(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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

MCR 2015: Warm and Fuzzy Comix

A few comics events make my must list each year – Caption, the annual un-convention, 24 Hour Comics Day, and MCR, the Midwinter Comics Festival.

I attended my first in 2005, with bods collected from Oxford, Caption or my Livejournal friends list. The drill is simple and satisfactory: take a bunch of friends, stick them somewhere remote, get em drunk and well fed, and make comics. There’s a few types: the pro-cartoonist/s; the small pressers both diligent and dabbling; a few writers; an animator; and interested friends, who, before MCR, have never considered making comics. I often wonder why I don’t read of more MCRs. Writer’s retreats pop up all over the place. I think the answer is that this is profoundly a friends’ event.

This 2015 weekend, somewhere between Brighton and London, wasn’t a rental, but hosted at the home of Sophie. It was distinctly private, for various reasons. We had take-away food and Alan Rowell cooked morning breakfasts. We had a roaring fire, comfy furniture, cake, plonk, and room to spread out and draw. It felt like an MCR, with folk yammering away on chat from academic thought to personal friends stuff to petty nonsense and daft jokes. Yes, these are all vital to the experience, and the end product, the comic.

Traditionally Jay Eales will craft a tale out of jokes and stories that come up through the weekend, and the art duties split between the others. Traditionally, MCR bods appear as characters in the comic. There’s a recurring joke/maybe-not-joke, that the work make no sense to anyone outside of the group, which doesn’t really matter, because the purpose of having fun getting there is accomplished.

(Apparently called out in my sleep)

Some previous comics: Hellspoon!, The Fiend in Five Dimensions, and Professor Kraken’s Portico of Perverse Possessions, are available as free downloads from Jay & Selina (Lock)’s Factor Fiction Press site here.  You can also buy Project Gogglebox, and Tea and Relative Dimensions In Space as a collection from Lulu.

This weekend we returned to the Professor Kraken story, and format. That is, self-contained pieces by different writers, with Jay on the arc narrative. That’ll be coming down the pipe in the next few months, so watch for it. I can’t tell you what it’s called!

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MCR 2015 by Selina Lock, used without permission. L-R: Alan Rowell, Terry Wiley, Jay Eales, Andy Luke.

I can tell you I’ve written and drawn ‘Speed 0’ and ‘Adverts’, written for Lee Kennedy’s ‘Music Box’, and drawn Alan Rowell’s ‘Vegan Gladiator’. Other comickers have contributed tales on Jeremy Corbyn and lingerie stores, unwelcome and beastly fruit, and bonkers cover versions of classic girls’ comics.

 

Use of internet has crept into our last through gatherings, and this year it pervaded, when Jay mentioned how the MCR hash-tag was fully owned by some band or other.

 

No tweet-back! “Don’t drag me into your pop star trolling”, said Jay. Apparently lead singer Gerard Way is something of a comics maker himself and has done some stuff Jay likes. That didn’t stop Jay nudging Terry into tweeting this,

And when I needed to fill 1/3rd of a page, Jay suggested this…

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My Chemical Romance fans, please don’t hate us. We’re quite nice. Think happy toast.

(Making) Bottomley – The Brand of Britain

This Friday night, wood, tyres and berries burn in Northireland. The same night, San Diego Comic Con will announce the Eisner Awards, where ‘To End All Wars’ has been nominated, twice.

I’ve felt quite alright about singing my part in the commendation. Although barely ten pages (under 1000 words most likely), I started work on ‘Bottomley – Brand of Britain’ in 2009, when political expenses and public austerity were daily headline news. Even on that trail, I didn’t realise how accurate a reflection of the time Bottomley’s tale was.

Born in 1860, ‘The Chief’ made a stack of cash from hostile takeovers, before moving into the papers. He’s all but forgotten now, but as Pat Mills says, he was a sort of Robert Maxwell of his day. Bottomley launched the Financial Times, and the first UK newspaper called The Sun. He’d be remembered only through his lead paper, ‘John Bull’. You know the icon of the fat hat with the bulldog? That was Horatio Bottomley, art commissioned by Bottomley. That dude was real, ugly.

bottomley on board ship - 1918

The re-telling started as a sub-plot for a graphic novel, but the intensive part-time study called for it to be it’s own piece. Three years later, I was still at it. I’d three drafts together when editors Clode and Clark put out the call for submissions for TEAW, and my script went under another three drafts to tailor it to the collection.

Out of work and out of money, I took a three month Invest NI course to receive a grant, a pittance really, but it would pay the illustrator something. Thankfully, both Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins were on board already. John has been a long time friend, confidante and critic, and he’s probably the best comic book letterer in Ireland.

Ruairi Coleman, I didn’t know quite as well. He were young, always a sure sign of trouble, yet remarkably talented. From the get-go he was everything I hope for in a creative work partner. Ruairi took in the bundles of visual reference I sent, with eagerness, no complaint. He took it on himself to go through a number of articles on Bottomley, and sat through the hour and a half televised 1972 docu-drama featuring Timothy West, with it’s agonising awful cut-aways.

Bottomleys crowds - December 1917

Bottomley’s story is that of the Britain’s major recruiting agent. He sold the war largely through gallons of racism. As editor, publisher and columnist of ‘John Bull’, as well as frequent pieces in The Times, the papers were packed with anti-German sentiment: Germ-huns, bayoneted babies.

Bottomley -witch hunt

The same was true for four years of nationwide speaking tours for which he was handsomely paid. He brought theatre to sacrifice, including a two-part speech in which he staged a mock trial defending Britannia against the Kaiser, dressed as a judge. The photo above is from his earlier performance in Pickwick Papers. Eventually his greed got too much and jail finished him off.

For posterity, here’s a selection of pre-production images by myself and Ruairi Coleman.

Andy Luke - Bottomley - Joining the pieces

Bottomley - andyluke roughs

Bottomley's bobs

Bottomley - The Downfall 2 line pitch

Bottomley05 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

Bottomley08 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

BoB-02 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

You can see more on Ruairi’s blog, and read of his experiences with ”H.B.’

Soaring Penguin Press are taking pre-orders for the soft-cover of ‘To End All Wars’. £1 of every copy sold will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières. 

You can read my newest contribution to an anthology through Kindle. 20% of every copy of the £2 ‘Tense Situations’ collection, goes to Action Cancer.

Publishers boldly enquiring on other creative works of mine, around the Great War, might wish to contact me (link) for a copy of Lord Kitchener’s Shell Crisis board game.

Finally, here’s a select Bottomley bibliography. Because I love you.

Print

Hyman, A. (1972) The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd

Symons, J. (1955) Horatio Bottomley, Cresset Press. Reprinted 2008 by House of Stratus.

Electronic

AndyMinion (Sept 28, 2010) Horatio Bottomley: A Lesson From History. Retreived at http://lancasteruaf.blogspot.com/2010/09/horatio-bottomley-lesson-from-history.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Anon (June 5, 1933) GREAT BRITAIN: Death Of John Bull, Time. Retrieved at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,745621-1,00.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Anon (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – The Soldier’s Friend, in Crimes of the Times: Law and Order After the War. Archived from http://www.aftermathww1.com/horatio1.asp [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]

Cowling, M. (2005) The Importance of Bottomley (Ch. 2, p.45-60), in The Impact of Labour 1920-1924: The Beginning of Modern British Politics, Cambridge University. Retrieved at Google Books.  [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Lewis, Roy (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – Champagne & Kippers for breakfast. Archived from http://www.villagepublunches.org.uk/sussex-people-profiles/127-swindles.html [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]

Messinger, G. S. (1992) The Wrong Kind of Immorality: Horatio Bottomley (Ch. 13 pp.200-213), in British propaganda and the State in the First World War, Manchester University Press. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Video

Mr. Bottomley at Yarmouth (1919) Film. UK: British Pathe Archives. Retrieved at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/mr-bottomley-at-yarmouth [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

The Edwardians, Ep. 7: Horatio Bottomley (2009) Film. Directed by Alan Clarke, UK: Acorn DVDs. Originally broadcast 28 Nov, 1972, BBC.

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.

Ahem…

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.

UK Midwinter Cartoonists Retreat 2013

A meta-pageant of comixers I was among gathered at the Halford Big Barn in Shropshire this weekend.

In Leicester I chatted with Jay Eales and Selina Lock (The Periodic Adventures of Señor 105) and Terry Wiley (Verity Fairover a hive of books before riding through rain and grey and black and little white lights and nudifying full beams of head-idiots. Already at the cottage were Alan Rowell (regular MCR man) and Jenny Linn-Cole (Shallow Water), were multiple hallways, stairwells, bathrooms, living rooms: Escher’s Relativity, a Tardis quality. We settled with tea and after quiche, chat was divided between the story for the comic we put together: Jay typically writes this but as usual is subjected to  ideas such as

– MCR cars with shrink buttons like in InnerSpace (1987), that navigate ever-tinier passageways en route to the location, with names like Shoebox Lane.

– Amusing names of towns we passed such as Diddlebury, Monslow (Ulster for ‘Cmon, slow!), Horsehay, Dawley Lawley and Much Wenlock.

– Halford Big Barn becomes an industrial rave zone were Alan and Chris yell “Firestarter!” like Prodigy on account of their maintaining our fire, and The (Kitchen Foil) Rastafarian Dancing Robot

– Medieval villages located by Alan on a map, that no longer exist.

– Hulk Jay smashing cars along the motorway as we ride on his back.

And we also caught up. I’d not seen the group in a few years and Jenni Scott (Caption) and Richard Buck (Tortipede) were joined by their juniors Aphra (Climbing Things) and Bruno (Musical Midgetry) They were very well behaved, not at all like those howl-blitzer babies. I caught myself too often laughing with the children’s strange words and sounds; more resolute that it’s good that I haven’t kids as they’d incite me to absurdist insurrection.

Terry, Lee Sophie at MCR

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The three full days of food for eleven adults and two kids came in at around £10 each. I was up first Saturday morning to do some of the clear up which Sophie (Computer Animation) finished. Dishwashing machines are rankly too high-brow for me.

Jay had begun full script using the obelisk from The Five Doctors (1983) So while he wrote on ways to ’round us up’, Jenny, Alan and I made for the village of Craven Arms were we saw some unexpected things.

Amusing signs: Debra Teacake was fond of amusing signs.

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Game birds for sale:
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Unusual grass and mud placement:

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A tiger outfit:

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And right in the heart of the village they called Craven Arms, with , as we’d suspected, a pub – called The Craven Arms.

Cue some Bad Wolf music and my resisting the urge to paste startled heads into the collage

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Facing it, the central town sculpture,

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More WhatTheFuckery Signage,

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Maybe it’s a secret capitalist scheme, a hub point for businesses to funnel your lost property and re-sell it as a tourist attraction.

We also spotted a dalek compound,

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And a shaggy pony, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All dumpy and fluffy, a conspiracy pony lovely pony which infiltrated the pages of this year’s comic. The pony showed no interest in us, but there was a horse. We did not go into the horse.

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But it was moving closer..

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((((((AND CLOSER!))))))

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Andy: We won’t be feeding you.

Alan: Oh, he’s going for some ivy anyway. I don’t know if ivy is poisonous to horses or not.

Andy: I guess we’ll find out on the way back.

There was a disused barn opposite the barn we were living in and I shot one from inside the other.

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Back inside, I got my first page of script from Jay, a scene were I’m being tortured and branded by Iain Duncan Smith. The MCR takes in a very simple principle – ‘Fun’, which over-takes paradigms such as “I’m the writer”, “Kirby Vs Disney Studios” and “Everybody must make comics now”. Terry and Sophie were on their third pages by the end of Saturday.

I managed to catch up by the time Sunday evening came around, but by then they each had four in. The UK MCR events were set up by Debra ‘Teacake’ Boyask back in 2003, with the principles fun, community and collaboration. (Three necessarry components in making comics) Usually we’d have about 10-12 cartoonists: a core group of about ten and always a few newbies, unconnected with any trad comics creators scenes. What grew over the years was an extended family environment: there are members of the group I feel awkward with, close to, uncertain at any given time, but it’s no cliche to say I love them all – they exemplify what is great about the UK comics scene. Debra, I doted on, and one of her requests at MCR was that her men bring ties to wear at Sunday dinner. Debra was here in spirit form this year but the time was almost passing too quickly and the shiny blue and white silk remained in my luggage. Thinking about it now, had Debra Teacake been in the flesh with us that weekend, I’d be fretting that someone would have noticed I put six staples in to stop it falling apart. It would have been hilarious for everyone except me, I’d have gotten very embarrassed and then I’d have seen they appreciated the gesture. Debs would have said something consoling and it was a nice tie, so we’d putter on. In any case, I’d brought a spare.

The MCR 2013 comic should materialise in the next month or two and you can see some of the pages at Motodraconis’ livejournal.

Postscript: Jay and Selina drove me back to Derby and “The World’s Safest Car Park”, manned by a tank. At Central Library, we had a Lunch n Listen with leftie horror writer Simon Bestwick and his publisher. Great stuff. Then with Simon in tow we headed for a world buffet were we talked largely about interwar celebrities such as Lady Grace Drummond Hay, Horatio Bottomley and Charles Pemberton-Billing. We got to the airport late and were assured by the Flybe front desk clerk it’d be fine. But it wasn’t. A following day flight had to be paid for, and Jay and Selina drove 45 minutes back so I had a bed. Thanks to them both for putting on a brilliant weekend. Debra would be proud of that.

MCR Group 2013

Bottomley, MCR and Xmas Cards

Well, I’ve had a trip getting back home since Friday and I’m about tired enough to take it easy.

While I’ve been away, Ruairi Coleman has been blogging about our comic,  ‘Bottomley – Brand of Britian’  with a few samples from a page in various stages in construction. Get on over to his blog, ‘Swingin’ The Lead’ and have a look.

There’s a mega-post tomorrow about the Midwinter Comics Retreat as reviewed by Crazycrone and in some more detail by Motodraconis, who has snaps of some of the completed comic pages.

Crazycrone (Lee Kennedy) had some very nice things to say about my Apocalypchristmas card which you can buy from andy-luke.com shop (contact for friends rate), or you can get it from Zazzle (tho I see very little cash from there), and if you’re living in Belfast you can get the complete range very cheaply at the brand new Arts & Disability Forum show.

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[Comic] Bob’s : Can I have your autograph Mr. Hooker?

You couldn’t quite call them policies, maybe intentions, one of the intentions I had when making Bob’s comic was to include a guest star each issue. William Shatner appeared in the third episode, having fallen asleep on Bob’s couch during an alcohol fuelled binge which no-one could remember. Despite wearing his Star Trek: The Motion Picture threads, he went unrecognised until someone mentioned the TV show T.J. Hooker.  Bob insisted that Willy get a dustpan and shovel and help clear up that mess amidst calls of “Can I have your autograph, Mr. Hooker?”

The Ralph Kidson got such a chuckle out of this he sent me his interpretation of the moment. I used this as the cover to the first Bob’s spin-off, about Willie’s return to the Enterprise and the ramifications of his days of a County Down bed-sit dole hole life. Here you go,

Can I have your autograph 1 Can I have your autograph 2 Can I have your autograph 3 Can I have your autograph 4 Can I have your autograph 5 Can I have your autograph 6 Can I have your autograph 7 Can I have your autograph 8