Thursday, 13 December 2012

Something About Pirates

Quetsion: When is comic book not a comic book?
Answer:   When it's a picture book that is at heart a comic book? Hmmm!

I've been temping at a book shop over Christmas. I thought it would be a great opportunity to see how books are sold, who buys them and whether kids are there and influence the purchase. I've spent most of my time at the till so I've not seen much of the selection process, just the result, (Boo! Hoo!). The Pirate-Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door, passed me by during the day and I immediately recognised the artwork. Later I caught sight of the authors name and it was none other than author/artist Jonny Duddle. This set bells ringing and after work I put my generous staff discount to good use and bought both of his books.

Both of Jonny Duddle's picture books are exceptional and they are a great introduction to comic book language for children aged 4 -7 (and older). It is a blend of traditional picture book and comic book using panels and speech bubbles to assist in delivery of an exciting narrative. I thought it was a great blend of the two media and I'll be doing some of this in Tooth and Nail.

I was first introduced to Jonny's tips, tricks and skills as an illustrator in ImagineFX . I really like his style which is why I had to purchase both books and why I am eagerly awaiting The King of Space.  I'll be following it's progress very closely. Oh and his latest book The Pirates Next Door, has been winning all sorts of awards and prizes.

Friday, 7 December 2012


Over the past few weeks I've been looking at the complexity of panel layout within children's comics and graphics novels. I found a real gem in Korgi Book 1 by Christian Slade. Its an all ages graphic novel told exclusively through image. I confess I would never have picked it up if it were not for research purposes, wink, wink,  but thankfully I did.

Christian's line work and composition are fantastic. What he excels at is his use of parallel lines to describe form and movement. This adds a real energy to every page. Nothing feels dead or static. More uniquely and more importantly to comics is his use of this technique to guide your eyes in reading the panels and moving your eye to the focal point within a frame or page. I have not seen this done before in comics in this way and found it quite exciting and fun. The pacing of the book is great as well. There's a full review here.

As mentioned previously I've been looking at some DFC strips compiled for graphic novels. I've also been reading Marvel's, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.What they all have in common is very simple panel layout. This is quite different to graphic novels aimed at a more mature comic reading audience. It's less playful and inventive but when it comes to communicating a story directly and with absolute clarity, quiet panel layout really cannot be beaten.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Connecting the Dots

I was re-reading  Frontier on the train during my twice weekly visit to Wales and something in the introduction caught my eye, The DFC. They have popped up at a number of things I have attended, read or looked at  recently. A couple of lines further and the pieces started to fall into place.

Frontier and Mezolith, both featured in The DFC, that up until Friday 27 March 2009 was producing a subscription only weekly comic for kids. When I say 'for kids,' Mezolith is definitely not just for kids, it's a great piece of sequential art. It is visually epic and cinematic in a way that I have not previously seen in a comic. It would translate perfectly to screen and would be ideal in that Sunday early evening slot that used to be filled by The Story Teller. You know that programme in the 80's by Henson with John Hurt and a big fluffy dog. Only in Mezolith the storytelling and stories are even better.
It follows the escapades of Poika, his tribe, their stories traditions and their way of life. There is something quite primal about the narrative and they feel like they're being passed onto you rather than being read. I really can't overstate the quality of the storytelling in which Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank truly excel.

Anyway DFC Library picked up where it's preprocessor left off reprinting Mezolith  in graphic novel format. Which is why I get to enjoy reading and re-reading it. I'm really looking forward to book 2.

Come on guys when's book 2 out?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Rise of the Phoenix

the PHOENIX is an amazing weekly comic for Kids. The core readership is 8 - 11 but can be enjoyed by younger children and also by adults. Whilst at Thought Bubble I got to chat to Neil Cameron and drool all over his portfolio, apologies if it's now dripping with saliva. Neil is one of the artists that works on my favourite strip in the weekly, The Pirates of Pangaea.

I also got chatting to Ross Fraser their marketing manager whilst purchasing a taster subscription as a Christmas present for my niece. He told me that the Phoenix is available in Waitrose and they are looking at more retail outlets for retail distribution. So it is very likely that if your in the UK they will soon be in a store near you. If your looking for a Christmas present for a child in that age bracket it is well worth a look.

Frontier: Dealing With Demons

Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman have done a great job on this. It seems that the 2010's is going to produce a wealth of comics for Kids and shift away from the emphasis on gritty realism. Obviously there's a place for dark gritty comics, but your kids can't read over your shoulder whilst your flicking through the latest Spiderman featuring Aunt May getting raped by DR Octopus.

Frontier is a Western similar to Hellboy in that anything can happen. The artwork is beautiful clean and the palette makes the whole thing very easy on the eye. It's a collection of the strip that featured in The DFC, before they shut up shop.

Strip Magazine has a full review here. Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more from this duo.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I got given a free promo comic at Thought Bubble. Normally when anyone tries to hand me free shit I ignore it because it is normally exactly that, Free Shit! Thank god I did not do this for 'Porcelain - A Gothic Fairy Tale'. This is something a bit special. It is probably the best thing in comics I have read for a long time and I can't wait to get my hands on more. It is beautifully rendered and beautifully written. There is a wit and playfulness with the main character that is rare and the text and image marry perfectly. This is definitely a Gothic fairytale to keep an eye on and I will be buying it when it is available. The promo is on-line at Improper Books, so head over there and enjoy.

Definitely the best free thing I've ever been handed.

Disconnected Vol. 2

Whilst at thought bubble I had a lovely chat with Lizzie Boyle. Lizzie handles editorial responsibilities over at Disconnected Press as well as writing. They pride themselves on showcasing emerging talent in the UK comics world. I picked up Disconnected Vol. 2 and read it on the way back from my twice weekly trip to Wrexham. For me the stand-out story was 'Pests' writer, Mathew Craig and artist, Neil McCclements. The reason I bought the book was, 'The Remarkebly Normal Man' the artwork is absolutely stunning. Sarah Jones has done a great job of bringing Jon Lock's story to life. There is something in this compilation for everyone so if you get a chance buy it. I will now be feverishly hunting down Vol. 1.

You can also see some of Sarah's work here.

Thought Bubble

The Thought Bubble convention was a blast. I got to hang out with my mate Andy Sykes of while he wrestled with the responsibilities of super stardom. I also got to check the sketching spotlight JOCK AKA Mark Simpson as well as PIA GUERRA who were both on top form. Dr Simpo gave a talk on Dandy: The Rise an Fall of a National Institution which was fun and informative with lively discussion at the end. 

Most importantly I got to chat with a number of artists, editors and Marketing Managers. I would recommend this festival to anyone in, wanting to break in or avidly reading content created by, the comics industry.  

Tidy Up

I got back from Thought Bubble comic conference on Sunday feeling truly inspired. As a result I have been racing round, (sat on my arse), the internet sorting out my various profiles and getting my work in order. So hopefully I will be in a position to post some work and show progress on my own projects pretty soon.

My links to comic book stuff are set up over at Delicious for all to check out. There're links to Thought Bubble so you can check out everything that you missed if you did not attend. Also of note was the Comics Fourm they put on a fantastic event with some great speakers. Thanks to all that talked to, spoke at and chatted with me.

The Comics Forum ran on the 15th and 16th November before the convention, papers were delivered by a number of academics.  I particularly enjoyed papers by Mel Gibson, Umar Ditta, Cameron Fletcher, John G. Swogger, Andy Mason, William H. Foster III, Keina Yoshida and Asta Vrecko. A special thanks is deserved for Mel and William who were particularly informative and entertaining.

In addition Charlie Adlard was a keynote speaker. I didn't realise who he was previous to the forum which is ridiculous as I've read all of 'The Walking Dead' to date. I can only out put this oversight down to my eagerness to delve into the story. It was great hearing him talk and introduce some of his other works of which I will now hunt down and read.


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