Thursday, December 27, 2012

Album charts 2011

The 2011 Charlotte and Shauna album reviews have vanished from the archive, so if you want to read them, here they are.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pencils to play with 2

No comic for Friday September 21st, so I've posted some more of my pencils for artists to play with. Ink them, colour them, then post up what you did in the comments for this post. If you work traditionally, it might be a nice idea to tweak them into bluelines in Photoshop then print them out at your preferred size. They're 600dpi and A4 size, so there's plenty of room to blow them up.

 Pencils for this comic

Pencils for this comic

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm having to compile my THAT story into a book rather more quickly than I thought I would due to some deadline issues. Usually I have a period of months to think about any extra pages for a book - I can look back and spot the gaps I need to plug - but I have mere weeks to get this to the printer. It's nice to give book buyers a little extra, so did I leave any glaring holes in the plot that I need to fill? Please be gentle, I take criticism like a plank to the shank. You can read from the start here.

Here's the cover, hope you like it!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Another redone page

There are a few very early Bad Machinery pages that I drew under difficult circumstances. I had to take  a few of them to task ready for the collection. Then I had to fix some of the changes because the way I draw the characters has obviously changed since late 2009/early 2010. then I drew about 15 extra pages to go in between existing pages, just to flesh out certain scenes that were left a little abrupt by the daily format.

Here's the only one I had to redo almost from scratch - mainly because I had to draw Erin's car again for the new pages and couldn't recreate the odd looking thing I drew back at the end of '09.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On tshirts

The difference between a tshirt selling and not selling is whether it makes a statement about the wearer. It doesn't matter how good the drawing on it is, or how clever the words you put on it, that won't make it sell. 

Over the years, I and many of my fellow creators have complained that we design something, readers are vocally enthusiastic about it, then no-one buys it. I can think of a dozen times where I laboured over a design and no one wanted it, and as many where 15 minutes work proved wildly popular - because the idea was fine, because it said something that the wearer wanted to say about themselves. There is a huge difference between an image someone likes and an image that fosters the desire to wear it. 

Below is a good example of something that makes people laugh but that I don't think says anything about the wearer that they could explain to anyone who asked. 

The rules are different for prints, posters and any other designed curio. They're not plastered onto a human body. After I got a button machine, I found that the easiest way to tell if wording worked on a tshirt was to try it on badges at shows. The stakes were low and experimentation was cheap.

Printed tshirts went way beyond saturation point a few years ago; they used to represent the greater part of my income and they certainly don't now. I've used all my easy ideas, so while I can design garments far more nicely than I could in 2003, I (personally) have nothing left to say that I, or someone else, hasn't said. But I try occasionally, because when it works, it feels great. And I've done some fun collaborations where I didn't have to marry my drawings up to some universal notion.

In conclusion: when lizard fights wizard, no one wins. Let that be a lesson to you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I recently ran out of copies of Ghosts, a standalone book I put out in 2007. I ordered a lot of them and for that reason, I don't think it's worth printing more. But I've done an eBook edition for people who want this short yarn and put a new cover on it. To say it took me 30 minutes, I was pretty pleased with it! I've spent twenty times as long getting covers wrong in the past.

The original cover is the first finished work I did in Manga Studio, before I even had the Cintiq. God it was hard work getting anything to look right that day, but I really liked it at the time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Short stories

I wanted to write briefly about why I break up the long Bad Machinery stories with shorter stories now. I'm sure there are Bad Machinery fans who want the stories to run on straight away, one after another (how times change!) and fair enough. But these six month yarns are epic, tiring and laborious undertakings and I need space in between to experiment with other characters and settings, different artistic techniques, and situations that aren't about youngsters.

Giant Days was an interesting experiment that people enjoyed, but the set-up involved so many central characters that you almost couldn't write a satisfying short story. It begged for continuity, and after that first story I didn't have a lot else I could say without using material that would eventually be useful for Bad Machinery. So I put those characters away.

Murder She Writes and THAT are ways for me try things that can feed back into the main comic, while trying to write things that don't rely on continuity. Scary Go Round was 7 years of experimentation, but I can't just derail stories any more while I wedge myself up a chimney or down a rabbit hole. I know most people don't mind these interruptions, but if you do find them an obstruction to the main event, please see it this way - from my point of view, without them, there is no main event.

A bit of a dry old post but there you are.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Side Wins

The removal of Top Of the Pops from its original Thursday night slot through to its eventual cancellation was one of the greatest pieces of cultural vandalism ever perpetuated in the UK. I believe that it should be reinstituted immediately.

"Kids watch videos on Youtube now," goes the old saw. But look at the UK pop charts. A democratic yet moribund parade of played-out album tracks, TV-promoted groaners and club-ready trifles. So what is new? Was it not ever thus? It was. But that wasn't all it was.

The disappearance of Top Of The Pops has removed a large section of the record-buying public as-was from the conversation. Music was tribal. You approved, or disapproved, of the horrors before you. The suspects were lined up in numerical order. A side wins.

When Top Of The Pops was moved from Thursday to Friday, everyone still in the pub after work, or already out for the night, was gone. Their votes were spoiled. When it was moved from BBC1 to BBC2, its place in the national living room was lost. Its move to Sunday nights to be more "relevant" to the chart "as it happens" missed the point by a country mile. Top Of The Pops was music TV for people who didn't care about relevance. People who cared about that were listening to Radio 1 on a Sunday night pressing record and play.

The British pop institutions withered in the wake of TOTP's abdication. Smash Hits crumbled. The NME could neither feed on young bands' prime-time exposure nor build new heroes and now operates a kind of ghost-town faux scene of lillywhite young men that almost no one has ever heard, to diminishing returns. The charts are more teenage now than they were in the early sixties. "Popularity" exists in a vacuum.

The Internet changed everything, of course it did. Everything is splintered. There are proliferate niches. There is a "long tail". But in an age of too much information, surely a digest is needed now more than ever. With the iPlayer, it would be there for a whole week, a half hour window into whatever the hell is going on in the charts.

UK music needs the natural selection of the charts, vital, red in tooth and claw. It has become a shop with no window. Top Of The Pops was frequently awful. But in its original form, I would argue that it was also essential.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Pencils to play with!


No comic today, so i thought I'd post up some pencils for artists to play with. They're both from comics in this current story. Ink them, colour them, then post up what you did in the comments for this post. If you work traditionally, it might be a nice idea to tweak them into bluelines in Photoshop then print them out at your preferred size. They're 600dpi and A4 size, so there's plenty of room to blow them up.

Download pencils

Download pencils

Monday, June 04, 2012

Bad Machinery Books

I'm very excited to be putting out Bad Machinery books through Oni Press, starting in 2013. At the moment I'm working on fixing up some of the artork, before adding new pages and making these books less a series of webcomics and more of a coherent piece. Wrestling with that dilemma has been an ongoing thing since 2009.

Looking at these old pages closely for the first time since they originally ran was interesting. They're pretty good, if sometimes a bit dense. There are only a few pages where I was obviously having an off day that need careful revision. It's usually a case of fixing the top of an eye or a head or a chin.

Where I do greater revision, I never know if people even notice. Why not play spot the difference with the page below. The hardest thing when redrawing figures is keeping them on-model - in the very first Bad Machinery story, the kids were all whippet-like little adventure sprats.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Comica Comiket Review

This weekend I exhibited at Comica Comiket, and I have a few thoughts about it.

Firstly I'd like to thank the organisers and staff, who were helpful all day. The drawing parade was fascinating to watch and I was well looked after throughout.

But I cannot ignore the elephant in the room: the hall was near-impossible to traverse. Three people could not pass down the aisles simultaneously, so it was very dificult for people to browse your work comfortably most of the time. Exhibitors on the central aisles were crammed in back to back with almost no room for manoeuver, and it was hard to stand up and engage with people face to face because there was inevitably a chair in your way, buckling you at the knees.

I can only speak for my own experience when I say that I couldn't even get to the tables I wanted to, and when the call to pack up was given at 6, I went home empty handed. One of the greatest pleasures of attending these shows is discovering new work and meeting new/rarely seen people, and I felt at the end of a pretty uncomfortable day that I had largely missed out on both of these, with the exception of a very pleasant chat with Sarah McIntyre.

Having taken part in a signing in the punter-free downstairs room, I felt very sorry for the exhibitors who had been marooned down there. Last year's London Small Press Expo in Deptford was damned by a lack of signage and I felt that these poor souls had suffered the same fate.

With seemingly no shortage of attendees or organisational enthusiasm, I hope that Comica can overcome these logistical problems and continue to grow as an event. It's important that the capital has an alternative comics show worthy of the location.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Karrie Fransman's "The House That Groaned"

Karrie Fransman is one of the most enthusiastic and engaged comic-makers I've met here in the UK. Following her regular strips in the Guardian's G2 section and the Times, her debut graphic novel has emerged via Random House imprint Square Peg.

The loose linework, owing a greater debt to contemporary European art comics than anything published in the English language, will not be to everybody's taste, but perfectly supports the queasy tone of The House That Groaned. And the book is beautifully and imaginatively designed with a splendid die-cut cover.

A far cry from the slice-of-life work she did for newspapers, The House That Groaned is a bleak tale built around the interconnecting stories of a group of people living in a house divided into flats. Used to Karrie's more recent comics, I wasn't expecting the body horror, kaleidoscopic sexuality and magical realism it contains. Anyone who enjoyed the icy, anything-goes world of the early nineties Vertigo comics should enjoy the book's unbridled spirit.

You can read more about Karrie and The House That Groaned at her website.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Subscription Experiment

I know that a lot of people are interested in my subscription experiment, and that I should write a little something about it - at the very least to say thank you to all the people who have taken the time to sign up.

I wanted the experiment to be low key. I posted once about it on Twitter, at the weekend (and at a time when most US readers would be asleep), and put a small post on my site under the comic. It's not a Kickstarter, there is no goal, merely a push toward sustainability through the website at a time when I probably won't be able to start putting Bad Machinery book collections out (a substantial part of my projected income in any calendar year) until 2013.

In the week since I announced it, I have raised about £4000 (around $6000). This will make a huge difference later this year when a glut of book work for the above collection will make it difficult to do commissions, freelance or prepare special items for conventions. It will buy me a two or three month holiday from near-constant anxiety.

I expected most people to subscribe at the lowest tier, £2 or $3, but the majority of donations were in the middle. The fact that readers were willing to commit to an annual donation greater than the baseline was incredibly encouraging. That several people chose the maximum annual subscription really surprised me.

I've been looking at sales graphs for a decade, the early spike is pretty much the default setting for things I have done over the years. But that people responded at all, and with such generosity, to a quiet request for support, is something for which I am very grateful.

If you enjoy my work and want to support it with a subscription, you can still do so on this page.

Thank you again to everyone who has contributed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Delivered on a Segway!

Have you ever had a takeaway menu through your door that you just couldn't throw away? No. No one has. Until now. I love this menu. And here's why:

This is my favourite bit. I want to be in this grid. You want to be in this grid.

Could it be the best steak you ever tasted? It depends on whether you have ever spent more than £6.95 on a steak and chips dinner, I suppose - but I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

People say there are too many fried chicken outlets in metropolitan areas. Perhaps what this astonishing document shows us is that, really, there just aren't enough. Bravo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Sound of 2012

On the first week of the year, the BBC website runs its BBC Sound of 2012 (for example) poll. With the greatest of respect - BURN IT DOWN. Here are the five acts that will redefine music this year - ending with the "Sound of 2012".

5. Crumbles & Corn

The breakout act of this year's Indietracks festival, Aberdeen's Crumbles & Corn proved capable of turning arch-spined, pot bellied scenesters into frenzied dance machines. Ignoring trad jangle, twee-folk and rote C86 shambling, the band combine a three-stringed nylon acoustic, atonal chanting and cardboard box drums to lethal effect. "We wanted someone to spill their fucking Tizer for once", says guitarist Ed Tomlinson. "I saw a kid pissing on his own cardigan" adds vocalist Fudge. Drummer Janyss Cotton (cousin of Fearne!) describes their upcoming album "Trench Warfare" as "glue-sniffing for people who don't like glue".

4. Markuss

As Chillwave fades into the distance, with acts like Ariel Pink and John Maus unable to crack the mainstream, a new nostalgic sound has emerged from the unlikely wellspring of Glossop in Derbyshire. Self-styled "morbid shut-in" Marcus Wentworth filters the knuckleheaded thrash of early-90s metal titans like Sepultura and Pantera through gooey synthesisers and "raps" over the top. "I'm just making the music I want to make", he declares on his debut single "Stop Getting Tattoos". A recently-inked contract with Universal suggests that others want him to make it too. His "Grandma Chic" album is due in February.

3. Lebanese Skin Party

"We're realer than anyone else. Realer than your worst nightmares. The last gang in town." Frontman Oliver Skin might just be right. The first band to be on the cover of the NME before writing their first song ("we just got the call and thought, yeah, having it"), LSP met at Bradford Grammar School and bonded over the Strokes' "First Impressions Of Earth". "It was so good, we vowed never to listen to another record, and we haven't. It was just too perfect. A band needs to bring rock n' roll back. I'm sick of all this dubstep bass shit. Where are the songs? We're about getting out of it, girls, having adventures, a good time." On the evidence of their "Second Impressions Of Earth EP" and an explosive support slot with Viva Brother, Lebanese Skin Party will be near the top of at least one year-end list come December.

2. Rotor Motor

No one created more buzz in the second half of last year than Rotor Motor did with his series of "BIGGA BETTA" 14" singles. Dubstep artists are second only to looters in their desire for anonymity, but Rotor goes a lot further than wearing a hoodie and a mask. He DJs live from a specially redesigned tank. Meticulous about presentation and determined never to break cover, Rotor Motor's appearance at Creamfields Buenos Aires descended into farce when bass vibrations from his vehicle caused an over-mined stretch of land to subside, with hundreds of MDMA-powered dancers experiencing an early comedown and, in 13 cases, premature death. A press release read simply "ITS (sic) ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC".

1. Albert III

"I'm all about pop. I'm all about fun. I'm all about love. Women, men, whatever! Come one, come all, I kiss you!" In a landscape dominated by slick talent-show and stage-school stars, Albert III's "I Kiss You" single is a hymn to acceptance. "I was bullied as a child, I didn't fit in. But they couldn't stop me dreaming. I want to be like Freddie Mercury, Liza Minelli and Margaret Thatcher all in one!" Just six months ago, Albert III was Steve Gosforth, working at a branch of Natwest in Surbiton. "Steve Gosforth is dead," he pronounces grandly, Meerschaum pipe in hand. One night I was walking home from work and a white light shone down on me, perhaps from a UFO or God himself. From that moment on, I was Albert III and I'll be Albert III until I die." Reportedly the subject of the biggest marketing spend "since Norwich Union turned into Aviva, darling", Albert III's "I, Albert III" LP should hit the charts like a bomb in late January.