Avery Hill continue their run of unique and exciting comics for 2017 with Something City, the debut book from Ellice Weaver. This landscape orientated collection of short stories focuses on the interconnected lives of a group of people living in the titular city and features everything from hip young things, to prisoners in a minimum security prison to nudists! We catch up with Ellice to find out more about the inspiration behind the stories as well as how she created the unique and colourful look.
Something City is a series of interconnected stories set in the titular city, so where did the idea come from? Was it all about the idea of telling people’s stories or of this idea of a large community? Or was it from a love of drawing geometric cityscapes?
Ellice Weaver: It was a bit of all of the above. I loved the idea of being a voyager in a community, being able to catch glimpses of people’s lives. I always wonder what may be going on in the lives of others. When I saw people going about their day to day activities and they’d cross paths with an acquaintance and exchange pleasantries, I’d think, ‘how do they know each other?’ It was probably not such an interesting story, but what if it was? It started small, I made one cityscape and after it was finished I was imagining the different roles that the people inhabiting the city had. It wasn’t going to be a comic. At first, I just thought they would exist as illustrations.
Speaking of which I love those cityscape pages that you use at the start of each story, they almost feel like a screen from a video game, where did you get the idea for those from was it at the start or did it evolve naturally?
EW: That’s interesting because I was looking at this arcade game where a paperboy had to mail post into letterboxes and I thought they also looked a bit like this. It started when I was visiting my parents over Christmas. Out of Christmas boredom, I pulled out this old farm set I used to play with as a kid. You know, the kind that has a flat board landscape and you can put toy animals and farmers on it. I set it up and thought it would be really fun to draw something like that, something very flat and very full. From there the idea spiralled from farms to nudist communities. From the want to draw communities came to the idea of telling the stories of those who lived in the communities, and then I thought lots of small communities would make a city.
Can you tell us a bit about your process? Are you working digitally or with pens and inks?
EW: For this book, I worked in a technique that is similar to the process you use when screen-printing. Each colour is painted with black ink on separate sheets of acetate. I start with the darkest colour when that layer is complete on goes the next sheet of acetate for the next colour and so on. Then I would scan each layer in and put it all together in Photoshop. I always started with a pencil drawing before inking.
How important is colour to your story telling? Do the colours have meaning or just combinations that look interesting?
EW: The colour schemes are important for my sanity. When I’m getting a little bit tired of working in a colour scheme, working in a new colour scheme can feel like you’re starting a whole new project. Working in multiple colour schemes really kept my brain fresh. As for story telling it was important. It was often that I’d try out different colour schemes from the book on a story and it would make the story read differently. Certain colour combinations felt more like daytime and others lent well to more ominous stories
How did you come to be involved with Avery Hill on this book? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
EW: Well, I found out about Avery Hill through Andy Oliver. Then I went to Bristol Comic and Zine fair and looked at their books and loved them. I was emailing Ricky for a while about a totally different project that didn’t really come to fruition. Then I started working on what would be Something City. I’d posted a few bits online and Ricky emailed asking about it. This has been the first time I’ve worked with a publisher and it’s been great. Ricky had been editing each story as they were made. You can really learn a lot about how to grow as an artist during this process.
We’ve got to ask about the nudists, where did the idea for them come from?! And why so many nudists in all the stories?
EW: Ha ha, so I live in Germany. In the summertime, you can go to the lake and there are nude people everywhere. I always wish I could join them but it’s just not me. For the book, I liked the idea that behind closed door everyone had their hobbies or secrets. Nudism was a way to connect the citizens of something city together. It’s like with Netflix. You could be binge watching something and unknown to you your neighbour could be binge watching the same thing at the exact same time, but you’d never speak about it so you’d never know, but you still have something in common. And besides drawing naked people doing everyday things is extremely fun.
How do you go about collating the stories, do you have lots and whittle them down or did the whole thing get planned out as a whole? Which is your favourite of the stories, or which did you think came together the best?
EW: Ideas for stories came as I worked on the book. A story would come and I’d let it sit in my brain for a while, sorting out various scenarios and endings. At the time of making the book I was travelling around Europe in my van with Till Lukat, a fellow comic artist. Whenever we were driving I’d sit and come up with a lot of ideas and brainstorm them with Till as he drove. Because we were always arriving in new places it was quite easy for me to imagine different stories because we were often in different backdrops. Because I was seeing a lot of new things I had endless things that I wanted to draw, in Something City if I fancied drawing something I’d manipulate the story around the thing I wanted to draw. I liked that I could draw a bowling alley, a Segway hockey match and an outdoor dog cinema all in one book. The story I found the most enjoyment in was ‘Downtown Urban Spree’. I can find myself in these young dramas that seem very important at the time but in reality, they’re not that important.
And finally if people like your work in Something City, what else should they be checking out from you?
EW: I have a comic coming out in the Broken Frontier Yearbook soon. Also, you can read the entire comic ‘Collector Cabinet’ on my website. www.cargocollective.com/elliceweaver
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.