Archives For History

Dear Wolverine

January 27, 2015 — 3 Comments

imageDear Wolverine

I trust this letter finds you in good health.

It has been a few years, I admit. Time stands still for no one, as they say!

How are your anger management issues now? (If that question doesn’t cause you to fly off the handle!)

Do you remember, you used to be so mad and full of rage, such a temper, like a tiny seething time bomb of bristles, that stank of cigarettes? You were like an animal! (If there’s an animal that smokes half chewed cigars.)

To be honest it was kinda’ sad, as if your angst defined your identity so much you didn’t know who you were anymore.

I’m not dismissing your past, mate, I know you’ve been treated badly, betrayed, ripped apart. It’s just feels a little bleak as I know you had so many friends who seemed to genuinely care about you and look up to you. It’s a shame the love, companionship and community of your mates and ex-mates didn’t seem to factor into your healing process.

I always thought maybe you just needed a hug. Not that I was going to try! I left that to one of your many female admirers – who worryingly all seemed to be a lot younger than you!

You certainly were popular though! Everyone wanted you at their party, to be seen with you, everyone wanted to be like you. Well, maybe not the hair.

I recall you were pretty adamant about that haircut. Actually you were just adamant all over, weren’t you?

But joking aside, there is something serious we need to discuss. I think the thing that disturbs me most, the thing that truly upsets me is that you used to be a role model for guys like me (well, maybe not the smoking) – no, you were one of my heroes because you were short! What changed? Now whenever I see you around you’re like over six feet tall! Where did THAT growth spurt come from?!

And what’s with the Australian accent? I don’t know who you are anymore.

“Join the club, bub” I’m sure you’d say, “And stick another moose rib on the barbie.”

Kindest regards, I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Flix

Too Big For His Boots

November 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

Billy Bootsa“Billy Dane owned an ancient pair of football boots which used to belong to old-time soccer star, Dead Shot Keen. In some strange way, the boots enabled Billy to play in Dead Shot’s style.”

When I was younger those were the words that introduced Billy’s Boots; a weekly comic strip about a kid whose magic boots allowed him to play football like a school boy Messi, when without the boots he really played like a messy school boy!

(Sorry, I wanted to use the Messi/messy gag, so forced it in there anyway.)

Basically, Billy’s life was a deception! He was living a lie. He was a rubbish player but here he was presenting himself as a footballing maestro. A charlatan in muddy shorts! It was the boots that did all the work.

“Oh, I scored again.” No, you didn’t, the boots did! “Billy, you saved the school’s reputation and we’re county champions!” No, he didn’t, the supernatural shoes did, they’re county champions. This is one of the few times his team mates really should have been kissing his boots.

Also didn’t he ever consider that his feet would one day outgrow his fabulous footwear? And what then? “Hey, didn’t Billy Dane used to be a great footballer? What happened? He had such potential.”

This also raises the question of how tiny were Dead Shot Keen’s feet?! A grown man with feet so small that a twelve year old boy could easily wear his boots? He must have looked a bit top heavy.

But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Billy’s the classic unreliable narrator and the genius boots are actually a form of denial. He has known loss in his young life; he’s an orphan and lives with his nan (who is ALWAYS losing his boots or taking them to Oxfam every other week). Maybe he doesn’t dare believe he is brill at footie, maybe it’s easier to say it’s the talented trainers. It hurts less if things don’t work out then.

Plus, saying you have magic boots means you don’t ever have to turn up for training – at half six on a cold and wet Sunday morning!

Or maybe this is all about the transient nature of childhood, and how precious it is to enjoy playing football with your chums while the days are still long and innocent – though the dark clouds slowly rise above the south stand; a reminder that one day adulthood and obligation will catch up with you (once the ‘magic boots’ no longer fit).

After all, Billy is clearly going to be his nan’s main carer by the time he’s in his mid-twenties. Responsibilty can’t be avoided forever.

I think I’ve been too hard on the little fella. Okay, live your fantasy, Billy Dane, enjoy those ‘magic boots’, before reality eventually kicks in.*

* Pun intended.

Dear Iron-Man

November 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

iron m2Dear Iron-Man

First of all, let me say a massive congratulations! What has gone on with you in recent years? Everybody loves you! It’s like you’re a different person! When I knew you, all those years ago, you were like the boring one in the group (no offence).

I think part of the issue was that the buddies you assembled round you were far more interesting and exciting than you (no offence). Actually are you still friends with that annoyingly patriotic kid, the blonde one? You two were inseparable; like two peas in a beige pod.

But look, I’m only saying this because the change in you really is marvellous. It’s like you’ve let the mask down and the guy inside is actually far more entertaining than any of us ever guessed. You used to be so grey, but now you’re golden!

I do remember you at parties, knocking back the tinnies, I guess you came out of your shell then. I hope that didn’t get out of control, mate. To be honest, some of us were a bit concerned at the time and considered holding an intervention for you at one point. Not because of the alcohol consumption, but for being so boring (no offence)!

Okay, I admit, you did tell the odd inventive story here and there, but generally the suspense killed us in most of your tales.

None of that matters now, eh? If you’ve maintained your capitalist outlook I assume you’re still pretty loaded – and with your new found popularity you must be feeling invincible! Unless you’ve still got your heart condition, in which case, I apologise.

Anyway, let me know if you fancy going to the cinema sometime, I know a few of my mates who’d be keen to join us.

See you soon,

Flix

Drawing From the Past Again

November 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

After some pleasant responses to my last set of drawings from the past I thought I’d go for a zequel. Again, some doodles from various jobs or speculative efforts drawn from the murky mists of time (or even the odd memory stick). And hey, I’ve even chucked in a rough pencil drawing. I’m really making myself vulnerable and opening up now. Be kind, dear digital friends. (Weak simpering smile.)swimmer1

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Drawing From the Past

November 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Many years ago I was a freelance illustrator. You may remember my work from such well-known publications as… er… as… (cough) indeed, they were heady days! The all-night parties, the beautiful women, the constantly flowing champagne and oodles of cash – yes, I illustrated all of those at one time or another.

In memory of that creative period, here’s a sampling of doodles, some that did and some that didn’t see print. It’s hard to remember which are which now after all those crazy late nights… lying in bed worrying about where the next job was coming from. Good times!ragnar150colourApanam4workshopparis5dalek

Showing Your Age

November 3, 2014 — 2 Comments

globalAThem kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it. And when I say kids, I mean kids of the Digital Age (should that be capitalised? I’ll check my History of Man wall chart later).

I remember, last century, when drawing comics was a lonely affair. Scrawling away, locked in a darkened room. Well, not locked, that’d be strange – and not darkened either (“Exactly, how would you draw?” Okay okay!). Sitting in a well-lit unlocked room. But definitely on your own. And far more on your own that we would even imagine today!

When I first started writing and drawing comics, I didn’t know anyone else who did (discounting my older brother). I knew SOME other children who read comics, but actually writing and drawing them, there was no one to my knowledge within a reachable vicinity who did such a thing. I’m sure they were there, but I didn’t know them (probably locked in darkened rooms somewhere).

It’s incredible thinking about it today, that you can tap a few simple words into your lap tablet or talking/listening device and find a whole world of other creators, just a mouse ride away.

When I originally self-published my stuff I had no idea how to get it under people’s noses (the original comics had a scratch n’ sniff promo). So I put adverts into the main UK comics journal at the time, Comics International. I sent some copies to reviewers that I’d seen in the main UK comics journal at the time, Comics International. I sold them to my friends, family and people in my church, who religiously read the main UK comics journal at the time, Comics International (see what I did there?). I sat in the small press section at the UKCAC 1997 comic convention feeling way out of my depth and slightly perplexed as to how I was actually going to shift all these boxes of pristine and freshly printed comics, that I’d rammed between the shaky legs of my trestle table.

To be fair I’m still thinking that today, except the boxes are now in the garage.

Of course, I’m not saying things would’ve turned out differently if Mr Internet had invented his global communicating machine at a more convenient time for me.

Alright, maybe I am saying that! Things would’ve been SO different if the internet had been around earlier! 1995 to be exact. Them digital kids don’t know how good they’ve got it!

(Do you like the way I bookended that? Thanks.)

RebelAAs a teenager, when I watched films and TV, read comics and books, I always found myself drawn to the lovable rogue, the misunderstood outsider, the non-conformist, the rebel, the mysterious loner. Characters often portrayed by the likes of James Dean, Paul Newman, Sir Clint Eastwood, Minnie the Minx et cetera.

I even aspired to be like them, I guess because they seemed ‘pretty cool’.

But, as I grew older, I quickly realised maintaining a rogue-ish persona actually ended up creating distance in relationships. And frankly, I couldn’t keep up the uninterested smouldering pose when I was genuinely upset and someone would ask, “What’s up, chum?” Inevitably I would crack and break down explaining how I’d left my Tricoloure textbook at home and French was our next lesson and that my Dad would kill me if he knew I’d scratched my new bike, which I shouldn’t have been riding as it wasn’t my actual birthday till Monday! The sort of issues I’m sure Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell would have identified with.

Admittedly in real life, if someone is held-in emotionally and can’t open up in relationships it’s generally because of some real hurt and pain from their past, rather than a pretend identity they’ve picked off the shelf because it’s ‘pretty cool’.

Nowadays I’m quite happy to be the opposite of a mistrusted maverick. (What would that be? A trusted team player?) I kinda’ feel sorry for characters like Wolverine or Batman. It seems until they can find some peace with their past they can never really mature as people.

I know, I know, they’re not real and I understand a popular fictional character in an ongoing series can’t ever really change, particularly when their audience appeal is so closely linked to their inner turmoil being maintained. (Which is a strange concept when you think about it – I KNOW, they’re not real people! But hey, Peter Andre is.)

Anyway, we can talk more about this subject another time, if you like. Peter Andre, that is.

P.S. Apologies to anyone who is not a teenager but still aspires to be like Wolverine. Let me know how it’s going.

Dear Spider-Man

October 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

imageDear Spider-Man

I hope you’re well. I know it’s been a while, I’m sorry I’ve not been in touch.

I hear your family has got a lot bigger since we last saw each other! It really has been a few years, hasn’t it?

I imagine you’ve changed, I know I have. It’s amazing thinking how much we used to have in common. We both had our geeky glasses wearing years, we both went through stages of wearing black all the time, even our luck with the ladies wasn’t dissimilar! I remember we both liked blondes, didn’t we? (Though none of my girlfriends died, or were cloned – as far as I know).

Are you still seeing the old crowd? Octavius, Norman, Eddie, Flint? I appreciate it’s hard to let some of them go, especially when they’re not great hanging out with other people. They’re kinda’ dependent on you, aren’t they? You’re their centre, really. I admit you were for me too, back then.

I used to look up to you a lot, like an older brother, I guess. I couldn’t wait to hear your stories and latest adventures. The genuine excitement and anticipation I used to feel, knowing we’d be meeting up. I do miss some of that magic.

But things change. I understand, for you, when you got married the focus changed, didn’t it? Responsibility and all that. To be fair, it’s unrealistic to expect things to stay exactly the same once you’re married. It just doesn’t sit right if you try to keep doing what was accepted in the past, when the present is no longer the same. I hope that’s working out for you, mate.

Anyway, maybe we’ll catch up soon. Feel free to swing by if you’re ever in the neighbourhood. I know you’re a popular fella, so no pressure, especially as I see you’ve got a whole lot of new friends since we last hung out. That’s cool. Nothing stays the same does it?

Give my love to your aunt.

Speak soon, ol’ chum.

Flix

Funny Guy, Eh?

October 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

I once tried my hand at gently whimsical humour (as opposed to my usual darkly nihilistic approach) with mixed results (for ‘mixed results’ read ‘no results’).  But anyway, here are a selection of those speculative one-spot cartoons, heavily influenced by the master of British whimsy, Nicolas Bentley. GagAGagBGagDGagC(For any Whovians out there, feel free to point out my visual error with the Dalek.)

Genesis

October 6, 2014 — 1 Comment

I remember sitting in a Sixth Form common room in 1992. Not because I was a sixth former but because I was in a church meeting! It was the sort of church that didn’t own its own building so the itinerant congregation would meet in various locations. A Sixth Form common room being one of them.

I don’t recall the content of what was being spoken but I do recall I was doodling. As I would often do, particularly in church meetings. But on this occasion, 22 years ago, this doodle was the start of something, the start of the greatest story ever told… sorry, I’m probably over stating the significance of this, possibly portentous, scrawl.

Basically I drew a woman, in sci-fi garb holding a ray gun! Being a big Ian Gibson fan (or more specifically Halo Jones) I was clearly drawn to women of the future! Pun intended. But it, I mean ‘she’, was soonly shaped and reworked into the character who would later become Diana; after a change of ethnicity and choice of weapon.

Looking back, I like to think the essence was there, of what-was-to-come, even in that initial little scrappy doodle. Or scooby doodle (sorry). Either way, it was a start, a beginning, a minor epiphany in a Sixth Form common room. (As Jarvis Cocker might say.)