Corban Wilkin: Illustrator

Publishing Alternatively
May 31, 2011, 18:55
Filed under: comic artists, paroxysm | Tags: , , , ,

Hot on the heels of the Steve Bell exhibition, I spent the weekend at the International Alternative Press Festival 2011, a zines, comics, and small press fair. I forgot to take photos, but it was a really packed out and pretty well-sized event, with tonnes of creators of every stripe selling their work. It was refreshing to see so much enthusiasm, like Hamish MacDonald who writes, prints, binds, and sells his own novels and has a podcast about making books, and Steve Tillotson who is hilarious as well as being a skilled draughtsman Also picked up a surreal wordless graphic-novel by Nicolas Presl, the kind of thing I wouldn’t have come across if I hadn’t been to the festival

Woodrow Phoenix (author of Rumble Strip) was there, along with Paul Gravett (head of the Comica festival), both whom I’d had the fortune to meet in 2009 at the London Print Studio in a discussion/presentation with several other comics people, as the culmination of a comics exhibition. I also shifted quite a lot of old copies of Paroxysm #1 and #2, and received a lot of self-published zines and comics in return. This is the first real convention I’ve been to, but it turned out to be a great experience and I’ll definitely be on the look-out for more in London as they come.

Meeting the Pros
May 28, 2011, 21:25
Filed under: comic artists, exhibitions | Tags: , , , ,

On Wednesday I attended the private view for the new Steve Bell exhibition: Bell Époque, at London’s Cartoon Museum which presented a retrospective of his work from throughout his career. It was a great exhibition which such a range of work. I didn’t realise Bell (who is the cartoonist and comic strip artist for the Guardian) was so skilled in so many different styles and media. Even though I found his style of humour alienating when I was younger, I’ve come to see him as a real master of the form. I also find his comics hilarious now, even though I’m never sure why! Despite the fact that he’s been in the industry for decades, his work is still so cutting edge; it feels like the work of a much younger, more rebellious and, indeed, angry cartoonist. Far from being an angry rebel, though, he seemed like a really friendly guy! I suppose he saves it for the cartoons.

I was also lucky enough to meet Bryan Talbot at the event. He’s the creator of Grandville and Alice in Sunderland and one of the great British cartoonists involved in creating novel-length works (the comics form I’m most attracted to). He told me about his beginnings in underground comics and his latest just-finished project, created with his wife. It’s great to talk to professional cartoonists who have been making comics for many years, just to see how they feel about their work, and get a glimpse into their wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Incidentally, I found out today that Myriad Editions will be holding a graphic novel competition for unpublished cartoonists, the first prize being the opportunity to publish your submitted work with them, and the panel of judges will include both Bryan Talbot and Steve Bell! They’re asking for 15-30 pages of art and a synopsis of the novel for consideration. This looks like it’ll be a great chance for aspiring cartoonists to get their ideas out there and it should give a lot of people the impetus to start working on that story idea that’s been in their heads. The Deadline is in October, which is perfect for me, as I’ve recently begun work on a new long story. I think I’ll be entering, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to make comics-novels to submit their work, as well.

[Photos via Fearnet and Varndean College]

Doing Adaptations

We all know how bad movie adaptations of literature can be, and I’m fairly sceptical about comics adaptations of prose. Regardless, I seem to have produced a few myself over the years, the first being a full-length translation of Brian Friel’s Translations, an excellent play set during the British colonisation of Ireland.

For some reason I thought it would be really simple and appropriate to turn a play into a comic. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Somehow I overlooked the fact that plays are chock-full of dialogue, and my comic became something that at times resembled an illustrated script!

I wasn’t satisfied with doing things the hard way just once, though, and went on next to adapt Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, a radio play and epic poem set in Llareggub, a fictional town in Wales. I thought it was a beautiful text, and there were so many great characters to draw. I really tried to get the vibe of a little Welsh town and these quirky characters Thomas populates it with.

More recently I created a complete but highly abbreviated version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I compressed 100 pages of text down into 22 pages of comics and, with the story being something of a fable this allowed the strength of the plot to shine through in its most distilled form.

It was tough to work through but very enjoyable. I’ve learnt that making an adaptation comes with many of its own difficulties, not least of which is wishing to keep the piece true to the soul of the original. On the other hand I find that merely illustrating the story leaves a lot to be desired. Instead, what I try to is focus in on particular thematic aspects of a story and really bring those forward, cutting out what doesn’t fit with the ideas I see in the story and perhaps even synthesising new parts when necessary. I cut out quite a few characters from Under Milk Wood, for example, and combined two young female parts to make Lily Smalls (the girl with the bad skin and curly blonde hair) into the emotional focal-point of the comic.

Since I write my own work, too, it’s wonderful to learn from these great writers by analysing their work and retelling it in my own way. As it happens, I’m beginning work on another adaptation just now, of a short story by one of my favourite authors, H.E. Bates, but more on that later.

Looking Back

Ahoy-hoy. My name’s Corban Wilkin and I thought I’d use my very first post here to do a quick recap what I’ve been doing with my life recently.

I decided a few years ago and for no good reason that I wanted to make ‘graphic novels’ (also known as ‘big comics’) and, not being one to dream of ‘one-day-maybe-I’ll’ I just up and did it, drawing and publishing my first go at a novel-length story when I was 17.

Well we all have to start somewhere, and I started with 200-pages of scribbles called Wasp and Bee. Nevertheless, being a proud young scribbler I went on to work with writers, producing a fair few comics issues, and working with indy comics publisher Popcorn Peacock.

Last year I published the first two issues of my Paroxysm series, collections of short-story comics written and drawn by me and discovered that comics are hard to do. But I decided to forgo making the third issue in favor of a graphic novel I was planning, which eventually ballooned into a 300-page project. Ever the optimist, I decided to plough into it and try to complete the whole thing before dinner-time.

All-together the book took about four months of work, which anyone who’s ever made comics and isn’t Osamu Tezuka will tell you is really too fast for a graphic novel. Honestly, I’m trying to slow down my drawing now so that my work will begin to be of better quality, rather than just rushing out long stories like I have been doing. Still, I’m proud of what I achieved with A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers.

I will update soon about my recent projects and what’s coming up. I have too much planned to put it in this retrospective post, but check back as I’ll have loads of sketches and comics to bandy about, and I’m sure I’ll end up writing a bunch of nonsense about comics theory and creators I admire, as well.