Posy Simmonds MBE at Laydeez Do Comics’ 13th December Meeting

Posy Simmonds MBE by Ellen Lindner

Dateline 13.12.11…
A Report from Bloggess Ellen Lindner!

Posy Simmonds equals comics perfection.  Even the Queen, who’s made her a MBE, has figured that out.  And so I shouldn’t be surprised when, running a bit late, there is a FULL HOUSE at her Laydeez do Comics talk!  

The whole London comics scene is here…a fitting tribute for a woman who’s spent her whole life telling stories that blend humour, poetry, and, occasionally, sudden death – all with a panache that would make Kirby, Eisner or Spiegelman weep.

Born at the close of World War II, Posy’s been a brilliant cartoonist almost from the beginning.  Need proof?  How about her early masterwork – Bullet Vengeance!!!! (exclamation marks mine.) 

Note the prison bars in the final panel.  CRIME NEVER PAYS.

As a young person Posy evaded gaol and instead chose to study at the Sorbonne. She returned home to a place at the Central School of Art and Design, where she mastered the typographer’s craft.
Nicola and Sarah, the LDC organizers, have provided Posy with an overhead projector, and Posy starts to draw.  

A short film by Tony Mines.

All the while, we’re hearing about her early newspaper days (including some talk of the fantastic Mrs. Weber’s Diary – grab a copy on Amazon Marketplace or Alibris), moving quickly on to her first graphic novel, Gemma Bovery.  
Posy brings up a crucial difference between Posy’s heroine and Flaubert’s original.  Those of faint constitutions (or those averse to spoilers) may want to avert their eyes…

 Another topic I found mesmerising – Posy’s discussion of her reception in France.  I’d always assumed it was 100% favourable – Tamara Drewe was nominated for the Prix d’Angouleme, and I’d seen a very cosy and amusing talk with Posy and Charles Berberian (author of Monsieur Jean, and a past president of the Angouleme festival) at the Institut Français.
But apparently the amount of TEXT in Posy’s comics baffles her French readers.

As usual, Laydeez do Comics provides a good chance for all of us isolated comix types to enjoy each other’s slightly disquieting company.  Full of enthusiasm for the comics genius we’d just witnessed, we set upon the refreshments (including homemade mince pies!)
The room was chockablock with both comix stalwarts…
…and people I’ve never seen before!  The latter group fascinate me 
disproportionately….they look so pure, and serious.  BUT ARE THEY?!
After the break a boatload of visitors from abroad told us about their projects, and the comix scenes in their home countries…it’s more comix awesomeness than should be allowed.  TOO AWESOME!  These nice folks from the Finnish contingent were accompanied by comix professionals from the Netherlands and Morocco.  
The topic of reading comics in another language came up, and I mentioned the work available on http://www.comixinflux.com , a Wikipedia (or should I say Wikileaks!) style site where multiple users can collaborate on the same translation.  Publishers are starting to take notice: a translation I completed of Pauline Martin’s La Meilleure du Monde was recently re-published on the site of Ego Comme X, her publisher.  Whether you want to find a book to read (there are Amazon links throughout the site) or contribute a translation of your own, Comix Influx is a great resource – check it out! 
 Meeting over, we head out into the night, having to pass on the usual Indian meal in Brick Lane due to complete and utter fatigue (the downside of driving home from Somerset that morning).  My head is full of future blog posts!
Thanks, Posy!  And thank you, Laydeez do Comics. 
Nicola and Sarah RULE!

November 2010 Meeting

Drawing by Sarah Lightman

There was a tube strike in London and many of us who came from outside London had travelled through snow and horrible train delays. Unfortunately Josie O. who was planning to be our blogess got stuck in all this winter stuff, so I, Nicola Streeten am on words with Sarah Lightman on drawings….with further drawings contributed by Thom Ferrier…both of whom were at the back and were not the official sketchers for the evening. Otherwise, they say, they would have captured more than the bottoms. Jane Heinrichs also contributed a page from her sketchbook…drawn from the front of the crowd! Many thanks to all.

And what a delightful surprise it was to arrive at the Rag Factory to find it toasty in ‘our’ room. It’s a pleasure to meet there and watch it develop as a wonderful venue with each new renovation. With a full programme we got straight on with the opening question, “What’s your favourite thing about winter?”
Wil Morris, (Prize winner of the Northern Sequential Art Competition at Thought Bubble – congratulations Wil!) likes people’s ruddy cheeks, which sounds like an illustrator’s sort of response. Peter Stanbury likes the migrating geese through the dank, dark cloud and Jan Wheatley likes the excuse to dress her dog up in its winter coat!

We never know what order presentations should be in and Paul Gravett suggested alphabetical order….of course, how sensible…so…Our first presentation was from

 Page from Jane Heinrich’s sketchbook

For 15 years Lucy has worked in community arts, facilitating other people’s artwork and NOW she’s ready to do her OWN work. She loves doing portraits. Her work veers into humour, with a slight caricature feel to them. Recently she has been carrying her sketchbook with her to places like libraries which are good places to draw people.

She showed us some of those drawings. Drawings she did at the Cinema Museum in South London and some drawings done from TV, which include a lot of men in suits and ties. She has been to The International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France four times and, inspired by a meeting with Joe Sacco, she experimented with a Joe Sacco type style. Lucy has begun using photoshop for the colour aspect and has applied that to her drawings of interiors and exteriors as well as to her portraits.

Presently she is working with people with learning disabilities which is giving her time to work on her art and at the end of showing us her artwork she asked us the question, “Where next?”

There was a rich mixture of answers and advice. Ilya suggested looking at the work of Peter Arkle and a few people suggested advice for inspiration. She was also offered tips for getting commercial illustration work, which was perhaps what she was really meaning. Mock it up and send it out there was the general consensus, to art directors of editorial publications. Alex Fitch asked her to see him in the break to discuss a commission…there we are then! Then she slipped in another question…was anyone interested in setting up a group for drawing people in clothes? she’s had enough of naked…several of us called out The Cartoon Heart Club where Frankie Sinclair is running just that sort of group and more.

Next up…

Illustrator and author of  Britten and Brulightly

She began her talk with the first comic she did as a little girl, which her mum had found in the loft. It was about Super Bird, who threw himself off a cliff…..and….flew away.

Then she showed us a pie chart she’s done to show her understanding of comics before she discovered Bande Dessinee. It showed a big bit for ‘comics for boys’ and a very small bit for ‘others’.

Hannah studied illustration at Brighton University and did comics which took a long time and had to be disguised because they weren’t keen on traditional forms of illustration there. For her final project they said she could do whatever she wanted…..

Next she showed us another pie chart showing us her time before her BA, when she studied at Basingstoke AKA ‘Amazingstoke’. This sounds like a formative time for Hannah. The chart shows a very small part ‘thinking about project’ and a very large part ‘drinking tea’ which she did with a friend. It was to add entertainment to the tea drinking sessions that she invented the now famous Stewart Brulightly to be accompanied by Fern Britten. It was these characters who continued to be drawn all through her illustration BA. When she came to the final ‘do what you want’ moment for her degree she concentrated on Brulightly. Hannah is not into crazy off the wall stuff but was trying to work out what kind of partner a teabag would have….Finally she realised the character was so broken that he would be fine talking to a teabag.  She put together five pages and a synopsis of the story. Here were a few of her starting points: She likes stories with a twist at the end to change the entire outlook. She knew she didn’t want any obvious villains. She wanted a level of sophistication that recognises that even evil people probably feed their pet fish. Hannah also feels that many stories don’t accommodate the messiness of life, so she wanted to include a more random, labyrinth style story.

After she finished at Brighton, she sent the five drawn pages and the final script to Vertigo and Cape and Cape gave her a publishing deal. It then took her two and a half years to complete the book.

Hannah introduced some hidden details into the imagery, some of which she may return to in future Britten and Brulightly stories.  For example, the picture frame on his desk with is turned down. There is also the appearance of the Black Swan. Hannah explained the ‘Black Swan Theory’. Before Australia was ‘discovered’ it was thought all swans were white. The finding of the black swan represents the unpredictable that challenges our understanding of everything. There are also a number of cameo appearances in the book including from her housemate and her brother.

She is hopeful that she will continue with the character Fern Britten, but he is not in the book she is presently working on….which continues to deal with her favourite themes of death and guilt and is more of a horror story…..due out in 2012….we can’t wait!!!

Then we took a break to include announcements

Friday 10 Dec: December pop up show: Lisa Gornick Drawings

10 – 23 Dec.
Viewing times Friday 10 and Wed 15 Dec 6-9pm
or at other times by appointment. lisa@lisagornick.com or tel 07890039943

Workplace Cooperative 115
115 Bartholomew Road, Loncon NW5 2BJ


Friday 10 Dec 6-8pm Preview: The Moment of Privacy has Passed: Sketchbooks by Contemporary Artists, Architects and Designers

Exhbition continues until 6 March 2011

Events and courses continue at THE LONDON PRINT STUDIO


Drawing by Sarah Lightman


was next….An actor, filmmaker and drawer.

The reality of the rejection letters inspired Lisa’s first drawings. She showed her drawings where she was a “bit pissed off with patriarchy and violence”. She also likes drawing people drinking.

In her film work she uses drawing to find out about what the film will be about.
She showed us drawings from an idea for a film about lesbian porn she wanted to do, she wanted to make a graphic love story combining drawing and video in real time. It may be too complex and she may still make it.

The film she made called ‘Tick Tock Lullaby’ which was shown as part of Comica Festival and which you can get out from Lovefilm, was about the dilemma for a lesbian woman of whether to have a baby. It was after the making of this film that she began her film drawing blog. It was meant to be about drawing film. It does not include story boards, but story board ideas, so is not sequential art.

Lisa showed us drawings from some of the ideas she’s worked on. These included a film about people going through a mid-life crisis and to accompany a script she wrote called, ‘American Dad’ based on imagining being the daughter of Philip Roth. She showed us drawings for ‘Saturn Return’, which a load of us heard at first as ‘Satin Return’ and thought it was more erotic ideas….actually it refers to the depression which is supposed to kick in when you reach 28 years old….

Lisa showed us some drawings with little notes like ‘BCU’ Big Close Up and her Pina Bausch inspired dance film ideas. Jaques Tati is another inspiration. She includes her drawn fantasies about film life. She will look out of her window and see the depressing urban landscape of London and think, ‘NO! Russia 950s’. Although she doesn’t drink or smoke a lot (because it’s not good for you) she likes to draw tableaus of this life. Lisa’s drawings will be exhibited from Friday 10 Dec see the details under our announcements bit above….try and get there if you can.

Paul Gravett. Photo by Nicola Streeten


Is not a comics creator, but is everyone’s favourite comics guru, so we were delighted to hear his story of an impressive contribution to the comics and graphic novel world in the form of Escape Magazine. This was a publication he created with Peter Stanbury. They began it in 1983 and it ran for 19 issues, begun with the intention of being bimonthly, it became quarterly and even thirdly.

Escape was born from the post punk, new wave era. Paul and Peter had fallen out of love with the superhero style comics and were keen to introduce something new to the UK comics world. Inspiration included i-D Magazine, RAW Magazine (an anthology edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly) and the French small zines. They wanted Escape to be a magazine that mixed the lesser known creators producing new and exciting works with the bigger names, a mix of UK and non UK creators.  The first magazine was A4 landscape and Issue 1 included works by Serge Clerc who was illustrating for the NME and Biff. Issue 2 featured work by Glen Baxter and Raymond Briggs.

By Issue 6 they produced Escape in full colour and by Issue 7 Escape was an 80 page bumper special. In 1987 the magazine was revamped, to a cropped A4 portrait magazine format.  From Issue 10 Titan Books (Now publishers of magazines such as Batman and The Simpsons) agreed to publish Escape. 

At this point Paul and Peter were interested in other aspects of comics. They were promoting people such as Eddie Campbell. They were never interested in having Escape restricted for sale in the comics shops but wanted it to be available on the news stands. At this point Peter interjected to emphasise how important it was to understand the context of the time. They wanted to look outwards at all the things in culture and then look back in. This may now seem like the status quo, then it was unheard of.

Escape was anti fantasy comics. The aim was to move beyond the firm ghetto of the narrow comics audience. Themes were introduced to the magazine, such as HIV and Greed. However by Issue 19 the publishers were more interested in the Dark Knight than more open-minded publications and were focusing on books and the comic shop market.

Paul’s presentation was illustrated with some fantastic photos of himself, Peter and others taken in the 1980s. In 1981 they set up Fast Fiction a small press comic mart with a bimonthly gathering. They also ran Escape meetings in pubs which generated a number of collaborations between artists. There was an endless list of people working in the small press world who have gone on to become established names in the world of comics and graphic novels. (Not too many women, but the times were different as has been acknowledged.) These include: Ed Pinsent, Harley Richardson, Hunt Emerson, Dave McNamara, Peter Ketley, Myra Hancock, Miss March, Carol Swain, Glenn Dakins, John Bagnall, Woodrow Phoenix, Chris Reynolds, Steven Appleby.

And finally, we asked, what is their ambition now?
Possibly an anthology, a ‘Mook’, part book, part magazine, produced annually. Wow that would be great…do it soon!!

Our final guest had flown in from Australia….why of course especially!!

Drawing by Ian Williams (Thom Ferrier)

A psychiatrist who draws cartoons and runs a publishing company called Shrink-Rap Press. His presentation was entitled, Drawing Mental illness.

Neil talked about the enormous value of cartoons in medicine. He works in community mental health in New South Wales, Australia. He travels by light plane to some remote locations, for example, Lake Cargelligo. His work is with the mental health of Australian Aboriginal people.

Sixteen years ago he set up Shrink-Rap Press with a colleague for an OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) conference. Neil did the drawings for it and it is still the best seller of the books he has produced. The format is to include text because it can provide something useful. The drawings are used to illustrate every point.  In 2000 his colleague stepped down from the publishing and Neil has continued.

Neil talked about his own background. He explained that psychiatry is a disease he inherited, that both his father and his brother are psychiatrists. In 1948 he and his family were living in accommodation in the mental hospital in Melbourne, where his father was working. He sees this as forming a big impression on him as he was living closely among people with mental health problems. This he feels is what gave him his drive. In Australia, as in the UK at that time, the mental hospitals were big business and things have changed a lot now.

Neil then went on to explain why line drawings and cartoons are fundamental to humans. He referred to the FUSIFORM GYRUS which is the part of the brain that recognises faces. It works on the basis of caricature and is the key to comprehending cartoons. It is a highly developed part of the brain in humans. Therefore, cartoons are hard wired into the brain. He showed an example of two potato shaped heads, not drawn as faces, but recognised as such because of the basic elements which the brain is able to translate.

The subjects covered in the Shrink-Rap Press books include, School Refusal; Attention Deficit Disorder; Mood Disorder and a Panic Book. The latest one is on Psychosis, which has been the most difficult. How do you draw psychosis without being offensive? He came up with a whirly Twirly symbol. Basically he said, the books are propoganda to do something. Because one thing that prevents any of the conditions covered worsening is to get treatment.
Drawing by Ian Williams (Thom Ferrier)

Our time ran out…..
We ran for buses and delayed trains and some went for a curry.
Thank you to everyone!