Dungeon Fun is brilliant, it has really cool drawings.’ Words shared by my 13-year-old son on handing him the comic book by the artist Neil Slorance and writer Colin Bell. I had returned from an interview with Slorance at his studio and with my son’s love of the medium I presumed I victoriously stumbled across a volume that he might not have heard of. It seems not.
‘Yeah I know those comics. I met [Slorance] at Glasgow Comic Con last year,’ he adds. This was the annual event at the Royal Concert Hall – a gathering of comic creators, artists, writers and their fans, set to return once again in June of 2018.
This artist/writer collaboration unfolds in an award-winning series of four, full colour books. It centres on a female protagonist, ‘a story of a girl and her sword,’ it begins – and a warrior crusade for justice. That girl is Fun Mudlifter, raised by trolls in the moat of a castle who on gathering a sword that plummeted from the sky adventures beyond the moat for the first time. It’s a ‘coming of age story,’ Slorance describes and is hugely funny or ‘witty,’ as my son adds. I should not really have been surprised that he had heard of Slorance, with over 11k Twitter followers and a Wikipedia page written about him he is not a small name in the world of comics, comic books and illustration. The Dungeon Fun stories in particular are hugely popular resonating with all ages and with international appeal. Jason Symmons, comic book buff and retailer describes them as, ‘just that, fun! Really accessible to anyone and can be read on a number of different levels.’
It is not the only time Bell and Slorance have collaborated together. In 2011 they created the webcomic Jonbot v’s Martha and in 2014 they again came together on a strip for Titan Publications, Dr. Who: The Twelfth Doctor with Peter Capaldi drawn in true Slorance style, an accessible childlike ‘cutesy’ charm of oversized heads and large eyes – a seductive draw for all-ages of comic fan. Hope from the Dirt is an early work on canvas that shows an obvious liking for the simplistic strong lines and form of his characters, a vibrant palette of persuasive colour and a subject matter that emotes compassion in the viewer – a work that pre-dates his move to illustrating full time but echoes the sentiments of drawings to follow.
I met with Slorance in his studio in the West End’s Hidden Lane – a wonderful light fills his space allowing for great conditions to draw and paint. ‘The Dungeon Fun pictures were drawn digitally but I use pen and watercolours for some of my works,’ he tells me. There is a series of self-published travelogue comic books in pen and ink – drawings of his travels to Barcelona, Bordeaux, Berlin and more recently The Canada Issue. These are, ‘done in the style of a journal comic and details all the people I met, places I saw and stuff I got up to. I realize this sounds like a comic version of someone showing you their boring holiday photos but without spoiling anything there’s a good bit more to it and I’ve put a lot of myself into it,’ he adds.
Modern Slorance is another largely autobiographical publication, a collection of short stories about things that interest him, ‘there’s bits about video games, board games, also some diary stuff about dating etc.,’ he explains. There are also some more political pieces, live drawing for the BBC at the last general election, for the Independence referendum with STV online and currently Slorance contributes a full colour newspaper strip every Saturday to The National newspaper.
Symmons has his own view of Slorance, ‘Interestingly a lot of his stuff is reminiscent of older comics in terms of format and presentation, one-page stuff like The Broons.’ I on the other hand cannot pretend to know a great deal about the history or medium of comics and comic books – until now, my experience has been limited to quickly scanning copies for content and age appropriateness before purchase – having a friend who can inform on these matters has been very helpful! Yet, I was and still am enthusiastic about my children reading them. Experience has showed me that it’s a way in for the reluctant reader – not a new idea, but still one which often finds resistance in mainstream education.
Comics are essentially stories told through sequential images, initial introduction to this format is perhaps the picture book, ‘some kids need a little bridge between picture books and reading,’ Slorance adds and I would agree, they are a wonderful and pretty obvious progression. I would also argue that one of the added benefits is that it encourages the reader to slow down – the pictures provoke a requirement to digest the words and scene before moving on. Not only do we think in words and pictures but we live in such a visual, fast moving landscape, slowing the mind down and comic books as a way by their very nature that facilitates this happening, is perhaps hugely beneficial to humans of all ages.
For me, I finished my first comic book by reading Volume One of Dungeon Fun. I may not have elevated any ‘coolness’ in the eyes of my son but my interest in his large box of comics has sparked a new type of conversation and one that may very well develop into a shared interest.
Slorance shares his studio with other makers – RE:Craft and Lady Shinjuku, and is open to the public Thursday to Sunday 12-5pm or by appointment. A range of Prints and Cards by Slorance and other makers are for sale and you will often find Slorance working in the studio – according to one of his Instagram post’s he sometimes brings baking in too!
Studio 1, Hidden Lane, 1103 Argyle Street, Finnieston G3 8ND