Biomecha – An Interview with Pink Apple Jam

DSCF3302[1]

Launched in 1995, Biomecha is among the first British independent comics to have been inspired by Japanese manga and anime. After almost twenty years of hard work, creator Laura Watton-Davies, who works under the pen name Pink Apple Jam, now has just one book left to complete in order to finish off the series, which she intends to relaunch once this is done.

Promoting her work at this October’s MCM London Comic Con, Laura hopes to get the final support she needs to reach the end of her story and move on to something new. MCM Buzz caught up with the artist and writer to find out more.

 

MCM__BMflyerFor people who have yet to encounter your work, could you briefly describe Biomecha and what the story is about?

In a nutshell, it is a long-running story about a teenage boy who is trying to gain control of his mechanical arms, the mishaps that happen because of their bad calibration, and the stories of the people he meets around him in education. It’s a bit of a tragicomedy, that sometimes gets quite dark. I hope for the eventual ending to be very satisfying and a bit of a shock!

What was your initial inspiration for the comic? Do you remember where the idea of a boy with mechanical arms came from?

I think it was a mix of the old 90’s Manga Video cyberpunk themes and the vast amounts of boys’/shonen romance-comedies that were being translated at the time, along with an amalgamation of things happening to me in my own life.

Having launched in 1995, Biomecha is, in your own words, “one of the earliest British comics to be inspired by Japanese comics”. You started working on this before the big explosion of interest in Japanese comics and culture that has recently occurred in the UK. How did you first get into manga and was it difficult to find a market for your work at the time?

I did! I was lucky enough to be made aware of Japanese media at the time as my family has always been into pop culture media. UK kids were always fed anime on Children’s TV channels, rental videos and video games – it just wasn’t marketed as anime or manga at the time. When the Manga Video era started, importing video games was also in full swing, and this media really appealed to me unlike anything else that was happening in my world at the time, because it wasn’t just for kids, but for all ages.

You’ve been working on Biomecha for a long time now. Has it been difficult to stay motivated? How have you tackled any problems you’ve faced along the way?

Yes, all sorts! Life is full of ups and downs, and to be honest it has always been good to have comics to fall back on when your environment keeps giving you lemons. I find comic-making to be a re-energising bubble. I’ve tackled health issues, lived abroad, studied, graduated, swapped careers, moved house too many times, plus other things far too personal to discuss to be honest. Rest assured it hasn’t been easy, but I’m pleased to say my comics have always been a grounding focal point. Motivation is always tough, because of other distractions, illness and problems that crop up. But when I’m in the zone it’s very difficult to get out until a chapter is complete, and it’s comforting to get that chapter out into the world.

Once completed, how long do you think the series will be in total?

It will definitely be three books long – we are two books in already, so the last book should not be too much trouble. Everything is falling in to place for some proper momentum!

MCM_biomecha_8_coverWhat are you most proud of about Biomecha so far? Are there any specific characters or stories that you’re particularly fond of?

When you get into making a comic, especially a long one, all your characters end up being your babies! So I have great fondness for each one. They all have different roles and they really do need each other for the core story. I’m pleased that the series seems to pick up new readers every couple of years, and that old readers still remember the previous chapters and talk to me about it. I ultimately hope for Biomecha to have an impact upon other people, so that they create their own comic universes as well!

You’re currently using a site called Patreon as an online platform for funding and marketing your work. It’s less well known than Kickstarter or Indiegogo, so for those who aren’t familiar with it, could you say a little bit about how it works and why you chose that as opposed to any other crowdfunding site?

Sure thing. I use the platform Patreon as a “monthly pledge” type of website. Whereas Kickstarter and Indie-Go-Go have goals, rewards and ultimate finality, like Biomecha itself Patreon plods along slowly and surely – there are different levels of monthly pledging ($1 is a gratitude type of pledge; $5 gets you specific emails and exclusive pictures; $15 gets you biannual, physical rewards I mail to readers through the post and credits in the final printed book formats), and supporters can pledge for as short or as long a time as they wish. Even a one off donation of $1 is always appreciated!

What are you hoping to gain from being at the MCM London Comic Con this October? Are you selling your work or just promoting works in progress?

I will be selling posters and mini comics related to Biomecha, and handing out as many flyers as I can- chatting with whoever is interested in it, haha! I will also have some comic book anthologies to sell, and some published artwork books I have contributed to over the years.

You say on your Patreon page that one factor in the current push to finish Biomecha is that you want to work on developing some new projects. Do you have any ideas about what you would like to work on next?

That’s right. I haven’t drawn any comics with my partner for a long time (since 2007 really) and I would love to draw something totally different from a teenage love-comedy-drama. I had a spate of drawing zombie-themed comics around that time, so it would be good to try out something unusual. I would also like to have a look at motion comics with my developer friend too.

One of your aims is also to encourage emerging creatives to get their stories out there by selling their own work like you have. What made you decide to go it alone rather than following the traditional publishing route? Do you think it’s better to be independent than working within an established organisation and if so, why?

I have tried both and I can 100% say that [being independent] gives you all of the creative control, and is therefore very satisfying, whether it is for one project, a few or forever. Digital publishing is so easy nowadays (when Biomecha started, the only avenues were photocopied ‘fanzine’-style booklets), and social media groups are available to anyone to learn about making comics, so there’s no reason not to give it a try! Working with teams and publishing groups is also great experience, though. You learn a lot via whichever route you go with.

MCM_reiko_wonderland_colourGive us an example of a day in the life of an indie comics creator. Do you stick to a regular work routine or does it vary? Is it ever difficult to organise your time?

Very! I have made artwork and comics during full-time education and later full-time employment, part-time employment and self-employment. Whatever comes across your path, try it, have a go. What works for one part of your life may not work for another part and so on. Nothing is forever and no choice you make has to be the same one for the rest of your life. Just keep making comics! Google Calendar is useful for setting your own goals, and speaking to like-minded friends is always motivating. At the moment I’m finding doing boring chores in the week (and loose sketches for fun) leaves Saturday to unwind and have “me-time”, then Sunday to nestle up in my study and draw crazily.

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring comics creators?

(1)   Start small! Perhaps make a comic based on a joke, and not embark upon a 20-volume gigantic epic manga.

(2)   Make comics with your friends and make an anthology containing everyone’s works. Split costs between each other.

(3)   Draw all sorts of things, not just the same face or same type of character. Draw nature, pets, background and different types of people too.

(4)   Read all sorts of stories, not just one type. Variety is key!

(5)   Have fun! Too much pressure just contributes to motivation and confidence being wrecked.

I hope they help! Just keep drawing as much stuff as you can!

Where can people find you at the convention, and where’s the best place to find you online if they miss you there?

I will be in the Comics Village on table E7 at October MCM 2014. Online I host www.PinkAppleJam.com (I am usually “PinkAppleJam” on all social media and websites like Deviantart) and Biomecha can be read via www.BiomechaComic.com.

Thank you for reading! Enjoy the event! Thanks for supporting indie artists 😀

 

Laura Watton-Davies is promoting Biomecha throughout the MCM London Comic Con weekend. To find out more about her work and to support it, visit her Patreon page here.

<

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2014 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews