I had read some of Tails of Magicat before on Tapas and when the kickstarter popped up I knew I wanted it. It did take a long time to get it, but the quality of the book is absolutely stunning. The paper is thick and gorgeous, the book is full colour and it is a chonky one. And obviously the art is extremely cute.
It mostly follows the story of a little cat as he learns magic, makes new friends and explores the forest, plus slowly grows up. It is ADORABLE and made me both smile, and laugh and be emotional and the story is varied. For example, he goes hunting and makes frineds with a frog, and then he makes friends with his bullies and things like that.
Magicat lives with his grandma who cooks delicious meals and is the elder in magic to him, so she teaches him too. This means we get illustrated recipes throughout the books. The first one is just for carrots, but as the story goes through it gets more complex and with fancier recipes, including bear claws and a roast. Each of the recipes also features as part of the story so your mouth is already watering by the time you get to read the full recipe and then it even shows variations and ideas to make it more of your own at the end.
Honestly, it was a slow joy to read this one and it cheered me up plus it made me want to cook a lot too. I want to make those bear claws soon. I can highly recommend it, and if you’re interested in a cute black cat learning magic and making friends and taking care of his community, then you can buy it here.
Today I am doing something slightly out of the ordinary. You all know I don’t pitch things just because, I only do if I care about them.
So here goes. I am interviewing Dominic Archer, the mind behind the Kickstarter graphic novel project, A Boxer. This novel details the experience of a homosexual man struggling to find his place between two worlds, feeling himself equally impassioned and alienated by both the boxing and LGBTQ+ communities.
This is a powerful story in an artwork style that reminds me (personally) of collecting the strips of comics from the newspapers on Sundays, that old school pre DC/Marvel style that made me fall deeply for The Phantom or Prince Valiant.
I thought it was better if Dominic would tell us more about the project and answer some questions rather than me trying to convince you this is a wonderful idea to support and sit behind. The following is a Q&A we did beforehand for today.
Q: Could you please tell us briefly about The Boxer?
Dominic: A Boxer is the story of an up-and-coming fighter who struggles between his sexual identity and the masculine culture demanded by male combat sports
Q: What made Mike Shepard, the main character, come alive in your mind and have a story to tell?
Dominic: Mike is a character based upon my own thoughts and experiences with the LGBTQ community. I used to teach in China and encountered a number of students who openly expressed their sexuality to me while I, someone who has had regular interactions with the community itself, have always been questioning where exactly I fit in. Mike’s identity crisis is one of longing to belong, but finding it impossible.
A graphic novel is a different medium to just sitting down and writing a story, was it hard to write it for an artist to turn the words into images?
To me, a graphic novel is no more or less hard than writing prose, it is just a different process. I have been writing scripts since I was 16, and comic scripts since I was 17 so it really is just a case of how you approach the work. It is very different creating a visual scene for a reader of fiction, to an instructional description that an illustrator can then realise in a piece of sequential art.
Q: Thanks for letting us understand how you approach it, so could you talk us through the process of creating a page?
Dominic: This is a tough question, because every page is completely different. And each page in each book is different, because the very structure of the page is based around the flow and pacing of the story you were trying to tell. For example, if you are trying to impart a large amount of visual information, or make an impact on the reader, then you may just want a single image on the page. But if you are attempting to convey the intensity of a conversation, then the page will have to be broken down into a number of panels. However, if you have too many panels, then the dialogue can become unreadable. Action pages will be constructed differently to moments of emotional silence, but all are structured based upon the thematic requirements of the overall book. Otherwise they feel disconnected and that is when the work falls apart.
Q: That’s a lot of things to consider while working a single page! Let’s talk about the artists, what can you tell us?
Dominic: We have an award-winning, international team of creators working on a boxer. Gary Welsh is a Scottish artist with a Masters degree in Comics and Graphic Novels. Marc Casilli actually has two Masters degrees and is a teacher of comics to low income communities in São Paulo, Brazil. Amanda Maranda is another Brazilian illustrator, and she is the winner of the Dente Award for best independent comic. Hassan is the winner of an Eisner award, which is basically like winning an Oscar for us comic book nerds. It’s an incredibly talented team, which forces me to improve the quality of my writing to make sure that I am not the one letting us down!
Q: Gotta keep up with that art team then! Now, there’s a Kickstarter project, why go through Kickstarter? What are the pros/cons?
Dominic: Previously I have self-funded all of my comics work, but this is incredibly expensive. Artists are talented creators, who deserve to be paid for their time and effort, it is their job after all! But it makes it very difficult for writers like myself to put work together when each page can cost well over £150. It also means that a 100 page graphic novel like A Boxer is too expensive for our publisher BHP comics to fund. So Kickstarter is really our best way forward! The downside is that it may not go through, but if that happens we are just back to where we started and will find another way to make the art happen.
Q: Being an artist myself (but not one that does it as main job) I can fully understand wanting to support them. I truly appreciate that! Let’s talk a little on the hopeful and futuristic (?) side… what are your dreams for this story and beyond?
Dominic: My dream for the book is just to see it realised. Writing comics is different to writing a novel, in that with a novel the main thing stopping you is your personal situation. For a lot of us, that is a challenge all its own! We all struggle with realising our potential. But in comics you also have to deal with making sure other people are on board too. As a writer, you are the de facto project manager, promoter/marketer, agent, often editor and financer which brings a lot of responsibility and stress. So to see our work come to life will be an incredibly rewarding feeling.
Q: That sounds like a crazy amount of work and effort for just one graphic novel/comic. Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Dominic: The Kickstarter is running until the end of February and the cheapest option is a digital comic for just £5. If you’d like to back us further there is a paperback edition for £15 or you can just give us all of your savings, although it is likely that I will feel a little guilty when I accept it.
And that is all for now. Hope you this view into why and how the project came to be. If you are interested in supporting it on Kickstarter, you can find it here. There you will also find the first six pages, whereas I am only including the first one here. Go, be curious and support art!
I call this a review because I want to talk about the whole package but it isn’t a “formal” review like I do for other books. Why? Because this is a Kickstarter project I backed and I have been following Simone for too many years, from DeviantArt to Instagram and then playing Deponia and wanting eagerly to have her draw my outfit of the day (OOTD).
So when Kickstarter and 3D Publishing sent me an email saying “you may like this” it was a no brainer. I was going to back it. And so I did. And I do not regret it.
The cardboard box it came in is gorgeous, protected well the book and other contents and is a nice keepsake. ~There were four prints included (the three with the children and animals are used as examples in the book), a set of stickers, a sketchbook (it is really nice, has a pen/pencil holding elastic loop and an elastic “ribbon” to close or select a page, a small Inktober drawings booklet, a prompt bookmark and finally the main thing, the book.
In the book Simone covers her whole story of how she got to where she is, and does so with drawings to show progress and to match style. She talks about her jobs, her studies, her life. Whcih helps give background and a view into the artist.
Then she moves onto how to do things, what she does, and how she chooses what she draws. Sometimes something from her day, sometimes a concept, something funny.
Reading through it I just wanted to start drawing (which I did afterwards) and it is very inspiring but also very normal. She doesn’t pose as the perfect drawing machine and instead talks about the truths and realities of life getting in the way and all of that.
Highly recommended book but sdefinitely have a sketchbook nearby because you’ll get to a point you just feel like you need to draw!