In the run up to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17th – 19th October), we’re aiming to run a number of interviews spotlighting at least a few of the huge number of guests and comic creators who will be at the event, continuing today with the Kate Holden, a Freelance Illustrator and Games Designer born and currently based in Cumbria
A former Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga finalist and Manga Jiman Competition winner and founding member of small press group IndieManga,a group of people who create comics with a manga influence. Kate, who has a BA in Joint Honours English Literature and Japanese, an MA in Games Design, has had comics work published in Scream Magazine and featured in 1000 Ideas by 100 Manga Artists, published by Rockport.
Her illustration and design clients include Nintendo, Otakunews, Climb Magazine, GoUlverston.com and LMB Design and she has run manga workshops for Cumbria County Council, Leeds City Council, Tameside Borough Council, the Yorkshire Humber Grid for Learning, NACRO and BBC Blast as well as private youth groups.
When she’s not drawing or working (which often involves drawing anyway!) she enjoys rock climbing, martial arts, cosplay and playing RPGs.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Kate Holden: Right now I’m mostly busy with making games, such as the recent People’s Choice winner of the Indie Game Maker Competition (other results pending, there’s still a possibility we’ve won more than that) Ars Harmonia, as well as our upcoming big release,Vacant Sky Awakening.
Comics work I’ve been doing lately has been largely corporate stuff, like advertising for Screwfix. I’m not sure when they’ll use the comic or where it’ll be used though. I am toying with bringing Fan Dan Go, my webcomic [a serial action comedy about the adventures of some hip young magical knights in a fantasy setting based on 1970s England], back to life after its long hiatus, but work on paid and profitable projects has to take priority.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Kate: I can’t really answer this with anything recent, I’ve been busy making games. But info on games I’ve worked on and am currently working on can be found at Project BC – www.projectbc.net – and the blog – http://projectbc.wordpress.com.
I would say that my games, particularly Ars Harmonia, often have a comic book aesthetic though, so I don’t feel like the two media are that far apart.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Kate: I use the mobile app Trello a lot these days to schedule which art assets I need to prioritise for my team mates to make the game most efficiently. When I’m doing comics and illustration, however, I don’t plan much, I find repetition more tiring than time or difficulty, so I try to make sure that I’m not doing the same activity all day and can change it up with a bit of pencilling to break up the monotony of inking and flatting.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Kate: I’d say it’s the creative freedom and autonomy the medium allows. I don’t need a big team, no matter how far-fetched the setting or content, and the budget never gets ridiculously steep. I also love the community, especially the small press and webcomics community, who are encouraging, supportive, hard working and loads of fun to be around.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Kate: The industry. It’s a sexist old dinosaur that won’t change with the times and so tries to squeeze creators by setting them up with feelings of inadequacy and desperation so they can pay us peanuts, and we’ll do it because we have such low opinion of our value and are to keen to be acknowledged. It’s like an abusive relationship and it needs to change radically.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Kate: Video games and cool things I want to watch and read haha! I’m getting better though.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Kate: It’s harder. There’s more competition, wages haven’t increased with inflation, and while there’s been some token effort by big publishers to produce a wider range of genres, there’s less visibility than there used to be and not enough put into advertising, meaning low sales, meaning the publishers can’t afford the risk of giving newbies a chance.
Of course, there’s the self-publishing and webcomics route now, but that’s a big gamble too; you don’t have the stamp of legitimacy a publisher gives your work or the distribution and advertising handled, and you need to amass an audience of at least two thousand to start making anything decent money-wise off it.
On the other hand, at least women actually have a shot at things now. A small one. Not exactly a huge improvement; there’s still a suspiciously small number of women in professional comics when you look at the consistent ratio of female to male creators in the small press scene that’s held steady for probably getting on ten years now.
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?
Kate: I’ve lived in the Lake District! I was born down the road from it, in Barrow-in-Furness, and I went to Leven Valley Primary school where every day we’d watch the steam train chug past from Haverthwaite towards Lakeside. I’m a proud Cumbrian. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, safe, friendly and welcoming and with fantastic local produce.
If it’s your first time here, I recommend putting at least a day aside to walk by a lake or up a hill, then visit a nice old pub and try some of the local ales! Bring waterproofs though!
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Kate: I’m actually really looking forward to meeting Scott McCloud at LICAF, his understanding of the medium is amazing and I definitely want to get my well-thumbed copy of Making Comics signed! I’d really love to meet Hiromu Arakawa some day, I love the meaty, practical feeling of her manga, and I feel like because we’re both from rural backgrounds involved with farming, and we’re both female creators into making shounen type manga, we’d maybe get along well!
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Kate: More than sales, I think events are a great chance to make contacts and be more visible. In this industry, it’s about who you know, and it’s all too easy for swamped publishers to ignore or overlook an email, so getting a publisher interested in you as a person is often more effective than trying to get them interested in a comic you’re making through more detached means of communication.
If you’re keen to get into comics, take your portfolio and be brave! Even if you’re not trying to break in, it’s a great place to meet friends, and friends are important too for support and mutual publicity, especially nowadays with social media.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Kate: Be brave. Remember that breaking in isn’t just a “one contract and you’re set”, thing, it’s more of a creeping in by building up your contacts and contracts thing, so it’ll take a while and even when you’re getting some big name work, you may not be super-well off. Consider taking a part time job on the side.
Don’t compare yourself to your peers; everybody makes out like they’re doing better than they actually are because we want to seem successful and accomplished when publishers look at us. Make friends and don’t think of your fellow artists as competitors; there will be a time down the line when that creator you were kind to remembers you when they’re booked up and recommends you to a big client.
Be willing to do lots of different sorts of comics, and remember that with the right mindset, you can enjoy drawing a comic about anything!
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Kate: Let me tell you… about Homestuck. Well, I’ve just scared off everybody. Yes, I’m afraid I’m a hopeless Homestuck fan. I think it’s a really exciting development for online comics, with its use of music and interactive elements and has a fantastically convoluted postmodern setup, a huge cast of bizarre but loveable characters, an amazing soundtrack and very distinctive writing. You can check it out over on mspaintadventures.com as well as Problem Sleuth, which is also fantastic.
Note: Both comics contain mature content and explicit language. I don’t recommend them for children!
My favourite currently running print comics are Ms. Marvel, being published monthly by Marvel, which is a fun superhero story largely unburdened by Marvel’s continuity about a female Muslim superhero, which I think is fantastic, and Attack on Titan, published by Kodansha. The art is rough, particularly early on, but the plot and setting and suspense are amazing! I was absolutely gripped! Definitely a good one, a bit gorey at times though.
downthetubes: Kate, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to answer our questions.
• Check out Kate’s official web site at: www.kateholdenart.com
• Kate is running a Make Your Own Manga workshop at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival: More Details Here