Friday, 30 December 2011

Thinking about Comics - things of interest.

Things I read that made me think differently or just more about comics in some way or other in the last year (or so). Here's a post to remind myself what they all were.

Sugar Glider 2 - by Gary Bainbridge and Daniel Clifford

Raising it's already impressive game from Issue 1, Sugar Glider 2 introduced new ideas, new characters and achieves a strong sense of place and being there. The difference between how this is handled in 1 and 2 is well worth looking closely at.

The "I'm Sugar Glider" panel is one of my favourite comic panels of the year. I know that both Gary and Daniel take their storytelling very seriously, and there are some sections of this that I've been back and forward over to see how they work. I'm really looking forward to issue 3. It's good.

Low Life - by Rob Williams, and D'Israeli (created by Rob Williams and Henry Flint)

I've read the latest two series of this in 2000AD, and so not knowing his history I'm never quite sure what Dirty Frank is capable of. This is possibly the point: his antagonists, and possibly also he doesn't either. Or if he will even do what he is capable of once he does know. Dirty Frank is a brilliantly imagined character: fragile and powerful in unexpected ways.

Stories that are both strong, character driven and laugh out loud funny. Low Life, Zombo (Al Ewing and Henry Flint) and Dredd (John Wagner mostly) are all capable of achieving this, and I'm pleased to say that 2000AD has definitely reclaimed it's place at the top of my must read list in the last two or three years.

Actually, the other thing that Low Life, Zombo and Dredd are capable of is managing to fit a story into five page episodes: always introducing the scene for new readers, always maintaing the pace for existing readers, either week on week or in collections.

Beasts of Burden - by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

Splendid. A while ago I started writing some short stories (as part of my Story a Day in May) about a tribe of Rats, and would really like to translate these into comics and expand on them. I've not been able to figure out how to do animal comics without anthropomorphising them physically to some degree (A topic covered also in Bryan Talbot's excellent talk on the subject which i've seen three times now) or giving them the ability to carry swords of wear monocles.

Beasts of Burden shows how this can be done: in both the words and pictures. It a beautiful book, and I'm not sure enough people have read it. You should.

SuperHuman - by Michael Carroll

The first of (I believe) the second sequence of New Heroes books from Michael Carroll, which Michael very generously swapped for my own Tales of the Hollow Earth. Strong characters here, and strong development too including a very dark and not yet resolved subplot for the heroes.

This is a novel rather than a comic, though it tackles comics traditional subject matter and is actually pitched much more at comics traditional expected audience than comics currently are. Very difficult to imagine though, what format this would have taken if it was a comic, or why Michael chose prose rather than comics for this story (he is also a writer for 2000AD and the Megazine).

So, I'm planning to read more of these in 2012, as I really want to think more about this and also read more about these people - especially that of the main villain. He did seem to have been on the cusp of some self awareness in the final few pages, but this may be unlikely as those pages may have been his last. We'll see.

I might re-read Wild Cards too.

The Lovecraft Anthology (Volume 1 Edited by Dan Lockwood)

Following 2010's best single web comic: His Face All Red, i'd been thinking a lot about horror (or comics of a dark nature) and how they appear to be working best when drawn in a cartoony or ligne claire style (see also Cinebooks excellent 'Green Manor').

Understanding Comics 101 would say the minimalist creates empathy and this more nieve style might imply that the characters are childlike in their fragility, but I think that there's more to why thus combination works yet. I think horror may be the best genre in which to ask the question: how are comics different to books and films.

Anyway, the Lovecraft anthology from Self Made Hero is a pretty beautiful piece of work (as are all of the books they publish), and it would be remiss of me not to point out that the many talented artists and writers successfully do in fact find ways to express unimaginable horror in comics. That's some achievement.

Nic Wilkinson and Ian Sharman's Lettering Workshop at ThoughtBubble 2011.

This was not a technical talkas I'd expected, but was instead focused very much on artistic and storytelling concerns of relevance to not just the letterers but artists and writers also. Some very interesting points were made on the subject of reading order and pacing control that I've yet to fully process, but I have been back through my own work with an eye on 'what should I have done here'.


So, yeah, those were, for me, an great set of examples on why and how comics forms and formats work, how they differs from other mediums and how they are better or worse for some genres than others. All are well worth your time.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Dr Sketchy - Tis the Season to get Sketchy

Here are my images from the Dr Sketchy - Tis the Season to get Sketchy life drawing and cabaret at World Head Quarters on Sunday. Images in reverse chronological order, so the afternoon finished with....

The Creative Martyrs. Gustav and Jacob Martyr two splendid and somewhat terrifying fellows are quite, quite brilliant, and I advise you to see them if you should ever get the opportunity. This drawing I think I might have a go at inking and possibly colouring at some point:

Meg La Mania - the fantastic Dr Sketchy's resident singer. Tinsel is extremely hard to draw, but I was pretty pleased with these head and shoulder portraits:

Amelie Soleil is the chief and brains behind Dr Sketchy Newcastle, and I've inadvertently made her look possibly too strict here (that's a flower in her hand). Amelie performed an very splendid and hazardous looking magic act that involved very sharp edges...

Drawings wise, though, the top one seems a little too static, though I think I managed to get the low lighting around her face. The second, more sketchy drawing seems to have more life to it.

We arrived late, partway through a series of rapid poses from Trixie D Licious - hence the really sketchy beginnings that I'm actually quite pleased with. Moved onto pencil for the last portrait, but have far too many lines here.

Trixie's burlesque performance was quite frankly stunning. Through which the audience maintained a polite and respectful silence, possibly inappropriately so: it was a Sunday afternoon and I think she took us somewhat by surprise?

So, as Amelie Soleil later pointed out: it's cold up there, but despite our (or at least, my) struggling to find the correct etiquette for Trixie's turn, we had a great afternoon: all the performers were fantastic. We'll be there next time, possibly (having seen what is possible) with an iPad, and a Gin and Tonic might also be appropriate. Excellent.

Life Drawing from a while back at the Mushroom Works

Having attended Dr Sketchy's Newcastle this weekend, I was reminded to upload some older life drawing that I did last year at the Mushroom Works (I thought I already had) If you're in Newcastle and interested in doing life drawing, I recommend checking those two places out.

I'll get the Sketchy's set up soon. Here are the Mushroom works set:


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Canny Comic Con : The Aftermath

Well, it happened: Newcastles many and various comics groups and fans finally got a canny comic con for this millennium.

Thanks to Alexi Conman, Newcastle city library and everyone who helped out, was a guest, did a talk, manned a stall, ran a workshop, helped people find what they were looking for and the five hundred or so people who attended, it was, to my mind, a very very fine day and most excellent success.

This was a very canny comic con indeed.
The Canny Comic Con is GO!
Highlights for me were many and various, but it's always a pleasure to have an opportunity to catch up with Ben Clark (Magic Beans Comics), Paul Scott (Omnivistascope), Graham Pearce (Sgt Mike Battle), Stacey Whittle (Small Press Big Mouth), Leonie O'Moore and Al Ewing (Zombo, Judge Dredd) and meet a great many people for whom up north is down south - in particular:
Graham Pearce and Al Ewing Gary Erskine
Graham Pearce and Al Ewing Gary Erskine

...and of course the Paper Jam Comics Collective, whose own Andy Waugh chaired or took part in several of the talks; Jack Fallows, who opened proceedings with the first talk; Mike Thompson manning the Travelling Man table; Britt, who I shared a table with; and Ian Mayor who acted as people wrangler in chief. Others running workshops I'll mention below. And this lot who heroically manned the Canny Communal table:

The Canny Table - Terry, Matt, Lydia and En
The Canny Table: Terry, Matt, Lydia and En
I didn't make many of the talks as I was mostly occupying my stand during the day. The two that I did make were excellent:

  • Bryan Talbot's Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition is a talk i've seen a few times and which I don't tire of: it's constantly evolving and always fascinating. See it if you can, and this time round he had preview cover artwork for Grandville: BĂȘte Noire, which we're told will be a take on James Bond. It looked smart. Bryan is a class act and was the first guest to confirm for the con. You should all buy Grandville and see his talk if ever you get the opportunity.
  • Dr Mel Gibson's talk Studying Comics: Where to start? demonstrated that there's a world of literature beyond Scott McCloud. My Recommendation is to check out her website:
Ingi's Monster Workshop
Ingi, from Tees Toons. With Isaac, Mark and Jacob

The atmosphere... for the whole day reminded me of HiEx, in being bouncy, easy going and family friendly, which is a sure sign of something going right.
Other notes: 
  • The list of people I didn't speak to nearly enough and/or haven't mentioned here is enormous
Trench Foot!
Paul Regan has the power to make cigarettes
hover in front of his face awaiting their turn.
Nigel AuchterlounieDoug Braithwaite
Spleenal by Nigel Auchterlounie, looks filthy. One of Doug's first stories for an american publisher was one of my favourite Grant Morrison Doom Patrol stories.

Gary Bainbridge is thinking.
Gary Bainbridge, who I typically
didn't get to talk to enough.
Update (read more if you like!)

    Wednesday, 7 December 2011

    The Canny Comic Con - It Is Nearly Time

    This Saturday, it will be, as I shall never tire from pointing out, the Canny Comic Con. It will be magnificent. It's free, it's at Newcastle City Library.

    Poster by Cuttlefish and I

    So, what will it have? I'll tell you what it'll have:

    You should be there from about 9:50ish if you want to catch the first talks. It'll be great. Want to know more, follow @cannycomiccon and #cannycc

    Friday, 2 December 2011

    Made in Newcastle Christmas Market

    Why it's the Made in Newcastle Christmas Market this Sunday!
    • The days are just packed:

    The market is happening a the Royal Station Hotel, which is just beside Newcastle Central Station. 
    Proceeds from the £1 entry fee will go towards future Made In Newcastle projects, workshops, exhibitions and events.

    PaperJamComicsCollective : "Alcohol, and that"

    The latest anthology from the Paper Jam Comics Collective: Alcohol, and that is more or less complete. I initially didn't think that I'd be able to contribute, but myself and the lovely Britt jumped in at the last possible minute to work on the cover. I pencilled, Britt inked, we both coloured. Here it is:

    Now it just needs to get printed, but it will doubtless be ready in time for the magnificent Canny Comic Con