The SEQUENT’ULL Interviews: Comic Creator Mark Stafford

The SEQUENT’ULL Interviews: Comic Creator Mark Stafford

Ahead of the free SEQUENT’ULL Comic Art Festival taking place in Hull on Saturday 31st August 2024, organiser and fellow creative Sean Azzopardi chats with guests at the event, starting with the brilliant Mark Stafford, Artist in Residence at the Cartoon Museum…

Could you talk a little about yourself and your work.

I’m a cartoonist/illustrator who has been around for a while, emerging from the small press scene to create and co-create a bunch of graphic novels: gothic adaptations, original horrors and tales of unease, generally located somewhere on the creepy/funny axis of the comics graph.

Titles include Cherubs! (with Bryan Talbot), The Man Who Laughs, Lip Hook and The Bad Bad Place (with David Hine), and Salmonella Smorgasbord, a recent collection of solo works. I’m also the long standing and poorly defined cartoonist-in-residence at The Cartoon Museum in London’s Fitzrovia.

Art for The Bad, Bad, Place by Mark Stafford
"Join a Mob!" - art by Mark Stafford

What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m rendering a couple of short stories, an album cover and a couple of commissions people have asked for. I also want to get a set of themed fancy prints made in collaboration with an Australian print-maker I know.

There has been, thankfully, a steady trickle of possibilities of late. But at some point I’ll need to clear the schedule to work on the next Hine/Stafford book, when time and funding permits…

Why comics, what are the core reasons for working with this medium?

Well, I try to create operas, but the ENO aren’t returning my calls…

Seriously, if you can draw and write, or at least are deluded enough to believe that you can, then comics are the visual storytelling medium that you can just get on with. All you need is time and ink and paper and no other bugger’s approval. The endless combinations and arrangements of words and pictures mean that it’s infinitely flexible and open to experimentation. Decades in, and I feel like I’m still learning stuff and taking chances.

And of course, the money’s great, (pauses to weep silently).

"La Madre del Sangue" - an imaginary film poster by Mark Stafford
A poster for a sadly non-existent piece of world cinema
"Kangkangee Blues" art by Mark Stafford

So much creative time is absorbed by engaging with social media, conventions and other publicity tasks. While necessary to a degree, is it worth it?

I’m deeply ambivalent about that. As an independent creator without any kind of corporate muscle backing you up you need to find some way of promoting yourself and your work to survive. Social media becomes essential to communicate and get work and get known, but it’s also pretty cursed: you’re at the mercy of these tech behemoths, who can pretty much delete your existence with a slight tweak of their rules, or a shift in the algorithm. All your engagement will drop off a cliff and you’ll often never find out why.

Conventions I feel more chipper about as they actually get me out of the ink dungeon and going to places and meeting people. Which, I am assured. Is a good thing. Though I do sometimes fantasise about hiring an under-employed drama student to play a more dynamic, less hungover version of me for certain events.

Anyone interested in this position can get in touch. You will, of course, be paid in ‘exposure.’

Rawk! - art by Mark Stafford

Do you feel connected to a comics scene in anyway?

Yeah, in that a lot of my friends and social circle are cartoonists, and I do enjoy their company and conversation. I think a lot of us only go to events so that we can sit around an arts centre table afterwards and blather about pens and brushes and terrible publishers.

There also seems, amongst creators, to be an unwritten obligation to help out a bit, to promote the art form and take part in fund-raisers and put people in touch with each other and give notes on work when asked, usually with no expectation of reward. It’s a sickness.

Could you recommend some current creators that are making good stuff?

I may actually be the wrong man to ask, as I mainly buy fancy collections of decades-old work by various ink gods. but everybody who’s tabling at Sequent’ull, is of course, magnificent. Seriously.

I rated everybody who was in the All About the Ink gallery show I co-curated, and, glancing around me, I do like Anna Readman, and Gou Tanabe, and Sammy Harkham and Kevin Huizenga and Krent Able and … and the moment I start thinking about it, there’s too much stuff coming out. Stop it.

Have you visited Hull before?

Nope. One of the pleasures of recent years has been discovering parts of my own country I’d not been to before, festival by festival. Like the UK’s slowest touring comedian, ticking off Windermere and Kendal and Harrogate and Winchester and Derby… I look forward to seeing whatever I can see of Hull whilst I’m there. I’ve heard …things.

• Mark Stafford is online at hocus-baloney.com | Art Station | Etsy | Facebook | Instagram | X

SEQUENT’ULL Comic Art Festival 2024

SEQUENT’ULL Comic Art Festival 2024
11.00am – 6.00pm Saturday 31st August 2024 | Free Entry
Jubilee Central, 62 King Edward Street, Hull HU1 3SQ
• Facebook Event Page

Independent comic artists and publishers, selling comics graphic novels and prints.

Exhibitors Include: Breakdown PressColossive PressFootprints Workers CoOpMichelle FreemanSarah GordonGareth HopkinsJake MachenShane MelisseDouglas NobleAlex PottsScarborough Zine LibraryMark StaffordLucy SullivanJames Webster SharpDan White and Lilly Williams



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