Friday, December 31, 2010

Albums of the year 4-1

4 HALCYON DIGEST - Deerhunter

"Desire Lines"

3 BEFORE TODAY - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

"Bright Lit Blue Skies"

2 THE AGE OF ADZ - Sufjan Stevens

"Too Much"

2010 was a good year for albums, but I think this would have led the list any year it was released. Full of interesting melody, complicated song structures, and experimental without ever being painful, I got something new out of it every time I listened. I was sorry to hear that the band ended the year by falling apart but on the basis of the quantum leap between their last record and this, I pray that they will be back.

"Can't You See"

"Locust Valley"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Albums of the year 8-5


"Domestic Scene"

7 SM2: ABYSS IN B-MINOR - Serena-Maneesh

"I Just Want To See Your Face"

6 THE SUBURBS - Arcade Fire

"The Suburbs"

5 HAVE ONE ON ME - Joanna Newsom

"Good Intentions Paving Company"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Albums of the year 12-9

12 AT ECHO LAKE - Woods

"Blood Dries Darker"

11 INNERSPEAKER - Tame Impala


10 SHADOWS - Teenage Fanclub

"Shock And Awe"

9 COSMOGRAMMA - Flying Lotus

"Mmm-hmm (featuring Thundercat)"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Albums of the year 16-13

16 DISCONNECT FROM DESIRE - School Of Seven Bells

"I L U"

15 AVI BUFFALO - Avi Buffalo

"What's In It For"

14 FIELD MUSIC 3 (MEASURE) - Field Music

"Them That Do Nothing"

13 GRAPPLING HOOKS - North Atlantic Oscillation

"Cell Count"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Albums of the year 20-17

20 Treats - SLEIGH BELLS

"Infinity Guitars"


"Ruth, My Sister"

18 Nerve Up - LONELADY


17 Teen Dream - BEACH HOUSE

"Silver Soul"

I couldn't embed the videos for Norway and Zebra but they're on Youtube if you want to see them

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It frightens me when I speak to art students and graduates who don't have any concrete goals for where they want to go with their art. It terrifies me how many of them end up serving coffee and barely doing any art at all. I try to tell them to look around at what other people are doing successfully and model their approach on that.

Set a lot of short term, achievable targets, and one or two nuttier ones. Just make your mind up, no one is going to put you in prison for falling short. When you're working during the day, throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks in the evening will soon use up what little energy you have left. Making a decision, and knowing roughly where you're going, lets you spot specific opportunities when they arise. What's the worst that could happen?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A festive wish to all readers

It's the giving season, so here's the Christmas card for all my readers, thanking you for your kind attention in 2010. Blessings be upon your hearths!

A traditional Christmas

For me, it's not Christmas until the family sits down together to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special, the glittering jewel in the Lucasfilm canon. We all have our favourite moments, I'm sure - there's a reason that this is re-released in increasingly handsome DVD box sets every Jesustide - I just bought it on Blu-Ray!


Sunday, December 19, 2010


These were the top ten records I bought this year that weren't from this year. I hope that makes sense. Most of them are inexcusable holes in my record collection, things I missed, often things that I heard "too early" or on someone's horrible car stereo that just sounded grisly back in the day.

10 NEVER GONNA TOUCH THE GROUND - Still Flyin' (2009)
- Glorious, kaleidoscopic party music
9 STRANGE BIRD - Augie March (2004)
- Mainstream Australian hit but left of centre in the best possible way
8 HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS - Cocteau Twins (1990)
- I thought I had enough Cocteau Twins to be honest
7 FAITHFUL - Todd Rundgren (1976)
- First side is some unnecessary covers, second side some of his best songs
6 GET BETTER - Lemuria (2008)
- At its best, sweet and concise like the early-90s Lemonheads records
5 K.K.K.K.K - Kahimi Karie (1997)
- Bought a decade ago and never played, quite splendid
- Not purchased at the time of release due to long-term resentment of £18 paid for import copy of their first, horrible album
3 ADVENTURE - Television (1978)
- Deeply underrated follow-up to Marquee Moon
2 NEW DAY RISING - Husker Du (1985)
- Used to find it a bit abrasive on the office stereo, never got past track 2, what an idiot
1 TENDER PERVERT - Momus (1988)
- Basically perfect record of its era

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Bad Machinery will be taking a week-long Christmas break starting December 27th. Now, traditionally this period was taken up by Shelley's Dr Ladysounds end-of-year list, but with Scary Go Round now over, it felt like time for something new.

So from the 27th-31st here will be some lo-fi Giant Days comics rounding up the year's ripest releases in reverse order, plus videos and the usual explanatory notes. There's a lot of dancing, a few dangerously psychedelic moments, and some appallingly off-beam analysis.

Further festive entertainment below from Reeves and Mortimer's 1991 BBC2 Christmas special, as personal favourite John Shuttleworth drops in with a seasonal song ("Christmas Orphan").

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pantheon Of Idiots

People love to wax nostalgic over the things of their youth, and fair enough. But the one fond memory I can never countenance is He-Man. He was chronic.

Preening, be-bobbed aristocrat He-Man resembles nothing so much as the kind of aryan fellow who would pound on lesser youths at school. Over-muscled and gloriously vain, clad in furry hotpants and boots and... something he bought from the garden centre... this pompous ass wails on upbeat goth Skeletor week-in, week-out - presumably for liking The Mission and Sisters Of Mercy (not sure).

I won't explore his weird cousin She-ra's transposition of the "He-Man" way to a perfect prototype of the "Mean Girls" ethos but, needless to say, I think she was in many ways worse, titting about on her bloody gymkhana pony.

He-Man: a ponce, a ninny, and worse, a BRUTE.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holier than holy

Tuesday's Christmas messages so puffed me up with joy that I neglected to post a Christmas video yesterday. So today, here are two. My two favourite Christmas songs ever*. The first showcases a giant of Caribbean folk with a peculiarly gnomic take on a classic standard.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - JOSEPH SPENCE

Now, the second video can be somewhat hard to get through. It may be a little too earnest for some people. All I can say is that, like many uncomfortable things, you get used to it the third or fourth time.

It's Christmas - GOTTA BE ANDREW!

* "Ever" may be a bit strong

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holy holy holy

Things are winding down in the run up to Christmas, so as promised, I will bring you a little something every day. First, let's get a little holy with what I can only describe as the greatest Christmas album ever made. It's VERY hot and VERY now - check out this commercial.

You can find out more about Lunge Dolphin at the THEFUDGEBABIES website and I recommend that you bookmark it three or four times.

In other news, here are a couple of recent interviews that I did, packed with mirth, merriment, making-merry, and merr (more)!

* An interview at Coilhouse

* An interview at The Comics Bureau

I will return... tomorrow!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A must read article for the self employed!

Sorry for the lack of blog action at the moment, I'm in the midst of the pre-Christmas rush but once I return from ATP in Minehead on the 13th, there will be a flurry of blog activity - loads of end of year music things, a new Sketch Fiesta, and some end-of-year etchings.

In the meantime, here's a great article for self-employed people by Keri Smith. My favourite point is below, but they're all worth reading.

7. If you want to work on your art, work on your life. All those personality traits that aren’t working for you will come back to haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation.) It’s all connected.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thought Bubble 2010 review

This year's Thought Bubble convention in Leeds was the best yet. I think it was the best run, best attended convention that I have been to in the UK, an event that showcased great artists of every stripe. With each successive year that I have exhibited (this was the third) I have been busier, and this year I was pinned behind the table the whole time, barely able to get out and look at the other other stalls. I really enjoyed doing a show so close to where I grew up, too, hearing the accents of my youth.

While I couldn't get out and meet as many people as I wanted to, I have some links to people's work that I really liked.

The first one is Kristyna Baczynski, I wanted to speak to her, maybe learn the secrets of her amazing work. Alas she was always busy, but it was pretty plain how good it was. Take a look at this!

In a similar vein is young hero of British comics, Luke Pearson. Luke seems a good man, he is a match for any of the top contenders of the US scene. Rumour has it that Ivan Brunetti and Adrian Tomine are looking over their shoulders in fear as Pearson casts his long, slight shadow across the Atlantic.

I submit the very funny comic stylings of Timothy Winchester without comment, as frankly, he never pipes down.

I bought something fantastic from Octavia Raitt but I can't find a link to where you would get it and I can't tell you what it was as it is a present so I guess no one is the wiser and no one ever will be.

It was a real thrill to meet Simon Gane, an incredible comic maker who, to my shame, I hadn't heard of a few months ago. His work is genuinely inspiring.

And finally, I got a copy of Thank Goodness For Herald Owlett, a comic with a great style that promises much more from its creator.

That is all I can remember, as I am very tired, and very old.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My last post

I really can't believe the response to my last post. It has appeared all over the place. I thought a couple of dozen people would read it and take it to heart, and I pretty much knew who those people were. I figured they could ask me to clear up any points in person!

For the most part it has been taken in the spirit it was intended, though it's dispiriting to see it re-posted elsewhere without my proviso that there is always room for hobbyism and art for art's sake. People can do what the dickens they like! I spend my whole life telling people to draw for the joy of it.

I think I made one point badly. When I say "don't read comics", I mean "don't read comics to learn how to construct a story". And even then I'm being harsh, but I know a number of people who never crack open a prose book and it drives me up the wall. Being able to sit down and concentrate on reading something for an hour or two is extremely useful and good for your brainium in the modern media age.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate

I've been in apartments overseas where there were four times as many people resident and making a living off their own comics than manage to do it in the UK. Over the 12 years I've been active in UK indie comics, I've been constantly impressed by the standard of skill within our comics community, and horrified by the way people eventually disappear, unable to sustain themselves or their work.

The points below are what I've learned doing indie comics as a career. There's always room for art for art's sake, for hobbyism, but these are the lessons I've learned for those who want to escape that prevailing mood. I've turned off comments because, while you're welcome to disagree, I don't really want to argue about it.


1. Maybe living in the most expensive place in the country is not the best idea anyone ever had

If you want to do comics for a living, here's an idea: don't live in the capital. London may be the thriving, beating heart of UK culture, but if you want to stop working in a shop and doing your comics in the evening, try living somewhere cheaper. Which is to say, anywhere.

2. Small press: it is not 1994 any more

There are comics on the internet now. If you're good enough, have a decent website, and keep a reliable schedule, you can have a whole career there. The notion of the primacy of a photocopied quasi-zine "small press scene" in the UK is ludicrous. 1 in 4 people in the world can speak English. Questionable Content has half a million readers. It is not rocket science.

3. Make comics for people who don't make comics

Why is anyone other than your comic making friends and a few select interested parties going to read an art-damaged visual tone-poem about the inside of your psyche? Learn how to engage and entertain people. It's a profoundly useful skill.

4. Forget what you learned at art school and read some business books

You need entrepreurial chops to make a living from your art, or the help of someone who has them. It's not that hard. You copy someone who has already succeeded. It usually works.

5. Making money from art is not vulgar

Art is a commodity. It makes people feel something. It raises the greater sum of human happiness. It increases the gaiety of the nation. It has a value.

6. Making pamphlets is ridiculous

Comic book pamphlets are largely read by ageing comic book fans looking for a monthly fix. Generating two such booklets a year is not medicine enough for anyone. Don't fetishize the object, it is part of another era. There are now many better ways to reach an audience.

7. Diary comics: stop it

If your only comics outlet is a diary comic on the internet, you are wasting your time and your energy. The success stories in this field are the product of people with strong, often eccentric personalities and a robust visual vocabulary, capable of turning their lives into a compelling narrative. The 200 people who read your diary comic, on the other hand, all make their own dull diary comics. Or are about to start.

8. Read some actual books

If you want to learn how to construct proper narratives and tell good stories, stop reading comics. All you'll ever do is produce watered down versions of the things you like. Read actual books, the hard ones without pictures in them. Comics are baby school, reading prose is hard graft.

9. A scene that celebrates itself has nothing to celebrate

The affirmation of your work by your friends in a small scene means nothing. No one is going to tell you that your work is bad to your face and risk being ostracised. Seek the widest audience for your work, if that's what you want, then ask yourself why things are or aren't working.

10. Being ambitious doesn't equate to being unpleasant

Being ambitious doesn't mean destroying the opposition. There is plenty of air to go round. It means doing your best work without simultaneously apologising for it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NEWW 2, Giant Days, Thought Bubble

I'm back on home soil after my adventures in Brookyn and at New England Webcomics Weekend. My trip to the USA has filled my with vigour, although that vigour is currently manifesting as jet lag. I can tell you that during the brief window of time that my brain functions correctly at the moment, I feel like a million dollars.

New England Webcomics Weekend was a great show, a banner example of a well-run small convention. It was great to meet so many enthused readers, especially on Saturday, when the wave of people barely seemed to stop. Easthampton is hardly a well-connected metropolis, so it was quite something to see how many people attended.

I also got the chance to meet some creators who, if I'd run into them before, I'd not really ever had chance to talk to. I'm sure that if I try to list everyone that I met and liked, I'll leave someone out, but I know for certain that I finally got to spend quality time with Karl Kerschl of The Abominable Charles Christopher, comic machine KC Green, Becky & Frank of Tiny Kitten Teeth, and the suspiciously charming Sara Bauer (Hey Pais) and Tom McHenry (Non Canon). Oh and Jorge Cham of PHD Comics, who flew in in a helicopter of his own design*. I apologise to anyone whose feelings I have brutalised, I remember meeting a lot of other people, all lovely. All of you.

* I may have misremembered this

It's the final week of my Giant Days miniseries, I've had some very kind emails about it, a great response. Many of them asked if and when the series will return. At the moment I'm not sure, I'd prefer it to be ongoing than an occasional side-feature, and I can only draw one of those at once. Talks are going on in back rooms under flickering, unshaded bulbs, keep watching the chimney for a puff of white smoke.

This weekend I'll be at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, exhibiting my wares and doing my best to charm and delight. I've got a panel at 10.30 in the morning about "digital comics", I'll either be dead serious and tell you the basic true facts, or do a series of jokes, either way you will get your money's worth. I'll write a little more about this show later in the week.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

New England Webcomics Weekend 2

I am currently in the USA, priming myself for a train trip to Western Massachusetts for New England Webcomics Weekend! On Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th of November I will be selling my wares at Easthampton Eastworks. Tickets are still available on the door for local types and it should be a splendid time. On Sunday you can look forward to Christopher Hastings taking me on, Frost-Nixon style, in a head to head interview of a sort previously unseen at ANY EVENT.

I will have a variety of red hot items for sale, including a few show-exclusive items

* A B&W collection of all the Bad Machinery comics so far called "A Feral Flag Will Fly", in a nice big format (NEWW and Thought Bubble shows only)

* My Dr Who & Amy Pond prints (I have 20, so apply early)

* Buttons & Stickers

* All the Scary Go Round book collections

* Fixed-price postcards

* Lady Gaga and We Will Do Our Best posters

* A selection of tshirts available in the "Dumbrella Apparel Zone" and the "Topatoco Clearance Area"

I hope to see a few of you there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No longer a mystery

I worked out why readership numbers had mysteriously shot up, and they have shot down again. It was exciting to feel like a king for a week, but it was also distracting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mystery success

Well, Giant Days week one produced some odd statistics, namely twice the traffic that Bad Machinery had been getting. Since it didn't get any links from anywhere special, I have to put this down to youthful high spirits.

After a year of struggling to build traffic for Bad Machinery and crossing my fingers that things would get better, it was a bit weird to watch the unique numbers shoot up throughout the week. You can say it's a bit more like Scary Go Round was but, really, it's less like it than Bad Machinery was! There's one character left! Well, I'm not complaining. My only concern is what might happen when the five weeks are up. If the situation stays like this (and it might not, of course), there may have to be a CLIMACTIC POLL OF ALL SCARY GO ROUND READERS.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

John Allison: Man Of Audio

I recently guest hosted on David Malki and Kris Straub's Tweet Me Harder, which was tremendous fun to do and hopefully fun to listen to. You'll learn a lot about me, sadly very little of it true.

If you can only bear to listen to something for five minutes, why not have a gander at my short interview with Joe List (of Freak Leap and The Annotated Weekender). Joe will tell you how to make a living from webcomics in very short order. Make sure to stick around right to the end.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Feral Flag Will Fly

Here's the quick cover I made for a book you will find it almost impossible to buy! I thought you might like to see it anyway. Bad Machinery books will emerge early next year I hope, but they won't be in this format or have a title I decided upon in 15 seconds.

The drawing was a flyer I made for last year's Thought Bubble:

The characters were so new then! It's funny to look at them and see how some had taken shape but others hadn't at all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aubrey Beardsley's Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is a strange confection, I'm really not sure what point she is making at all. Visually she is fascinating but her music and her odd message about "little monsters" don't pack quite the same punch. I did enjoy myself drawing this though.

I drew it as a style exercise, trying to come up with some new print/teatowel ideas. Beardsley's line is fascinating, it is a very simple fixed width, often used consistently throughout the whole page. His use of black and white is so masterful, incredible balance of form and shade. A longtime favourite of mine! I love art nouveau.

Not ultimately sure if I will use this drawing, so let me know if you like it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sketch Fiesta 11 is up

It's been a few months since the last one, so I've posted a new Sketch Fiesta featuring lots of Giant Days sketches, the "Sea Bros", umpteen shady characters, and much, much more. Looking at it will make you feel like a king/queen/baron/baroness.

Susan and Daisy meet Mack

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bonus comic: Whatever Happened To Jive Bunny

I know that a lot of people have been wondering what Jive Bunny has been up to since the last of his three chart-toppers. Here's the answer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The case of the moustache umbrella

Yesterday I did something rather embarrassing that I hoped you would never see. I drew one of my moustache umbrellas.

As a top artist of today, I like to render objects in a manner that is, if not photorealistic, semi-competent. When asked to draw a house, a small child draws a square with a triangle roof. However I rotate that box with a triangle on top to a slight angle, giving it that "professional sheen".

The one weakness in my visual arsenal is umbrellas, which, if I do not stop myself, I still draw as if I was 4. Which is to say, I draw them like a mad moustache or (a headless bat). It's not that I don't KNOW that an umbrella is a dome shape. I have a wire loose. I have a feeling that I've only ever drawn four or five of them in my life.

Anyway, below, I have put it right. Please forgive me. I've been working very hard.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tote design 1: RAINDROPS

I'm working on some new tote designs. I want some classy ones to start with. Or as classy as a straw-sucking yokel like me knows how to be. Let me know if you enjoy these!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giant Days is coming

This makes it look a bit glum! I have written down what happens on every page and it's not glum at all. Once it gets going, it's bananas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New concepts

On the post where I mentioned my Esther mini-series, one innocent commenter said that perhaps I should do "something else afterwards". Well, I didn't really have any ideas beyond, you know, more of the same, so this lunchtime I sat myself down and created the forward-thinking, tomorrow minded comic plans that will take the Scary Go Round empire into a rosy future. Let me know what you think! The most popular one will debut on the site very soon*!

"Todd Feathers' Journey Into Joy"

Rotund, urbane bird Todd Feathers moves to the big city and discovers that there's almost no one he doesn't get along with!

"Wickid Charly And McGuffle"

Homely office worker Charly discovers that life has a little more "spice" when you team up with a cheerful bird-pig!

"The Agonies Of Patrice Lecourt"

Au pair and pessimist Patrice Lecourt discovers that it's not much of a life when you take a job as a eel farmer.

"Willy Barker's World Of Pain"

Cursed from birth with numerous issues, Willy Barker further muddies the existential waters by being quite repellent in every way.

"Tommy Radickle"

What won't Tommy Radickle do? He's the dude with 'tude who can be a bit rude but is essentially shrewd! Aimed at imaginary tweens.


* Never

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Art watch

I've become a bit frustrated with Twitter of late, it's a quick way to get a lot of attention to something, but they're blips of attention and noteworthy items soon get lost. I've decided to return to the gentler pleasures of the old(er) ways, and the art discovery posts I've been making on Twitter will move to this general area.

First up, a wonderful illustrator from France, Aurore Damant! Fantastic work with kind of a John K feel.

Even though I don't really like cats, I like her cats. Cats!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Post Achtung Baby

When I was mere stripling, U2 released an album called "Achtung Baby". The sole differentiating feature of this record was that Bono sang all the songs wearing a ludicrous pair of bug-eyed sunglasses (to indicate "ironic detatchment") that he has not removed in the 19 years thereafter.

Achtung Baby reinvented rock in a way that every band endangered by the American chart behemoths R.E.M and Nirvana could understand. Late-80s pop monsters took their cue, one by one, from U2, abandoned any individual features they possessed, and dropped singles whose defining characteristic was to be as close as they could possibly get to "The Fly".

INXS - Taste It

Of course, being INXS, someone parps on a ruddy saxophone whenever possible, also this is quite a pervy video which might explain why I never saw it at the time.

Bon Jovi - Keep The Faith

A man will thingy, a man will fall, from the sheer face of love, um, KEEP THE FAITH.

Deacon Blue - Your Town

Formerly chipper Scotch popsters Deacon Blue did their absolute best Bono here, they even got the sunglasses. Sadly thereafter, they didn't have a career. They should have stuck to the songs about sandwiches and that.

Depeche Mode - I Feel You


These were the main four unit-shifters implicated in the movement, but can you remember any more Baby Achtung Babies from 1992-93? I remember there being a new one almost every week!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Courage, courage

There are some changes coming up on the Scary Go Round site over the next couple of months.

Bad Machinery / The Case Of The Good Boy ends at the end of September, after which Bad Machinery will be going on a break for a little while. While it's been about as successful as I thought it would be on the web, given its long, long story arcs (only long when taken day by day, admittedly) and child cast, it's struggled to build an audience and after a year, I need to look carefully at what to do next.

So, I will be looking to find a publisher who can perhaps take it where it needs to be (into young, impressionable hands). I love writing these characters and the third story is all worked out, so I hope to bring it back as soon as possible.

In the meantime, following a couple of guest weeks where I will attempt to "relax", I have a nice month-long fill-in for you, the pilot of "Giant Days", the comic that shows you what Esther de Groot did immediately after this comic. You'll even get comics on a Friday again.

I did try to write a Shelley story but my heart wasn't it it at all. It felt horrible. I think you will enjoy the alternative a lot more, I have been working on the mechanics it for weeks. Thinking extremely hard... about how to rock your WORLD.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I've been working on Bad Machinery for about a year straight without a break and need a couple of weeks off, so I would like to ask if anyone wants to do a guest strip for me. This isn't a blind call for entries, as if I don't know your work I can't just say go for it, you know, in case of problems. But drop me a line at if you have a plan for the empty space and hopefully I can fill two weeks with ease.

* Strip can be Bad Machinery or Scary Go Round based
* 880px wide max, 662px high minimum
* Deadline September 25th
* Any questions, post a comment!

The only certain recompense is a link back to your work, and my gratitude, but if you meet me in person I will shower you with rewards.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Influence Map

UPDATE: I have filled two weeks' worth of comics, so entries for this are now closed.

This is a great meme that I came to via Aaron Diaz's Indistinguishable From Magic blog. It's my influence map! Click on the graphic for a closer look.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lois & Clark sadly not pictured

I love Smallville. I can't believe it's run for nine seasons. Anything that runs for so long will have its ups and downs but I still enjoy it. Here's a comic... about SMALLVILLE.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday is treat day

In a recent exchange of ideas in a secluded internet zone (maybe a newsgroup or a BBS, not sure), Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak fame used his powers on the original pencils of this panel...

...and made this!

Obviously I was very excited about this and did a kind of ungainly victory dance. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! If you want to have a go with the same panel, you can download the pencils for it by clicking on the picture below.

Why not post your efforts in the comments for this thread? Do you have the skills of a powerful wizard? Or just want to practice? Have a go, Joe! Here's the original comic as it ran on June 30th.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ms Tackleford Beauty Pageant

After a brief survey of whether it was "sexy" or "sexist", you can now get my Ms Tackleford Beauty Pageant poster. £7.50, as close to daylight robbery as the law will currently allow.

As you will plainly see, Esther has gone for full black metal regalia and good on her. It was fun to draw Natalie and Moon again, characters of the past! And as you can see, Erin is up to no good with her unique brand of bad-tempered hellfire. In case you are interested, Shelley won, with a brutal speech about the plight of the narwhal tipping the scales in her favour.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Everyday Guest Strip

Here's a guest "The Everyday" comic I did for my friend Adam Cadwell. Adam is a great draughtsman who encouraged me to do more closeups in Bad Machinery, something that I think has really paid off. You may struggle to detect any of my professional respect for him in what follows.

(Vimto is a sasparilla-style cordial drink that Adam may be alone in drinking past the age of 15)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing For Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery

I received a message the other day through one or other channel (telex perhaps), asking how I go about writing the 100-page stories for Bad Machinery. I was never the most careful plotter in the past, which lead to a lot of Scary Go Round stories that petered out or ended unsatisfactorily.

Of course, such is the nature of expectation that I'm pretty certain that any ending will be unsatisfactory that doesn't definitively terminate every single plotline you have been dealing with, and in a long, ongoing project that was very difficult. It lead to a "drift in/drift out" of stories that I didn't mind, because I enjoyed making little worlds far more than tying things up in the kind of neat bows that don't exist in real life. But I was also a lazy plotter and my best received stories were the ones that started and ended properly, with points mapped out in between.

So for Bad Machinery, I made a strict rule to rein in my bad habits - 100 pages a story, with all plotlines within self-contained enough that they could be read individually. I decided on a three act structure to help me get my timing right. This was a technique I used for my "Heavy Metal Hearts And Flowers" book back in 2004, why I never used it again is a mystery.

Before I start writing I will have had a theme in mind, a central protagonist or a location. I'll do research , draw a lot of sketches of characters, kind of get a feel for the shape of the project and get excited about it before I have to have any structure at all. In the past I would set off in a direction and after a few weeks find that I had set myself up something quite dull to write and draw. By thinking ahead in an abstract way, I can avoid making bad decisions on the spur of the moment or losing enthusiasm quickly.

Once I'm ready to write and have the jist of the story in mind, I write out all the plot points I can manage on lined paper. The first act will be very detailed with everything (narratively) I need for the next 32 comics, there will be loose ideas for the middle third, and a skeletal structure for the final part - really just an idea of the ending and how to possibly resolve conflicts.

I'm meant to write 4 comics a week, to draw the following week, but with a strong structure I can often write more, as the dialogue is the easiest and most fun part to do. During the course of writing I will add things in which occur to me during the drawing of strips and they can be expanded when I come to write acts two and three.

Finishing the plot for part three is the hardest part of the writing because I have to make sure I finish everything and balance plot against dialogue. But it's a problem solving exercise that I've come to enjoy more and more over the years.

By keeping parts two and three loose until I get nearer to them, I get the benefit of both knowing where I'm going, and knowing that I have time to deviate from that path.

Unlike drawing, where I have to sit in one place in peace and quiet, I plot and write dialogue all over the place, often when I'm out and about. Nothing stops that part of my mind like modern distractions so I try to get as far away from the Internet as possible whenever I can. I've done this more and more in the last year and hopefully the results are evident.

I'm always happy to answer writing questions if people need help.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Esther Project colour tests

Still doesn't have a title, but it certainly has HAIRCUTS.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Vector afternoon

I was getting the original Scary Go Round story, "Gas", ready for publication this afternoon. It's eight years old and hard for me to look at now - that's a lot of water under the bridge! But I found when I was making the 6-panel pages into fours that I had to make a couple of extra panels to fill gaps.

What an exercise in finding out where consistency ends and vanity begins! A lot has changed in eight years. You can see the panels below and make your own mind up. I think vanity won.

The first panel is one of the originals. The other two are new.

Friday, August 06, 2010


I'll be putting this up for sale on Monday after a weekend of sober reflection and crust-gnawing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Pepper & Archibald

Pepper & Archibald
Originally uploaded by scarygoround
This was a commission I did for a Mr Kleman in Europe's own Sweden! It's resolutely jolly, it took me a few days to work myself up to this level of clean-lunged, clear headed decency. I hope you like it! Remember, if you want a one-off piece like this, visit my commissions desk! I'm currently taking on new work.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Wood stick, thin, then lead within

I've been getting bored with pencilling on the computer (no problem with its efficacy, just sick of sitting by a screen all day) so I've been trying to get back in touch with paper. As detailed previously, I sketch all the time, but I get a bit of stage fright when I have to draw "properly", I tend to tighten up too much and draw stiffly.

As I am planning to take a break from Bad Machinery between chapters on an as-yet-undecided project, hopefully with some room to experiment outside the 100-page youngling webcomic idiom, I thought I might try some old-school pencils. This plan may wither on the vine like so many before it but I will do some loosening up exercises over the next few weeks, just spend some time with my feelings on the matter. Here are a couple of practice pages, one is a redrawing of an old page, the second is some character design work. They're just for fun, neither is anything like perfect, they are submitted without further exposition.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Yes, who can forget my incendiary run on The Incredible Hulk in the early nineties? I was the new Todd McFarlane. Or was it the new Dale Keown? All I recall is that editor Bobbie Chase said that she had hired me "on accident" and "never wanted to see my face again". The panels below are all that remain of this acclaimed period at Marvel. The rest was destroyed in the "speculator boom".

Monday, July 19, 2010

State of the Onion 2010

Greetings friends! Summer waxes on, days stretched long like a pair of tights pulled in opposing directions by pickup trucks. All is well in the garden.

I'm just finishing up the writing of this Bad Machinery story - it doesn't actually finish until the end of September, and after that I will probably take a break from it for a month or so. I've been very pleased with this story and want to make sure that the next one keeps up the standard. For a slow, rambly comic about children's adventures, virtually the exact opposite of what the (hem hem) "webcomic audience" supposedly wants, it is doing very well and I am grateful to have been indulged.

I do think that I might have to get it published by a proper, monied publisher to get it where I want it, as it is meant for young minds as well as blog readers. But I'm not sure how to do that, and I like to go into a situation prepared.

If I decide to take a break from Bad Machinery, you won't be staring at a blank screen throughout October. I've been tinkering with "Destroy History" and it's almost ready for public consumption. I showed some early attempts here last year, but it wasn't up to scratch. I think I'm almost there now.

Destroy History is a comic about how history is a mystery and it will set the record straight using time travel techniques and NEW FACTS. It has a redhead, a robot, of course Babs McChinnery, and an unprecedented level of filth (I mean mud, not boobs hanging out). Here are some fake, possibly unrepresentative images of this "work in progress".

* Please note, "Desmond Fishman" is not involved in Destroy History, he is retired from webcomics.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Last word on X-Ladies

I've made a very limited print of my X-Ladies drawing, there are just ten, as nice as I can possibly make em. Get em here before they're gone!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lap work vs desk work

While sketching in relaxed mode on paper is the best way, if you enjoy digital art, often you think "gracious me wouldn't it the greatest to just sit on the settee with my little Cintiq or Tablet PC and draw away". It seems like a dream proposition. But I have never found it very easy to produce decent results this way. Calibrate your screen as you may, you are never going to get your head or the device in exactly the same place twice - even from minute to minute.

I did a test where I tried to ink the same picture on the same computer screen, once on the settee, once sitting down at a desk. I made the pencils rough so I would have to make decisions about my inked lines, rather than just tracing the pencils. I find this a more interesting way to work all the time, not just when I am doing an experiment that may interest nobody at all. Working digitally gives me a lot more freedom in my inks, because I am not scared of making a mistake. Here are the results of this thrilling test-ette:

In the picture on the right, I blow a lot of lines, overshooting my mark, and I am plainly tracing rather than making decisions or trying to produce more attractive strokes. You can particularly see this in the feet, which I left very rough in the pencils. On the left, while the drawing isn't perfect, it's a lot better because I wasn't having to organise my actual physical body to keep everything in the right place.

The evidence is clear. We must all sit straight-backed and alert as we draw. Plus, laptops cook your conkers, fellas, and we have to keep the next generation safe. Adieu!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Photodons & Esther wallpaper

Following up my tablet PC post from last week I wanted to recommend Photodon screen protectors. Some tablet PCs have a glassy screen, some have slightly textured anti-glare coatings, occasionally they can be hard to get along with, and if you scratch your expensive purchase, you feel like a right plum. But I've found that Photodon's screen protectors, which are among the cheapest, give a really great drawing feel. The anti-glare is particularly nice to use, resists greasy marks, and will also often revitalise a tablet screen that perhaps looks past its best.

Two provisos: applying them is a dark art best mastered by the patient, but you should be pleased with the results. And their fees to ship outside the USA are a bit high.

Following "peer pressure", I did a quick Esther wallpaper to go with the Shelley one from last week, here it is, 1440x900 again.

Friday, July 02, 2010


With all the talk of Wonder Woman and her trousers over the last few days, I have decided to draw Wonder Woman for the first time ever. I wish Babylon 5 man all the best with his run on Wonder Woman. I still think that if comic book companies want to arrest their decline, they should stop having the books drawn that way they seem to look these days, all photorealistic and gross. Comics should be fun! But that is a debate for another day, there are still many fun, exciting artists out there, plying their trade against the prevailing editorial wind.

Of course in my own mind, all comic books are written and drawn by me or idiots like me, and a typical Wonder Woman adventure is like an episode of Seinfeld with explosions.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Summer ways

I made a quick summer wallpaper this evening for Shelley likers. I draw a lot of Shellies so I don't forget how, as I really hope to do a little Shelley project sooner or later.

It's 1440x990, I'm afraid I don't have it in any other sizes but you can work it out, it's the computer age after all. Click below for the full size pic!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tablet PCs for artists

Someone asked about tablet PCs for art yesterday and I tried to write a decent answer. With the surfeit of net slates, iPads and the like coming down the pipe, it's easy to forget that the tablet PC, Bill Gates' baby, still exists. These aren't mainstream items and there is next to nothing out there written about using them for art. Which is daft, because many models use the same Wacom technology as an Intuos or Cintiq tablet.

Because they're mostly used in business contexts and are purchased in bulk by organisations, they tend to filter back onto eBay after a couple of years and you can often find the most popular models in some number. So long as it's not a beater or ancient, put in some more RAM, a new hard drive, maybe get a nice Photodon screen protector and you will have a wholly serviceable computer for drawing and making comics on.

You need to make sure you get a model with an active, not a passive digitiser (passive digitisers just respond to physical pressure, ie your elbow, a stick etc) here's a master list of all the models that are decent for doing art on. Most tablet PCs have 12.1 or 12" screens and while there are still some models floating around with SXGA+ (1440 x 1050) screens, don't buy one if you value a. your eyes and b. the time you will spend fruitlessly recalibrating the screen to try and hit your mark. I never could. To get pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, you need a Wacom Digitiser (not N-Trig, which a few models employed).


I AM POOR (Most of these won't run Windows 7 satisfactorily due to missing drivers for video cards etc):


Toshiba Portege M200
Hundreds of these out there. They all look a bit worn out. Nice to draw on. Horrible screen viewing angles. Hi-res screen might hurt your eyes.

Lenovo X60t (make sure it's a "T", the standard X60 was a regular laptop)
Tremendously robust glass screen and IBM build quality. Screen bezel a bit annoying.

Fujitsu ST5022, ST5032
Crappy specs, annoying PATA (hard to replace now) hard drives, really really nice to draw on. A compromise candidate for £200. Abundant.


Toshiba Portege M400

Fujitsu T4210/4215/4220
Good all round drawing feel and nice screens, esp. in the 4220. All the Fujitsus come with two button pens (many tablet PCs just have one button pens that feel like they are made out of a drinking straw). Again, nice to draw on.

Lenovo X61t
A revision of the X60 above

Fujitsu ST5112
As above but SATA hard drives, maybe a Core Duo processor, you can put Win 7 on it

Fujitsu T5010/T900 (core i version of T5010)
This is the only 13.3 inch widescreen tablet left, I think. It's heavier to lug around but the extra screen real estate is very nice.

Lenovo X201
12 inch widescreen (like a Cintiq 12WX screen)

HP 2730/2740
Widescreen HP business machines with good build quality

There are newer models from the main manufacturers that I have not had a chance to have a go on. Of course manufacturers should feel free to send me complimentary devices.

Toshiba Tecra M4
Video card burns out eventually, hinge is fragile.

Toshiba Tecra M7
Oversensitive pen feel problematic in some applications (Manga Studio particularly), a lovely computer but this was a flaw I couldn't get past. In Photoshop it seemed fine though and I managed to make about 40 comics on mine while on the road - it took a bit of tweaking. The 14" screen was mega though.

Asus R1E/R1F
Great to draw on, big screen, but there was a recall of many of these because the cursor would stick in the corner of the screen.

Axiotron Modbook (kind of a cannibalised MacBook slate)
Text input via pen on a slate is important and it's excellent under Vista and Win7. The Modbook's text entry is not great. Not great at all.

I would advise that you avoid machines with pen and touch or "multitouch" options. If you want to touch something, TOUCH SOMETHING ELSE. The Wacom enhanced drivers barely work on most tablet PCs, the dual touch drivers are prone to explode. These aren't mass market consumer machines and issues in this area, when addressed, have seldom been addressed well. Hopefully my list will help.

Every make of tablet PC I've used has had a slightly different feel to draw on. The Fujitsus are closest to the Cintiq but a combination of anti-glare screen coatings etc fogs the water even there. I've no idea about Motion Computing's slate offerings but they are supposedly very well made. I've never seen an "Electrovaya Scribbler" or an "Armor X1" so who knows.

When you buy a tablet PC, buy it as a drawing machine, not a laptop. This part of the market never really took off and the best machines are not always the newest. There are crazy people out there still using HP TC1100s from 2002 because they love the form factor so much, and it was never replaced. They are completely insane but I hope it illustrates my point.

I hope this helps a few people! If I've raised any questions, stick 'em in the comments.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My favourite poem of all time

My younger brother just sent me a text from Morocco with the following poem. Quite how he remembers it, I don't know. I must have taught it to him. It was written by Dominic Hardman, aged 11, in 1987, at Addingham Middle School.

Going up in a plane, gulp
Thinking about crashing, being knocked into pulp.
Try not to be worried with all my might,
I hope we land safely in Paris tonight.
Aargh, woosh, wow! We're in the sky!
Bleuurgh I just regurgitated my meat pie.

When this poem was affixed to the wall by the teacher, the last line was expurgated, rather like the meat pie. It was however accompanied by a rather nice picture of a plane.

Dominic eventually went on to a career in the financial services industry and I wish him well. But I believe that his talents were utterly wasted. This is my favourite poem of all time. It is as perfectly funny today as it was 23 years ago.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Battlemouth interview

There's a new interview with me up at Battlemouth. It doesn't really cover anything I've not talked about before, but there was one question that I didn't reply to in time to have in included, which touches on something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

"For the first four or five years I was making comics, I was working in print and web design (1998-2003). I wasn't a particularly talented designer and I didn't enjoy most of the work I did, it was doing my own stuff that kept me going. But as I was doing it in the evenings and at weekends, I wasn't exactly making amazing art. I had to make five comics a week! That's part of the reason that I took so long to develop artistically. I would backslide a lot, develop bad habits, and take years to work them out and lose them.

Fortunately, like a lot of people starting out, I didn't really have the developed design sense to know how rough my work was. I can't believe that I was paid for some of the things I did! I did loads of spots and even big two page spreads for magazines like Computer and Video Games. I did the cover for a big anniversary issue of Nintendo Official Magazine. If I was asked to do those things now, I'd have a lot more doubt about my ability to do them than I did when I was 24 and really really raw!"


As the years have gone by, as I've improved as an artist, my sense of what is "correct" or not has grown in parallel. You really want it to be a little behind, otherwise you'd never publish anything. To blunder through a "career", you have to be insulated from your own inadequacies or the sound of your own voice would drive you mad.

Friday, June 18, 2010

England's goalkeeper question

The answer is Emmanuel Clegg! LET HIM PLAY

Half man, half arachnid, ALL PATRIOT, why pick Cleggy and not play him?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Poison Ivy Monday

Here's a fancy-lookin' commission, Shelley and Poison Ivy together, at last, one time only, until the next time. I'm sure they'd get along.

RSS writer recommendations

My main machine is a Mac but I have a PC laptop, for one reason and one reason only - the Royal Mail's postal software doesn't work on the Mac, and printing hundreds of pounds of postage through an emulator was frequently unpleasant. As time has gone on, I've got used to Windows again and, if I may be so bold, I am now such a slick operator that I don't need to think about whether to press CTRL or the Apple key when I cut and paste. I love me, I'm great.

A little while ago I was looking for a piece of software to write RSS feeds on the PC that was as good as Feeder on the Mac (a very easy-to-use piece of software if you handle RSS feeds manually). No one could help. But for people asking the question on Google, here is the answer: Mirabyte Feed Writer 2.

They both have WYSIWYG editors and HTML -> XML converters, will download and upload your feed via FTP or let you write it locally, and have a some nice project-orientated features. Feeder is $40, Mirabyte is $60.

I hope this helps a few people, maybe you will get a promotion. If so, I want a cut.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sketch Fiesta 8

Good news, friends! I uploaded a new Sketch Fiesta yesterday. More drawings from the raw, primeval soup of my sketchbook (and a couple that I bothered to colour in).

Young artists! If you aren't in the sketchbook habit, get into it. Having not come from an art school background, it took me a long time to get into the habit of constantly sketching and letting my mistakes sit on the page next to minor triumphs. My art began to take huge strides thereafter, and what's more, I can pin down the times when my art went backwards to the months where I got lazy - forensic style.

The best thing is, when you have to work something up for a proper piece or inspiration is slack, you can probably find something in your sketchbook that offers a starting point if nothing else.

Of course, they can't all be gems.