In 2003, I responded to ten questions sent to me by Marc Baines. As I recall he was studying for an arts degree and I think this may have contributed to his thesis in some way.
Marc Baines was more of a music journalist at the time when we somehow connected at the Westminster Comic Marts, perhaps through a shared love of comics. Later it turned out Marc was also a very able cartoonist, and contributed a story or two to Harley Richardson‘s Ugly Mug small press comic, and wrote for John Bagnall‘s Hairy Hi-Fi music zine. A natural choice, as he had a substantial record collection and knew a lot of musicians – “friend and confidante to the stars”, as John put it. Later, he worked with Vesuvius Records in Glasgow and produced the hybrid cassette-comic book item Spooky Sounds For Now, and went on to found his Kingly Books imprint. I believe Marc now has a steady job at Glasgow School of Art.
I’m reproducing answers to the first two questions below. To read the whole thing, download the PDF.
1. When and why did you first decide to self publish your work?
Why – because the opportunity to do it presented itself. I started comics in my final year at art college, where in 1981 I’d met Pete Woodin, an art-school dropout. He had been self-publishing an arty joke zine called Conceptual Jewellery and selling it through the mail. He also did home-made cassettes of weird music. I copied him on both fronts, excited by the ideas of self-publishing and selling stuff through the mail. He also showed me how easy (and how cheap) it was to make good quality photocopies in those days – he went to the Rank Xerox shop in Coventry and, over the counter, he wound up with a limited-edition art multiple in less than 15 minutes at a very affordable price.
After art college I went home to Liverpool and produced comics in total isolation there. I invented Windy Wilberforce in 1981. In 1982 I drew the single-frame cartoons that would become Rogue’s Gallery – my very first self-published book. Because Pete Woodin had given me a glimpse of the mailart and home tape networks, I said to myself “Somebody must be doing home-made comics in the UK somewhere.”
Then I went to a comic mart in Westminster in December 1982 and found that indeed somebody was. Paul Gravett was running the Fast Fiction stall there and I discovered a few photocopied comics on his table, and his nascent network – a single contact address to help sell and supply these things, much like FO Records had done for cassettes.
So I started doing photocopied comic books at home, using the machine in the basement at the University of Liverpool, where my dad worked at the time. I kept sending books to Paul and made regular trips to London. Things gathered momentum from there.
2. Do you feel that there have been adequate publishing opportunities for cartoonists in the UK?
For conventional cartoonists, maybe – for me and other weirdos like me, no!
In the UK, only a few people have published my comics work. Paul Gravett in Escape magazine and Tony Bennett in Knockabout both published my work in a limited way. Later, I half-appeared in Deadline magazine with a Savage Pencil collaboration for which I did writing and penciling. Peter Pavement showed remarkable confidence in publishing the Windy Book in the 1990s.
The opportunities are woefully inadequate in this country for any sort of work that is even remotely experimental in its approach, or with a drawing style that looks different to accepted mainstream styles. Publishers have too many preconceptions. People talk about comics growing up or coming of age, yet for the most part comics publishers seem to be living in the dark ages!