Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Death Sentence Serialized in Clint Magazine

Mike and I are really excited about this. As a new indie comic, from two more or less unknown guys, the principal issue is no-one reads your work. In a world where celebrity counts for more than quality, it's a difficult hurdle to overcome. This serialization gives people an opportunity to read the strip - and judge it on its own merits. Huge thanks to Mark Millar and Nick Landau for doing exactly that.

Mike and I are both very passionate about creating fresh and thought provoking sequentials - the reason why we struck out on this project - and hopefully that passion comes across in the details on every page.

As to how the serialization came about, if you read back through my blog you can get a picture of the development of the comic from the start.

There's also a link to the Clint story here and here:

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Free Character/Concept Design Class

As part of the ongoing programme of V&A events in Dundee, I'm doing a free class in concept/costume design with Clare Brennan. It takes place on Tues 6th Dec at 5:30 - 8:30pm at Abertay Uni Drawing Studio, and ties in with the Cecil Beaton exhibition now on at the McManus gallery.  A life model, costumes, and Beaton ref will be provided. Get in touch to reserve a place.

Beaton won academy awards for costume design for Gigi and My Fair Lady. We'll be looking at the whole concept design process - function, context, character, anatomy, posing, silhouette, colour, texture, and fabric detail - generating ideas and a final design. Updating Beaton's Doolittle costume designs for a modern production will be our brief. All levels and styles of artist are welcome.

I did ten quick sketches last night in preparation, three of which you can see here next to one of Beaton's original Eliza Doolitle designs (left)

And here's the final costume worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film, and another of Beaton's wonderful designs for Gigi:

UPDATE: This is now fully booked with a waiting list. Thanks to everyone who got in touch.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Dundee Comics' Day

Wow, Dundee Comics' Day was great! So refreshing to see comics of all types treated with academic and fan enthusiasm in equal measure.

Where else do you get to hear John Wagner do a presentation about writing comics, structuring narrative, and establishing character? A masterclass in every sense, delivered with dry humour and self depreciation. I took notes.

Cam Kennedy could be an after dinner speaker! He had the lecture hall in fits of laughter with his evocative reminiscences of painting in Normandy, hanging with Moebius, and drawing Star Wars: "I could have been a millionaire," he said, "but what's the point of your kids coming back from Barbados and finding you dead, slumped over the drawing board?" Also: "Being Scottish is great. If it's raining I draw, if it's sunny I go fishing!". All the while his wonderful pencil drawings were playing across the vast screen behind him. A Cam Kennedy sketchbook would sell out in hours.

Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering, Paul Gravett, Colin Macneil, Robbie Morrison, Frank Quitely and the Commando team all gave edifying talks too. I ran into many old faces and made new friends, which was lovely. It was a privilege to be there and listen.

I distributed some preview copies of Death Sentence 1, just to let people know it's coming in 2012. Here's who took a copy.

Frank Quitely
John Wagner
Richard Clements and Vicky Stonebridge
Lizzie: Graphics Scotland
David Bishop
Gary Gray
Robbie Morrisson
Stephen O'Donnell
Sam Russell
Will Pickering
Mark Smith
Patrick McDonald
Draia Wall
Dave Moyes
Gordon Hannan
John Mcshane
Craig Hastie and Gary Watson
Martin Conaghan

These join the lucky few who took copies at Kapow and Bristol
Andy Martin
Alison Sampson
Phil Vaughan
Chris Murray

There are only 50 preview issues, and there will only ever be 50: 30 for the public and 20 for comic publishers and editors. They're all hand numbered and signed, with the name of the recipient, plus a subtle addition to the interior inking of each issue. That way if any ever turn up scanned on line we'll know who did it. The proper Diamond solicitation next year will have changes to the front and back covers and interior articles, so these are all unique (including the spelling mistake on the inside back cover).

Feedback on the series so far has been really good, which worries me a bit. I'd rather know what's weak about it so we can make the final issues even better. Mike and I are growing as a creative team, and trying out different sequential techniques in later issues to make it as entertaining as possible.

I also got John Wagner's autograph! I've only ever asked for two in the last twenty years, John and Dave Mazzucchelli. Only the legends make my wall.

Final thanks go to Chris Murray, Phil Vaughn and Dundee University for organising such a great day.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Death Sentence, Dundee, and Thought Bubble

Death Sentence 01 is off to the printers today! Though it's just 30 promotional copies to take to events and so on. We'll get safely to issue 03 before soliciting orders.

Talking of events I'll be at the Dundee Comics Day along with some incredible guests: John Wagner, Frank Quitely, Robbie Morrisson, Cam Kennedy, Colin Macneil, Martin Conaghan, etc. I'll be on at 11:40am. Days like this are brilliant because you can actually chat to the creators in a 'Hello. How are you?' kind of way, rather than the 'queuing an hour for an autograph' kind of way you see at other cons. Give me Dundee Comics Day, or Hi-Ex, over San Diego any day of the week.


My Death Sentence collaborator Mike Dowling and I will also be at Thought Bubble in Leeds on Nov 19th and 20th.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Death Sentence Issue 01 is READY

Death Sentence 01 is ready for the printer!! And if that's not worth a blog entry, I don't know what is.

It takes a lot of focus to make a 22 page comic: The idea, the writing, editing, the typing up, the penciling, inking, colouring, lettering, graphic design, logos, covers, printing, distribution, and marketing. And all that awaits you in return is penury and indifference. Truly the creative impulse is a mysterious and wanton beast. What possible good can come of this madness?

Creative satisfaction - and the triumph of love over money! On that basis - I salute independent comic creators everywhere! 

On with issue 02! When we get to the end of that little beauty, we'll start to think about a publication date.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Verity, Toilets, and Lettering

So this started out as a tonal study for a painting, but I liked the line and worked it up into a presentable state.

Still waiting for the lettering back for issue 01, which is being done by the excellent Jimmy Betancourt at Comicraft. Hopefully it'll come in today! Mr's Nero and I are out for a large one in Edinburgh Fri/Sat and I'll be in no fit state to edit anything thereafter.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Writing has attributes more akin to a psychological condition than a profession. An overpowering compulsion to get up in the middle of the night to commit an idea to paper is often how a script starts. The subconscious throws up some emotionally resonant story ideas, untroubled by analysis. Intriguing concepts come in that magical half-state between sleeping and waking, where dialogue and scenes flow effortlessly - or when the mind’s on something else like driving or washing-up.

If I don't sit down straight sway and write it all down I worry I'll forget what made it so beautiful.

I’m a plotter. Once the idea’s been transcribed I can't write a script until I nail down key events, how it ends, and what the point of it all is. Plotting’s a blast - a kinetic brainstorm of stimulating ‘What Ifs’ that get whittled and shuffled into form: A cerebral process, like solving a puzzle. When a plot and its subtext truly work I'm in turns thrilled, upset, and amused by the fate of my protagonists; When it doesn't the characters lie stillborn in the notebook, awaiting revivification.

A page long synopsis of the whole story follows. The synopsis gets broken down into individual scenes, a sentence or two on each. The scenes are laid out on cards so I can see at a glance how the plot points fall. Each column is a different character's arc, and I shuffle the cards about, coalesce, remove, and rewrite until everything motors to a satisfying conclusion.

Plot breakdown for 'Death Sentence'
By this time dialogue and imagery has started to flow. I'll get gripped by a scene or a sequence and start acting it out, jotting down the lines and reactions. No descriptions - just dialogue. I write fast and with a natural cadence. I'll sometimes try a scene three or four ways, and restructure the scenes underlying dynamics, but I’ve learned not to rewrite much of the dialogue itself. It helps the scenes zip along, and seems to lend the characters some elusive truth.

When I have enough scenes I start reading back. Much of what I write doesn't impress me, but the scenes that do get typed up in final format with panel descriptions and other sequential notes for the artist. I edit by the cunning technique of removing as many words as possible without losing meaning. I show the script around, and filter feedback carefully into apposite tweaks. When the scripts as good as it's ever going to get I send it on.

On Death Sentence I'm working with Mike Dowling, who swiftly sends back his wonderful artwork - that's the magic of Mike. I'll read through the art with the script and marvel at his talent. I’ll check it all works as it should, occasionally suggest the odd change which it's up to him to embrace or not, and delete dialogue wherever possible to let his imagery breathe.

It's intoxicating to watch a scene that only months before rattled though your brain play out on the page. You learn an enormous amount from analysing a fully realised page - sequential subtleties which enhance subsequent work. Hopefully that means each issue is better than the last, but that's beside the point. Writing's a compulsion: You either do it or you don't.

Friday, 2 September 2011


One of the characters is getting some major new tattoo work in issue 4. Just designing them now - doodles really, as you'll see if you enlarge. Here's a preview...

I'm sure Mike will be fucking delighted! ;) He's already doing sterling work dropping the other tatts onto Weasel and Verity. But it gives the unique vibe we're after - so well worth it.

Also made some new PS brushes for skin texture (just lots of blotchy spatter) and hair (chest, beard, and curly locks) which are working really well in this painting.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Pencils, Inks, and Colours!

One of my favourite scenes from Death Sentence: The end of the world
 intrudes on Weasel's relentless pursuit of girls and alcohol. Note the change
in Mike's figure work in panel 2 from pencils to inks.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Death Sentence - Pencils to Colours

Death Sentence artwork pouring in this month. Now on page 22 , so I'll start posting some of Marvelous Mike Dowling's artwork for the series. Click the image for a larger view.

DS Page 3 Colour
DS Page 3 Pencils

Thursday, 18 August 2011

I don't think Conan could look any gayer if he was rolling in a bath of oysters at a toga party...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dredd Movie - Anderson Image

Oh, I get it now! It's a kind of stylized interpretation of the costume, a bit Mcmahonish but tweaked for film with the smaller pads and eagle : Judge Dredd Images - Including First Look At Judge Anderson http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/07/25/more-judge-dredd-images-including-first-look-at-judge-anderson/

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Dredd Movie - New Image

Personally, I am not feelin' it. The helmet feels amusingly over-sized and the eagle looks  like a kids toy. Every shot so far is swathed in darkness, straining to compensate for the lack of gravitas in the character himself. 

Still hoping the films delivers though!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Birmingham Comics Launchpad

This was a great event! Very professional, so props to the Launchpad team for that. I was there to pitch Death Sentence and learn more about the business side of comics. As such the long meeting and subsequent chats I had with Diamond UK were most valuable. They really liked the comic and it seemed to be something they would enthusiastically help push. Lots of great advice on printing, price, and marketing. Already I'm changing my approach to covers and  publicity. Making a comic is only half the battle. Mike and I need to be as focused and inventive in selling as creating, whether we publish ourselves or are published through another company.

It was cool to get a DC and Marvel take on what we were doing too - both very different. Fascinating listen to Joey Cavilieri and Klaus Janson give an insight into the workings and priorities of those respective companies. A rare and informative conversation - so thanks to both men for making the trip. Both guys were really enthusiastic and helpful in regard to our series, which was heartening. Klaus also gave a wonderful inking masterclass, which was a real thrill.

Chuffed to meet Mike Carey too, who was full of comics wisdom. One of my all time favourite writers, from Trident days through Carver Hale to his seminal Hellblazer run. Talking of which I read an amusing preview of that illustrious series recently, featuring some inadvertently amusing dialogue: "Awlright me ol' Chinas? It's Dick Van Constantine 'ere! Chim Chim Cheroo, you magical plonkers!" :)

Got a load of 3d work on at the moment, so I won't get to do any more writing 'til next week. Bah!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

UK Conventions

Kapow was cool - a vast venue teeming with energy. Printing 'Death Sentence' as a preview comic proved useful. Mike and I wandered around handing out copies, and all the publishers attending seemed genuinely interested in the work. I wonder if we can do a deal? The Titan guys and Mark Millar took a copy and really liked it which was gratifying. Every artist or writer worries on some level that they're a talentless and deluded fool, so to have one of the best writers in the business tell you "it's brilliant" was a welcome boost to the creative morale.

Bristol was less exciting, but kudos to the publishers and editors who did make the trip. We were able to have some proper conversations about the details of any possible deal. Everyone that saw the comic apparently loved it, and again I was chuffed that some much revered creators were enthusing over the script and concept. Bountiful praise from professional artists for Mike's wonderful sequential artwork - the dude is hitting home runs with every page right now. Had some entertaining drinks and chats with fellow fans and creators too. And in the last hours of the show I got some exciting news on another project which I hope to follow up on in the next few weeks. All in all, a worthwhile trip.

Time to approach some American publishers!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Painted Comics

Here's some of my painted pages from a non Death Sentence related project. I didn't write this one. Click the thumbnail for a 654x1000 version (the originals are higher detail - over 4000 pixels plus).

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Death Sentence: Birth

It's a familiar story: revising my ass off at night school, baby to feed, accounts are due in... So I don't get a lot of time to blog :) 

Death Sentence began with a long drive home from the Inverness Hi-Ex comic con (the best comics event I've ever been to). I'd been expounding my so-called theories on what makes a good comic series, dealing with the practical realities, and better men than I had been patiently listening to this literary no-mark waffle on. After I'd finished  making a horse's ass of myself I thought two things a) How kind of those published creators to indulge me, and b) Hadn't I better stop talking and finally put some of these principles to the test. But around what central tenet. What's the big idea?

‘Hmm,’ I mused, as the car swept across the rolling glens toward Dundee, ‘How about a sexually transmitted virus that gives you enhanced abilities but kills you inside six months?’ And so, Death Sentence was born.

The simplicity of the central concept appealed to me: What better lens with which to examine the hopes, loves and fears of every man than being blessed by power and cursed by tragedy in a condensed six month period of frenetic activity?

It was also the perfect petri-dish for developing my so-called theories: To make it look as real as the pub on the corner and feel like the shadows from yesterday's party, to flesh out the story on the internet and beyond, and to design characters that looked like they lived in another century from your Supermans and Batmans. This century.

Add comedy and drugs and you’re laughing - just like half of Britain on a Saturday night. People I know offset the knocks and the heartache with whatever distractions float their boat. So why wouldn't Weasel crack the funnies when facing down his fears? Why wouldn't Monty indulge his appetites with a range of illicit pleasures? And why wouldn't doing good be the last thing on anyone’s self-obsessed mind?

Of course, I didn't DO anything with these ideas beyond scribble down the odd entertaining scene on coffee breaks. I love to write - but everyone knows that comic companies don't look at series proposals from unknown creators. It was only when I posted my three page horror strip on the millarworld forum in November that I noticed a call for longer CLINT material. I saw an opportunity withering, which prompted me to start drawing.

Designing 'Weasel' took forever - but somehow I pulled him around ‘til he hung on the wall like the fucked-up superstar I was hoping for.

'Verity' was easier - less pressure, the style had been nailed, and for other reasons that will become clear as her narrative unfolds.

'Monty' I drew in a climactic final scene - all the while writing and plotting an ambitious six part series of Watchmen-like complexity. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, alarm bells ringing: ‘Keep it simple.’ So out went the multiple universe time hopping - primed to enrich the series as backstory or sequel should the publishing gods decree.

One thing became clear: simultaneously writing and drawing a five part series on my own was incompatible with holding down a job and bringing up a baby. I've a lot of respect for the art of writing at the best of times - plotting, condensing a scene, tuning dialogue ‘til it zings - but nailing a concept like Death Sentence where the characters are simultaneously excited and depressed by their lives took a lot of extra  writing and rewriting to achieve the right tone.

So that's succinctly how it started. And if you don't believe I have no time I can tell you my beautiful daughter's crying again and the receipts are tumbling from the folder at my feet and I just wrote this update on The Porcelain Throne.

Welcome to the glamorous world of 'Death Sentence!'

Death Sentence Character Designs

These are some of the original character designs I sent Mike along with the script and 'www.sexhealth.org.uk' website for issue one. Thankfully he was inspired enough to draw it!