Heritage and family history seems to be a very important part of your comics work. Please tell us why and a little about that aspect of your work.
I've always wanted to do a story about my Serbian Grandad, who fought as a Chetnik for a Royalist Yugoslavia in World War Two. He died when I was around 12, and it wasn't until I was a little older that I realised how bizarre a character he was. For example, I would just take it for granted that his house was literally piled to the ceilings with rubbish. It was only when I started thinking about the way he lived that I started to learn a little about his situation in World War Two. It's very frustrating because he never told anyone what he did, and the Eastern European community in the area of Cannock in the Midlands where he lived has all but died out, so there's no real way of me finding much out. It's almost like a dead end. All I've got is folders of documents and boxes of photos and just vague ideas of how he lived.
This process of remembering and researching all ended up in Milorad, my first real attempt at a graphic novel. As I've read more and more about the history of Yugoslavia, about the different Slav nations and traditions, I've become more and more obsessed with the Eastern European aesthetic. This has started to become the backbone of everything I do. To me it all seems to overlap, my interest in Eastern Europe, narrative and illustration, and I've become increasingly attracted to old Slav fairy and folk tales, which again has proven to be a strong influence in my work. Milorad went on to receive a D&AD New Blood Award, which I think is pretty funny because the majority of students that win this award usually use really boring corporate graphic design for stuff and I have no interest in that kind of stuff. Graphic design actually really pisses me off because I find it so obtrusive and I can't believe people actually fall for clever advertising. Or maybe it's because I can only relate to things in a narrative form: images without narrative just seems really bland and pointless to me; but, of course, I'm over-generalising.
What are your impressions of the UK small press/self-published/mini comics scene? What's good? What's bad? What needs changing?
To tell you the truth, this is going to sound quite bad, but I don't really get that much involved with the small press scene. I mean, I really enjoy making mini comics and flogging them for a little bit of pocket money, but I don't want to have to print them myself forever. I've given up going to comic conventions and the like because there's always a weirdo trying to tell you how much they love a super hero I've never heard of or about comics you can read on your mobile.
I love going into small comic shops and looking at the small press scene section, I think Gosh! in London has a great collection. I love seeing what other people are doing, but I always find it uncomfortable and daunting speaking to other people who read or make comics. I think it's because the act of reading and making comics is such a solitary and personal one that I'm not used to the idea of other comic readers full stop. In fact, sometimes it's difficult to even imagine other people reading your comics when you're making them. Or maybe it's because I'm wary of over enthusiastic people.
Making comics isn't fun at all, it's horribly, lonely and depressing, and so I get creeped out when I see people actually having a good time when talking about comics. I actually very rarely go into comic shops, and if I do it's to see if they can order in something specific for me. I think it's important to try and support independent comic shops, even if I see something in some twatty, shit shop like Magma for example, I'll always go to a comic shop instead to try and buy it. I'm actually more excited about the amount of comics that are finally being translated that I can get my hands on, people like Igort, Gipi or David B.
One thing that I do think the British small press scene needs is some sort of regular anthology, but trying to convince an existing publisher that there is money in such a venture would be next to impossible. I really don't know much about the publishing industry, but comics need to start getting press in mainstream publications and newspapers. Plan B mag regularly reviewing comics and stuff like The Observer competition are great ways of increasing comic readership, but it's still not enough.