20 Years of Making Comics!

Holy Shitzam, around fifty, more than I’d estimated. Twenty years since I got my first review from Comics International and Pete Ashton’s TRS review sheet. Rose Reynolds, my consultant, drew the first comics cover, with brother Stuart on the second. A few years later I was writing with Pete on Bugpowder, one of the UK’s first sites covering underground comics. By then I was making comics with people I wish I’d seen more of this last decade: Dek Baker, David Morris, Emmett Taylor and Gary Parkin etc. TRS and Bugpowder also put me in touch with John Robbins, thought-provoking flash-fic author and life-long friend. At the same time the Belfast Comics pub meets introduced me to Richard Barr, my sometimes one-man support network, whom I continue to collaborate with to this day. As well, I got to meet Patrick Brown, creator of ‘A Virtual Circle’. AVC was an astounding prophetic story of violence by internet. Paddy’s ‘Just do it’ process inspired my first efforts. Ten years later we were both making comics and literal neighbours, running The Black Panel small press distributor.

Around for the long vital loving in my comics making: Ralph Kidson, Sean Duffield, all of the Caption event people, Joe at FPI and John Freeman, my editors at Altern8, Glenys Williams, David Logicaine, Garr Shanley, Suzanna Raymond who goes above and beyond. The departed ones: Debs ‘Badass’ Boyask, a bright beacon of love and community in my life; John ‘Jackfirecat’ Grandidge, one of my biggest supporters who always made me feel clever and honoured. More recently, Helen Gomez, Miriam Turley, Peter Duncan, Laurence McKenna and Sector 13, Aaron Flanagan of ComicBookGuys, people who never let me feel like I’m not working in a vacuum.

John Robbins, gentleman artiste, has donated a free copy of ‘A Hand of Fingers‘ in PDF to the Ignacz readers on Patreon as part of this year’s Small Press Day celebrations.

And Aaron Flanagan of Comic Book Guys is hosting Belfast’s first ever Small Press Day this Saturday:

The store is located at 130 Great Victoria Street, between the garage and Shaftesbury Square. There’s likely to be a few surprise guests but here’s a who’s who to those announced:

Colin Langan – Artist on ‘A Life in Defence’, a medieval fantasy on life, death and leadership.
Dave Louden – Writer who draws ‘Detective Roscoe’ and publisher of Belfast City Comics.
Yours Truly, Andy Luke  – Another writer who draws, most recently on the collection, We Shall Not Be Stapled.
Roddy McCance – Writer/Publisher of Tales of the Fractured Mind, an important anthology of stories about mental health.
Glenn Matchett – Anthology mixer and writer of one-shot mystery/crime noir, Sparks!
Peter Duncan – Editor on Sector 13 and Splank! Annual, and the comics blog of the same name.

Right, who’s going to the pub?

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New British Fun Comics / Artist Call-Out

Splank! Annual 2018 is the brainchild of patron of these arts and dear friend, Peter Duncan. It’s a labour of love modelled on the British humour and adventure comics we read as children. The stuff that stirred lifelong fandom, the stuff that made the local newsagent holy ground. Peter has assembled some of the great cartoonists from those days and newer artists willing to re-create that Christmas Annual-book feeling.
(Peter authors the regular Splank! blog. It’s a keen eye on crowd-funded comics and classic UK comics and well, well written)
Peter has put a call-out for contributors, particularly: cartoonists who can write and draw; and creators keen to work on sport’s strips. Some more on the project (full posting here)
I’d like to represent as many of the styles and genres of British comics as possible. The book/magazine will be printed in a mixture of colour and black and white and at A4 format. I’m looking for offers of contributions from writers artists or complete stories that fit into any of the following categories.
– Humour strips, think Wham!, Smash! and Pow! but also Beano, Dandy, Monster Fun and the like. Be anarchic, bring old concepts up to date or hark back to memories of great strips of the past. The Power comics featured spy spoofs that fed off the movie and TV craze at the time. Something that mirrors that, or other TV memes that are current now. I’m looking for single page strips, half page gags or longer stories where warranted. I’m also looking for an artist to help me with a newspaper style strip that I may scatter through the pages.
– Adventure stories. Think the old British Hero sets, Robot Archie, Black Max, Janus Stark and Adam Eterno were my favourites. I’ve no formal page limits at the moment, but think 7-8 as a sort of maximum with 3-5 being a norm.
– Sports Stories. I always liked football comics more than I liked football. But a good sports strip would be a great addition. My own preferred sport is Rugby Union and I think I could come up with a few good Rugby gags if I had an artist to work with, but I’d be delighted to look at ideas about almost any sport. But please, bear in mind that any strip about international Rugby Union should end with an emphatic Irish Victory.
– Spooky stuff. I maintain that Misty, and to a lesser degree, Spellbinder were among the best comics produced in the UK. A Misty style ghost or supernatural story would be a superb addition and very much welcomed.
– Factual strips. Remember Look and Learn, Tell Me Why, World of Wonder? Strips that tell stories from history or science or current affairs.
– Nursery Comics – I learnt to read with comics. Things like Rupert the Bear and Tiger Tim. I don’t want a strip for young kids but perhaps something that is done in that style would be interesting.
All of these are just ideas and I’m willing to look at anything. I’m especially keen to get strips with female protagonists, so far I have none and it stands out like a sore thumb. I’m aiming for a PG-13 vibe so bear that in mind and if you have any questions please do contact me and we’ll see if we can bring Splank! back for the first time. All characters should be original, I’m not looking to tread on any copyrights here, and will remain the property of the creators.
If you are interested in becoming part of this project please do contact me. Writers should send a proposal for their story or, get in touch to discuss what they might look at. Artists should send some samples of their work and an idea of which story types they are most interested in working on.
This could be fun, let us see what we can do.
E-mails to Splank@boxofrainmag.co.uk
Physical Samples (if your prefer) to: Peter Duncan 16 Belmont Church Road Belfast BT4 3FF
 
The Splank! Annual is a great opportunity for high-profile creators so drop Peter a line. Soon, though. Spaces are filling up. So far confirmed are Glenn Matchett (Grayhaven Comics), John Robbins (Handful of Fingers), Duncan Scott and Dave Windett (Dandy), Nigel Parkinson and Leslie Stannage (Beano), Mike Higgs and Davy Francis (Oink!), Marc Jackson (Aces Weekly), Andrew Pawley (GalaXafreaks), John Farrelly (Captain Wonder) and Andy Luke (Whoever he is)

We Shall Not Be Stapled

Shout it in the streets. Get down to the Orange band and tell them too. Tell your friends carrying messages over the border.

The Comic Book Guys have been immensely supportive of Axel America. I’m delighted to be featuring in this cosy spot lunchtime launch. There’s a raft of old and new material (see here) including pieces by myself, and an unseen Sir Reginald piece from 2006.

I’ve been working on the launch of my exciting Patreon project and my new book, Ignacz the Watch Thief. The campaign starts on Tuesday 9th at http://patreon.com/andyluke – there’s little there, but you can bookmark it.

Before that, I’ll be appearing at the Enniskillen Comic Fest this weekend. On Saturday morning, hosting a ‘Breaking Into Comics’ panel featuring Colin Mathieson (Accent UK), Jenika Ioffreda (Midnight Tea), Ciaran Marcantonio (Neon Skies) and Grainne McEntee (Bubbles O’Seven: Simian Agent) From there, I can mostly be found at the Sector House 13 table. They’ll be selling a zine edited by Laurence McKenna and Peter Duncan…well, it’s a glossy zine, with a strip beautifully painted by Ryan Brown, and marvellously written by Laurence, a feel much like The Shield, which is a perfect tone for a Mega City One Judges story. I’ve a prose-poem in there. I’m Likin’ It. Actually, that’s the name of the story. It’s good.

 

24.03.2017

Next week I start work on my first comic book in quite a long while. It’ll have new strips written by Richard Barr and John Robbins, maybe a few other people in the mix, we’ll see. It’ll debut at Enniskillen Comics Fest May 6th. I’m sharing a table with Sector 13, the local 2000 A.D. group, who also have a comic/zine out, including a flash-fic from me if I can.

The research on THAT novel is completed. THAT novel is THAT IS SO DEAR I want to land it at a large publisher. Aware that sales of Axel America were so hard, I’m bracing myself not to break down over THAT novel. I have a wonderful buffer in mind and big news on Andy-Luke.com to share in a few weeks.

Speaking of Axel America: keen readers of the novel found scenes where Axel on-air gave two tinyurl hyperlinks and passwords. Now one of these bonus features isn’t accessible so I’ve decided to just direct link them.

The Infothon: Secret Callers
Extended draft of the beginning of Chapter 16: Into the Madness
https://andy-luke.com/the-infothon-secret-callers/
Password: callers

Chapter 23.5: The Initiation
Unseen deleted chapter, set after ‘Axel-Bot 2’ and before ‘Secrets behind the Curtain of the Cabal’.
https://andy-luke.com/easter-egg-the-initiation/
password: initiation

They’re also now linked to on the novel blog page if you want to find them later.

Too much happening lately

Since last post here, the world lost John Grandidge, a dear friend off exploring the flora and fauna of the after-life, looking out posthumously from future poetry collections of those he influenced; he peeks out from between the panels of my last few years of comics, of which he was an audible fan and supporter. He was my favourite drinking buddy; he warmed my soul when it was cold and weeping. He touched a multitude of people in the same way and he did it with style and love. He told us he’d cancer a few months ago, thinking it was an upset stomach. When it claimed him, it was years ahead of what many of us thought. He was at home with friends and a cat.

I’ve written a lot about John in pro-active grieving, which might find it’s way out, but he’s glimpsed beautifully in verse by Becca Heddle. If you didn’t know him, I’m sorry for your loss.

JG, John, Leonard Rat, Grandidge, John Wood Dragon, Jackfirecat – probably not all the names.
Poet, artist, cleverclogs.
Approaching fast, long-legged stride, black coat flapping, sweeping you up with a surprising hug.
Expressive hands full of knots and angles, drawing thoughts in the air.
Skewering pretension, dissecting hypocrisy – ach, rrr – cutting through the crap.
Delighted swift turn of the head and dart of a smile aimed just at you.
Red Shift; Little, Big; Possession; Robert Graves.
Doing everything with all of him, glint in his eyes, walking moors, riverbanks, hills.
Glorious in spleen, generous with love, hating sentimentality.
Energy, spark, fire.
New conversations, not repeats – ‘No, we’ve done that one.’
Yes, Genesis, Brand X, Billy Bragg, Prince, the Stranglers.
Snakeshead fritillaries.
Notes in Elvish; gifts of poems, drawings, time, jokes, joy.
Suddenly standing, black bag to his shoulder, ‘Bye’ – and he’s gone.

Less than a week later, I’m at the hand-fasting of Margaret Dalzell and Richard Barr; Richard being my nearest and dearest. It was at the beautiful Ballygally Castle and an informal gathering of old friends. Sarah and I, no we’re not a couple, stayed at Cairnview Bed and Breakfast, with Adam, and I heartily recommend it to anyone  visiting the place, just on the coast outside Larne. Adam and Sarah looked after me above and beyond the call. Margaret was full of empathy and humour, so much so I had to laugh behind plants when she’d make jokes about people right in front of us. Richard, who hates being the centre of attention, handled it as the professional gentleman I’ve always known him to be, even taking time out to share his latest thoughts on our novel, and suggest a few web researches.

Richard and Margaret.

Oh, and they both looked wonderful.

Then to Enniskillen, which is where Sarah’s from, and the town’s first comics festival. There I met the brilliant five-man committee and after some painting polystyrene shaped rockets. I’d a lovely chat in the pub with Hunt Emerson, Laura Howell and my boyhood idol, Lew Stringer, with Hunt making us laugh with his Frank Miller cover versions. On Friday, we’d a screening of Judge Minty, introduced and summarised by Mr. Michael Carroll, very entertaining. I’d a pub chat with lovely Sue Grant, struck up a friendship with Enniskillen horror writer Andrew Gallagher and wowed at the appearance of Pieter Bell, who I’ve known over twenty years, but rarely seen outside a comic shop. “What? Is there something going on here?” he asked. “No seriously, we just came from the caravan. What’s going on?”

Photographer: Do you think you could flirt a little bit? No, not you, Kitty. I mean, Andy.

Photographer: Do you think you could flirt a little bit? No, not you, Kitty. I mean Andy.

Saturday morning was unloading of comics from the old Black Panel distro, which creators had donated to the event; then preparing to host a morning self-publishing panel featuring Jenika Ioffreda, Una Gallagher, Danny McLaughlin and Austin Flanagan. The main venue was in McArthur Hall, actually a church hall, a real part-of-a-church hall, (ie the comics fest was in a church), and the panels were in the nearby library. I set out in good time, and fell badly down several stairs. The pain was brutal. It cleared up Sunday but I have a massive ankle swelling, though can get about. The panel was small press + first event of the day = poorly attended, but we made up for it by inviting the audience to join us and make a roundtable. Those arriving early for the 2000AD panel were just a little envious on finding Una Gallagher holding court on tales of families aural tradition of storytelling.

Glenn Matchett made this video for the panel, on writing for comics.

And a few hours later, my big turn: Alan Grant and an audience with.  I’d met Sue and Alan on Thursday night, shortly after we arrived. (Sidenote: The guests came from the airport via a party bus, which had disco lights and a dancer’s pole.)  The three of us (who had not met before), were shattered, awkward small talk shared between ciggy puffs. On Friday, Alan and I kept missing one another; resting or walking or taking smoke breaks at different times.  Sue was absolutely lovely and among other things, talked about the comics festival in their home village, which I’d love to get to.

I mean, just look at that guest list.

I mean, just look at that guest list.

Moniaive Comics Festival programme: packed!

Moniaive Comics Festival programme: packed!

So, Alan and I got to chat a few hours before we were due at the library, and the rapport picked up right away. A massive relief, because I was more nervous than I knew.  On the panel, I went through half my pre-written questions on Anarky, deadlines, research, philosophy and got gratefully off-track talking about living with John Wagner, writing horror and romance. The audience were wonderful, filling up the room with questions about 2000AD’s Strontium Dog and Ace Trucking, The Bogie Man, Lobo, and afterwards a number of people came and shook my hand saying what a great job I’d done. Alan was very generous with his experience and his time – we sat twenty minutes late, and considered sitting on but I didn’t want us locked in the library.

The organisers were brilliant: Stephen Trimble gave me a bed for a night before they put me in the hotel. James Eames took us to his home where his parents treated us to coffee, biccies and chat. Chris Fawcett was funny and cool under pressure with the pub quiz; Mark Kenyon flowed between committments. Organiser Paul Trimble did a lot of heavy lifting but still found time to celebrate 30 years of his Banbridge comic shop, Thunder Road, perhaps the first in Northern Ireland. Oh, and Matthew Gault, a tiny Quentin Blake illustration of good humour and muscular intellect. And sometimes, he drinks way too much.

"But at least he doesn't snore like a chainsaw." Photo by James Eames.

“But at least he doesn’t snore like a chainsaw.” Photo by James Eames.

The event was a great success and I join with the other guests in thanking the organisers for brill treatment. A few more quick snaps.

My new friend, Andrew Gallagher, iron grip author of 'Escape from Fermanagh'

My new friend, Andrew Gallagher, iron grip author of ‘Escape from Fermanagh’

Beer Garden: Andrew Gallagher, Ryan Brown and Glenn Fabry

Beer Garden: Andrew Gallagher, Clint Langley and the debonair aristocats, Ryan Brown and Glenn Fabry

Organisers James Eames and Matthew Gault, and Aaron.

Organisers James Eames and Matthew Gault, and Aaron.

Mark Bromage, Paul Trimble, myself and Pieter Bell.

Mark Bromage, Paul Trimble, myself and Pieter Bell.

I’ve another funeral to attend on Friday, my adorable god-mother’s mother. She passed away this morning. I didn’t know her terribly well, but of course, people I love did.

I wonder if part of growing old is not that you slow down, but that life comes and goes faster and faster. If you read this far, thanks. Love with all the heart while you can.

Enniskillen Comics Fest

I’ve told less than ten people this month, and now I can reveal I’ll be interviewing Alan Grant, the Guest of Honour at the first Enniskillen Comics Festival. Phew! Alan, is of course, a massive influence on comics, having co-written most classic Judge Dredd stories, thirty years, about ten years on the US Batman comics. He’s the author of some of my favourites: The Bogie Man; the House of Daemon, Manix and Doomlord for Eagle. He’s written Lobo and L.E.G.I.O.N. and JLA for DC, but it’s 2000AD for which he’s best known, on Strontium Dog, Ace Trucking, Robo Hunter and Judge Anderson.

Massive, massive honour. I expected to be the last person to be called on, never having been with the Class of ’77 hardcore 2000AD fans. The organisers, gods bless their mad, mad minds, think I’m a unique choice. Well, you could say that. I’m giving this my best and hope to do Alan and yourselves proud.

Closer to my comfort zone is the self-publishing panel I’ve been asked to host. I’ve been on ten of these and hosted a few. This time I’m putting together something with a lot of pizzazz and I’d really like attendees to put their heads through the door. I’m pleased to announce those joining me are Una Gallagher (Two Lives, Faust, Something in the Tae), Austin Flanagan (The Revenants), Jenika Ioffreda (Vampire Freestyle, Midnight Tea), Danny McLaughlin (Zombies Hi, Andrew’s Comic, Revolve Comics.) and…oh, I couldn’t possibly say. We’ll be talking about more than the boring copy-shop slog, we’ll be talking character and story, ghouls and tea. Please come by.

The Enniskillen Comics Fest is the first such event in the town. It’s a free event with an all-ages focus and a wise choice by the Arts Council funding body. It’s on May 6th-7th, at the McArthur Hall, Wesley Street, and Enniskillen Library on Halls Lane, just five minutes walk. Just look at who they’ve got:

All that linkage! No biggie, I had all the info to hand for posting to their Twitter account, which you can search for. My friends at The Comic City podcast are doing a feature on the Fest in the next few days so keep an eye out for that, or visit the #EknComicFest Facebook page for more details.

Friday

Map

Saturday

(Making) Underwater Billiards – The Whitaker-Wright Story

With the kind permission of Gar Shanley, publisher of Courageous Mayhem, I’ve been allowed to print my strip therein, Underwater Billiards, with the purpose of pulling back the curtain on it some.

Courageous Mayhem was a satirical take on the boy’s adventure comic. My own drug of choice was the 1980s Eagle, and the photographic Tales
of Suspense stylings of The Collector. So, we have The Archivist, played by myself aged 25, aged to look closer to my current years, and then called Reverend Hal F. Wallis, a satire of Frederic Werthram. Throw nothing out!

The story came out of my study of white collar crime in England from 1870-1940, and was first teased out of me by Stephen Downey for a (sunk) project about the Titanic. This is where we get the mention of Lord Prirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolff, who later bought and lived in Witley/Lea Park, and there are parallels between both projects that amuse my inner ghoul.

Lord Prirrie

underwaterbilliards1

Looking at the similarity between my art and references, I may as well have done a photo comic! I especially like how the aerial views swirl in the same way as the staircase.

Spiral Staircase - Map A

Map A – The Spiral Staircase

Searching Flickr for Witley Park or Lea Park turns up a lot of images. It’s bad practice that I can’t credit authorship to the ones included here for I just didn’t index as I collated. You can find a lot of good image links at the bottom of this Hegarty Webb blog post, The Gentlemen of the Lake, as well as a lot of the textual detail on this case.

Billiards Room - Map B

Map B – Billiards Room

Had it been convenient for Gar, I’d have constructed this as a double-page spread, and explored the Witley Park island layer by layer. Time was getting on though, and I’m quite pleased with this strip which I put out quite fast.

underwaterbilliards2

Boathouse - Map C

Map C – The Boathouse

In the centre of the page 2, we have Whitaker-Wright and one of his visitors Lord Dufferin. Dufferin once owned most of Bangor, County Down, where I spent many a year. Many parts are still named after him, including the bedsit bowels Sufferin Avenue. Further down the page, Sir James Reid, physician to Queen Victoria. Wright was Reid’s financial adviser and a close personal friend.

wright and friends

Above: James Whitaker-Wright, Lord Dufferin and Sir James Reid

Whitaker-Wright earned his fortune much like Bottomley, through a series of investments and bankruptcies. He set up companies in America, Canada and Australia, taking advantage of the mining rushes of the 1880s and 90s. Using dodgy tactics and slipping his creditors, the odd success gave him enough to go ahead.

Island - Map D.png

Map D – The Island

My favourite reference was the Guerilla Exploring Blog, where a bunch of extreme archivists snuck in through ‘closed to the public’ to capture the goodies. This was really the only way to gather information on the park, and the commentary they provide allow me to connect all the photographs that I have to form a significant map of the place. See?

The House to The Island - Map E

Map E – The House to the Island

underwaterbilliards3.jpg

I’m surprised looking back on this that I try to reign myself to telling the story details over this last page, and the scandal of Whitaker-Wright in just two panels! There’s a lot more detail to the man and I recommend you use this post as a jumping off point for some further reading. I certainly appear to be a lot more interested in the visuals, and I like how the patterns on panels 1 and 6 repeat.

Mersey and Isaacs.png

John Bigham (Lord Mersey), and Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading)

And of course, there’s a return to the Titanic theme. Cos that’s what boys want, right? Eight years after Whitaker-Wright died, Isaacs, Lord Mersey (who tried Bottomley on several occasions), headed up the official inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. The chance to include Rufus Isaacs was  also especially delicious I’m sure, as he formed a focus for another of these scandal cases.  In 1912, as Attorney General, Isaacs was embroiled deep in the Marconi shares scandal. His brother Godfrey was Managing Director of Marconi US. Rufus bought shares cheap before markets opened, selling some onto Chancellor Lloyd George and Master of Elibank Alex Murray in on the deal. The three sold their shares only days after The Titanic sank, as Marconi share prices went through the roof, netting themselves a small fortune.

Newspaper journalists Hillaire Belloc, Cecil and Gilbert Chesterton got wind of a scam and used their newspaper to pursue a war against Isaacs. There was a full parliamentary white-wash which let the Chestertons be sued for libel, Rufus Isaacs got a promotion and the scandal ruined Britain and Marconi’s chances of a global domination of radio. That’s just by the way.

You can buy a copy of Courageous Mayhem in ebook format from this link ere.

The story of Horatio Bottomley is recounted in To End All Wars; a 1st print softcover has been published recently.