With the annual London Comic Con opening today, comic writer and artist Emma Vieceli (pictured below) – whose clients include Marvel and Random House – talks to IdeasTap about Shakespeare, Manga and the rise of graphic novels...
How did you become a freelance comic artist and writer?
Being a comic creator was never anything I seriously planned. I don’t think I even imagined it could be a real job! I trained as an actress and singer; it was only after I’d been working in theatre and TV for a while that I started making comics as a hobby and joined a group called Sweatdrop. We were just a bunch of friends making comics for fun, the old-fashioned way, and we’d sell them at conventions from a group table.
I was new to the process, so my work wasn’t brilliant, but the group was very inspirational (and still is). Eventually, through contacts we had made during conventions and shows, an opportunity arose to pitch to independent publisher SelfMadeHero for a new line of Shakespeare adaptations.
That same year, Tokyopop launched Rising Stars of Manga in the UK, and I was cajoled by my friends into giving that a try too. To my amazement, I got the job to draw an adaptation of Hamlet, and a week later, I learned that I was one of the finalists. I began to receive more contacts and offers for work.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic artists and writers?
Practise as much as you can. Don’t set unrealistic goals, start with something achievable: plan a 20-page comic and work on getting that completed and printed. You’ll feel amazing when you hold a finished comic in your hands that you can take to an event and sell.
There are so many shows around the UK now. The MCM Expo in London has a large area for comic creators both pro and indie; Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham also run great comic events. Probably one of the most important things in this industry is to socialise and network. It’s a scene full of lovely people, so get along to events to meet them and make contact.
Are there many opportunities for comic creators in the UK?
It’s a growing scene, though largely in independent press terms. There are more opportunities than ever for creators to print their own work and sell it, and I know people who make a living out of doing this. If you want to work for publishers, you need to be able to think a little broader, but the opportunities are certainly there.
The book industry is really getting excited about comics and so there are more chances to work on adaptations and original titles through amazing publishers like SelfMadeHero and David Fickling books. I feel lucky to be working on the Vampire Academy with Penguin books, and I’m also working on a co-created original series with Oni Press and writers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir.
How do you think comics and graphic novels fit into the British arts scene?
In the last few years, comics have gone from being seen as something niche to being recognised as a brilliant storytelling medium that can engage young and older readers alike. Comics are getting reviewed and promoted in national newspapers; we’ve seen Kate Brown receive the first ever Arts Foundation Fellowship for Graphic Novels in 2010; exhibitions of comic art are getting a fantastic response; and films and TV are turning to comics as a source of inspiration.
Have a look at Emma’s work on her website.
London MCM Expo: London Comic Con runs from 27 to 29 May 2011, ExCel, Docklands, London.