Thursday, March 19, 2015

DUMP - THE FINAL 10 PAGES

I have reached the stage where it's time to draw the last ten pages of my comic Dump. It's a trepidatious and exciting feeling.

In writing the story, I've known what the final page is for a good while. Leading up to it, I jotted down ideas about what could happen as I went along. I picked and chose what was pertinent to the overall story. Sometimes I don't use ideas I really like because they are distracting from what I'm trying to get across. How do I know what's correct? The great thing about writing is I am in charge of deciding these things.

I had previously written up a run of 7 pages and hit my final page. After a read through or two, I wrote down a few things I thought I needed to get across to the reader. So another three pages were written. I sat down tonight and drew up a wee plan (shown above - sans plot details) to put the pages in the order they will appear. Everything is in there now, and adjustments to dialogue have been made because of the new running order. You really want to try and get everything in its proper place before finishing the pages - rewriting comics is not as simple as rewriting prose.

It's now time to get on with this.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

MY FAVOURITE COMICS PAGE


Not really. But that was the open call that went out as part of the “Comics, So What?” event that took place recently, arranged by Chris Murray and Phillip Vaughan at The University of Dundee.

Attendees were invited to discuss favourite comic pages and why they liked them. I went along armed with two related pages.

Photo by Damon Herd.

As I said on the day, choosing your favourite comics page is an impossible task, so what I decided to do was concentrate on the first page I can remember appreciating for the comics storytelling devices it used, as opposed to purely enjoying the story for what was happening in it. I had definitely read comics prior to this, such as The Dandy and Spider-Man, but here is where I took a step towards appreciating comics for being comics…


This is Star Wars by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, which puts us in the late 1970s. It would have been a case of me asking my Dad for this because it said Star Wars in big letters on it, in much the same way that I wanted the ice lolly, bubble gum cards, etc.

To set up the story of this page: As the cantina sequence in the movie had been so memorable and popular with audiences, one of the first things to occur in the comics was a visit to a similar establishment. Over the preceding couple of pages, the green lizard alien shown here has been bullying Han Solo, who at first displays his usual bravura self in dealing with this, and tells his aggressor to get lost before his wookiee friend beats him up. But Chewbacca has taken a temporary leave of absence and as Solo realises his predicament, so do we as readers. The lizard throws Solo across the room in the last panel of the page before this one.

In the first panel above he lands in the arms of Chewie. We now know where the story is going. The tables have been turned and Chewbacca is hopefully going to put the alien in his place. The page builds up nicely to this, the bully now going from offensively cocksure to scared.

Crucially, and the part that impressed me as a kid, was that we do not get to see the point of impact when Chewbacca moves from passive to aggressive. The scene switches to outside and the lizard is smashing through the window – we are left to picture for ourselves Chewbacca hitting him.


A couple of years after I read that, the 1962 Hulk page above by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was reprinted in a UK Hulk Annual. They were printed on nicer paper than the US comics, explaining the clarity of the page over the Star Wars one. I’ve written about it on this blog before, and decided to take it along for this talk as Kirby is applying the same device as Chaykin i.e. we don’t get to see the Hulk hitting the Human Cannonball.
This page also has a lot of other artistic merits; the movement and weight of the Hulk is dramatically shown in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh panels. The extreme angle switches for each panel are cleverly designed and effortless for the reader to understand. It’s a great example of Kirby’s prowess.

The decision to not actually depict the hero striking the villain in these two pages gives us two examples of the story telling trope of showing, and not telling. This practice does not apply only to physical action, but that was a great place to start for me as a kid.


Twenty years later Scott McCloud explained this in his very influential book Understanding Comics, but I was lucky enough to pick it up firsthand while sitting on my couch eating sweets and reading about Star Wars and The Hulk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SOME SCOTTISH COMICS UNCONFERENCE PHOTOS


I attended the Scottish Comics Unconference Meet-Up in Glasgow last week. Here are a few photos from the day.

This is the table where attendees left comics donations in order to repay the free use of the venue. A pretty good selection, I thought.

Here's Damon Herd drawing the sign which would later be used to collect ideas for topics to be discussed.

Hattie Kennedy calls proceedings to order.

Kelly Kanayama considers topics. I wrote "Making comics" and "Self-publishing".

Unfortunately, the two talks I was most interested in clashed (Self-publishing and Autobiography). As it was, I went for self-publishing and was asked to talk about my experiences to get the thing rolling.

As the day progressed, it was nice to see many of the people at the discussions drawing away. Ludi Price encouraged me to join in too and I did! I tweeted the following:


The day ended with a DeeCAP comics reading. I decided to do my two stories from the latest issue of Treehouse. Here's a photo taken by cartoonist Paddy Johnston (who also performed):


The Unconference seemed to be enjoyed by everyone. I'd certainly go along if they held another one.


Monday, March 09, 2015

SCOTTISH COMICS UNCONFERENCE VIDEO


Click here for a video from my comics reading at the Scottish Comics Unconference in Glasgow on Saturday 28th February. This was filmed by Damon Herd for DeeCAP.

The two stories I read here are included in Treehouse #5.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

TREEHOUSE #5

The new issue of Treehouse is out now, with this great cover by Stuart McAdam.


I've a couple of stories in there: "The Martians"; a four pager written by me and drawn by Neil Paterson, and a one pager I wrote and drew called "I Don't Give a Fuck".


The comic also features stories by Andy Herd, David Peter Kerr, Balazs Lorinczi, Norrie Millar, Neil Scott and Ali Smith.

It's available now in the Fred Egg Comics Shop.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

THOUGHTS ON THE SPIDER-MAN REBOOT

I think the next Spider-Man movie should include his origin again, to help people get to know the character. I think the film after that should then feature Uncle Ben again, getting shot, a new actor playing Spider-Man, a new director. A year later include the origin again with a new Spider-Man. Come on we can do this.

Alternatively, no origin recap, but recast The Lizard and Green Goblin again. Or don't use the Goblin again. Bring in a guy with a fishbowl to be Mysterio. No, no fishbowl.

Can’t wait for a CGI figure to streak through the sky and land beside Thor in Avengers 3 and then a real life actor (DOESN’T MATTER) to say 'I’m Spider-Man, Thor'. Awesome. Then The Guardians of the Galaxy will land their spaceship on top of them.

I want Hugh Jackman to appear, and whoever is playing the FF in the concurrent reboot (or recast them for this appearance). Put Nicolas Cage on a motorbike and set his head on fire again.

Can DC and Marvel merge FFS? I want all the characters to fight each other in an orgy of destruction, before entering a new dimension and fighting the Empire in Star Wars.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

STATE OF THE SMALL PRESS NATION continued...

Another chapter in Andy Oliver’s fascinating series over at Broken Frontier on the UK small press comic scene . It features some thoughts from me.

Have a read here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

COPY THIS! #11


I have a one page comic called "Why It's Good to Feel Pain" in the latest issue of Copy This! - #11.

This is the first of two "All Art!" issues, which will feature many cartoonists, including Howard Cruse, R.C. Harvey and Steve Lafler.

For more information, e-mail D.Blake Werts at bwerts@vnet.net

Saturday, January 24, 2015

AL WILLIAMSON


[I put up the following piece at the time of Al Williamson's death. It has disappeared off my blog, so I am reposting.]

Al Williamson has died.

He worked in comics since the 1950s, when he was part of the legendary EC comics stable. His longevity has meant that he has had an impact on many generations. I became aware of him when he did the Marvel Comics adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back:


Back then I could instinctively tell that this artwork was superior to other stuff being published. It’s classical style clicked with me, and couple with the excitement about a new Star Wars, it was irresistible.

Williamson drew some of the spin-off Star Wars comics Marvel published too. This is from 1981, issue 50:



He’d been well known for drawing Flash Gordon in the 1960s too, taking on the mantle of artist from Alex Raymond – himself a big influence on the young Williamson. The Flash Gordon movie of 1980 certainly had a different tone than the comics, but the adaptation was handed over to Williamson to draw, a choice which delighted fans:


I first saw Blade Runner on video in 1983 and was excited about a new film with Han Solo in it. However I quickly grew tired of it and went off to play with my cousins instead. A couple of years later Return of the Jedi Weekly in the UK began running Williamson’s Blade Runner adaptation as a back up strip. Wow – what artwork once again by this guy. I had to see the film again to re-evaluate it. The comic is beautiful:


By 1983 Return of the Jedi was ready to come out. The comic was advertised showing parts of Williamson’s artwork. Again, it’s dynamite:


So he’s done Empire and Jedi, but not the original movie. If only he could have a go at adapting the original Star Wars I thought to myself. There was another Star Wars comic by Williamson in Star Wars issue 98 in 1985. Bonus greatness:


I got my first taste of Williamson’s original Flash Gordon work in one of Alan Class’ UK black and white collections. These were little treasure troves with plenty of prime Ditko, Kirby and other great little stories from the 50s and 60s. But what did I spot in the newsagent one day in the mid 80s? An Amazing Stories of Suspense cover featuring Flash Gordon which was unmistakably by Williamson:


An Art of Al Williamson book was released in 1983. I finally got a hold of it years later. It contained something I didn’t know had existed. Unpublished Star Wars strips drawn in 1977 chronicling the first movie:


After the Empire adaptation, Williamson got the job of doing the Star Wars newspaper strips. I cut a bunch of them out of a huge pile of Sunday Express magazines that were sat in the back on my biology classroom in the late 80s. They really are beautiful:


In the early 90s, Dark Horse Comics re-jigged and reprinted the strips, editing them so as to fit a standard comic book format, with Williamson expanding on his artwork and sometimes drawing entirely new pictures. So, for instance, the preceding Sunday strip became a two pager:


Beginning in the late 80s Williamson put more time into inking comics. He made everybody he inked look better. Williamson’s work with John Romita JR. on Daredevil is generally regarded to be the latter’s best.


In 1995 Marvel put out a new Flash Gordon two part series by Williamson. Great stuff once again:


The last published new work by Williamson that I’m aware of was a Sub-Mariner story from last year:


Great to still see those evocative lines in the sea background, and lithe figure work too.

Another strip he drew for many years was Secret Agent Corrigan, which is all going to be collected soon. Here’s a nice moody three panels:


I’ve picked up other Williamson comics over the years. As much as I could growing up in a town without a comic shop.

Here’s a nice page from Alien Worlds in 1984:


This is a 1990s reprint of Sound of Thunder from 1954:


There have been many more books on Williamson since The Art of in 1983. There has also been a collection of all his Flash Gordon work which looks tremendous. I’ve mock-complained with my friends that every time I turn around, someone else has brought out a book on Al Williamson! Didn’t stop me buying and enjoying them though…


I had just ordered The Al Williamson Archives which is due out in September. It’ll be a bittersweet experience looking through it now.

For many years my admiration of Williamson was such that I thought the best word to describe his work was “impossible”. How could anyone draw entire comic books to that standard? It just seemed impossibly good. As I got older I realised that it came down to bloody hard work. Williamson didn’t have a magic paintbrush that produced this stuff, he had talent and had to sit down and put the hours in to make it all look so good.

I was paralysed in my own drawing by Williamson. For a long time, I thought I had to measure myself against him. I could never reach that level (no-one did), so I was stuck. I finally had to throw him away completely from my thinking when drawing my own stuff, which finally liberated me.

Now I’m free to enjoy and marvel at the beautiful artwork that is still there on the page.

Thank you, Al Williamson.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

STATE OF THE SMALL PRESS NATION continued…


Another chapter in Andy Oliver’s fascinating series over at Broken Frontier on the UK small press comic scene . It features some thoughts from me.

Have a read here.