Friday 29 November 2013

That's about the size of it

On various forums and blogs there's sometimes discussion about the size original comic art is drawn. Many years ago pages were usually drawn at least 'twice up' (twice as wide and high as the printed page) but over time editors asked for a reduction in size, usually to one-and-a-half larger than printed size (or 'half up' as it's called, being diagonally half larger than print size). 

These days, with art being supplied via e-mail, there's no hard and fast rule about it. Back in the days when I was contributing to comics such as Oink! and Transformers I'd draw my pages half up, but in recent years I often draw them about twice up.

Basically, the larger you draw the originals, the less restrictive it feels, and the better the art looks when reduced. Although this depends on the artist of course. The late Jack Edward Oliver drew his pages the same size as published and still managed to put a lot of detail and incidentals in them.

The mini-strips I do for The Beano are drawn twice-up, as you can see from the size comparison in the photo above. I just find it a comfortable way of working. As you can see, the original art is drawn in blue pencil, then inked. I then scan it into Photoshop as a line drawing (which doesn't pick up the blue pencils), tidy it up, convert it to CMYK and colour it on screen. Then it's simply a matter of e-mailing it to the editor, along with the script for them to letter it. The physical artwork doesn't even leave the room, - a far cry from the old days of a parcel of artwork being posted on a long journey to London or Dundee! 

Early Tom Thug on eBay

Yes, it's one of those posts where I plug my eBay sales again. Want to own some original comic art? This week I have one of my very early Tom Thug pages up for auction. It's from Oink! No.5, way back in the summer of '86. (There's a close up of some detail above.)

Also up for sale is a Pete and his Pimple strip in ink and wash from Oink!, and four One Cat and his Cod strips from Thundercats. You can see them for yourself by clicking here

Bidding ends on Sunday. All bids appreciated as always. Good luck!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

In this week's Beano...

I'm pleased to say there are three items by me in the issue of The Beano that's out today. Firstly, there's a full page You've Been Pranked feature featuring Dennis the Menace. I just did illustrations for this, with the details of the 'prank' supplied by the Beano office. These are always fun pages to draw as every prank is different of course.

This issue also sees my two new mini-strips continue. We reach the halfway point for the Rubbish Robots series, and it's the second Celebs on a Sledge strip. There'll be two new series by me in the New Year, and I'll give info about those soon.

There's also a lot more in The Beano of course, including all the regular favourites. Here's the cover to look out for (drawn by Nigel Parkinson). Out now, priced £2. 

Cover by Nigel Parkinson

Friday 22 November 2013

The Whovian Sharks

Part of the Sharks page. Click to enlarge.
The Christmas issue of Viz (published yesterday) sees the return of The Pathetic Sharks in a seasonal story I did for the comic. I thought I'd tie it in with all the Doctor Who mania at present and have the Sharks anticipating the Christmas Day episode of the long running TV series. (I could have themed it around the 50th anniversary episode, but as this issue is out for five weeks it'd be outdated after this weekend. Besides, it's always fun to draw a Christmas story. Yep, with snow on the logo too.)

So, it's The Pathetic Sharks meeting a bunch of Doctor Who fans... with hilarious results. (Hopefully!) 

This issue of Viz also sees Tom Paterson drawing his first strip for the comic, - and it's an instant classic as you might expect. (More info on my Blimey! blog here:

The Christmas Viz, - on sale now in all good newsagents for £3.20.

Cover by Simon Thorp

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Here they come! CELEBS ON A SLEDGE!

This week's Beano features not one but two mini-strips that I created. Firstly it sees the debut of Celebs on a Sledge! It was a straightforward pitch that I gave to the editors: "Every week, a different celeb hurtles to their fate on a sledge." This week it's the turn of wildlife bloke off the telly, Steve Backshall. 

There are six of these strips in the series. They've started with the second one but no matter. It's not as though there's any continuity of plot. It's an idea as simple as Monkey Tennis. It's just Celebs on a Sledge and that's all you need to know. Who's next? Wait and see! 

After a few week's absence due to The Beano running some special issues there's also the reappearance of my other mini-strip, Rubbish Robots! There are also six in this series, so four more to come after this second instalment. Will the robots conquer the Earth? We've had worse leaders, so they'd get my vote.

This week's Beano is packed with strips, and all for only £2. Still the cheapest comic on the stands! Here's the cover to look out for, drawn by Nigel Parkinson. Out now from all good newsagents and supermarkets...

Cover by Nigel Parkinson

Saturday 16 November 2013

The Pimple Premiere

One of the most enjoyable new blogs of recent times is Phil Boyce's The Oink! Blog which looks back at each issue of Oink! exactly 27 years to the week it was published. This week highlights Oink! No.15 which was a bit of a mini-revamp issue featuring some new strips. It was the edition which began my Pete and his Pimple strip (seen above) along with the first episode of Ham Dare: Pig of the Future (which I wrote and Malcolm Douglas superbly illustrated). 

My artwork on that first Pimple strip was quite crude and I'm cringing as I look at it now. I'd taken to inking with a dip-nib and was still getting used to it. I changed back to inking with Rotring pens shortly after. (These days I use uniPin Fine Line pens.)

You can find Phil's great blog at the following link. It's a must for any fan of Oink! so bookmark it today:

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Buy it now!

When I'm selling artwork on eBay I usually put new listings up on a Sunday but as I was busy last weekend I didn't have time. However I've just added a few items today. This week I've chosen to use the Buy it Now
category so if any of you are interested in the pieces on show you won't have to wait a week to see if your bids win.

There are six items listed. As shown above there's a Pete and his Pimple strip from Oink! No.23 (1987) which sees Pete visit a TV studio. This was from the early days of Oink! when it had top notch production on glossy paper so I was able to embellish the art with a grey wash for a bit of extra depth. (I always liked doing that on those strips.) 
There's also a Pete's Pimple full pager from a 1989 issue of Buster. This was towards the end of the strip's run. Pete was always an enjoyable character to write and draw though.

Finally there are four One Cat and His Cod strips from Marvel UK's ThunderCats comic of the 1980s. I usually write my own material but if memory serves me right this strip was written by Ian Rimmer. The eBay price is for all four strips not for each one. 

All of the art was drawn on top quality Bristol Board and the pages are in excellent condition even though they're around 25 years old.

I hope there's something there to interest one or two of you. I will of course combine postage if you buy more than one item. You can find my eBay page by clicking HERE

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Recent and current work

It's a busy time at present, I'm pleased to say. I drew a new Pathetic Sharks page for Viz last week, which will appear in their Christmas issue which goes on sale on the 21st November. I won't reveal the plot but here's the title box, snow on the logo and all. 

All the Rubbish Robots mini-strips for The Beano have been completed and the strip should return to its pages soon. (There's been a few special theme issues recently which elbowed out some of the regular contents.)

I'm just drawing the final mini-strip of another series for The Beano and that should start soon too. As it has a winter theme I'm guessing December or January might see it appear in the comic. I'll reveal more when I know for sure.

I'm about to work on a third mini-strip series for the comic too. All the scripts have been accepted and I'll be ploughing ahead on the six strips from tomorrow. As it's a brand new series I can't reveal the title yet. 

I'm also currently writing a script for another comic/mag and I'll reveal more about that next month. There's also a drawing project lined up for a one-off job outside of comics but, again, I can't say anything about it yet.

Sorry for the secrecy! Some days being a cartoonist is just like being James Bond! (But without the exotic locales, fast cars, faster women, and sharks. Ok, I have the sharks. Pathetic ones at least.)

Saturday 2 November 2013

The Pathetic Sharks Bumper Special

Back in 1991 John Brown Publishing (who were then co-publishers of Viz) and the Viz team decided to venture into the children's market with a one-off publication for kids. The result was Viz Presents The Pathetic Sharks Bumper Special, a 48 page softback book packed with all new material.

It was edited from John Brown's London office by Dave Elliott (who has since done loads of comics over the years and is now editor of A1 for Titan Comics). Chris Donald of Viz had input and final approval. I was originally commissioned to write/draw an 8 pager, then it built from there and I ended up doing most of the book. Cartoonist Bambos Georgiou also had considerable input, drawing two Felix and his Amazing Underpants stories, and we both collaborated on a five page Sharks story. (I think Bambos inked my pencils, or I inked his. More likely the former.) There was also a Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ story by Casper Williams, and also two Albert O'Balsam strips which I drew based on a version by Roger Langridge. 

I drew the cover for the book, the pull out poster, a couple of feature pages, two eight page Pathetic Sharks stories, the contents page, and a few other bits and bobs. It was a pleasure to work on the book and having the chance to do longer stories which provided an opportunity to do them as kind of situation comedies really. 

The two long stories were Aquashow Antics, which co-starred Felix and his Amazing Underpants meeting the Sharks, and Winter Warmer, which saw the Sharks indulge in chaos on a fishing vessel. The strips were all black and white but had spot colour added in the office.

I don't know how well the book fared but I think its format may have been a disadvantage. It was launched in June 1991 to compete with traditional Summer Specials, but its high price (£2.99) and book format (instead of glossy full colour like The Beano Summer Special) may have gone against it. That said, it's still a book I'm proud to have been involved with and I think it still stands up well 22 years later.

If you're interested in buying the original artwork, I have the pages for the Winter Warmer story on eBay at present. Yes, it's quite a high starting price but that's for all 8 pages as I don't want to separate them. You'll find them listed here. Good luck! 

Highs and lows

It was a mixed week last week. It began with those nice Twitter comments shown above from Mark Millar, creator of the hugely successful Kick-Ass and one of the top talents in the comics industry. Cartooning is a fairly lonely and insecure business so it was encouraging to receive comments like that out of the blue. (Although I'm sure I don't deserve the 'heir to Baxendale' tag, very flattering as it is.)

Then, a few days later, I noticed that Gordon Robson (aka 'Kid'), who has often been critical of today's UK children's comics, was having a little pop at me on his blog, mainly because my work isn't the genius level of Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid's. (But then, whose is? Bax and Reid always stood out, even amongst their peers back in the days of Wham! and 1950s Beano.) 

Then later, also from Mr.Robson...

Of course he's absolutely entitled to his opinion and if my work doesn't give him a lift, that's fair enough. I've no problem with that. No cartoonist would expect their work to please everyone and I've never considered myself in the same league as Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale who were true giants in their field.

However, in a conversation with someone who defended me anonymously (and no, I don't know who that was) the critic also remarks about me selling off my old artwork.  

He said of me that "The artist you mention works for one of the lowest-paying companies in the business and he's so 'wealthy' that he's currently selling some of his old comics and art because apparently work is a bit thin on the ground at the moment". Mr.Robson then goes on to boast that he himself has never had to sell anything from his "vast and varied collections". Here's a screen grab of the bit I'm talking about: 

I really shouldn't bother justifying myself. But I want to clarify some things because it's not the first time this guy's brought up the subject of me selling artwork. I appreciate that he's defending himself for the most part in that comment above against the anonymous comments, but as there are some people who frequent both his blog and mine I felt a 'right of reply' was in order on some points where I'm mentioned, just for balance...

1) About me working for "one of the lowest-paying companies": As a freelancer I've worked for numerous companies over the last 30 years. Some pay more than others. Even rates for jobs I've done this week vary considerably. Such has it ever been for every freelancer. I don't turn work down if I can help it.

2) True, this has been a bad year personally and financially. Partly because there aren't so many comics around, and partly because I was grieving over my mum's death. (Still am, but at least I'm in the frame of mind to write/draw funny stuff again now, which I wasn't for over five weeks.) However it's been a bad year for a lot of people but I'm keeping my head above water and I'm not in debt. As I've said before, I don't have any surviving family to inherit my artwork so it makes sense to me to sell off some of the many pages I've drawn over the past 30 years. It reduces clutter for me and as there's an interest in it from collectors who grew up on my work, it pleases the fans as well as myself. I'd be selling those old pages to collectors regardless of whether I'd had a good year or not.

3) Selling old artwork is a legitimate way for artists to boost their income. It's all declared, we pay tax on it, and, yes, it helps in good times and bad. Many comic artists sell their old pages online and at conventions. So much so that eBay even has its own category for original comic art, and conventions have their 'artists alleys'. 

4) Regarding me selling a few old comics: I have my particular favourites that I'll never part with, but I also have some that I know I'll never read again. They're just taking up far too much space as far as I'm concerned. And I'm still buying stuff, so I need the space for those new books too! Every few years I'll have a sort out with no regrets, and I'm sure it'll please that blogger (as a fellow animal lover) that a few years ago I gave away hundreds of comics to the RSPCA for them to sell at their charity events. 

Anyway, that's how one person's comments can boost you up and another person's comments can bemuse you in the space of a few days. That's life! But overall I think I get off very lightly considering some of the nasty flak that Mark Millar gets from various 'fans' on message boards. It's a funny old business.

(If any of you did want to follow my eBay auctions you'll find them by clicking here.) 

And if you want to follow me on Twitter I'm on the link coming up. (Bear in mind I'm not 'Tweeting' every day though so my apologies in advance if I don't reply right away.):  


Update: As a consequence of Kid Robson's most recent disproportionate responses, his distortions, his exaggerations, and his attacks on my honesty and integrity there will be no more comments on the matter published on this blog for the time being. 

Update Jan 2018: After more nonsense from said critic I have deleted the links to his blog as he mistakenly thought that hits from this blog to his were all from me! Someone really needs to explain to him how stats work!