23rd Mar2015

Episode 122 – In Conversation with Nick Roche & Scott McCloud!

by Chris Thompson

With Nick Roche & Scott McCloud …
 
After last week’s chat with Descender‘s Dustin Nguyen, followed by Beast Wagon‘s Owen Johnson & John Pearson, this time I’m back with Nick Roche (Transformers, Monster Motors, New Warriors) to launch the Irish Invasion exhibition in the Orbital Gallery.
 
Nick & I discuss the burgeoning creative scene in Ireland right now, how he first started out in comics, the perils of being ‘typecast’ as a certain kind of creator, and where he sees himself going next.
 
Then, as an extra bonus, I present my Q&A with Scott McCloud from his signing of The Sculptor earlier this month. We delve into his approach, what the book means to him, and how it feels to be putting out new sequential work for the first time in many years.
 
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
 
Nick Roche’s Twitter: @Nick Roche
Nick Roche’s website: nickroche.blogspot.com
 
Scott McCloud’s Twitter: @scottmccloud
Scott McCloud’s website: scottmccloud.com
 
And you can listen to my previous Q&A with Scott McCloud at the Lakes Comic Art Festival right here:
popculturehound.net/episode-106-the-magic-of-comics-with-scott-mccloud
Copyright © Chris Thompson 2015

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30th Oct2014

Episode 106 – The Magic of Comics with Scott McCloud!

by Chris Thompson

With Scott McCloud & Dave Gibbons …
 
After last week’s discussion featuring the Wicked + Divine team of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie at D.I.C.E. (which you can still listen to here), this time I’m back with comics creator, advocate and theorist Scott McCloud (The Sculptor, Understanding Comics, Zot!) for a very special Q & A session at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
 
Scott and I share some interesting discussion with a packed house, then we have the privilege of introducing the new UK-based charity CLAw (Comics Literacy AWareness) to the world, as well as unveiling their first initiative. It’s an exciting time to be in comics in general, and it captures just a small portion of the magic that is the Lakes Festival.
 
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
 
Scott McCloud’s Twitter: @scottmccloud
Scott McCloud’s website: scottmccloud.com
 
CLAw’s Twitter: @comicsliteracy
CLAw’s website: claw.org.uk
 
Lakes International Comic Art Festival Twitter: @comicartfest
Lakes International Comic Art Festival website: www.comicartfestival.com

14th Nov2011

Event – Frederik Peeters & Paul Gravett in Conversation

by Chris Thompson

Around 40 people gathered last Friday night (November 11) to listen as Paul Gravett interviewed Swiss artist Frederik Peeters at Gosh! Comics in London. Peeters, who is best known in English for his autobiographical tale Blue Pills, appeared as part of this year’s Comica Festival to promote the release of Sandcastle from Self Made Hero (which I reviewed recently).
 
I was on-hand to take notes as the two comic heavyweights discussed Peeter’s career in comics, including his early days, other European works, and what’s coming up next. It was a fascinating evening, so I hope you’ll enjoy my brief rundown captured in bullet points below …
 

  • One of the first things Paul Gravett did was mention the inclusion of Blue Pills as one of his 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. In addition to plugging his new book, it also set the tone for how important Peeters is as an artist.
  • Like many people, Peeters started drawing when he was just a child. Unlike many of those people he never stopped.
  • He started doing short tales about his life, but he would quickly grow bored and, within a few pages, turn himself into a superhero or something.
  • A lot of his early work started in and around a shop in Switzerland much like Gosh! (only smaller). He found a lot of inspiration from Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Japanese manga.
  • Peeters originally studied Latin due to a strong passion for history, so he may eventually do an historical book one day.
  • He then moved on to a degree in Visual Communication which, he says, was useless. The students were mostly taught about marketing and computers, so he barely picked up a pencil during the entire course.
  • His professional career began around the age of 18 with his first contributions to Bile Noire, an anthology published by Atrabile.
  • The names Bile Noire and Atrabile both translate roughly as Black Bile. The idea comes from medieval medicine and the belief that illness comes from bodily fluids. Black bile resides in the spleen and is the source of melancholy.
  • Atrabile have published, and still do publish, a number of books – ranging from anthologies and smaller releases through to grander and more extravagant silkscreen books.
  • One of Peeters’ early paid gigs was for another publisher. He was to illustrate a story someone else had written about Swiss cowboys trying to hijack a train. It was a crazy idea and he said he needed a long shower afterwards to wash himself clean.
  • Blue Pills started as a personal experiment, and he’d already completed 35 pages before he showed it to anyone.
  • He showed it to his friend (who was also his publisher at Atrabile) to get some feedback and advice. His friend read it and said nothing. At first Peeters was worried, but he soon released the silence meant he was on to something good. His friend said that it must be published and that Atrabile wanted to do it.
  • Peeters started the experiment (aka writing Blue Pills) about one year into his relationship with Cati. That’s one reason why a lot of the story is told in flashbacks.
  • At that point he was only selling around 500 books, so Blue Pills was intended mostly for family and friends. If he’d known how big it was going to get it would have been paralysing and he may never have finished it.
  • Peeters is an avid reader, especially when it comes to sci-fi. He read a lot of Ray Bradbury, Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, and others growing up. One of his goals is to create his own brand of ‘Franco science-fiction’.
  • He was also influenced a lot by cinema before he discovered comics, particularly Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner). Star Wars and Star Trek were not big influences, though he does acknowledge their presence in his early years.
  • Comic influences came later on in the form of Moebius, Herge, Charles Schulz, and others. Later he discovered other European artists, including Jean-Claude Forest (Barbarella). He is still very fond of Tintin and feels it stands up even today.
  • His manga influences started with Otomo’s Akira, but he soon discovered Tezuka (Astro Boy), Masumoto (GoGo Monster), Urosawa (20th Century Boys), and more.
  • Most of the manga creators seem to work in studios with a team, which is something Peeters envies but doesn’t expect to achieve. Ideally he’d like to achieve a marriage between manga and classic European storytelling.
  • Lupus, his sci-fi epic, was published as four massive volumes by Atrabile in Europe. It took Peeters four years to complete and has yet to be translated into English. When it does he’d like to see it released in an omnibus edition.
  • Lupus is named after the disease of the immune system and came from a drunken evening with a friend trying to come up with the most ridiculous character names possible.
  • Peeters doesn’t like to know the whole story ahead of time – it becomes boring to him. He prefers to explore with the characters and make discoveries as he goes along. For example, he’ll write 10 pages, then be thinking about the next 10 while he’s drawing those ones. It’s a very organic way to work.
  • Some original art was being passed around the audience at Gosh! It was interesting to see that a lot of Peeters’ work is drawn in segments, almost like comic strips or frames, which are then stuck together to form complete pages.
  • Peeters first met Pierre Oscar Levy (his collaborator on Sandcastle) around 7 or 8 years ago when he called to enquire about the film rights to Blue Pills. The rights have subsequently reverted and someone else has it now, but it’s what originally brought them together.
  • He describes Levy as crazy-looking at times – a left-wing French Jew who was causing trouble on the streets from an early age. Levy was a teenager during the late ’60s, so he grew up during an exciting time of protest and unrest.
  • Levy actually stayed with Peeters for two days to film him and the family as research for a Blue Pills film. Peeters had been hesitant at first, but Levy assured him it was for his personal use as he came from a documentary background.
  • It was those two days (and the time leading up to them) which cemented their ongoing friendship. Since then Levy has introduced him to a number of new books, films and influences – including Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys.
  • About two or three years ago, Levy approached Peeters and said he’d written something especially for him. Peeters explained he only did his own stuff, but agreed to read it anyway. The story was Sandcastle and he was immediately hooked.
  • Sandcastle was written like a movie script or treatment, complete with set descriptions and dialogue. The original script had a complete ending to explain things, but Peeters found it disappointing. Not that it was a bad, but he felt it became less interesting when explained, so he simply left it out.
  • Talking about other work, Peeters explained that Pachyderm was his homage to the American comedies of the ’30s and ’40s. They are one of his secret passions, though he doesn’t have the same level of wit as Billy Wilder and others of the time.
  • Peeters likens Pachyderm to a three-legged chair – it’s not comfortable or easy to read, but it leaves a lasting impression on the reader (or so he hopes). It’s also quite a surreal book with lots of illusion involved, so in many ways he considers it an experiment just like Blue Pills.
  • The book is very atmospheric and takes place in Switzerland during the ’50s. It tells the story of a woman who is married to a diplomat and cannot have children. Something happens to the husband early in the book and she takes the opportunity to reclaim her freedom and independence.
  • His latest project, Aama is for the prestigious French publisher Gallimard. Unlike Lupus, which was completely improvised, Aama features a clear ending that is used as the starting point (similar to Wilder’s Sunset Boulevarde).
  • Peeters shared the idea for Aama with his editor on the way back from Angouleme a couple of years ago. The editor started falling asleep, which Peeters took as a bad thing, but the editor explained he was being lulled by the story – not unlike a children’s bedtime tale.
  • Gallimard don’t really do sci-fi, so Peeters had to invent a new genre when pitching it. Aama blends hyper-technology with true science-fiction, but is written in a classical style. It’s very literary with lots of text, and is nowhere near finished yet.
  • He feels it will sell well in the English market when it is eventually released because it features a monkey-robot called Churchill.

 
So, there you have it … A lot was covered during the hour or so that Paul Gravett and Frederik Peeters were in conversation, but hopefully this report gives you a small glimpse into what it was like. Thanks to Gosh! Comics, Self Made Hero, Comica Festival and, of course, Frederik Peeters for another top-notch event – it’s a great time to be a comics fan in London!

09th Nov2011

Review – Sandcastle by Frederik Peeters & Pierre Oscar Levy

by Chris Thompson


A group of strangers find themselves trapped on an isolated beach as things start going wrong. People are dying, children are aging rapidly and yet, despite it all, they can’t seem to leave. Can this motley group discover how to work together and escape the beach before it’s too late? That’s the basic premise behind this exciting new book from artist Frederik Peeters, writer Pierre Oscar Levy and publisher Self Made Hero.
 
Doug and the crew at Self Made Hero have done an incredible job of securing and translating some stunning European releases this year, and Sandcastle is no exception. Credit must be given to translator Nora Mahony who also translated David B’s Black Paths which I enjoyed so much earlier this year. With their current output, Self Made Hero are putting forward a strong argument for why more European volumes should be translated into English.
 
Art-wise, Peeters cleverly employs his style to contrast the tranquility of the setting with the growing uneasiness of those involved. It’s a delicate balance which puts you in the position of a voyeur – a helpless bystander observing silently as events unfold. I hadn’t planned on reading the book in one sitting, but for a brief period of time I was transported to the sands of that deadly beach and forced to watch the story play out.
 
Of course, the book couldn’t survive on art alone, and writer Pierre Oscar Levy does a wonderful job of creating characters you know. Not necessarily ones you like, but definitely ones you will know and recognise. The result is to reinforce the unsettling truth that you can’t always choose those you find yourself surrounded by. We go through life together and make do as best we can.
 
I won’t spoil the ending as the mystery is key to your enjoyment of the book. This is the kind of book I’d imagine Rod Serling writing in a Parisian cafe if he was looking to submit something at Angouleme. It’s no surprise to learn that Sandcastle was in fact nominated for the Grand Prix at the Angouleme International Comics Festival earlier this year.
 
As part of the excellent Comica Festival, Frederik Peeters will be signing copies of the book and taking part in a Q&A at Gosh! Comics London this Friday, November 11 from 6:30pm. Head down and pick up a copy of Sandcastle along with one of the free bookplates designed especially for the event. Maybe I’ll see you there …