Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

“We are hoping to create something that packages all of the things we loved as kids. High adventure, fantastical creatures and situations, Heroes that grow and change, and irreverent comedy.” | Q&A with Kelly Mellings and Corey Lansdell of Pulp Studio on their project “Hairoes of Haarwurzel: Braues Quest”

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Image provided by Kelly Mellings

Kelly Mellings and Corey Lansdell of Pulp Studios in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, have been busy. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been dreaming. Their social-media feeds have been filled the last few months with illustrations for their work: Hairoes of Haarwurzel: Braues Quest. Now, that their ‘project of love’ is almost at completion, they answered a few questions for me about what they plan and hope for it.

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1) First off, could your give a bit of an outline of Hairoes of Haarwurzel: Braues Quest.

On a medievalish island, that prides itself on it’s hair, a magical curse has stripped it’s residents of their locks and given them to the hairless. Humans, mammals, and birds are all left bare, and the cold blooded reptiles, goblins and fish have become wooly versions of themselves. It’s up to the one armed knight Eine Braue and Jagetta the Huntress to solve the mystery and restore Haarwurzel’s former glory while discovering the root of heroism.

Hairoes of Haarwurzel: Braues Quest is an absurd, exciting, fantasy, comedy adventure for all ages. It is is the first in a series of three all ages graphic novels, each focusing on a different Hairoe of Haarwurzel.

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Image provided by Kelly Mellings

2) Is there anything you are hoping for the book to accomplish? What inspired you to create the book? (Kelly mentioned in a Q&A with me that this book is like “Adventure Time and The Legend of Zelda had a baby that was raised by Monty Python.” Is that still the vision of the book?)

That is still the version of the book, in tone at least. We are hoping to create something that packages all of the things we loved as kids. High adventure, fantastical creatures and situations, Heroes that grow and change, and irreverent comedy. We were inspired to create Hairoes because we have been creating properties and characters for clients and wanted something that was 100% ours. The idea grew from a strange dream that Corey had into the many armed beast that it is now through much collaboration and brainstorming.

3) It looks like there have been test images of the book posted on social media sites for people to comment on and suggest changes too. How has that been working out?

We wanted to commit to creating some artwork for Inktober (A challenge for artists all over the world to draw one illustration a day for the month of October, link here) and thought it would be a great opportunity to create concept art for the book. It’s grown and has taken up November as well. We’ve been so pleased with the positive response. The feedback has been in line with what we were hoping. People are finding humour and joy in the same aspects that we had when we conceived of the characters. 

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Image provided by Kelly Mellings

4) Kelly mentioned to me that the book is 90 per cent finished. Do you have a publisher lined up? If yes, is there a publication date for it?

The manuscript is 90% finished but the art (the longer part) has not yet begun. We will have 22 pages by end of February that we can share with publishers as a proof of concept. We initially started the manuscript after a meeting with one of Canada’s best children’s book publishers, and they expressed a passing interest in the initial nugget of an idea. We’ve yet to share anything with any other publishers, and won’t until we have the finished sample pages and the polished manuscript. We’d love to have it in publishers hands early 2017, and then publication would depend on the publisher. We’ve had such positive feedback, we aren’t worried about it finding a home, we just have to figure out where would be the best for it.

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Image provided by Kelly Mellings

5) How much time have the two of you put into Hairoes of Haarwurzel?” Is it a labour of love for the two of you?

YES it is defiantly a labour of love…if it wasn’t it would not be made. Over the last two years we’ve spent several months writing the manuscript, about 100 hrs in concept art, dozens of hours researching the market and the production side of things. It will be the equivalent of about 6 months work full time for both of us to get the art done, the first graphic novel is looking to be around 220 pages.

6) So when this project is finished, do you two have any idea of what you will be doing next? If yes, are there details you care to share?

If this is successful then the next two books would be a dream to work on,

We originally thought of this as an idea for a 2d platform game, so a game or animated version would be fun to work on and it would translate so nicely.

We just finished the script for a graphic novel biography of Wilfrid Laurier that Kyle Charles and K Michael Russel are illustrating for us (it will be published by Teach magazine).

We have a non-haireo related young adult graphic novel script in production that we would would work with another artist to draw.

Corey and I both want to branch out to the children’s book market Corey has a finished manuscript done with art and he is working on another). We also both have graphic novel Ideas, Kelly has a literary graphic novel planned that focuses on a main character who has Narcolepsy.

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Image provided by Kelly Mellings

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Link to Pulp Studio’s website

Link to Pulp Studio’s Instagram Page

Link to Pulp Studio’s Twitter account

Corey has been creating some videos on his progress of his work and posting them on Youtube. Check out his profile page here.

My Q&A with Kelly Mellings on his work on the award-winning graphic novel The Outside Circle here.

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“A woman shared her experience on how the book had impacted her, and how important it was, she was also visibly emotional as she told us this.” | Q&A with Illustrator Kelly Mellings of The Outside Circle

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Graphic novels have a certain immediacy to them. And when they deal with social issues, their impact can be truly effective and enlightening. The skill behind their creation is an interesting one, as Kelly Mellings, illustrator of The Outside Circle, (Link to my review) has documented in his answers below.

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1) You refer to The Outside Circle as a ‘special project.’ How did you get involved in working in it?

Working relationship with (Native Counselling Services of Alberta). I had been approached by an employee of NCSA who had attended some art classes I taught at the Alberta Gallery of Art. She let me know that NCSA wanted to create a comic book to engage and educate a younger audience. This would be in conjunction with some of the video work the they do. I was super excited, and especially since this was a great example of commercial art that has a positive social purpose behind it. So we started on this on project ( a comic book named Breach, about breach of probation.) and created comics and other visual materials to help Aboriginal youth navigate the legal system. NCSA’s been educating, advocating and building better communities for many years and becoming involved with them is a huge blessing…a turning point in my career and also how I see things. (Patti Laboucane-Benson)’s research especially has enlightened me so much to our history as Canadians and how colonial policy still impacts today.

2) The Outside Circle has been discussed and mentioned in several different areas that have brought it to my attention. How are you finding reaction to it? Are there any memorable comments or moments that you care to share in relation to it?  

I am amazed and encouraged by the response it has gotten. Memorable moments are Shelagh Rogers talking with Patti about the book (and saying my name on air!), and Patti’s interview on the Current was fantastic (even touching on restorative justice). I’ve had positive comments from industry people I respect, artists, writers and editors who have influenced me creatively have had very nice things to say. The interviews/reviews are too many and too awesome to mention all of them, but Suzette Chan, Michael Hingston, Isabelle Gallant, Ardo Omer, and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center are some standouts.  The biggest and most heartwarming reaction was the first person to come to our release at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton. The That moment hit home how special the book was. This was the kind of reaction we had been hoping for, and to have the first person who we talked to about the book be so moved by it was humbling and affirming.

3) Have you attended any public readings/discussions or any events involving The Outside Circle? If yes, how did you like participating in those functions? 

Many, it’s been an honour to be attending events or to have Patti attend with people who’s work I respect. Writers like Camilla Gibbs, Saleema Narwaz, Tracy Lindberg,  and Lawrence Hill…real writers…real amazing real life book writers. 🙂 I feel very out of my element with literary types, but everyone has been wonderful and it’s been amazing talking to book people who have encountered the Outside Circle as their first graphic novel. The readings and talks have also introduced me to new voices in the writing world, and encouraged me to stray out of my classics and graphic novels rut. I’ve enjoyed meeting and reading work by writers and poets outside of my usual comfort zone.

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4) How did you get involved in illustrating? Are there illustrators that you admire? If yes, who are they and why do you like their work?

I’ve always wanted to draw, and as soon as I knew that there were people that created comic books and made animation, I knew I wanted to work in that field. Post secondary there weren’t many options at the time when i went to school. I took a BFA in Art And Design at the University of Alberta, with a focus on Figurative Painting and Sculpture. I still should have drawn more though! After university I dabbled in fine art, having some gallery shows and some success in public art…but all my work was narrative based, I just wanted to tell stories with my art. Through my friend Katalin Wagner, I got my first major illustration gig at The Royal Alberta Museum, and then through another school friend Tanya Camp, I was made aware of opportunities to illustrate and create animations for educational resources with Alberta Education. From there I started doing educational and safety illustrations for many companies. With a strong drawing background and understanding of how to tell stories, or distill information, things started steamrolling and it became quite busy.

When the government needed some other artists to work on creating those educational resources I told my good friend (and talented illustrator) Corey to throw his hat in the ring. He was super talented, but he wasn’t doing as much illustration, as he had been running his own graphic design company. He ended up getting hired and we worked together creating learning objects and kids games for a few years. When work was getting slimmer in terms of contracts, we decided to start Pulp, doing some promo illustrations, and amalgamating our portfolios. Corey’s promo piece won an applied arts award, which got us the attention of our first big client, GS Skinner, who brought us in to do art for an online game for Microsoft…not bad for a first assignment as a company. From there it grew, with many cool clients and projects building on each other.

I’d say Travis Charest, Adam Hughes, Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, Brian Stelfreeze, Ryan Sook, Mike Mignola and John Byrne, George Perez, Bart Sears, Jean Giraud, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Frank Miller, Sergio Toppi, Kevin Knowlan, Alex Toth, Alex Raymond, Archie Goodwin, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis are my biggest comic influences.

They influence everything from drawing style, to storytelling…most of my comics chops are filtered through them.

Outside of Comics I look often to illustrators like Ian McCaig, Vania, Norman Rockwell, JC Leyendecker, John Bridgeman Drew Struzan, James Jean, Charles Bargue, Jean Leon Gerome, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, and Scott Robertson.

These guys I look to for composition, storytelling in one image, draftsmanship and impact.

I also look to movies and books for storytelling, language and pacing.  Writers like Michael Chabon, Jonas T. Bengtsson, Thomas King, and directors like Guy Ritchie, Don McKeller, Frank Darabont, Stephen Spielberg, Brad Bird and Chuck Jones all contribute to my storytelling brain.

I also try to be a student of film, literature and comics…always seeking to learn from the masters.

5) Explain what the role of Pulp Studios (Click for Link) is and your involvement in it. I assume that you would be working on something new right now. If that is yes, are there details you can share?  

We have created learning resources for the government, many educational pieces, we have good working relationships with local film production places and advertising agencies, so we do quite a bit of animation and storyboards. We’re doing another educational comic with NCSA, some animation for The University of Alberta…really edgy and engaging safety illustrations in collaboration with PCL Construction…all of our projects are really rewarding and challenging creatively.

On a personal front, I’m writing an adult graphic novel that should be done in about a year, and my business partner and I are finishing up an all ages graphic novel that I’ve described as what would happen if Adventure Time and The Legend of Zelda had a baby that was raised by Monty Python. It’s called Hairoes of Haarwurzel and we’re almost done the manuscript. We are hoping to get illustrating that this year.

6) You seem to participate quite actively on social-media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. How do you like using those tools?

Hah! I love the immediacy, being able to connect with people I admire and respect very easily, I also love the fact that I’ve met and engaged with other artists or fans of my work. I still feel like I fumble around most social media. The only platform that I feel works for me instead of me chasing is Pinterest,  as I just look up my feed and pin things that inspire or that I might need to reference. So the tools are wonderful and have opened things up, but i feel a bit lost using them…I like drawing and making things…that’s what I am best at 🙂

7) Your bios. list you currently living in Edmonton? How do you like living there? Does it cultural scene give you any inspiration for you work?

I love the city and the neighbourhood where I live. We are near the university, close to downtown. We have mature trees and a quaint school and parks for my kids…wonderful coffee shops and restaurants.

Edmonton has a vibrant art and music scene, wonderful galleries ( Hi Lattitude 53, Harcourt House and AGA!), talented writers, intellectuals, some of the best improv artists in the world…it has a lot going for it.

My studio mate and business partner Corey Lansdell is a huge reason why I work here and we have a healthy competition between us (and have had so since high school). He’s much more acclaimed than I am, but I’m catching up!

We have some amazing local illustrators here that inspire and provide a sounding board. Amanda Schutz, Kyle Sams, Dwight Allott, Nicola Pringle, and Jason Blower just to name a few…the city is full of talent which both inspires and pushes us to do better as a studio.

We also have some amazing independent bookstores and comic stores that help to promote exceptional Canadian and Local work.

Places like Variant Edition, Happy Harbor Comics, Audrey’s Books are wonderful for the City’s comic and literary circles.

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Link to House of Anansi’s  website for The Outside Circle

Understanding the Views Outside | Review of “The Outside Circle” by Patti LaBoucan-Benson/Art by Kelling Mellings (2015) House of Anansi

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I have to admit that I am new to reading graphic novels. I keeping hearing over and over again from different sources how powerful and enlightening certain graphic novels are so I check them out. And I have to agree that I find the story lines and the images powerful to me and my mind’s eye. Hence why I feel the need to mention The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane and Kelly Mellings here.

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The imagery is strong in this book and the plot flows well, easily helping the mind’s eye grasp the story. It deals with Pete, a young Aboriginal man dealing with the harshness of modern, urban life. Pete’s involvement with gangs and his mother’s heroin addiction threaten the little comfort he and his family have. It is in jail and through rehabilitation – including traditional  Aboriginal healing circles – that we see Pete rise up and realize his true identity.

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The perception may be that this is a simple book to read but it is one that should be pondered over and reflected upon. It gives insight to a section of humanity that needs to be understood and considered. I certainly found it enlightening to understanding the situation of the Aboriginal communities.

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The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane and Kelly Mellings is a great piece of literature. It enlightens readers an element of the human condition in a strong and forceful form. A must read for any book fan, no matter what their background may be.

Link to House of Anansi website for The Outside Circle

 

 

 

The Graphics of the Open Field Come to Television| Review of “Essex County” by Jeff Lemire (2009) Top Shelf Productions (2009)

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The recent announcement by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that that graphic novel will become a television series has  had a mixed reaction by many in my circles. Either people have sung the praises of the book or have not heard of the award-winning graphic novel. So I decided to check out Jeff Lemire’s Essex County here. And I was impressed.

Page 5 –  Introduction by Darwyn Cooke

(T) his all adds up to is a work of unexpected maturity that speaks on a universal level, but holds special rewards for those familiar with life in rural Canada. Essex County is a tremendous achievement made all the more incredible when we consider the relative youth of the author. This heartfelt piece of graphic literature surpasses its form to stand as what I’m sure will be an enduring example of the finest in Canadian Literature proper.

Cooke is right on in those words. Lemire manages to capture something here about the Canadian spirit. Something in the drawings and the few words show the loneliness of the fields or the joy of the ice-hockey game. There is something unique and familiar in the plots that he has created here.

 

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Scanned Image from Page 29 Essex County by Jeff Lemire.

Lemire explores many aches through his characters here. It is melancholic and sad at times. But that is what makes this book great literature. It explores those elements of the human condition and makes readers consider them in their own lives.

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Scanned Image of pages 202-203 of Essex County by Jeff Lemire

 It is going to be interesting how the television series of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County will turn out but the graphic-novel version is a great piece of literature on it own for sure.

Link to Jeff Lemire’s website

Link to Top Shelf Productions page for Essex County