2014 continues to be kind to comics fans, with great releases, translations and news of upcoming books. This weekend saw yet another significant announcement made, with UK comics creator Philippa Rice (My Cardboard Life, St Colin and the Dragon, Looking Out) signing Korean, North American and UK rights deals for a book of her hugely popular Soppy comics. Rice's Soppy comics, capturing sweet, silly and romantic moments within a couple's relationship, are based on her real-life interactions with boyfriend and fellow cartoonist, Luke Pearson, and began life as a web-comic, with Rice going on to self-publish two very successful mini-comics. While Rice is one of the UK's most versatile artists, not only creating comics in a variety of styles, but model dioramas, her highly coveted crocheted soft figures and more, her distinctive, 2-colour black and red Soppy comics have really struck a chord with audiences- particularly on the Internet.
I got in touch with Rice to ask her a few more details about the book:
Congratulations on the book deal! Am I right in thinking this is your first one- i.e. being published with a publisher? And now in 3 countries! That's pretty exciting.
Thank you! I did a comic with Hic & Hoc a couple of years ago and a Danish version of the two Soppy mini comics with Damgaard. Other than that everything I’ve done has been self-published.
How did that come about- were you approached, or vice versa?
Well… Chungrim approached me, but at the same time I was already working with my agent Laurie Abkemeier on a proposal to send to publishers in the US and UK. I contacted Laurie towards the end of last year because I wanted to do a Soppy book but I didn’t want to self-publish this one; even with just the two mini-comics, it's been almost too much for me to handle by myself. I get a lot of emails from people asking if I'm going to make a particular print or a calendar or some other piece of Soppy merchandise and I can't do it all by myself any more (or maybe I could but it would mean spending all my time selling the same material and never make any new comics!) It just seems like there's a lot of demand for it and it can get to a lot more people more efficiently if I get a publisher involved and don't just do everything myself like I usually do.
What will the book include in terms of material- the first 2 minis and new comics?
It’s going to be most of the stuff from the minis and about 75% unseen material, about 122 pages in total. The new stuff I’ve written is more of the same really but as a longer book it’s given me space to vary it up and hopefully tell more of a story.
You've had a strong online presence for a number of years, but the Soppy comics have been hugely popular on Tumblr- do you think that's contributed to their success?
Definitely. Most of the people who know about Soppy now have discovered it on Tumblr. I’m not sure to what extent the publishers care about Tumblr notes but it probably helps to have some indication that people already like something.
Your'e incredibly versatile in terms of style (and good at each one, too)- do you think the 2 colour risograph and the clean lined cartooning is part of what struck a chord with audiences? Or is it the subject matter of little relationship scenes that many people can relate to?
Probably a bit of both. I think the subject matter is the thing that makes people share it around so much. If I had made the same comics in collage or some other style, I’m not sure if they would have had the same reception but we’ll never know!
What are you working on next- will you be concentrating on the book, or are there any other projects in hand that you can talk about?
I’ll be mainly working on the book for a while. Usually I work on a bunch of different things at once but for the last few months I’ve been focusing only on Soppy. It’s actually been quite nice to work that way but I am going to make time for some other projects this year too. I’ll be at CAKE at the end of May and my sister is coming with me so I hope I’ll be able to make a Sister BFF mini-comic in time for that (I’ve said it now so I have to!).
The North American rights for Soppy were sold to Andrews McMeel, UK rights to Square Peg/Random House UK and Korean rights sold to Chungrim.