Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Wonderlands Graphic Novel Expo

We're really looking forward to being part of the Wonderlands Graphic Novel Expo on May 30th. This one day event in Sunderland University's City Space will be a celebration of comics in their book form, with panels, workshops and publisher hall. Patron Bryan Talbot, author of the Grandville series and (along with Mary Talbot) Costa winner  Dotter of her Father's Eyes worked on developing the programme, and the whole event is organised by Sunderland Mac Trust.

We'll be kicking off the day on the Young Adult Graphic Novels panel, along with Benjamin Read, Paul Register and chaired by Dr Mel Gibson. We will also run a comic workshop suitable for age 12 up to adults.

Posy Simmons, Steve Bell and Dave Gibbons are headlining the show, as well as of course, Bryan and Mary Talbot. Check out the excellent programme on the Wonderlands website, including guests Hunt Emerson, Dylan Horrocks, Woodrow Phoenix, Kate Charlesworth, Darryl Cunningham, Paul Gravett, Paul B Rainey, Ian Culbard, Ian Edington, Al Davidson, Stephen White, Kev F Sutherland... and publishers Emma Hayley, Dan Franklin and Ben Smith who will be discussing the current and future state of graphic novels.

Wonderlands is a free, family friendly event held on Saturday May 30th at Sunderland University, CitySpace, Chester Road.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

New Graphic Novel: The Red Shoes and Other Tales

We're really excited that this year will see the release of our new graphic novel! The Red Shoes and Other Tales will be published in October 2015 by Papercutz. The book includes our interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's classic along with two other short tales. There will be some really exciting events at prominent festivals to mark the release, but more on this soon...

Papercutz is the publisher of New York Times best-seller Lego Ninjago, Nancy Drew, Geronimo Stilton, The Smurfs and other fine graphic novels for all ages. Check out papercutz.com to see all their exciting titles! The book will be available in the US and UK through their Macmillan distribution, as well as via Diamond Comic Distributors.

As a first glance, here's a pencil drawing from The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

The Red Shoes pencil by Metaphrog

Special thanks to Creative Scotland who provided substantial funding last year for us to create new work, one result of which was this book.

Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for more info over the coming months. You can also email us on metaphrog@metaphrog.com and request to be on our mailing list to receive more information as release date approaches and keep informed of our festival and in-store appearances.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Book Week Scotland 2014

Once again it's been a busy few weeks and we've had great fun travelling around visiting places as far afield as Helsinki and giving talks and delivering workshops at  The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and Craigmillar Book Festival among others. Last week was Book Week Scotland 2014 and we did a string of events in schools and libraries up north.

With pupils at the Craigmillar Book Festival

First stop was Portlethen on Monday 24th November for two sessions with 13-14 year olds. We then went on to Aberdeen, to Northfield Academy, where we are Patrons of Reading until 2016. We have been going there regularly since we were appointed in 2013, and this time we delivered a series of very hands-on workshops over two days, with the younger pupils.

Sandra's Xmas character to inspire the pupils

Post session photo with pupils of Northfield Academy

The pupils produced some really fun Xmas-themed characters and comics....

... such as this really crazy comic made by a young girl about a killer snow clown! The cartooning is hilarious.

Some pre-Xmas pychopathicness, in pink

It has become a custom that when we visit, John is challenged to a chess game during lunch break by pupils. 

A big thank you to Mandy Wilson and Neil Hendry at Northfield Academy - they are such dynamic and fantastic people and are doing such great work at the school. It's always a pleasure to work with them.

With librarian Mandy Wilson and head teacher
Neil Hendry - Northfield Academy
Next stop was Meldrum where we gave two talks to a total of 300 students!

One of the Meldrum events

We then briefly came back to Glasgow before heading to Oban on the Friday for two events, one in a school and the other, an open event, in Oban Library.

Oban school event

Oban Library event, pictured with the librarians
All in all: a packed week!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Comics Lab

This month we had the pleasure of running the Comics Lab, which Scottish Book Trust and Literary Dundee were hosting. The first part was a pretty intense weekend with wall to wall talks and workshops.

From left to right: Michel Faber, ourselves, Bryan Talbot,
Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and John McSane

On the first day, David Bishop gave a talk on comics and how to write for them, Jonathan Cape editor Alex Bowler's talk was on the publishing side of graphic novels, and we delivered a talk about our own work and creative approach. Later we also held a workshop looking at the nuts and bolts of the medium. On day two, we hosted a second workshop on the medium looking at how to get the best out of a page. Guests William Goldsmith and Isabel Greenberg talked about their books, Vignettes of Ystov and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth respectively, and Bryan and Mary Talbot with Kate Charlesworth talked about their collaborative work on Sally Heathcote Suffragette. Finally John McShane talked about his take on the industry and opportunities for employment possibilities. It was a privilege to have such great guest speakers. That weekend the lab ran at the same time as the annual Dundee Comics Day, in the room next door in fact, and we'd have loved to attend it but had our hands full!

Day three, a couple of weeks later, was a follow-up and feedback day, where we evaluated the participants work along with Chris Murray and Phillip Vaughan, who also gave talks about their courses at Dundee University, the Comic Studies MLitt and the Comic Art and Graphic Novels Expansive Module.
Same as above but with Caitrin Armstrong this time
instead of Sandra.

Huge thanks to the Scottish Book Trust team and to Literary Dundee for organising it all and for inviting us to run the lab. Special thanks to Claire, Caitrin, Sasha, Fran, and Peggy Hughes for their kind support and to Will Mackie for help with the initial groundwork. And of course a big thank you to the participants who devoted a chunk of their time and all their attention to the lab. The work they produced for the feedback day was fantastic and we really got a discussion going on how to best improve one's work.

It was fantastic to have the chance to talk about the medium of comics all weekend with like-minded people. As a bonus to the whole event, Michel Faber, who was doing a reading from his new book, The Book of Strange New Things, at Literary Dundee, attended a couple of the talks when he learned that the lab was running. 

Collection of graphic novels that was in the Comics Lab room
which were donated to the university by Grant Morrison.

The Comics Lab ran in the
Cam Kennedy studio at Dundee University.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Autumn Events

We're gearing up for a really busy autumn, now that we've finished our new book.
September already saw us do some events at the excellent Tidelines Book Festival, and we'll continue giving talks and delivering workshops in schools and libraries around Britain over the coming months.

We'll also be doing several public events at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival including a talk on how we self-published over the years, two drop-in workshops for 7-10 (free), and a signing at Waterstones in Kendal. We're very excited about "The Magic of Metaphrog", a free exhibition which runs from October 1st until October 31st, featuring some Louis pages and also a preview of pages from our forthcoming book with Papercutz..

The Magic of Metaphrog exhibition at LICAF

Another exciting event is the Comics Lab, which we'll be running for Scottish Book Trust and Literary Dundee. The event will be an intensive in-depth course on making comics and graphic novels. We're delighted with the list of amazing guests who will be speaking and sharing their industry knowledge: Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot, David Bishop, Alex Bowler, Kate Charlesworth, Isabel Greenberg, William Goldsmith, Chris Murray, John McShane and Phillip Vaughan. This is a closed event, and the deadline for applications has now passed.

We've also been invited to speak at Helsinki's International school and are really looking forward to spending a few days there, doing several workshops and assembly talks to the whole school.

Plus, Book Week Scotland will see us travelling around the country including a visit to Aberdeen and Northfield Academy where we are Patrons of Reading.

That should see us pretty exhausted by the time we reach the end of the year...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Interview with Creative Scotland

There's an interview with us on Creative Scotland's Connecting: http://www.creativescotland.com/explore/read/stories/connecting/2014/metaphrog-on-graphic-novels-and-the-creative-process.

We talk about our work to date, our approach to the creative process and also our new graphic novel, due to be published by Papercutz in 2015.

Last year we received substantial funding for a year from Creative Scotland to research and develop new work and the graphic novel is one of the exciting outcomes.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

New Graphic Novel to be published in 2015

We have been fortunate to receive funding from Creative Scotland to create new work this year. One of the things we have been working on is a new graphic novel which will be published by Papercutz in 2015. Papercutz is the publisher of New York Times #1 best-seller Lego Ninjago, Nancy Drew, and other fine graphic novels.

Some pages from this new book will be exhibited, in an exclusive sneak preview, at The Lakes International Comic Festival 2014, where we'll be guests, doing a talk on self-publishing and the Louis graphic novels, some drop-in workshops and more!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Metaphrog Recommends 12 Graphic Novels for Young Readers

In our capacity as Patrons of Reading, we recently had the pleasure of returning to Northfield Academy for a follow up visit, doing an in-depth workshop with S1 pupils and also introductory comic workshops with P7s.

We promised to compile a list of recommended graphic novels for the school, and indeed, any library interested in extending their graphic novel section (or in starting one) is welcome to use it too.

Pupils of Northfield Academy busy reading their class set of Louis - Red Letter Day

Metaphrog recommends 12 Graphic Novels for Young Readers:

1. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
3. The Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing  
4. Adolf by Osamu Tezuka
5. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
6. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Michel Plessix
7. Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru
8. Bone by Jeff Smith
9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton and Ian Culbard
10. Silverfin by Charlie Higson and Kev Walker
11. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
12. The Phoenix Comic magazine by various

We compiled this list with 10-14 year olds in mind, but these titles are suitable for older readers too. 
Pupils of Northfield Academy
reading Louis - Night Salad
John in a chess duel in between sessions
at Northfield Academy

Monday, 17 February 2014

Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy

Last year we were made Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy in Aberdeen and, as the first ever graphic novelists to fill such a role, we were honoured and delighted. We'll be working closely with the school for the next three years to encourage reading and creativity.

Our first author visits in this new capacity took place at the end of January and were great fun. We had the opportunity to work with the whole of the school's first year, in class-sized groups, as well as meet with the teachers for an informal lunch where we talked about our hopes and about the patronage.

Northfield Academy have adopted us and we have adopted the school.

Everyone made us feel extremely wel
come and it was exciting to see so much interest and receive so much support from the school. The head teacher, librarians and teaching staff in general were all really enthusiastic and engaged.

To start our patronage, we sent the school a class set of Louis - Red Letter Day graphic novels and some signed posters, along with an activity sheet for the classroom.

We're looking forward to returning for a follow up session with S1 pupils and for sessions with Primary pupils too!

A huge thank you to Mandy Wilson for choosing us as patrons, to Mr Watt and the art department, and to head teacher Neil Hendry.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Skint! Returns

In 2011 we worked on the graphic novel Skint! with playwright Gowan Calder. The book was commissioned and published by the Scottish Book Trust and distributed free in Scotland. It was such a big success that Standard Life Charitable Trust and the Scottish Book Trust commissioned a second Skint!, this time for England. Skint! for England was released in January 2014 and is available in print (45000 copies) and online.

We were commissioned once more, along with Gowan Calder, to rework the book to suit the different demographics in England. A few characters were changed throughout the book, and Sandra took the opportunity of reworking the colouring too while she was changing the drawings and Gowan updated and refreshed the script.
Cover for the new version of Skint!

Skint! is a free graphic novel resource to help people develop good money skills and prevent them from sinking into debt, launched in England by Scottish Book Trust and Standard Life Charitable Trust.

Skint! is a thought-provoking graphic novel that harnesses the power of stories based on real life experiences to bring money management to life. It is targeted at the adult learning sector in England to help tutors support 16-26 year olds, with a particular focus on young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
Page from the new version of Skint!

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

Skint! uses the power of language and drama to engage young people in financial decision-making, enabling them to develop some of the fundamental skills and understanding they need to help them keep track of their finances, to plan ahead and think through the impact of financial decisions. The aim is to help young adults, in particular reluctant readers, to develop their literacy, numeracy and financial capability, in the hope that this will help them on the way to a future unburdened by money worries.

Page from the new version of Skint!


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Fall - The Remainderer Review

The Remainderer arrived today. A new six track EP from The Fall. Originally slated for release on the 11th of November and weighted with a sense of expectation after receiving radio airplay. It would be unkind to make comparisons with Slates – after all it has been 32 years and fans of the group tend to hold that particular disc in very high regard. Neither an LP nor a single it was excluded: the release missed all kinds of charts but touched all kinds of hearts. This listener was not even 16 and in the years before everyone had electronic gadgets John Peel was an evening’s entertainment.

The Fall’s previous 10” release was the marvellous Masquerade back in 1998 and this vinyl was also accompanied by two cd singles which more or less made up a mini LP. The Remainderer can also be enjoyed in different formats.
The title track lopes, with an amazing double drummer sound reminiscent of Hex Enduction Hour-era tunes, and throbs over squirting squelching and droning electronics. The vocals are very much instruments here. The voice growling and gargling, hissing sibilants and rasping the Rs, on the cd the backing vocals are multi-tracked versions of the main vocal refrains and we learn “it was a good day… whatever that is”, while on the promo cd and the 10” vinyl, there are various backing singers “manipulating to leaving” or “manipulate into leaving”. Or indeed both! Both versions of the song are stunning, simple ideas welded together by a group having fun and sounding relaxed, assured and about to fall apart in an exciting way.

Exciting is the word that sums this EP up. It’s invigorating.
Second track Amorator! is so speed driven it’s jaggy juju guitars and drums almost trip over themselves before blissing out with vocals oscillating from whispers to growls. There’s something swaggering and punky about The Fall on this release, like the New York Dolls on Jet Boy blended with dirty heavy metal and a healthy dose of rockabilly.

Mr Rode rumbles in like a slower-paced strangely filtered Motorhead before chiming, swaying guitars and vocals kick off and repeat in layers to lift the song in a melodic euphoria that builds and builds wrapping ghostly vocal mutterings before taking off to a powerful climax. A Fall classic.
Another instant classic cements the centre of this six track EP. Remembrance R opens with warbling and gargling then plays melodic vocal against a massive bass line, recalling Joy Division but also Perverted by Language and spinning a whole new musical web of its own across uncharted territory.

Although we are treated to a race through two Gene Vincent covers, Mark E Smith is channelling an amphetamine-fuelled Elvis and sampling his own group’s live archive. Race With the Devil appeared on the Backdrop bootleg – performed at John Peel’s 50th birthday party many moons ago.
The final track Touchy Pad is a modern psychedelic classic, perfect pop in under two and a half minutes with ever-so-slightly off key singing, declaiming and backwards guitar offsetting the clear leading melodies.

As always with the lyrics, worlds are suggested, new literatures are revealed, and repeated listenings alter and add to these glimpses. Sounds and ideas combine with the music in intelligent, innovative and interesting ways. These aren’t just songs these are little works of art.

The Fall sit well with The Velvet Underground and with Captain Beefheart as important cultural examples of music and art and as a group are a vital creative force.

Re-mit took The Fall into the top 40, back into the charts. The Remainderer should be X-mas number one. Where some of Re-mit’s tracks could be seen as anti-music, this astonishingly lively EP is an antidote to the anodyne, sterile world of auto-tuned blandness and unhappy twerking that passes in some places for culture.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Winter's Tales

We've written and illustrated a couple of graphic shorts: The Glass Case and The Little Match Girl, from the Hans Christian Andersen tale, which we've compiled into a 20 page comic called Winter's Tales.

The A5 booklet is a limited edition of 200, signed and numbered, and you can buy it throughout December only.


Here's the cover:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog - cover

And, here's a page extract from The Little Match Girl:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog
The Little Match Girl extract
And here's a page extract from The Glass Case:

Winter's Tales by Metaphrog
The Glass Case extract

Price: £3.50 + P&P

UK P&P: £1.50
P&P elsewhere: £3.50

Thank you!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Patrons of Reading Announcement and Graphic Novel Workshop Tour

We are delighted to have been named Patrons of Reading at Northfield Academy. It's the first time that graphic novelists have been selected for such a role, and we're really pleased that Northfield Academy chose us.
Over the next three years, we'll be encouraging pupils to read more graphic novels, which in turn, we feel, will encourage them to read more in general. We'll be starting our patronage with a series of workshops in January 2014.
Here's an article from The Evening Express announcing the news.
Evening Express article 28/11/2013

The partnership even received a mention in the Scottish Parliament!

Scottish Parliament mention of our partnership with
Northfield Academy as Patrons of Reading

Neil Hendry, head teacher of Northfield Academy said: “We are delighted that the talented duo from Metaphrog has agreed to work with the school in this special reading initiative.  By working in partnership with Metaphrog over the next three years we hope pupils will be inspired and encouraged to read and be creative through the style and illustrations of graphic novels.”

School Librarian Mandy Wilson added: “Metaphrog’s first visit to the school will be in January [2014] and pupils and staff can’t wait to start working with them in what will be a very exciting project.” 
Many thanks to Mandy for thinking of us for this exciting role! The brilliant children's authors who are already Patrons of Reading in Scotland are Barry Hutchison, Linda Strachan, Cathy MacPhail, Nicola Morgan, Victoria Campbell and Lynne Rickards. Delighted to be joining such great company.

In other news, we have just returned from a two week event tour. Firstly, we were in the Netherlands, at the Eindhoven International School, where we delivered a series of workshops and also an in-depth lecture on Persepolis. The school has one of the best libraries we have ever seen - including a fabulous graphic novel section - and International Human Rights Declaration #19 imprinted on its wall.

The library at the Eindhoven International School

Secondly we were busy for Book Week Scotland 2013. Now in its second year Book Week Scotland has hundreds of fantastic events all over Scotland, and we delivered nine graphic novel workshops in schools and libraries in Glasgow, Wester Hailes, MacDuff, Dyce and Dundee in the space of six days.

Metaphrog workshop session in Aberdeenshire

We always love travelling and had a fantastic time - and returned inspired and ready to write and draw new stories!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel Behind the Scenes

In this blog we'll talk a little bit about the creation of the Time To Shine: Graphic Novel, which we produced for Creative Scotland. We were approached by Creative Scotland well over a year ago, and were asked to place a bid, for the work of creating a graphic novel which would support Scotland's new arts strategy for ages 0-25.
Cover spread for Time To Shine: Graphic Novel

The idea was to produce an entertaining and accessible story which would appeal to a wide range of ages and backgrounds, a story to inspire young people to get involved in the arts and a story that supported and underlined the key themes of the strategy itself.

First we read hundreds of pages of documentation, research carried out by Creative Scotland with young people and adults, and the strategy document as it continued to evolve. We digested and condensed all this material into a story.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel research material
John wrote a script - we discussed and developed the story together while walking around the park while John was writing the script. From this, Sandra created pages of layout. The layouts had to be approved before we could get started on the actual finished artwork. We also attended focus group meetings with young people at Young Scot, where we discussed the story and received feedback, particularly on the dialogue. We were pleased and encouraged that the young people liked what we'd written and drawn.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel script and layout

Sandra also drew some thumbnails at various stages to work out how best to tell the story. We had a limited amount of pages to fit everything into, and also a very limited amount of time to complete the final artwork - 64 pages in under 4 months from planning to finished pages!

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel thumbnails
Here are a couple of page extracts from the graphic novel.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel page extract
Time To Shine: Graphic Novel page extract
We also had fun with the design of the book and tried to incorporate and represent as many different artforms as possible. These are peppered throughout the story, but also in the actual design of the book. See if you recognise the artists and artforms we referred to in the following spreads.

Time To Shine: Graphic Novel inside spread
Time To Shine: Graphic Novel inside spread