Here's my annual overview of what I've been up to comics wise this year. Writing this for 2020 was never going to be as straightforward as my previous efforts. Usually I list the comics and comics-related projects I've been involved with as they were released throughout the year, and say a little about each of them.
This time around, things were significantly different, due to COVID-19 and the impact it's had on the country, and the world.
As the year got going before it hit, I knew I wanted to put out another anthology, and I knew it was going to be called Mount a Rescue. I'd completed or mostly completed a number of strips for it, and sent out scripts to many artists for them to draw guest comics. I'd started painting the cover and things were mostly going along nicely when coronavirus started to take hold.
Around about March, I paused for a couple of weeks to consider. What does this mean? Is it appropriate to put out a comic in the middle of a pandemic? With an unknown number of people dying? I decided I was going to continue. Not doing comics as some form of solidarity, or in case it was in very poor taste, didn't make sense to me.
I was furloughed at work. Now, I do not make comics as a way to earn a living. Quite the opposite. I view it purely as an artform in which I am free to do and try whatever I want, and make the best comics I can. The negative side of this is that I spend a lot of my time at my place of employment, unable to get to work on my comics. I have been quietly resenting this for years, and sometimes just outright moaning about it to anyone who’d listen. But it is the deal I have made with my comics practice.
So when I was furloughed, you better believe I was not going to waste this extra time I had been granted. I worked on many comics projects throughout the year, and with all but one of them, they are fully coloured, either digitally or hand painted. Seven of these have yet to see print with their respective publishers. I can’t control that part of the process.
Mount a Rescue did come out in July and I was pleased with it. Everything had changed in a short period of time, and I hadn't mentioned the pandemic in the comic at all. I did a story called "Clap" for the back page, concerning the weekly applauding of the NHS.
As we got into the final third of the year, I proposed an idea I'd had for a while to my That Comic Smell podcast buddies. I reckoned I had enough time to work on putting together an anthology featuring work from all of us. I knew Mike was really getting up and running with his comics (see "The Real Prehistoric Beasts" - his first comic book), Tom would be up for writing scripts for us to draw (he ended up doing artwork too), and I'd always been intrigued by Nando's mention that he used to draw, but decided to stop and commit to reading instead of making. It was great to have him come out of retirement and do a comic for us. I worked hard on getting the comic assembled, completing it a few days before I returned to work. Then it was back to doing comics on a day off or odd hours here and there.
The TCS podcast itself has morphed into an online get together instead of the actual meet-ups we've traditionally had. These and Tony Esmond's regular Never Iron Anything have been great sources of pleasure, allowing me to chat comics with pals.
In any case, here’s how 2020 played out in comics land for me.
In January, Barnstormer Comics’ Star Jaws #30 continued running my Blade Runner tribute comic, “Los Angeles, November 2019”. Over the next six months it carried the whole story. I did my 25th Tay Bridge Disaster comic strip, and That Comic Smell podcast discussed European comics.
In February, I did my 26th Tay Bridge Disaster comic strip, and March presented two episodes of That Comic Smell; on Justice League International Vol 4, and “Holy Grails and Intention Fails”, in which we discussed the comics we really really want, and the ones we have but haven’t managed to read yet.
In April, I appeared for the first time on Tony Esmond’s Never Iron Anything podcast discussing Warlock by Jim Starlin. I did a comic for the Awesome Comics anthology, marking their 250th episode. That Comic Smell were busy, having our first remote meet-up discussing what we’ve been reading, and discussing the Top Three Comics Creators of all Time on video as part of Sparkcon.
In May, I did “T-Minus: Not Happening”, a comic about The A-Team’s adventures in outer space, for Star Jaws #34.
In June, That Comic Smell discussed surreal / weird comics, and a marathon length movie chat was split into parts one and two. I was happy to go back on Never Iron Anything, this time to discuss The Cute Manifesto by James Kochalka.
In July, my latest comic book Mount a Rescue was released. That Comic Smell discussed heavy comics. I was delighted Star Jaws #37 featured a pull out middle section devoted to it. On Never Iron Anything, we talked Star Wars #80 by Mary Jo Duffy and Ron Frenz.
August was a busy month for podcasts. That Comic Smell covered comics aimed at children, Dark Horse, and “You Make Comics?” – comics created by people known for other things! I was on the Awesome Comics Podcast for their Brainstorming comics episode, and discussed Starblazer #69 “Nightmare Planet” on Never Iron Anything.
In October I did a couple of spots on Never Iron Anything; one on Peter Bagge, and another with Tom Stewart on Kent State by Derf. I also did a comic for Funtime Comics #33, the anthology from New Zealand (congratulations to them for dealing with COVID-19 effectively).
In November, I did a guest comic for Olivia Hicks’ Sarararara, and a story called “Journey into Space (interrupted) for the Race into Space! Anthology. I also discussed Mary Fleener on Never Iron Anything.
In December I had a David Prowse tribute comic in Star Jaws #42, then a couple of Christmas themed podcasts; a discussion of Christmas with the Super-Heroes from 1988 on Never Iron Anything, and the annual That Comic Smell Christmas do comparing our favourite comics of 2020.
I've completed work on my ongoing Tay Bridge Disaster comic, and will be releasing that next year in a natty landscape format. First time I've tried that.
That Comic Smell Comic will be out in early 2021.
There are a lot of comics completed for my next anthology, which I do know the name of, but am not telling yet. And I have started writing a longer narrative, which I aim to have completed over the festive period, and then get to work drawing.
Thanks for reading. I hope 2020 has been good to you, and let's try to make next year a good one!