of the story due to public response. She hates drawing him because he’s so big, but it’s what she constantly gets asked for.
  • The inclusion of the tale of Baba Yaga comes from her Scandinavian heritage and stories she used to hear as a child rather than any ifluence from Mike Mignola or Hellboy. Josceline’s Swedish ancestry seems to inform quite a lot of her work.
  • One person noted the unique use of sound effects, and how each one felt different and special. Josceline said this was probably because her typography had been criticised by teachers at school, so maybe she tried extra hard.
  • It used to take her about two hours to complete a page, but now it takes about a day. It’s most likely due to her being a perfectionist and feeling the pressure as her audience increases.
  • The Snail’s language doesn’t really mean anything, but there are some particular symbols that do. He has a symbol for most of the main characters and one for saying hello … apparently it sounds like clicking if you say it right.
  • Josceline has a large collection of art books and takes a lot of inspiration from fashion art and historical design. I sense a call from Project Runway imminently …
  • Hemlock is planned as a series of six volumes overall. She is currently working on Volume 4 online and Volumes 1, 2 & 3 are now available in print (www.lulu.com/spotlight/mildtarantula).
  • Her original art is done on A4 (slightly larger than the finished product) then scanned in before gray-tones and captions are added. It’s actually intended for print and not for the screen, but the webcomic seems to be working.
  • Although she tries to stay a couple of updates ahead, Josceline hasn’t been doing well at that of late. The original pages she showed us were actually from the next update due later this week!


So, there you have it … If you were curious about Batman; Year One or Hemlock then you have some food for thought. And if you were curious about Comic Gosh!p then you now have some idea about the length, breadth and depth of our coverage. Next month’s meeting, to be held on December 14, will cover Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, as well as John Miers’ Babel (www.johnmiers.com), so why not come along?

One last thing I’ll leave you with is this great interview I found with Josceline Fenton earlier this evening. It clarifies and expands upon some of what was discussed tonight, as well as raising some new topics. Enjoy!