Webcomic Weekly – ‘Folklore Thursday’ From John Reppion And PJ Holden

by Richard Bruton

Webcomic Weekly, doing just what it says. This week, we take a look back at the 52 week Twitter project from PJ Holden and John Reppion, Folklore Thursday

John Reppion (Conspiracy of Ravens, 2000 AD) and PJ Holden (Stringbags, 2000 AD) set out to make their Folklore Thursday webcomics on Twitter back in the distant past of 2019.

Somewhat different from your usual webcomics though – with artist Holden turning writer Reppion’s weekly tweets on an aspect of folklore, British, Irish, global, into these stunning pieces of art…

Over the course of 52 weeks, finishing in mid-2020, Reppion and Holden have crafted something very different, very intriguing, and very good – a look at so many aspects of the folklore that surrounds us, whether that’s something deep-rooted into our cultural and societal psyche or something more recent and generational.

That first strip you see above, ‘Island’ came about, as these things often do, as something that came out of nowhere, a chance thing that began with Reppion posting tweets as part of the Folklore Thursday hashtag.

As Holden explains… ‘I’d just finished a big long gig (the recently released ‘The Stringbags’) and had a few days free on my hands and was casting around for something to do. John had posted a tweet that I thought would make a neat little one-page comic and so I drew it up – I don’t think I even told John, I just drew it up and posted it and apologised afterwards. After that, I thought this is a neat way to work and so, having some time still spare cast around for some more, I found another tweet (this time by Nigel Auchterlounie) drew that up, and then asked if anyone had any tweets that I could do the same thing for. That… turned out to be harder than I thought, I think people wanted to try and write a comic, whereas I was hoping to find something I could just adapt.’

‘So I emailed John and talked about doing more, but I think we both felt a need to hang it on something, and I think he suggested that he was already tweeting weekly on the #FolkloreThursday stuff, and could get a list in advance, and so we could produce a comic for the day. And that’s more or less how it came about.’

‘The important ingredient, for me, is the tweet is standalone and I can pick it up and turn it into a comic strip, so I’m adapting it rather than illustrating something – I found making adaptations and adding storytelling to the tweet far more interesting than simply illustrating something, it allows me to exercise some element of writing that I’ve never been very confident in.’

That very first collaboration, albeit it one that Reppion may only have known about after the fact, the prototype Folklore Thursday if you will, was the one-page strip, ‘Nature’s Church‘, shown below. (And Holden writes more about the process of putting it together here)

Now to me, this is the sort of thing that is a more modern aspect of folklore that Reppion’s tapping into, the concept of the unfolding folklore of our everyday lives.

And it’s something you see again and again throughout the Folklore Thursday strips proper after this prototype, Reppion exploring that modern folklore as well as more traditional aspects of folklore; Jack in the Green, faeries, ancient magics, witches and everything else we think of as the supernatural aspects of folklore…

But you’ll also see plenty of the more grounded aspects of folklore, tying us to our pasts, the mythological figures of legend that are passed from generation to generation, stories told from the elders to the young. Those tales of the like of Boudicca, Grendel, that sort of thing…

And then we go more into the abstract of things, exploring the ideas involved in the creation of certain aspects of folklore came about over time, such as the whole idea of connecting Easter, rabbits, and eggs together…

And then there’s the more close to home examples of folklore that Reppion and Holden call upon, the frankly glorious idea that Seymour Cray (yes, he of the supercomputers) happened (perhaps) to believe in Elves – or something very close to home that many of us here in the UK will remember from the playgrounds of our childhoods…

And all the way through this project, as Reppion explores so many ideas of what folklore can be, Holden adapts his artistic style in spectacular ways, just a little of which you can see from the images on this page. It’s 52 strips that burst with creative energy and talent from both writer and artist, a genuine treat of a thing.

But now that the original Year One of Folklore Thursday has finished, there’s plans afoot to take the collaboration into a second year. Although, like so many other things in this life right now, Covid has rather bolloxed that up a bit. Here’s PJ Holden once more…

‘The original plan was to take the second year and shape an entire story, one page per week. Young readers, adventures and myths and folklore. That’s still the plan, but we’re both a little short of … let’s call it thinking bandwidth (we both have young kids who’ve had to be home educated over Covid, as well as dealing with various family emergencies that are all exacerbated by .. well.. all this *waves around*), so have had to take more of a ‘we’ll get to that when we can’ with it. So we’ve a gap, but we’re filling the gap, we’ve done a few of John’s short stories, and now we’re back to doing something like the folklore tales, but happening on Wednesdays with more of a free-range scope – and we’ll keep doing until we can properly plan out the longer story!’

To see more of the Folklore Thursday work, you can and should head over to the Reppion/Holden Patreon, where you can pitch in with cash to help both creators keep going with a fascinating and wonderful project in its second year.

You should also head over to the Reppion/Moore site, PJ Holden’s site, and @johnreppion @pauljholden.

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