Glasgow Comic Festival very kindly invited SYP Scotland to their first ever industry conference at Glasgow’s CCA on Friday 1st July.
“From humble beginnings…”
Festival director Sha Nazir opened the day by talking about just how far Glasgow Comic Con has come; from a room with 500 people in its first year – to thousands of attendees and a host of international guests in 2016. This is the first comic industry conference that they’ve run as part of the festival and we hope it’s the first of many.
“Where did it all start?”
Professor Laurence Grove, University of Glasgow, gave the keynote speech on the topic of ‘exhibiting comic invention’. He began by giving us a whirlwind tour of the history of the comic book. “It is important that comics have a history like any other art form”, Grove says. He notes that the first comic was the Glasgow Looking Glass created by William Heath in 1825. But how do we go about displaying the history of comics in an exhibit?
Grove explains that we all read comics in different ways; they are more fluid than any other art form. The reader is the creator of the story, and their experience varies depending on how they approach the individual page. It is with this in mind that Grove and his colleagues have designed the Comic Invention exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow.
The exhibition has no set order, and so there is no guide to accompany the exhibition, instead there is a box containing facsimiles of the comics and further information. Grove says this fluidity leads to the kind of personal experience which is intrinsic to comics.
All of this is a step in the direction of a National Centre for Comics in Glasgow. A National Centre would be an outlet for creators, as well as an outreach for education, remembering comic’s rich history but also evolving and looking towards the future.
Next up was a writer’s workshop with Kate Leth and Marguerite Bennett, chaired by Sasha de Buyl-Pisco. Leth writes Hellcat! for Marvel and Adventure Time for BOOM! Studios. Bennett writes Bombshells for DC and Angela: Queen of Hel for Marvel.
Leth started out in the industry by making web comics on Tumblr and “promoting [herself] really hard”. From here she was noticed by an editor at BOOM! and went on to write her first graphic novel which made the bestseller list.
Bennett worked three jobs throughout grad school and took a graphic novel writing course taught by Scott Snyder. He offered to introduce her at DC and then, as she says, it was up to her to prove herself.
“Inhale years and exhale years”
On the writing process, Leth says she thinks about where the story is going, how the story is going to get there and then breaks it down in to issues for scripting from there. Bennett follows Henry Rollins’ idea of inhale and exhale years. When she inhales she absorbs information and inspiration, and when she exhales she puts this material in to her work. Bennett notes that deadlines are important as stop you becoming too precious about your work. You grow as a person over time and your tastes change, so revisiting your work makes it seem flawed.
Leth likes to include queer characters in all of her work, noting that if characters like hers had existed decades ago then it would have made a huge difference. By writing these characters in all ages media she is helping normalise what are normal characters, but can often be ‘othered’ in comics. Bennett states that you don’t want any of your characters to be archetypes with one purpose, or to turn up just to die. She also tells us that she hates the word ‘empowered’ in reference to strong females it suggests that they need to have that sense of power deigned by someone else, when “maybe they’re actually just a f*cking powerful woman!”.