Treading the Boards

If you’re near Glasgow this week you can get along to ‘Guide Gods’, were performer Claire Cunningham explores religious narrative and faith through dance, live music, humour and audio interviews with religious leaders, academics, deaf and disabled people, and me.

Guide Gods

Claire’s website has a list of this week’s dates  and according to Composer Derek Nisbet on his Guide Gods blog, the show “is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival.”

Recently I’ve struck up rather nice working relationships over Open Mic sessions with musician Jim McClean  and actress Lindsey Mitchell. To this end we’re working on a play together, a condensed Game of Thrones play. We’ll be performing the comic act at the Sunflower Festival, TitanCon and are talking of a screening of the play at a well-known Belfast gallery.

Writing this, I’m surprised that my voice is making the transition to theatre. This last year, it’s been all about the writing. Writing prose over, scriptwriting for comics, feels refreshing and liberating. I feel like I can earn some money if I work hard enough. Unlike comics. a beautiful medium, were grossly underpaid workers are slowly subsumed by a culture of silverfish turned woodworm rot.


Writing prose is enough of a departure from scriptwriting to enthuse: I feel like an amateur who can achieve professionalism and a paycheque. Knowing I have a lot to learn is a great feeling. I’ve been encouraged by the Belfast Writers Group and open mic audiences at Skainos and Lindores. Last month, I applied to return to university on a Creative Writing Masters so I can up my practice.

Parting shot to the world of comics (for now), is the short, Bottomley – Brand of Britain. The product of much research, it’s been adapted with care by artist Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins. Here’s how editor Jonathan Clode pitches it:

Horatio Bottomley, patriot and publisher of John Bull, the newspaper of the people. But behind his rousing public speeches and staunch support of the troops hides a conspiracy that would reveal one of the greatest swindles of WW1.

That’s Bottomley’s mistress, Peggy Primrose, in Panel 4, putting her hat back on after it was knocked off in the squash.

The tale appears in To End All Wars, a remarkable 320 page graphic novel with  stories by a number of established underground comixers. It features the return of the  remarkable Steven Martin of WW1 comics series, Terrible Sunrise, as well as Jenny Linn-Cole, The Pleece Brothers, Sean Michael Wilson, Joe Gordon, Selina Lock, Steve Earles, Robert Brown, John Maybury and shedloads of others.

The book is released on July 17. Copies are available for pre-order now on Amazon or, at the same price, direct from publisher John Anderson at Soaring Penguin Press. Costs £18 all inclusive and proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

Comics and Cartooning: UK Election 2010

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

With the UK general election happening this week, democracy gets opportunity to curtail the taint destructive politicians have left on the world stage. I thought it might be interesting to deliver a round-up of what some British cartoonists have been saying on the matter.

Labour or the Conservatives (or ‘Unionists’, as they used to be known, and sometimes are in Northern Ireland) have held power for 65 years. So, care of Sean Duffield, a four page look at the Labour leader, David Cameron,

Cameron Taxi Driver

Ah yes, Cameron’s friendship with Rupert Murdoch, Google-fearer and owner of the British registered Newscorp (BSkyB, The Sun, The Times), which avoids paying tax in Britain.

Might we be seeing this sort of thing in a Murdoch-Cameron Britain?

Dave Brown The Independent 2009

Um, sorry? Dave Brown, 2009

Marc Roberts of Throbgoblins,
“I’ve been playing around on PhotoShop (other image manipulation programmes are available) and have come up with the following. It’s mostly a tad sinister – UK politics and the pending ecological debacle”

Here’s his ApoCameron-lypse,


Crazy internet-fearing Murdoch, drawing threats on the BBC, a public service broadcaster funded by the public since 1933 with it’s aim to present fair impartial reporting.
Here’s a cartoon on favourite LibDem Clegg’s victory by Rich Johnston from the 26th April as originally posted to Guido Fawkes.

RichandMark 26 April

And of course, the always admirable Steve Bell in his work for The Guardian,


So, really a televised leadership election debate should have taken place at the BBC rather than being relegated to third place after the commercially funded ITV and Murdoch’s private BSkyB.



Above: Two more from Steve Bell and The Guardian.

Now the UK have a chance to lock Murdoch out of UK politics and cut the propaganda that has seen the nation’s Green Parties, the welsh Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and others locked out of these debates.

Oh, and this guy too.

fascist guy_72dpi

Source: Duffield


Source: Bell

The image above by Holocaust-denying racist Nick Griffin, parasite to re-opened multi-party politic talk. It’s another by Sean Duffield: Go and donate a few pounds towards War – The Human Cost, a brilliant BRILLIANT anthology he’s hoping to get out.

The BBC brought us the iconic kids show Bagpuss, and here’s Sean take on Gordon Brown.

sagpuss_page1_with_text_78 sagpuss_page2_mice_and_text_78dpi

Marc Roberts goes for high pitch animals too,


This will be the first UK election since Web 2.0 has fully worked it’s way into British culture. Hopefully we’ll not get any Votergate-type scandals and see elected tolerable agenda for the job.

Murdoch isn’t the only unelected dictator we need to get rid of, after all.


Source: Mark and Rich, Guido Fawkes

And what of this man?


By Steve Bell

He may very well be the UK’s new Prime Minister.

Modern politics is driven by who you can’t vote for, rather than who you’d like to. Still, being cooped up in Westminster talking only to other politicians is an uneconomical reality to face.


The above cartoons are by Steve Bell. There are some more of them here.

Dave Brown, then Peter Schrank (The Independent) as to how they’re not really of the same thinking state as many of us,


Some things are just too prescient. Morland Moreton from The Times way back in 2006..


Please vote on Thursday. Sure they’re all crap, but not voting helps keep them in power. Remember, ‘Hung parliament’ is code for greater democracy.

If you’re interested in similar, less conservative attitudes to British political cartooning try the works of BRICK (aka John Stuart Clark), Kate Evans,Polyp and Kate Charlesworth.

War and Art – The Human Cost

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Easter Monday saw the emergence of an anthology I’ve been awaiting for several years. “War: The Human Cost” features 260 pages of strips and art   from addicted to war - the high cost of militarismfrom 17 countries. The acclaimed Spain Rodriguez contributes a short on faith-based terrorism and Hannes Pasqualini comes in with 8 pages of silent comic on dehumanisation amongst soldiers. Documentaries include the alliance between Francisco Franco and the Catholic Church after the Civil War, Vietnam, Camp X-Ray Guantanamo.

Child Soldier

Above: Excerpt from “Child Soldier”

Paper Tiger Comix editor Sean Duffield,

“The comic strips include well researched stories from around the world (Tibet, Afghanistan, Israel & Palestine, Liberia, Iraq, Uganda, etc.) which cover everything from human rights struggles, war veterans & PTSD, political imprisonment & torture, child soldiers (a narrative based on UNICEF reports), refugees /asylum seekers, peace campaigners, the arms trade, corruption/ conflicts of interest, millitary spending, propaganda to humour & satire.”

There’s also work from “Peter Kuper, Alexsandar Zograf, Ulli Lust, Mazen Kerbaj, Abu Mahjoob, Nelson Evergreen” and other underground cartoonists and established commercial artists.

£1 from every purchase of the not-for-profit book goes to the well-respected NGO, CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade).There’s also a CD included with the package.

“The CD features well known artists who support the project, such as Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sly & Robbie, DJ Spooky, Blue King Brown, Zion Train, The Levellers, Big Youth & Twilight Dub Circus, The Groove Corporation & many more.”

A mammoth project, yes. Paper Tiger have made use of a the interest in such a project in order to bring it to the public.

AK 47 Tale2

AK-47 Tale Page 2

The book has taken many years to get ready for release. In common with other independent comix press, the halting block is one of finances for printing and distribution. In order to publish the work Paper Tiger Comix needs to raise £3000, the final half of the amount needed. See the green box for how they plan to do it,

(Accompanying images in original article: Camp X-Ray Guantanamo and Patronage War)

To my mind it’s taken this project too long to get to this stage. Paper Tiger Comix and Sean Duffield have a strong track record with previous publications. Paper Tiger’s model at Indiegogo appears to allow donations-for-donations sake, donations which encompass a discount on pre-orders (and free shipping to anywhere), and a grander scale of VIP incentives.

The creators of Phonogram, as I commented last week, might have been tempted to produce a 3rd series if the Patronage model of artist sponsorship was more prevalent. The comics industry status quo is to reward (even established commercial) artists several months after product has been sold. By going ‘Patronage’, Paper Tiger is wisely making use of an already existing audience for an unpublished product. There’s every indication that the money raised will surpass that aim fairly quickly. There are many ‘for-profit’ publications which could attract this kind of audience sponsorship.

Expect to see “Patronage” continue to enjoy a resurgence over the next number of years. Smart music industry artists (ie. not the BPI) have been increasingly using this model since the rise of the internet. I suspect progressive independent builders in the digital downloads market will in the future add a Patronage facility to help with pre-production costs for the art and sponsorship of print-on-demand services.

‘War: The Human Cost’ addresses an international audience. Proceeds will go to CAP (Community Art Projects) “a constituted Community Group based in Brighton UK), to fund future activities” The money donated to (London-based) CAAT, will fund their work in regulating arms companies and taking action against illegal arms deals.

And those look like fine comics.

UPDATE: You can still get a copy of this fine collection from


A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Collected comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. The easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.

Stop Crime. Collect Jesus.

Today, Tuesday 30th at 11.00pm, BBC Radio 4 revisits Britain’s end of the 1954 McCarthy-Werthram-Horror Comics trials. “The Gorbals Vampire”  concerns invasions of schoolkid vampire hunters in a Glasgow cemetry and the consequential drive by the churches and tabloids to put horror comics publishers out of business. If you can handle abuse filtered through historical documentary, there’s a write-up and video at the BBC website (and elsewhere)

Lew Stringer put in a bit of research, and has managed to dig up some relevant newspaper archives at his blogspot.

horror comics damn church

(If you’re reading these source clippings, try replacing the words “horror comics” with “tabloid television”)

Lew also puts out a nod to Martin Barker’s “fantastic book on the UK anti-comics crusade..A Haunt of Fears”
Well said, Lew.

Three Comics Festivals In A Weekend

A lot of UK comics folk have been off over the three festivals this weekend – The Hi-Ex in Inverness, London’s UK Web and Mini Comix Thing and eh Schmurgen Con 4, which hosts it’s first awards ceremony.

So far, a few reports are in from The Thing with an illustrated piece from Aaron Foster showing off his table, substantial micro-blog and photos from Wychwolf and first-timer Freddy H with his comic strip experience.Apparently the panels were cancelled. Apparently the panels were cancelled and responses to the event were mixed – some had a great time, others got restless. Customer Tim Harries was one of the former, here’s his blog report.

Kev F Sutherland weighs in here on his Hi-Ex 2010 and Joe Gordon from Forbidden Planet on his journey there. FPI Blogger Byronv2 aka Lord Woolamaloo already has a good sized photo stream up on Flickr. Opposite, his fancy art snap of John Higgins,

And of course, customary Tweeting on SchmurgenConHiEx and The Thing.

Make Bad Comics

And while the rest of the UK comics scene were ‘conferencing’, sometime on Saturday night, Mr Tony Lee of the bored masses tweeted,


Followed by,


Quite soon, Paul J Holden was in on the act. Unsurprising as his Pro-Creator tweets from a few days ago had a similarly amusing style,

Pro Artist Tips: Make sure you sneak wolverine into every page – that’ll give you a good secondary income when you sell the pages…

#ArtistsTips Don’t want to draw that panel? why not photocopy an earlier panel and ENLARGE it. Almost no-one will notice.

#artiststips Marry someone rich

And so on.

I’m guessing the poor quality contents of the large selling Twilight graphic novel had something to do with the tip over point. (via Rich Jonston, one for Cerebus fans there) Or the #makeradcomics trend, not sure which came first.

With a fierce tweet-off underway, Lee and Holden must have each made around 100 tweets, with concern expressed for Holden’s health. Others got in on the act in masses on both sides of the Atlantic, creating an amusing trending topic.


deantrippe: Female superheroes should be written and drawn to appeal to 40-year-olds who think and act like 14-year-olds. #makebadcomics

Robgog: trace over photos to make people look realistic. Don’t worry that people look like their frozen in time cos it looks ‘real’ #makebadcomics

Deathnerd: Oh what the hell. The strongest protagonists are always stereotypical males. #makebadcomics

madmarvelgirl: There is no conceivable situation in which a female superhero would choose not to have her panties and/or cleavage showing. #makebadcomics

ShawnJDouglas: Yes, everyone wants a sequel to Watchmen. #makebadcomics

Richjohnston: Tell, don’t show #makebadcomics

A few serious multi-tweeters: the very funny Mike Garley, the poetical stylings of Twitsofftoya and I had a drunken go.

The people largely responsible: Tony Lee, Paul J Holden(collected on his blog)

You will want to check the variety. The hashtag is still going as I write this.

Comics Pub Meets: Scotland and Wales

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Paddy Brown Pub

(The following first saw print on on given date)


“But, as you know the pub is the natural meeting place for cartoonists” wrote Andy Richmond. It’s a sentiment I agree with: a good pub experience is romanticism, communual congregation intoxicating regardless of chemical intake. My first foray into publishing comics was at the mythological Brum PubCon in 1997. Thrown by Dek Baker, Jez Higgins and Pete Ashton among others, it featured about sixty cartoonists squashed into a tiny rock metal bar. And it did rock.

There are many variations of the Illustration associated PubCon or PubMeet. Among the most well-known is Dr Sketchy’s, where cabaret meets art school and burlesque meets illustration. Founder Molly Crabapple says “As of April 2008, there are fifty Dr. Sketchy’s, in eleven countries and four continents.” (Check out the link for a helpful guide)  I would guess that’s an understating figure. Crabapple’s graphic novel, ‘Scarlett Takes Manhattan’ certainly reflects her love of burlesque and comics.

“Drink n Draw” searched through Facebook in January 2010 brings up 121 results, majorly American: Portland, Washington, San Diego, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, NYC, Boston, Orlando. Listings also include the UK & Ireland, Canada, Australia and Malaysia. I get 121 search results, that’s the short version. Of special note, is the Southern Californian meet affiliated with Eddie Freakin’ Peters and Joenis Norac. Their dedicated not only suggests experimentation and crazed addiction levels. The blog contains evidence and a number of games to try while in the act of drawing.

This page on myspace contains links and info on a Drink n Draw book collection.

The Comics Pub meet has similarities with these three types and I’ll talk about these over this four-part series. To begin with, a look at the various ‘meets’ happening in Scotland and Wales.

“A billion miles north of anyone”, writes Vicky Stonebridge, co-organiser of the healthy Hi-Ex Festival in Inverness. Vicky refers me to Hope Street Studios, shared office space for a collective of professionals based in Glasgow, with the possibility they might have heard of something, though I was unable to follow up fully. Jim from A1 Comics in Glasgow writes, “To be honest I haven’t heard of anything like that happening in this area, might be something that no-one mentions to us or is in association with a college or uni.”

I have more success when I come across the Scottish Cartoonists Society (SCC) and an occasional Glasgow Dr Sketchy’s.
“Burlesque performers do a short turn then pose for 5 or 10 minute drawing sessions. Beer and food available from the bar, and basic art supplies are provided. A jolly way to brush up on your life-drawing and a slightly different setting in which to enjoy a swally.”
The last meeting was Feburary from 4pm to 7pm in The Arches, Argyle Street. You can find more information at the website,

Ganjaman creator Jim Stewart puts me in touch with the comics pub meet,

“..lots of folk just drawing away, and never a dull moment. Check out the comics journal discussion.” (referring to a recent TCJ article on Scottish cartoonists) “The meets are the first Wednesday of the’ll see them in the events..and if there’s a mart we try to advertise it there, doing posters for it.”

Jim mentions that his self-published imprint, Numskull Comix, is 15 years old and you can also join the Ganjaman Presents Ning for recent drawings and news. “I’m about to release Ganjaman Presents 2: I’m thinking of putting it online before i go to print.”
The Glasgow meets usually run from around 7:30pm to 11pm. “Come along and talk shop, or just get pissed, or both.” More details on events all over Scotland at the Scottish Cartoonist’s Ning.

From reading forum posts, it seems as if the Glasgow Group book a room in the pub rather than just showing up and camping down. Something for future researchers?

Ferg Handley writes, “There’s no official pub meets in Edinburgh. Some of us meet up from time to time, usually if there’s an event on. But if anyone wants to set something up, I’d be willing to help organise it.”

Pete and Mark are contacts for the Swansea Comics Collective which meets Wednesdays fortnightly from around eight at The Brunswick Inn. Pete tells me the dates are posted at their blogspot, and you’re also welcome to drop them a line at swanseacomicscollective(nospam(at))

I also came across mention of a Drink n Draw for those based in Cardiff. Information on the Facebook group.
In attending any of these as a newcomer or visitor, get confirmation the meet you intend to join is running that month. It’s worth remembering while some groups have agendas, others purposely don’t and exist as social free-forms. Newcomers approaching may experience some dirorientation. Even when well bonded in among some, trying to listen and to be heard can be a challenge. Drink safe!