Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Internet arguments continue. BT can't find our house. East London is fantastic. New found proximity to Indian spices making cooking highly experimental. Currently Looking forward to annual Jan pilgrimage to comics mecca. Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Bye Bye.

Trying to start a daily blog timetable right before I was set to move house was probably a bad idea. Suffice to say- i'm off tomorrow for pastures greyer, and will be out of contact with the digital world until I'm able to rustle up a broadband connection. The last time I had to do this it took weeks, but times may have changed since then.
I'm sure you'll miss me terribly.

Saturday, 29 November 2008


I had to talk to my parents about inheritance tax today. If you want to avoid giving everything you own to the taxman you have to hand it all over to your children something like seven years before you die. Well, that's kinda difficult to estimate, isn't it? It's designed to be a tax on the mega rich (and I support that) but it bugs me all the same because I don't want to think about it.
My family owns some of the land once belonging to William Penn and although the manor house doesn't exist any more the stable buildings and cottages have mostly been converted. The estate is around 350 acres, comprising of five houses two woods and a number of arable and parkland fields.
I don't know the tenants, I don't know the letting agencies, I barely know the gamekeeper or any of the contract farmers.
The "one day all of this will be yours" speech scares the shit out of me. I'm going to go hide under a blanket, or something.

Your reward for listening to me moan is a link to Artquest, which is a UK site to help out artists legally and professionally. It looks pretty good, but I'm still deciding how useful it is in relation to comics.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Kids Stuff.

I love this show! It's called Pocoyo and it's a Japanese influenced 3d cartoon for pre-schoolers. Originally from Spain; It's simple, well animated, utterly charming and voiced in the UK by Stephen Fry. It's easy for us grown-ups to grumble through our rose-tinted glasses about how the kids cartoons we grew up with were far superior to this modern rubbish, but I wish I'd had Pocoyo as a kid. Watch some.
Click here to see Pocoyo rock out!
Click here to see Pocoyo race!
Sorry, I have sudden childish moments. Icecream!

Well, it's real late and I'm waiting for something to scan, but watching kids TV has got me thinking about children's stories in general.

There seem to be two conflicting schools of thought on "what makes a good kids story". On the one hand, escapism has always been the long standing axiom. If you can make a kid think "wow, I wish I was there" or "wow, I wish I was him/her" you're onto a winner. Magical worlds and fairy tales and magnificent adventures are always what a kid is going to connect to. Take something that they can't do, remove the parents, and then let them do it.

On the other hand there's the more down to earth story, where you manufacture a situation in which a group of children have adventures in a very real world setting. The railway children is a good example of this. The idea here is that the reader is thinking more along the lines of "I could be him/her" and the charm lies in finding characters and adventures that you could actually replicate, rather than magical impossibilities. Here the limitations of the real world are almost what makes the story.

Obviously the very best children's books (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials) tick all of the above. Harry Potter is a good example, as he is both in a down-to-earth situation (school) and a magical fantasy world. (wizard school!)
However after thinking on this for a while I arrived at the conclusion that really both points of view are the same. The railway children (even for kids of the actual time period it was written) is really conjuring up the same sentiment as The Phoenix and the Carpet or Five Children and It. (to stick with the Nesbits)
That sentiment being: "I wish I was that kid".

Whether it's the wish to fly and use magic, the wish that mysterious crimes happened in your town with more regularity, or the wish that your friends would stop tormenting the neighbour's cat long enough to all go in search of adventure, that longing is really what keeps you reading. Whether the writer provokes this using the character, the world they inhabit or the journeys they have is up to them.

It's pretty obvious, I know, but I like to write these things down. Actually, I guess it's probably a good rule of thumb for all writing, even for adults and especially for comics.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

War noodling.

I've been trying to work out some palettes for my proposed war story (read as: avoiding real work like it's going out of style.) so I decided to slap some colour on some doodles I did for possible characters. I rather like these two. One looks really idealistic, and the other looks like he might grow up to be some heroic manga bish. I'm looking forward to killing them both.

At the moment i'm still slightly concerned that the colour will turn to a wonderful shade of "bleugh" on the recyclable paper that the DFC uses, however. Damn trees. Next I plan to go through a full horizontal and vertical head rotation sheet for each and every character. This is a totally excessive measure which I wouldn't recommend to anyone. I've just spent the last year progressively designing characters straight onto the page, forgetting what they look like and then cocking them up over and over again. So help me, my next comic will be different.

(I'm aware that these character's faces are wonky, and the irony that that involves!)


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

On Nietzsche.

I found I couldn't really concentrate yesterday evening, so I did a drawing of Friedrich Nietzsche, which I've been wanting to do for a while. He was a great character; the sort of philosopher who seemed to go from great leaps of inspiration to total despair in a heartbeat. His writings really reflect that. Synonymous nowadays with misery, I find most things he wrote strangely uplifting, and magnificently visual. That's not just schadenfreude either, although it is nice to know in arty-angsty moments that Nietzsche was, at any given time, twice as miserable as you are! XD

A lot of people have been recommending me Sartre lately, but having read "Existentialism and Humanism", I found him to be a little...well, existential...unsurprisingly. I'm not in any position or possessing of enough brainpower to compare philosophers here, I'm just talking about my preference on writing. And wow, does Nietzsche write like a madman! Every other sentence seems to be a grandiose statement of sudden truth or some instant commandment, bookended by exclamation points. Perhaps i've just been reading some very over-the-top translations, but it makes my tiny mind jump up and go shit! Yes! Whatever you say mr.philosopher, sir!
He's also highly visual, or conjures some fantastic images in my mind at least. I want to do a Nietzsche manga..

"The ice is near, the solitude tremendous—but how calmly all things lie in the light!
How freely one breathes! How much one feels beneath oneself!— Philosophy, as I have so far understood and lived it, means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains—seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence, everything so far placed under a ban by morality."

(also, I've decided that i'm a terrible digital painter and shall not be trying it again for a while.)

Monday, 24 November 2008

On Teaching.

I had to do a bit of teaching last week, which threw up some really interesting points for me. One kid in the group (12/13 years, don't ask me what yeargroup that is...) was, according to his teachers, talented but refusing to draw anything for fear of looking "uncool". I thought this was a little odd, but upon actually talking to the kid I found him drawing an exact, and quite good, copy of the DFC cover in front of him.
Well, I started laying into him for that, trying to shame him into doing something of his own. "Fine!" he replied, now in a sulk, "I'll draw you then!" So I decided to draw him while he was grumpily drawing me. It turned into a bit of a competition, and half the class gathered around to watch. The teachers told me after the class that they'd never seen him so involved in an art lesson. His drawing wasn't bad either.
This really struck me as interesting. Clearly his teachers had just been too soft on him, quietly trying to coax out the "art", whereas when I came along and took much more of a "you're not that hot" attitude he really rose to the challenge. I guess the more teaching you do the better you're able to judge how a certain kid is going to respond to a certain type of teaching; which ones need soothing encouragements and which ones will be fired into action by a need to prove you wrong.
I can definitely relate to teachers who talk of the feeling of satisfaction when you really bring out that spark of excitement in a kid, but I couldn't do it every day. I was talking teaching to "Dave" of Two Sides Wide Studios (and recent Manga Jiman fame) this weekend, who works with a similar age-group. His job sounds ridiculously difficult. Much respect there.

Also in the realm of DFC promotion, I did a talk at the ICA for Comica on Sunday. I had a horrible headcold all day. I can't remember what I said, but it probably consisted of a lot of sniffles and grunts. So apologies to anyone who was there.
Here is a picture of the ridiculously talented Adam Brockbank, My sister Rachel and me looking queasy.

Edit: Just realised Adam did the storyboards for the Dinotopia film. I'm glad I didn't know that, or I might've done a whole lot more fanboy squealing.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Organised Chaos.

Having to move house is painful. The most painful part is the thought that I may soon have to demolish my desk. (I'd love to say "studio" but it has a bed in it too, so it doesn't count.) I generally like to keep my living space tidy and minimalist, but this always falls to pieces when it comes to my working space. I've always wanted the kind of ridiculously cluttered studio you associate with "real" artists and my desk is an amazing amalgamation of ikea tables, computer desks, a parallel motion drawing board, about nine million pens, brushes, pencils and tiny little bottles, stereos and more books than you could shake a....book at. looking at it now i'm amazed it's still upright. I'll be sad to see it go, but with any luck I'll get to build a new one soon. :)

Note: These two pictures were taken when my uni buddies had a polaroid fetish, not in 1975.

Friday, 31 October 2008

On sepia.

In a wild attempt to distract myself from some recent turmoil, i'm going to ramble about sepia. I love sepia, I really do. I watched "A very Long Engagement" again recently, which always gets me by the jugular. "The Illusionist" too- because it has the sheer audacity to blur the corners of the camera. Beautiful.
The problem with Sepia, however, is that it's actually horrible, far too warm, muddy, desaturated brown filth. Fine for a single photo, terrible for a cover and disastrous for an entire book. What I really love is "mock sepia" a kind of cross between yellowing paper, brown ink and bleached golden sunlight. (see above) It's something I could easily replicate, if I were prepared to crack out the painty photoshop, but it's hardly practical for use in comics. I've tried many different methods for mocking this up in a time economic way, but with little success. Mostly, the problem seems to be that it's such a dangerously volatile colour palette to use for mass production. My Tokyopop Rising Stars cover, for example, was supposed to glow golden orange, but ended up as a flat and rather uninteresting brown. My comic "Cairo", which was only ever supposed to be a portfolio piece, went from brown to greeny- grey with each printout. My latest attempt is in an episode of "John Blake" which should air sometime around Christmas. I am expecting it to be a cross between chocolate and mud.
I'd love to give up on sepia; but that parchment and wax seal, battered leather journal, spidery ink hand, faded photograph look just sucks me in every time. I want to make comics that look like a love letter between a long dead couple, an adventurers notebook found in a casket on the banks of the Nile or the scrapbook of a young soldier slipped between two forgotten shelves at the back of the Bodleian library.

Monday, 27 October 2008


Expo was a lot of fun, as per usual. I sufficiently filled my fanboy-squee quota for at least another month or so. The biggest revelation of the weekend was that the infamous phrase; "Glomp" is actually an acronym, standing for: Grab, Latch On, Maintain Pressure. A brief poll of the UK manga industry found that nobody had ever heard of this either. We must assume that that girly who relayed this information had, in fact, made it all up. The only alternative being to admit that we're all out of touch with the free-hugs demographic. Which is obviously untrue.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Just a little more.

Hang in there man, we're all behind you.
Just a couple more days, okay?
Because If we mess this one up we're
all in trouble.

Random note: my sister got her hair cut in Chicago by the same person who does Michelle's. I'd find a picture but it might embarrass her. I'm not sure she likes being the best looking dyke in London :)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Resolution No #187.

I made a new resolution today. This happens about once every couple of months, or whenever i'm in a bad mood. This time I thought i'd share. It comes in a form of a checklist. Any comic I write (drawing other peoples doesn't count) Must contain:
  1. A Story that reflects my concerns
  2. A story that has merit; either personal or external.
  3. A story that is defined and complete both in its purpose and construction
  4. Rounded characters that reflect some form of my personality, or those around me.
  5. An art style that is vibrant and mobile.
  6. An art style that is flexible enough to portray my characters and the story to the best of its/my ability.
  7. A visual storytelling style which is flexible enough to allow for the very best representation of any given emotion or scene.
To explain:
  1. Is because I spend far too much time telling stories that do not reflect upon me. These are rarely good stories. More going through the motions of creating an "epic tale" or squeezing emotion out of something- which is always going to be hollow and constructed. Also, I think if I analysed my concerns more closely, i'd end up with a stories that were really important to me. This would, in theory, make them much better and much more enjoyable to create.

  2. I don't mean "worthy" merit here. Nothing is worse than stories with heavy handed messages. What I mean is that the story must have a reason for being. Not the idea, which might be "Post apocalyptic city with jetbikes" but rather the story. Jetbikes, although awesome, are not an appropriate raison d'ĂȘtre for any story.

  3. And even if the story is about jetbikes, far too often I start comics with only a cloud of emotions, scenes and character traits which involve jetbikes, rather than an actual story. ( I don't know how we got onto the jetbikes, sorry.)

  4. I'm sure the really great storytellers can pluck characters out of thin air. I'm not one of them. This doesn't mean I can't exaggerate, or place myself or my friends in outlandish situations, but to have truly three dimensional characters, I should really stick to what I know. The only thing that's stopping me from using my own extensive list of insecurities, shamefull machiavellian streaks and pretentious delusions of eloquence (duuh, I used big words!) is my abject terror of laying myself bare for my art, which obviously holds it back. ooh, that's going on the list of insecurities too.

  5. This is because I get caught up in the details. Or rather, I get caught up in the set pieces- scenes, locations, whatever. This always seems to damage the "character" of both my figures and my precious backgrounds. Just because the building doesn't bend like that, doesn't mean I shouldn't bend it.

  6. This is to reign in my style. A comic should not rest on style, and one that is very interesting and striking, can clash with the way I may want a story to be told. I feel style should be slave to the story- rather than the other way around.

  7. This is to make sure that I make the fullest use of the comics format. A friend of mine is currently stuck drawing a comic in a rigid 4 panel-per-page layout. Conversely, I see many manga artists using layouts that seem worryingly like manga for manga's sake. No layout precedent or artwork style should restrict me from drawing the best panel, or page, possible.
I hereby resolve not to write myself another comic unless it adheres to all of the above.
(resolution may be subject to change and revision without notice. ahehehe ^-^)
This probably all seems like common sense, but I need to be reminded of these things, plus I feel like putting it in writing might just make me somehow less likely to trundle on with mediocrity. (hey! another one for the list of insecurities!)
Finally, and in case you were concerned that i've become all contemplative and morose: I really really need to stop buying so many moleskines.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

War wip.

I want to do a war comic for the DFC. The big bowtied-bossman is very keen, but it's not an idea that comes without risks. The thought of toeing the razor fine line between war glorification and "too harrowing for the kiddies" is probably what's turning me towards the idea in the first place. One slip to the left or right, and it's head-first into a deluge of cancelled subscriptions and angry letters to You and Yours. One day i'll kick this masochistic streak and write a nice story about a magical-girl or something.
(oh, this is a wip, by the way.)

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bi-weekly Akira fetish.

My problem, or rather the principal problem in my vast catalogue of problems, is that I have too many "styles". They all boil down to a similar way of drawing- but when it comes to the rendering, panel composition, "comics narrative style" and even the way characters are drawn, I'm all over the place. The problem is really that when I see a marvel pinup, or a page of manga, or a pencil-inked BD spread, I think to myself- "I could do that!" and most of the time- I could. (or rather- a barely passable knock off.) To be a Jack of all trades is definitely a plus in this industry , but I often feel the "master of none" part of that phrase tickling the back of my mind. At least once every two weeks, however, I decide that Otomo is amazing and I must replicate everything he does. I reckon this is because Akira was one of the comics that strongly influenced me as a kid, but I still think it's strange that I return to it all the time. I don't want to make perfect Akira copies, but there's something in the way he draws that's clearly very appealing to me. If I can just figure out what that is, I might just end up a better cartoonist one day.
Anyway, here's a girl doing some abseiling. This was from an idea for a competition that I never entered- because I decided to turn it into a comic that I never finished. Typical.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

No more Wendling for me thanks.

Urgle. After spending some considerable time replicating a very Franco-Belgian "clear line" artwork style (hey, I do what i'm told) I had a mental spazm and gorged myself on some of the best comics to come from Italy. Massimiliano Frezzato, Barbucchi & Canepa, Liberatore and the slightly disturbing Fernado Caretta. Claire Wendling too, but she's French so she doesn't count. Okay, so they're all produced in BD form in French first, but then SkyDoll is now a marvel book, I hear (So that's what that guy was doing with Soleil at Angouleme. I'm glad I was drunk when major comics deals were going down- it's very reassuring.) Anyways, here are the scribbled results. I wanted to do a fantasy story with a young female heroine for the DFC. I wrote the whole damn thing before I realised Kate Brown beat me to it.
Oh, and nothing happened in the last six months. no really, I'm seeing schooners when I close my eyes. I'm going to try and update this more frequently, honest.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

The top five.

I got a whole torrent of abuse shouted at me from a passing car the other day. None of it was particularly imaginative, however it did get me thinking about the very best racial insults I've ever been handed. Sure, I get decent amount of Niggers and Paki's thrown my way (obviously not at the same time, that would be one slightly confused racist) and with the imminent doom of the return of the sus laws on the horizon, I also get stopped and searched a whole freaking lot. To be fair, being a 20-something male with dreadlocks and a headscarf doesn't do me any favours. Amazingly, I manage to tick the knife wielding black youth, drug dealing Rasta and Islamic terrorist boxes all at the same time. Win.
The following list, however, is the more amusing ones. Most of them are pretty subtle, by the middle class, art school softies I tend to end up around. And so I present to you:

John's top 5 all-time favourite amusing racial slurs:
5)"Do you know where I could get some weed, mate"
God, I get that a lot. Nobody ever offers to sell me any weed; they just assume my pockets are bulging with the stuff already. Not really funny on its own- but I like to imagine the thought train of the people who ask me this. "Dude, I really need some weed...Hey, look! Brown person! Dreadlocks! We're saved!"

4)"Where are you from originally?" - this is a great one. It takes the form of a whole conversation & happens a lot. I answer, "Brighton" and then they reply, "No, I mean, where are you from?" and I answer...."Brighton." "No, no, where were you from originally?" "Brighton!" "But where were you born?"... It goes on in that vein for some time.

3) "Oh, you must introduce me! I get on really well with black people!" - spoken about me to my friend Molly, by her roommate at college. Followed by Molly's long incredulous silence. Subtle and completely unintentional by a true art school toff. Love it. Molly never introduced me.

2)"Gollywog!" Shouted at me from a passing car. Genius. Who says that any more? That's like saying "Radical!" or "Cowabunga dude!" get with the times, man.

and number one on the list.....

1) "Filthy Jap" Shouted at me on the street. Wonderful. The poor individual didn't even bother to differentiate between those various "ethnic" types. Perhaps he didn't know the difference? Perhaps he was pressed for time and selected the first one to hand? I look like many things, but Japanese is not one of them. Deliciously surreal, not to mention sounding like something last shouted at Iwo Jima. I want a "Filthy Jap" T-shirt. In giant letters.
( this also pushed "Ching Chong Chang" off the list. Unbelievable, I know. Are these people blind?)

Also another related fave- "Go home cripple" written across the front of Al Davison's house. Probably wasn't funny at the time, but Al seemed to find some humour in the re-telling. To were exactly? Cripple-land?


Saturday, 2 February 2008


I can't be bothered to blog about how amazing the biggest comics con in Europe is. If you haven't been it's not really worth describing. Instead I'l just make a list of some of the stuff I enjoyed.
-Munoz Exhibition
-Clamp Exhibition
-Seeing Olivier Vatine
-Comics classes with Savoia (my idol)
-Meeting a Marvel editor hungover in the street at 7 in the morning
-Bumping into Yishan Li at 4 in the morning
-Going to the pub with Gene Luen Yang.
-Going to the pub with Ed Bagwell
-Going to the pub with Nick Abadzis
(there's a theme emerging here...)
-Going to the pub with Bart Beaty & Stephen Betts
-and randomly being given two tickets to the award ceremony!
All good fun. The photos here are just to give you an idea of the scale. This isn't the convention area, just trying to walk down the hill.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Ink roughs2.

Well, here's the final (ish) page. Hrm. Still not pleased with that spot black balance, but I think it's probably better than I would've come up with if i'd just launched straight into it. In other news, my mom phoned me up just to say that the online trailers for the Death Note movie look awesome. Seriously, whose mother does that??

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Ink roughs.

I've started doing really overblown ink roughs for my comic pages recently. I've been very unahappy with my black ad white balance, and hopefuly this will help. I'll post up the final page when it's done, and i'd be real interested for some feedback at that point. I'd currently recommend everyone to do some serious ink roughs before they start their artwork- But I guess we shall see if it actually has any impact on my work, at least.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Oh Dear.

One of my sister's friends, Amy, is on Big Brother. This is so typical of my sister's friends I can't tell you. For once i'm slightly looking forward to reality TV bilge. My sister is unable to watch it. She has her head in her hands at every stupid comment!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


Four in the morning. Currently plastered, to the point that I can barely type. Met a wonderful Malaysian girl on the bus back home. No more super-clubs for me. I'm going to be feeling this one in a couple of hours time, ow, and a happy sozzled new year to you all. In the spirit of drunken messages, here's some random characters that could possibly be english: tgyduqwek7g6jv!!!!!