THE BIG INTERVIEW: Colin O’Mahoney Speaks With Paddy Lynch About The New Stray Lines Anthology

Art by Chris Judge

Irish cartoonist/illustrator Paddy Lynch recently launched the anthology ‘Stray Lines’ in the Workman’s Club, Dublin. Stray Lines is an anthology of work by Irish cartoonists (you can see the ICN review here) It was released through Cardboard Press, but Paddy used crowd-sourcing website Fundit.ie to… well, to fund it. I spoke to Paddy about the anthology, using Fund It, and his own work as a cartoonist.

Colin O’Mahoney: What made you decide to do an anthology format book?

Paddy Lynch: The anthology format is hardwired into the comics’ mindset. For most of us, our first experiences with comics tend to be in anthologies – Beano, Dandy, 2000AD etc.– so I wanted to take a crack at it, as I figured I’d enjoy the curatorial, design and production parts of it. It’s also a great way of exposing several artists work to a new audience. Someone might pick up the book because they know Chris Judges work for instance, and then discover Barry Hughes or Philip Barrett’s work off the back of that.

Art by Barry Hughes

CO’M: Stray Lines features work from 5 other creators. How did you decide who would be in the book? Did you put out an open call for contributors, or approach people you wanted?

PL: This was an issue that actually needed some careful consideration. There are a few things I want to do with Stray Lines that had an effect on the size and scope of the book. Firstly I didn’t want to have any overarching theme put on the book – the contributors had to be free to follow their own impulses. In order to do this, though, you have to give the artists space to actually create a substantial narrative. I also didn’t want the book to get out of hand, we had to keep it manageable and focused, so I opted for fewer contributors but with longer, more substantial contributions. Luckily everyone who I asked was on board to do it and I think we ended up with a very strong book because of this.

Everyone has also upped their game. I mean, Phil Barrett’s piece is up there with his best work and is probably the most downrightly romantic thing he’s ever written. Andrew Judge and Chris Judges collaboration is simply such a great story, while both Barry and Gus brought that off-the-wall, ‘otherness’ that they both possess in such different ways. I really like the way their pieces bookend the collection, they’re so visually unique that you really can see that this isn’t another run of the mill indie anthology as soon as you open the book. 

CO’M: Why Fundit?

PL: Well basically, everything I’ve published before was self-financed. This project was beyond the scope of what I could afford on my own, so I thought why not give it a go?

Art by Gus Hughes

CO’M: How did you find the Fundit process?

PL: It’s a very enjoyable process and plenty of hard work. From the preparation beforehand, promotion during the campaign, to following through on the rewards you have to put in a lot of time to make it a success. 

CO’M: Did using Fundit help with promotion of the book?

PL:To an extent it did. It’s a very useful platform to approach people who might not normally consider looking at an Irish comic book.

Art by Paddy Lynch

CO’M: Would you recommend Fund it to others looking to publish a book/comic?

PL: As much as I would any other avenue, it has its pros and cons, I mean it’s basically an alternative way of sourcing funds. It’s definitely worth considering, but then so is saving money from your day job or getting a loan off the credit union/best mate/rich uncle. Regardless of where you get the money to print it, you still have to do all the leg work involved in publishing a book or comic.

CO’M: Was Stray Lines a one-off, or do you plan to follow it up?

PL: I have lots of plans for Stray Lines. Ideally I’d like to have it as an annual book that features the best of alternative comics from Ireland alongside international contributors, maybe include some straight up illustration or non-narrative pieces in it too. I already have a list of people in mind who I would love to be involved next time. That said, we’ll see how this first edition goes before committing to anything else. 

Art by Phil Barrett

CO’M: How would you describe your own work?

PL: I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I think the best fit might be ‘observational fiction’. In terms of my writing, I think my inspiration mainly comes from outside of comics – the short stories of John McGahern, and the novels of people like Paul Auster, Pat McCabe, and Jonathen Lethem would all be big inspirations.  Gar Shanley (of Windell Comics notoriety) has said to me that my stories remind him of the type you might find in a Mike Leigh film, and maybe he’s right. I tend to go for understated kitchen sink realism in my plots, but then I love David Lynch’s films and used to read all of Iain Banks’s work (both sci-fi and non-genre), and even, without wanting to sound too hifalutin, some of Samuel Beckett’s work is an influence (I actually did an comics adaptation of Krapps Last Tape as my final degree project in college). So I don’t expect to stick to pure gritty realism. I want to work some out-and-out weirdness into future projects.

In terms of art I love the looseness and fluidity of a lot of European comic artists – people like Frederik Peeters, Jacques Tardi, Gipi, Igort, Lewis Trondheim – who incidentally are all getting English-language editions published by decent publishers in the UK and the US. I really want to continue to push my drawing in that direction.

CO’M: As a creator; why comics, and not any other medium?

PL: Well at the most basic level I think comics offers a very interesting and powerful way of telling stories using words and pictures. It’s something I’ve always been drawn to and something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I went to art college and tried my hand at different mediums such as painting or graphic design, but I just found myself returning to comics each time.

At the heart of the matter I guess it’s because comics combines several aspects that really resonate with me.  I like the narrative aspect, the fact that you’re getting your ideas across by telling stories. I like the visual aspects – the fact that you can play with different types of image making, and I like the tension and the space you can exploit by presenting those two aspects together. I also like the format – there’s a certain quiet intimacy you can achieve very easily with books and printed matter than can’t be done quite as easily with mediums like film, theatre or computer games.

Comics also offer a single creator a lot of control. I mean all you really need is a pen and some paper and you can create any sort of story your heart desires, there are no limitations dictated by budget or the need to collaborate with large teams in order to see your idea through to completion.

CO’M: What recent comic work has really grabbed your attention?

PL: Everybody should be checking out Sammy Harkham’s work. He has a new book just come out from Picturebox, called Everything Together, that collects a lot of his work in one place. If you Paypal him $20 dollars, he’ll sign it and post it to you anywhere in the world. He’s on twitter, hit him up.

Nate Powell is another artist who is on fire these days. He’s about 3 graphic novels out from Topshelf everyone should be reading. Swallow Me Whole is a particularly fine piece of work.

I’m also very, very excited by a bunch of new publishers that have sprung up in the last couple of years – the likes of Nobrow Press, Retrofit Comics, Uncivilized Books, Oily Comics, Koyama Press are all putting out really fantastic comics.

CO’M: How is Big Jim, your graphic novel for O’ Brien Press coming along?

PL: Big Jim is almost done. I’m into the latter stages of colouring and it’s due to be published in Spring 2013. I’ve regularly been dropping previews of the pages in progress on tumblr.

It’s funny, as I’m actually coming up to the first time in almost two years that I don’t have some long term project on the go. I’m really looking forward to getting back to some pure image making and developing my writing again. I have several ideas for graphic novel length stories that I want to revisit that have been on the back burner since 2010.

CO’M: And finally, your bio at the back of Stray Lines mentions you cook ‘a mean homemade pizza’. What’s your secret, and your topping(s) of choice?

PL: I always advise going with a thin base, a good sauce (frying some herbs in with your garlic before adding chopped/sieved tomatoes and a dash of balsamic vinegar seems to work wonders) and keeping the toppings to a maximum of 2 well chosen complementary flavours. Right now, I’m going through a real artichokes and Parma-ham phase, mmm-mm.

CO’M: Sounds great. Thanks for your time Paddy, good luck with the work.

PL: Thanks for the interest Colin, it’s great to have support for projects like this.

Stray Lines is currently available online through Cardboard Press. It’s also currently stocked in Forbidden Planet Dublin, Dublin City Comics, Sub City in Dublin and Galway, and The Winding Stair bookshop at the Ha’penny Bridge with more coming soon, and there will be a complete list of stockists up on the Cardboard Press website.