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.

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



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.


Game birds for sale:

Unusual grass and mud placement:


A tiger outfit:


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


Facing it, the central town sculpture,



More WhatTheFuckery Signage,


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,



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.


But it was moving closer..



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




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.


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 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.

gIFT 3

[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

The Invisible Artist: Youtube with Subtitles

The Invisible Artist: a contemporary history of Belfast’s comic book culture is a 2011 TV documentary written and presented by Andrew Luke and directed by Carl Boyle for Belfast station NVTV. Patrick Brown was interviewed, and also provided much of the research that went into the film. Other interviewees include John Killen of the Linen Hall Library about his exhibition, The Unkindest Cut, of political cartoons about Northern Ireland in the 20th century,Davy FrancisJohn Farrelly, Jim McKevitt, owner of Atomic Collectables, P. J. Holden and Stephen Downey.

Subtitles are exhausting. Your feedback is still appreciated.

VIDEO: Arts and Disability Forum Belfast with NewsZoom Comics

Nope, commonsense law has not changed. You don’t push yourself really hard if you’re gonna be at risk because of it.

The day before yesterday, I had a woeful day. Having just gotten enough money to buy electric and gas (thanks Ben!), I tried for bed early only to get insomnia, diarrhea, fever and fatigue. Then I overslept and missed my fortnightly writer’s group, woke up to find I’d not hot water left. Today, there’s fever and fatigue residue, so I haven’t had time to create anything new, but I did find this video on an SD card from my residency at the Arts and Disability Forum. It was shot in March 2011 by gallery organiser, Leo Devlin.

As this came to mind, here’s an original promo sketch for the exhibition.

In Time

If you’d like to know more about the ADF’s links with comics run a search on this site for Going Places, Beneath the Tide or Bacon Sammich of Doom. They’re also big fans of Crippen.

I’m going to nip out to Tescocks shortly, but there will probably be a truck that throws rottweilers at me and when they bark, fireballs shoot out their mouths, and those fireballs separate into wasps, fire-wasps.

If you’d like to help inform the content of this website why not drop me a line on Facebook, GMail or Twitter. Small projects work best.

The Marxists

I’m taking it easy on the blogging this week as behind the scenes there’s a lot of the ingredients for a major fucking emotional collapse. I’m not a hit, you’re second place.

I will be reading a few short stories at Tullycarnet Library tomorrow night, so if you could tell people that would be great. Here’s a link:

Last year, The Marxists came to down. Promising a two day conference discussing the recession and the bankers collapse featuring Laurie Penny and other notables that didn’t show, the event was organised by the local Socialist Workers Party. One of them is a good mate, but there was a lot of ‘have you let the lord jesus into your heart yet?’

The Marxists 1 The Marxists 2 The Marxists 3 The Marxists 4

Wanna Hear a Joke? [TitanCon Comics]

During TitanCon, I hosted a paired down version of the Magnificent ComicBook Factory with the assistance of Rich Clements and Paddy Brown.

We were up against an all-star Game of Thrones panel in the first slot of the day. I’d no plan, hardly anyone showed up so there was a fair bit of stress and slack. As it happens, that’s a good combination.

First up, the lovely Siobhan McKenna:

BEAKERS by Siobhan McKenna


Jon Pot,

FART JOKE by Jon Pot


Paddy Brown:RUNNING MESSAGES by Paddy Brown (1) Rich ClementsTHE INTERVIEW by Rich Clements

May CheungTWO FISH by May Cheung WHY DID THE CHICKEN by Andy Luke


Going Places: New ADF ComicBook

Reminder that I’ll be out with the Belfast Writers Group on Saturday reading at Falls Road Library at 11am and the Shankill Library at noon as part of the European Heritage Open Days. I’ll be reading one of my favourite shorts, or perhaps the secret project revealed at TitanCon. Others will be reading from The Ghosts in the Glass and Other Stories horror anthology.

01 Cover

03 Content

This is a focking great comic. I’m hoping I can organise printing with the ADF next week for contributors and patrons.

Download link: Going Places [10.4 mb]

Arrangements: Underwater Billiards

Underwater Billiards of the Courageous Mayhem anthology has, our editor Gar tells me, been well received.

Not wishing to spoil it for those who have not bought the book, arrangement is very important in the strip.

Hey, why not buy the book now? Read it and return. And if you’ve done so, just scroll past this advert.

Buy Courageous Mayhem Euro Link for iPad format eBook  (£2.43) and Deluxe Print Editions (£20+)

Courageous Mayhem (UK Link) – Regular Print Edition, £5 plus 50p postage,

PDF Format – £2.53 / 3 euros – takes you straight to download page.

So yes, I’m glad people said they liked it. Just as well really, as I worked my nuts off on it. I  used photos lifted from Flickr users, guerilla explorers and crap tabloids, and through study managed to approximate a map laying out where each photo went. I then tried to use the map (below) as my main reference so the  first two pages of the story could sit together. The tale didn’t run across the way in print, our editor preferring to offer the pages up as separate steps for turning on the journey around the estate. Check out the similarities with the finished strip.

The House to The Island - Map E