Today we bring to you another short interview from Thought Bubble. This time with Philippa Rice, the cartoonist behind the ultra-popular webcomic My Cardboard Life. With a new book, Looking Out, out from Hic & Hoc as well as her status as a member of the award-winning Nelson team, it was great to catch up and chat about a variety of topics. Read on for her thoughts on her new work, the challenges of working online and her recent concerns about the lack of female nominees at the British Comic Awards.
Matt Moses—they guy who runs Hic & Hoc—approached me last year, wanting to put out a collection of some zines I’d done called Intricate Dwellings, which were all just landscapes and pictures. I wasn’t really happy with that as I felt the work was quite old at that point, so I asked if I could do one in that style but with a narrative. And that’s sort of what I’ve done. The style’s moved on a little bit though, because once I started introducing characters and other stuff I realised it had to have more angles than just flat landscapes.
It’s a bit different; it’s a science fiction thing and forty pages long—which I just never would have done it by myself if I hadn’t been asked. The collage stuff I usually do feels quite safe to do it at this point as I know people like it and that they’ll buy it so I feel quite frightened having something that’s actually drawn. It’s more pressure, almost, as with collage, no one else is really doing that–I don’t think, maybe there is?–so nobody can really say “well this is terrible collage!” but now people can say “this is awful drawing!”. Hopefully not though.
On whether or not the move to traditional drawing will be permanent:
I wouldn’t want to start only doing the drawings, I think its a good thing to have lots of different styles to work with. I’d like to tell longer stories and that’s something I’ve really started doing more this year. The collage its quite limited in some ways—there’s only so mich you can really ever show because of the flatness of it. I’d like to develop the drawings more so I can do both.
On the challenges of longer work and deadlines:
It’s interesting—at the same time as I was finishing Looking Out, I was doing Recyclost on My Cardboard Life, which is fifty pages long. The real difference between the two was where Recyclost was online; I had to do five pages a week, because that was my upload rate. So it was making me do it. Even at the times I was thinking “oh this is really hard“, I was still able to force myself to do it because of that deadline – I know it was self-imposed but people were waiting to see those pages. With Looking Out, I kind of had a vague deadline of when to finish the whole thing by but nothing was really making me finish one page if I was struggling. That was quite hard. So in the end I just had to bully myself! Giving yourself a deadline really makes a difference.
The cover to the collected Recyclost makes us breathe a sigh of relief that Rice isn’t leaving collage behind anytime soon.
On the size of her fanbase online:
With having online readers you always have an impression of where you want to get to or which artist you want to be as popular as but you never really know. You never really get to a point where you feel like “that’s it. Now I’m popular” as it always feels like there’s some other goal to reach. If you’ve got a book out, you might feel like “that’s it. I’ve achieved a thing” but if you’re just watching your numbers you’re always thinking “just a thousand more unique users and then I’ll be happy” but you never really feel content with how many you’ve got.
On people’s concerns about gender disparity in the British Comic Awards:
There’s nothing on the list that I don’t think is worthy- it’s all good. I just wish more mind was paid to showing more of a range of diversity in creators.
I noticed it when they first released the nominations but it wasn’t until they tweeted a picture of the stack of books they were sending out to the judges it really hit properly: eleven books and literally just one by a woman. If you’re going to make a point out of having only four awards, have as many different people as possible – don’t duplicate. They’ve nominated three women in total and one across two different categories. I can’t believe they had that list and didn’t think it looks unfair – especially where some people had been nominated twice. It’s not like there aren’t woman who have had books out. Karrie Fransman, Mary Talbot, Simone Lia have all had very good, very popular, very acclaimed books this year.
Now, anyone would agree it wouldn’t be fair to have an equal split from the beginning. However, it seems like publishers have been nominated very evenly. I think the solution would be to have a wider committee in place. I don’t think it’s right that creators are even in the committee at all; I don’t think realistically everyone can be impartial when they have an interest in nominating certain publishers and books.
On who her favourite exhibitor at Thought Bubble was:
See, now I can’t say Luke [Pearson, Rice's other half and co-star in Soppy] because he doesn’t have a table! Glyn Dillon’s The Nao of Brown is – and I think a lot of people will agree with me – is the best book that’s been released this year. I love it. It’s a really good read.
A huge thanks to Philippa for talking to us during the festival. Who’s next? Stay tuned to find out!