Adam Cadwell is a writer and artist whose works include The Everyday, an autobiographical webcomic which ran for three years between 2007 and 2010. He is currently working on the six-issue series Blood Blokes, about vampire life in Manchester.
Which, it turns out, is very similar to just plain old ‘life’ in Manchester.
He also founded Great Beast comics with Marc Ellerby, and created the British Comic Awards, which were held at Thought Bubble this year for their inaugural ceremony. He knows about web publishing, self-publishing, and how to spin brilliant answers out of somewhat-shabby questions. You come to Adam Cadwell with a problem, he’ll deal with it.
I spoke to him at Thought Bubble the morning after the BCAs were awarded, to see how they came about – and how he thinks they reflect the British comics scene in general.
Steve Morris: What inspired the British Comics Awards?
Adam Cadwell: I felt the British comics scene really needed an award which was just for British creators. There’s been a real upswing in publishing momentum, and talent and quality in the british scene over the last couple of year, and I felt that there should be a proper recognition of that talent and the stories being made.
I went to the Doug Wright awards at TCAF event in Toronto and I thought it was a really well-done awards show. There were only four awards given out, so each one felt more important or valuable. So when we decided to run the BCA we borrowed their approach – we tweaked the format slightly and included a Hall of Fame Award, but we only have five categories in total.
We wanted to make sure that the nominees all got attention and were promoted as much as the winners would ultimately be. It was more about the shortlist for each category being made up of quality titles which will entertain you and are worth your time. We could then send the shortlist to libraries as a recommended buying list, and use it to promote comics which we felt needed more attention and were worth looking at. That was really the ambition for the first year.
Steve: What’s interesting is that Britain has a different scene to America, especially in the way things are organised. We don’t have a big mainstream publisher like Marvel or DC – instead we have a series of small-press publishers and creator-owned communities. Was it interesting to get to see a cross-section of everything at once, in the nomination process?
Adam: We had an open nomination process where anyone could put forward their favourites online. We invited people to promote work they liked, and also asked publishers and creators to do the same – although we struggled to get them to, because I suppose it isn’t very British to boast about yourself. It was important that we had people get in touch and talk to us about what they liked, and in the process we got to learn about all these small publishers. Some are more prominent than others, but I think it’s a good thing that we have a lot of small publishers and collectives. I think it’s very healthy to have all these different talents working on different things.
Steve: As you can see here at Thought Bubble.
Adam: Yeah. Here everyone’s in the same room, talking to each other, and that’s how friendships and new collaborations come about. The question today seems to be about distribution, which is becoming more and more important. We have a lot of publishers, but the question is how we get these comics into libraries, how we introduce them to kids. That’s a bigger issue right now which we need to work towards.
Steve: Do you think it’s easier for new creators to get seen now, with so many new publishers establishing themselves in the British scene?
Adam: I think it depends on the quality of the work. If it’s good work, it’s easier now to get it seen, I think. We have a lot of publishers operating like Nobrow, Blank Slate, and Self Made Hero. They’re good at getting their books promoted and reviewed, but not all publishers can distribute in large numbers. For independent publishers, especially self-publishers, it can be very difficult to find outlets for selling books. Comic shows are good, but aside from that? Some shops are very supportive of self-published comics, others would rather just take free copies and “get back to you”.
Marc Ellerby and I set up Great Beast earlier this year to make a publishing banner so we could distribute self-published comics at a professional standard. We could go to wider outlets and present our works in the manner of a publisher, with everything shops need already set up – the logo, isbn numbers, barcodes. Presenting as Great Beast makes us a brand, and made it a lot easier than presenting books as an individual. As a comics culture, we need to work together on how to get these seen.
Steve: Speaking of Great Beast! You’ve been working recently on Blood Blokes, a new series about vampires living in Manchester. How has that experience been?
Adam: It’s been really good. When I first started doing it, people thought it was an odd choice because I went from doing autobiographical webcomics for four years… to this six-issue series about slacker vampires. But it does start off in autobiographical style. There’s not much vampire action in issue 1 – he gets the bus, he goes to work, he goes about a normal life. Then towards the end of issue 1, we start to explore elements of the vampire culture in Manchester.
Steve: Is it fun to play around with the more fantastical setting?
Adam: I handle the darker elements in quite a throwaway sense. It’s coming from the same place as my autobiographical works – it’s still my observations, my sense of humour about day-to-day life. But I don’t shy away from the fact the vampires are murderers, and are very casual about it. They’re monsters, but they can be as lazy and unmotivated as we can be – they’re quite like students. It’s really fun to have darker elements of horror I can throw in to surprise the reader.
Steve: What else do you have coming up?
Adam: I’m on issue 2 at the moment, working on issue 3. I’m planning it for 6 issues. I’m also doing a kids comic at the moment called The King of Things, which will be appearing in Paper Science.
I have a lot of other stories in mind for that character. It’s really bright, colourful – flexing different comics muscles for me. I’m enjoying working on them all.
Thanks to Adam for his time! You can find more from him over on his website, or head over to twitter @adamcadwell. Go!