Monday, June 27, 2005


I'm a fan of anthropromorphics (using animals in human form, ie Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny or the characters in Maus) for various reasons and have favoured using them in the past. I had a few vague ideas today for some possible stories and I'm not sure if to go the 'funny-animal' route or not. Think of it like this, would some of the more socially pointed Dr. Seuss stories (The Sneetches, Yertle the Turtle and the amazing Lorax) worked as well if Suess used humans? Is the Once-ler in Lorax had just been a guy who owned a factory and depleted a forest and poluted the enviroment would the story have seemed preachy and a little flat, or would it have given it more power and impact? Would we accept the humour? Does the use of animals in Maus shock us all over again or does it diminish the reality of the situation? Does the use of animal allow the creator to make barbed comments and observations palateable, or does it trivialise them?
Okay, that's a whole bunch of questions, but basically, what do you all think, animal or humans?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Other things

After rambling about this to Danny in a recent email I thought I'd muse about it here.
At the moment I feel like doing things, the recent comic is part of that, but it's not enough. What I'd like to do is get involved with some kind of arts group, not exactly sure what though. I'd like to do something with puppetry (not something I know much about but something I've wanted to know more about) or theatre or anything. But what I don't know is where I'd fine the time, would I make time if I got involved, find the distractions less distracting? Anyone out there know of any projects, preferably local to Lancaster?

My appreciation

I've been looking at a lot of different comic artists this week and think my focus is nicely narrowing down. One artist in particular is astonishing and as luck would hve it there's a collection of work by him out now. Gasoline Alley is fairly well know in America but not so much over here, Frank King created it in 1919 and within a year or so he hit upon the main idea that would fuel it until he died in 1969 when it was taken over by one of his assistants (a common practice and not one that I'm sure I like, even if the person who takes a strip over is great I'd rather see them do something original...anyway), that idea was real life. Walter was the adoptive parent of Skeezix (who turned up on his doorstep) and they just.... did stuff, and as time wore on they got older and older, aging as they would if they were real living people. I've not bought the recent collection (I will, but it's a £20 h/b and I'm broke at the moment) which features the daily strips, however I do have 2 issues of the Drawn and Quarterly anthology which reprint many of the breathtaking Sunday full page full colour strips. King used the Sunday format to have fun and Walter and Skeezix would walk through reality to fantasy and back again through some spellbinding artwork. King used a very simple open style (imagine Crockett Johnson and Herge funneled through a delictate hand) and filled those lines with georgous colours carefully selected to contrast and compliment. In one strip Walter explains to Skeezix that the forest isn't dead just sleeping, throughout the following panels Walter explains the change the months will bring to the forest and King illustrates it, time stands still for Walter and Skeezix as it moves on around them in a display of fiery autumnal colours to vibrant summer colours. Quite a few stories use dream logic to tell a silly but engaging yarn, but the most impressive thing King did was pre-empt the likes of Chris Ware. Ware designed the new collection of Gasoline Alley thereby repaying a debt as his artwork owes quite a bit to King but also because Ware has become (rightly) well known for his dazzling graphic skills a few of which were lifted from King. What King would do was to draw one large image, then lay the comic panel grid over the top and then draw the characters interacting from panel to panel around this one image. So, for instance, looking at a series of panels seperately we can see several characters playing around on the frame of a soon to be constructed house, but looking at the whole page we can see the full house frame. Like all King's work it's a lovely simple idea presented in a simple and unpretentious way. It's a technique, like the speeding up of the months, that Ware has used and built upon and he is not ashamed to aknowlegde his debt.
There's quite a few comic artists like King (Walt Kelly, Winsor MCay, George Herriman Otto Messmer, E.C. Segar etc) greatly hailed praised in their time and slowly forgotten (although some not as much as others) as comics fade, but thanks to publishers like Drawn and Quarterly releasing Gasoline Alley (under the name Walter and Skeezix for legal reasons) and Fantagraphics with Peanuts (ok, so not every great cartoonist is forgotten, but Schulz is surely some sort of exception!) in such handsome volumes perhaps those names will last a little longer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

extra apology

Sorry about the ropey scans. Heavily pixelated and a bit too small, my brushwork got a little lost - shame really, I'm quite proud of my ability with a brush.

Food's in the Oven

and it'll be ready soon, so I'd better hurry this up.
Went to Manchester today and had a little spending spree, I'm finally the proud owner of Q The Winged Serpent a fantastic film by the brilliant Larry Cohen, one of my favourite directors. Clever, witty and shlocky B movie brilliance.
I got the latest issue of Fluffy by Simone Lia which pleases me muchly, sweet silly and sad. The 2nd Scott Pilgrim is finally in my trembling hands, it's like James Kochalka does real life, manga and kick ass beat-em-ups with Joss Wheldon giving pointers.... or it's not, it's something else though.
Superfuckers! Yay Superfuckers! Or Superf*ckers if you prefer. A full colour kick ass James Kochalka comic, it's like Scott Pilgrim and a kick...uh, forget that. Superfuckers! Yay!!!!
After a brief break I'm now eating, it's tomato butternut squash and goats cheese, with some other stuff, you know, randomly chopping veg into a dish throwing in some balsamic vinger. Fortunately it works.

Apolgies, excuses and explinations

Sorry for the delay in posting my comic up, my PC and scanner sorely tried my patience.
Ok, I admit it, ther's a vital bit of information missing from the strip, namely the planet is meant to be covered in junk and rubbish. THe trouble is I decided I didn't want to clutter things by drawing loads of little bits of shmutz, if I ever do another version it'll have another colour (pale blue probably) and I'll draw all the crap in that colour. Anyway, I think it still works ok. FOr anyone who's interested in the big Planet of the Apes style revelation that's also now missing (but probably still obvious), the dead planet is... EARTH! Big surprise huh?
The extra strip isn't up because I needed someone to turn up today for reference and they didn't bother, or I was out when they did, be patient.
Hey, Katy you big fibber, I said pirate, eventually. Of course I remember you, vaguely, sorta, haven't you got fancy hair or something, you dig holes I think? That you?




Monday, June 20, 2005

Comic strip?

A few days ago I made the bold statement that I would have a comic done by Sunday, it's now Monday so where is it? On the floor beside me as it happens. I'm half way through inking the last page, I'll scan it and post up later today, if I can remember how. I'm really pleased with how it's come out, the 'story' is the very definition of slight and it's also a little vague, but after worrying about it I decided the vague-ness didn't harm it that much, you can read into it whatever you want. Anyway, it's pointless talking about something you can't see, so sit tight and keep checking back if you want to see the finished piece.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Lewis Trondheim

Seeing as I was just waxing lyrical gibberish to Danny about this in an email it's about time I declared my love online.
Lewis Trondheimis a comics GOD! Through sheer force of will he has become a master of comics, starting out with very basic skills and quickly (thanks to the unbelievable volume of work) growing in ability through hard work and practice. Trondheim's artwork is clear, charming, well observed, quirky and self assured, his writing even more so, but even better than that all that his ideas are excellent. Unfortunately although he's very big in France (where he's from) far too little of his work has been translated into English. Fantagraphics released two McConey collections, The Hoodad and Harum Scarum, both hooked me immediately, lot's of beautifully observed witty dialogue and two very funny and smart stories. The Nimrod, Fantagraphics regular(ish) sized Trondheim b&w title presented a different side to Trondheim, in fact it presented several different sides showcasing amazing work from autobiographical to silent slapstick humour to experimental shorts. Despite great reviews the respect of excellent fellow creators and rabid fans like myself sales just didn't come and Fantagraphics commitment to Trondheim backfired as the expensive they went to in presenting his work in the manner it deserved meant they lost even more money. NBM gave Trondheim a go next and released two b&w US format titles. Oddballz (bad title!) had poorly designed covers and featured two stories per issues this meant breaking down the one off stories (think TinTin or Asterix) into 4 parts, none of which had particularly natural breaks. Dungeon was better, NBM concentrated on 1 story at a time meaning the original stories were only split in 2. Contents wise both comics were great, the translations were solid and although the new lettering used a slightly annoying 'quirky' font it worked quite well. Unfortunately NBM halted both titles promising Oddballz would return in a few months and then quietly forgetting about it. Luckily NBM haven't given up, Dungeon was released in very nice collected formats that are smaller (about the manga size) than the original albums and slightly small than the US format reprints but were back to full colour (far better than the grey scaling used in the comic versions) The new format works quite well and they plan to continue translations in this format with a new one due in a few months. Astronauts From the Future for Oddballz was also collected in this smaller full colour format, sadly none of the other Oddballz stories have been collected yet. This is a shame as although AFTF is brilliant I'm a big fan of the other stories which featured Trondheim'srabbit character McConey. I'm hoping that NBM or Fantagraphics will release Trondheim, Fantagraphics are still obviously fans considering how much space they've given over to him in the pages of TCJ, but in the meantime I'm thinking it might be an idea to learn french and just buy the original books, Trondheim's worth the effort.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I am my own ray of sunshine

Seasons 1 of Samurai Jack and Bruce Timm Superman finally turned up today, colour me happy! Samurai Jack is so amazingly designed, it's beautiful to look at. Also bought Silent Running today, horrifyingly Rebecca hasn't seen it so we're going to watch it tomorrow when I'm sure she'll be utterly charmed by yet another classic film from the 70's.
Had the pleasure of buying The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business for someone today - kid's should be bought this book at an impressionable age. The only thing better than buying a fantastic book for yourself is buy a fantastic book for someone else.
Looks like my first comic strip for ages (what feels like a year but is probably 9 months) is nearing completion and I'm glad to say it's like nothing I've done before (well, it is, it's like the stuff I doodle for myself), the artwork is very simple and all the better for it.... but you'll all have to wait a couple of days before you see it.
I'm a rather chirpy mood which is odd as after a pleasant morning of getting up and having it went down hill with a miserable morning in Preston (humid, raining, not a nice city and a cinema to far away for us to see League Of Gentlemen (I just hope it's still on in Manchester next week or my local cinema decides that seeing as they had posters up for it for the last 2 months that they might as well show it)) But we got back early had a splendid butternut squash bake with peanut crumble lunch at the Whale Tail, saw a great film and did some drawing. Happy days.


The foul taste Revenge of the Sith left in my mouth has been washed away by the refreshing taste of Batman Begins. Finally a comic adaptation that can stand next to Superman the Movie.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bold statement No. 1

By Sunday I will have done a short comic strip.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak

There'll be a new edition of this book out in August and I urge everyone who glances at this blog to buy it. Korczak wrote this book because he understood how important it was to listen to children, to be a child, to nurture children. His belief was such that in 1942 he died in a concentration camp after refusing to abandon the jewish orphanage he ran and that belief runs all the way through King Matt. At least I'm guessing it does, I've only read 40 pages. 40 pages and I'm hooked, but then the back cover hooked me - "....Matt who becomes a king when just a child and decides to reform his country according to his own priorities. Ignoring his grown up ministers, he builds the best zoo in the world, fights in battles, braves the jungle and crosses the desert, but perhaps most life altering of all is that the lonely boy king finds true friends." Now this is a great concept, it might sound a little dated (maybe in did back in 1923 when it was written), but in the right hands it has serious potential, Korczak taps into that potential beautifully with elegant insightful prose that captures the direct simple honesty that children are capable of.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Forgive this ramble as I make sense of myself

As I wrote yesterday my increasing lameness has been building into a bit of a backlash and I felt that today would mark a change. Part of my fed upness has been over how badly I sleep. I struggle to go to bed at night, always finding something to distract me, yet once I do get to sleep there's nothing more I want to do and it takes extreme effort to get me up (I set 2 alarms for an hour earlier than I need to get up (I then spend that hour hitting 'snooze' every five minutes) obsessively checking them at least half a dozen times before I sleep) What I want to do now is get up at a reasonable time every day and use the extra time productively. Today started well, I was off and Rebecca was starting her first day at work, I woke early so I could see her before she left, but an hour later I was in bed with a cup of coffee. No idea why I did this, if you lie in bed then you'll probably fall asleep and I'm at my most tired when I've just woken up, in other words it was a recipe for disaster and I knew it.
I've atempted to claw back the day and to some degree I've been successful, I've written 500 words on my latest story, done the washing up, I've started my excersizes in the middle of this post (you can probably hear the grunting if you listen carefully) so it's not too bad. But this is another dangerous pattern of mine, doing nothing for long stretches of time and then over compensating, it inevitably leads to me tiring out and stopping altogether. What I need is balance, I need to be able to use my time productively, and anyway sleeping is not always relaxing, relaxing should have an element of productivity to it, such as relaxing with a good book, or with the newspaper or having a relaxing stroll through a park, for me sleeping is as way of delaying something important or difficult, I do it when I'm down.
Okay, enough of this rambling, I'll do better tomorrow, promise.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Any plans yet?

Glad you asked. No, not really, nothing solid anyway. I do have a few vague notions forming for some comics, nothing major, just some humourous (maybe) little shorts. I like the idea of doing a bunch of short comics, about 12 pages of story, in a little square-ish photocopied format but with a fancy cover, slightly heavy paper with endpapers - I did a little experiment and it's easy, and cheap to do. What I'd do is just a page or so a week, put them online and then collect them. The format and manner of doing them owes a lot to Tom Hartand www.americanelf(or, closer to home, Danny) but it's style that owes a hell of a lot to Charles Schulz and as these are all favourite (inc. Danny!) then that's fine by me.
I hitting a wall of idleness that is just getting me down so the urge to break free and act is strong and near at hand. It's been a busy old time this last 2 months but now I feel ready to claw some of my own (or my ideal) life back, not least because Rebecca starts work tomorrow which means more money (so less pressure on me) and time to myself again (it's be unbelievably lovely to have evenings and whole days together but because it's unusual for us it's meant that it's been impossibly difficult for me to be selfish with my time, especially as Rebecca's been sitting around bored and it's because she sacrificed her job for mine)
Guess that's all the plans I'll need for now.