The Decade in Comics Publishing, 2005-2015

At the end of August, Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid from Publisher’s Weekly asked me to participate in a survey about the decade of growth in comics and graphic novels, and mine and my colleagues’ responses are in an article that just went live on the PW site.

As the introduction says, in 2005 there were no ebooks or iPads, we were firmly in the middle of the graphic novel (and manga) boom, and even then it was clear that things were changing rapidly. For me, I’d been at The Beguiling a few years, we were just holding the second TCAF in Honest Ed’s Parking Lot, and Scott Pilgrim Volume 2 was debuting (I went to the printer and picked up the TCAF copies myself). I also blogged a lot more back then, just making the transition from writing about the way the industry to be, to doing all the work that I felt needed to be done. It was an interesting time.

For my part, in August when I was asked to participate in this survey, I’d spent the summer penning a few essays and participating in some panels that resonated with a lot of folks working in the industry, and really got under the skin of others. Essays about how, essentially, the graphic novel & manga boom really occurred largely outside of the purview of the medium’s then-gatekeepers, in both the superhero and art comics camps. I really feel the growth was almost entirely from new audiences, from work that was either ignored or denegrated, and I still do, so, it helps maybe explain where my head was at in general when answering. I also thought, and still think, that with more money coming into the industry, and more opportunities, it behooves those of us with a voice and a say in how the playing field is shaped to try and address some of the imbalances in the industry.

It’s a pretty good survey article, and the folks participating are generally the folks I’ve seen gain the most out of the growing graphic novel industry. I think I would like to have seen a few answers from the superhero folks and the artcomics folks, but perhaps representatives were invited and declined to participate. Despite 7 different people all answering from their perspectives, I don’t think there’s much in there I disagree with (at least from the perspectives of those answering), and my friend Librarian Eva Volin in particular ends the article with a great mic-drop. If you have the opportunity, go check it out, let me know what you think in the comments.

  • Christopher

In Tokyo? Don’t miss this exhibit of originals by Jiro Taniguchi and Igort, ending December 19th.

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While in Japan this fall, I was fortunate enough to take in a lovely exhibition of original comics artwork by two modern masters, Igort and Jiro Taniguchi. While I’m super behind on my Japan blogging, I wanted to mention this one because it ends on December 19th, and if you can attend you absolutely should, it’s wonderful and free!

Here’s a link with all of the relevant location info: http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/event/2015/7F2A.en

My friend Jocelyne and I made the trek to Kudanshita, and then up the hill to the exhibition at The Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo. We arrived just as the building was closing for the day and we had the place all to ourselves. So: a few pictures!

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The exhibition featured lovely introductions for both artists, in Japanese and Italian, and the large printed materials really complimented the originals and helped fill the large, lovely space.

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The exhibition featured Igort on the right (orange), and Taniguchi on the left (blue), and was about men taking a walk. Igort’s work was pulled primarily from his new book “Les Cahiers Japonais: Un voyage dans l’empire des signes”, a travelogue of sorts. The art was lovely and was very much the perspective of an outsider looking into Japan, lots of Japonisme to the work. I’m interested to read it now, and I hope it gets an English translation.

Taniguchi’s work was drawn from one of his newest projects, a gorgeous fully watercolour-painted travelogue of Venice, commissioned by Louis Vuitton(!) and available more-or-less exclusively through them. It’s a gorgeous book and the artwork itself is similarly beautiful, the details and sense of place very impressive indeed.

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In addition to the originals from both books, the display cases also featured original artwork and books from different projects in the artists’ careers, going back almost to the beginning. It’s remarkable just how much Taniguchi’s style has changed, and how much it’s remained the same, over the years. The exhibition also featured 4 short films about the artists on a loop, and a selection of their graphic novels for visitors to browse (French, Italian, and Japanese).

The exhibition is free, and also features a small catalogue to go along with it. We got ours for free, which was a lovely treat! Unfortunately they’re still packed away, and I’ll see about uploading a photo or two of it when I unpack.

I wasn’t allowed to take close up pictures of the art, for obvious reasons, so I’ve included a few samples from both cartoonists below that I found on the web. Both books are lovely, and if you can track down that limited edition Taniguchi do so before it’s too late–it’ll set you back $80-$100.

Jiro Taniguchi, from Venice:

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Igort, from Les Cahiers Japonais:

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I went to New York and interviewed Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto.

So, I went to New York to interview Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto, while he was there participating in New York Comic-Con. It was a really great experience–one of those once-in-a-lifetime things–and I found Kishimoto to be a really nice guy, and very passionate about manga. If you click above, you can see the highlights of the whole event, courtesy of VIZ.

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My trip began, more-or-less, with this interview at the Apple Store, SoHo, a live on-stage interview. For this one, the questions had been prepped already and weren’t strictly my own. It was interesting as, frankly, it’s not the direction I would’ve gone in, but it was still solid. Since the interview would be recorded and included in their “Meet The Author” series of podcasts, the prepared questions felt as though they was designed to be open to folks who might be curious but weren’t die-hard fans, with the die-hard stuff coming in through the Question & Answer section instead.  I’m happy to say that it was still an interesting discussion though, and I absolutely think it worked. You can judge for yourself and watch the video podcast on iTunes. I think you can access it at: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/naruto-naruto-kurietani-huiou/id266215977?i=355670682&mt=2.  (you can also search “meet the author” in podcasts on itunes)

I don’t want to dig too much into the process and unravel the magic, but we did get to meet ahead of the talk, and I was grateful for the opportunity to see where he was at, mentally. Even though the Apple Store event was ‘small’, I was told there were a few hundred people there, and particularly for your first time in America, it can be a big thing to get up in front of people and talk for an hour to an audience who doesn’t speak your language. I think Kishimoto-sensei did an excellent job that night and all weekend though, which is really saying a lot considering just how in demand he was. On that note…

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That’s the photograph of the crowd for our Thursday panel, over 2200 people in a room to see him. And I was up on stage in front of all of them, leading the crowd in rousing choruses of screams.

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I had a lot of questions prepared, and even after we figured out what he’d be comfortable talking about and not talking about, I quickly realized that there was no way I was going to get through all of them. Also, while I’ve been on stage many times in the past and generally have that down, this was my first time in front of an audience this size (I think), and 2200 people is a lot of people! An audience that size has demands, and those demands tend to be questions that are fun, quick, and intimately about the series, rather than longer discussions on the nature of war and peace (for reals). As an interviewer, it was a really great experience to edit myself on the fly, keeping in mind not just the conversation with the creator, but also the conversation we were both having with the audience. It was a unique challenge, and I hope I get the opportunity to do so again one day.

If you want to watch the entire panel, VIZ recorded it (sadly no shots of the amazing, passionate, exceptionally loud crowd though) and you can just click the video below:

I have not watched it, because watching myself on video is profoundly uncomfortable, but yeah, it’s still worth watching because Kishimoto is honestly floored and humbled, and it’s charming, and he’s also a hell of an artist and draws a bunch in it.

Following the panel there was a short signing, and I have to admit to my one fanboy moment of the entire weekend, where I asked for his autograph. I’ve become quite a fan of the manga series since reading and re-reading it to properly prepare for the job of interviewing him, and it was nice to get a memento of the occasion–particularly while he was riding the adrenaline buzz of being on stage. 😉 I was probably annoying to the staff who were seeing to his event though, as me spending an additional 5 or 10 minutes hanging out with Kishimoto-sensei was not in the very metculous timetable, so I’d like to offer my apologies. Sorry folks! -___-;

I’ll share one more little thing. There was a private wrap-up party on October 10th for Kishimoto-sensei’s final New York event, and I was very lucky to be invited as it was rather intimate. I could tell he was a little tired from a very, very busy few days (not to mention the jetlag of coming here from Japan in the first place). So I quickly said my thank you’s to he and his editor Otsuki-san (nice guy, practical) and got out of the way, retreating to a corner to enjoy a drink with friends at VIZ. Then, a hush, and a call for attention, when Naruto’s Japanese voice actress Junko Takeuchi entered the space with a cake topped with lit candles. It was Naruto (the character)’s birthday! The assembled group sang Naruto Happy Birthday and closed out the weekend. It was a sweet moment, and a very nice ending to what must have been a very long week, month, quarter, etc. for Kishimoto and all of the VIZ and Shueisha folks who helped bring the event together. The people who make manga are real people, who pour enormous amounts of themselves into their work. It was a very human, very moving moment to see a creator thanked for their creation, a character who has touched and improved thousands of lives. I’m really glad I got to see it, and got to be a part of it.

So, again, my thanks to translator/interpreter Mari Morimoto who worked hard all weekend to help us all communicate, to Kishimoto-sensei for being so forthcoming, to Mr. Otsuki for his assistance and prudence, the staff at Shueisha, and especially the incredibly hard-working and talented staff at VIZ, including Jane, Ashlee, Hiromi, Yasue, Elizabeth, Anthony, Andy, and Leyla, for everything. Otsukaresamadeshita!

– Christopher

P.S.: If you’re more of a reader than a listener, Deb Aoki and ANime News Network have a transcript of the panel and a further interview with Kishimoto at http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2015-10-14/masashi-kishimoto-at-new-york-comic-con/.94186

Twitter: A two act play.

Act One:

@me: Hey internet! I like this thing!

@rando: That thing that you like doesn’t work for me. By saying this, I insert myself into a discussion I have just admitted doesn’t concern me.

@me: Wow, thanks for weighing in with literally nothing of substance.

@rando: Because I’m a rando who goes around telling people that their tweets don’t concern me, I will now take grave offence to what you’ve just said.

*SCENE*

Act Two:

@rando: Have you see my blog post, Tumblr, tweets, and FB update, where I have talked at length about how you have offended me?

@rando: I tagged you to make sure you saw it.

@me: Yeah I did. Curiously, you sort of glossed over the part where you rudely inserted yourself into someone else’s conversation, offered nothing, and took offence when called on it.

@rando: Wow, you just don’t learn, do you? Look forward to my harassing tweets literally forever.

@rando: But if you know anyone who’s hiring, I’m looking for work.

*FIN*

I’ll be interviewing Masashi Kishimoto at New York Comic Con. Twice.

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Hey there! So I gotta say, I’m honoured and more than a little humbled to have been asked by VIZ Media to interview Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto live in front of an audience for two of his biggest events at New York Comic Con this year. So, I’ll be in New York (with Andrew, YAY!) next week for the Comic Con, which is always an interesting affair. I don’t think Andrew has ever actually been to a real Convention before? This will be a whole thing.

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Anyway! The big news. First up, I’ll be interviewing Kishimoto-sensei at the Apple Store in SoHo, Wednesday, October 7th, at 7pm. Tickets to this event are free, but you need to register ahead of time with your Apple account at  https://s.apple.com/dE4R6Z9o6N. This interview is going to focus mainly on creative process. I’m excited to see how it goes. I’m told that this interview will be filmed too, so I’ll live on forever in infamy (and people not in New York might be able to see it).

The second event I’ll be hosting is the big one, where 2000 members of the general public will see me ask Kishimoto-sensei about everything under the sun, including what it’s like to end a massive international entertainment franchise. I will seriously be hosting an event with 2000 Naruto fans in the audience, it’s crazy to me. This event is Thursday, October 8th, from 5:30pm to 6:30pm, on the Main Stage at the Javits Center. Honestly the process to get in sounds a little complicated, so if you really wanna see it, you can figure out how at http://nycc15.mapyourshow.com/6_0/sessions/session-details.cfm?ScheduleID=164.  You need an NYCC badge to get into this one.

There’s a bunch more of Kishimoto-sensei in New York, I think, you can check it at http://nycc15.mapyourshow.com/6_0/sessions/index.cfm?srch-type=sessionkeyword&srch-query=Masashi%20Kishimoto&srch-showresults=true&CFID=153080176&CFTOKEN=4329b13f7318b79d-42BB2173-D3F9-64D7-082DB629744DD110.

So, yeah. This is an incredible opportunity, and I’ve already written up all my questions for him and what not, and I’m just hoping we get to ask all of them. I mean, this guy created something like 14,000 pages of manga on one series, not to mention the global media empire and Naruto effectively leading the charge in the This really is an unprecedented opportunity for me and I’m grateful to have been asked. I believe it’s his first time in the U.S., and he’s one of the bestselling and most popular comics creators in the world, and yeah, it’s gonna be a whole thing.

See you in New York!

– Christopher

 

 

SEE YOU AT SPX THIS WEEKEND – SEP 19-20

Hey there! I’m happy to say that I’ll be headed to SPX this weekend in Bethesda, MD, for the second year in a row, repping TCAF and a selection of Canadian small presses. I’m at table L10, the same block as Koyama Press, Massive, Youth In Decline, and a whole bunch of awesome people.

The main thrust of the visit will be TCAF stuff, including comics, prints, posters, postcards, and books that we’ve produced over the years. We have some neat stuff! But I’m filling that out with a great selection of works from Canadian pubs like Coach House Books, Conundrum, and La Pastque, and small-run and self published works by a whole whack of Canadian TCAF exhibitors including Tin Can Forest, Michel Rabagliati, Steven GIlbert, John Martz, and more. I’ve also dug up a few real rarities from The Beguiling’s archives, the kind of one-of-a-kind stuff you would never actually be able to find in the store itself. 😉 I’ll instagram some of the rarest stuff on the torontocomics account, so keep an eye out there for it.

Please feel free to say hi if you see me–even if I’m “busy”. It’d be great to catch up.

Thanks to the SPX crew for having me at the show!

– Christopher

Japan Travel, Hiroshima, Barefoot Gen, and Kickstarter.

I’ve been recounting my travels to Japan in November and December 2014 over on my Facebook. These are travels outside of Tokyo, and were largely personal trips, not related to comics, and I felt like they weren’t particularly well-suited to Comics212. But we’re at the point in the trip where I reached Hiroshima, and I thought I’d share that here.

The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

71lPIsdV9hLI had been to Japan about a half-dozen times before my trip in November and December 2014. With each trip I’d never made it much further west than Osaka, and with each trip I’d feel a growing feeling of… I dunno, guilt, but also the abdication of responsibility, that I’d never been to Hiroshima, to see the remains and to see the Peace Museum. I’d read a bunch about Hiroshima and seen a documentary, and the graphic novels ‘Barefoot Gen’ by Keiji Nakazawa, and ‘Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms’ by Fumiyo K?no, are both excellent, emotional, and often visceral works on the subject of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath that have stayed with me for years.

Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.
Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.

Currently, Last Gasp Publishing has a Kickstarter running to support its mission to place Barefoot Gen, for free, into schools and libraries across America. As someone who finally visited Hiroshima late last year, and who saw the devastation and its aftereffects, and spoke with survivors firsthand, I can say that this incident is still as relevant as ever. The discussion that Barefoot Gen could and should spark in schools and libraries is one worth having, and I hope you’ll support this Kickstarter:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1784498350/barefoot-gen-for-schools-and-libraries

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The only photo I snapped inside the museum is this one showing the town of Hiroshima in 1945. The red ball hanging over top is the height, location, and size of the explosion of the atomic bomb.

I didn’t take many photos in Hiroshima, because quite honestly I was having a tough time. It didn’t seem appropriate to be snapping away, at least not with tears in my eyes. My friends have told me that it doesn’t get any easier, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary to go, and I’ll probably head back there at least once more, to take it all in again.

Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the "Atomic Bomb Dome" building.
Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the “Atomic Bomb Dome” building.

If you’re able to visit the Peace Museum, and like myself able to sign the Peace declaration, please do.

Thanks,

– Christopher

The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.

Queer Alt Comix History

“When Maggie sees Hopey, I know exactly how she feels. This story I’m doing right now is Maggie trying to figure out what boundaries she has with Hopey now that they are both with different people, and she’s kind of like, ‘We used to play around, can we still play around? Are we not supposed to play around?’ … Maggie is getting frustrated, and I’m just learning all this stuff about what Maggie is thinking about their relationship while they are together.

– Jaime Hernandez, on his current Love & Rockets story

I was so happy to be able to host a panel on queer comics at San Diego Comic Con this year. When I first started going to Comic-Con, it was important to me to attend the annual Gays In Comics panel at the show. The larger queer fandom wasn’t really accessible to me at the time, either online or in person (though I had some wonderful friends I could talk comics with), and sitting in the big room full of other people ‘like me’ was exciting. I’d dreamed of being on that panel for years, until the interests of the folks running that panel and my own interests as a reader and critic diverged to the point that I stopped attending… which meant that hosting a smaller queer comix panel with four comics authors whom I respect immensely–Mariko Tamaki, Gilbert Hernandez, Jamie Hernandez, and Ed Luce–was pretty much that dream come true. Thanks to Julia from D&Q for thinking of me to moderate.

The wonderful Brigid Alverson has a thorough write-up of the panel over at ComicBookResources. I thought it went really well, and I was happy to see that on reading Brigid’s article my memory lived up to the actuality of it! There’s some great commentary there on the importance of queer comix, but also, queer comix as they exist within the continuum of ‘alternative’ comics. Alternative comics and the scene around them have a really checkered history when it comes to queer representation. I got into it a little at the beginning of the panel, but basically while the undergrounds and early alt comix were certainly transgressive, queer narratives tended to be pushed to the side. nostraightlinesThe excellent anthology and history book No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall, does a great job at drawing connections between important works and putting together an overview of the queer alt-comix scene in the 70s, 80s, and 90s for contemporary readers. I recommended it on panel, and I’ll recommend it again here. But yeah, it was awesome to have Jaime and Gilbert on the panel  just come right out and say “No one was doing this,” when talking about their roles as straight creators of queer characters in the alt comix scene. They added a lot of continuity to the discussion! Having two out-and-proud creators on panel was also wonderful, particularly as Ed and Mariko have entered the field relatively recently and later in their lives, and they brought some amazing insight to the panel. It was amazing, and I could’ve talked to all four of them for another hour at least.

So yeah, please go check out the article! And the work of all four wonderful creators!

My thanks to Brigid Alverson for transcribing so much of the panel and writing it up, and sharing it with the readership of CBR.

– Christopher

P.S.: I originally posted a draft of this, and then finished it about an hour later. It may still be the old version in the RSS feed, sorry about that!

Podcasts is a weird word. Is it specifically tied to the iPod? Anyway.

ITEM! I just saw this tumblr post by Kelly Sue Deconnick, someone I’ve known a real long time now, imploring a fan to pre-order one of her upcoming books:

If you’re interested in picking [Pretty Deadly] up, PLEASE PRE-ORDER. After this long of a delay, I guarantee it’ll be under-ordered. That’s on me, but if you want it, I want you to be able to get your hands on it. Pre-order, pleeeeeaaase.  – Kelly Sue

Kelly Sue was right there at the ‘dawn’ of the pre-order movement on the Warren Ellis forum (referenced here), and she knows the importance of that sort of direct customer engagement. I think this is a great example of the importance of pre-ordering, because by all accounts Kelly Sue is a creator who’s “Made It”, who has a dedicated fan base, but is still encouraging fans to take an agressive, forward-looking position when it comes to getting her comics. If Kelly Sue thinks it’s important, then it’s important, and my advice to all creators is to start trying to really mobilize your fanbases.

Also of note? This very elaborate Greg Pak pre-order campaign for his upcoming series from Dark Horse, entitled Kingsway West.

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ITEM! I was a guest on Robin McConnell’s INKSTUDS podcast alongside the talented David Brothers and Brandon Graham, and it just went live. We talk for nearly 2 hours on this one, and I actually listened to it and I think, you know, I think it’s pretty good. David’s an incredibly smart guy, and I think he’s one of the people that brings out the best in my own commentary on the comics industry; I was super-happy to spend an hour chatting with him (Robin and Brandon were great too, don’t get me wrong). We recorded this about a month ago, and it actually got me thinking, and thinking, and I’ve actually been writing here at the blog since then. Maybe I’ll keep it up? Anyway.

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LtoR: Eva Volin, Brigid Alverson, Chris Butcher, Deb Aoki, David Brothers.

ITEM! I just got back from San Diego and had a really good time. I was on a record six (6!) panels this year as a participant or moderator, and it looks like all of the info for one of the panels is now online. I got to join Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, David Brothers, and Eva Volin on The Best and Worst Manga 2015 for the fourth year running. I had a great time. :)

You can see all of our pics, slides, etc., at Deb Aoki’s Manga Comics Manga: http://mangacomicsmanga.com/sdcc-2015-best-and-worst-manga-of-2015/

…and Jamie Coville has the complete audio of the panel over at his website, TheComicBooks.com: http://www.thecomicbooks.com/audio.html#SanDiego2015

 

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print!

– Christopher

Breaking into Comics [Conventions]

I know it sounds fake, but I’m legitimately humbled when I’m reading one of the various comic book sites on the internet, and I come across someone being nice about TCAF, the comics festival that I founded. We just had our 10th festival in May, and it went well I think, and we’re going to keep getting better and better every year. We’ve already started planning for 2016 (May 14-15 in case you’re marking things off on your calendar).

Twice in the last week I’ve followed a link about conventions and running conventions, and found TCAF cited as a show to aspire to. I can’t tell you how proud this makes me, as not only do we all work really hard on TCAF, but we actually do want to have a positive, transformative effect on the industry. It’s validating to hear from smart folks that we’re worth emulating, and it encourages us to try even harder.

The first link is this blog post by Dave Merrill, an occasional customer of The Beguiling and U.S. transplant who has been involved with convention running for almost 20 years, mostly on the anime and manga fan-con side of things. Dave got an email question about best practices for starting a new show, and apparently he wrote a ton, and then fashioned the whole thing into a blog post for us to enjoy.

http://d-merrill.blogspot.ca/2015/06/advice-to-young-fan-event.html?m=1

I think this article is full of solid, measured, practical advice that I’d probably give myself. It’s also really kind to TCAF, which was unexpected but appreciated. But yeah, plan for your first event to be SMALL, run a successful event that everyone enjoys, rather than going too big and risking a negative attendee experience. Maybe the only other advice I’d offer is to try and get some experience in working at or for a convention, if at all possible. Volunteering, that sort of thing. Being on the other side of the attendee experience, even a little, is a huge help.

tumblr_npe3b4iDFM1u4tp9ro1_500The other article I came across that was unexpectedly kind to TCAF is this preview of the first Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) Festival that Tom Spurgeon, Vijaya Iyer, Jeff Smith, and company are putting together. I think they’ve got a fantastic model and some incredible institutional support in Columbus, and so I happily clicked through to see what they had to say:

http://www.newsarama.com/24862-jeff-smith-hopes-to-make-columbus-ohio-a-comic-book-destination-with-new-convention.html

I’m super excited about this show, even though Spurgeon and Smith are doing their best in that interview to try to manage expectations. Probably for the best. Like I said up top, starting small, running a solid and well-received event, and growing, is the best way to go forward, and I’m really glad to hear that CXC is progressing in that direction. Seriously, go read that interview and tell me that show doesn’t sound awesome.

Anyway, both of these articles are lovely and complimentary, but I’m happy to link them just because they’re full of great advice about con-running, and the ideologies behind putting on a good show. As I said on Twitter a little while ago, it’s not hard to look at the industry and see that things need fixing, and comic cons are a good place for me to exert some influence. I’m really honoured, and humbled when we get feedback like this, that we are making a difference.

– Chris

 

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