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Kendal Calling: An Interview with Comic Creator and Educator, Dan Berry

Three Rooms in Valerie's Head by Dan Berry

Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event. We’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event next weekend (16th – 18th October), continuing the series with an interview with Dan Berry, one of the busiest creators in British indie comics, who co-ordinated the Festival’s brilliant 24 Hour Comic Marathon last year – and is back to do it all again, just a few days from now…

Shrewsbury-based Dan Berry is a comic artist, writer, illustrator, designer, lecturer, podcaster and occasional animator. His latest book The Suitcase was published by Blank Slate Books. He lectures in graphic novels at Glyndwr University in North Wales and has self published a number of books including the 24 hour comic Cat Island, After We Shot The Grizzly and Hey You! He is the host of the podcast Make It Then Tell Everybody.

downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?

Dan Berry: At the moment I’m working on The Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head, a commission for the Lakes Festival, working with writer David Gaffney adapting some of his short stories into a graphic novel/performance. The live version is premiering on Saturday 17th October and features original music by Sara Lowes. It is, essentially, a 115-page graphic novel with a bunch of bells and whistles!

I’m also working on a story for the upcoming 24 hour comic which will also be running at the Festival. Basically the Lakes Festival owns me at the moment and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Art from Three Rooms in Valerie's Head by Dan Berry

Art from Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head by Dan Berry

downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Dan: I’m very proud of the 24 by 7 anthology which collects all of the 24 hour comics from last year’s Lakes Festival. It was really inspiring to work alongside some of my favourite artists and it is a real honour to have my work in a lovely hardback book alongside theirs. You can buy it at the Fanfare/Ponent Mons website

[Copies will be available at the Festival – Ed]
Lakes International Comic Art Festival 24x7 Anthology

Lakes International Comic Art Festival 24×7 Anthology

downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Dan: I have to plan my day very carefully. At the moment, I’m mid-project so most waking moments are spent working. My schedule this week has been; Get up early (6am or so) and at about 7.30 I go to work. I run a degree course in illustration, graphic novels and children’s publishing at the North Wales School of Art & Design, Glyndwr University. I do that all day, go home, eat dinner with my family, do housework and then at about 8.00pm I sit down to get some drawing done. I draw until about 11.00pm, sometimes midnight then go to bed and repeat. I might finish a little earlier and go running in the dark. I try to look after my health as best I can.

A strip by Dan for Hourly Cartoonists Audit Day, the day where "where the time and workload of cartoonists worldwide is audited by the internet."

A strip by Dan for Hourly Cartoonists Audit Day, the day where “where the time and workload of cartoonists worldwide is audited by the internet.”

downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?

Dan: Getting to spend so much time drawing. I really like drawing. I find it relaxing. It also gives me the opportunity to travel, meet people and make friends. I don’t really know what ‘normal’ people do with all their time.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Dan: It can be lonely, you spend a lot of time working in isolation with brief flurries of social activity.

Some of Dan's planning work for his 2014 24 Hour comic for the Lakes Festival.

Some of Dan’s planning work for his 2014 24 Hour comic for the Lakes Festival. More about his working process on the project here

downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Dan: Everyday life. The washing still needs to get done, the dinner doesn’t cook itself, you need to spend time with friends and family and you need to look after your health. I also realised a few years ago that I was kidding myself into thinking I can multitask. I really can’t. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who can really properly multitask. Nowadays I make sure that I turn off my phone, leave my laptop in the other room and remove the temptation to constantly check twitter. That really helps. I think I’m pretty well trained now.

downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?

Dan: I’m not sure. You can think of it a few ways. The internet keeps on making it easier for people to show off their work. This increased visibility makes it easier to connect artists and publishers. The downside of this is that it can be a bit overwhelming. I worry that it is very easy to get lost amongst the noise of the internet. I’m a big fan of meeting people face to face or talking on the phone. I like talking with people, not typing to people.

downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?

Dan: I went on my honeymoon to the Lake District. It was great!

downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?

Dan: In all honesty, I’ve pretty much already met all of my comics heroes. I run a podcast called Make It Then Tell Everybody where I talk to my favourite artists each week. It has been a wonderful way of meeting new people and getting into their insights on drawing comics. That said, I’d love to talk to Bill Watterson. It’s probably never going to happen though.

Lakes International Comic Art Festival out side the Brewery Arts Centre. Photo: Tim Murray

A great place to meet creators and learn new things. Photo: Tim Murray

downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?

Dan: Most festivals offer you as a creator the possibility of having a shopfront for the day. Some of these shopfronts are very nice, some not so much. The best ones like Thought Bubble, the Toronto Comic Art Festival etc do a great job of getting lots of people into this shopfront but also supplement this shopfront with a programme of schooling on the periphery. I really like those ones.

I get a lot from going to a lot of events – sometimes the most valuable thing I’ll take away is some advice from someone else, sometimes I’ll sell a truckload of books and take away a big bag of money. I’d prefer the big bag of money most days, but there is a great deal of value in the community and the opportunity to participate in that is important to me.

downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Dan: Just start doing it.

Let me elaborate. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait for your work to be ‘perfect’. Don’t wait for the right ‘big idea’. If you want to draw comics, then draw comics. Book a table at a comics show and try and sell your work. Meet the people around you and be nice to them. Tell people what you want to do. Don’t undermine your own work. Remember that it is just words and pictures. Aim to improve. Read more. Draw every day. Be ambitious.

downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?

Dan: I’ve been enjoying Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree recently. I think you can get it everywhere.

Find out more about Dan Berry:

Web: http://www.thingsbydan.co.uk/ (For his drawings) and makeitthentelleverybody.com (for his talking)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thingsbydan


Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival featuring Dan Berry:

Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head
Saturday 17th October 6.00-700 pm Brewery Arts Centre Theatre Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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