Writer and artist of the critically acclaimed Long Lost Lempi series, in a short interview about the British comic industry, Adam Vian reveals what it takes to make it.
The British comic book industry is currently going from strength to strength. With tonnes of great creators, utilising every form of social media and the growing number of comic conventions, it’s never been easier to make money with comics. As a big fan of the medium I have been keeping an eye on several up and coming independent artists and writers that I’m hoping to shine a light on over the next few weeks.
This week, I managed to secure an interview with, talented artist and writer, Adam Vian, creator of the Long Lost Lempi series, Snippets and SFB Games artist. Vian has been working the MCM Comic Con circuit for some time now in the comic village and has become a favourite of the independent comic fans. I wanted to ask Adam about his views and experience with the industry:
PL: You have been a part of the British indie comic book industry for some time now, how would you describe your experience from creating to marketing your piece?
AV: It’s been enjoyable to start from scratch with an idea, then slowly crawl towards a finished piece, followed by getting out to comic conventions to show it to people and meet other artists!
My background is actually in animation. I taught myself basics at a fairly young age, and eventually went on to study it at University. Meanwhile, I was learning to design video games with my programming brother Tom. We started doing it as a fun hobby, and it eventually turned into something that could make money. So that’s my actual job, currently.
Both my animation work and my videogame work helped develop my passion for character design, expressive posing and most importantly, storytelling. So my interest in exploring comics eventually grew from there and I decided I wanted to try something for myself.
Actual marketing has always been a bit of a non-starter for me. I try to go to events like the MCM Comic Con, and more recently Thought Bubble, to show people my comic, talk to other artists, talk to publishers, anything I can do that might help my comic in the future. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a couple of very helpful connections who have supported me along the way!
PL: When connecting with your fan base and possible new readers how important is social media for you? Are there any sites that particular that have help you?
AV: I mostly work from home, so social media is an important day-to-day method for keeping in touch with everyone. Twitter and Tumblr have definitely been useful, for sure.
Actually, my Tumblr is a strange one, I sometimes gets thousands of reblogs when I draw Nintendo-themed fanart (something I enjoy doing quite a bit), but when I post something about Long Lost Lempi, I can get almost no response whatsoever! I’m not complaining, it makes sense, and it’s an important lesson about how hard it is to get people to care about something they’ve never seen before.
Twitter is an essential tool for keeping up to date with artists, publishers, companies, events and everything else! I’ve formed good friends and good connections on there!
The site that has been the most helpful to me, by far is Broken Frontier. In particular, they have a column called “Small Pressganged“, which has published flattering articles about me on a number of occasions. A big thank you goes to Broken Frontier Editor-In-Chief Andy Oliver, who has done everything in his (considerable) power to help share Long Lost Lempi with the world. I recommend reading Broken Frontier if you’re interested in UK comics in any way!
PL: Your art style is pretty unique, would you say there are any artists, either from the indie circuit or in the mainstream media, that have influenced you?
AV: Thanks! I think my art style for character illustration (and sometimes my video game design) is probably just a mix of cartoons I watched as a child. Bruce Timm (Batman the Animated Series) and John K (Ren & Stimpy) are two that might well have influenced me, but the big two are Craig McCracken (Powerpuff Girls) and Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack). Seeing those cartoons for the first time left a real impression on me, I learned the power of simple, bold, iconic shapes and expressive poses. I think they helped me form my “always find the most efficient and effective way to express this” mind set, which is very important for visual storytelling.
When it comes to Long Lost Lempi, there’s an influence who stands above everyone else. Tove Jansson is probably my favourite artist ever and easily one of my favourite writers too! I have a large collection of Moomin books – some novels, some illustrated books, and LOTS of comic books. Her black and white drawing style for the Moomin comic strip is exquisite, seriously – she truly understands black & white panel layouts.
She also has a gift for off-beat stories and strange-yet-appealing character design. There’s no denying Long Lost Lempi is simply my love letter to Tove Jansson. I didn’t want to directly copy her, and I do feel like Long Lost Lempi has its own identity, but even so. Moomin readers will perhaps recognise Lempi as an off-brand and slightly-more-friendly version of Little My. As for artists from the indie circuit, there are way too many to name, but two of my favourite, in terms of art style, are Joe Sparrow and Donya Todd.
PL: How do you feel about the future of the British comic book industry, do you think it is growing or shrinking?
AV: It’s growing!!! It’s amazing! All you have to do is go to Thought Bubble in November and look around. So many amazing people making amazing comics.
PL: I, like many others, came across you at he MCM Comic Village, how important has that been for you when marketing your work and making other contacts in the indie circuit?
AV: The MCM Comic Village is great. Even though the audience isn’t specifically an “indie comics” audience, the sheer footfall and general level of enthusiasm more than makes up for it. I think the London MCM Comic Con is easily the most popular event of it’s kind in the entire country. I meet a good variety of people there, and I’ve even had repeat customers over the years. Whenever someone comes back to find my table to ask for the next issue, that’s a big win for me, personally. I have made friends and contacts among the MCM regulars, too. There are quite a few artists you can expect to see in the Comic Village. I’ll be there in October!
PL: Finally, do you have any advice for anyone planning to produce their own work? What should aspiring artists and writers be doing right now?
AV: I feel awkward giving advice since I’m not particularly successful myself, and I don’t want to be preachy, but I’ll try!
I think the trick is to be really honest with yourself. The first thing to do is truly find out how much you actually enjoy making comics. There’s no way to find out other than to get on with it and make something. Start small, I guess. Either way; if you truly enjoy it you’ll know, and naturally want to keep going. Creating an entire comic is daunting, and It’s definitely a bunch of work. But I think once you progress beyond a certain point, you begin seeing final piece in your mind and you’ll be inspired to keep going and finish it. Maybe.
It’s hard to describe the weird mix of pleasure and pain that is finishing a comic by yourself. Anyway, once you have something, take it to events! Show it to everyone! There are lots of events in the UK where you can sell your comics – big things like MCM Comic Con and Thought Bubble, and a lot of smaller things too. There are also sometimes events at comic shops. For instance, Gosh! in London where you can meet other comic artists. You can even directly submit your finished comic to some comic shops, if they have a small-press section, to immediately see your work on the shelf! Don’t wait around to get reviewed, ask journalists yourself if you can send over your comic for review. I hope this is a little bit helpful!
How can you get involved?
If you’re looking to pursue the industry it really is worth picking up Long Lost Lempi as it serves as a great example of the sort of work in the industry. You can also follow Adam on Tumblr at: http://adamvian.tumblr.com/ and on Twitter at: @SFBDim. If you want to locate your nearest convention try: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com and check out my article on the MCM Expo’s here.