Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the Vault - Zool(1994)

Some say they that art was all they ever wanted to do. They were called to it. Pursuing their dream with teeth-gritted determination and fiery passion - but I never set out to make drawing my career path. If i had a 'secret origin', I'd say it happened by accident.
There was a time at junior school I was convinced I'd end up working for Disney or Hana Barbera, I thought it'd be easy to do. I was very na├»ve to the painfully laborious process involved, I thought you'd just draw a few pretty pictures then some machine 'filled in' the rest (which has sorta come true). Didn't know anything about hand-painting cells and the thousands of drawings involved, I just loved cartoons, and wanted to make them 'when I grew up'.
Don't get me wrong, I always loved comics, started to read them around the age of 4, and started to draw my own not long after. But i just did them for fun and to pass time at the back of maths class. Then i started to grow pubic hairs and notice girls and lost ALL interest in a career or planning my future. I just wanted to muck around with my mates and Debbie Everard.
Then i wanted to be Joe Strummer or Captain Sensible, that didn't happen. Then i wanted to be Sam Raimi or Luci Fulci, that didn't happen. Was left rather disenchanted.  Felt lost and unfocused and needed some creative outlet, some way to get stuff outta my head.
...and I just started drawing again. It really gave me a powerful buzz! So much so I went and enrolled at art school
Which, other than meeting a coupla like-minded souls who became good friends, wasn't time well spent. Eventually, almost as a reaction to the bitter blinkered poseurs who attempted to teach me how to draw - and what to draw - i walked away from college and set up as a 'freelance artist'. Didn't know what the fuck i was doing, but it felt the right choice. And certainly preferable to getting a 9 to 5 'proper job'.

Then fate/uncanny good timing landed me the dream-gig of drawing Mr. X for Vortex Comics. It all happened very fast. Waaay too fast! And because of reckless stuff i was doing in my personal life - it ended just as fast. From then on my career stalled and spluttered, and often left me unemployed without a penny to rub.

Early 90's was the lowest, lowest point. I was so close to packing it all in but then along came Zool - The Alien Ninja from The Nth Dimension.

Boxtree publishing had the rights to produce a series of illustrated book adventures featuring Zool, an early video game rival to Mario. Somewhere I'd bumped into Ian Edginton (writer of Scarlet Traces and Stickleback) who dug what i did with Mr.X. We shook hands, talked old comics, and weeks/months later he called asking if i wanted to team-up on the first Zool.

I was busy moving house at the time, having a relationship meltdown, and finishing up a bunch of samples/pitches. Chaos! But hungry for a good break - i leaped at the chance!
It was mostly a nightmare: tight deadlines, working all hours, waiting for a book that sometimes arrived in chapters or a few paragraphs at a time, re-writes, re-thinks, re-draws, frequent squabbles, and an editor who thought he could write it better - which he could not.
...and getting all money owed took over 4 months of letters and phone calls, and finally an actual threat to turn up at the office with violent intent (they paid two days later). Friction with the writers and leaving an editor cowering under his desk helped lose me the follow up gig, which added new misery and disillusionment.

But, looking at it now, with less jaded eyes, I'm really glad i did it. It's a fun book, set me some new challenges and helped develop/fine tune a new, more 'cartoony' style, prepping me for Rock and Roll High School a few months later.
Here's the choice cuts...

Friday, April 24, 2009

From The Tomb - Needs your Vote!

On the end of the phone or boozing at conventions, I often end up in the middle of that conversation, the one about the lack of choice/not enough variety in the comic shops. When i have, it always concludes the same; 'if you don't buy the 'alternative', you'll end up without one'.
And right now, Diamond Distribution are having a good go at removing the 'alternative'. They've recently raised the purchase order benchmark for comics and magazines from $1500 to $2500, which effectively means they want the smaller publishers to sell more books or raise the cover price(this in the middle of a recession). There's a few exceptions, and they're willing to consider a period of probation in certain cases, but basically if they don't reach that benchmark, they don't get in Previews and don't get distribution.
I'm not naive, i understand a business has to adapt to survive, and it's no surprise that Diamond are about making money, not encouraging or supporting artistic expression. But along with it comes a massive power shift, because, technically, they're vetting the small sellers, measuring their worth - they're deciding what YOU read. Well, at the very least deciding what you'll see on the shelves.
You're gonna get less choice than ever, cus the small press guys are sinking fast, some already sunk, and you're also gonna get less publishers willing to spend the time putting out a new book if there's no way to distribute.
What to do? It's really very simple, you gotta vote with your money. No point crying after another book/magazine is cancelled. If all you see is the same crap on offer, that's partly your own fault. And if your solution to solving the problem of an over-polluted wall of superhero comics is just not buying any comics, then that's no solution, that's a cop-out.
I know print isn't cheap, but maybe you just buy a coupla pints less one Saturday night, maybe buy less Marvel or DC crossover epic tie-in spin-offs, maybe you don't have that bucket of chicken or maybe walk to town instead of drive. Spend a few quid on something new, just the once, see if it presses your buttons. Cus if you don't, fuckers like Diamond, will choke all the life outta the medium.

That brings me to From The Tomb.

Peter Normanton has quietly toiled away, in his dungeon, for 10 years or so on 27 issues of this glorious, gaudy, gory, blood-stained love letter to the lurid delights of horror comics. I was gutted to hear of it's cancellation, then elated to find it had dodged the hangman's noose. But doesn't mean it'll be easy for Peter to keep on going, not without some support, not without subscriptions. I'm constantly bemused by friends who profess a passionate interest in the horror genre, but don't buy the mag.
With a strong bias for the more gratuitous pre-code horrors, beautiful full colour inserts reproducing covers and pages from rare and obscure horror comics, interviews, checklists, review sections, new and old comic strips, and a EC-MC tongue in cheek wit and relish, you should have NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER! Really. Come on! In fact you should feel a little ashamed. Get you cheque book out, or bug your spotty-faced till-boy at Forbidden Planet to order it in. GO ON!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lux Interior RIP

Lux Interior, the ferocious frontman of garage punk/psychobilly band, The Cramps, died on February 4th, as a result of an existing heart condition. When i heard the sad news i wanted to pay tribute, but at the time i was far too busy wrestling deadlines(still am, but they're not the vice-like intensity kind).

A lot of you may never of heard Lux sing/perform, and I'm quite sure a lot of you wouldn't want to, but i loved the guy, and the band. They were a vivid and pivotal part of my youth; with their sexy, sleazy, growling, howling surf sound, mixed with b-movie trash aesthetics and shclock horror lyrics, it seemed like some mad scientist had sewn them together for my personal pleasure. And Lux, Lux was like some amphetamine-crazed voodoo preacher crossed with a rubber clad Elvis from Planet X, truly magnetic and deliciously, monstrously deranged.
And he looked great in stilettos.

I only ever had one opportunity to see The Cramps, and i blew it. Not got many regrets, but that's a biggy. But you can see the midnight man at work over at; http://www.thedailyswarm.com/headlines/cramps-lux-interior-rip/

I raise a blood-filled goblet to you, Lux - give em hell!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Eternal Warrior by Paul Grist

A few days ago by chance/accident, i discovered that Paul Grist, writer, artist and creator of the wonderful Jack Staff, has quietly set up a blog. A blog purely to showcase - page by page - a new work in progress; The Eternal Warrior.
Yes! - FREE comics from Paul Grist. You don't have to part with a penny/cent, there's no catch. FREE comics from Paul Grist.
Paul Grist.

So, if you're going cold turkey waiting for the next issue of Jack Staff, or never heard of the ridiculously talented Mr.Grist, then drop everything and hurry your arse over to; http://www.bigcosmiccomic.blogspot.com/

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Channel Evil - Preview Pages

The first issue of Channel Evil is about to be released across the land. Should be in comic stores next week, well, if your comic store has ordered copies. It's not an easy sell; a new book from an Indy publisher, in black and white, without any superheroes or vigilantes, even with Alan Grant writing. But I'm optimistic that enough readers will spread the word.
Artists aren't really supposed to blow their own trumpet (last time i tried i put my back out) but i feel comfortable in saying that this is the most pleased I've EVER felt about my art. It's the closest I've got to realising the 'look' i have in my head, still not exact, but not far off.
Wasn't easy, I suffered a plague of technical gremlins, crippling doubts and an OCD mania. So bad i was close to jacking comics in for good.
It was mostly due to my obsessive quest for the 'right line' and the 'right shape'. I don't do all that photo-realistic stuff, or lots of flashy feathering and crosshatching, and my art might look simplistic to many. But i spend a LOT of time planning a page, before and during drawing. It's very measured and carefully constructed. Choosing what to leave out is equally as straining as all that detailed realism or complex penwork. It is to me, anyway.
With Channel Evil I'm trying to stew it all down even more, trying to draw comics that have an immediate effect on the senses, art that adds more depth to the story, in a style that 'bends' the form to maximum effect - with the most minimum of fuss.
I'm not gonna win any new fans with this series, cus i don't do comics how most comics are done, my 'cartoony' art alienates as many as it attracts. But I'm fine with that, doing 'house style' or pandering to fads and trends is something i gave up with acne and bondage trousers.

I'll shut up now, let you look at some pictures.