This weekend at Comicpalooza 2 alongsideThe Fuglies by Antoinette Rydyr and Steve Carter, System Earth 5 by Tom Garden and The Misadventures of Peter Pumpkinhead by Dale Maccanti & Tennille Owens + various, Chris Gooch launches Very Quiet, Very Still through Melbourne publisher Optic Pop Press. I asked Chris a few questions about Very Quiet, Very Still and his comics work this year. I also asked Optic Pop Press main man Brendan Halyday a few questions about publishing Chris' work.
Matthew Emery: You're fairly prolific with posting series of sketches on tumblr, How important is your sketchbook work in creating comics?
Chris Gooch: Apart from doing covers or title page stuff I don’t really use my sketchbook for comics much – they’re pretty separate actually. I’ve tried to use it as a break from the really coherent, literal drawings that comics often need where I can just relax and draw purely for the sake of enjoyment. It’s also the only time I use reference material (which I generally try to mostly avoid), without feeling like a scumbag.
Emery: Portions of Very Quiet, Very Still featured in two issues of 51% from Optic Pop Press, what was behind the decision to collect these with further material in one book rather than continuing as serial releases? Hidden and Gasoline Eyedrops are both single contained narratives do you have a preference between these and serial work?
Gooch: So basically our original plan was to publish approximately 100-150 pages of comics in a serialised format and then collect it in one volume. But, once the work for the third issue was done we just decided to skip the last step and go straight to Very Quiet, Very Still.
As for single vs serial work, I’m not really sure. I don’t think I’ve had enough experience with either yet to properly decide. I certainly like buying self-contained (and preferably lengthy) comics though.
Emery: Earlier this year you took part in a mentorship program with Melbourne cartoonist Mandy Ord that resulted in the comic Gasoline Eyedrops, what were some of the things you took away from the mentorship?
Gooch: Well, one thing I really appreciated and benefited from was hearing about Mandy’s life as a cartoonist and artist, how she’d continued to make work over a 20 year career (ongoing, of course) and established a personal narrative and visual style. I’m really grateful for the time I got to spend with Mandy for the mentorship – she had a great deal to teach and offer and help me with - too many to adequately list, describe, etc. Basically, as someone who wants to make comics, Mandy’s is an example I’d hope to follow in. Honestly, it was really, really great.
Emery: What is your favourite part of the comic making process?
Gooch: Um, not sure… Not the writing though. That’s definitely the hardest part.
Emery: How did you get involved with publishing Chris Gooch's comics?
Brendan Halyday: First let me say, this guy is unbelievably talented.
I remember seeing his work probably three years ago at a Melbourne Comic Creators meet and thinking he was pretty advanced for his age (he was 18 or 19 at the time). I ended up helping him with the design, production and print management of his 1792 graphic novel. When i came to the point where i wanted to expand my own publishing line, Chris was at the top of my list. He showed me three stories he was sitting on, we reworked two of them and they became the two stories in 51% issue one.
After releasing a second issue we decided to skip straight to a graphic novel collection. With 80 pages of brand new material, another 20 completely redrawn and the last 60 pages tweaked, plus chris has done an ink wash for the entire book, its like a whole new work.
Emery: In conversation you've mentioning being involved in an editorial capacity on Chris's comics and also the need for more editing in local comics in general. Have you seen any progress in this area?
Halyday: When we started working together, I edited Chris a lot more. Lately, he's improved so much, it's happened less. Chris is really good at taking constructive criticism and building it into a work. He has a really good instinct for what does and doesn't work. Everyone can benefit from an editor, but Chris's need for one has diminished in the time i have been working with him. He is more polished and less raw now than two years ago.
Generally I believe the local comics scene would benefit from a more editing. Often books look good and read poorly or vice versa. And lets face it, few, if any, creators can look at their own work with any real objectively. Usually the creator has limitations they can't seem to see, let alone get past. That's where an editor helps, its not just about fixing a work its about developing an author and their skill set.
I haven't seen an increase in local comics being edited well though. The percentage seems the same as 2 years ago. Its hindered because Australian comics haven't a hope of the kind of profitability needed to pay creator(s) even minimum wage – let alone pay an editor on top of that. There isn't the amount of demand, nor the supply chain necessary to create the substantial volume of orders which then result in better economies of scale in production that increase profitability to a level where we have sustainable books with editors.
And while many comic creators work for love, (or are pure hobbyists) very few editors will do the same thing. Thus, supply of good editors is sorely limited. There are a handful of good editors in the scene, typically, they all have more work than they can cope with, and there are not enough of them to meet the need.
Emery: What has been particularly challenging for you with moving into publishing work other than your own?
Halyday: The time it chews up is the biggest challenge. I'm lucky enough to have a wide skill set and experience in pretty much every part of comic making a comic – from story to art, lettering, design, marketing, editing, printing. I have the skills, it is not having the time, due to needing to work a day job/business to pay the bills, thats the hard part.
I think the other challenge is connecting with enough buyers. I get frustrated with the mentality of existing comic buyers, who, from the outside looking in, you might expect to be an adventurous bunch. But it feels like so many of them tend to be conservative in their choices, and it can be hard to get them to try new things. Its almost like they'd rather buy a bad Superman comic than a good comic featuring characters or stories they don't know. I am very grateful when someone does buy a comic i publish though, if you've bought one of or books in the past, THANK YOU. I'm confident we are offering a better product than many of the Marvel and DC books on the shelves right now, and Very Quiet, Very Still is a great opportunity for people to try us out.