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.