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Secret Briefings

Today on the site, Annie Mok returns with a very fun email interview with Space Academy 123's Mickey Zacchilli.

I think a lot of burgeoning cartoonists see you as something of an artistic hero. Have you seen or heard about your influence on other cartoonists and their work? Are there artists you, in turn, have work you’ve been influenced by?

Uhhh I haven't heard this, about me being an artistic hero haha. There are a lot of artists and works I'm influenced by, of course! Jillian Tamaki and CF, as I mentioned above. Brian Chippendale has certainly been an influence on me but please don't ever talk to me about Fort Thunder. I'm always inspired by Michael DeForge (SA123 wouldn't exist were it not for Leaving Richard's Valley, which was Michael's daily Instagram comic that inspired me to start my own) and lately I've been reading the Naruto manga which has been really inspiring, for like, life in general haha, also watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (about to start Legend of Korra) which has been similarly inspiring and energizing in lots of ways. It feels stressful to make a list of people who inspire me right now because I'm really bad at recalling things off the top of my head and might forget to include a person that is particularly inspiring to me or something!!! So i'm not gonna do that. But there are so many amazing cartoonists working today! I feel inspired just thinking about reading comics. I just really like comics right now I guess!

One of your signatures is speech balloons with the tails connecting right to the speakers’ mouths, and hand-lettering with a lot of flair and personality. The decision, of course, makes no more or less sense than any other of the visual languages comics has developed over the last century, but it’s striking. When I read your comics, this touch makes me think about how the characters are communicating, how they may sound when they talk, in a way I may not get from more traditional speech balloons and lettering. How did you come to these approaches to balloons and letters?

I started doing the word bubbles that way because I used to not be so good at anticipating the layout, so I would just have to squeeze the bubbles in wherever, and sometimes it would be really confusing as to who was speaking if the bubble didn't connect directly to their mouth haha. So, it came about out of necessity. I still do it because I think it's way easier to understand that way, and it always felt kind of weird to me that the word bubbles are often added after the drawing is done, just overlaying the drawing, like they aren't an integral part of the comic?

Also I found I could break up the bubbles (sometimes a character will have two or three bubbles coming out of his mouth in the same panel) which allowed me to control the pacing of the speech -- so I was able to deliver it to the reader in a more specific manner, like in a movie! Hope that makes sense. I guess you can do that with regular word bubbles too!

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Hannah Berry talks about the financial difficulties of life as a graphic novelist. (Via The Beat.)

Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? We’ve come this far together, let’s not get all coy about the financial side of things:

As a comicker I’m extremely fortunate to be published by Jonathan Cape, who as part of Penguin Random House are able to afford a bigger advance than a lot of other publishers of graphic novels. Specifically, for Livestock mine was £10,000. (NB never ask a prose novelist about their advances at similar points in their career because it will keep you up at night.) You only get a portion of this advance on signing the contract, though - the rest you get on delivery of the final thing and on publication. My editor is a kindly man, and so he arranged for the portion on signature to be £5,000.

Fortunately the Arts Council also offer grants under their Grants for the Arts scheme, and I made a successful bid (fourth time lucky) for just over £10,000. The various bits of freelance work I did on the side amounted to maybe another £9,000. Altogether that makes an income of approximately £24,000 over three years.

—Angouleme has named its Grand Prix nominees: Emmanuel Guibert, Rumiko Takahashi, and Chris Ware.


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