GUEST POST: Bailey’s and Erasure, or How I Started Working With Avery Hill Publishing

I’ve always enjoyed drawing cartoons and comics, but I didn’t realise I could ever be a Comic Book Artist. I thought you needed a special qualification or a contract with a comic book publisher or to be chosen by a comic book writer to illustrate their story. I was vaguely aware of self published comics through glimpses of the dusty small press section in the local comic book shop, but it wasn’t until I visited Thought Bubble that I became aware of the numbers of people publishing their own work. I decided there and then that I was going to join them.

I created a website and started posting short comics online. They weren’t very good, but I kept at it – encouraged by friends and family (their responses ranged from confusion, to concern, to surprise). I started thinking about printing my comics. I thought a good first step would be to submit a short comic to an anthology, so I returned to the small press section of the comic book shop to see if there was anything suitable. I was hoping to find an anthology that published comics by a diverse range of creators, that would accept my beginner efforts, that would reach a wide audience. I found Tiny Dancing.

Tiny Dancing was an arts zine containing comics, illustration, poetry and prose, published by a group of friends from south east London. They called themselves Avery Hill Publishing. I think they were surprised to hear from me, but agreed to include one of my comics, The Unknowable City, in their sixth issue. Seeing my work for sale in comic book shops felt like a big achievement. A couple of reviewers noticed my piece for the anthology and their reviews gave me a real sense of progressing. They said I “showed promise.”

The Unknowable City-1

At the same time, Dave and Ricky from Avery Hill Publishing, were looking to expand their output. The idea was to create a separate publication for the comics and keep Tiny Dancing as an arts zine. The new publication became Reads. I drew some more short comics for Reads including Darkness on the Edge of Town and Suburban Dreamer. One evening, Dave came over to my flat and we ended up drinking Baileys and listening to Erasure. I told him I wanted do write a longer comic. He said I should do it.

Suburban Dreamer-1

 

Grey Area was the first thing I’d drawn that was more than six pages long, and the first thing that Avery Hill Publishing published that was solely the work of one artist, so it was a step forward for both me, and the company. It was all about London at night. It was received warmly in the small press community, which gave me a boost to work on a second issue – this time about the British motorway system. During this time, Avery Hill Publishing had managed to convince a few other people to produce longer works, and had published books from a diverse range of creators. They’d started attending events and were beginning to make a name for themselves, not only as heavy drinking comics fans, but also as publishers of some highly original material. Including material from artists who were already well established within the small press scene. They began getting noticed.

 

The Reads anthology continued to be published in between other projects, but it’s zine-like aesthetic wasn’t fitting in amongst the new, successful, highly professional outfit that Avery Hill Publishing had become. So it was decided that Reads would be relaunched (Reads Volume 2) with a new identity. There would be four issues serialising four stories – each issue containing eight pages from each story. The covers would all be designed by one artist – Eleni Kalorkoti. It would be published quarterly, so that the run of four issues would be complete within a year. People would want to collect this series.

Ricky emailed me to say that he’d received a script for a comic for Reads Volume 2 from Luke Halsall (who I’d worked with previously on a short anthology piece), and would I like to illustrate it. I agreed. A few days later, in the pub, Ricky mentioned that he’d written a script for Reads Volume 2, and would I like to illustrate it. I agreed. It was only some time later that I realised that I’d set myself quite a lot of work – two lots of eight page comics in four issues. I didn’t manage to stick to the quarterly publishing deadline, which is why the fourth issue has only just been published, two years later.

Grey Area 3-1

Whilst all this was going on, I was working on a third issue of Grey Area. This one was about walking from London to the coast – the idea was to connect the city to the sea, inspired, in part, by The Waste Land by T S Eliot. And then a strange thing happened. Not only was it nominated for Best Comic at The British Comic Awards, but it won! I was completely shocked. I’d never thought of my comics as award winning material, but there I was, having to stand up in front of a room full of comic book artists and give an acceptance speech. A large part of the success of Grey Area was due to the support of Avery Hill – I doubt I’d ever have started writing the series had I not had shorter pieces published first, so I owe a lot to Tiny Dancing and Reads. And I probably owe something to Baileys and Erasure.

 

Tim Bird is  a comic book artist and illustrator from South London.

Tim has been creating a series of comic books called Grey Area since 2012, which have been published by Avery Hill Publishing. The latest issue, From The City To The Sea, won Best Comic at the 2015 British Comic Awards. Tim also draw a diary comic called It’s A Bird’s Life, and a cartoon strip called Effra Tales for the Brixton Bugle.

 

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