Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ballad of Jack Palance

I see the story, The Ballad of Jack Palance taking place over 4 pages. I've posted the first half-page here so we can look at a point or two about colour and lettering. I've had lettering on my mind because the great Todd Klein was just interviewed for the Forbidden Planet International blog (a must read), and because editorial cartoonist Paul Fell was recently saying how much he hates the lettering on Achewood (you must be over 18 to view the adult-themed strip). Although Jay Nocera defended it, and cited no less than Achewood's creator Chris Onstad's own reasoning on the use of typefaces.

Here is the top half of page 1 then. This features a much younger me, in the bar with a friend, paying as much attention to people that were not me, as I did in those days.

I thought about it and I'm going to go for solid black lines and flat colours because it really suits the subject matter. The thing is set in the 1970s, which was the period in the UK where Mission-Brown slowly started to give way to colour in the lives of ordinary people, often garish, but such a welcome change, and takes place mainly inside pubs and features a strong-jawed cowboy, and it is a flat, matter-of-fact tale, so I'm looking for strong hard no-nonsense lines and flat pop-art colour.

So far, I'm lettering it very hap-hazardly and it isn't making me sick. That's because I know I can change it. I often use my crappy handwriting as a measure only, and letter using the computer; ironically, more often than not I use my own font. It's just because it's consistent, whereas when I write I whizz through it, invariably write smaller and smaller, and often get very bored. I am not the sort of patient soul a skilled letterer needs to be.

Now the font above is not my writing, it's a Comicraft font, but I'm using the letters as Vector shapes and placing each one individually so that I can rotate them and place them anywhere I wish. This is one of the reasons I keep a copy of Paintshop Pro around, in addition to Photoshop - it is really easy to letter with. In fact I keep 2 copies of Paintshop Pro around, one on the laptop and this old copy of PSP 7 here on the computer. The newer PSP is a bit bloatware for my liking.

Once the thing is ready to go into a PDF file (we are trying to find a way to store it so that you can download the mini-comic for free) I'll decide whether my handwriting should be the spontaneous scrawl, or be typed. I don't mind either, but if I could concentrate well enough to make my writing consistent, I'd probably go with my handwriting more often.

Excusable Schadenfreude (A POLITICAL BREAK)

I think there must be a certain amount of excusable schadenfreude amongst the 51% of Americans who tried to keep that dimwit out of the White House. It's a difficult balance though, with the horror; I suppose. I just watched The Colbert Report, I can't believe Henry Paulson, US Treasury Secretary, tried to blame "future administrations" for screwing up the economy - on the other hand, he does look like he comes from the future.

Over here the spineless Gordon Brown has been throwing money at the problem, not just without checks and balances, but without a single care. Tonight, more than ever, he sounded like a robot that had gone haywire, repeating the same phrase about he, the Chancellor, and the Governor of the Bank of England. He kept saying they would look after the tax payer by sneakily nationalizing banks on the fly, and letting the good debts sneak out the bank door and allowing the cretins in charge of the lame-duck businesses keep their huge bonuses. I personally think he has lost the plot completely.

Speaking of the spineless one, I hope nobody thinks that Energywatch is being scrapped as a concession to the Power Companies' in return for their half-arsed plan to cough up nothing but a little cladding, at some point, for some people, instead of one single penny in windfall tax. Surely even he isn't really that useless. The spineless one really would do well to ask Sarah Palin how she got the energy companies to part with money.

The next local election here in Scotland will see Labour crash to a new low. The politicians of all parties would do well to heed that this is not so much an anti-Labour, anti-Brown vote, it is an anti-being screwed by all politicians vote. If the public could put "none of the above", they would.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm at the final pencil stages of 2 pieces that I'm going to send over to Joe at Forbidden Planet International's Blog, but these are slightly different, they are going to be illustrated stories (if he doesn't hate them, of course). Both stories are about Edinburgh, sort of. The first one is called The Ballad of Jack Palance. I've attempted to illustrate this story before but I've never quite managed it and I'm surprised and delighted that I've got it together enough to put it down on paper.

The Ballad of Jack Palance is a true story. A friend of mine was refurbishing the flat above Greyfriars Bobby's Bar, in Edinburgh. The pub sits opposite the statue in commemoration of Bobby, at the top of the very old street know as Candlemaker's Row, which leads down into Edinburgh's Grassmarket; the real old Edinburgh streets. To the side of the pub is the pathway up to Greyfriars Church, where, amongst other people, Bobby's master, John Gray, was buried, and that is also where you'll find the door that leads to the stairs that lead up to the flat above the pub. The flat is reputed to be haunted.

Anyway, back in the day, my friend was, as I say, renovating the flat above the bar, and he casually mentioned, to our utter astonishment and disbelief, that he had been drinking with Jack Palance - evil Jack Wilson from the movie Shane (the fantastic Welcome to Blood City was a few years away), in the bar. When it finally sank in that he was telling the truth, that Jack Palance was in the pub filming a documentary on the story of Greyfriars Bobby, I just had to go for a look-see. Come on, a haunted flat in ancient Edinburgh, a Hollywood movie star, how could anyone resist? I certainly couldn't, and this is the story about what happened that day.

The second story will feature some of the old pubs and clubs in Edinburgh. I stumbled across the Edinburgh Gig Archive site and I found some amazing memory-Viagra, which Simon is kindly letting me draw into the story. I suppose when you are in the centre of things, albeit in a very small way, you don't notice what is going on around you. In retrospect, Edinburgh was pretty lively back then. Of course, as a club-DJ I slept most days and worked 6 or 7 nights of the week, and I suppose a lot of the excitement passed me by. And, of course, I was on a huge ego-trip (and the less said about anything else the better), so no doubt if I wasn't there (I did get a good few freebies, so I often was there), it wasn't happening.

This place won't feature in the story, but it's the pub I got arrested in when I was a teenager; for underage drinking. I'm afraid both Lisbeth and I got caught that night, and charged, and we were fined £5 each. I was wearing 5" platform heels, making me about 6 1/2 feet tall, and a bright yellow suit (honestly) and I had orange hair, and I think Lisbeth looked really weird - so we were kind of a big target. After the cops let us go we went for a Chinese meal and had some beer with it (a tip from the cops).

This place, on the other hand, will be in the story. This is the dance hall my old friend Flash Harry worked. Flash was a great DJ, but he left to join Rosetta Stone before he morphed into Gregory Gray and then Mary (Chemical God) Cigarettes, and Curtis Fraser took over. I loaned the place a lot of records when they hosted the Cheynes Hairdressing show, and they stole them.

Hah, this place was indeed The West End Club. My cousin Allan and I, along with Dougie Nelson and Derek Clark all hung out here when we were in the final year or so at school - I know, it's such a bad example. We worked at the Caledonian Hotel and spent a lot of time at this place drinking large bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, at 25p a bottle. The old Clouds DJ Sergio took over the place and he used to play the stuff we liked. I think Cafe Jacques hung out there - it's all a bit hazy. Although, I have a pretty clear memory of my cousin Allan getting it on in a most uninhibited fashion with a spectacularly attractive young French woman. She couldn't speak a word of English, but that's moot, she couldn't speak a word of anything, on account of the snogging-machine that was stuck on her face.

Now this one requires a little imagination. If you look through the gap there, at the side of the church, that's the corner at the West End, just along to the left was a club called Fagin's. I worked there for a while as a DJ. It was small, but it had its moments.

I must say I'm tempted to make a sort of Seth-like cardboard model of the city. In fact I think I may. Again, I am obliged to Edinburgh Gig Archive for the pics', I'll try to do them justice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Astro Boy - The Mighty Atom

Oh man, I love this. It's the live-action movie of Astro Boy, which I've scaled down and truncated and reduced to these teeny snippets – which are still incredibly enjoyable. For many of you, the creator of Astro Boy, Kimba, Black Jack, and numerous other titles, Osamu Tezuka needs no introduction, but I'll provide a sort one for anyone new to his work.

Often credited with creating the present form of Manga comics, Osamu Tezuka produced hundreds of different titles and well over 100,000 comic pages (reputedly 150,000). He began his comics career in 1946 with the Osaka edition of Shokokumin Shinbun (now the Mainichi Shogakusei Newspaper), drawing Diary of Ma-chan, whilst still a medical student at Osaka University. A year later his comic, Shin Takarajima appeared, and in 1950 his creation Jungle Taitei, was published in Shonen Magazine. What was to become his greatest creation, Atom(Astro Boy), the jet-propelled robot boy, appeared for the first time as a secondary character in Shonen's adventures of Captain Atom, in the early 1950s. Eventually though, the star of the story broke free, and Astro Boy, along with Shonen's other robotic star turn, Gigantor, became hugely popular and Astro Boy began his rise from bit-part player to cultural icon, and Japanese Government spokesperson.

Set in a world where androids happily live amongst human beings, the story of Astro Boy features the adventures of a powerful robot, created by the head of the Ministry of Science, Doctor Tenma (the later doctor from Uraswa's Monster is an homage). Originally, Doctor Tenma creates the robot to replace the son he lost in a car accident, but realises the futility of the task, and with more than a nod to Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, Astro ends up in the hands of a cruel circus owner. Eventually Astro is rescued from the circus by the new head of the Ministry of Science, who becomes his legal guardian, and Astro uses his robotic superpowers to fight evil, crime and injustice and giant evil robots.

I love comic work that looks like comic work, you know, with white out, and address labels patching the paper, and razor scrapings to remove ink. It illustrates the thought-process of the cartoonist, and shows that the cartoonist has his or her eye on the final goal; publication - and it shows us how the final printed image is already perfect in the cartoonist's mind-eye. Osamu Tezuka was famous for working and reworking his original drawings and if you ever do get the chance to see them, take it, you will find it a rewarding experience. In the meantime, however, you can make do with the original comics and Dark Horse publishes English editions of the original Astro Boy, and has some really nice preview scans on their website.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Minicomics Essay part 3 of 3

Hey there. Joe has posted my final piece on minicomics, part 3 of 3, on the Forbidden Planet International blog. I'm quite pleased with the thing overall because I think it kind of stuck to the theme all the way through. Hopefully it'll help someone, at some point. My thanks to Gerry Mooney, Stik, Jay Nocera, and others.

Up is Down, Down is Up. The Bizarro World of Politics

I decided to give you a cartoon, today. I felt inspired by the sudden desire for Socialism in the US. Of course the Socialism that is being practised is limited, with only the debts of the super-rich being nationalised, and the profits of the super-rich remaining privatised. It's a similar deal over here, with our left-wing Prime Minister Gordon Brown being too ineffectual to slap a windfall tax on the the power companies, unlike the rabid, Right-Wing Vice-Presidential contender, Sarah Palin, who squeezed them by the gonads and ensured a nice little payment for her people. Maybe the Right in the US are very much to the Left of the Left over here. Isn't politics bizarre, and funny? Unless of course you are one of the hundreds of pensioners who will freeze to death in Britain this year. Gordon really is, in the words of Jilted John (Shuttleworth), a moron.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mike Lynch interviewed by Mister Media

My friend and fellow cartoonist, Mike Lynch was interviewed by Mister Media (click this link to hear the Podcast) on Friday. I was impressed by Mike's memory for the things he said earlier in the interview and how he managed to relate later questions and answers back to what he had said before; because it was live and because when these things are live, like lectures, it can be a little like being dragged in many directions by a team of wild horses. Any beginning-cartoonists would be wise to listen to the Podcast and if possible, to download it and listen to it more than once.

I've been a fan of Mike's cartoons from the moment I saw them. When he draws domestic situations they seem very contemporary to me, very now, and that is something that a lot of cartoonists can't capture. But he also has a bizarre, surreal, twist to his humour that allows him to tap into recognised cartoon tropes and add a new twist to them; as this mixture of whimsical fairytale and modern political practices illustrates so well.

Copyright, Mike Lynch, 2008. Visit Mike's Blog to see more cartoons.

I do like lots of cartoonists, but I have a special affection for just a few, as cartooning is a business full of people who are simply either 'space-fillers' (they produce the sort of unremarkable cartoons that editors use to fill white gaps in the text) or insiders who, frankly, will never sell a cartoon outside a publication staffed by the people they went to school with.

As for entering cartooning as a profession, well, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, I would caution you about one or two unknowns that "you don't know, that you don't know". For instance, this can be a problematic profession and the lie that humour is "subjective" (so there's no such thing as universal humour or worldwide releases for comedy movies then?) is often used as an excuse for the continued publication of work that is demonstrably sub-standard, and the rejection of cartoons that subsequently sell elsewhere and meet with acclaim. The phrase "it wasn't right for us" is of course a hollow-sounding, transparently dishonest declaimer that allows certain individuals a get-out clause and that allows them to exploit educational affiliations, social affiliations, sharing the same agent, and much, much more insidious relationships, determine whether or not work is accepted. It is an unacceptable state of affairs that would be outlawed by a variety of anti-discrimination laws that would almost certainly apply were all cartoonists not work-for-hire and/or freelancers who dare not upset the applecart.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dear God, Look at that Photo.

Over there, on the profile. Ye Gods! I usually avoid any recent photos, I haven't taken a good photo in years. But that Wilbur wanted me to put my goatee out there after I told Steve Bright that he and I were sort of generic-looking cartoonists with our goatees and our specs, and I did it as a sort of madcap show of solidarity - and also because I claimed my goatee was really distinguished. But it was late and I had the lights turned down and then I fired the camera at me; and well, it's hard to believe, but that is the best photo of the three I took. Nightmare! As Nigel Sutherland kindly pointed out I have little piggy eyes in that photo - well actually I have little piggy eyes all the time, what can you do?

Actually, I wanted two things while I was growing up, I wanted a round window, like Doctor Strange's window, and I wanted gray hair at the sides, like Doctor Strange. I mean I also wanted to be able to do all the magic and stuff, but I wanted the gray hair more. Well, I've got it now - two out of three ain't bad.

Not To Do List:

I swore I would stop watching TV ahead of schedule after I raced ahead with Dexter Season 2, but I didn't. I've watched Weeds Season 3, (Did you know that cartoonist Tony Millionaire's wife is one of the stars of Weeds? She's really good, very funny) which has the greatest season finale in TV history, and 4 now, which is anti-climactic, but then how could any ending compete with the ending of season 3? And I've seen the Dexter Season 3 preair because I couldn't resist it. I'm really annoyed with myself for doing this. It's just that I really want to see the things and they get here so late, you know, we could all be dead by then.

I've been a Mary-Louise Parker fan for ages. I've admitted that I watch chick-flicks and I have a copy of Fried Green Tomatoes, but whilst I like her performance in Boys on the Side, it's a very sad movie and doesn't work as a background piece while I work. She is utterly fantastic in Weeds and it's such a sustained performance over all those hours. Actually the entire cast is brilliant.

Oh here's a to-do, it is 1.10 am and the pea-brained morons working on Fettes Prep school are using a buzz saw. If they are lucky the police will get to them before I do. This is the front of Fettes, the half-wits are working on the Prep-school round the back. The fictional James Bond went to Fettes and the non-fictional Tony Blair did too. I think the people who refer to it as 'the rich mans list D' are just unkind. Hopefully the students have better manners than their ignorant parents who think they can park wherever they wish - they are the most ghastly people. If this night-time nonsense keeps up I'm going to knock-up the Bursar wearing my jimjams and bellow, 'shut the fuck up - I'm on night shift'.

Oh yeah, do something about My Life as a Life Obstacle. Hmmn, I'm kind of bored with it, but it's a weekly so it won't kill me. I actually have a real strip, just about finished. By which I mean I've done the first 50 strips and I've inked the first 24 of those. I don't know what I'll do with it. I may go the conventional route because I think it is really good - much to my surprise. I say that because I didn't plan it out at all, I just sat down and started drawing in. Hmmm.

Oh, and King of the Hill. Comedy genius, brilliant, fantastic, suuuper. I buy the box sets over here but we are at season 4 or 5 or something. I've been watching season 12, it's funnier than ever. It has to be one of the best things on TV and there is some stiff competition.

And then there's the BBC series, Pulling. You know, I've been watching the entire thing again and they are all completely awful people. The series is utterly brilliant. They are frighteningly real and way, way too convincing as drunks. It was co-written by Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly and stars Sharon Horgan as Donna, Tanya Franks as Karen, Rebekah Staton as Louise and Cavan Clerkin as Karl. Can't wait for season 3.

Before I forget, yesterday's Times had a couple of articles that caught my eye, one was about University students being "taught to get up in the morning". Give Students Lessons on how to get up in the Morning, Business tells Universities, by Times Education Editor, Alexandra Frean; Sounds daft, right? It's not, I went to University 40 miles away from my home and it cost me more than it should have in terms of time, sleep, energy, and, importantly, money, because the majority of students are lazy bastards and the staff of my university in particular, Stirling, were thick. Here's what used to happen when you signed up for classes, you added your name to the note on the tutor's door, and of course the first names on the list were the people who stayed on campus, and the people who stayed on campus avoided ALL the EARLY classes - except on Fridays. If they had to turn up on Friday, they took the earliest classes, so they could get drunk sooner. People like me, who chose not to live on campus, had to attend all the 9am classes which meant getting into Stirling Town in time for 8ish, which meant getting, at the latest, a 7.30am train, which meant having to pay the most expensive train-fare and not the reduced cost for travelling after the 7am to 9am peak period. And on Friday, well on Friday's people like me had to attend the latest classes on offer.

Stirling University is probably one of many that unfairly favours resident students by its policy of a free-for-all when it comes to attending classes.

So here is a thought. The students who have to travel to University and not just fall out of bed and roll into a classroom should get to join up for classes first and the students who live minutes away from the classrooms should get second dibs, and should be "encouraged" to attend the morning classes. I mean its not rocket science, if you spend 4 years avoiding getting up in time for 9am classes actually having to get out of bed at 6am will be a bit of a culture shock.

The only time the lazy shits are "expected" to get out of bed is for exams and of course they also get unfairly advantaged on those days because while the travelling students are jammed-up on peak-hour trains and buses, the campus sloths are getting extra cramming time. To say the University staff were always unsympathetic and unhelpful would be an understatement. Honest to God, the lunatics are running the asylum. I can't link to the article because the Times online search engine is useless.

The other article was a paragraph by Mathew Parris from his My Week column (I can't believe it, I'm on to the cartooning part at last) where he talks about the 5am fire alarm that caused the Royal Bath Hotel to be evacuated at 5am on Monday morning. It's the Liberal Democrats conference of course, so the place is crawling with journalists and apparently the Times Editorial cartoonist Peter Brookes, who unlike the barefooted journalists and pyjama wearing hacks, Mathew spotted wearing a "theatrical black Fedora". Well, what the Editor of the paper should do is take that "theatrical black Fedora" from Peter Brookes head and thrash him soundly with it because his cartoon in yesterday's Times was pointless, lazy, unoriginal, uninspired and stupid - and frankly, a waste of paper. Again, I can't link to it because the searches don't make sense. Put it this way, it's not quite as bad as the Gordon Brown in a Damien Hirst fish tank cartoon that was so unoriginal that the Edinburgh Evening News's "cartoonist" Frank Boyle (very embarrassing work), and others, also used the same dull motif.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One of the World's Greatest Living Artists

Damien Hirst. Don't be stupid! (Be warned, this is a post of absolutes.)

Damien Hirst is not an artist, Damien Hirst makes antiques for super-rich people. The notion that people of limited artistic ability who learn a little about technique, and a little about Art History, at Art College, suddenly become gifted artists is absolute crap; and the art-world that perpetuated that notion has now had the rug pulled from under its feet by one of the people it inflated. Good! The recent hugely financially successful auction of Hirst's "art works" illustrates that Hirst is no artist, but is a gifted antique designer with a string of Russian Oligarchs and Saudi Sheiks willing to buy what he makes.

If artists were judged on the fortunes they make, Vincent Van Gough would have been piss-poor because he was piss-poor. The only person who ever bought one of Vincent's paintings was his brother Theo. Art is about so much more than money, and Damien Hirst is about so much less than art. If you want an antique, have him make one for you, or get one from Tarcey Emin. No, the world's greatest figurative artist is Lucien Freud, and one of the world's greatest "artists" is Robert Crumb. Now you can call him a "graphic artist" or a "comic artist" (not sure about that one), or put him into any other pigeon-hole you want, but whatever you want to call him, Crumb is one the world's greatest living artists.

Copyright Robert Crumb

The World's greatest living magazine or "gag"cartoonist, on the other hand, is Gahan Wilson. For decades Gahan Wilson has honed his craft and his cartoons, particularly his macabre Playboy cartoons, are works of art. Is this in any doubt in your mind? If there is then you should buy the new 3-volume collection of Gahan's Playboy cartoons to be published by Fantagraphics in time for Halloween 2009, and all such doubts will be dispelled. I am so looking forward to having this. I might have wangled a review copy if I wasn't such an obvious fanboy and it wasn't already guaranteed to be such a huge success.

I actually got a package of artwork back from Playboy yesterday, by FedEx (I had my nose pressed against the window, like a demented puppy-dog as the van swung into the driveway), thank you J - so the magazine was on my mind, and that coincided with the news that Fantagraphics and Playboy are to publish a large collection of Gahan's work, and suddenly the dreach Scottish weather - that kills us, apparently, broke and a little MS destroying sunshine flooded into my life.

Copyright Playboy Publications, from the Playboy Gallery of some of Gahan's cartoons.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Yeah, 'Tidbits', now you can see why I'm not covering the problems below in this post.

I'm been writing a 3-part piece on The Changing Face of Minicomics on The Forbidden Planet International Blog. The first part is in relation to some discussions we have had on The Comics Journal Forum about minicomics and the second part features comic work by Gerry (Sister Mary Dracula) Mooney* and Bill 'Stik' Greenhead's World of Cow cartoons. The third part will have details about price of producing your own comic, or making use of POD.

Go to Gerry's Mooneyart site for details. The 'sistermarydracula.com' site is not there yet, and it's a really irritating add that traps you on the site and won't let you back-button out (I hate that!).

I was talking with Playboy cartoonist Mike Lynch about roughs. I send roughs to publications and Mike sends finished cartoons, you can do either, as long as the Cartoon Department you're sending to doesn't insist on one or the other.

Just to clear things up, because 'Literally Hundreds of People'* have emailed me about how 'rough' my roughs are ( those of you familiar with the code here know that probably means I've had one email). Of course I'm tempted to say my 'roughs' are 'dead hard; really, really, rough', but they are pretty close to being the finished article - it's just that because they are still pencil drawings, and not yet inked, I can change the parts the Editor might want changed, more easily.

If no changes are required, I don't actually have to ink the thing, I can adjust the drawing on the computer to darken the pencil lines to very black and the grey pencil-smudged ares to white. But I really like inking.

Of course some publications can, and do, publish the pencil drawing, and I think, at times, that it looks better than the inked one because the pencil work really is a sketch of the idea as it happens, rather than a cold-blooded execution of a commercial idea; if you get my drift. Put it this way, it's more spontaneous.

More Bean Bag Issues

I'm beginning to think this is the seminal (calm down) unacknowledged unspoken issue of the male cartoonist's life. My Bean-Bag is still acting up, I'm in some pain.

I got this no-back, ergo-something poncey computer stool made of hard black plastic and shaped like a saddle, with an upturned fist-shaped curve that sits between your legs. It's great advantage was that I could ride around the house on it like Fred Flintstone, leg-rowing my way from the drawing table through to the computer. However, sitting on it wearing a particular pair of jeans, with a large lumped knot around the scrote area, has damaged my sack and I'm going to have to whip the boys out at the local surgery, which makes for a very unpleasant thought for all concerned. I'm kneeling here typing this in order to avoid sitting on the lads. Of course, as a fully affiliated hypochondriac I'm imagining them having to come off, and all other kinds of horrible nastiness.

I don't care how tender a subject it is, I'm advising all male cartoonists in future, to choose what they sit on very carefully.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dark Matter, Mini-Black Holes, and Tiny Event Horizons.

Why "Dark Matter, Mini-Black Holes, and Tiny Event Horizons"? Well, that's because I've been watching the news coverage of Cern's LHC and I can't hear any details of the above being mentioned. What I did see was a "Rap Video" made by scientists (that really dispelled the notion of science geeks), but no details at all about what the boffins are looking for - so I thought I'd fill in some details.

They are trying, in October, to create a mini Big Bang, and a teeny universe; so that has to mean tiny clumps of Dark Matter, and mini-Black Holes with teeny Event Horizons. They are doing this because they are testing their theories on the Higgs Boson particle and String Theory, the Multiverse, Parallel Universes, and Time Travel*. But you probably won't hear that foregrounded on the news programmes because they are focusing on the phrase "conditions after the Big Bang". Any mention of "Black Holes" will be answered by the stock answer "the things we are doing merely reflect the sort of conditions that bombard the Earth every day". That's alright then, as long as you enjoy being patronised, you should be quite happy with that response. I know I am.

So, for a more scientific look at these things, I dug out Peter Maddocks's 4D Jones comic strip. I really liked 4D (4th Dimension) Jones, it combined all the elements I enjoyed, comic drawings, humour, chaos, time travel, and strangeness. The strip appeared in the Daily Express for 10 years, from 1955 until 1965 and featured a cowboy, Jones, with a manhole cover, or time-hoop, which he jumped through to travel into the fourth dimension. The strip was dropped from the Daily Express for a time, but public outrage brought it back and Peter Maddocks was hired as the paper's Cartoon Editor to boot, a development he put down to the paper's shock that the public cared enough about a comic strip to complain when it was pulled (that may be apocryphal). The strip remains one of the very few successful indigenous British comic strips.

Peter Maddocks went on, years later, to entertain a new generation with his animated The Family Ness, a series about a family of Loch Ness Monsters.

*I solved a couple of paradoxes on Time Travel on the Cartoonist Club of GB's forum. Either because it is impossible, or because it was agreed, one cannot travel back in time to a time before the Time Machine was invented. Therefore, the reason why Time Travellers have not visited us, is because the Time Machine has not been invented yet, at this precise moment in time. At this precise second, Time Travel does not exist, one second from now it might - the past begins at that point. There, simple, eh? Cartoonist solves time conundrum while blogging "I had a spare moment from the much more taxing job of thinking up cartoons"...he said". Sorry for the confusion, this has nothing to do with the strip. I just thought I'd help the boffins out of a dilema. Rod.

These are from a booklet printed by John Dakin who used to get me all my cartoon publications from London and the US in the old days. I can't find the first couple of pages, at the moment, but I think John interviewed Peter for the piece. It's a nice little home-made tribute. I'm trying to remember, but we'll call it copyright, Peter Maddocks and add, or maybe Express Newspapers. I couldn't find any mention of the strips online, but I see a band has called themselves 4D Jones.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rummaging Through the Comics Box

I've been rummaging through the comics box looking out stuff for a fellow enthusiast, and I came across something I had long forgotten I had.

This little Comics Media No2, was published and edited by Nick Landau and it had, for me, a sort of underground mincomic appeal, even thought it dealt largely with mainstream subjects. It has a nice little glossy cover, but inside it looks like it was tapped out on an old Royal Diana typewriter and the photo of Frank Dickens looks like it was cut-out of a newspaper. I was never a great fan of Frank Dickens and Bristow, mainly because I thought it was badly drawn and not funny, so I had to look beyond the cover and the main interview, but to be honest I was always going to buy it because it was a homegrown publication that was taking comics seriously.

Design-wise, it looks like a massive leap from this publication to something like my copy of Garth, published by Landau's company, Titan Books; but design is something you can fix with a decent budget, and the enthusiasm for comics so clearly displayed in this little gem, an element you cannot improve or create with any amount of money, meant the leap was not, in retrospect, so very large.

The thing covered Superman, Dick Tracy's cast of characters, and even featured some illustrations and reviews; it crammed a lot in. My favourite pieces in this one are, and where at the time, Ron Bennett's article on the comics market of Singapore*, Lord of his Domain (with its Dave Gibbons banner), Politics in Comics, by Paul Marcus, and Landau's own A Poor Man's Golden Age.

*As a kid, everytime we got some sort of geography lesson I would drift off wondering what sort of superhero comics they had in that country.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Misfits

Speaking of my cousin Allan, he is always terrified that I'll open my big gob and say something completely inappropriate about the past...well, I'm not like that now. Look, here is a short piece about Clouds Disco and it is just a sweet little story, besides, I'm sure everyone he works beside will already know that he was a 70s fashion icon and a male go-go-dancer.

To Do, Again.

Email the brilliant Tobias Tak!

Send out some cartoons!

Finish a strip!

Post a new MLAALO!

My cousin Allan posted something on the blog here about tenses, but I can't find where the thing is. He is sort of like Niles Crane in that respect, you know, if he was being mugged he'd correct the person's grammar; "it's actually a hold-up not a "stick-up".

If he ever did graffiti, he would have puzzled over it for hours and eventually have written Allan is Here; that's because Allan Wuz Here would have been wrong on so many levels.

Actually, it is probably a family trait, I'm a bit like that. Reminds me of a time I was teaching at a school in the middle of nowhere. One of the teacher's wasn't at all sure whether he should punish the boy who shouted "Classics is shite" because he had, after all, not made the mistake of shouting "Classics are shite" which meant the statement was at least grammatically correct.