Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Why The Complete Don Quixote?

Q: Why did you call it the Complete Don Quixote?

A: So many readers have failed to complete Don Quixote,  this book advertises the possibility on its cover. Now you too can "Complete Don Quixote"! And because I finished my adaptation of the book, something that seemed unlikely at times. Other adaptations have failed to complete Don Quixote, not naming any names, you know who you are.

Q: But you missed some bits out so it's not complete is it?

A: Yeah, yeah, shut up. It's nearly 300 pages of comics, you could knock someone out with that lush hardback edition (only £19.99 from good stockists and a paltry £15 for a signed one at Thought Bubble!). And I have added as much as I've taken away, this is the graphic novel not the novel novel. Cervantes would have loved comics as they can demonstrate his crazy ideas with an ease that cuts through  age gap. Given how different shaped our brains are now*, one could even claim that the Complete Don Quixote will give one a more complete experience of the story.

*There is no science to support this assertion.

Q: How so?

A: Here is an example from Volume Two, Chapter Four (a personal favourite)...

The mad knight, having escaped a wedding punch up, uses his idiot squire who has consumed much of the wedding feast for ballast as he leaps into the dreaded Cave of Montesinos. 

After half an hour, Sancho drags his friend back up.

Quixote's tale is rather abstract, we switch to his point of view with a change in style.

As you can see, there is some discrepancy between Quixote's version of events and the probability that he just fell asleep. 

This experience has changed his mission.

Brilliant! A true knight's adventure! Sadly they are immediately distracted by a man dragging a cart who tells them of an impending war. Again, the switch of style lets us into the polite farce that began this war. Now whether we're in Quixote's imagination, Sancho's imagination or the storyteller's imagination matters not - by now we are familiar with the comic clues to a story within a story.

And back in the inn the man completes his story in person. 

Or at least he would do but for the arrival of another storyteller in the shape of the Puppeteer, Master Pedro, and his psychic monkey. 

And once again we enter the comic story within the comic story as Master Pedro's puppets play out the story of another brave knight who would also rescue his fair maiden. But this time the comic page is a puppet theatre and the characters are puppets.

Turn the page. 

Hmmmm. Quixote breaks the fourth wall. The comics break their own rule. This could be getting a bit meta if it weren't for the gift of comics to help it all make perfect daft-sense.

Q: Fair enough. So what happens next? Does Quixote rescue Dulcinea from Merlin's evil clutches?

A: I suggest you read the book. And so does the title.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Don Quixote Volume II

Yes, Volume II is here! Well, not here exactly, it's in a warehouse in London somewhere. But on Saturday April 20th it will be available for the first time at the COMICA Comiket in St Martin's College.

That's right. You can find out what happens next to our hapless heroes as they confront reviews of Volume I (including one by the dastard Paul Gravett), donkey thieves, demons, wise monkeys, old foes in new clothes, new foes in old clothes, death, cats, holes and humiliation. Not necessarily in that order.

A monkey

Some humiliation
The devil.

Hopefully I will be there on Saturday afternoon to deface your copies of Volume II. At this moment in time I can't even afford the train fare due to an oversight by some people who were supposed to pay me for some drawings. I shall keep you informed via twitter or facebook. 


Friday, 12 April 2013

Don Quixote in New York.

"Thou hast seen nothing yet!" Quote from Don Quixote.

I've just returned from New York where we launched the Complete Don Quixote on an American readership. I was there with a SelfMadeHero posse promoting some of the first SelfMadeHero books available in the US. Along with Emma Hayley (the brains behind everything we do) and Sam Humphrey (Sales and Marathon Man), were fellow creators JAKe and Robert Sellers (with their fabulous collection of drinking stories from Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole - HELLRAISERS) and Glyn Dillon (creator of instant classic Nao of Brown). Were there as guests of Abrams who sell our books in the US and who were all very cool. Below you can see us sharing a table with them at MoCCA (the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art convention run by the Society of Illustrators).

Whilst there we did a panel with the wonderful Mr Jimmy Aquino, you can hear the interview he did with me on his Comic News insider podcast here . Jimmy wanted to know what the differences were between British and American comics and, quite frankly, we struggled to answer that.* Historically there are differences and for some of us (of a certain age) that history has shaped the way we see comics. But what struck me thinking back over the reaction to our books at MoCCA was the sense there is such a broad readership  of comics in the US. Many of the attitudes about comics we have in the UK today come from the fact they aren't read across the board. Readers fall into factions and look suspiciously at each other; creators either belong to faction with its own support network or crave ways of reaching the 'common people'. To some degree this affects the way we make comics. What I felt watching the reaction to my work in the US, and talking to people there, was a sense of being freed from that.
I may be wrong, but I watched a lifelong Marvel fan take nothing but SelfMadeHero books home. Marvel was for another day.
I always say that questions about comics as a genre (especially ones that presume that genre is about men in tights and capes) crush me. The crowd at MoCCA dispelled that notion, for a while at least. Why not see comics as a medium and switch over every now and then to see what's on the other side. A pleasantly surprising, open-minded attitude.
Hopefully, whilst we wait for that 'growing UK market' to get big enough to pay the rent, some of our current UK comics will find a readership in the US and those of us who aren't big fans of Superhero comics won't feel obliged to don a superhero costume for the privilege.
There's been an emptying of talent from UK comics to US comics in the past, what I hope we'll see in the future is a US discovery of UK comics. Rather than talented artists and writers dropping their tools and jumping onto franchises in the US we might see more original stories and ideas from the UK finding a readership there. I think that would be better for both parties.

Of course this may just be me tilting at windmills again.

*Hannah Means Shannon did a great job of summarising that panel here.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

I know nothing about Manga but...

I got a stack of Manga for Christmas, so I'm going to do a quick review of what I've been reading.

MW - Osamu Tezuka

It's Tezuka who got me excited about Manga. There's something about the tone of his books that is pitch perfect. The dark stuff doesn't need to wear a cloak and be painfully serious, the sex doesn't exploit the characters in a pornographic way,  the humour comes from the goofiness of the personalities, the horror comes from the situation not from gore and shock, and the style... the style bends like a reed to suit all of these aspects. I have no idea what his books were like to read in context and I'm reading books of his from the 70s or 80s without factoring that in the way I would if it was a western comic from that period. This stuff just reads itself, it doesn't need me to make adjustments or allowances. The man was a genius.
MW is supposedly the anti-Tezuka, the darkest of all his books, it's hard to imagine a darker book - child molestation, rape, mental torture, genocide... it's like an attempt to batter every last grain of humanity from your characters (and readers) and see if there's still a human being left behind. 
The plot is a loopy 70s action movie/thriller affair with government conspiracies, a corrupted priest, a long haired detective, a serial killer and a secret weapon. The bouncy 70s art styles and immaculate storytelling make this fun to read and horrific to consider.
The story was originally serialised between 76-78 and was Tezuka's reaction to new violent adult comics (Gekiga) appearing in Japan at that time. Tezuka was Japan's Walt Disney at this time. Can you imagine Walt Disney deciding his next story will be about a homosexual serial killer, a homosexual priest and government genocide with chemical weapons? That Tezuka is as happy to write a thousand pages about Hitler or Buddha says everything about him. He created Astro Boy, but y'know, so what? You need to keep growing as an artist. If you need a touchstone for what an artist working in comics can achieve, Tezuka' your man.


I read the first book in a number of different series.

The Drifting Classroom - Kazuo/Umezu

I didn't know this was from way back in '72 until I finished it. The series ended in '74, it's 11 volumes in all so I have a long way to go. The plot: a school disappears and reappears in a mutant wasteland, the kids go mental and the teachers go mental. This is supposed to be one of the great 70s horror comics, what may horrify some readers in 2013 is how the teachers deal with the hysterical kids. Mr Nice Teacher takes to thumping as many 6 year olds in the face as is needed to calm the mob, and Mr Not-so-Nice Teacher grabs a kids, smashes his glasses and uses the broken glass to stab him in the arm. But it was ok because the kid was his own son. Phew! I'm not sure if this stuff was intended as the horror, it seems mostly consistent with my own memories of childhood in the 70s. I guess the mutant landscape stuff follows in later volumes. I don't know if I'll finish this series but I loved its hysteria, it's like putting your head in a pit of screaming kids.

Uzumaki - Junji Ito

Now this is the stuff. This is a horror comic. I read in bed and this book actually gave me a nightmare.
It's all about spirals. Forget vampires or monsters or serial killers, I can assure you - spirals are the real horror. The plot: kids on an island notice their parents and others becoming obsessed and then consumed by spirals. Spirals in art and nature. They're everywhere! A boy's mum gets so terrified of them after they take her husband she tries to destroy them all - slicing off her fingertips because they're spirals and attempting to stab out her inner ear to get at the cochlea.

This book came out in 1998, eight years after I was terrified by a fibonacci cauliflower (Romanesque). That's a story for another day, I'm just glad I read this 20 years after the cauliflower incident. Will continue reading this series, with some trepidation.

Death Note - Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata

I imagined this would be a gripping Horror/fantasy thing, and in a sense it is, but as with Tezuka it relishes getting tripped up by the realities presented by the plot. Boy finds Death Note - anyone whose name he rights on Death Note dies, the Death God who owns the note haunts/hangs around with the boy. Great set-up. That the boy sets out to reshape the human race with the note gives it a grandeur, that he is constantly beset by the logistics of carrying out such a plan makes the whole thing credible and so much more fun. The art is really tight, veering between brilliant and stiff. I can imagine this book being popular with teens the world over. I may eventually get the rest of the series.

Children of the Sea - Daisuke Igarashi

A girl who thinks she saw a ghost in an aquarium finds herself captivated by two kids raised by a sea cow. These 'Children of Sea' seem to understand the 'mind' of the sea and struggle to live on the land. This book is a mystery, an immersive mystery. Not a mystery in a whodunnit sense, or immersive in a page-turner sense - it offer no easy answers and immerses you with its naturalistic storytelling and fully realised settings.  Everything unfolds at its own pace and much of Igarashi's effort goes towards creating a naturalism with a loose but persistent style. In fact the drawing is almost quirk-free and achieves moments of great atmosphere without stylishness to the line or hatching. I'd say I was intrigued rather than captivated so far.

Blue Spring

Worth it for the art. Something un-manga about it to my eyes. The usual ingredients are missing to the faces, but the storytelling is excellent and the short stories here have a British 1960s kitchen sink quality. All the tales centre around a bunch of bored teens waiting for the summer to come. And it can't come soon enough. Recommended.


Couldn't make head nor tail of this, I really wanted to read it after scanning the blurb, but I found it utterly impenetrable. There are some cutesy drawing and some bits of dialogue and I'm sure they connect together somehow, but...
Apparently this was a TV show, so maybe it makes sense if you knew the Anime first... I dunno... it was like looking at doodles on the back of a sketch book and trying to connect them together to make sense. If anyone can help me with this book please do.

And if anyone wants to offer further suggestions based on my thoughts here I'd be happy to hear them. I plan to scoop up another haul as soon as I can. Manga is just more readable than most Western comics and I feel I should go away and think about all the reasons why it is so readable and apply them to my work. 

Hourly Comics Day 2013

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nelson - British Comic Award winner!

The original colour rough I did for Nelson from Woodrow's type rough back in December 2010.

Last month Nelson won the first British Comic Award for best book and I want to congratulate and thank everyone who contributed to the book. I would have liked to do that when Woodrow and I picked up the award, but it's a long list and it would have taken quite a while. Here goes. Thanks and congratulations to Kenny Penman (our publisher) Woodrow Phoenix (my co-editor)Paul Grist, Ellen Lindner, Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Suzy Varty, Sean Longcroft, Warwick Johnson–Cadwell, Luke Pearson, Paul Harrison–Davies, Katie Green, Paul Peart–Smith, Glyn Dillon, I.N.J.Culbard, John Allison, Philip Bond, D’Israeli, Simone Lia, Darryl Cunningham, Jonathan Edwards, Ade Salmon, Kate Charlesworth, Warren Pleece, Kristyna Baczynski, HarveyJames, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips & Pete Doree, Kate Brown, Simon Gane, Jon McNaught, Adam Cadwell, Faz Choudhury, JAKe, Jeremy Day, Dan McDaid, Roger Langridge, Will Morris, Dave Shelton, Carol Swain, Hunt Emerson, Duncan Fegredo, Philippa Rice, Josceline Fenton, Garen Ewing, Tom Humberstone , Dan Berry,Alice Duke, Posy Simmonds, Laura Howell, Andi Watson, and Dave Taylor (the contributors) and Bridget Hannigan, Kayla Hillier, Martin Steenton and Geri Ford (for everything from pulling the project together, proofing and colouring to publishing it). 

I also have to thank my partner, Rachael, whose conversation with her sister inspired the final chapter of Nelson at a time when I had no idea how to end the book and who, on our first 'proper' date, took me to the Nelson in Blandford Forum. Coincidence or fate, don't know that I believe in either. She had no knowledge of the book and on that day as we sat there getting drunk in the beer garden with the rough script notes under a pint glass to stop them blowing away I knew this was just meant to be. And I had an idea for a single image prelude to the story that was eventually drawn by Paul Grist and which is now hanging on mine and Rachael's wall with the date of that drink at the Nelson written underneath. 

 Summer 2011 in London, the whiff of riots and Murdoch in the air.

Nelson started life at Thought Bubble festival in 2010 when I realised that what makes the British comic scene of today is its diversity and harmony. Perhaps it's the nature of the Thought Bubble that it levels things and makes there appear to be no headline acts or star turns just a panoply of creative talents in the same room. Maybe it was a trick of the light and we all exist in cliques with our own agendas, I think Nelson says otherwise. At Thought Bubble 2011 we launched the book and everywhere I looked people were walking around with it under their arms. So it felt right that if Nelson was to win an award it should be at Thought Bubble 2012.

There's been some discussion since those first British Comic Awards about agendas and cliques and sexism. Primarily a few creators, Nelsonites among them, questioned whether there were enough women on the shortlist, no one covered themselves in any glory as bruised egos produced curt responses, which is the nature of Twitter based debates among friends. Unfortunately The New Statesman, which has an agenda to expose 'sexism in nerd culture', leapt on the debate and hitched it to this agenda. I have no problem with such an agenda, I'm not sure what nerd culture is, but if there's sexism at play I of course want it exposed for what it is. I say unfortunately because I would have been overjoyed for the New Statesman to do a piece on The British Comic Awards and from my perspective Nelson embraces so many positive issues that I have in common with them that it would have been great promotion for British comics' creators. 

What's done is done. I hope the Awards committee are open to criticism and are aware of all forms of bias that may influence voting, but I say that with no proof that this wasn't already the case. I'm sorry if anyone came away from the awards with these concerns, I came away dazzled by seeing so many wonderful British comics flickering before my eyes on the big screen. 

I just realised that the awards were almost clean sweep for Nelsonites. We did try and get Raymond Briggs into Nelson at one point (he took the lifetime achievement award).

 Josceline Fenton took the Emerging talent award

 John Allison took the best comic award for Bad Machinery

 and Luke Pearson took the Young Peoples Award for Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

 The shortlists included graphic novels, web comics, short form, long form, adaptations, factual books, fiction, humour, kids books, observational, sci fi, romance, hight art, low art, experimentation, traditional comics... a broad range that demonstrates how far British Comics have come in a few short years. I feel excited and privileged to be making comics during the most creative time there has been in British comics in my memory. This is the time to be making comics in Britain, this is the time to be reading British comics!

Monday, 15 October 2012

The British Comic Awards

I was reading the FPI blog piece about The British Comic Awards first ever shortlist (because I'm on the list and I wanted to see if anyone had anything nice or horrible to say about me, it's what we do) and I came across a mini-tirade from an ardent 2000ad blogger about the absence of 2000ad from the shortlist. There followed a long and impassioned description of the many talents and wonderful stories that have appeared in that comic. The chap was clearly very angry about this because he is a 2000ad fan. And then it struck me that there was something about the list and the omission of 2000ad that was quite positive.

(I feel like a drunk in a minefield writing about awards where I'm nominated.)

Here come the sweeping generalisations...

There's a connection between the five books nominated, something they share that 2000ad doesn't. And something born out by the fact that it was a '2000ad fan' who leapt forward. When I started Don Quixote I wanted to make a book that might be read by people outside the comics' world,  and it was around this time my then wife pointed out that she had no idea who was speaking in these caption things in a comic I handed her. "Well, it's either the thoughts of a character, a first person author or a third person author or..." Why should she know? She doesn't read many, if any, comics.

So I put in that bit where the voice from the cell, the author's voice, pops up in a caption and tells you that's what he's doing. I could do this in Quixote because the whole book is full of these kind of metafictions anyway. There's nothing wrong with a book being difficult to read, often the most rewarding books are, but I didn't want mine to be off-putting purely because of modern conventions in the medium.

This idea was very important to Woodrow and I when we were editing Nelson, we wanted a book that could walk and talk on its own in any company, not something that was a foreigner the moment it stepped outside of a comic shop. This has been born out by the reaction we've had from people who haven't read a comic since they were a child in the 80s/70s/60s etc.

I don't have a copy of Goliath or Science Tales yet, but I'm very familiar with the work of these two authors and admire both. What they share is clarity. Darryl's Psychiatric tales is a book I gave to people not because they liked comics, but because I knew it would touch them deeply and inform them. It didn't matter whether they read comics. Equally Tom's work is all about instantaneous reading, his strips are fast to read than words. Anyone who encounters them receives the messages sent.

Then there's Luke, whose Hilda book has been read and loved by me and my daughter. It's a kids book. This doesn't mean it doesn't warrant the same accolades as an adult comic (actually I'm not sure whether Quixote also counts as all ages given that many kids have read it). My daughter knows that comics can offer more than three pages of filler in a merchandise tie-in, she has read Hilda and has high expectations of comics. Good.

Well, there's the connection between the five nominees. So where does 2000ad fit in, you ask. 2000ad, for the purposes of this blog post, represents a different relationship between comic and reader, the traditional relationship - comic and fan. Comics are a nerdy fan world, and that's fine. 2000ad has given me some of my best experiences reading comics. 2000ad has been THE comics industry in the UK for many years, but it is almost totally 2000ad fans making comics for 2000ad fans and it is in a sense a celebration of itself. What these awards highlight is not, as our afore mentioned 2000ad blogger claimed, a leaning towards 'indie' it's a leaning towards new readers. Without them we're dead.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Mick McMahon - Demon Artist

Tim Pilcher just asked me if was ever influenced by Mick McMahon, it shocked me so much I thought he might have been taking the piss. I think this is probably a good excuse to make Mick blush once more and print the article I wrote for Vworp! Vworp! magazine a couple of years back where some of my good friends from Doctor Who comics explain why Mick's one and only Doctor Who strip is the best thing since sliced bread.

(Excuse the cod McMahon illo, I did this before I got to know Mick and the caricature isn't the best. Oh, and DWM means Doctor Who Magazine).

The Demon Artist

By Rob Davis

If you ask the DWM artists for their favourite DWM comic strip chances are they will pick Junkyard Demon. (For the record I did ask a collection of my fellow artists including Dan McDaid, Martin Geraghty, Ade Salmon, Sean Longcroft, Roger Langridge and Paul Grist.) So why would we pick a two part oddity like this over the many wonderful epics on offer? It’s a great little idea by Steve Parkhouse. Prefiguring Rob Shearman’s 2005 classic, Dalek, it’s about a battered, inert monster of supreme powers collected amongst the universe’s flotsam that comes to life with the arrival of the Doctor. 

“Parkhouse on top form,” says Sean Longcroft, “an amiable and redoubtable pair of space barrow boys and their windmill-powered robot share our sense of awe as a Cyberman awakes from its lengthy sleep. ‘One Cyberman could stop an army!’ The Doctor informs us, but the immediate threat he poses is to a perfectly charming afternoon of hot chocolate, small sherries and er… hand bellows. The conflict between the fantastically monstrous and the cosily common is one of the hallmark strengths of Doctor Who, a genre Parkhouse nailed right from the off.”
“A story that strong could have been daubed in crayon and it would still be effective,” observes DWM’s own Muppeteer, Roger Langridge. 
He’s right, whoever had drawn it, this would have been a great strip, but due to some bizarre happenstance it fell into the lap of the UK’s most innovative comic artist approaching the peak of his powers. And we were blessed with something unique in Doctor Who.

“Demon really opens up the Universe of comics Who,” says Dan McDaid, “Gibbons, Wagner and Mills pushed Tom Baker's Doctor to the edge of madness, but McMahon takes him right over that edge, into the an inky, super-charged space full of bristling moustaches, ramshackle battleships and junkheaps which walk like men. I love Gibbons to bits, but it's hard to beat the sudden shock of McMahon's potent linework: erratic, spontaneous, instinctive - instantly gripping.”

Ade Salmon adds, “I love how McMahon brings his 2000AD Dreddview to the Dr Who mythos!  Buyulla's inks also play a large part here , delicately spinning web lines between chunking great granite blocks of black. Mick would have inked the heavy blacks before connecting with the linework and Adolfo does a decent imitation here. I also like McMahon's storytelling, plenty of panels ( up to 12!) pushing the story forwards yet taking moments to concentrate on some nice design work.”

In case you haven’t got the message Mick is what they call ‘an artist’s artist’. Explaining why is not easy - talking about art is like dancing about architecture, to paraphrase Declan McManus. Shall we dance?

Some artists see their role as representing reality – a kind of consensus reality that says we can all agree the world looks like this so therefore the story is believable, nothing wrong with that. There’s been some great comic art done by people trying to achieve that kind of ‘consensus reality’, but I’ve always been enticed by comics that let me see the world through another set of eyes. And first glimpse of Mick’s world tells you this is something shockingly different. The world seen through his eyes is no less believable, but reintroduces you to reality as something shockingly new and awe inspiring. That’s not to say it’s fantasy, it is grittily real. In fact there are very few artists who give us a reality as solid as Mick McMahon, despite its amplified and abstracted forms.
The Jigsaw puzzle of blacks in his work are so well placed that, as Roger points out, “you could take away the thin lines, just leaving the solid blacks and it would still be coherent!”

These aren’t just wonderfully rendered objects though - what of the familiar characters now filtered through the McMahon mangler? 

“Likeness is important in a licensed comic,” Dan explains, “but in Junkyard Demon McMahon offers us something more - a bristling, lively caricature of the Fourth Doctor, a gangling mass of a man with iron-wool hair, who meditates among plush cushions and throws spanners around like there's no tomorrow. 
The Doctor, the Tardis, the Cyberman are all familiar and recognisable and yet utterly unique and completely McMahon's own.”

“Awkward, caricatured, outlandish, yet totally believable,” is how Martin Geraghty describes him. But is it Tom Baker? I don’t think it is. I was glad my first Doctor Who strips featured David Tennant because I felt he’d made himself into something of a cartoon (he had a silhouette, a quirky hairdo and converse pumps) and that made my job so much easier. The Tennant I drew was for the most part a cartoon. Mick’s Doctor is like that, he’s the Doctor that Tom Baker created not a drawing of Tom Baker in a costume. 

So what about the villain? “Mick's cyberman is bloody brilliant!” That’s what Ade thinks and anyone who wants to argue with that is liable to get a spanner lobbed at them.

Ade goes on, “His Cyber-Controller is dense with floral decoration, his intrusive Cyber-intruder grows and warps as his menace increases. Where Gibbons had brought solidity, integrity and grace to the world of Who, McMahon brings anarchy, energy, movement. And it's this spirit, this restless creativity, which I hope has found its way into my own work.”

Ah, yes the influence thing. As Roger observes, “McMahon’s influence in the UK is as great as that of Jack Kirby in the US.”  And his influence on Roger? “From him I get idea that your job as a cartoonist is to take this job and put your own stamp on it, make it as much your own as you can without actually breaking it.” For Paul Grist McMahon’s influence is in his relentless invention,
“one of the most impressive things is he doesn't stand still.  McMahon always seems to be trying something new something different, and then once he's got that, incorporates it into his style and moves on to try something else.” And like the rest of us Paul is “still looking at McMahon’s old Judge Dredds and trying to figure out how to get that kind of energy into my work.”

Sean and I have been best mates since childhood, we grew up slavishly copying Mick’s work. And even as grown up professional comic artists the problem for those of us heavily influenced by Mick’s work (and this includes some of the biggest names in British comics) is trying not to end up just aping his style(s). 
I asked Sean how Mick’s work had influenced him, “Looking at my drawing of a cloth faced Cyberman in the Fangs Of Time, I'd have to say almost completely! Oops!” Truth is, Sean, Ade and I have all fallen victim to the temptation to just ape McMahon’s style in the past, as Sean adds though, “the aspects of his work it'd be wiser to try and emulate would be his love of form and line, his prioritisation of clear storytelling over showing off, and of course his tireless creativity.” 
Mick brought all that to bear on Junkyard Demon and with Adolfo Buyulla’s faithful inks and Steve Parkhouse’s mad script we have a comic strip to just gawp at in wonder.

Link to typically modest Mick's blog featuring Junkyard Demon here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

What to expect...

 This is the first of a couple of blogs I'll do about what you can expect from the second Volume of Don Quixote. First of all there's the cover (above) which is dark. Doug from SelfmadeHero hates this cover because he says it's hard to sell black or white covers. In future I'll try to make his job easier (see the cover to the US Complete Quixote at the bottom of this post)

Why did I do that cover? Well, I'm a storyteller not a designer or marketing man and so I can't help but think about covers as symbolising  something about the book itself. In this case the relationship between  Quixote and the world is summed up pretty well: he is connected to the real world, tenuously, by the rope and he is making a leap of faith into the unknown that is idiotic and courageous in equal measure. When I drew it it reminded me of those images of spacemen in orbit that always look like embryonic babies, all very 2001 (The Kubrick version not the 9/11 Kylie Minogue version). That babies/death/infinity thing is the way to sell a funny book I decided.

In Volume Two Quixote looks much the same. He had to. In comics we rely on a recognisable silhouette (or distinctive features or colouring) because like letter recognition to a child it is essential for reading. Comics are there to be read, comics where you spend ages working out what's going on in the lovely intricate pictures and wondering who is who are never a smooth read.

Here are those silhouettes at work, a couple of scribbles setting off on another adventure. Yes, once again this book is about those two idiots riding their useless mounts along dusty roads in the baking sun.

The difference here is that things are a bit darker. The book ends in death. He pops up throughout the book like signposts, or omens or whatever.

Darker book. Darker cover. And as with any book about death... hilarity ensues.

There are campfires in Volume Two. They were very popular in Volume One and setting aside their primal significance in the art of storytelling  they allow me to draw some shadows.
I like drawing shadows. But when I started drawing Quixote I knew I'd be colouring it as well, so made a decision to draw the lines and use two or three tone flat colour for the shadows. It's better for me to be able to draw for the colour rather than use the colour as some kind of fanciness that I frilly the picture up with after it's done.

Couple of splashes of sunlight on a swarthy face tells us so much. Alas there are moments in Volume Two where the colour goes a bit hallucinatory. The symbolism of having Quixote fight this chap (pictured below) is as mind-boggling as his suit of armour suggests.

But generally I still try to keep the colour simple, picking out the shapes the reader needs to identify at speed and bringing a temperature and hue that reflects the time of day or mood or whatever.

 So, plenty of fun and japes (and death) to come in Volume Two, plus Lions and Weddings and puppet shows, spanked arses, cat scratches and caves. Deep dark caves.

More on what to expect from Volume Two in the next blog post, but for now here's that dark cover to The Complete Don Quixote which will be released in the US next may through Abrams. Link to the SMH catalogue here:

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