Wednesday 15 January 2014

Indie Pen-Dance Wednesday. Spotlight on Vince Kamp, creator of a fab graphic novel for kids - "Robotslayer"

"Humans Will Prevail" in Vince Kamp's exciting and pacey graphic novel for children, "Robotslayer".
All images © Vince Kamp
I've had conversations with parents that sort of go along these lines before...

Parent: "So, what, you let Charlotte read comics?"
Me: "Yep"
Parent: "But, like, aren't they really bad for kids? Stunt their learning?"
Me: "Nope"
Parent: "My parents never let me read comics. Comics are bubblegum for the eyes"
Me: <Exasperated sigh>

There's a whole missed opportunity and there's also still a huge misconception that comics are the worst possible way to help children develop reading and storytelling skills (as well as improving their drawing and painting skills no end too!) Thankfully there are a few people around who don't share this view and realise that comics are a fantastic 'fit' for the way children perceive and decode stories in a visual way as they first start to explore books.

Vince Kamp, creator of new graphic novel "Robotslayer" isn't just a dad, he's an author-illustrator who has pushed the envelope further than any other self-published author illustrator we've encountered since we first started looking at self published children's books. Vince's story is pretty similar to my own - rediscovering a lapsed love of sketching late on, as a means of developing stories our own kids can enjoy, but looking beyond that to how it would be possible to share them with other kids and parents too.

"I used to draw loads as a kid but then at around 14 I just stopped, I got into riding my bike and art was never considered a valid option in my house. I studied all the sciences and then ended up running the family business which designs and manufactures scientific instruments. I started drawing again when my eldest son Leo was around 3 and half. I started making up stories with him and that's how I started robotslayer."

Vince didn't merely stop at scribbles and drawing though, to flesh out his Robotslayer idea. 

Then my son Benny came along. We played robotslayers and jumped around the bedroom, you know that dad kinda stuff. Then I thought why don't I make this into a comic book. I used to love Asterix and TinTin when I was growing up so I thought how hard can it be. Hard. Very Hard (Very true, am definitely finding that too! - Ed)

3.5 years later I had sort of a book, I then thought it would be so cool to try and build these characters for real. So I looked up prop making and special effects stuff on the internet. Lots more youtube and then I sculpted these two giant robots out of polystyrene and coated them in epoxy resin and glass fibre. I then taught myself how to sculpt with clay. I sculpted Leo and Benny but was running out of time for the launch party so I got a company to mould them in silicon and then lay up glass fibre. I then painted them and put lights into them. 
check out the build

Leo and Benny take on a robot foe. All images © Vince Kamp
Impressed? We were, this impressed our socks off in fact... 

Can you think of an awesome name for this big guy?
Join Vince's competition to name him over at
All images © Vince Kamp
Back to the book - and Vince continues...

During all of this I had decided that I wanted to build an app of the book. I got in touch with several
design companies and found a small team in london who totally loved robotslayer and we figured out a deal whereby we would split the profits, if there were any. The app is really great, a buddy of mine who composes for movies and adverts and tours with various big bands composed this fantastic cinematic score for each of the 56 pages. It really brings the whole thing to life. 

So that was all just before Christmas. I took all the robots to the Micklefield school Christmas fair and spent the day blowing children's minds with crazy robots.
The parents have all been so great, I really could not have imagined the response. You know what it's like when you create something, you always think it's a bit rubbish and get kind of embarrassed to show it to people.

We've taken a very quick look at "Robotslayer" (which turned up for review in the most astonishing painted envelope - we were too scared we'd damage it to open it at first but were very careful. We're now going to frame the envelope!)

"Robotslayer" and the fantastic envelope it arrived in.
All images © Vince Kamp

Hop over to the "Robotslayer" website for more information on Vince's fantastic work, and perhaps (like us) pick up a ton of inspiration on how you can start building your own stories (and if you're really brave, your own giant robots!) We'll be posting a full review of Robotslayer as soon as I can prize it out of Charlotte's robot-like grip!

Vince working outside the Robot Lab. We're guessing "Pizza Chef Robot"
All images © Vince Kamp