Wednesday 29 November 2017

Meet Grumpy McGrumpychops, Comics Critic

The Christmas issue of Toxic is out today, and it includes the debut of Grumpy McGrumpychops, Comics Critic, in my Team Toxic strip. He'll be turning up from time to time in future issues too!

Read more about this issue over on my other blog today: 

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Genesis of a cover

Today I thought I'd show you how the cover for Combat Colin No.1 developed.

I had the vague idea for the artwork in my head but the first thing I wanted to do was design the logo. This might seem an odd way of going about things, as the logo isn't usually the first step in designing a cover. However, it's the way I worked in this particular instance, and it would help give me an idea of how much room I'd have for the illustration beneath it. 
I toyed around with a few fonts I'd bought from Comicraft, before settling on the design to use. I chose the Battle Damaged font, which seemed appropriate and captured the kind of classic comics look I wanted. I shifted the letters a bit to give them a less serious feel, and added a shadow. My intention was to try and emulate the look of Marvel comics of the 1950s (and British comics of the 1960s to an extent) when they had clear, dynamic mastheads on a plain background that could be seen across a room. To me, clarity like that is important to grab attention. I'm afraid I don't agree with the modern approach of subtle colour coordination or covering up half the logo with artwork. 
With the masthead design finalised, I then did a very rough mock up of the cover, indicating the position of Colin etc. 
That done, I began to rough out the actual cover art, using a Col-Erase 20068 blue pencil...
I wasn't too happy with Colin's pose, and felt he should look a little bit more defiant, so I altered that before I set about inking the piece...
The reason I used a blue pencil was so the scanner wouldn't pick it up. Here's the completed inked artwork after I'd scanned it into Photoshop and tidied it up...
Next step of course was to add colour with Photoshop. 
Finally, the masthead, cover copy and speech balloons were added and the cover was ready to go! 

The final result, the printed comic, turned out great!
Issue 1 of Combat Colin is still available from my online shop and I'm finishing off issue 2 shortly. I was hoping to publish No.2 around this week, but realistically I think I'll wait until early January now to avoid any delays with the Christmas post. (Especially as some issues went missing in the summer during normal post times.) Watch this space for more updates!

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Banner roughs and finished art

Here's another example of my rough pencils compared to the finished product. This time it's the art for the banner I use at conventions around the country. The original art was drawn A3 size and it was enlarged for the finished banner. 

Above are my rough pencils, and below is the finished art after I'd inked it, and scanned it into Photoshop to colour and add fonts etc. (Click on it to see it larger.)

That's the banner to look out for at Reading Comic Con, where you'll find me this weekend 25th and 26th November.

Monday 20 November 2017

Zoony: Roughs and finished art for TV21

I showed this earlier in the year but I thought I'd show it again, this time with the pencil roughs next to the finished inks for better analysis. Back in 2014, I was commissioned to write/draw a new Zoony the Lazoon strip for a one-off revival of 1960s classic comic TV21. (Zoony was the comedy relief character in Gerry Anderson's Fireball XL5, in case you didn't know.) The comic was part of a Supermarionation box set produced by Network, still available from them if you click this link: 

As TV21 was my favourite adventure comic of the 1960s it was an honour to be part of this new edition (issue No.243, following on from the sixties numbering). The original Zoony strips had run in the first year of TV21 in 1965 as "silent" stories free of dialogue, so I kept to that. Also for consistency, I scanned the original logo, cleaned it up, and put that on my strip. The old Zoony strips tended to have him in traditional slapstick situations but I couldn't resist the opportunity to incorporate Gerry Anderson related scenes, as part of Zoony's daydreams. 

I was pleased with the result, and proud to be a contributor to TV21 at last! You can read more about the contributions by other artists and writers by visiting this link:

Sunday 19 November 2017

Julius Sneezer!

Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of being commissioned to draw three Julius Sneezer pages for The Dandy Annual 2013, written by editor Craig Graham. The character had originally appeared way back in 1946 in The Dandy, so it was great fun to revive him. 

D.C. Thomson sent me scans of the old strips for reference, which were drawn by Allan Morley. I interpreted the character in my own style but retained as much as I could of Allan Morley's design. To homage the old strips, I used the original logo from 1946 and cleaned it up in Photoshop.

It made a nice change to work on a different character and the three pages were good fun to draw. As that annual is long out of print now I thought I'd show one of the pages here for those of you who missed it. 

Friday 17 November 2017

Rough Tom Thug! From pencils to print

Back in 1987 I was commissioned to draw the cover to Oink! No.33 featuring my Tom Thug character. This was the first time I'd drawn a cover for a mainstream comic, so it was quite an honour. 

As with any cover for a comic, the editor wanted to see a rough first, to make sure it had the impact they were looking for. You can see my pencil rough above, and all the notes and suggestions added in blue biro by editor Mark Rodgers. Mark wanted the cover to be less "Whizzery", a reference to the comparatively pedestrian humour of Whizzer and Chips, and suggested the kids piling out of school should be "less cute" and "more punky / revolting". Mark also suggested barbed wire on top of the school wall, and a squashed teacher behind the gate that Tom Thug kicks open.

Bearing Mark's notes in mind, I set to work producing the finished cover, and here it is...
Now, you'll notice that there are a couple of blobs in the sky. This photo is of the art after it was published. What happened was that the Oink! studios had a leaky roof one day and some of the artwork got soaked! My cover was one of the pages that was fortunately salvageable, as the water damage would be covered up by the logo and topline (which were added onto an acetate overlay)...

...and here's the final result in print, 30 years ago...
Looking back, my style was still developing and there's parts I'd do differently now (and I think Photoshop colouring would improve it) but I was very proud to see my first cover on the shelves of newsagents all those years ago.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

When Combat Colin met the 12th Doctor!

My thanks to reader Ben Gurney on Twitter for reminding me of a sketch I drew at the Doctor Who Festival at the ExCel centre exactly two years ago today! I hadn't seen this photo before.

If you're interested in a sketch, I'll be at Reading Comic Con on November 25th and 26th so come along! I'll sharpen me pencils in anticipation. 

Monday 13 November 2017

In print this week...

I have a couple of things coming out this week. On Wednesday 15th November, there's Epic No.139 from D.C. Thomson, featuring a new two page Hygiene High strip I drew, written by Niall Murray. This time, the mucky kids play a football game against their posh counterparts. Kind of a Swots and Blots thing for today's readers.

On Thursday, 16th December, Doctor Who Magazine No.519 will be in the shops, featuring The Daft Dimension by me. This issue, I spotlight the Time Lords. 

Don't forget that Toxic No.297, which came out last week, is still available too, featuring a new two-page Team Toxic story by me.

All three publications are available from newsagents and supermarkets across the UK. 

Sunday 12 November 2017

Slob City Rovers! (1995)

Daily Star  21st March 1995
Here's a strip I'd forgotten about, that I found today. Back in the early 1990s, I was a contributor to two Viz-type comics, Spit! and C'Mon Ref! Both were edited by Graham Hey and Chris Whitehead, who often supplied the scripts. Good fun stuff. One of the strips I regularly drew was Whitley Baywatch, created by Graham, about two boozy, leery, layabouts in charge of beach safety in Whitley Bay. 

In 1995, Graham and Chris were commissioned to devise a comedy football section for the Daily Star, which they called Bite Yer Legs. It ran in the paper every Tuesday, and I was commissioned to write and draw a strip featuring the Whitley Baywatch characters. 
Daily Star   28th March 1995
The strip was called Slob City Rovers, and you can see three of the strips here. I didn't actually do many. Four in total if memory serves correctly. I don't remember why it was dropped so suddenly but I'd guess it was due to budget cuts. So, my initial enthusiasm at being in a national newspaper was quickly cut short. That's the comics biz, and you never truly know what goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes it's budgetary, sometimes it's office politics, sometimes it's people telling tales. Happily, I've managed to avoid such nonsense during most of my career, but it does happen. Perhaps in a few years I'll spill the beans in an autobiography. 
Daily Star 4th April 1995

Friday 10 November 2017

The line-up for Reading Comic Con

The last convention on my "road trip" for 2017 will be Reading Comic Con at the Rivermead Leisure Complex in just two weeks on 25th and 26th November. I hope that some of you can join us all and will stop by our tables to buy comics, prints, or ask us to draw you a sketch! For ticket details visit this link...

More info at their Facebook page here:

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Today in Toxic...

As mentioned the other day, Toxic No.297 is out today, and in the Team Toxic story, Kid Zombie needs to lose weight! Will he succeed? RUN to your local newsagent and buy the latest issue to find out!

Thursday 2 November 2017

Next week's Toxic...

Here's an advance preview of a panel from Toxic No.297, which will be in shops next Wednesday, 8th November. Kid Zombie needs to lose weight. Will he succeed? Find out by buying the mag next week!