Kendal Calling: An interview with Graphic Poet Mal Earl

Mal Earl LICAF 2017 Banner

The countdown has begun to this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). We continue our “Kendal Calling” interviews with a chat to Mal Earl, who is a regular contributor to David Lloyd’s digital anthology Aces Weekly and whose next project, a graphic poem titled Lies and Other Fools, working with musician Kermit Leveridge, will launch at this year’s event.

At the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kermit Leveridge came looking for an accomplice; a companion to graphically open the doors that he had been laying down in words, and with whom he could journey beyond. Here is the result… Their graphic poem will be launched at LICAF this year!

In 2001, album chart-topping musician Kermit Leveridge, one of the founder members of Black Grape alongside ex-Happy Monday frontman Shaun Ryder, drew a key on a notebook. Within the book he intended to pen a series of poems, based upon the ‘rockier’ stages of his trek through the music industry, since the early 1980’s. From his beginnings in Manchester’s Moss Side, traversing the Electro Funk scene as a founder member of the breakdance crew Broken Glass; through the Greg Wilson produced Hip-Hop band Ruthless Rap Assassins, and on to the world conquering force that is Black Grape, alongside Shaun Ryder; his rocky road trips make for thunderously affecting tales.

In 2013, at the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kermit came looking for an accomplice; a companion to graphically open the doors that he had been laying down in words, and with whom he could journey beyond.

Mal Earl is an Artist. Unbeknown to him, in 2017, he drew the lock for Kermit’s key.

Lies and Other Fools is a powerful graphic poem exploring a ‘near death’ moment brought about by septicaemia, contracted from a dirty needle. The text was recorded and released on vinyl in 2014 by the late Howard Marks.

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

Mal Earl: Lies and Other Fools is the book which the author, Kermit Leveridge and myself will be launching at the Festival this year. It’s an illustrated poem based around Kermit’s near fatal collision with heroin addiction, the book is proving to be a trial by fire as I immerse myself in a surreal tale frequenting some very dark corridors of the human soul!

We are giving a question and answer/ signing session in the Clock Tower at LICAF on Saturday afternoon, covering the inspiration and development of the book, how we met up, and the ups and downs of what has turned out to be a long collaboration that almost didn’t happen!

Once work is completed on Lies I’ll be taking on a much lighter project, my own Bulletproof Nylon, a burlesquenoir pulp adventure set in an alternative 1960s London. I’m presenting it in the same format as the classic British comics Eagle and TV21 – colour and black and white strips with short text stories based in the same, imagined, reality.

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

Mal: I met David Lloyd (V for Vendetta, Night Raven) at a previous Lakes Festival and gave him a portfolio of work to peruse. Within a couple of months he offered me a place in his digital anthology Aces Weekly, and I have produced nigh on a hundred pages for him since.

I have written and illustrated three stories over four volumes now – “Bullhawk”, in Volume 9, “Scars”, across Volume 12 and 13 and my most satisfying story to date, “The Bridge”, in Volume 19.

All Volumes are for sale digitally at acesweekly.co.uk or at ComiXology – however, to get the short, iPad Comic Creation handbook I wrote as a freebie with 19, it is only available as an extra with the Aces version.

Art for Lies and Other Fools
Art for Lies and Other Fools
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Mal: As my creative endeavours are not my prime employment at the moment, I tend to be constantly inspired on a subconscious level, producing the hardcopy ‘grist’ of creation as soon as a spare moment offers itself.

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

Mal: As a child of the television age, I have always had an urge to create my own serials, inspired by shows like The Prisoner, The Saint or Doctor Who.

What comics allow the layman to do, is to script a series, develop and design the characters, hardware and locations to populate a story with, and then to illustrate those tales sequentially without the restrictions of budgets, distribution and the like.

Fundamentally, the comic format empowers those with an urge to tell stories visually.

No matter who you are, if you have the ability to imagine, to write and to illustrate you can tell your tale pictorially, a format which has yet to find its fullest potential as the digital age opens previously unimagined option after option.

downthetubes: And the worst?

Mal: All of the above is very time consuming. My catalogue of unrealised projects grows by the day!

Night Raven by Mal Earl
Marvel UK’s Night Raven by Mal Earl
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Mal: Full time employment impacts greatly on my creative endeavours. But it’s a balancing act. The fact that my art is not driven by the need to ‘make a living’ from it, means that everything I undertake is a pure reflection of what I want to produce creatively and, as such, is hugely satisfying. The flip side is, obviously, that I would be unable to take on projects that would require time commitments which would be physically impossible to meet.

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

Mal: It’s dependent on how you look at ‘publishing’.

To some, publishing means to be published by a company, and paid by them for services rendered, a difficult thing to achieve at the minute.

If, on the other hand, you look at publishing as producing work and putting in front of a public, then there are no restrictions whatsoever!

Setting up a website is free, posting of your comic on the site is dependant solely on your own production speed, building of an audience will happen as long as you are prepared to persevere; and if, eventually, you build enough of a following to warrant a hardcopy printing of your content – there are many online printing sites that will produce booklets or books to the exact same standards as the mainstream media – so, realistically, I personally see no change.

Publishing is the desire to be read – not a multi-million dollar contract with Marvel.

Art from "The Bridge" by Mal Earl
Art from “The Bridge” by Mal Earl, featured in Aces Weekly
The Bridge by Mal Earl - Sample

The Bridge by Mal Earl - Sample 1

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?

Mal: I am Cumbrian born and bred. Moved down south at 19… Returned home at 25… Still here at 54.

There are a lot of generalisations that one could make about the differences across the UK. In short, for every reason you could dream up, I would choose to live nowhere else!

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

Mal: Living… I had the fortune to meet, share comics, speak with and generally have the opportunity to be overawed by, the great Jose Munoz at the first Lakes Comic Festival back in 2013 – I would love a rematch!

No longer with us… I would have loved a chance to meet the great, under appreciated British artist, Brian Lewis, whose Hammer movie adaptations in the 1970s were possibly the biggest inspiration for me to draw comics myself. His linework is lush, and compositionally his storytelling is hard to beat.

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

Mal: Although I don’t sit particularly comfortable within it, the Festival trend does seem to be creating a sense of ‘celebrity’ within the comics medium.

As a result, what used to be seen as a juvenile “one trick pony” is gaining ground, through the whole publicity bigtop that attends events like Kendal, as a format which offers far more than simply superhero books.

Every attending creator has the opportunity to meet, greet and interest potential readers, in an environment that is actively established for and to his/her needs.

The events are, without doubt, situations through which to further our love of the medium.

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

Mal: Do it, whether it is writing, pencilling, inking, colouring… because you want to give the industry your talent – not because you want them to pay you for it.

They may pay you, and that would be nice, but if you want to do comics, and yourself, justice, you have to love it for itself.

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

Mal: Currently, I’m reading Munoz and Sampayo’s Alack Sinner detective saga.

It’s the first of two big volumes which will collect the entire tale and is readily available everywhere: Amazon, Book Depository, Waterstones, W H Smith etc.

It is the first time that the story has been translated into English, and is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of how to produce a comic and what a comic can achieve, that has yet been created.

 

downthetubes: Mal, thank you for your time and we look forward to catching up with you in Kendal.

 

Book Your Festival Tickets Now!

• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world! 

Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Podcast

MAL EARL ONLINE

• Web: malearl.com
• Twitter: @malearl 
Facebook

• Mal Earl’s co-conspirator on Lies and Other Fools Kermit Leveridge is online at www.kermitleveridge.co.uk

• To hear Howard Marks rendition of Lies and Other Fools visit internationaltimes.it/lies-and-other-fools/

• Read Aces Weekly online at www.acesweekly.co.uk

 

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", 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 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. 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. 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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