Drawing the Inhuman

October 27, 2017 — 2 Comments

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a big fan of Marvel’s Inhumans.

I recall the Fantastic Four had a fair few encounters with them, and I remember really enjoying that excellent story when Triton popped into the Negative Zone to rescue Mr Fantastic (“Not so fantastic now, eh?” I think he uttered).

I also liked the idea of Crystal as Johnny Storm’s girlfriend. But then I’m always a fan of temporary team changes (especially when they aren’t simply about increasing sales.)

And Black Bolt’s power of talking loudly is kinda’ fun, in that he can’t even mutter under his breath without knocking out someone’s eardrums or causing a child’s Lego tower to crumble (“Now THAT was a waste of a Saturday afternoon!”). I’m sure it’s a bit of a pain for him too. I hear he likes Lego.

The fact that Maximus relies on his intellect and influence without particularly showy super powers, yet seems to be their main adversary is also intriguing.

Yeah, so like I said, I’m not a big fan.

But now there’s a telly show all about them, so I thought I’d show you some of my Inhuman doodles. And by ‘inhuman’ I don’t mean my drawing style, I mean…. oh, you know what I mean.

(For the unfamiliar this is Crystal, Maximus, Black Bolt and Medusa.)

If you’d like to see more drawings feel free to do the click thing here or here. No presh.

The End of the Beginning

That went a lot better than I was expecting! As you know, dear readers, when we last met/spoke/conversed I had quietly released Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet from its digital chains to run free into the wilds as a 128 page printed edition! Well, would you believe them apples – there were scores of comic-loving predators just lying in wait, ready to snaffle up this sequential prey as it crossed their virtual sights.

(And if you can forgive for me for not speaking in metaphor for just a second as I slightly remove the mask of my well-crafted and convincing madcap persona) I’d like to say a genuine thank you to everyone who purchased a copy. Your support, kind words, encouragement and loose change means a great deal to me. I have a firm handshake waiting in my pocket for every one of you!

So combined with my recent trip up to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last weekend, and managing to convince the unsuspecting Kendal public that a sci-fi comic book was the ideal accompaniment to a slice of mint cake, I can announce we’re going for a second printing!

That’s right, the word ‘finally’ which I used when informing you that Mockingbird was now in hard copy form, was not a ‘finally’ equals ‘final’ and as such ‘the end of this story’. But rather, the beginning of the next stage.

Admittedly, where-to next, and how to get there, are the immediate and pertinent questions. Godda’ have a plan, a strategy, a vision. I FEEL A MOTIVATIONAL TALK COMING ON!

“Please don’t.” Okay…

One of the great opportunities of attending comic festivals is the chance to chat to reviewers, comic shops and influencers, and actually place my work in their hands – along with a simpering smile and a crushed five pound note furtively posted into their shirt pocket, accompanied by a self-conscious, hesitantly executed wink and moist, salty pat on the shoulder.

Additionally meeting a new audience and seeing them purchase your precious creation is fantastic (some of whom may even have joined us here, reading this blog).

“That makes three of us now.” No need for that.

I’m running out of space, so maybe we can continue this chat next time?

For now, spread the news, Mocketeers, a second launch is imminent. (And I might make more of a song and prance about it this time.)

There are only a few copies of the initial run left, if you or your buds are desperate to obtain one of these as a prized ‘first print’ possession. I know them avid collector types think this way!

High fives all round.

Postscript. If you like photos, I posted a few from the comic festival here.

I’m off to a land where fictional characters roam free, and artists laze on the banks of rivers flowing with Indian Ink, as origami birds lay putty rubber eggs in papier mache trees. That’s right, I’m off to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal!

And for those who don’t know geography, that’s near the top end of the United Kingdom*.

And for those who don’t know my personal geography, I live at the other end of the United Kingdom!

“Surely there are other comic events closer to home, Flicko?”

You’re right, gentle reader, but the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, as well as being a mouthful, is one of those wondrous places where the whole town is transformed into a haven of sequential art. This is more than just a scout hall full of grubby men in black t-shirts thumbing through the latest issue of Super Lady and her saucy pout (no offence).

This is the kind of event that encompasses the whole of the medium from kids comics through to the European stuff (that’s a technical term) with Asterix, Tintin, Moomins, etc. as well as the men who wear masks and punch things**.

Even the shops get in on the act with windows displaying 2D replicas of Dennis the Menace, Krazy Kat, Usagi Yojimbo and of course, Super Lady and her saucy pout.

Have a look for yourself right here.

It’s the ideal place to meet like-minded individuals who may very well be interested in the exciting space adventures of a young girl on a far distant planet, battling off the unwanted attentions of some hairy aliens whilst trying to get her homework completed on time! (I hope by now you realise that’s a description of my comic – Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet. If not, seriously, go to the back of the class… don’t dawdle… I can wait.)

“Does this mean…?” (Permission to bate your breath.)

Yes, I’m going to print a few copies to take me with me. I’ll also drag along a bunch of my old comics as freebies, to entice the nervous and naive, like a short bald spider, into my web of irresistible sales banter***.

This does also mean I’ll have some books to sell at this end of the country too. My plan is to print about 50, with the intention of passing a few of them to reviewers and comic shops. But (talking the bottom line now) if I manage to sell 25 at a tenner a pop, that will cover costs nicely.

I’ve put it in the website Shoppe for those who may be interested (click here) but do feel free to ‘stop me and buy one’ in real life if you and your purse are in the neighbourhood.

If you recall my last blog post, regular readers, I floated this as a possible idea back then.

“Yes, nice floater, Flix.” Er, thanks?

On that note I will bid you a fond adieu and endeavour to keep you updated on progress! Yes, let’s call it PROGRESS… in caps!

 

* Anywhere above the M25 is ‘near the top end’ to a southerner.
** In the real world this would be a description of ‘bad guys’, ironic eh?
*** I have no sales banter, only the resistible variety. “You’re fired!”****
**** TM Sir Alan Lord Sugar.

Printing Comics in the Future

Following on from my last electronic missive, I believe we ended on the tantalising question of whether I’m finally going to print the graphic novel ‘Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet’, or continue to let it gather cyber-dust on the cyber-shelves of the Kindle Bros et al.

“Sorry, tantalising for whom?”

I’m glad you asked! Here are the various options. All of them involve the acceptance that there’s no guarantee I will make my money back on any financial outlay in print costs. Feel free to accuse me of being negative!

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – I guess I asked for that.

To Kickstart or not to Kickstart: Whilst Kickstarter is a great method for raising funds (this opinion is based on no direct experience), and though it understandably requires a lot of work promoting your ‘campaign’, my main hesitancy is whether I have a big enough following to ensure my target will be reached (and remember fans, if you don’t reach your target you don’t get no mambo).

Also I feel I need to do it right the first time. I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m dragging the same ol’ material out again and again, trying to convince the donating public this flogged mule with its tongue hanging out really is worth your coinage… this time… please.

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – I guess I asked for that.

Personal Finance: Or I could print up a limited bunch of hard copies, with the intention of getting them into the hands of reviewers. Y’know, create a buzz in the comic community! Of course, I need to have a follow up plan if I’m doing this. It’s no good receiving a positive review if the book can’t actually be purchased.

The other possibility with a limited print run would be to send them to comic shops to see if they’d commit to buying copies to put on their shelves. In a way, I would be the distributor.

I’m not sure about this approach. Mainly as most comic shops are ‘sale or return’ so the money risk would be on me… again.

“You’re being negative, Flicko!” – You can stop now.

Advance Orders: Here’s a thought I had the other day, which isn’t dissimilar to Kickstarter. More of a personalised version. What if I sold advance copies? I would commit to printing a bunch anyway, but advertise and promote it as far as I could, with the hope that some of the costs would be offset by advance sales, so it wasn’t just my wallet involved when the time came for paying the piper… I mean, the printer. It’s not like publishers don’t do this already, is it?

Personal Finance Plus: Now this is a bit of a crazy option. How about I print a bunch (say, 100) and just give them away? (Or ask for a suggested donation?) I wonder if by Control-Zedding the fear of having to cover costs; by removing that concern altogether I can just focus on getting this wonderful tale of space adventure into the welcoming hands of the reading public!

“Now you’re talking, Flicko!” – Yes, I thought you’d like that last option.

Or maybe even a combination of some of the above?

We’ll carry on this chat next time.

Love & biscuits to all!

Haven’t you always wondered what might be on Spidey’s playlist, as he’s swinging across the rooftops of New York New York city?

No, me neither.

But here I was, considering this most banal of questions about a fictional fellow and his iPod selection, to such an extent that I ended up collecting together a catalogue of canorous compositions relating to this theme.

From this it seemed obvious to compile these into a Top Ten of tunes that our friendly neighbourhood Spider-guy would NO DOUBT listen to. My main assumption being that because he possesses a great sense of humour (much like someone else round ‘ere) he would love a good pun or at least a salt shake of irony.

The only self-imposed criteria for this array of fine audio choices, was that the title had to relate to ol’ webhead in some way. Allow me to share my musical musings with you.

I’ve conveniently provided links to the songs in question, so you know these are all gen-u-ine ditties. No need to thank me.

I’ve also annotated the list in an attempt to be helpful, but feel free to put your hand up if you’re confused, or if you need the toilet.

They’re in no particular order, other than vaguely chronological.

Do let me know in the comments section if I’ve missed any titles you think should clearly be represented!

1 Bite the Hand  (ABC)
Cos like, he got bit by a radioactive spider, didn’t he?

2 Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy  (The Andrews Sisters)
Cos like, he works for a newspaper called the Daily Bugle. Geddit?

3 Spinning Around  (Kylie Minogue)
Web? Spinning? Spinning web? Keep up!

4 Life through a Lens  (Robbie Williams)
I’m not going to explain this one.

5 Mary Jane  (Rick James)
Some people suggest Mr James is not actually singing about a pretty lady, but is referring to ‘other stuff’. I don’t see it, to be honest. Anyway, Peter Parker fancies a girl called this. Mary Jane that is, not Other Stuff. That’d be weird.

6 Dancing on the Ceiling  (Lionel Ritchie)
You know what spiders are like… they dance… on the ceiling… when I try to catch them.

7 Man in Black  (Johnny Cash)
Cos like, he wore a black costume, remember?

8 I’ll Stick Around  (Foo Fighters)
You know what spiders are like… they stick… around… dancing on the ceiling.

9 Life of Riley  (Lightning Seeds)
One for the comic readers and what was known as the Clown Saga, or something like that.

10 Oldest Swinger in Town  (Fred Wedlock)
Cos like, he swings on his web, and he’s been doing it a while, hasn’t he? Hasn’t he?!

BONUS TRACK: Back to Black  (Amy Winehouse)
Another one for the comic readers. When Spidey no longer wore the alien black costume, he donned a cotton version for a while. So like, he went ‘back to black’. Y’welcome.

Phew, if you’ve made it to the bottom of the list: CONGRATULATIONS. And you might also be interested in another rambling piece I wrote about our web-headed wonder right here. Many reviewers have claimed this article is both “hilarious and poignant in equal measure”*.

* They haven’t, I made that up. Sorry.

“Where’s your graphic novel, Flicko?”

“I thought you were going to print your comic!”

“Why aren’t you writing your barely humorous blogs any more?”

Are these the questions you’ve been itching to ask me, but for one reason or another just haven’t plucked up the courage to thump your quiet query into an available keyboard? (“No”) Don’t worry, I’m here to ask these questions for you!

Let’s recap: this website’s primary purpose was (and is) to promote my graphic novel ‘Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet’ and when I started blogging I was building up to the grand entrance of this potential best seller (“I admire your confidence”) into the marketplace of digital viewership – via Kindle, Comixology, Sequential and the rest of the those pixellated prose providers.

This happened in July 2015 but for some bizarre reason I didn’t see it ascending the literary hit parade, so my order for a new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S had to remain on hold as the buying public decided to ignore the adjective I just kindly used in describing them.

This was of course a harsh lesson gently dealt out by the world of digital comics. I did have a suspicion it was going to be tough, and would probably need significantly more of a push than I could justifiably give it (looking at my busy schedule of climbing trees, reading Thomas the Tank Engine and pooing my nappy – and that’s before we get to the kids!) – and as they say, indifference is worse than a bad review. (I think Oscar Wilde said that. If he didn’t, then I’m claming it.)

As I mentioned in my blog from the past, the comic readership still seem to be a paper reading bunch. They (and I should also add ‘I’) like to have something in their hands, to feel the crisp turn of the page, to inhale the distinctive odour of an even litho print, to place an item on your bedside cabinet to gather inordinate amounts of dust before not being read.

Admittedly the men in tights and well-endowed ladies seem to do well in digital (just cast your eyeball over Comixology’s homepage) and there is a definite online presence of comic creators knocking out screen-based tales to delight all tastes. But interestingly many of these guys and gals will still gather their bits & bytes into a printed version at the end of a story arc or set time frame. This is telling in itself. (“Is it?” Yes, it is. “Really?” Yes.)

As I’ve previously harked on about, comic buyers like to meet comic creators (and I’m sure vice et versa) so it’s essential for hard copies to exist so comic cons aren’t just rows and rows of empty tables with nobody too sure who is selling and who is buying, with the odd black-clothed lounger drawing Wolverine for the umpteenth time to cover his drinks tab for the evening.

This then leads to the question I know you’re going to ask again: “Are you going to print your comic then?” An excellent question, and one I will cover at our next session.

You can get off the couch now. My secretary will book your next appointment.

What’s that? Oh yes, sorry, my mistake… I’ll leave.

Oh dear, hasn’t there been a lot of fuss over this Doctorette malarkey?

I guess it was inevitable that once the announcement was made that the new Doctor Who would be played by Jodie Whittaker there would be a huge vocal digestion in the world of social media and them newspaper columns.

For some this is a positive sign that our ever-changing culture is being reflected in popular TV programming, as this seems to be the perfect Venn meeting between feminism and the T part of LGBT. Whereas for others it’s a sure sign of a crumbling society as marginal groups are apparently afforded unchecked influence over our mainstream media’s output.

For me, it’s neither of those two, it’s simply lazy creativity.

Whilst I recognise the cheers or jeers from the various camps are genuine expressions of delight or disdain, as elation or fear is projected back at screen-bathed faces by the winking pixels of a blonde actress – I admit I have no stake in this time travelling horse.

For me, this is about the artistic process and the nature of creativity. Let me explain as briefly as I can as there’s a distinct possibility this is not going to be of any interest to you.

Allow me to present two types of art (get ready for some pretentious and clumsy misuse of art terms).

The first is a form of creativity that responds to and reflects the world and environment in which it is created. This being the concerns or thoughts that inhabit the public consciousness at that point in time, which are then filtered through the artist’s own perspective and musings, to then find an outlet onto the printed page or canvas or other media. Most art falls into this category.

The second is a form of creativity that looks beyond its current circumstances; maybe not even consciously, the artist seeks a form of expression or subject matter that is not currently available within their world. A way of thinking, or an approach to a subject or medium that is not housed within the available public consciousness.

Examples of this are easy to find, particularly in music (The Beatles experimental period, David Bowie’s early work, and a fair few classical composers) and the visual arts of course (Paul Klee, Paul Cezanne, even Banksy – whose first name could also be Paul). I’m sure you can think of several pioneers yourself from the world of comics, cinema, theatre, writing and fashion.

For me, there’s an integrity about the latter approach which may not always be found in the former. And this is where I’m sitting with Doctor Who as a woman.

No doubt there will be fun for the script writers (and hopefully viewers) in exploring the idea of the Doctor as female, but it does have the suspicious smell of being a bit showy, unimaginative and pandering.

The pursuit of truly seeking a creative path ahead for this established and much-loved character seems to have been overtaken by “brave decisions” and self-satisfied back slaps.

I do question the intention and artistic integrity of all this – based on my love for art in all its guises and the basic desire to see creatives pushing towards the future, rather than simply pleasing the present. (There’s your time travel reference!)

Image copyright BBC (via Radio Times)

How to Sell a Robot

February 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

imageI understand if the words Self and Pity start to come together in your head, as you’re reading this. That isn’t my intention but I’m just letting you know it could happen. Self and Awareness too hopefully!

Here is what I’ve discovered about promoting and selling a digital product: It’s not easy. Particularly if you’re from a World of Print.

When I first self-published back in the mid-nineties it was a very different landscape. Print was the only option, of course. And getting your publication in front of people’s eyeballs took legwork; attending comic cons (such as they were back then in the UK), linking in with like-minded groups to network (like the internet without the inter), advertising in comic journals, sending your work for review in fanzines and getting your comic on the shelves either with Diamond or through face-to-face contact.

Sounds like a real hassle doesn’t it? Surely it’s better now, Flicko? Afterall an international network is only a binary ride away, millions of potential readers teetering on the edge of their screens. Comics digitised and accessed by anyone in a matter of seconds. No need for the ancient practice of stamped address envelopes and queueing in the Post Office!

Hey, it even cuts out the need to actually meet someone, avoiding those awkward conversations and sitting behind a trestle table self-consciously mumbling into your sketchbook in a futile attempt at self-promotion. A lot easier! Or is it?

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s simply that I don’t really understand how to sufficiently ‘work the system’ in promoting my artwork amongst a crowded swimming pool of screaming caps-locked voices, virtual belly flops and attention-seeking inflatables. Maybe I just understand print better.

But it is hard (or impossible) to place a download on a coffee table for a random chum to casually pick up and flick through. The experience for creator and consumer to meet and chat online is not as warm or connecting as a face looking into another (possibly eye-avoiding) human face. Holding something tangible and solid, emanating a waft of freshly printed paper, is a lot easier to shove into a passerby’s hand than its electronic cousin.

Bits n’ bytes are great, don’t get me wrong, Ms Hynde, I just suspect we’re still learning how it works (for ‘we’ read ‘me’). It seems so diametrically different to print than I ever initially anticipated.

Of course it’s amazing to be able to send my comic round the world in the blink of a click, and the array of platforms that send my doodles and scrawls spinning across the globe to alien shores is mind-blowing, but… particularly for small press, something is lost when the opportunity for two humans to share a moment of sequential pleasure no longer takes place, or the gentle joy in picking up an unknown collection of pages reveals unexpected delights within a few flicks of 100gsm. Even the simple sales patter of talking about your lovingly crafted tale doesn’t have the same effect when transposed to a staccato computer exchange.

The present and future may be digital, and my intention isn’t to smash the spinning jenny, but I wonder if the increase of comic cons of various sizes is testament to this full-circle desire in today’s reader: to meet and talk and smell the comics and their creators.

Nostalgia? It must be if I’m reminiscing about the odour of comic artists! No offence, I’ll let you decide. Smiley face.

Cover to Cover

January 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

Here are some sketches you may find interesting (no pressure). These are the rough thumbnails I drew a few years ago for the publisher I was with at the time, when presenting my cover ideas for Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet.

Here’s fun – why don’t you try to find the cover I ended up using? A firm handshake and solid thumbs up for the winner!

Postscript: Feel free to tell me if you think I should’ve used one of the other options, I won’t be offended. Hey, it might even start a fascinating discussion thread (I’ve seen these on other blogs!).

ABCDEFJKLNOGHIP

imageSlightly more than half a marathon, more like three fifths of a marathon! But come on, where’s the excitement in setting yourself a challenge if there isn’t the real possibility that you might not make it? Which, I hold my hands up, is what happened here. My quivering sweaty body lying in the road as tears and embarrassment stain my hopes of achieving that shiny medal of success (metaphorically speaking). Okay, maybe it’s not that bad.

The Comic 365 Challenge was/is a self-imposed project to create a comic strip, one panel a day, over the course of a year. Click that button here for more (but not much more) explanation.

It started well and continued fairly steadily through the first few months, but it did quickly became apparent this was going to take longer than a year! After all, the storyline wasn’t meticously planned out in advance, other than in the vaguest way in my head, with certain images and plot points I knew would happen, then basically stringing individual panels between these narrative buoys. (That’s story writing, kids!)

I also set myself the additional challenge of using blue pencil and art pens (whereas normally I would be found sporting a regular grey-type pencil, brush and ink). But the discovery that blue leads in a retractable pencil are frustratingly fragile, liable to collapse at the merest suggestion of pressure, soon sent me back to the trusty HB. I did stick with the art pen, even though the line became noticeably thicker as the pen got older and I unconsciously veered back towards a variation of line with which I’m familiar (like a brush, y’see). You can see this if you compare some of the early panels with the later ones.

But unexpectedly there was a wonderful delight in using Instagram as a window to the world, primarily from the immediate response and interaction with those viewing my fresh sequential produce.

My illustrating experience is one of spending time crafting and sculpting a tale or doodle, with no audience participation whatsoever, even when it’s gone to print let along during the process itself! I know this can be good and bad, but in regards to this challenge the engagement was an essential flavour of the scheme. Every ‘like’ or ‘comment’ added a joyful skip in my pen work, though there is of course an addictive quality which only becomes apparent when you’ve proudly posted up the Mona Lisa and received a disappointedly muted response. My desperation for the affirmation of strangers reflected back at me by a blank comments box. Sad face.

This is when you remind yourself that actually the ‘normal way’ of drawing is to receive a ‘muted response’ EVERY TIME you’ve completed a panel because… you’re working on your own! Stop being so cloying!

Where were we? Yes, August is when things started to slip, and the odd missed panel slowly started to grow into a whole stack of missed panels. Like Billy Liar stuffing the undelivered calendars back into his wardrobe, it comes to a point (in October) when you need to admit you’re not going to catch up. The priorities of life outside of social networking (is there such a thing?) take precedence over the virtual. The unseen referee holds up my hand to watch it limply splat to the canvas, announcing the match is over, and the winner is not me. 235 days complete, 130 remain.

But let us not be downbeat, fellow travellers! Though the tale is still not told at least we are now released from the shackles of weighty expectation and rattling on the bars of unrelenting deadlines. Now I can continue the story without the constraints. “Maybe you needed the constraints to actually motivate you, Flix!” Hmm, you might have a point. “Thanks.” You’re welcome.

Let’s see what happens next. But I’ll be honest, this isn’t my priority. I am keen to at least scan and present the current panels, and finish off the ‘final’ 130 images. I say ‘final’ because I already know the first 365 drawings would only be Chapter One! This is going to take ages. “Especially if you’re not drawing it anymore!”

In the meantime, you can view the panels on Instagram, you don’t even need to have an account. Of course, feel free to ‘like’ or add an effusive comment. “Stop being so cloying!” Soz.

P.S. If you were looking for an explanation of WHAT ON EARTH the C365 story is about, I’m afraid this isn’t the blog for that. Another time, kindly reader!