I was lucky enough to interview Robin Jones and Michael Sambrook, the gentlemen from Madius Comics and the team behind Papercuts and Inkstains and HORRERE, which is currently in the running for two Ghastly Awards. You can view the ballot and vote here:
I don’t need to add much to this piece because Robin and Michael are entertaining enough to read without my commentary. They are seriously funny, but also a great example of a successful collaborative project that continues to grow. Having published several comics so far, the pair offers some helpful insights about the process of producing self-published comics,in between making me laugh. So please read, laugh, learn and enjoy.
NB: So. Could you guys tell me a bit about Madius Comics, how it came to be, and what projects you have coming up?
ROBIN: Madius really grew like an oak from an acorn. It was a daft idea by us and a couple of like minded pals, Brad Holman and Nick Gonzo, and the whole premise was to build a stable of writers and artists who could work together on projects. From there it’s morphed into this, publishers. Who in a year, have 11 comics out, a whole year of comics in production and a whole heap of cons in the pipeline over here in the UK.
MIKE: Rob, as most of Twitter already knows, is such a relentlessly enthusiastic force. Working with him, the energy is infectious and it’s true of the rest of the Madius guys as well. It really brings out the best in me and I think all of us. I think working closely together, always discussing our ideas and projects – It motivates us and makes us want to work hard. We are in competition with each other, but no matter who wins, we all do. We just want to tell the best stories we can, always look to grow and improve, take risks and just tell the best stories we can.
ROBIN: Our emphasis is on fun. We like humour and making people laugh, so we try not to be too Po-faced in what we write and produce. So we always try and inject a little of our humour into everything we produce! We want the artists we work to enjoy the process, enjoy the scripts and hopefully that seems to show through in the finished products.
MIKE: Yeah, it’s incredibly important for us for the artist to enjoy the process. I mean ultimately comic scripts are produced for one person and that’s the artist. The finished art is what the audience sees, not the script, so we always try to make ours as fun and personal as possible. We are always open and encourage feedback from everyone we work with as well and are always open to tweaks, suggestions and changes and try to make everything as organic as possible.
ROBIN: When it comes to future plans and comics, We plan on continuing the series we’ve started, like Papercuts and Inkstains, 50 Signal, Average Joe, Ramlock and we also have some pretty cool titles up our sleeve, including our first Kickstarter project, a supernatural thriller comic in the vein of Hellboy/Hellblazer and BPRD, Griff Gristle, with art by the amazing Rory Donald.
MIKE: Another big thing that we will be looking at later in the year will be a collected first volume of Papercuts & Inkstains. We are in the process of figuring out just how we can pull that off and just how we want to approach it, but with us having as many issues as we have, we want to make sure it is incredibly easy for new readers to approach what we’re doing. Of course, as well as the titles that Rob has already mentioned, there will be more HORRERE. Issue 2 is fully written and in the process of being drawn right now. Issue 3 is mostly written and, if all goes to plan should also be out this year. Tons of stuff that we’re incredibly excited to share with you.
NB: What do you want readers to know about your books …wax poetic!
ROBIN: We have a broad range of titles, catering tastes from sci fi and space exploration, to fantasy adventure, to absurdist comedy, to all ages kids fun, via horror comics and more.
MIKE: Yeah, we like to think we have something for everyone. Between us we have incredibly diverse tastes and influences and I think this shows through in our output. As Rob has said we have everything from creepy horror, through comedy, sci-fi, fantasy and the list goes on and on. In Papercuts we always try and keep the reader disorientated, never really knowing what’s coming next. We love to mash together a range of visual styles and push ourselves to try and find unique ways to tell these stories. Then we have the opposite end of the scale with Ramlock Investigates which is intended for all-ages. Laughs we hope everyone can enjoy.
ROBIN: We’ve been lucky to have Papercuts and Inkstains feature on the pipe dream comics best indie titles of 2015 list, forbidden planet chose 50 Signal as one of their best titles of the year, Horrere has featured on several best of 2015 lists.
MIKE: We’ve been nominated for two Ghastly awards for that title too, which is mindblowing. To even be considered for an industry award such as that is something we never could have expected at this stage. *PROMO KLAXON* And YOU, can vote for us RIGHT NOW, to win. Voting opens,
February 8th and finishes on February 21st. Hop on over to http://www.ghastlyawards.com/ RIGHT NOW! *END PROMO KLAXON*. And to be nominated for TWO of them is something I’m not sure we have fully processed just yet.
ROBIN: Yup, one for best Anthology and one for best anthology short. We also made the long list for the British Comic Awards last year for Papercuts and Inkstains which was great, not shortlisted in the end, but to even be recognised was incredible. Personally as well, I was named on the Outhousers top 50 indie creators to watch list and won the ASHCAN groups best letterer of the year, 2015. We’ve had a mad old year to be honest, and we’re just getting started, so who knows where things may go from here.
MIKE: The key to our success is our collaborators though. They make us look great. We always try to work with the very highest level talent we can. We put crazy hours into this and we want to make sure we always deliver a high quality product possible. The artists we work with are the reason our books look as amazing as they do. We owe it all to them. We couldn’t ask to work with a more talented bunch of inspiring folks. Seeing our ideas come back to us looking as good as these guys make it look. I’m sure we accidentally signed a dark bargain. Sat on a demonic drawing pin or something. It feels like a dream, to be honest, to be able to make these books with the incredible talents we are.
ROBIN: We’re working with Irish Comic Award nominees, Scottish Independent Comic Book Award nominees, incredible artists, colourists and creators, who ALL deserve your time and attention!
MIKE: YES! Everyone we’ve worked with comes with the highest endorsement from us. The Madius gold star for contributions to fantastic. Although, I’m still trying to wash the demonic ooze out of my ritual cloak from the last HORRERE group meeting, so it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s my favourite cloak and everything. But other than that, GOLD STARS ALL ROUND.
NB: Can you comment a bit on the collaborative process in creating collections/anthologies and matching artists with scripts and such? There are a lot of indie creators out there looking to connect.
ROBIN: When it comes to working with artists, we merely adopt the “tie ‘em up and stick ‘em in the trunk” method, and then usually chain them to an artists table and occasionally feed them scraps of wax crayon. It’s been a temperamental method and we’ve had or two escape attempts (looking at you Kevin Pospisil) and there was that one artist who hasn’t been seen or heard from since, but usually Stockholm syndrome takes effect quite quickly…
MIKE: Yeah, the main logistical hurdle is finding where the artists spend most of their time and where they would be most easily hijacked from. Everything from there onwards, as Rob said, plain sailing. Getting them in the car is the hardest part. Haha. Truth is there isn’t a simple answer. Every project usually comes together slightly differently. Sometimes there will be an artist we are dying to work with that has a scrap of an idea they want to explore and we help them build it into a story. Sometimes it is the opposite end of the scale, we have an idea we have built and then we seek out who we think will be the perfect collaborator. We’ve had times where artists have been brought on early in the process and helped steer where the script will go and we’ve had times where we’ve presented fairly complete pieces. We always try and go with the flow, comics are such a collaborative medium that no matter how finished we think we have things, we make sure everyone we work with knows the door is always open and we are always receptive to tweaking and changing things. We aren’t precious and we always welcome suggestions. I think that would be the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone who is looking to work collaboratively. ALWAYS be open to suggestions. The best things are built when everyone involved has a voice. I think the deeper we get into making comics and the more we build up strong relationships and friendships with artists, the easier matching scripts to their talents becomes. I certainly find that more and more as I’m writing a piece I just know who should draw it.
NB: Out of curiosity, how did all of you guys connect? Are there any challenges to organizing such a project with an international team?
ROBIN: With Mike it was love at first sight, I glanced across the room and was immediately struck by the beauty of the top of his head, as it was all I could see since he’s 3 foot nothing in height, and I’m six foot everything. From there we seem to have formed an almost symbiotic relationship, with the line between where I end and he begins blurring daily, which is confusing for our significant others….
MIKE: Yeah, we have given both families a metre ruler and a pH detector to ensure they are talking to face of the loved one they require. Truth is we got to chatting on Twitter many a moon ago and through a mutual love of comics and a shared admiration for Mongolian throat singing, the rest as they say, was history. Same is true of Brad and Nick and the rest of the extended Madius family. Generally it all starts with chatting to people through social media and then discussions usually wander into emails and between that and the occasional video chat. We somehow get things done. Script wise, Google drive is the business. It allows Rob and I to work on things no matter where we are, on whatever device we are holding in our greasy palms. It means we’re able to just tweak and adjust things on the go and helps us maximise our productivity.
NB: Lastly, how would you describe the vision (sorry, sounds cheesy) of your comic producing? What are your ultimate goals?
IN CHORUS: World domination.
ROB: Outsell 2000AD. Get in previews. Diamond distribution. Attend a con in the USA, or… Just keeping our current readers supplied with comics they enjoy and love, to be able to make comics which anyone enjoys reading, laughs at, makes them ponder things, holds their attention for five minutes and shows that there is more to comics than capes and crooks, then surely that’s the ultimate goal of anyone making comics?
MIKE: Yeah, we want to continue to grow. Continue to push ourselves to try new things and to be brave in what we do. But we don’t’ want to take our focus off anything we’ve started. We care deeply about the people who’ve supported us by buying our books and enjoying what we’re putting out. We owe it to them to make sure everything we’ve started we continue to give 100% love to.
ROBIN: We really couldn’t do this without the people who buy and support our work, otherwise we’d be a bunch of kooks flinging artwork at random strangers in the street, jabbering at the public and generally acting in a most peculiar way. We prefer the alternative.
MIKE: Don’t send us back to that life!
NB: Wait more! Favorite way to prepare eggs? Coffee or tea or neither? Aaaaand hmmm lets go with if you could have telekinesis, ESP, a million dollars, devastating good looks, invisibility powers, or strength ten times that of the average man, which would you pick?
ROBIN: When it comes to preparing eggs, I like mine scrambled. Take two eggs, crack them into a bowl and lightly whisk, add a dab of butter, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper, some Oregano, a dash of sweet chilli sauce for kick and a small handful of grated mature cheddar cheese. Mix together, then put into a pre-heated pan and cook those bad boys up a storm, and serve on some toasted, seeded bread with a piping hot cup of Yorkshire tea. Perfect.
MIKE: I like my eggs birthed from an albatross and served, uncooked, on a bed of spider sheddings. Preferably with a can of special brew and a filterless cigarette. Then I usually gargle a mouthful of coffee granules along with my mouthwash and that generally sets me up for the day.
ROBIN: And to answer your final question, since I already have devastating good looks, I’d have to go with telekinesis, because then, like Jack Black, I’d have the power to kill a Yak, from 100 yards…WITH MIND BULLETS! That’s telekinesis, Mike…
MIKE: All I can taste is minted coffee for up to several hours. Oh erm, invisibility powers. I would go with invisibility powers. Then I would be able to finally sneak into that bastard’s house and retrieve my lucky cactus from that foul cactus thief.
Thanks Robin and Mike! Good luck with that world domination thing!