The comics and illustration world is full of utterly unique independent publishers. But no other is as wonderfully bizarre as Belly Kids.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pin down what a publisher stands for… what their niche is. With titles including the Magic Book of Nightmares and Pizza Doing Stuff – Belly Kids is not one such publisher. Putting the fun in dysfunctional while introducing a whole world of exciting new illustrators is there raison d’être. And that is just fine with us.
We caught up with Belly Kid’s founder Michael Coley to see what makes the company tick.
It is a crazy one! We started releasing tapes, putting on exhibitions and of course working on books. It was a massive mix-match of passions so I always went with calling us a label – which confuses everyone now that we don’t release any music. I still like label, it leaves room to work on all sorts of fun projects.
What was the initial motivation for starting the company?
I’ve always had this supreme passion for zines, books, art and exhibitions. I spent my early years playing in bands (some pretty questionable ones) and loved playing shows, meeting new people. I took that energy to the books. It’s a great way of meeting amazing artists, chatting about art and making friends. It was a welcome relief to a 9-5 desk job and I’m very lucky.
You’ve a great track record of spotting new talent and giving them a platform. What are some of the projects you’ve been most proud of?
There are so many talented illustrators out there at the moment! I’m constantly scouring instagram, twitter and tumblr. The first book I did was the Bill Murray colouring book and it will always have a special place. I genuinely wanted to do something pretty nerdy and fun and this idea popped into my head over a slice of pizza. It was simple as mailing people say hey do you want to draw Bill Murray? The ball started to roll from there.
Last year I put together a botanical tropicana along with artists Sophie Alda, Dazeray and James Burgess. We made these insane large scale leaf shapes and adorned the walls of Printhouse Gallery. It was a real jungle of shapes, colour and wonder and I was pretty chuffed with how it turned out
How do you choose which new artists to focus on or publish?
As I say I have lists and lists of radical designers and I doubt I’ll have the chance to work with them all! As well as doing some equally nerdy books (A Breaking Bad Activity Book, A scratch and sniff based around eating in the cinema) I’m also working on solo editions with some of my fave artists – Hattie Stewart, David Mendez Alonso, Clay Hickson and Will Bryant. I email so many people: lets collaborate!
Not really. I think if you have a passion for something, a desire – you’ll find a partner in crime. I grew up in the Cotswolds and loved early dischord bands and noise. The tranquility of The Cotswolds isn’t usually sound tracked by Wolf Eyes or Lungfish, but guess what? I had a good group of pals who were into the same thing – the unknown is fun.
A company like Belly Kids is well positioned to spot trends in comics and illustration. Where are things at at the moment?
Definitely. I’ve been loving the whole Tan and Loose Press stuff over in the States. Some really creative riso-ing with a real genuine edge. Also a big shout to Will Laren whose taking these single page comics to a super surreal place.
And what should readers be keeping their eye on from Belly Kids?
Right now I’m matching smells to monkey brains, slices of pizza and the tantric fruits of Venus. Palatable Pictures takes the food from the screens and let you get nose deep inside. That and some psychedelic tom foolery in July for London Illustration Fair.