Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tales of Tales Of The Spiffing with Ashley Boddy

In SPBM ep 29 we reviewed Tales Of The Spiffing a splendid new comics anthology from a group of artists and animators who all work together at Aardman Animation. Not an actual Aardman production the book was produced and funded by the artists themselves - collectively Spiffing Artists - and a quality, beautifully designed, professional looking book it is too as well as being a very entertaining read.

Co-editor Ashley Boddy was kind enough to give us some more details on how Tales Of The Spiffing came about...

How the book came about? After lots of talk (“We should really make a comic anthology thing”) and doing nothing, JP (Vine) finally put his foot down and drafted a “call out” announcing our plan, which I then posted up on our internal network. It basically said, ”Anyone fancy making a comic? Reply to us”. We got a few replies and it kind of snowballed from there really. Some people dropped out, then others joined and what we thought was only going to be 80 pages turned into much more.

Ashley Boddy
This is your first comic, so how was the production process?

Many involved hadn’t drawn a comic before, so that was a hurdle to overcome...setting out a page, what happens across the middle of page spreads and other stuff specific to the format, both the in layout and the telling of a story. We’re used to putting stuff up on screen so when it came down to putting it on a page, we found that things such as an ‘over the shoulder’ shot and other standard film conventions just didn’t read the way you wanted them too. Screen-wise, you can cut when you want, only letting the audience see exactly what you want for as long as you want. In a book, how fast do you tell someone to read for or how long to linger on a panel before moving on to the next one? That was something I struggled with personally. There was much looking at comics (good excuse to just read a lot of them and call it research), to see how others have done it and I think for everyone it was a big learning curve. Also being a first time editor was quite hard. There were lots of bits which happened behind the scenes beyond sourcing a printer, like getting ISBNs, learning new software for layout...and people management!  At Aardman, We work across two sites (Jay Clarke handled one site, I the other) and if you factor in people in other countries working on the book, it swiftly became a big task. Another aim was to have fun. 

Jess Jackson
Yeah I wanted to ask you what your goals were...

This wasn’t a work project, it was all done off the Aardman clock, so stress was not part of the plan, but at the same time we still had to get it done. Chasing people up without being nagging was a challenge in itself, but everyone  still seems quite happy to talk to each other so I something must’ve gotten something right! We ended up with a book, we’re selling it, people are enjoying it...we’re happy! Basically we want to stay happy, make more books (annually ideally) and have a good time doing it.

That would be cool! What were your inspirations?

The impetus behind the book was mainly other animation companies (Blue Sky, Pixar, DreamWorks) having ‘collective’ books and the Disney guys whose books ‘Rocket Johnson’ and ‘Torch Tiger’, are headed up by Paul Briggs. I emailed him and Mark Kennedy early on to ask about how they set about creating their first book and they were very helpful... I even got a copy of ‘Torch Tiger’ out of it!

Andy Janes
Nice one! I've not actually heard of those, I'll have to check them out! Any other influences?

My personal influences are (Comics-wise) Calvin and Hobbes and various French BD Artists...Crisse, Alary, Du Pins - although I’m really liking Ian Culbard’s stuff for Self Made Hero at the moment. I think they are doing a great job of representing classics in graphic form.

Right then, where can people buy Tales Of The Spiffing from?

The book is available from our website (, and through us at conventions.

Oh right, which conventions will you be going to? 

We’ll be at the London Small Press Expo in March, KAPOW Comic Con in April and the Bristol Small Press Expo in May. I think we’re doing a panel or workshop at the Bristol one, but that’s not confirmed exactly what we’re doing yet.

Excellent! Should hopefully see you at Bristol then! Thanks for the info, Ashley, and congratulations on Spiffing I really enjoyed it. 

Toodle pip!

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