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!

Selective Focus Close Up on Pile of Clock Parts, Assortment of Cogs and Gears in Variety of Sizes, Shapes and MetalsDid you know, many years ago people didn’t know what the time was? As in, someone would confidently claim it was ten o’clock whilst another fellow would insist it was actually a quarter past nine. Absolute chaos! A world without clocks, calendars or even numbers (in some parts of the United Kingdom).

Then one day a clever chappy said, “Hey, why don’t we divide the year into twelve easy sections?” “Why not eleven?” piped an opposing voice. “I like twelve!” concurred another. So after much to-ing and poo-ing they decided on eleven. A year would be sectioned into eleven months. Unfortunately the person taking the minutes was the chappy who championed the twelve option, and so this is what was officially written, and as anyone who has any experience with minute-taking will tell thee, if it’s written down it’s official and cannot be tipexed out (even by a Mayor or Police Constable who would prefer the text recorded otherwise). That was 1932, and ever since a year’s length has been recognised as twelve months!

So here we are today, shuffling into the 2016th Century, stepping over the decomposing husk of Old Father Time and high fiving the tiny optimistic palm of Baby New Year. An opportunity to reflect on the previous eleven months. Ha, I mean twelve, of course!

And in the spirit of positivity let us not dwell on the shades of gloom, my friends; the crushed hopes which can easily litter our memories of the past 365 days. Nay, let us focus on that which is, rather than that which is not.

“Wise words, Flicko, you should post that on Facebook alongside a picture of a cat and goldfish getting married.” Thanks, compliments indeed.

Get ready for the bullet points, it’s reviewing time. Links included!

  • Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet. PAST – A remarkable year for the graphic novel, which of course is the primary focus for this website – lest we forget in the joyous cavalcade of marginally humorous remarks. The digital edition was released from its electronic shackles in July and immediately made itself at home with Mr Kindle and his master, Mr Amazon; along with the Apple Family Store. But most encouraging was that it was accepted onto the virtual shelves of Messrs Sequential and ComiXology. We could talk about sales, but as aforementioned, let’s keep this positive! Smiley face (with a hint of deeper emotion). It’s been a long time coming (as they say), and I am genuinely thankful this adventure of one girl and her planet has finally seen publication! FUTURE – Release a print edition, supply to willing shops and start showing up at some o’them Comic Cons.
  • Weekly Pages. PAST – These ten sample pages continue to hold their own on the Homepage, a new selection of panels appearing each Friday to continue the tale for anyone committed and patient enough to be reading each new page week by week. We’re now on the final chapters which thankfully contain the more polished artwork! FUTURE – It looks like I’ll run out of weekly pages by the autumn (that’s right, the whole 128 pages of the graphic novel will have been shown), so there’s going to be some pressure (I’m not sure from whom) to produce some brand new artwork. Let’s see what happens.
  • Comic 365 Challenge. PAST – For those who joined this vehicle of vibrant creativity and impossible claims at the beginning of year 15, what a ride it was, eh? Oh, the highs and not-so-highs of trying to draw an image a day to create a 90 page comic over the course of a year! It can’t be done, they said. Let’s just say, I’m always willing to prove others right. FUTURE – I’ll write about this more in-depthly (is that a word?) next week as I know I’ve got a lot explaining to do; mainly, what happened to September, October, November and December? Wink.
  • Blogs. PAST – The blogging is not the essential content of this website, but I appreciate there are those for whom words delight over pictures, and the desire to be entertained and brain-massaged by profound insights and punchy prose, is a priority. I am assuming most of these readers, as described, would’ve jumped ship during the course of last year, if not before! And those left are the kindly readers who find small contentments in rambling sporadic musings and borderline banter, which is generally what is served at this metaphorical greasy spoon. If you do insist on topical references, well-researched cultural commentary or shouty polemics, then I’m afraid this is where our faceless friendship must end, because this is the kinda’ quality I’m generally chucking out there: exampli gratia. FUTURE – Some more blogs about stuff and other less specific subjects too.

I think we can leave it there, I’ve said enough (“You’re not kidding!”) To be fair, if you’re still reading by this point I can only be partially blamed. This is a two way street, chum.

Happy new 16, Mock-fans! Your support and interest is appreciated – I am now being genuine. Group hug.

Sir Flicko

image: www.freeimages.co.uk

ComixologyI know you will find this hard to believe, so prepare your ears and brain for processing hard to believe stuff. But Comixology – the digital comics download people, covering all devices – has accepted your favourite comic book into its virtual ranks!

“What? Asterix and the Funny Foreigners?”

No, your other favourite, Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet, and for a cool £5.49 ($7.99) depending on your currency choice.

As I mentioned when Sequential took on the comic, this is a remarkable encouragement because Comixology don’t accept any old tat! You have to have top quality tat to get the double thumbs up from them. Which is what I imagine happened when they took one look at my seemingly random arrangement of squiggles and natter. “Send that limey kid an electronic mail expressing our interest in his quaint British doodles.” Probably said by a cigar-chewing Texan gent, as he steps into a pink limo, packed full of loose notes, open bottles of Frizzante spilling across the white suede upholstery and a boot/trunk overflowing with Quality Street’s purple ones… ah, the high life!

What are you waiting for? 128 pages of sci-fi perils and futuristic adventure are only a button press (and small transaction) away! See you in the funny pages.

All in Sequence

August 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sequential Logo 2Them lovely folk at Sequential have only gone and released Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet through their app for iPads, and at the best price too, £4.99 ($6.99)!

The great thing about Sequential taking the comic is this: they didn’t have to! I’m super chuffed that they felt it was of sufficient quality to sit on their digital shelves, rubbing virtual shoulders with the likes of Love & Rockets, Torpedo and Rainbow Orchid. Super. Chuffed.

If you’ve been holding back then hold back no longer, my friend, cos’ this is the best price, for 128 pages of space action, adventure and jeopardy! All within the safe confines of your iPad. High fives all round!

M2a-printW3AIt’s finally here! Mockingbird: Nightmare on Another Planet the graphic novel is on the electronic book shelves! A space adventure for all ages – 128 pages of aliens, monsters, robots, suspense, mystery, character-driven plot, even a feral egg-dog with big teeth (whatever that is)! Available now on Comixology, Sequential or as a Kindle or iBook for less than six quid! (Sample pages are viewable here and here, if you’re hitching a lift on the cart of curiosity.) What are you waiting for? Buy buy buy! Er… no pressure of course.

(Soz, that’s a lot of exclamation marks for one fairly short paragraph.)

It was 1996 when I first put pencil to paper (ha, remember when we used to use paper, old timers?) and drew those big round specs. It’s certainly been a long journey in literal time and space; a muddled summary of which you can read here. A quest that started with the self-publishing of three separate comics and ending with the collecting together of those very same publications, with 36 extra pages, to self-publish again, but in a far more contemporary format – one with no physical pages! It feels like I’m living in a world of real-life science fiction! How apt.

So this is where we are: announcement announced. What else is there to say but ‘enjoy’! If you’re still hesitant, gentle reader, I’ve included some kindly quotes from a selection of comic reviewers below, received when Mockingbird was first released:

‘A charming, funny SF comic which allows the story to unfold through character rather than laboured exposition. This is a nice antidote to the grimness of most essays in this genre… It’s nice to read a character-driven comic in which the characters actually are interesting… Fans of good old-fashioned, tongue in cheek science fiction should give it a try.’
Mike Kidson (Comics International)

‘A nice return to good fun comics with a very British sensibility.’
Pete Ashton (The Review Sheet)

‘Science fiction comics are a dime a dozen, delightful ones are rarer. And this one, with a truly charming heroine and original art, is so full of promise one can only pray it will last’
Fabio P Barbieri (Comics International)

‘A cute romp of a comic.’
Terry Wiley (Sleaze Castle)

Of course, I will keep you informed of any further developments, Mock-fans! But let me know what you think, all feedback welcome! (What am I letting myself in for? Smiley face.)

Love & biscuits,

Flicko

butlins_skegness_picturesAs the soft strains of Agadoo waft gently across the air ways of Radio One, and we all find ourselves instinctively pushing pineapples and shaking trees like Pavlov’s pop-influenced canine automata, it can only serve as a subtle indication that summer has indeed finally arrived!

The time is right for darncing in the street, as David and Sir Mick would claim. I’m still trying to find the actual street to which this song refers, as my neighbours always insist on remaining behind their net curtains whilst I Hammer Time it up in the road on my lonesome! (The baggy trousers are actually surprisingly cooling, AND back in fashion… for ladies.)

But here we are, sun sun sun. What a choice of season to reinstate my regular visits to the blogospear! I should be outside headbutting beach balls and kicking sand into my own face. Instead I sit at this keyboard machine, my sweaty fingers slipping across the keys like a greasy spider trying to stand ten greasy sausages vertically in a greasy frying pan.

(Yes, I know, that simile makes absolutely no sense, but I found its obtuse absurdity rather pleasing, so I left it in. “Isn’t that how you normally write?” Yeah, ha ha.. hang on!)

Essentially this is now the run up to the end of the year, isn’t it? We’re halfway through number fifteen and any of them New Year resolution thingies that you haven’t followed through on yet (e.g. gym membership, love life, diet, regular blog posting, publishing your graphic novel, writing better constructed sentences) – well, you’ve got less than half a year to go; just under six months; no more than twenty six weeks; round about 332 days (enough days to go round the world 4.15 times, to be fair to the Fogg-meister).

In short, I am aiming to blog more frequently, whether you like it or not. And by ‘like’ I mean a Facebook Like. (Oh yes, that’s the sort of quality topical references you can look forward to. Whaaasssuuup!)

Obviously, I appreciate none of you are demanding I post more frequently, but here’s why I’m revving up the ol’ Blogley Davidson again: exciting terrific news is just around the corner! I can’t say too much other than, get your brain apparatus and eye units in active mode because a riot of incredible visual stimuli is teetering just on edge of the digital horizon, soonly to land in your comic strip welcoming lap*.

AND THEN you’ll be darncing in the street, my friend! Push pineapples, shake the tree. Stop… Hammer Time!

* Next week.

Comic 365: Pages 9 – 16

March 25, 2015 — 1 Comment

Hand aI can’t believe how late this blog is! As my school teachers used to say as I handed in yet another post-deadline essay (on the burgeoning economics of La Rochelle’s tourist industry after the unexpected popularity brought on by the Tricolore textbooks had waned, for example).

But this is not homework, this is far more important than homework! (Don’t tell your parents I said that.) This is Comic 365, the internationally recognised (ahem) art (ahem) challenge drawn by a world-renowned and much-loved (ahem, could someone just get me a glass of water?) artist. Yes, I’m still talking about me.

If you’ve only recently tuned in to this experience of terrific a brief explanation is contained in these words.

Pages 9 through to 16 were an interesting bunch. Everything in me wanted to speed this comic strip malarkey up! Twenty four hours between each panel was dee-riving me crazy, Miss Daisy! I was so tempted to step on the figurative gas and punch this narrative into the figurative fifth gear. But I did not step on the aforementioned figurative gas because I quickly recognised that that decision would have turned this whole process into nothing more than simply a series of connecting illustrations, by removing the moment-by-moment imagery. And THAT, my friends, would have made this a charade.

As you no-doubt-well-know-well-no-doubt, a comic strip is more than just a collection of connected static images. A comic strip has movement! Something wondermentful happens between those panels as the eye/s move/s from one pic to the next. I can’t explain it (as demonstrated in that last sentence) but this is more than pretty drawings tacked onto an adjacent tale, this is holistic storytelling (and without words either, non-dialogue fans!).

So what I did is this: I beat down that cloying creature called Instinct, and cuffed the ear of the vile goblin known as Impatience and I slowed it all down even further. Drama is not to be found in haste (as my old drama teacher would’ve said, if he’d existed).

Y’see, after all the excitement has faded away (once it’s started), I want to ensure that we still have a piece of comic strip worth reading, even without the glamour of this Comic 365 Challenge. When this story eventually sees print (digital or inky) I’d like it to be a pleasurable experience for the reader, whether or not they’ve been part of this long drawn out exercise you and I are currently committed to – like an invisible contract you don’t remember signing, with invisible ink, in a room with no windows, at night, blindfolded, a lingering whiff of body odour in the air… sorry, that was too much, wasn’t it?

Righto, chat over, see you back here in a few weeks. Love n’ biscuits for all! Flicko