Episode 15: An original Australian horror anthology comic: Culdesac

My favourite images from the comic


Hey guys, welcome to episode 15 of The Arty Anglais Podcast. A podcast where we talk about art, culture and society to help you learn English naturally. You'll hear me talk about interesting topics, English expressions and English grammar in a different way so you can learn English in context.

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anecdotal evidence -

coming up - something that is planned to happen

my cup of tea -

tended -

alliance -

props -

versatile -

silk screening -

woodworking -

embarking -

diversion (or misalignment) -

serigraphs -

make a mockery -

You'll find the interview Vocabulary along with the transcript here:

PDF document

CuldeSac links :


Facebook page

Will Pleydon Art


00:00:31 Hey everyone, welcome back to Episode 15 of the Arty Anglais Podcast. My name is Tara, and I'm an Australian living in Montpellier in France. I teach English and art together to kids and teenagers, and I also teach English to adults. So I absolutely love everything to do with art. I am a very curious and creative teacher and I'm also an artist myself, so I love being able to bring these curiosities and fascinations with the creative world to all of my students. I'm also fascinated by the art of language learning! This is a recent fascination that I've just become more familiar with.

00:01:15 I just spoke to my nephew this morning who is a little over 2 and I was teaching him how to say bonjour. I think he could say better than me actually. Anyway, that was a lot of fun. It's really great actually because being able to speak to him on skype has changed as I've been here in France. At the start, he didn't really understand anything that I was saying and now he can actually speak to me and so I pay a lot of attention to how he learns how to speak. I find it really fascinating that he just copies everything you say. So when I say something to him I say it a few times before he finally copies what I say. Then usually he says it really well when he says it back to me. Yet just another piece of anecdotal evidence that shows, well how important listening is in language learning.

00:02:11 Since moving to France, something else I've become really interested in (apart from language learning) is comics and why they are so popular in France. So today I have a special episode. That I've put together to help me start learning a little bit more about comics and why they're so popular in France and also in Australia. So this will be the first in a series of

a few episodes that I have coming up all about comics. I interviewed Andrew Shaw, who is an Australian, independent comic author who wrote the graphic novel - Cul-de-Sac with visual imagery by Will Pleydon. Andrew will be in today's episode and I also interviewed Will who will be in a future episode.

Culdesac facebook page

00:02:59 So, Before you listen to this episode for your information, I have put together a PDF that you'll be able to download from the transcript with a link to find where you can buy the comic, a few sample images from the comic, vocabulary and expressions from today's episode and a full transcript of the interview between Andrew and me. So to explain a little bit of the expressions and the grammar it's all in that PDF because in the interview I don't get an opportunity to talk much about the expressions.

00:03:31 I had the pleasure of reading this graphic novel by Andrew and Will I was pleasantly surprised how much I loved it. It's a horror anthology comic which is not something I normally read. It's not normally my cup of tea. However, I fell in love with the visual storytelling in this comic. The illustrations by Will are detailed and really dynamic so they capture the action and the scenes in a very clever way. The scenes and historical settings for Cul-de-sac are so well researched that you can see all the things you might have expected to see in a house in the 1950s. Actually, there's one picture in the comic where Will has drawn the wallpaper and I'm pretty sure I saw a very similar wallpaper in a house in Ballarat when I was growing up obviously from the 1950s.

Here is a description found on Comixology about Cul-de-sac:

The 1950's. A different time. You could leave your front door unlocked, your children could play outside until dark without a care. Your neighbours all looked after each other. But, what went on in those houses when the doors closed? Did the kindly man who tended his roses have a dark secret? What about the young man who lived alone after the war? Or the lady with the strange lights spilling from her basement each night? The Cul de sac holds many secrets...

00:05:06 In this episode, I spoke with Andrew about his own personal story with comics and the process of making the comic with Will. You can support Andrew and Will by buying a digital copy of the comic on Comixology. It's only $3.99 American (so it's not very expensive) I highly recommend you go and buy it. Because in the process, you'll be supporting the work of these two clever Aussie guys. And you'll hear from Will in a future episode. So you'll get the perspective of the author and the artist.

00:05:48 Before we get into the interview today I'm going to share another artist statement from a collaborative art project between two artists I recently learned about called Canned. This duo creates many different sculptures and the series of art I was particularly drawn to was their series of can sculptures and crushed cans. If you have a look in the transcript notes for today's episode, you'll see what I mean if you have a look at the picture and you visit their website. or their Instagram page.

As promised, here is there artist statement:

The project "CANNED" comes from the alliance of two French artists,
Charlotte Parenteau-Denoël and Fabien Moreau (artist name "Mofart'z"). Mofart'z comes from the world of cinema. He is a decorator who also creates props. He is versatile in the field of art. He practices silk screening, woodworking, drawing, painting and sculpture. The other member of the duo - Charlotte Parenteau-Denoel studied art history and interior architecture before embarking on a journey with photography. In parallel with her photos, she also teaches sculpture. The common thread throughout their work is diversion (or misalignment). Their sources of inspiration are drawn from their personal experiences, from their childhood, but also from a major artistic movement of the 1960s: Pop Art. The initial intention of this project was to produce 32 models of different cans and to "box" different subjects, like the 32 serigraphs of the soup cans that make up the work of Andy Warhol entitled "Campbell's Soup Cans". Their common desire is to make a mockery of the symbols in a society that is full of over industrialisation and overconsumption.

00:07:49 Thank you Charlotte and Fabien for letting me share your work. They are currently exhibiting their work in several French galleries including Paris, Deauville, Nancy, Céret, Nice, Marseille and also abroad in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. So if you're in any of these places make sure you go and check out their work and have a look at what they are doing on their webpage and on their Instagram.

Now let's hear from Andrew all about his Horror Anthology: Cul-de-Sac.

Find the Vocabulary PDF here.



Tara: Andrew, Thank you for joining us today I'm so happy that you've joined me because well for me comics are not something that I've grown up with. So it's good to be able to ask somebody who has a bit of a history with comics. So can you tell us a little bit about your comic story and about whether you read them when you grew up?

Andrew: so when I was a kid in Melbourne, Australia I used to go to the newsagent and a milk bar all the time with my mum and we didn't have lots of money growing up but I would always look. There was always a rack of comic books and they're (you know) they're the covers are always made to catch the eye and so the brightly coloured superheroes jumping up and down. You know massive poses on the covers and I always would pick them up and have a look and I would bug mum for money. Every now and then I'd get one. The first one I ever got was a book called spider-man 2099 number three. The thing about that (you know) getting a book like that where you get one maybe every three or four months is that you never know the full story. So that was part 3 of 3 and an origin story for the character Spiderman and now I'm sure I got a Fantastic 4 or a Batman in there. It was probably (you know) 4 issues into a six-part story and even though my brain tried to fill in the gaps it was probably never as good as I what I could make out at that time. As I got older I got a full-time job and eventually just thought I'd (you know) go and check out a comic book shop and it just rekindled that love. The movie started to come out and, it just you know, I have a fairly large collection now that my wife made me put in a separate part of the house because it's taking over.


Tara: It's like a big cupboard for the comics in your house?

Andrew: oh I've actually got a... I used to do a lot of night shifts I've got like an extension of the house that's away from it. I used to sleep in it when I did night shift so the kids wouldn't wake me out and so I just put all my comics down there.


Tara: So you were saying you when you were little you would buy these comics from the shop did you ever find out what happened in those stories for the books that you bought?

Andrew: yeah so eventually I got because of I when I was a kid I pretty sure I either cut up (which people who actually read comics will be horrified to hear) but I think I cut up a lot of the books I had to stick into scrapbooks and pictures and things like that.

Tara: Oh no

Andrew: yeah but about six or seven years ago I actually went back and bought... actually, a friend of mine picked up number three spider-man 2099 number three for me. So I went and started collecting again and I read the Origin and....from what my six or seven-year-old brain thought it might be I just it probably wasn't as you know it was probably underwhelming in that regarding that my brain probably made it out to be this massive story but it was just a very singular origin like the original spiderman story.

Tara: So you kind of built-up the suspense for a bit of an anti-climax. Were comics very expensive back when you were a child compared to now?

Andrew: I honestly... I'm not sure I remember that (you know) I couldn't get them every week or I couldn't get one every time I saw them. I'm sure they were only (you know) they're a bit more expensive than they used to be. Definitely back then it would have been probably... the U.S. price probably would've been a dollar, maybe a dollar fifty on the cover and now we're looking at four to five dollars an issue. But then when you think about how much time and effort goes into them (like paying you know).... Some of them take a whole month to draw and they're writing and things like that so you're paying $4 for a 20 to 23-page comic (you know). You'd almost pay more in a way.

Tara: Yeah just so that the people that make it can be rewarded.

Andrew: yeah exactly

Tara: so can you tell me a little bit about the comic culture in Australia. Is there a big comic culture?

Andrew: Yeah it's actually... I'm not sure if the movies have helped but it's become a lot (you know) when I got back into it, it seemed like it was starting to pick up again and I didn't realise that there are a lot of local creators who were making their own comics. I just assumed it was (you know) as a lot of people do, people just think it's superheroes. But there's a massive independent comic culture where you get everything from people who get them properly professionally printed, to just people who hand draw in pen and photocopy their own little comics. It was just (you know) it opened up this whole new world for me. It was fantastic.

Tara: So when you started to understand that there were people, independent makers making comics, did that persuade you to start making your comic?

Andrew: yeah I am... I've always been interested in film as a kid and growing up and I always wanted to write a film. The scripting is very similar in the way you have to describe what's happening. There's only so much you can do in a panel though. You can't have someone in one panel walk from one side of the room to the other as you will movie but it's very similar in that you have to describe. It has to make sense so you can't have (you know) someone walk in with jeans on and then next scene they're wearing a suit. Everything has to line-up and (you know) you can't have him (you know) he has a fight and broke his left arm in this one and then in the next page he's got his right arm in a sling. You have to... everything needs to make sense. So..but it's very (you know) it's all (you know) you see that all of these days. Graphic novels and things like that have been picked up for film and it... I think because they're both visual mediums it really helps.

Tara: So it's almost like they've written out the script for them I guess, your comic.

Andrew: yeah I think there are people who think storyboarding for film is very similar to comics. It is and it isn't. Then if you look at something like the movie Sin City that Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez made and they.. if you've read any of the books that Frank drew its effectively he storyboarded that film. They just use the comic as an actual script and visual aid to do it because it's very very similar... and (you know yeah) using the shadows and the noir feel of it. With comics you have to sort... your brain fills in the gaps. So it's (you know) someone running down the hallway into a different room and you can't show them. (You know) it takes up too much space. If you have them running all the way down the hallway and then in the mirror. So yeah, you might have a panel where they're running down the hallway and then the next panel where someone might say turn left here and then the next panel they're in the other room. You have to fill in the gaps with your own mind otherwise you'd have to (you know) if you drew every single thing that happened you would have to make a book that's a thousand pages long that would only be (you know) take up ten minutes of what a movie would.


Tara: So your comic is called cul-de-sac Can you explain firstly tell us what a cul-de-sac is?

Andrew: so a cul-de-sac is a small community (you know) here in Australia we have courts so it's a like a dead-end street but the houses all go around the road. A cul-de-sac is a bit more like a gated community so it's got a fence at the front but it's still only a very small group of houses. So it's (you know) somewhere where we sort of {set the book} ... I think writing the stories I think that they could have been set in any time period but we played on {the 1950's} Will who's the artist on the book, he has this...he loves the 50s and that's what era {we chose} and their aesthetic {like} wallpapers and things like that so we sort of we when we decided to do it in the 50s. It opened up (you know)... there's a couple of stories a story in there about a dad who's obsessed with the Cold War and there's a soldier who's come back from World War two and things like that. It's just... he spent hours upon hours researching cars, wallpaper and carpet patterns and furniture and things like that to get the inside of the houses to look authentic for the time period. I think it works for it was as much as it's about (you know) there's...at the time period it was the Cold War and things like that. A lot of people just came back from World War Two into the 50s.. and but it's also a period where everything was safer. You knew your neighbours and you know people had their doors unlocked most of the time and things like that and it was (just you know) we played on the aesthetic of you might know your neighbour but you don't know what happens when they shut the front door.

00:17:05 Tara: yeah I really liked how every story had their own character and kind of a different turn of events and so can you explain that a little bit. It's basically these characters and they're all set in the same cul-de-sac and they've all got these sort of dark stories. Have I got it right?

Andrew: Yeah, we moved from house to house with each different chapter and (you know) we made all the characters look as different as possible so that your first story opening is a man who's obsessed with his prize-winning roses. Then there's a man who collects antiques and things like that. We wanted it to be visually (you know) it all links up because the art style is the same but every chapter is different. In that, it's a totally different story but there are also different people in it. The thing I always loved about anthologies (and especially I think) horror lends itself very well to anthologies ... even if you don't like the first story if it's got seven stories you're going to like at least, really like, one of them.

Tara: I thought that was really clever, having different stories and different, completely different characters which were cool. So speaking of liking specific characters or not did you have a favourite character from the book from the comic?


Andrew: I loved the first story I think it opens really well I think when Will sent me the character designs for the man with the roses he really nailed it. (You know) this man who just has this obsession (and you can see it from the start) with you know he's smelling the roses and getting rid of the bugs. You can also you can feel that his wife is long-suffering (you know) the roses are more important than her. He just and the thing I love about it too is that I wrote it as a silent story so there's no actual dialogue in the story. Will's art style works perfectly through it. Everything is you know the facial expressions are exaggerated and the slapping of the bug away from the thing. The bug explodes in green and it (just you know) it's all bright and beautiful. It sort of, it takes you from the start with sunshine and beautiful flowers and animals to the end where it's very dark and it's storming. (You know) he was... When I used to work shift work when he was drawing the book he was messaging me. He said ah it's a full moon tonight. Then he spent two hours outside painting the moon through that night, so {in the comic} where there's a moon in the background, he drew it exactly as it was that night. He is amazingly, insanely talented.

Tara: yeah so can you tell me a little bit about that process that you had with Will so did you write the story first or how did it happen?


Andrew: A lot of it was collaborative because we worked together on a story in an anthology years ago called The Ballad of Danny Flash about a guitarist who's deaf and we just really clicked. We had similar interests in horror and the stuff that we really liked and you know similar age and we just sort of kept discussing doing another book together. The more we worked on it, the more... or the more we talked... the more we thought this would be perfect. An anthology where it shows off both our talents - for my writing and his beautiful art. (You know) we went with the horror theme and it was he had an idea for a story or I'd have an idea and I message him and I'd say what do you think of this and he would write back. (You know) there's a story in the middle which I won't spoil but it has certain creatures, people turning into creatures, and I'd already written he'd already.. I pitched that first as a different kind of animal. When he'd just finished a book he was doing that he said I don't want to draw those anymore. Can we make it these? It just worked just as well and you know the whole thing was collaborative. He.. but he did... I would say 90% of the heavy-lifting on the book. he did the cover he did the lettering he did the art he painted it. (You know) it was just I like to think that (you know) it was collaborative but I also... I would never... I think it's more him than me in a way. It's more his art.... we sell it at conventions sometimes and people will walk up and have a look and I'll talk to them and say "but you need to look through the book".. to try and sell it because I think his art sells the book.

Tara: It's certainly incredible. He has a very big, you can see he's got an amazing imagination and the execution of the pictures is absolutely on point like with the characters it's so amazing. Did you spend a lot of time with him when you were making it?


Andrew: Well it was funny because he would be up late at night working on the book and a lot of the time I would be on night shifts doing night shift work. So I'd be on a night shift at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and I'd get a text message or an email from him with rough art or (you know) a character design and things like that. So it worked really well at that time that we could collaborate.

Tara: Sounds like he never went to sleep. He was always working on it!

Andrew: I know I think he's got seven kids as well.

Tara: oh my gosh. So how long did it take to make the comic?

Andrew: So the whole thing took about three years and I think it took him about two years to paint it because he used a technique and I can never... it's gouache. I always get it wrong and whenever we are at conventions and they're asking about the art I always just usually have Will next me like I will [Laughter]. It's a thick watercolour technique and it just... I think if I'm correct... and it just... So he would paint layers and there's it just took a little bit because you have to wait for the layer to dry before he can paint over the top. So, but he pencils it all out first and so it's just... You know what? I would rather he took that long to make the book than if he took (you know) three months and everything was rough and it didn't, it just doesn't have the same feel to it.

Tara: yeah it certainly has a very finished look to it and it really lends itself to that time period in Australia as well. I think it really compliments that sort of style and (you know) back in those days they were doing like really flowy drawings and things in very similar style. So I've got some pictures that my great-grandma was doing in the nineteen would have been probably earlier the 1930s maybe 1950s but they're very similar they've got a very similar feel to them. So when I saw the comic for the first time it just reminded me of my great-grandma's drawings. It was really cool.

Andrew: Oh cool. There's a page where there's a blue Volkswagen in the driveway of a house, yeah and without even thinking it I showed the book to my mom and she said oh that's the car I had when I was a teenager and so Will gave her the page from that one.

Tara: so it appeals to a lot of different people I guess.

Andrew: yeah yeah

Tara: So the comic, the genre of the comic is horror is that right yeah so that's not obviously everyone's cup of tea so could you explain who your audience is? Who are the people when you say sell it at a convention are more interested in in your comic?

Andrew: it's usually people who like... we sell it to people who like horror. We found that it would be ... Will does a lot of where he has prints for sale at the conventions as well. So if we go and buy what we have at the conventions you'll have these prints up and it catches people eye. Like people walk past... you have a Harly Quinn or Batman. He'll have old horror like Universal Monsters like Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula. So those catch their eye and then we bring them into the book and it...I found that a lot of it was you could sort of pick the people would come up and they might have been dressed up like a horror character or {have} a horror t-shirt on or things like that. You can sell them on the book but it was also... I found... we made a joke that we were.... The last convention we did, we had our tables set up and on either side of it were these just massive tables full of anime stuff. We made a joke that we'd corner the dad market because dad would be there with their (you know) their teenage daughters and they'd be sitting at the anime stuff and the dads would come over and look at our stand. I reckon one out of every two dads that came over bought the book because it was... it hits that old school aesthetic (you know). It's something a bit different and so I think you know we like we said (you know) yeah we hit the dad market.

Tara: yeah it's definitely not for teenage girls, for example, I don't think, not to be too stereotypical.

Andrew: I would agree. I think that the first story has a cat being run over by a lawnmower. I have had people open up the book get to that page and go no this is not for me. But we had teenage girls come up and the last convention we did we had a girl come up who'd bought it the year before and wanted to tell us how much she loved the book and to hurry up and make another one.

Tara: That's so amazing