Disconnected Press – new book review. I sort of wish I knew what it was called!

Story: Lizzie Boyle @lizzieboylesays

Art: Connor Boyle @pencil_monkey

Letters: Jim Campbell @CampbellLetters

Publisher: Disconnected Press www.disconnectedpress.co.uk

Disconnected PRess

Saturday 3rd Feb found me at the first comic con of the year: True Believers, in Cheltenham. As ever a great event, but that’s not up for discussion right now. Right now, what we need to talk about is the new(ish) book from Disconnected Press which was released at Thought Bubble 2017.

The first thing to say about it is that I have no idea what it’s called. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. The front cover has a whole heap of words on it, any of which could be the title and, as it happens, also used to describe the protagonist: Hero, Feak, Miracle – any of these, or the other ten words on the cover, could fit the bill to describe the central character, depending on the cut of your jib.

The fella we’re talking about here looks to be in his sixties, not exactly in the prime of life or what you expect as the focus of a comic. Don’t let that fool you though; he can do extraordinary things. The central theme the book explores is how an individual displaying what look a lot like ‘super powers’ might be treated; by friends, neighbours, governments. No spoilers, so I won’t say exactly what happens, but this is an awesome piece of work from Disconnected Press.

Lizzie’s writing is sharp – although there’s very little in the way of shouting or the usual confrontational language of a superhero book (and we could certainly slot it into that genre), she manages to create a tension that urges the story on. At the same time, you can imagine the central character’s voice being soft and tinged with loneliness as he makes choices for the sake of others at his own expense. She also manages to help us understand how, despite the maturity of his years, this guy is lost – he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him or have any real control over his situation; creating a fascinating contrast between a man entering old age and a sense of vulnerability more akin to that of a bewildered child. Really great work.

Of course, a comic can live or die by the quality of the artwork, and for me that’s what comics have always been about; if the artwork’s off, I can really struggle to get into the story. I haven’t read as many comics as some, but it’s probably into three figures and I’m hard pushed to remember one where the artwork so brilliantly supports the story. Connor has nailed it with work that fit’s the emotionally raw tone of this book perfectly. Largely monochrome with elements of colour, he told me he used a variety of traditional media to arrive at what is right up there as one of the best-looking books I’ve read. His linework, which sits over the textured paint and crayon, seems to pull the characters out of the obscured fog of a background to become wonderfully rendered, almost ghost like figures. There’s an economy to the art which lets the panels breath throughout the book and plenty of panels with no dialogue – it would be great to hear from Lizzie and Connor how much of that was scripted and how much artistic interpretation. Whatever the answer, this is a fantastic looking book.

Finally, a word for Jim Campbell on letters – the book certainly isn’t dialogue heavy but Jim manages to set out the balloons so that they’re never detrimental to the artwork. Add to that the fact that every panel is wonderfully generous; the white space around the text helping to give the dialogue space which really supports the pacing of the story – another great piece of the jigsaw.

Overall then, this is an outstanding book and if you want something that is thought provoking, emotional and beautiful to look at you could do far worse than this.

Marvel Classics – Psylocke

I mostly draw original characters. Not really sure why. I guess there’s a sense of freedom in that – no-one but me knows what those characters are meant to look like so I can’t be wrong, right? Well, maybe. But to continue the theme of trying (and mostly failing) not to worry what people might think of my work, I figured I’d start drawing some well known characters so that everyone can judge the hell out of my art…why not, eh?

Pencil drawing of Marvel's Psylocke

#inktober 2017

So, I’ve never done Inktober before – mainly because I’ve always been convinced that I’d never manage a full month of drawing every single day. Also, ink scares me.

I appreciate that might sound odd, but it’s all part of not wanting to be seen as a bit rubbish – you don’t get to edit what you produce before sharing it when you work in ink, unless it’s just by not sharing it at all. But I’ve realised, that doesn’t really get you anywhere and certainly won’t harden that artistic shell.

That’s why I decided I’d give it a go this year. I still don’t know whether I’ll manage all 31 days, but I’ll give it a go. Here are the first five days; usually, I’d try and justify why these aren’t very good but on this occasion, I think not.

Day 01 – Historic street

Day 02 – Fish face

Day 03 – The Green Man, Trumpington, Cambridge

Day 04 – Cloak and Dagger


Day 05 – Slightly non-plussed alien dude




Judge Anderson

This year, 2000AD celebrated it’s 40th anniversary – quite a feat for a weekly anthology comic as that’s more than, well, a lot of issues! I was never a really regular reader of the mag but I do recall enjoying  the classic stories of Slaine, Halo Jones, ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and the rest. One of most prized possessions is the perfect bound series of full colour Slaine graphic novels with art by Simon Bisley and words by Pat Mills – both legends in the sequential art world.

Anyhow, although I couldn’t make it to any 2000AD anniversary events, I wanted to draw something to mark the occasion and settled on a sketch of Judge Anderson, Judge Dredd’s erstwhile psychic colleague. Here it is!

I’m thinking of doing some other characters from 2000AD so if anyone has any requests, let me know!

Learning from J.AKE

So, I finally manged to publish a total of two pages of sequential art – only about 35 years in the making and I’m feeling pretty good about my rate of production! Anyhow, I wanted to say something about the unexpected development of just about every aspect of the process. I guess this is something that must (presumably) happen to every artist when they draw their first few comics – I figured that I’d learn one or two things as I produced the story (I’m talking about J.AKE, The Waves was knocked up entirely traditionally in a couple of hours) but, as it turns out, it feels like I knew jack-s#&t before I started and now I’m at jack+1 – which is still basically bugger all…

It’s not unusual for me to launch into a project (not just art btw, but like, anything) with essentially no planning whatsoever. And, as that method had only let me down entirely on a small, but notable, handful of occasions in the past, I thought it’d do here too. I now realise just how stupid I am.

The list of cock-ups is pretty extensive and I want to talk about them all but this would be a very long and probably intensely boring post if I did so I’ll reign myself in for now. Let’s just say that there are a few things that I’ll be doing differently with the next story which are often about making the final product better but are always about making the process easier.

First up, I’ll be doing more (read ‘some’) storyboarding. Not really thinking about that has caused me more than a few headaches so I’ll definitely be considering the relationship between layout and script more carefully next time.

Next is remembering that each panel isn’t just a piece of artwork but, in the main, has to include space for word balloons. This near catastrophic error was summed up by the face Milmo pulled when I told her that I wasn’t sure I’d left enough space for my letters at the True Believers Summer con earlier this year. “Idiot” it said (in a nice way, natch).

Finally, and this is one for the two pages of J.AKE that are still to be inked – I’ll be doing the inking traditionally. I realised that I wanted to use cross hatching to make the whole thing a bit darker and grittier right at the end of making page 1, and I just couldn’t get it right doing it digitally but had no choice to carry on so I’m ditching the stylus for the pen when I get to that on P3 and 4 (Page 2 is largely already inked – apart from the cross hatching…)

The other thing to say is that it’s taken me an age to finish page 1. Partly due to the random way I’ve been going about the whole project but also because I’m learning with each and every aspect of the process: script, layouts, pencils, inks, colours (kicked those into the long grass in the end ‘cause they just weren’t good enough), using Clip Studio…all of it. Hopefully, I’ll be getting quicker from here on in because I really can’t wait another 35 years for the next page…

Here’s a panel from page 2, just in case you’re interested.

True Believers Comic Festival Summer Variant write up

With only a couple of hours to spare on Sunday morning away from the seemingly never-ending project to reinvigorate the Chez Couling cludgy, I knew I needed to spend it wisely – a trip to the True Believers Comic Festival Summer Variant was an obvious choice; particularly as it was in Gloucester, only a few miles from home. You can check out the main True Believers site right here.

Given everything else that’s going on, I hadn’t had time to properly check who was going to be at the con, but, having been to the previous Summer Variant and the main TBCF, I had a sneaky suspicion that Mr Mulrain was unlikely to throw me a furball. And so it proved.

I was a little too keen and, after being kicked out for trying to get in before the event opened and spending fifteen minutes looking for a sale at Poundland, I was one of the first through the door.

The venue was fantastic – the 13thC Blackfriars Priory is somewhat tucked away but if some lanky kid in a Spiderman costume can find it, so can you (next time. Obviously don’t go there now as the wedding that’s happening won’t know what to make of your Punisher cosplay rig). To be fair, the Spidey cosplayer did turn some heads as he literally sprinted down the alley from town to the venue – I didn’t see who was chasing him; presumably a guy in a stripy jumper with terrible skin.

Blackfriars Priory

Anyhow, the main hall where the comic tables were set up was great being both huge and historically interesting – an improvement over the previous years’ location which, despite hosting far fewer tables, was somewhat cramped (although they did do a good sarsaparilla…Check out Smokey Joe’s if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

The creators on display were great and I had a fantastic chat with Robin Etherington before snaffling a couple of books to be given as presents later this year. Robin and Lorenzo really have the con thing off to a fine art – they were totally on point with levels of enthusiasm and engagement I haven’t experienced outside a cheerleader convention. This was epitomised when Jack, an 11 year old fan of their creation “Von Doogan”, turned up in wicked cosplay and then produced a near perfect Von Doogan page he had created with his dad. If you don’t know the work of the brothers E (and you should), you can catch up with them here.

After spending quite some time with those guys and their being very complementary about some of my work (after I bought the books btw so I’m convinced it wasn’t a sales tactic), I moved on to chat to Ben, the manager of Proud Lion, the local comics’ emporium. Super helpful (despite mashing his finger in con-prep nightmare hell) and helped me sort out how to get hold of the end of Chris Wildgoose’s Batgirl run. I also picked up a mint second-hand copy of “Low, Vol 1: The Delirium of hope” for a very reasonable price. I’ve never seen this book before but as soon as I looked inside, the art worked it’s magic and money changed hands – check it out here.

After securing that little beauty, I sidled up to the table of the unassuming Mr Prolix. I’ve been following his antics since the announcement of Cockney Kung Fu (a collaboration with Tony Esmond of The Awesome Comics Podcast fame. What do you mean you don’t listen to the ACP? Shame on you! Go subscribe here right now! Unless you’re under 18, in which case just move on; there’s nothing to see here…) and you can sign up to the mailer for that feisty little drunken master of a project here. Nick was good enough to show me some of the pages and they are looking fantastic – can’t wait to see it in print! I grabbed “Slang Pictorial 1 & 2” while I was loitering (I paid, of course) and had to laugh at Nick’s unique (for comic cons) £#.99 pricing strategy – pretty sure he’s the only guy who’s cash tin contained pennies…

Next up was a visit to the several longbox tables, although no luck restocking my original Secret Wars run – I’ll get there in the end, although #8 could be a bit pricey apparently…

At the other end of the hall was a raised area where the mighty Milmo (Sarah Millman for those of you who don’t listen to the ACP) had set out her stall. Sarah was great to chat to – really engaging and enthusiastic about her work and comics in general. I hadn’t realised she was an artist full-time which is pretty freakin’ cool – good for you Milmo! As soon as I finish this post btw, I’m off to read “NPC Tea #1”. I know I’m behind the times but you gotta start somewhere right! Go visit Sarah here for a dose of Milmo magic.

All in all a great couple of hours which resulted in a nice little haul of goodies which I’m desperate to get reading so that’s your lot kids – catch you next time!


It’s about bloody time…

Fair enough. I’ve been reading sequential art (most people know that as comics – more on that in another post) for a pretty long time – let’s see, I’m 45 now and I reckon I started when I was maybe 10 or so; I’ll leave you to do the maths. Despite that, and the fact that I’ve always loved creating art, I’ve never managed to motivate myself to actually produce sequential stuff before now.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s just damn lazy. You may well be right of course, but that’s not it – honest. The truth is that I’ve never thought my art was up to scratch and it doesn’t really matter how many times someone tells you that a piece is great, you (or at least, I) never thought was good enough.

I guess I held that comic art had to be as good as Zeck or Portacio or Lee or McFarlane to qualify because those were the guys that I really looked up to from when I read Secret Wars in the mid-80s onwards. Because, for me, it was all about the artwork – it didn’t matter too much if I only picked up a single issue of a comic and missed the arc, because I only picked up comics with artwork that made me desperate to be that good.

So, if you’re a vertical thinking kinda kid you might conclude that, now I’m about to release some sequential into the nasty old world of the internet, I must have got to a point where I think my art is good enough. Wrong, genius; I still think my art isn’t good enough, but what’s changed is that I don’t really care. At 45, lots of things look different to the way they did at 15, or 25 or even 35. Take it from me kids, if you want to make comics, don’t bother waiting until you’re good enough, ‘cause unless you’re pretty up your own arse, you’ll probably never think you are.

Without going into detail (I might do that later), there are a couple of people to give the proverbial nod to for me arriving at this understanding. First, Lizzie Boyle (@lizzieboylesays) – made me realise there was such a thing as small press comics in a café at Addenbrooks Hospital while we were working for Cambridge Uni. Second, the Awesome Comics Podcast guys (@theawesomepod): Vince “Help! The cats have locked me in” Hunt, Dan “Let that sink in” Butcher and Tony “Sex wee” Esmond. Yeah, they really moan about the state of comic cons, but they single-handedly do more for small press than anyone else I know of (admittedly, I don’t really know anyone, but y’know…) – thanks all.