Friday, 4 December 2020

Burning the Midnight Oil

 

I'm pleased to say that my run on Ellis's Great Escapes will now continue beyond the Christmas issue of the Beano. I'm not sure for how long, but I've been commissioned to do seven so far. 

They're needed fairly urgently so I've been working crazy hours recently. Bear in mind that I write my own material so there are deadlines for scripts as well as art deadlines, all to be done over the next few weeks. Two are drawn, and I've just sent off two more scripts, and I'm currently drawing the third as the deadline is today. It's currently 3.22 A.M. and I estimate I'll be working on this until at least 6 A.M.

Not that I'm complaining! Finances have been very tight this year due to effects of the pandemic. Bills and the cost of living are still eating into my dwindling savings but steady work such as a weekly Beano strip really helps.  

This weekend I'll also be drawing the Sgt.Shouty page for The77. Deadline for that is Monday. Then I'll be cracking straight on with more Ellis strips plus another project I've had on the drawing board for some time. After that I have a job to do for another publisher that won't see print until next year.

I'm also finishing the latest ideas for The Daft Dimension this weekend for the January issue of Doctor Who Magazine, and that needs to be drawn next week too. 

Freelancing tends to be "all or nothing" but I appreciate the work and try not to turn any down if I can help it. To coin an increasingly annoying cliché, "these are uncertain times" and most of us are struggling mentally and financially these days. I count myself as one of the fortunate ones because I paid off my mortgage five years ago and have no family to worry about so it's just me taking one day at a time. That's my philosophy these days; don't dwell on the future. Take it steady and deal with each day as it comes. 

I do worry about friends though, especially ones who I know are having a tough time right now. For what it's worth, my thoughts are with you and I hope we'll start to see brighter days ahead in 2021. 

Right... back to the drawing board...


Monday, 30 November 2020

SHOUTY cover from roughs to finished job


I took some photos while I was drawing the wraparound variant cover to The77 No.4 so I thought you might like to see the process. I still draw "traditionally" with pencil and pen on Bristol Board, and then scan the black and white art into Photoshop to colour it. 

It was the editor Ben Cullis and his team who suggested the idea of a winter theme cover of some sort, akin to the traditional annuals, featuring Sgt.Shouty and other characters from the comic in some situation. As The77 is partly inspired by the gritty comics of the 1970s I thought it'd be good to have them fighting evil snowmen, with decapitations and, well, not bloodshed but snow-shed! (I've always been of the belief that an action scene can work just as well drawn in a cartoony style. Something that's the norm in European comics but not so much in the UK.)

Anyway, to go through the process, here's my initial (very) rough sketch that I sent for editorial approval... 


After approval I set to work penciling it out. If it was a comic strip I'd start from left to right of course but in this case I started on the left because that'll be the front cover of the wraparound, and therefore the main point of focus...


Finishing the pencils...

 

More pencils...


Starting the inks, this time beginning from the left so I don't smudge anything!


Finished inks. You'll notice I added another figure at the back as I'd forgotten to add him in the original sketches!


Finally, the completed job after I'd coloured it in Photoshop...


The Kickstarter for The77 No.4 went live on Friday night and reached its goal in four hours! It's still running until December 13th though so you can still pledge to make sure of getting the issue! Details here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/the77comic/the77-4

If you missed the first three issues you can buy them from GetMyComics here:

https://getmycomics.com/The77 


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Look Out! It's Ellis!

Here's a preview of part of my next Ellis's Great Escapes strip! You can see the full version in Beano No.4064 when it goes on sale this coming Wednesday, 2nd December! 

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Friday, 27 November 2020

Wraparound cover for The77 No.4 - Kickstarter now active!

 

It was a pleasure to be commissioned to draw a special wraparound variant cover for The77 No.4, and here is is above. It features my character Sgt.SHOUTY plus my take on various other characters from the comic. 

I was asked to draw a winter scene similar to the classic UK annual covers, and as The77 is inspired by gritty comics of the 1970s such as Action and 2000AD I thought a scene of comic violence was appropriate. The77 characters vs evil snowmen! 

The Kickstarter to fund The77 went live tonight and at the moment of typing this it's already near its target! You can pledge to buy the standard cover by Jon Roydon or my variant cover, or even both, as you'll see from the link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/the77comic/the77-4

The77 is the breakout British independent comic of 2020 featuring an anthology of all-new strips by established creators as well as new artists and writers. It's a great mix! Please support the comic and spread the word! 

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The COR!! BUSTER BUMPER FUN BOOK is here!

 

Fifty years ago IPC did a Smash! Fun Book and whether it's coincidence or intended, here we are today with Rebellion's latest collection, the Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book. Same page count as that Smash! one from 50 years ago, and also a softback. 


The big differences are the Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book is printed on much better paper and is in full colour. Its 96 pages collect all the stories that were in the two Cor!! Buster specials published in 2020 and 2019 with a brand new cover by Edward Whatley and a handfull of creator profile pages. 

 

Although the specials were large size, this collection is a smaller, tidier format (like the new Roy of the Rovers books). No doubt some collectors won't like that, but personally I think it tightens the artwork up and the lettering is still legible. 


I have a vested interest of course, which is why I'm promoting it on my art blog. I have nine pages of art in the book (working from scripts by John Freeman and Lizzie Boyle), an introduction I wrote (as Buster himself), and a mini-interview. 


If you missed the two specials or simply want the stories in one neat package, the Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book is out now. (ISBN 978-1-78108-864-7). On sale in bookshops ('cos it's a book), not newsagents. However, if your local bookshops are still closed you can order it online from various stockists including from the publishers themselves, who also offer a digital edition:

https://treasuryofbritishcomics.com/catalogue/humour/RCA-H0018

This is a very nice collection of strips by today's UK humour creators so treat yourselves or someone else to the book for Christmas!

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Monday, 23 November 2020

The day Tom Thug was in WHIZZER AND CHIPS

Although I contributed to every issue of Oink! and was in Buster for ten years I never worked for Fleetway's other famous comic  Whizzer and Chips... except for one issue! 

In 1988 I was commissioned to write, draw, and letter a half page Tom Thug strip to promote Oink! comic. The strip appeared in Whizzer and Chips dated 12th March 1988. My opportunity to draw Sid, Shiner, and Odd-Ball!

In a rare crossover between British comics, the strip acted as a prequel to the Tom Thug page in that week's Oink!  

This is the issue of Whizzer and Chips in which it appeared. Cover art by Sid Burgon...

 

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Saturday, 21 November 2020

Next week's ELLIS...


Here's a preview of my next episode of Ellis's Great Escapes! You can see the full story in the Beano No.4063, on sale Wednesday 25th November! Still only £2.75. 

The ICE-CAST covers The77

I enjoyed being part of a live interview session on Friday night with a group of fellow contributors to The77, the breakout new anthology comic of 2020. 

The hour long interview was hosted by Shane Chebsey and Andrew Richmond as the latest in their series of Ice-Casts. A worthy substitute for the absence of comics conventions this year. And guests don't even have to catch a train to get there! 

If you missed it live at 9pm on Friday 20th November, you can now catch it on YouTube, along with previous shows. Here's the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ptTU1UOLYk

And don't forget that you can buy The77 from GetMyComics at this address:

https://getmycomics.com/The77

My contribution to The77 is Sgt.Shouty of the Moon Force and next week I'll be drawing the wraparound cover featuring him and other stars of The77 for issue 4. The kickstarter for that issue is coming soon so bookmark this blog for more info. 

Sgt.Shouty is Copyright©2020 Lew Stringer.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Buster art

Here's a photo I took on January 14th this year, when I'd finished the artwork for the Buster and Delbert strip in the Cor!! Buster Easter Special

This was the top half of page one. I always draw my strips "twice up" (twice the published size) as it allows more detail if necessary and is just easier to do than struggling with drawing tiny figures. This was the method that most comic artists used until sometime in the 1970s when editors preferred pages done 50% up instead. My Combat Colin pages for Marvel UK were done 50% up (ie: A3 for A4 publication) but I changed to twice up (100% bigger than printed size) about 20 years ago.

As you can see, there are no areas of solid black on the drawing. I add those after I scan the art into Photoshop, along with the colours. 

Back in the 1980s and 1990s I had to post the physical artwork to the editors, but since owning a Mac since 1999 it's far easier to email the art in, and I get to keep the original art!  (Fleetway, Viz, and Marvel always returned art to me but it usually took a few months.) This is the method 99% of artists use in the 21st Century of course. 

Here's how the finished job looked in print...


If you missed the two Cor!! Buster Specials, or if you'd like them in one nice package, you'll be able to read them collected into the Cor!! Buster Bumper Fun Book, available in a few weeks! Pre-orders should be available from Rebellion's online shop soon, but at the moment other online sellers have pre-order options ready:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cor-Buster-Bumper-Fun-Book/dp/1781088640

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Wednesday, 18 November 2020

TOM THUG: First and Last

I've posted both of these pages on separate posts in the past but I thoiught I'd repost them together so you can see the changes in the design of the character.

All comic characters take a while to find their "look", and even then keep evolving over the years. This first Tom Thug strip (above) was drawn in 1984 for the Oink! dummy issue. It took a while for IPC to give Oink! the green light so it didn't appear in print until May 1986, when it was one of the strips in the Oink! Preview issue given away with various comics a week before Oink! No.1 launched. 

As you know, after two and a half years, Oink! merged into Buster in 1989 and Tom Thug continued there. The page below is from Buster dated 9th July 1996, which was the final Tom Thug strip before Buster went to reprint. (Tom continued as a reprint series until the final issue at the very end of 1999.)


I didn't know that would be the last Tom Thug page when I submitted the script. The news broke a few days later, but when I drew it I added a few personal bits. The lady in the headscarf is based on my mum, that's me in the foreground of that panel, and my dog in the panel where Tom is outside the shop. The juggler is Pete from my old Pete and his Pimple strip, finally cured of his giant pimple. The number 440 next to my signature means it was the 440th Tom Thug strip. (Yep, when I heard it was ending I counted them all, including annuals and specials.)

I did bring Tom back for a cameo apparance in the two recent Cor!! Buster Specials (below) but he didn't have a lot to say. Script for that one was by John Freeman, but I wrote all the old Tom Thug strips myself.  


I always made sure that Tom was portrayed as the villain, and there was never any doubt of that, with his bad behaviour always backfiring on him. Will Tom Thug ever return? He's part of Rebellion's universe now and there's nothing in the pipeline unfortunately but maybe one day! If not, never mind. He had a ten year run, and another three as a reprint, so he made his mark!


 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Promoting BRICKMAN BEGINS in 2005

 

It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since I did this, but then time seems to have little meaning these days. Back in 2005, Richard Starkings' company Active Images contacted me about doing a digest-sized compilation of all my Brickman stories up to that point. I was happy to agree and they published a nice little 152 page book entitled Brickman Begins! for the direct sale market in America and the UK. 

Richard's title for the book was inspired by the Batman Begins movie (which made sense, as Brickman was a Batman spoof). He wanted an advert designed for the back page of Fantagraphics' Comics Journal magazine so I set to work. I thought I'd show you some images of it here today.

I'm sure it must have been Richard's idea to do it as a spoof of the Batman Begins movie poster which showed the Dark Knight descending through a flurry of bats. Therefore Brickman should of course be descending through a mass of bricks!

With Brickman having none of Batman's grace or athletic prowess he'd be falling from the sky, panic striken with legs flailing. Here's my initial drawing...

I wanted the background to look as realistic as possible to mimic the movie poster. At the time I was experimenting with a piece of 3D software called Bryce, so I used that to create the bricks and skyscrapers, lit to set the mood. The whole process was a learning curve and it took me ages! (I'm sure some will say there's more suitable software than Bryce to use but that's the one I had and I felt comfortable with it.)

I tweaked the colours a bit before I added my 2D drawing of Brickman and this was the result...

When the ad appeared, Richard had given the image more of a sepia tone which suited it perfectly and was a closer approximation of the Batman movie poster we were spoofing. His addition of the title and credit lines was perfect too. I was very pleased with the result. 

I haven't used Bryce for years, and the version I have isn't compatable with the Mac I use today, so don't expect to see anything like this from me again. I hope you've enjoyed this look into the process though. 

The book Brickman Begins! was published in 2005 and is now sold out. One day, if things work out, I hope to reprint those stories again, or more likely a "Best of" selection. I'm not making any plans yet though. As we all know, the priority these days is just to stay healthy and manage through hard times. All the best and stay safe!

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

In print this week...


Here's a little preview of a couple of strips I have in print this week. First off there's another excursion into The Daft Dimension in Doctor Who Magazine No.558. The theme of this issue is 'collectables' so the strip introduces two Doctor Who fans competing with their merchandise. (And if you don't understand the reference to John and Gillian, use your TARDIS to travel back to 1964 and check out TV Comic).

Over in the Beano No.4061 there's a mystery animal in Beanotown Zoo in my Ellis's Great Escapes story. See what happens next when the issue hits the shops!


Beano No.4061 is published on Wednesday 11th November, £2.75.


Doctor Who Magazine No.558 is published on Thursday 12th November, £5.99.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

The Daleks are back in print!

These days I'm fortunate to be able to put comedy Daleks into my Daft Dimension strips for the official Doctor Who Magazine, although I've been a fan of them all my life. I was just the right age for 'Dalekmania' when I was a child in the 1960s. Look at that happy face in the photo above. That's me in 1965, age 6, excited because I'd just found out I could still get that week's TV Century 21 even while on holiday in Blackpool. The reason I'm proudly showing the back page to the camera is because it featured my favourite comic strip - The Daleks

I was obsessed with Daleks at that age. Some of my first drawings at school featured Daleks drawn in crayon, and of course I had some of the toys and was in the queue to see the big screen movie version of Doctor Who and the Daleks at my local Ritz cinema. I still remember the excitement of sitting in the stalls and looking up to see those Daleks in full colour for the first time. (Remember this was in the days of black and white television.)

Obviously I wasn't the only one. Far from it! Daleks became a huge cultural phenomenon. For many years, fans of a certain age have hoped those Daleks strips from TV21 would be reprinted... and this week they will be! 

Panini UK have put together a new publication collecting all 104 chapters of the 1960s strip written by David Whittaker with art by Richard Jennings and Ron Turner. Pages have been mostly scanned from the original artwork, plus there are bonus features and a new cover by Mike Collins. The Daleks collectors' edition will be out this Wednesday, 11th November, in bookazine format for just £9.99. 


It'll be available in WH Smith... but unfortunately it's possible that some branches might be closed due to lockdown. (Mine is currently open but I'm not sure for how long.) However, you can buy it directly from Panini by clicking this link:

https://store.panini.co.uk/GBDRWZ023_UK02/gbdrwz023-doctor-who-magazine-the-daleks

To find out more about this exciting special, visit the Down The Tubes blog by clicking on the following link which will take you there:

https://downthetubes.net/?p=123004


 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Order in time for Christmas!

 

Now that all of England is in lockdown only essential shops will be open, which means that bookshops will sadly have to close for the duration. That's scheduled to last a month, but frankly if we have any chance of cutting the spread of infection down then lockdown really needs to last a lot longer than that. 

I'm sure you all have more important things to concern yourselves with right now than comics but if you were thinking of buying any annuals for Christmas presents then your best bet currently is to order them online. Yes, supermarkets will be open and normally have them, but it doesn't look like my local Sainsburys is stocking them this year, so I don't know if that's the same across the country. (My branch has also cut down its comics stock to a few pre-school titles only. It hasn't had the Beano weekly all summer.) 

If you want the annuals by Christmas then ordering them from the D.C. Thomson shop is a good bet. You can get The Dandy Annual and The Beano Annual individually, as a double pack, or as a triple pack with the Beano Christmas Special. You'll find all the DC Thomson books at this link:

https://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/books/annuals

(While you're at it, I'd recommend a Beano subscription too, considering that shops will be shut.)  

To illustrate this blog post I've used a couple of bits I did for The Dandy Annual 2021. You'll see the full works in the book itself! 


These are very difficult and unstable times for all of us so I wish you all good health and peace of mind. 

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Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Junior Puzzle World (1994)

Back in 1994 I was contacted by Bob Paynter to do some work for a magazine he was editing called Junior Puzzle World. I'd known Bob for several years, as he'd been the Group Editor of the Humour department at IPC / Fleetway. By 1994 he was working for HHL Ltd (Headway, Home and Law) who were based in Greater London House, which was also the premises of Fleetway around that time so I presume they were connected. 


Junior Puzzle World was a 68 page mag with glossy covers and pulp-paper interiors about the same size as an American comic. Bob wanted to make it something a bit different to the usual bland looking puzzle mags so he'd contacted several artists to liven up the content. As well as myself, there were also pages by Malcolm Douglas (J.T. Dogg from Oink!), Ed McHenry, Nigel Edwards, Terry Bave, and others. 


Bob supplied the puzzle ideas, which often came with a story element to them. It was a really nice idea and I enjoyed the work I did for it. Bob had promised more work but sadly, after the two issues I contributed to, management decided to cut the budget and reprint older material. Eventually they reprinted the work I did too, at least once. Needless to say, with this being British publishing, none of us received a reprint payment. 


So it goes, but the nature of freelancing is you don't let the closure of one publication stop you, and you move on to other titles. I was still working for Buster at that time anyway, as well as doing regular pages for Viz, so although it was a shame the Junior Puzzle World gig didn't last it made a nice change to draw material like that.


 

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Sunday, 1 November 2020

Elephant on a trampoline

Here's a sneak preview of next week's episode of Ellis's Great Escapes! I've enjoyed doing this series. The premise might seem limited, with Ellis being in his compound every week, but the challenge as a writer / artist is coming up with ways for him to escape by the end of each strip, - and all in five or six panels. 

You can read the full story in Beano No.4060 when it arrives in shops on Wednesday 4th November! Here's the cover by Nigel Parkinson to look out for:

 
Obviously with lockdown taking place from Thursday you might have difficulty finding shops that are open that sell comics, but I reccommend taking out a subscription (which is what I did) which actually works out cheaper. Follow this link:


Saturday, 31 October 2020

Halloween Fun from 30 Years Ago

As it's Halloween I thought you might like to see these old pages of mine that appeared in the Halloween issue of Buster back in 1990

The pages that celebrate a special occassion are always my favourite ones to draw, whether it be Christmas, Easter, fireworks, or in this case Halloween. In 1990 I decided to have The Vampire Brats as suitable guest stars in the Tom Thug story. Tom's exploits didn't usually involve supernatural shennanigans but I made an exception sometimes. Script and art by me. Creating a new title banner for the occassion was something I felt need doing too. I didn't get paid any extra for stuff like that as it was my choice to do it, but I felt that if the issue was going to have a theme then the title banners should reflect it.

The Vampire Brats also appeared in their own regular strip in that issue. Script by Roy Davis, art by me. Writers never had a credit in Buster, which I felt was unfair, so I added Roy's initials next to my signature. It was my idea to add a rhyme to the title panel though.

Back in those days I was colouring my Buster pages with Dr.Martin's water colour inks. I was never completely satisfied with the results on the larger areas as the colour tended to be patchy. In retrospect I wish I'd learned to use acrylics like some other artists did. Anyway, it's a moot point now because since I bought my first Mac in 1999 I've been colouring with Photoshop, which I find far more enjoyable, and the results are exactly what I want. 

As an extra today, I thought I'd post this following strip again, which has appeared on this blog before a few years back. Monster Mash originally appeared in Oink! No.13, for Halloween in 1986! The first appearance of Pigswilla! Script by the late Mark Rogers, art by me. Mark had originally sent me an idea for a story called The School Dinner Monster and asked if I had any ideas to add to it. I added a few bits and bobs to the plot and dialogue, and thought the title Monster Mash was catchier. I gave the name 'Pigzilla' to the giant robot pig, although Mark changed that to the much more inspired Pigswilla...


I hope you enjoy this flashback to long ago, whether you remember the pages from your childhood or even if they're new to you. Have a Happy Halloween at home, and stay safe!

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