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.