Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, this year running as the virtual LICAF LIVE, we bring you a series of interviews with both guests and participants in the Comics Clock Tower (This year, also virtual).
Today, we’re talking to Metaphrog – Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, winners of The Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards Best Visual Artist 2016.
Metaphrog have received multiple Eisner Award nominations and critical acclaim for their Louis series, and Louis – Night Salad was Highly Commended for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards in 2011. They were writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 and regularly travel to talk about their work and the creative process at festivals, schools, libraries and museums.
Their latest graphic novels are The Red Shoes and Other Tales and The Little Mermaid (Excelsior Award Junior winner 2018), and Bluebeard: A Feminist Fairy Tale, all published by Papercutz and supported by Creative Scotland.
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Sandra: Our new graphic novel Bluebeard: A Feminist Fairy Tale, was just published during lockdown We’ve been busy doing virtual promotion for it.
John: We would normally have launched it at TCAF and attended several festivals this year to promote it, including The Lakes. But instead we decided to go virtual and did video launches and are now doing school and library virtual visits.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
S: I guess I’m always most excited about our newest book, so right now it’s Bluebeard, and people can pick it up from the Festival shop and Page 45, or from their own local comic book shop.
J: It’s possible to see samples of the art and story on our website metaphrog.com or take a look at the unboxing video. We even put together a trailer for the book to support the release and that’s also on YouTube. And, Sandra does a short reading too.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
S: We don’t have a rigid plan for the day per se but work from seven to seven roughly. Sometimes we would get up earlier to travel for events, workshops and talks and so forth.
J: During lockdown we’ve tried to keep up a rhythm of working on a new book, getting some exercise and doing virtual promotion.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
S: Being creative and experiencing something magical coming alive.
J: Definitely – the magic of the creative process. It’s always different!
And the worst?
S: I don’t think there really is a downside – especially when you accept that you are doing what you love.
J: Life is always going to have its ups and downs. Making comics is no different. We love it and feel very fortunate to be working together.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
S: We set ourselves deadlines and try and make progress each day and each week – sometimes other work takes over from working on a book but your brain never really stops working.
J: I think part of being creative is thinking about the story and the work pretty much all the time, so that doesn’t stop.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
S: I think it’s always been difficult to get published. With lower printing costs and cheaper technology more people are making their own comics and that’s great.
J: I don’t think it become easier or harder – it’s never been easy and even being published doesn’t necessarily change things in the way people think it might.
How has the Pandemic affected you, work wise – good or bad?
S: We were very lucky to be working on a commission when lockdown started, but all our travel plans and preparation went out the window. It has been a big change for everyone and we are trying to be stoical about it. It has been enjoyable to learn new skills making videos and doing virtual events. What we’ve enjoyed about lockdown though is the peace and quiet, which is conducive to being creative.
J: I think we are seeing people being kinder and feeling more connected too – there is a mixture of good and bad. We both miss seeing friends and fellow comic creators and talking to people about our new book but we’ve just had to try and adapt.
What do you think might be its most significant impact on the comics industry in general, long term?
S: We hope that shops survive – the impact long term is very difficult to assess. It’s really a wider societal issue.
J: Time travelling forward a year and a half or two years it’s difficult to picture where things are going to be at. As Sandra says it isn’t only the comic or entertainment industry that’ll change or develop. We hope to see a kinder more equal society and more respect for nature, if that’s possible.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
S: I prefer not to meet my comic heroes as I want them to remain mysterious – but if I had to meet one it would be Jacques Tardi. Why? I very much admire his work.
J: We are lucky to have met lots of comic creators in our travels but sadly Denis McLoughlin and Bernard Krigstein are no longer with us. I think they brought a lot of thought to what comics could be and I’d loved to have met them.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
S: Work hard and don’t be discouraged.
J: Keep on working and keep on trying to improve.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
S: I am very much enjoying Joe Sacco’s Paying the Land right now and people can get it from Page 45 or their local comic shop.
J: Right now I have been re-reading City of Glass: The Graphic Novel, by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. It’s a great read and should also be available from Page 45 or can be ordered from your local shops. It’s great to support the local community – especially at this time.
Thank you both for your time and the very best of luck in all your projects!
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• The Virtual Comics Clock Tower is online at licafclocktower.com
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.