THIS IS THE NEWS (May)

The Bristol Small Press and Comic Expo

Nick and I will be appearing again at the Bristol Comic and Small Press Expo, Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th May, at the Mercure Hotel in Redcliffe, Bristol. It marks our second appearance at Bristol, and closes our very first year of distributing our comics in the small-press world.

On Saturday, at 4pm (I think), Nick and I will be taking part in a panel discussion with Ian Williams (Graphic Medicine) and Katie Green (Green Bean), talking about comics and mental health. It looks set to be an interesting debate, and one that is very important to me – given my own experiences, and those of others close to me, I believe mental health issues need to be discussed more openly, and I think drawing is an important tool in communicating ideas about, and dealing with, these challenges.

The Sorry Entertainer:

The Sorry Entertainer is fundraising is storming ahead. If you haven’t yet donated, and would like to back the project – receiving the newspaper, comics and even original artwork in the process – do check out our IndieGoGo page. The newspaper will (all being well) see print next week, and be ready to debut at Bristol Expo. Watch this space for confirmation news.

First three panels of my contribution to the Sorry Entertainer

Smoo Comics:

As you may have noticed, Smoo #4 was, just the other month, all lined up to be finished, and then it dropped off the radar. It remains pencilled and largely unlinked, as I’ve been in all sorts of turmoil about what I want the zine to be, what I want it to do, what it represents for me. After much thought, I have decided that I will be moving Smoo to an annual schedule, after the release of Smoo #4 this summer. It will continue to contain comics, but most likely also writing, illustration and other, less-comicky things. I have made this decision because I would like an outlet for more than just comics, and I’d like Smoo to be that outlet. I have plenty of things lined up to go in future issues of Smoo, including a write-up of a trip to Berlin, a holiday in Spain, and countless other shorter ideas. I didn’t want to give up on Smoo, but I just wanted it to be something different to what it has been to date.

The Escapologist

Alongside Smoo’s annual release, I will be working on a much shorter form minicomic, called tentatively, The Escapologist. It’ll be 100% comics, but perhaps more abstract than Smoo has been to date. It’ll still deal with many of the central concerns of my comics to date – philosophy, everyday life, mental health, making sense of the world – but will try and remove some of the obviously narrative or ‘straight’ autobiographical context in order to explore other avenues of story-telling. The images below will appear in the first issue of the Escapologist. I have submitted a shortened version of the story to JM Shivelely’s Hive Anthology.

Panels from The Escapologist #1

Each issue will also be much, much shorter (and cheaper) than the average issue of Smoo. This will enable me to work in bite-size chunks, getting ideas fleshed out and into print quicker than working on longer-form comics. They will be stand-alone issues, but designed that once they are put together, to flow as one long, disjointed yet interconnected narrative. They should be released with more regularity, and, every four issues or so, I will collect them together in volumes. I intend to keep the series going as long as I have something to explore. The Escapologist will debut at Bristol Expo, alongside the Sorry Entertainer.

So that’s it: that’s the news. All this new stuff will be available on my online shop soon. In the meantime, get donating!

Bog Off.

Nope, it’s not ‘Be Offensive Friday’: it is, in fact, Buy One Get One Free Friday here at Things in Panels!

Here’s the deal: buy any comic from my shop and get a second comic absolutely free!

To take advantage of this offer, simply head to the shop, choose a comic you’d like to purchase and click on the ‘Add to Cart’ button. When you come to complete your payment in PayPal, fill out the ‘Additional Information for Seller’ (or you can drop me an email), with details of the comic you’d like free! Boringly, the free comic must be of the same value, or lower than, the one you’re purchasing.

…and, if you buy more than one comic, you get more than one free! How’s that to lift your spirits on a miserable Friday?

Any questions - get in touch!

(This offer ends when it stops being Friday, where ever you are in the world)

Edit: this sale is now over. Thanks to everyone who got involved and bought some comics!

A year in comics

The year so far

Oh, 2010! What a year you’ve been for Smoo. To start with, it has been, almost to the day, a whole calendar year since I started distributing Smoo with any sense of commitment. We were in Amsterdam visiting friends, and I stopped into Lambiek, sweatily clutching five copies of Smoo #2 and building up the courage to approach the shopkeepers. Thus began the publishing and distributing powerhouse that is Things in Panels.

Since then my confidence to distribute and have strangers actually read my comic has grown: we’ve had tables at Bristol International Comic and Small Press Expo, and Thoughtbubble 2010, I’ve got stuff in shops, and even people I’ve never met have been using my online shop to buy things. This is an exciting development. I’ve also managed to publish Smoo #2, Smoo #2 1/2, finish Lisbon, compile and publish my old diary comics, and complete Smoo #3. Quite productive, I guess - and the reviews have been good, too (in fact, there’s a new review up for Smoo #3 from Matthew Murray. You can read it here.)

In other news, I finished my PhD and ran a half-marathon too, both of which I can say with some confidence will be one-time events. Running is a silly idea at the best of times, and running a long way is a very silly idea. However, a lot of people did a lot of silly running for a lot of good causes, and I’m glad I could help in some small way. But that is by the by. This is about comics.

What next?

See, I’m a sucker for the idea of the New Year: fresh starts, reinvigorated after the holidays for the onset of January and the rest of the year. Just as well really, because no matter how many times and in how many ways I list the things I have accomplished this year, I must say I don’t feel as though I’ve done that much: I’ve got so much more that I want to do, but don’t really know what that ‘more’ is or how to go about doing it. I got a bit overwhelmed towards the end of this year with various working and self-imposed comic-pressure, but a good bout of the flu helped me stop, take stock and calm down.

So what are my plans for the New Year? In the short-term, we’ve got The Sorry Entertainer anthology to put together and get printed - we’re aiming to get it released sometime in May: I’m working one or two submissions for other people’s anthologies, so we’ll see happens there: we have tables at the Small Press Expos in London in March and Bristol in May. We’re also trying to organise our own event here in Bristol, but more on that another time.

But what about Smoo #4? Well, I’ve reached a funny sort of impasse here: I don’t really know what I want to achieve with my next issue of Smoo. The amazing thing about self-publishing is that it can be anything I’d like it to be: the annoying thing about self-publishing is that it can be anything I’d like it to be (i.e. too many options). So what will happen next? What stories will I tell? Comics? Writing? Poems? Autobiography? Fiction? To be honest, I really don’t know, but it might be something quite different - and equally, it might be more of the same. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Happy 2010. I’m off to think about things some more. I’ll see you on the other side.

Seasonal cheer in news form

Interview!

I’ve been interviewed by Dan Berry as part of the UK comics snapshot series being run over at the Comics Bureau. It was my first ever interview, so I am grateful and excited. As Mr Timothy Winchester, author of the joyous People I Know, communicated to me via the medium of twitter, “2011 is going to going to be a good year for us!”. Was he joking? Was he predicting? Did he have a premonition? You can only find out by reading his comics!

You can also read interviews with far more interesting folk than I, including Darryl Cunningham, Oliver East, Katie Green and Jim Medway.

Review!

Justin has reviewed Smoo #3 over at the Poopsheet Foundation. Justin has been a very supportive reviewer of late, so I’m grateful. However, I’ve also sent review copiers further out into the world - so we’ll see what they have to say! Anyway, here is a snippet of what Justin has said:

" I love the detail in Simon’s lines, along with the effortless flow from one panel to another. There’s something unique about his page layouts and panel arrangements too; the pacing is under control with isolated moments that seem to float effortlessly down the page, gently nudging the reader’s eye toward the end goal."

You can read the whole interview here.

That’s it for now: more soon!

Christmas appeal from Things in Panels (sort of)

(Excerpt from Lisbon.)

There’s a new review of my Lisbon mini-travelogue up at the Forbidden Planet International blog. This is what Richard says:

"It’s absolutely lovely, simply done, naturalistic storytelling and it really makes me hanker to see Simon M get stuck into something far more substantial, his style, his invention and his tone all press all the right buttons for me. Someone give him some cash to go away and make longer form comics. Please?

… and while there might not be any publishers able to knock my door down with offers of oodles and oodles of cash (I’m sure they would if they could), tis the season to be jolly and share, so why not check out my shop? It’s full of comic-based goodies loved by small press reviewers around the world. So why not treat the small-press DIY-ethos-diggin’ indie-comic-lovin introspective boy or girl in your life to the Christmas surprise of Smoo Comics? It’d sure make my day - and theirs!

(Excerpt from Smoo #3)

Also, it’s Tumblr Tuesday, so perhaps you might like to recommend me for being awesome at comics, or pleading, or something.

…and finally… If you need a song-based accompaniment for your reading or browsing, why not consider this charity single, released as part of my friend’s 52 New Things project? Ahh, go on.

This month, mostly I have been reading…

© David Heatley 2008

My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley. It’s stark in it’s honesty, and compelling reading: like autobiographical comics should be, bold visceral, entertaining, touching, valuable. Not that I’ve finished reading it yet, but you should probably buy it.

In other news, Kevin ‘Optical Sloth’ Bramer has read the preview to Smoo #3, and suggests you all take a leap of faith and purchase the whole thing. He’s right you know: you really should! Buy it here!

Christmas Day TV

As some of my twitter followers may know, my friend Nick, a very tall, very friendly, very enthusiastic, and now very beardy, gent, has been doing one new thing, every week, for the past year. He has driven from Land’s End to John O’Groats, dined in the dark, had a colonic, a back, sack and crack wax, had his feet cleaned by fish, spun wool, and tried to break a world record… and that’s to name but a few! Like the good journalist he is, Nick has kept a record of all of his events, a record that is at times touching, often hilarious, sometimes bemused, but always, always entertaining: you could happily while away an hour or two or three reading about his exploits.

Anyway, now, after a manic preparation of approximately no-time-at-all, he’s only gone and written, recorded and released a bloody Christmas single. Pretty good for someone who admits he has no musical chops… and you know what? It’s good. Seriously. I urge you to go check it out. We’re trying to get it to number 52 in the charts and to raise £5,200 for the Alzheimer’s Society. Definitely a worthwhile cause. Please, please consider buying: it’s called “Christmas Day TV”.

Now, I feel somewhat responsible for this, given I drunkenly suggested that this would be an easy and awesome thing to do, promised to help him get it all sorted: he promptly did it, and I, less than promptly, did fuck all. So, when he asked me to come up with some artwork for the single, I knew it was time to repay the accidental stitch-up. So, I tried to throw together some quick illustrations to support his single. Copyright prevents some of our favourites from being used, but have a look at them here, now!

You can buy the single here.