Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Metaphrog Recommends 12 Graphic Novels for Young Readers

In our capacity as Patrons of Reading, we recently had the pleasure of returning to Northfield Academy for a follow up visit, doing an in-depth workshop with S1 pupils and also introductory comic workshops with P7s.

We promised to compile a list of recommended graphic novels for the school, and indeed, any library interested in extending their graphic novel section (or in starting one) is welcome to use it too.


Pupils of Northfield Academy busy reading their class set of Louis - Red Letter Day

Metaphrog recommends 12 Graphic Novels for Young Readers:

1. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
3. The Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing  
4. Adolf by Osamu Tezuka
5. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
6. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Michel Plessix
7. Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru
8. Bone by Jeff Smith
9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton and Ian Culbard
10. Silverfin by Charlie Higson and Kev Walker
11. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
12. The Phoenix Comic magazine by various

We compiled this list with 10-14 year olds in mind, but these titles are suitable for older readers too. 
 
Pupils of Northfield Academy
reading Louis - Night Salad
 
John in a chess duel in between sessions
at Northfield Academy

Monday, 17 February 2014

Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy

Last year we were made Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy in Aberdeen and, as the first ever graphic novelists to fill such a role, we were honoured and delighted. We'll be working closely with the school for the next three years to encourage reading and creativity.

 
Our first author visits in this new capacity took place at the end of January and were great fun. We had the opportunity to work with the whole of the school's first year, in class-sized groups, as well as meet with the teachers for an informal lunch where we talked about our hopes and about the patronage.

Northfield Academy have adopted us and we have adopted the school.

Everyone made us feel extremely wel
come and it was exciting to see so much interest and receive so much support from the school. The head teacher, librarians and teaching staff in general were all really enthusiastic and engaged.


To start our patronage, we sent the school a class set of Louis - Red Letter Day graphic novels and some signed posters, along with an activity sheet for the classroom.

We're looking forward to returning for a follow up session with S1 pupils and for sessions with Primary pupils too!

A huge thank you to Mandy Wilson for choosing us as patrons, to Mr Watt and the art department, and to head teacher Neil Hendry.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Skint! Returns


In 2011 we worked on the graphic novel Skint! with playwright Gowan Calder. The book was commissioned and published by the Scottish Book Trust and distributed free in Scotland. It was such a big success that Standard Life Charitable Trust and the Scottish Book Trust commissioned a second Skint!, this time for England. Skint! for England was released in January 2014 and is available in print (45000 copies) and online.

We were commissioned once more, along with Gowan Calder, to rework the book to suit the different demographics in England. A few characters were changed throughout the book, and Sandra took the opportunity of reworking the colouring too while she was changing the drawings and Gowan updated and refreshed the script.
 
Cover for the new version of Skint!

Skint! is a free graphic novel resource to help people develop good money skills and prevent them from sinking into debt, launched in England by Scottish Book Trust and Standard Life Charitable Trust.

Skint! is a thought-provoking graphic novel that harnesses the power of stories based on real life experiences to bring money management to life. It is targeted at the adult learning sector in England to help tutors support 16-26 year olds, with a particular focus on young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
 
Page from the new version of Skint!

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

Skint! uses the power of language and drama to engage young people in financial decision-making, enabling them to develop some of the fundamental skills and understanding they need to help them keep track of their finances, to plan ahead and think through the impact of financial decisions. The aim is to help young adults, in particular reluctant readers, to develop their literacy, numeracy and financial capability, in the hope that this will help them on the way to a future unburdened by money worries.

Page from the new version of Skint!




 


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Fall - The Remainderer Review


The Remainderer arrived today. A new six track EP from The Fall. Originally slated for release on the 11th of November and weighted with a sense of expectation after receiving radio airplay. It would be unkind to make comparisons with Slates – after all it has been 32 years and fans of the group tend to hold that particular disc in very high regard. Neither an LP nor a single it was excluded: the release missed all kinds of charts but touched all kinds of hearts. This listener was not even 16 and in the years before everyone had electronic gadgets John Peel was an evening’s entertainment.

The Fall’s previous 10” release was the marvellous Masquerade back in 1998 and this vinyl was also accompanied by two cd singles which more or less made up a mini LP. The Remainderer can also be enjoyed in different formats.
The title track lopes, with an amazing double drummer sound reminiscent of Hex Enduction Hour-era tunes, and throbs over squirting squelching and droning electronics. The vocals are very much instruments here. The voice growling and gargling, hissing sibilants and rasping the Rs, on the cd the backing vocals are multi-tracked versions of the main vocal refrains and we learn “it was a good day… whatever that is”, while on the promo cd and the 10” vinyl, there are various backing singers “manipulating to leaving” or “manipulate into leaving”. Or indeed both! Both versions of the song are stunning, simple ideas welded together by a group having fun and sounding relaxed, assured and about to fall apart in an exciting way.

Exciting is the word that sums this EP up. It’s invigorating.
Second track Amorator! is so speed driven it’s jaggy juju guitars and drums almost trip over themselves before blissing out with vocals oscillating from whispers to growls. There’s something swaggering and punky about The Fall on this release, like the New York Dolls on Jet Boy blended with dirty heavy metal and a healthy dose of rockabilly.

Mr Rode rumbles in like a slower-paced strangely filtered Motorhead before chiming, swaying guitars and vocals kick off and repeat in layers to lift the song in a melodic euphoria that builds and builds wrapping ghostly vocal mutterings before taking off to a powerful climax. A Fall classic.
Another instant classic cements the centre of this six track EP. Remembrance R opens with warbling and gargling then plays melodic vocal against a massive bass line, recalling Joy Division but also Perverted by Language and spinning a whole new musical web of its own across uncharted territory.

Although we are treated to a race through two Gene Vincent covers, Mark E Smith is channelling an amphetamine-fuelled Elvis and sampling his own group’s live archive. Race With the Devil appeared on the Backdrop bootleg – performed at John Peel’s 50th birthday party many moons ago.
The final track Touchy Pad is a modern psychedelic classic, perfect pop in under two and a half minutes with ever-so-slightly off key singing, declaiming and backwards guitar offsetting the clear leading melodies.

As always with the lyrics, worlds are suggested, new literatures are revealed, and repeated listenings alter and add to these glimpses. Sounds and ideas combine with the music in intelligent, innovative and interesting ways. These aren’t just songs these are little works of art.

The Fall sit well with The Velvet Underground and with Captain Beefheart as important cultural examples of music and art and as a group are a vital creative force.

Re-mit took The Fall into the top 40, back into the charts. The Remainderer should be X-mas number one. Where some of Re-mit’s tracks could be seen as anti-music, this astonishingly lively EP is an antidote to the anodyne, sterile world of auto-tuned blandness and unhappy twerking that passes in some places for culture.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Winter's Tales

We've written and illustrated a couple of graphic shorts: The Glass Case and The Little Match Girl, from the Hans Christian Andersen tale, which we've compiled into a 20 page comic called Winter's Tales.

The A5 booklet is a limited edition of 200, signed and numbered, and you can buy it throughout December only.

BUY NOW

Here's the cover:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog - cover

And, here's a page extract from The Little Match Girl:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog
The Little Match Girl extract
And here's a page extract from The Glass Case:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog
The Glass Case extract

Price: £3.50 + P&P

UK P&P: £1.50
P&P elsewhere: £3.50

Thank you!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Patrons of Reading Announcement and Graphic Novel Workshop Tour

We are delighted to have been named Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy. It's the first time that graphic novelists have been selected for such a role, and we're really pleased that Northfield Academy chose us.
 
Over the next three years, we'll be encouraging pupils to read more graphic novels, which in turn, we feel, will encourage them to read more in general. We'll be starting our patronage with a series of workshops in January 2014.
 
Here's an article from The Evening Express announcing the news.
 
Evening Express article 28/11/2013

The partnership even received a mention in the Scottish Parliament!
 

Scottish Parliament mention of our partnership with
Northfield Academy as Patrons of Reading

Neil Hendry, head teacher of Northfield Academy said: “We are delighted that the talented duo from Metaphrog has agreed to work with the school in this special reading initiative.  By working in partnership with Metaphrog over the next three years we hope pupils will be inspired and encouraged to read and be creative through the style and illustrations of graphic novels.”


School Librarian Mandy Wilson added: “Metaphrog’s first visit to the school will be in January [2014] and pupils and staff can’t wait to start working with them in what will be a very exciting project.” 
 
Many thanks to Mandy for thinking of us for this exciting role! The brilliant children's authors who are already Patrons of Reading in Scotland are Barry Hutchison, Linda Strachan, Cathy MacPhail, Nicola Morgan, Victoria Campbell and Lynne Rickards. Delighted to be joining such great company.

In other news, we have just returned from a two week event tour. Firstly, we were in the Netherlands, at the Eindhoven International School, where we delivered a series of workshops and also an in-depth lecture on Persepolis. The school has one of the best libraries we have ever seen - including a fabulous graphic novel section - and International Human Rights Declaration #19 imprinted on its wall.

The library at the Eindhoven International School

Secondly we were busy for Book Week Scotland 2013. Now in its second year Book Week Scotland has hundreds of fantastic events all over Scotland, and we delivered nine graphic novel workshops in schools and libraries in Glasgow, Wester Hailes, MacDuff, Dyce and Dundee in the space of six days.

 
Metaphrog workshop session in Aberdeenshire

We always love travelling and had a fantastic time - and returned inspired and ready to write and draw new stories!
 


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel Behind the Scenes

In this blog we'll talk a little bit about the creation of the Time To Shine: Graphic Novel, which we produced for Creative Scotland. We were approached by Creative Scotland well over a year ago, and were asked to place a bid, for the work of creating a graphic novel which would support Scotland's new arts strategy for ages 0-25.
 
Cover spread for Time To Shine: Graphic Novel

The idea was to produce an entertaining and accessible story which would appeal to a wide range of ages and backgrounds, a story to inspire young people to get involved in the arts and a story that supported and underlined the key themes of the strategy itself.

First we read hundreds of pages of documentation, research carried out by Creative Scotland with young people and adults, and the strategy document as it continued to evolve. We digested and condensed all this material into a story.


Time To Shine: Graphic Novel research material
 
John wrote a script - we discussed and developed the story together while walking around the park while John was writing the script. From this, Sandra created pages of layout. The layouts had to be approved before we could get started on the actual finished artwork. We also attended focus group meetings with young people at Young Scot, where we discussed the story and received feedback, particularly on the dialogue. We were pleased and encouraged that the young people liked what we'd written and drawn.


Time To Shine: Graphic Novel script and layout

Sandra also drew some thumbnails at various stages to work out how best to tell the story. We had a limited amount of pages to fit everything into, and also a very limited amount of time to complete the final artwork - 64 pages in under 4 months from planning to finished pages!

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel thumbnails
 
Here are a couple of page extracts from the graphic novel.
 

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel page extract
Time To Shine: Graphic Novel page extract
 
We also had fun with the design of the book and tried to incorporate and represent as many different artforms as possible. These are peppered throughout the story, but also in the actual design of the book. See if you recognise the artists and artforms we referred to in the following spreads.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel inside spread
Time To Shine: Graphic Novel inside spread

Friday, 8 November 2013

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel

We're delighted to be able to share the news of our commission to produce a graphic novel, by Creative Scotland. This morning saw the launch of Time To Shine: Scotland's first youth arts strategy.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel is a part of the strategy along with an animation produced by The Gates Film and The World of Arthur Cox. You can view this animation, along with more information about the strategy on: creativescotland.com/time-to-shine

Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop stated she hoped the strategy would "enrich young people's lives through the arts and creativity."


We were originally commissioned over a year ago to produce a work of graphic fiction which would inspire young people and encourage involvement in the arts. The story had to encompass the key themes of the strategy.

The challenge was to create something which would appeal to children of all ages, and we also wanted the story to stand on its own as a good read -  something entertaining! Our task was made easier by the fact that the subject - the arts - is something we have felt passionately about all our lives. We drew inspiration from the many graphic novel workshops and talks we do in schools, and were also advised by young people from Young Scot and Creative Scotland.

Page extract from Time To Shine: Graphic Novel

It is a story of transformation, in which the arts empower people. We also raised questions such as what is art? and, can you make a living from the arts?

Sam is 14 and he likes all the usual things any teenage boy does… football, music, girls… and avoiding Declan and his gang! He likes to ‘parp’ a bit on his trumpet but it’s his sister who’s the talented one. Jen is 17 and plays guitar in an all-girl band. When their school organises a talent show, Jen’s band are favourites but a last minute hitch means the keyboard player can’t play, so how will the day be saved!?

This original story forms part of Scotland’s arts strategy for ages 0-25 and captures the spirit and energy of young people and looks at the world of arts through their eyes. The arts have the ability to inspire individuals and have a positive impact on communities. Time To Shine: Graphic Novel looks at what barriers may stop engagement in the arts and its positive benefits by exploring three key themes: Let me in!, Help me shine!, Take me there! If you would like to find out more visit: www.creativescotland.com


Page extract from Time To Shine: Graphic Novel

Here is the online version of Time To Shine: Graphic Novel.



We are honoured to have been a small part of this exciting strategy, and will be posting more soon, with extracts and a bit more behind the scenes information.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Stripped at Edinburgh International Book Festival

We had an amazing week travelling regularly to Edinburgh for Stripped, the comic strand of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, attending the mini comic fair and also contributing to the blog with reviews and interviews. Highlights included interviewing Chris Ware and Joe Sacco.

 
We’ve met Joe on half a dozen occasions over the years but had only seen Chris once before in Angoul√™me. It was brilliant to have a chat with them both before the interviews and also to hear them in conversation later that evening with The Herald’s Teddy Jamieson.
Teddy had asked us earlier in the summer to submit our top ten graphic novels: choices that would be counted towards a list of the 50 top graphic novels, as voted by a panel of experts. Here’s the clipping, and the online version: http://www.heraldscotland.com/books-poetry/interviews/the-50-greatest-graphic-novels-of-all-time.21864132.


The mini comic fair running over the last weekend of the festival was highly enjoyable and it is encouraging to see so many cartoonists and comic creators displaying quality work. Perhaps even more encouraging was the diversity of visitors. Even though the fair was located off-site: many of the book festival organisers paid a visit as did more than a few non-comic fans.
The concentration of events over the two days meant Charlotte Square was literally swarming with comic creators and comics professionals.

Picture from the Down The Tubes
photo review of the mini comic fair:
http://downthetubes.net/?p=11759
Events were well attended and conspicuously attracted people from among the culturally curious at the festival.
We also wrote a piece for The List on the Stripped weekend events and on the rise of graphic novels, and Bryan and Mary Talbot, and David Fickling were generous with their time, providing us with some quotes.
Our article for The List
The quotes were edited to fit the article’s word count, so here are the short interviews in full with illustrations by Sandra:
Drawing of Mary Talbot by Sandra
Metaphrog: You both won the Costa Biography Award this year. What are your thoughts on it (aside from “It’s great!”) and what it means for comics?

Mary Talbot: For me personally, it’s amazing that my first foray into graphic novel writing should be so well received. But for the medium as a whole the award is another accolade, which is brilliant - further recognition of comics as a valid art form. I guess it's because graphic novels have proliferated over the past ten years or so. There’s an enormous range of high-quality material available these days, in practically every genre and style you could think of. Like Bryan’s Tale of One Bad Rat, both Costa-shortlisted graphic novels don’t just engage existing readers of comics. They have styles that make them readily accessible to a general reader and subject matter that gives them wide appeal.

Drawing of Bryan Talbot by Sandra
Metaphrog: Bryan, you have been in the business for many years. What do think of the current interest in graphic novels?

Bryan Talbot: I don't think it's current, I think it's here to stay. As opposed to other times in the form's history when there have been brief bursts of interest by the general book-reading public, we now have enough quality books in a wide enough gamut of styles and genres to sustain this interest.

Metaphrog: You’ve spoken at EIBF several times already, and EIBF have had a few comics events each year. What do think Stripped means for comics?
Bryan Talbot: It's yet another example of how graphic novels are becoming increasingly accepted as a valid art form and a timely celebration of the comics medium.

Drawing of David Fickling by Sandra
David Fickling took time to tell us about The Phoenix and how it has been received:

The Phoenix has been brilliantly received. Not just by children, but also parents, teachers, librarians as well as authors and artists from all over the place. I have always believed passionately that children love comics and brilliant comic stories and I can only see the market for children's comics going from strength to strength. We need more comics, ones for younger readers and ones for older too. We need more publishers to produce brilliant graphic novels and comic books for the young. Children want and love comics so it's up to us to give them the best ones we can. In other countries these markets are huge. Why not here too? We lost our comics, let's bring them back!
I hope the future holds more comics for everyone. For adults and children but especially children. And I also think comics are perfectly suited to the rush of tablets and devices that we're all becoming fluent with. Those hi def retina screens were made to portray wonderful artwork and to inspire a new generation of creators. I think this is an exciting time for comics in general and I hope in the years to come The Phoenix will be but one of many brilliant publications delighting people of all ages up and down the country!

Stephen Collins drawing by Sandra
One of our contributions to the blog was a short piece on our creative process: http://strippedbookfest.co.uk/post/57056197954/metaphrog-on-making-the-louis-graphic-novels

We very much enjoyed interviewing Stephen Collins (The Gigantic Beard That was Evil) and Garen Ewing (The Rainbow Orchid), and also reviewing several festival events.

Stephen Collins's interview can be found here: http://strippedbookfest.co.uk/post/55265100346/an-interview-with-stephen-Collins

Garen Ewing's interview here: http://strippedbookfest.co.uk/post/56509102907/an-interview-with-garen-ewing

For more on-going reviews, please visit the Stripped blog here: http://strippedbookfest.co.uk/

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Canongate's Future 40

We're delighted to announce that we have been included on Canongate's Future 40 list of storytellers.

Canongate's 40th birthday list celebrates the best of contemporary Scottish storytellers – with 40 multi-disciplinary creatives they're banking on defining the next four decades.


Delighted to be included and to be in such good company. The list also includes: Tom Gauld, Will Morris, William Goldsmith and Team Girl Comics, for graphic novels, Kirsty Logan for Short Stories/Journalism, Ryan Van Winkle for poetry, RM Hubbert, James Graham (The Twilight Sad) for music and many more.

Announced in The Skinny today, you can see the full list here: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/books/features/305874-canongates_future_40

To see how the entrants were selected go here: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/books/features/305779-the_future_storytelling_canongates_40

And Canongate will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a party on Sept 19th: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/7665881859/efblike

"To celebrate our 40th anniversary Canongate brings together some of the best storytellers we know.  Authors Michel Faber, Matt Haig, Alasdair Gray and Michael Smith will be joined by poet and ex Arab Strap musician Aidan Moffat and R M Hubbert, Rick Redbeard from The Phantom Band and very special guests. Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentleman, Psychoville, Ghost Stories), will take us over to the dark side with his twisted tales and classical pianist James Rhodes, whose debut album, Razor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos reached No 1 in the iTunes classical chart, will give an exclusive performance.  The event will also showcase original films featuring Tilda Swinton, Miranda July and the late Gil Scott Heron, plus live art and bibliotherapy by Ella Bertoud, author of The Novel Cure.  Hosted by South Bank Associate Artist and official poet for the London Olympics Lemn Sissay, we hope you can join us for what promises to be a highly memorable and enjoyable evening and be part of Canongate's journey to the other side."

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Advice for Aspiring Comic Creators and Graphic Novelists


We are often asked how to pursue a career in graphic novels or comics, so we thought we'd write this blog post.

So, what advice can we offer to aspiring comic creators and graphic novelists?

1. There isn't one path to follow. As with many artistic or creative careers, each individual will have his or her own path, that they will have to create along the way.

2. As yet there is no school in Britain that is solely dedicated to learning the trade of graphic novelist or cartoonist, although now there are a few in the US (such as The Center for Cartoon Studies, and SAW) and several in France. Some universities have courses on graphic novels, such as the University of Dundee's MLitt/PGDip Comics Studies. An option could be to go to an art school on an illustration degree. We just learnt as we went along.

3. Being a graphic novelist is brilliant as you get to do what you love, but beware: it's tough! It requires long hours of work, and most likely you will be working freelance and have no job or monthly salary security.That's if you're lucky to get work. Very few creators actually make a living. We do make a living from making comics, but we didn't at first, for quite a few years, and we certainly don't take it for granted.

4. Be dedicated to perfecting your writing and drawing skills.

5. Read and learn as much as you can about the medium. Read comics, graphic novels and books.

6. Here are four books you should read on how to make comics:

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Drawing words and Writing pictures by Matt Madden and Jessica Abel

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative by Will Eisner

7. Go to conventions, look at what is out there and how it's made, meet other creators, show your work.

8. We've written a couple of blog posts with a few tips on making comics, the first one focusing on writing, the second one on page layout.

When we deliver comic and graphic novel workshops in schools, libraries and at literary festivals we are always very happy to see the young people and adults being creative and producing exciting work. Sometimes we even receive finished comics in the post and are often impressed by the high standard. Last week we had the pleasure of seeing the winning comic in Alloa Academy's graphic novel competition by the 5th year pupil Euan Grieve.

Winner of the Alloa Academy
graphic novel competition

Friday, 28 June 2013

Stripped at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Stripped is here! A celebration of comics and graphic novels at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Over the years the festival has featured a number of graphic novel events, with guests including Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Bryan Talbot. We had the honour of participating in the festival a few times, doing sold-out comic workshops for children, and were also in conversation with Shaun Tan (you can read our guest blog about it for The Guardian here). This year the festival organisers were in touch with us and other industry insiders as advisers. We're looking forward to events and are delighted to be contributing to the Stripped blog - look out for our exciting interviews and reviews! We’ll also be exhibiting at the mini comic fair, along with other Scottish independent comic creators, on August 24th and 25th.


The festival is dedicating a whole weekend to graphic novels with some 40 events. We're particularly excited to see Chris Ware and Joe Sacco! Bryan and Mary Talbot return after their ground-breaking success winning one of the Costa Awards. Other exciting events include: Posy Simmonds; Hannah Berry in conversation with Neil Gaiman; Warren Pleece; Grant Morrison and Stephen Collins. Family events include workshops and talks with The Pheonix, Gary Northfield and Garen Ewing among many others. These are just a few highlights. You can view the full programme on the Stripped website.

The Stripped brochure itself looks amazing and captures the very feel of graphic novels: fresh, exciting and modern. It also includes a fantastic write-up by Paul Gravett about the medium: Why we love comics and graphic novels. Paul will be doing several events as an industry expert and enthusiast of over 30 years. Do not miss them if you get a chance!
Last Thursday we had the pleasure of attending the festival programme launch, and, as ever, the speeches were really passionate about literature. The festival has a reputation for being at the forefront of innovation, and the Stripped strand, as well as the graphic novel events of previous years, are testament to this. We took these pictures after the launch: behind the scenes with Janet Smyth and Nick Barley on a promotional shoot. EIBF is 30 this year!

 
Since our beginnings in the mid-nineties, we have seen graphic novels go from a niche interest to gradually getting mainstream acceptance. This is thanks to the dedication of many artists, writers, publishers, distributors, festival organisers, comic shop owners, the comic press, academics and comic lovers. We ourselves have always endeavoured to take comics out of any perceived ghetto, and our Louis graphic novels have indeed attracted a following and media interest outside of the comic industry as well as within. Most recently Louis – Night Salad was Highly Commended for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards.
 
Of course, the buzz about graphic novels has come and gone over the years. The eighties had the big three (Art Spiegleman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and "comics grow up" headlines, but this was followed by a real slump in the nineties, when comics were seen as somewhat less fashionable. However, since then, graphic novels have gradually been building up a new wave of interest, and there are now tonnes of exciting books out there proving that graphic novels are a medium not to be ignored. Chris Ware winning The Guardian First Book Award, Bryan and Mary Talbot winning a Costa Award, and now this Stripped event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, are the result of what has been slowly brewing up for years.

We hope that the festival will continue to support comics for years to come.


 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

5 Tips on Getting Started Creating a Graphic Novel - Part Two

In our last blog post, we gave 5 tips on getting started creating a graphic novel or comic, focusing on writing. In this post we'll give 5 tips on page layout, or thumbnails.

Making several drafts of page layout, or thumbnails, is often necessary in order to tell a story in the best way possible. With layout, the possibilities are endless, and this is where you can really take advantage of the dynamics of sequential art, playing with and balancing out words and pictures, space and composition, and pacing, to full effect.


A typical thumbnail page or layout page for our Louis graphic novels.

1. Choose a layout style which suits your type of story. If you story is action packed, a dynamic layout such as that used in manga for example, with lots of angled panels or panels spreading over to the bleed, may be most suitable. Or if your story is more realistic, like a slice of life for instance, you may want to choose a more simple, straightforward layout. For our Louis graphic novels, we use a 9 panel square grid rhythm as a basis. This echoes the square format of the books, and reinforces the picture book feel which we wanted to create. This rhythm also suits Louis' monotonous life.

9 panel grid rhythm: a page extract from
Louis - Red Letter Day by Metaphrog (new edition).

2. Change the pacing to suit the different types of scenes. Pacing refers to the rhythm of the panels and the flow of reading. You can have a basic rhythm (for example, as in the 9 panel grid of the Louis books) and play around with it, depending on what is taking place. On the Louis page below, we slowed the action down by using a big panel at the start, and then speeded it up with small panels.

Varying the panel size: a page extract from
Louis - Red Letter Day by Metaphrog (new edition).

3. The whole page is a panel. See the page spread as a whole. As each panel needs to be structured and composed, so does a whole page, and so does a page spread. A page and a page spread need to be pleasing to the eye and also tell the story at a glance. For example, a Louis page often contains the most important information, or the key panel, right in the middle of the page. On the page below, Louis' pet bird FC is very ill: a close up of FC lying unconscious is placed right in the middle of the page.

Extract from Louis - Night Salad.
 
 
In the page spread below, the layout echoes the content of the panels: long horizontal panels to suggest the vastness of the desert, set opposite and in contrast to long vertical panels to highlight the dangers on the cliff.
 
Double page spread from Louis - Night Salad.

4. Use empty space. It's in the gutters (the gaps) between the panels that the imagination of the reader goes wild. You can achieve great effect using blank space. It can put emphasis on an image, for instance. Or it can even help reinforce ideas or what the character is feeling. In the page below, we placed a single small panel on an empty page to emphasise Louis' loneliness.

Extract from Louis - Night Salad.

5. Think of what the page turner is. Unlike novels without pictures, when turning a comic page, you can't help but immediately see what's going on on the whole page. So if you have a surprise panel, it can be a good idea to show it after a turn of the page, as we did on the page below.

On this page extract from Louis - Red Letter Day,
see how we established a clear page turner.