It’s almost here! The Lakes International Comic Art Festival starts on Friday, and we have just three more interviews with guests to run.
Metaphrog are writer and illustrator duo John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs. Their Louis graphic novels have been nominated for several prestigious awards, including the Eisner and Ignatz Awards, and Louis – Night Salad was Highly Commended for the Scottish Children’s Book Award. Their work has been praised numerous times, by for example The Guardian, Publisher’s Weekly, The Comics Journal, The Herald and The School Librarian, to name a few. They have been named as one of Canongate’s Future 40 best contemporary Scottish Storytellers.
The duo love to share the secrets of making comics and are always travelling to deliver talks and workshops in and outside of the UK. Recently they have been working on several graphic novel commissions, and are currently working on new stories. Their next graphic novel will be published by Papercutz in early 2015.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Metaphrog: We’ve just finished a new graphic novel, The Red Shoes and Other Tales. We were able to research and develop this work thanks to substantial funding from Creative Scotland.
[Some pages from this new book will be exhibited, in an exclusive sneak preview, at The Lakes International Comic Festival– Ed]
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Metaphrog: We haven’t made the book we’re most proud of yet! But coming close is the new book, The Red Shoes and Other Tales, which will be available next year, and also the new version of Louis – Red letter Day which Sandra entirely redrew and repainted, as well as Louis – Night Salad. Both are available from your favourite comic shop or bookshop or online.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Metaphrog: We get up at 7.00am and work throughout the whole day, drawing, writing, or doing layout respectively, until usually about 7.00pm, or later if we’re on a tight deadline. We usually have a walk at lunchtime were we discuss things related to the book we’re working on, or anything else related to our work.
We also take time every day to do exercise, either at home or at the pool (we usually swim 1800 meters two or three times a week) – we have found that it helps with the creative process in taking that essential step back and letting your mind digest things, it also keeps stress levels down, and it’s good for our backs. We’re also often on the road doing author visits around the country, or even abroad, and it’s great to spread the word about comics and graphic novels.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being comics creators?
Metaphrog: Doing what you love for a living. The comic medium has an infinite potential it seems.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Metaphrog: Sitting all day at a desk isn’t very healthy. (Hence the swimming and walking.)
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Metaphrog: Not much. We usually find it hard to switch off and to not work all the time.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Metaphrog: In some way it’s easier as there are more outlets, like social media and also there are more publishers. Comics are more accepted now than ever before – there’s a wider audience. But it’s also just as difficult as always to actually get published. There are more books published every year, so it’s probably harder to get noticed.
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?
Metaphrog: We’ve been to the Lake District but this will be our first year at the festival and we’re really looking forward to it. We’re expecting it to be more like the Angoulême festival in France, more family friendly. The festival organisers have been utterly fantastic to deal with – super efficient and looking after the guests in advance.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Metaphrog: By allowing them to meet other creators, also to meet and develop their audience, to keep informed directly with what’s happening in the comic world. It’s an essential thing to do in order to develop as a comic creator.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Metaphrog: It’s not an easy path. Work hard, persevere and don’t take anything for granted.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Metaphrog: We don’t have a favourite comic right now, but have recently re-read and love Jacques Tardi’s books (Goddam This War, Fog over Tolbiac Bridge – in French but it’s out soon in English) and Peeters/Schuiten (Les Cités Obscures: Brusel). Also really liked Frederik Peeters’ Aama (published by SelMadeHero), and loved Chris Ware’s Building Stories as well as Rutu Modan’s The Property.
downthetubes: Thank you very muich for your time, and see you in Kendal!
• Check out their web site to find out more about their work and buy their books: www.metaphrog.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.