Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, this year running as the virtual LICAF LIVE, we bring you a series of interviews with both guests and participants in the Comics Clock Tower (This year, also virtual).
Today, we’re talking to Ben Cullis, aka Benksy, a comic editor and part-time Graphic Design teacher from Lincolnshire, editor and publisher of The77 comics anthology, who together with Elephantman co-creator Tom Ward, is running a free workshop on How to Crowdfund (register here) as part of the LICAF Creative Workshops Programme.
Together with a widespread group of fans and creative artists, Ben has built a global online community of comic enthusiasts over many years, hosting interviews, writing reviews, running competitions and moderating forums for the exchange of information about all forms of published graphic art. Out of this community grew the idea to create an anthology as an homage to the best of comic artwork through the decades.
From concept to reality has only taken Ben nine months, but the planning has taken many hours of working through proposals for content and then commissioning some of the best graphic artists in the world, laying out the pages and organising the printing and distribution.
“As an anthology, The77 contains a blend of sci-fi stories, war-based strips and romantic fiction, as well as fantasy and straight-up comic funnies,” says Ben. “And running alongside the comic there are social media platforms. So readers can meet up with us online, speak to the creators and even pitch a storyline to me.”
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Ben Cullis: Issue 3 and 4 of The77, publishing in October and December.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Ben: With a bi-monthly Kickstarter and publishing schedule it’s pretty much taken that I need to plan everyday according to where we are in the cycle. I tend to plan meticulously as I have a lot of correspondence to catch up on and with creators practically around the globe involved in other projects I try to fit in around their needs.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Ben: Working with like minded people who know their game and who are looking to create great strips.
And the worst?
Ben: The challenge of getting the comic into stores and in front of their customers. We’ve established ourselves with our immediate fan base, social media is great for building communities but there’s only so much it can do. But I have to remind myself that The77 has only been in existence for a very short time and I’ve no intention of shying away from the challenge of seeing it in stores.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Ben: My job as publishing editor has so many facets. It’s not that other things get in the way, it’s a case of trying to keep on track and keeping a note book at hand so I don’t forget anything!
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Ben: Age has very little to do with having the imagination and drive to seeing a comic through to publication. I’m fortunate because although I’m on my own in my office I work with a great team and we encourage and support one another. I think getting access to creators is easier, so as a publisher it could be less of a barrier than when I was young.
How has the Pandemic affected you, work wise – good or bad?
Ben: It’s been hard, but The77 was launched this May, right in the middle of lockdown. I was determined that it wouldn’t be delayed, rightly or wrongly. I can’t say whether it would have been different without the Pandemic but people have been very supportive and have backed us.
What do you think might be its most significant impact on the comics industry in general, long term?
Ben: I know a lot of stores are struggling and perhaps digital subscription services will benefit. I hope both can co-exist as we move forward.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Ben: Will Eisner. His work really speaks to me and his work ethic was phenomenal. The closest I’ve been to his work was at LICAF when a lot of his pages were exhibited.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Ben: Always be clear about what you want from anybody you work with.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Ben: Loving Reaper by Jenny Jinya, on Jenny-Jinya.com.
Ben, thanks for your time and the very best of luck with all your many projects!
• Sign up here for Ben Cullis and Tom Ward’s How to Crowdfund Workshop. Please note, workshops are free but registration is required and suitable for 15+ | Full details of the LICAF Creative Workshops Programme for the 2020 Festival is here
• The Virtual Comics Clock Tower is online at licafclocktower.com