Saturday, December 18, 2010


About a year ago I was in a newsagents and spied a magazine sealed in a cardboard packet called Comic...something or other. I couldn’t make it out at first. I was definitely intrigued though, of course. When I looked more closely, I saw it was called SFX Presents Comic Heroes. Hmm. On the front were three movie heroes – the 2002 Spider-Man, 2008 Iron Man and another one I can’t remember. SFX is a glossy sci-fi magazine that also brings out other specials, along the lines of SFX Presents Vampires and things of that nature. So it seemed that this was their superhero movies one. I didn’t want to buy that, and certainly not for £8 without being able to look over the thing.

Months later I saw another Comic Heroes. This one had a picture of a recent incarnation of Captain America (possibly by Bryan Hitch), who is soon to be in his own movie. Cap is currently alive again after being dead, or missing, or not called Captain America any more, or no longer wearing the suit, or someone else is Captain America, or something.

By the time I saw a third edition, it had Alan Moore on front being interviewed. The taglines were (paraphrasing) "I don’t like the movies they make of my comics" and "I’m giving up comics". Moore is always an interesting interview subject, but neither idea/headline is particulary new. Again I wasn't going to buy this without seeing more.

When I was at a comics event in Edinburgh last Summer, someone mentioned Comic Heroes. Did I buy it? No. The Eddie Campbell comic inside was great.


I spent the next couple of weeks trying to find issue three to no avail. The Eddie Campbell bit was in a preview comic inside the sealed pack called “Sidekick” (groan).

It seemed the comic was not solely about superhero movies with a smattering of comics related material. It is a bona fide comics magazine on sale in regular newsagents. Bravo.

So I picked up the latest last week. The packet has an image from the forthcoming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1969, and the cover itself features the Nautilis from that series. Nice preview pages too and a Kevin O’Neill interview. Paul Gravett is involved, with an article on Moebius. Dandy editor Craig Graham talks about the recent revamp. Dez Skinn writes about Doctor Who comics. Lew Stringer writes about British superheroes. Warren Ellis, Walt Simonson and others feature. The bias is definitely on US superhero comics, with some other genres covered. Nothing is particularly in-depth, but it’s all good fun.

It’s funny how the packaging gave me the wrong idea. Maybe they really should stop sealing it shut.

I’ll be picking it up from now on. I might even subscribe.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I never read much in the way of war comics while growing up. Probably one of the few comics genres I did miss out on.
I've had occassion to look into comics based on World War I lately though. I decided to check out the new collection of Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches. I've read the bits of Tardi that were in Raw years ago and so was pretty sure this would be good.
Well, it is a very powerful piece of work indeed. Many many haunting scenes. Beautifully drawn images. It's exemplary.

As a taster here is a video of Tardi working on just one of the panels in the book...

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The latest International Journal of Comic Art (Volume 12, No. 2/3) has been published. I have a couple of articles in there.

They’re reviews of two events from The University of Dundee. One is on Gerald Scarfe’s illustrated talk, and the other is on the third Dundee Comics Day. The latter featured David Bishop, Crawford Coutts, Warren Ellis, Gary Erskine, Mel Gibson, Alan Grant, Ian Hague, Peter Hughes Jachimiak, Ian Kennedy, Bill McLoughlin, Keith Robson, Julia Round, Roger Sabin and Emma Vieceli. More information can be found here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I am writing this with a comic on my desk - more precisely, a calendar featuring a single-frame cartoon taken from what is undoubtedly my favourite comic strip ever, The Broons.

The Broons is a comic that is published every week in the Scottish newspaper "The Sunday Post". It first appeared on 8 March 1936 and, while I haven't been reading it for as long as that, I have been reading it for as long as I can remember. The Broons, along with its sister comic Oor Wullie, plays a big part in many Scottish childhoods, and their Annuals are an eagerly awaited Christmas gift in many households, including my own.

For me, the success of these comics - both The Broons and Oor Wullie are veritable Scottish institutions - is all down to nostalgia: nostalgia for a working-class past in which large families all lived on top of each other in tenement flats that were, I'm sure, considerably less charming to live in at the time. Even when modern life creeps into the stories from time to time, we are often still left with the impression that "the good old days" were best. In my case, the comics remind me a little of my own upbringing, a little more about the stories my parents used to tell about their childhoods, and a lot about the joy I used to feel on reading them as a boy.

I am also a huge fan of the language used in the comics, since they are written in Scots (although depending on the period, it is often a highly anglicised version of Scots) and it is rare if not unique for the language to have such widespread, national exposure over such a long period of time.

And what a long period of time it is! Next year will see the 75th anniversary of the first Broons comics. How much of the work of today's comic book artists will, like these characters created by Dudley Watkins, still be being read every week three quarters of a century after their birth? Not many, I suspect.

For more on my good friend Stuart check out his website here and his blog here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Jim Davis’ Garfield is deliberately designed to be completely inoffensive, so as to run in as many papers as possible. It has become something that can be depended on to be innocuous. This week I opened up the local paper and found this on Thursday past – Remembrance Day:

One could be forgiven for thinking Davis had thrown a wobbler and put a political viewpoint into his cartoon. A contentious one, at that. But no, as far as I understand, Davis writes them a long time in advance. It would seem the distributors and newspaper teams have learned to trust Garfield so much that they don’t bother reading it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I didn't see this coming at all. Harvey Pekar - author of American Splendor - has died. It was a unique comic which deliberately chronicled the mundane aspects of life.

He reached a wider audience through the American Splendor movie in 2003. In June this year, Dougie Anderson wrote an article showing how a non-comics reader came to appreciate Pekar's work. Have a read here.

To get an idea of where Pekar was coming from, here is an interview from April 2010.

His influence on comics is profound, if subtle. Pekar was never shouting, and he could all too easily be overlooked, or disregarded after one reading. The effect of his stories has been cumulative - his tenacity meant that he amassed a sizeable body of work that did shape what succeeding generations of cartoonists thought was possible.

The world of comics is a poorer place now he's gone.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The latest Shiot Crock anthology is out now and available here. It has an eight page story by myself in.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Page 38 is uploaded now. Have a look here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Al Williamson has died.

He'd worked in comics since the 1940s. He became 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 in 1980:


Back then I could instinctively tell that this artwork was superior to other stuff being published. It’s classical style clicked with me, and coupled 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 his work on Flash Gordon in the 1960s, taking over the character drawn by 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. It’s dynamite:


So he’d done Empire and Jedi, but not the first 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 the 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. Previously unpublished Star Wars strips drawn in 1978 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:

Another reprint came in 1992. Excellent EC work by Williamson - The Sound of Thunder from 1954:

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 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 panel sequence:

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:

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.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Observer 2nd May runs a review of David Small's Stitches...
Financial Times 8th May on Tin Tin's owners...

TV chat show host Jonathon Ross has written a comic. An interview from The Times 8th May...

The Courier 10th May has an interview with Dundee Literary Festival Director Anna Day, stating that Pat Mills is "a massive artist", and that the festival will attract "people who have a historical interest or an intellectual interest in comics as pieces of art almost..."

A review of Philippa Perry and Junko Graat's Couch Fiction in The Guardian 15th May...

From The Times 21st May, Molly Norris starts "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"...

...and so Pakistan blocks Facebook and YouTube...

Woodrow Phoenix's favourite toys. The Guardian 22nd May...

Who knows why certain books are picked up by newspapers? Here's The Times from 22nd May. They've got Alain de Botton to review Couch Fiction too...

Tin Tin for sale. Daily Telegraph 25th May:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Well, here he is...
A nice Hulk sheet from Madagascar in 1999.
Artists include Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Gary Frank, Ron Garney, Dale Keown, Jack Kirby, Adam Kubert, Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe.

Monday, May 24, 2010