Showing posts with label daniel reed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label daniel reed. Show all posts

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grubby Little Smudges of Filth - Daniel Reed Interview

In a golden age of comics publishing and accessibility it can feel like a lot of projects come out to little fanfare, buried by next month's heavy publishing slate. One of the accomplished efforts to come out in 2013 from an Australian cartoonist was Daniel Reed's Grubby Little Smudges of Filth, an eighty page fairy tale of a comic from Slave Labor Graphics.

from Slave Labor Graphics PR;

"In a land ruled over by a self indulgent king a prisoner uses whatever filth is at hand to create a work of great beauty on his cell door. When it is discovered, those who seek to profit from his talents drag the artist through the thorny forests and sterile deserts of the kingdom. Only when he stands before the King himself will we learn of his true nature..."

The first issue of Grubby Little Smudges of Filth is available free on Comixology, with the stories remainder available in five 99 cent chunks. GLSOF can also be bought in hardcover from the usual booksellers:

I asked Daniel a few questions about his background, making comics in Australia, and the production of Grubby Little Smudges of Filth.

Where and when did your interest in comics and making comics develop?

My first exposure to comics that I can remember was when I would get the old Fleetway annuals for Christmas. Whizzer and Chips was one year, there was a Monster Fun Annual one other year. Would have been around ’82, ’83.  Footrot Flats was another one that I remember being pretty keen on at an early age. Later in my mid teens I briefly became interested in Spider-man during the Todd McFarlane period, but I think 2000AD in the end was a bigger influence.

In terms of what got me interested in making comics, there was a period during the eighties when a bunch of locally produced comics made it into the news agencies. I remember that I had a handful of them, Southern Squadron was one of the titles, Niteside and the Rock was another that captured my imagination. I think the fact that they were Australian made the idea of making comics seem more achievable. In fact now that I think about it, I remember picking up a local comic from Minotaur called Mr Gunhead. It was about a guy with a gun for a head, as the title suggests. While I don’t remember much of the story it had some really nice renderings of Melbourne buildings and seemed really different to everything else that was around. The book was just photocopied pages stapled together, but the artist’s effort was obvious which made it somehow more valuable. Wish I still had it.

Around that time I put a comic together for a School Communications Project, might have been Year 10 or 11. I hope I still have it somewhere, should try and track it down.

Then of course, as an adult in my late twenties when I saw things like The Silent Army collections and Ben Hutchings’ You Stink and I Don’t I knew I wanted to create something that could be read by an audience. Inspired in part by all these individual voices heading in different directions.

I don't know a lot about your background in making comics beyond the Crumpleton Experiments, which seemed by local standards to have had a lengthy run of independently produced issues. Can you tell me a bit about that series and other work you've done?

The Crumpleton Experiments went for nine issues between ’02 and ’10, or thereabouts. It was a self-published comic, set in fictional time and place. I was aiming for something a little bit Jules Verne or early Doctor Who with a surreal bent. The plot device of having the Professor being able to travel into people’s dreams (pre Inception by the way), enabled me to indulge in a variety of freaky landscapes and characters. It’s always fun to draw that kind of thing. It never sold a heap but I feel that there was a group of readers who genuinely loved it. On a personal level it was a big learning curve in making comics, which was great. I think you can clearly track the improvement from issue one to issue nine. I’ll have to get it together in one volume one day.

Other than Crumpleton, there were a bunch of short stories for various publications like Tango and Going Down Swinging. Crumpleton though, really was my main focus for quite a while.

How did the story of Grubby Little Smudges of Filth develop?

It seemed to develop organically after the initial idea of the guy with the door. I didn’t approach the story with any ‘intentions’, other than its look and feel. As a story though, it does look at revenge and grief. There is this revenge thing that pops up a lot in stories. Something tragic happens in someone’s life and a quest ensues that ends with revenge taken on the perpetrator. Movies like Mad Max and Gladiator come to mind. As a viewer, you sit there filled with glee as the bad guy gets slaughtered in some spectacular fashion. The audience is easily manipulated because of the human tendency to sympathise with the hero’s loss. At the time of writing Grubby, I had been thinking about this. At the end of the first Mad Max movie, he torches the car that the bad guy is trapped in. I may well have done the same thing in similar circumstances by the way, but I had been thinking about whether that is the right course of action. What alternatives are there? What if you become passive rather than reactive? Channel your grief into something else other than revenge...

This of course is not the sole reason for the book,  it was less contrived, but I guess if it is ‘about’ anything its more ‘about’ that than anything else. I like those movies, by the way. They would’ve been pretty strange if Mel and Russel became all contemplative and arty.

Another intention was to tackle a story that was self-contained. After Crumpleton I was ready to do something a little less convoluted, without any loose ends.

When did you start Grubby Little Smudges of Filth? Can you talk a bit about the gestation period of the book, the art in particular I thought was quite different to your work on the Crumpleton Experiments.

Grubby Little Smudges of Filth was germinating (festering?) away in the back of my head for quite a while. The initial driver really was the idea of some guy in prison creating an artwork on his cell door that was so beautiful it went on to be sold. It struck me as a really elaborate and hard to pull off escape plan, because the door has to be removed in order for it to be sold. In the final printed story, the artist’s intentions are much more mysterious than just seeking freedom, but I kind of liked that original idea. It could have worked as just a short story: Guy in prison decorates his cell door with golden balls of snot, prison guards sell the door as a work of art, prisoner escapes. Something funny about it, or at the risk of sounding wanky, maybe a little poignant.

After settling on that idea I needed to find out where the door would end up. With the creation of the Kings character, the rest of the story came about quite effortlessly.

You mention a difference in the illustration style between Crumpleton and Grubby. It is probably most relevant in the character design.  The simplistic look of the farming family is a nod in the direction of Cerebus and Bone, both works that I have a great respect for. There does seem to be this strange little tradition in comics and cartoons where the main character is stylized in a way that is at odds with the rest of the cast. I guess it makes it easier to emphasise their emotions and reactions. In general though, the characters in Grubby are much more exaggerated physically than those of Crumpleton. The Grubby characters are more fun to draw and perhaps a bit less challenging, but it was a nice change as an illustrator.  It’s worth adding that I was going for a Jim Henson/Dark Crystal, Terry Gilliam/Time Bandits kind of feel that seemed to suit those sort of people.

Are there benefits or difficulties you've experienced making comics in Australia?

Given the manner in which technology has shrunk the world, I don’t think that there is much of a difference. I guess Australia is a much smaller market than the U.S. for example, but I’m not sure that it is easy making money from comics anywhere in the world. Australia has a nice comic creators community (Melbourne certainly does) that is a valuable resource in terms of bouncing ideas around, getting advice from, showing work to etc.. Seems to be a few publishers around now that are more open to comics, which is great.

Are you a reader of digital comics? What has the response been to Grubby Little Smudges of Filth in digital form?

I have never really read many digital comics before. I have only just recently taken the step of reading my first literary novel on a Kindle. Don’t know why it seems to be such a big step. I’m sure my kids won’t have a problem with it, having grown up with the technology.

One of the guys at Squishface had a copy of Grubby on an iPad. It was the first time I had ever even used an iPad before, but I was struck by how well the comic came up in that format. I thought it looked great. I know that SLG has the opinion that the floppy single issue comic format is being killed off by the digital version, and I can see where they are coming from. I haven’t bought a floppy in ages. I do seem to buy perfect bound Graphic Novels though, rather than digital versions or single issue printed versions.

The fact that digital comics give the reader another option can only be a good thing, I just hope that the technology returns us to a point whereby the artist/writers can get fair compensation for their efforts.

In regards to how well Grubby was received digitally, it received some great reviews on various websites and podcasts, which I was really chuffed about. I think that the idea behind the initial digital release was also in part to publicise the printed version.

How did you get involved with publisher Slave Labor Graphics?

I sent Grubby to SLG as a submission. It was the initial 12 pages of finished artwork, along with a synopsis and pitch. I had sent it off to a number of places around about the same time, and while there was a bit of interest, SLG were the only takers. There was a lot of two-ing and fro-ing before they officially decided they’d take it on. Questions regarding the internal logic of the story had me writing lengthy responses in justification of certain aspects of the plot. After that they were very “hands-off”, which is good. A guy I know volunteered to do the editing, which I am very grateful for, but other than that it is a very much independent project.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I am working on a project with Isobelle Carmody.  She has written this amazing story about a post apocalyptic society that has reverted to a kind of medieval existence. There are kings and princesses alongside remnants of a modern civilisation. Having never worked with a writer before, it has been a great experience so far. I feel very lucky to be working with someone in the midst of a successful writing career.

In the past I had worried that it would feel too much like “work” if I were to draw for someone else’s writing but it hasn’t felt that way at all. Its been much more collaborative, the visualization of the world and the characters has been very open ended. I feel as enthusiastic about it as I ever have about my past projects. The book has bounced back and forth between us in a series of drafts and I think it will result in something pretty special.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 in Review: Daniel Reed

Daniel Reed

What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2012?
I think Pat Grants 'Blue' was a great achievement, those spreads where the kids are on the rail line amongst all of the crazy vegetation were just amazing. I also liked Sam Wallman's 'Being Born is Going Blind' and lots of others.

Who are some of the comics creators that you've discovered and enjoyed for the first time in 2012? 

I had seen bits and pieces of Charles Burns work before, but I read 'Black Hole' for the first time this year. Has to be said that it stuck in my head for ages. The line work is so clean, dark and emotive. The weird story marries perfectly to the images.

I also read 'Safe Area Gorazde' by Joe Sacco. It was certainly not as easy to read as 'Black Hole' but succeeded in many other ways. I think the reporting (of the war in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95), in comic format had a much greater impact on me than it would have done had I seen it in a documentary format. Not sure that I can put my finger on why...

What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2012?

Was introduced to "The Game of Thrones" TV series, which is cool. Gigs by 'The Mountain Goats', 'Bonnie Prince Billie' and Robert Forester were all really enjoyable. "Graphic Novels! Melbourne!" documentary was a hoot!

Have you implemented any significant changes to your working methods this year?

Working a lot in colour at the moment. Compositing together water colour, ink and pencil images in PhotoShop.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Getting to as many book launches, drawing nights and meet-ups as I can. Writing and drawing as much as I can. Seeing Hawthorn beat the Cats for the first time since 2008. Other than that, my title "Grubby Little Smudges of Filth" is due out in limited release hard cover sometime in 2013, so I'm looking forward to that too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Melbourne Comic Meet Up 2012

My Camera died before I could snap the forty odd folk inside but here's a few of the comic folk at the December meet up in Melbourne. There were actually women folk there too.

Assorted Melbourne Comic Folk