Comics, q&a, spoiler free, Uncategorized

NPC Tea – Sarah Milman Q&A

Q&A

You may have seen my review for this week, the latest two issues, six and seven, of NPC tea, a beautifully illustrated comic by the lovely Sarah Milman. (If you missed the post you can check out spoiler-free reviews for Issues 1-5 here or issues 6&7 here). Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you all a little Q&A with the illustrator and author herself!

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First off, thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A for my blog. I realise you must be super busy with the Kickstarter for the latest issue of NPC Tea being live and working on the issue itself. I’ve been reading NPC Tea for some years now but for those who may not have heard of NPC Tea before how would you describe it?NPC Tea is about a tea shop run by orcs, elves and other fantasy creatures in modern day Cardiff, and it’s inspired by D&D, Final Fantasy and LOTR. That’s the elevator pitch, anyway! The comic is about fantastical beings trying to live a normal life but finding their pasts difficult to escape. It has themes of pacifism and historical revisionism, and also orcs and elves kissing. You know, all the important stuff.

How have you found using Kickstarter to fund each issues initial run? Were there any particular pros and cons?
I’ve really enjoyed using Kickstarter, but it’s difficult to switch off from! I’m quite an anxious person who tends to stress a lot, so the campaigns are both really exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s easy to obsess over numbers, and if you don’t like self-promotion it can get painful at times! That said, it’s incredibly satisfying when a campaign succeeds, and it’s allowed me to connect to people from all over the world. NPC Tea wouldn’t have been possible without it. 

On average how long does it take to complete an issue?
It’s condensed a lot over the years. Issue 1 took about three months to draw, while 7 took 3 and a half weeks. I aim to complete two pages a day, but with recent issues, I’ve tried to pace myself. As a freelancer it’s hard not to overwork, and to force yourself to step back or take time off. 

What is your favourite aspect of creating comics and what particular element gives you the most personal satisfaction?
This is difficult – I find most of it very satisfying. There’s nothing better than nailing the script, especially when it takes a while to get just right. I really enjoy looking back on older pages and seeing my progression – even if I might cringe at some bits of artwork, I like to think that I keep improving with each issue that I make.

Do you have a least favourite aspect?
Colouring! This is why I initially chose to use limited colours for NPC Tea – I enjoy all the other elements apart from colouring, and I think it’s my weakest area. Though I’d like to get better at it, and will probably go back to full colour in future projects. It’s not strictly comics related, but I hate admin and promoting myself too – I actually freeze up when I have to send out business emails, even if it’s in response to something good…

What tools do you use to create comics and what makes them the “right tools” for you?
I make my comics completely digitally, and NPC Tea was all made with OpenCanvas. I’d like to switch to Clip Studio paint though – OC can be a bit buggy, but I haven’t found a program that has the same kind of line quality that I like. I also use Scrivener to write, though to be honest pen and paper works in a pinch.

How would you describe your typical work routine?
Chaotic…? I tend to write best very late at night. So, when I’m writing scripts or thumbnailing, I tend to stay up late and get out a draft in one or two sittings, then edit the script with a cup of tea over the next few days. When it comes to actually drawing, I’m a lot more disciplined, and I’m at my desk at 10am, working through till about 7. I like to work to podcasts and cartoons – my favourites are Swindled and Avatar the Last Airbender. As a freelancer I can work whenever I like, but that’s not always a good thing!

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I find that travelling helps me to write. Especially on trains, it’s easy to let my mind wander and come up with dialogue and new ideas. The indie comics scene in the UK is so diverse – reading other people’s comics and seeing what they’re creating is inspiring. My favourite thing to do is have a nice bath while reading comics! I also play games, though as a completionist they tend to make me procrastinate…
I’d like to have more hobbies that make me go outdoors. I am very pale and weak.

Do you have any advice to give to others who may be thinking about creating comics?
I’d say start out with something short, and gain the experience of getting it printed. I made the mistake of starting a long form comic straight out of the gate, and that was a difficult learning curve. Also, make something that you’d like to read! If you’re stuck for ideas, there are always a lot of anthologies out there to join.

What is next for NPC Tea? Is this the end?
Well, I’ve written this volume to stand alone, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have ideas for a series two! I’ve written a lot of short stories too – it’s been a long time since I’ve written something not NPC Tea, and I might want a break from orcs and elves when all this is over… but that’s looking unlikely. I think I’m going to see how people react to the finished story, and go from there. If people want to see more from Hanny, Oz and Bryn, I won’t need much convincing to continue.

You can order issues 1-7 via Sarah’s Etsy store here right now if you want to catch up asap or if you back the Kickstarter you can choose to receive all of the single issues (with an exclusive slipcase to keep them all together neatly) OR a hardback bindup of all of them! Not forgetting Sarah also has a Patreon where at the $1 tier you can read up to issue 6 digitally right away!

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book reviews, Comics, spoiler free

NPC Tea Issues 6&7

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NPC Tea – Issues Six and Seven written and illustrated by Sarah Milman

Rating: XXXXX

Published: 2018 and 2019 by Sarah Milman

“I don’t want to be calm. I want to be angry. I want to be furious.”

A world identical to our own – identical that is, apart from all the orcs, elves and magic… A love letter to Final Fantasy and Lord of the Rings, NPC Tea is about Cardiff’s least popular tea shop, Y Ddraig, run by a perfectionist elf and a laid-back fire summon.

NPC Tea follows an ex-fire summon, an elf and a magicless human as they attempt to save a failing tea shop in modern-day Cardiff. Soon they find out that a lack of customers and caddies upon caddies of rotting tea are the least of their worries when a type of banned magic rears it’s ugly head and threatens to destroy the entire city. Bryn, Oz and Hannah must unite if they are to save their business – and ultimately the city itself.

An 8 issue series, NPC Tea escalates from a slice of life comedy into an epic fantasy, twisting typical RPG and fantasy stereotypes into a modern-day setting. It’s about what happens when there are no more dungeons to crawl when magic needs to be organized, and when orcs, elves and men try to live peacefully side by side – a balance that’s harshly tested when an entire city is threatened with destruction…

Some of you might remember that back in December 2018 I posted a review for issues 1 through 5 of NPC Tea, a beautiful, fun comic by writer and illustrator Sarah Milman. I had initially thought to review issues 6 through 8 together after issue eight releases later this year but with the events of issues 6 and 7 as well as the Kickstarter campaign for issue 8 going live I thought it would be a good time to review these two together and urge you to get on board with the series ready for the final issue! I’ll keep this spoiler-free for the entire series as much as possible for those of you who may have not have read the others yet! You can order issues 1-7 via Sarah’s Etsy store here right now if you want to catch up asap or if you back the Kickstarter you can choose to receive all of the single issues (with an exclusive slipcase to keep them all together neatly) OR a hardback bindup of all of them! Not forgetting Sarah also has a Patreon where at the $1 tier you can read up to issue 6 digitally right away!

I stumbled upon Sarah and at MCM Comic-Con in London a few years ago and was absolutely hooked on the art and the plot!  I’ve always loved worlds where high fantasy and contemporary can mix with a nice dollop of magic stirred in and NPC Tea is all that and more! These books capture that perfect balance where this is still fantasy but set in a modern world. I have remained hooked on this series ever since and I’m super nervous and excited about the final (possibly for good) issue coming very soon!

Issue Six
I think this might be my favourite issue so far. There are just so many great moments, of which two are ‘romance’ related and they just fit in so seamlessly, they up the stakes and work so well with the main plot-line. At this point in the story, it’s starting to feel like the beginning of the end in that we begin to find out more about what’s really going on and the final plans are being carried out as the endgame nears. We get more background on the summons and the interactions between them were fantastic. The writing and illustrations have been consistently brilliant throughout the series but the use of colour felt a lot more prominent in this issue and was absolutely gorgeous, I will never get over how much I love the style Sarah has chosen to use for this series. The dialogue too has been ramped up a notch (although the banter in the past few issues has been on point) this mixed with perfectly timed scene cuts made all served to build a brilliant amount of tension throughout the issue, with separate scenes binding together in such a satisfying way that meant it all just came together perfectly. Cait definitely wins MVP for this issue, I loved every scene she was in and her trick with her sword was bad-ass.

Issue Seven 
The penultimate issue! When this issue arrived I was SO hesitant to read it purely because I wasn’t ready for it. I’ve loved this series these past few years and the thought that we were coming to the end was terrifying! I lasted two days before I gave in and then read it three times in one sitting just to make sure I had taken it all in. The same praise issue six received applies here although there are, understandably less ‘romantic’ moments. This is a heavy issue filled with a startling reveal and we get down to lore down. As mentioned about issue six, Sarah once again uses the same fantastic technique of linking separate scenes meaning we get that lore from both sides but without having to repeat it. I did get confused when a certain character popped up as it took me a while to place them which prompted me to reread the entire series thus far (like I needed any more of an excuse) and it seemed I had just forgotten about them but read all together it made much more sense so this is my own fault. If Hannah wasn’t already my favourite character she absolutely would have been after this issue, I love her spirit and she definitely wins MVP for issue seven.

I am in no way emotionally ready for issue eight.

If you enjoyed this or are intrigued by the series then keep your eyes peeled for an interview with creator herself, Sarah Milman coming this Thursday!

 

 

book reviews, Comics, Uncategorized

Journey to Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker: Allegiance

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45485630Journey to Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker: Allegiance 
by Ethan Sacks (writer), Luke Ross (artist)

Rating: XXX

Published November 19th by Marvel Comics

“I wasn’t going to allow my friends to suffer while I can do something about it either”

BEFORE THE EXCITING EVENTS OF STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER! Hounded by the FIRST ORDER across the galaxy, the RESISTANCE is in dire need of ships, weapons and recruits to make a final stand against KYLO REN’S forces. Desperation drives a delegation led by GENERAL LEIA ORGANA and REY to entreat the Rebel veteran’s one-time allies, THE MON CALAMARI, to join the fight – but decades after Imperial occupation enslaved their planet, there are those willing to stop at nothing to prevent another war from bloodying the waters of Mon Cala. A system away, POE DAMERON and FINN have their own mission: to hunt down a weapons cache on the remote moon of Avedot, unaware that they are being hunted by the most notorious criminal gang in the galaxy!

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So although the Journey to The Rise of Skywalker content is meant to be read before the film is released, I had only read Resistance Reborn before going into the cinema and instead found that I tried to read through some of the Journey content afterwards instead to fill the hole where the film novelisation should be. The Allegiance comics are one such distraction and I haven’t read a Star Wars comic in a good long while with the exception of the first Poe Dameron comic last year (or maybe even the year before…it’s been a while) so I wasn’t sure what to expect, not to mention obviously things will change with different writers and artists. This review covers issues one to four of the Allegiance comic series designed to link the events of The Last Jedi to The Rise of Skywalker.

At the start of the comic, we get one of the iconic Star Wars scrolls and honestly this was a brilliant start and feels better than the one we got at the beginning of TROS (The Rise of Skywalker). Not everyone reads every single bit of content or plays Fortnite (yes I’m still salty we got the emperors “returning speech” in a Fornite event okay…) so I was immediately pretty done with the TROS crawl but this one feels relevant and I feel actually does a good job, off to a very good start!

If you’ve read Resistance Reborn then this whole scenario probably sounds quite familiar, Leia appealing to others for aid, Finn and Poe off an a side quest for the rebellion somewhere and it’s very much the same here which has the unfortunate effect of making Allegiance seem like a heavily watered-down version of the novel with the novel having better emotional stakes and pay off. These comics were released first but I think in the timeline the novel comes first as it’s pretty much directly after the end of The Last Jedi but who knows, as it always is with Star Wars, the timeline is a little hazy.

On its own, however, Allegiance is not a bad read, there are no especially huge moments but I think they’ve done pretty well to get through two stories with some interesting character interactions and such within the space of four issues. Saying that, the story is relatively paper-thin but honestly a little fun and they really reminded me of the old weekly Star Wars comics  I used to read when I was a kid. The characters have missions to complete, they attempt to, trouble happens, they get out of trouble simple and easy, a bit like the equivalent of the “monster of the week” style you find with some TV shows and the first few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Honestly, it works though and it was only really on reflection for this review that I realised how little story there really was. It was by no means mind-blowing but it was enjoyable and as a result, I ended up ordering some more Star Wars comics and I do think I’m ready to see TROS again at some point in the future so I guess it did its job? Not to mention it explains a couple of things like the inclusion on the Mon Calamari forces in TROS and the presence of Admiral Ackbar’s son who has a few lines in the film.

With not a huge amount of story there were a few other things we managed to get out of the Allegiance comics, one of which was more Rose Tico and not only more Rose content in general but alongside Rey! She doesn’t play a massive part but is integral and has some brilliant characterisation that was sorely lacking in the film. Her personality really shines through and it seems like she and Rey have become good friends which was lovely and honestly, I’d read a whole comic about them two hanging out and going on missions etc.

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Essentially being one of the main characters of the sequel franchise Rey obviously gets a lot of page space and we get to see her doing a little force training as well as a fair bit of fighting (again like the older comics, we get a large amount of action), during which we see her beginning to use the force a lot more which I enjoyed. One thing I really noticed about her character was just how angry she was which felt very at odds with how Rey is portrayed in the films, sure she gets angry but she spends so much of these comics making threats and barring her teeth in 80% of her scenes that just seemed a little out of character although it does harken back to a lot of Anakin’s reactions in Revenge of the Sith so maybe this was the idea? To spread a little seed of doubt as to Rey’s “place” in the force in addition to the “Dark Rey” we see in the trailer.

Rey was also one of the only characters I had any problems with art wise too as she just seems like someone decided to see how many action figure poses they could put her in instead of just standing normally like an actual person and not a power ranger (see above image).

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I haven’t really mentioned the Finn, Poe and BB8 side of things for which I would be remiss but there’s unfortunately not a lot to say about it. It’s good, it’s fun and we are treated to the usual Finn and Poe b/romance banter but it does sadly feel largely unimportant and unneeded which is a shame as they’re really fun characters.

Overall this was an enjoyable read and it certainly scratched an itch but just wasn’t satisfying enough for me. Definitely not required reading for TROS in any capacity other than understanding the presence of the Mon Calamari.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

NPC Tea Issues 1-5 Spoiler Free Review

NPC_Tea-236x360NPC Tea (Issues 1-5) Written and illustrated by Sarah Milman

Rating: XXXXX

Published: 2016 onwards (Still ongoing)

“Oh, is it a secret?”
“A badly kept one, but still: if you breathe one word about this to anybody –”
“You’ll what? Kill me?”
“With my bare hands”

NPC Tea is about Cardiff’s least popular tea shop, Y Ddraig, run by a perfectionist elf and a disgruntled fire summon. When a magicless human discovers Y Ddraig’s secret and a type of banned magic rears its ugly head, caddies upon caddies of rotting tea become the least of their worries as the entire city of Cardiff is threatened with destruction!

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I’m STILL reading/listening to A Queen of Air and Darkness and I needed a break, I hadn’t been feeling well recently so I gathered up all my indie/self-published comics I’ve been trying to get around to reading or rereading and I’ve spent the past week catching up. It has been GLORIOUS and over the next couple of weeks, I’m planning on reviewing my favourites and a couple of new ones that are on their way thanks to some amazing Kickstarters I backed earlier in the year.

First up is a comic that kind of sucked me back into this style of book and that is NPC Tea by Sarah Milman. The premise alone pitched to me by Sarah back at MCM Expo a few years back had me intrigued! I’ve always loved worlds where high fantasy and contemporary can mix with a nice dollop of magic stirred in and NPC Tea is all that and more! These books capture that perfect balance where this is still fantasy but set in a modern world which just gets me far too excited when thinking about all the Dungeons and Dragons stories I’d love to see in this world!

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Other than the synopsis one of the first things that drew me to these was the art style and I apologise to anyone who is even remotely artistically inclined for my ineloquence here but not only do I love the style in which these comics are drawn but the use of colours throughout the pages absolutely enthrals me, they are a pure joy to look at and not only do they help establish to whom and when events are happening they convey SO much more and honestly I’m so here for it. Not to mention the illustrations themselves are fantastic and Sarah’s work has this brilliant comedic timing where the written words and the illustrations join in such a way as to really enhance each other.

Even with the art aside the story moves along nicely and we get a bit of info, to begin with, to set us up and then as the characters learn and uncover more we, the reader do as well which I find especially satisfying. The characters of NPC Tea are beautifully diverse, they all have their own individual look, style and feel established very early on and the staff at Y Ddraig are honestly my favourite little dysfunctional family. As the issues move along we get closer looks at a good few of them and learn more about how they became the people they are without taking away from the main story too much. Personally Hannah the human is my favourite character and I love to see how she reacts to all the different situations cropping up around her, she’s kind but sassy and firey too!

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Overall I’ve found this series an absolute delight and the wait for the next issues are slowly eating away at me. Originally slated for eight issues I’m also really hoping we get more, perhaps a second story arc? I can’t imagine letting them go!

The first issue was released in 2016 with the second following in 2017 and issues three, four and five successfully kickstarted in 2017 and 2018 with rumours of six and seven not being too far off in the distance now! You can check out Sarah’s shop here where you can buy issues one to five now!