Thoughtbubble 2000AD PitchFest Thoughts…

Saw this tweet on twitter and so I tweeted out some thoughts, added them here cus it’s really more of a blog post anyway.

Here’s my advice on writing: Future shocks are stories with a sting in the tail, but that’s not the limit. Look for a twist every single page – more if you can. Change your scene, make time jump, do something interesting, the comic four pager has a very specific grammar, and you’ve got to use that.

Grab the reader as quick as you can, jump in to the action, then start revealing elements, and on each reveal say something about the story, make the reader rethink it.

The twists can be big or small. Keep the reader thinking they’ve worked it out then BLAM hit them with another twist until the final when, they suddenly realise they’ve been staring at the answer the whole time.

I did a “create comics workshop” and we’d play with writing futureshocks, talking through twists, taking a basic concept and playing with it, turning it around and figuring out what goes where. Future shocks tend to be plot driven, but you should tie it with something that means something emotionally.

If you have a story already written start thinking about how you can ramp it up – both by adding more twisty complexity to it and by making it much more emotional. What is the theme of the story? figure that out and reinforce it (the theme might be “families can be suffocating” or “you’ve got nothing without your health” (I mean it can be literally anything, so don’t limit yourself to these trite ones I’ve written).

Another thing I love is trying to fit as much story in to those four pages as possible. Cross vast distances, bring the reader through decades. Or slow it down, four pages that tell a story of 11 seconds.

The great thing about the short story format is you can deliver an entire world, so do so!

What I’m saying is they should be fun. Have fun. Then write your synopsis, a good synopsis will be your lodestone guiding you through lots of rewrites, making sure you’ve not padded the story or lost your way. You’ll be amazed to, after writing the story and writing the synopsis how much of the script isn’t germane to the story and that’s an opportunity to go in, excise those bits and add extra stuff that really emphasis the emotionally stuff.

Now, my advice on drawing…

Make the story understandable and readable without dialogue.

Show your finished art to someone who doesn’t read comics and ask them to explain to you what’s happening – if they can do that then you’ve done a good job. If they can’t then there’s something you need to fix. If they go “where did that guy come from” that’s a problem. If they say “are they indoors” you’ve done it wrong – if they can’t tell where / when the story is happening you need to fix these things AND storytelling is MORE (SO MUCH MORE) important than whether your art “looks nice” – I’ve seen amazing art that can’t tell a story for toffee and incredible storytelling that actually when you dig in to it is pretty crude looking.

The Science of Judge Dredd

Sparked by a (funny) question on the 2000ad message board:

Screenshot from 2000ad Message Board: Genuine question - does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before on covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

Posted by BPP

Genuine question – does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before om [sic] covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

http://futureshockd.wordpress.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/FutureShockd

BPP

As someone with a passing interest in this stuff, I have considered this question. What I’m suggesting isn’t – by any means definitive – but it’s an explanation of why I draw things the way I draw them, but first, let me talk more generally about my approach to Dredd.

I would rather draw something that explains the story and gives an emotional punch more than something that is the actual science of the world. As, I think Russell T Davis said of the Sonic Screwdriver (and I’m both paraphrasing and unsure if he’s the right writer) nobody wants to watch a Doctor Who episode where he spends much of it figuring out how to unlock dozens of doors, so the sonic screwdriver just magically does it.

So let’s start with that stupid/amazing/vision-obscuring/visionary helmet. Designed by Carlos Ezquerra to look like an executioner’s hood, and refined and refined over the years by list of the giants of British Comics, including Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Brendan McCarthy, and you know, nearly every UK british artist has had a go.

What’s striking about Dredd’s helmet is just how malleable it is, how open to interpretation and how iconic each artist can make it. Here’s a fun link, Steve Green takes a bunch of Dreddworld helmet designs and renders them in 3d, including Brendan McCarthy outrageously flared helmet, which on first glance I’d’ve said you could never make in 3d, but it works really well.

Personally my helmet design probably comes mostly from Steve Dillon, but also – and hold on to your Dredd-hats – partly from the Stallone Dredd movie.

From Dillon the general Dredd shape, from Stallone movie various frills, but also an opening mechanisim at the back, as well as a little extra padding at the back of the neck…

Elements, I’ve always presumed that came from practicalities of wearing the damn thing.

I’ve banged on about my approach to Dredd’s uniform already, so if you’re interested, that is here.

Now, as to the science, I tend to think of Dredd’s helmet as delivering information directly to Dredd’s eyes/ears, essentially super-vision, a Heads up display – possibly fed from tiny cameras around the head (If you’ve ever used an oculus rift in its camera mode, you’ll see how cool that can look), literal eyes in the back of his head. Linked to his gun too, so it would be fairly possible for him to turn his head fractionally, but have accurate vision 180deg behind him and to fire at a target without missing.

I’d also imagine that helmet would reduce/increase the information feed to Dredd depending on what’s happening. Dredd on a bike gets a HUD that’s different to Dredd on the street. Dredd with gun out, will get information about targets that he can acquire and suggesions for ammo type. Once the gun is ‘hot’ it’ll switch to a simpler mode.

Vision augmented, and the same will be true of his auditory input. (And this may even have some sort of neural link directly to him (this, by the way, almost all falls under the heading of “fan wank” – ie, 90% of readers won’t care, but some – SOME LIKE ME – get really excited about shit like this)

NOW! On to the gun

Here’s how I see it: Dredd’s gun is essentially a super sophisticated 3d printer. It holds multiple ingredients for building multiple types of bullet.

The device is primed (usually through spoken command, though it will default to smartly identifying the type of bullet) theory: maybe cadets are trained to shout out the bullet type so other Judges can have a better situational awareness. Dredd shouts “Armour piercing”? everyone else goes with Armour Piercing.

(Again, this is very much fan wank – the real reason Dredd shouts out the bullet type is so the reader knows what Dredd has fired…)

Why the shells? Well, the real reason is: they look cool. The in-my-head reason is that some of the raw material (but not all) is held in cartridges, and so they eject after they’re spent.

The question I have is, is it like my colour printer : where if you don’t have yellow ink you can’t (for some reason) print black and white. If you lack ingredient X can you still use bullet Y that doesn’t use it, or is the gun out of ammo?

I suspect some ingredients are common to all bullet types (projectile types? is bullet the right word?)

But that’s it. Now you can just ignore all of this, because, let’s face it, it’s just my fanciful head canon, that I’m just as liable to ignore myself if there’s a more interesting way to draw it.

The one thing I can’t explain, is why the Judge Eagle would sometimes flip on to the wrong shoulder…

UPDATE: I’ve turned on comments if you want to pop your own “How does the science of Dredd work” theory in here…

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Cover by Toby Willsmer

And here we go, the last episode of Chimpsky! (for the time being!)

For fans of inside baseball, page 1 panel 2 had me switch the angle around.

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed it. Ken has a few ideas in mind for where to go to next, and personally I hope we get to see far more of our super smart simian pal, but it’s really up to the readers – and Tharg – TELL THARG IF YOU LIKED IT! (I mean, you could tell him if you don’t, too, I suppose – but what kind of horrid rotter would do that?)

Holiday Day 3

well, it’s our last night in the Loft (in Ballyliny) tomorrow we head off to my mother-in-laws house to avoid the last of the 12th of July celebrations, coming as they are the day after England’s defeat at the Euros.

We went to Ballintoy today.

It’s the location used by Game of Thrones for part of the Iron Islands. Small and winding road takes you down to the port, and it’s tiny, but very pretty – and just choca-blocked with cars. Go early if you ever fancy, though, truth to tell, unless you’re taking a boat out (£15 per person) it’s unlikely you’ll find much to do so the turnover in parking is pretty rapid, usually someone leaving.

After that we headed to Ballycastle to dip in the sea, but, turns out the weather… well winter was coming (or at least some horrible dark clouds). That’s Northern Ireland for you.

After that, home, popped to Bushmills for a Chinese. We don’t really get chinese food any more, once I went gluten free it was impossible to get chinese food that definitely didn’t contain gluten. So everyone got that and I ended up with a good fellas frozen gluten free pizza. Yes, it’s an unfair world.

Then we watched the football. I’ve never been in to football, you’ve probably guessed. It honestly does nothing for me – not watching it, not playing it. But my wife likes it (sometimes) and the kids (occasionally) enjoy it, so we all sat down to watch the match. And let’s move on from that.

On another front, once again I thought I’d give video games a go! I have apple arcade, so I’ve played a couple of rounds of solitaire. It’s good when it’s easy, first hard game and I’ve lost all interest in playing solitaire.

Drawing is about the only thing I’ve ever been able to turn my attention to and keep it focused on that, but that’s got harder and harder as the years go by. Sometimes that’s my own internal brainfarts moving me hither and yon and sometimes it’s just run of the mill family stuff.

Anyway, have got about half way through a book – John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes, which, I admit, is only about 236 pages. BUT I TAKE THE WIN WHERE I CAN.

And have done zero writing – aside from these blog posts.

Oh well, it is supposed to be a holiday, innit?

Holiday Day 2

Is it possible to have finished the internet? Maybe not, but it’s almost certainly possible to exist those little corners of the internet that you regularly check on. In that endeavour, I use twitter like a filling. Filling the gaps between big chunks of internet. So I’ve been missing twitter. I replaced my twitter app on my phone with the kindle app, thinking (oh-so-cleverly) that muscle memory will make me open up the kindle app and read a book instead of twitter. Half right, muscle memory means I tap the icon but when confronted with a book I half swear and close the app.

Anyway, day 2 of no twitter is going swimmingly.

Today we hit The Giant’s Causeway.

We’ve done the giant’s causeway innumerable times with the kids – and while the causeway never change our kids have gotten progressively bigger over the years, and that always make you feel a little melancholic.

After that we headed for Coleraine, not a town I’m very familiar with (though I’m sure I’ve done a comic festival there once) but it has a waterstones and I love a book shop. Picked up Brian Bilston’s “Alexa, what is there know about love?” a signed short collection of poetry lots of funny, short clever little pieces. I enjoyed, particualrly “The Caveman’s Lament” which opens with:

me think about her when sun rises
me think about her when sun sets
me say to her how much me love her
she tell me love invent not yet

I also wanted to pick up Junji Ito’s Uzamacki, but Thomas (13) and I have been struggling over which of us would get to keep the book on our shelves. (He’s also probably a bit young for it)

Headed for a McDonald’s in Coleraine too, and look, I’m aware that’s not exactly fancy eating, but when you’re trying to avoid gluten you find options close down and sometimes getting a McDonalds without a bun is your least-worst option. (We had lunch at 1:30 or so, by which time we were all ready to make war such was the level of hangry)

I woke up about 6 nearly throwing up, not sure what was wrong, and my stomach has felt like it’s been sitting a vom-mark 4 all day today. I suspect an over dose on sweets and just too-much food. So I’ve been trying to eat less crap today (and mcdonald’s was ..er.. borderline that).

Still not sure how I feel now.

Anyway, after Coleraine back to the loft and I fell asleep for a few hours, as I’ve gotten older after/early evening naps have really become my goto strategy for filling a few hours of each day.

Generally two locations in one day is enough, but for whatever reason the kids wanted to head off somewhere else, so we went to Portstewart – Portrush and Portstewart are pretty close together on the North coast, but they’re fairly different.

Portrush was where my parents would take us as kids if we wanted the sand and gaming machines – and Barry’s amusements. Barry’s was the famous amusement arcade in Portrush – though ‘arcade’ is doing the thing a disservice. It was a national institution for kids from Belfast.

It’s closed now, covid did for it (though actually I think it’s been closed already, the website suggestions they’ve been trying to sell it either as an ongoing concern or for development. I suspect someone will make flats out of the place.

Anyway, today we went to Portstewart, and Portstewart is very different. Golf courses, and fancy eating places, and that’s your lot – not a single amusment arcade to be found (at least not that I saw). Historically it was upper middle classes would go there. Yesterday in Portrush we saw some young fellas lay into each other in a fight, today in Portstewart we saw some old people order ice-cream. They are very different places.

We have a National Trust membership so went to Portstewart Strand parked the car up, got out some collapsable chairs we bought a couple of days ago and watched our kids play on the beach. It was a good day.

Got dinner at Bob & Berts (gluten free options aplenty, but to be honest, not as nice as the mcdonalds). Man, we’ve got to start budgeting for eating while on holidays – it’s our biggest expense.

Came back to the loft having broken our youngest (age 13 and taller than me but honestly, if I could’ve carried him from the car to the loft he would’ve been glad of it).

And, in fact, everyone is away to bed, it’s 10:12pm.

Except me, but then I had that craft nap earlier on, eh readers?

Little finger

I’ve been reading Wyndams The Kraken Wakes and found myself at some dialogue when the husband and wife journalists are talking about inviting guests over to wheedle some info out of them:

“Darling, you know you thoroughly enjoy the art of the little finger. And you’d be furious if I concealed you under a bushel.”

“well, that’s very well,” she said. “But I’d just like to feel a little more certain whose little finger we’re talking about.”

having watched game of thrones, I thought “I’ve heard that term in that context before” – I’d assumed “Little Finger” in game of thrones – a quick google search suggests his name is specifically about two things:

Petyr grew up at House Tully’s castle Riverrun with Hoster’s daughters Catelyn and Lysa, and son Edmure; Edmure nicknamed Petyr “Littlefinger” in reference to his short stature and his family’s lands on the smallest of the peninsulas called the Fingers.

And googling, I found this on urban dictionary:

Littlefinger v. to manipulate people excessively and brilliantly to achieve your own goals.

ah hah! I thought, clever writers littlefinger is clearly named for his manipulative beha… oh

Origin: Game of Thrones Character Littlefinger

no, I’m pretty sure little finger refers to manipulation of people predating game of thrones; the kraken wakes was written in 1953, and I also found this reference in an article written in 1932

But the thought occurs,–imagine rising with a hangover to greet a nine o’clock on the “Amenities of Gin,” and an eleven o’clock laboratory exercise in “The Art of the little finger as applied to Chartreusel”

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1932/12/10/the-pied-piper-pdr-william-muhlberg/

but that’s it. Now it’s entirely possible I’m overthinking this, and “the art of the little finger” is just an uncommon usage of something like “skilled at wrapping people around their little finger”.

anyway this is the sort of nonsense I save for Twitter.

Holiday day 1.

I’m on me hols!

Which, as my family knows, usually means I’m doing everything exactly the same but with slightly worse internet.

I got 10 pages of pencils of the most recent thing sent off to the writer, and I’m off for few days over the 12th of July holidays in Northern Ireland. This time of the year I usually try and get out of dodge, this year may go off without incident or may be chaos, I have no idea.

I decided to delete twitter off my phone and ipad, I can still access it from the website, but not having the app may mean I don’t sit there hitting reload like a rat hitting a button wired up to its pleasure centres.

I’ll be honest, it’s not been a great success so far – I checked it this morning, in a fit of “what on earth do I do with my hands” (which, I imagine, is how a smoker might feel after giving them up – the nicotine hit is one thing, but what do you do with your hands now they’re suddenly free?) Of course the moment I checked I had a dm which meant I was responding to that, but, I’ve tried not to respond to anything on the general twitter feed.

Honestly, I think I’m pretty good at twitter (in so far as I enjoy it and I use it regularly, but – let’s be honest, no one is handing out eisners for tweets) but I don’t half use it too much.

Taking a break isn’t a bad idea, and the fact that even the attempt at it feels like I’m missing something tells me I really need to take a break. Obviously, I’ll be back.

I figured if I saved up all my stupid twitter thoughts throughout the day I could then blog them and get some of the same hit from tweeting (it hasn’t worked).

We’re staying in a loft in Ballylinny at the Giant’s Causeway, it’s beautiful up here and we’re having a good time. I’m up from a typical 3k steps to 13k steps today, and will probably do similar over the next few days.

These are our ideal holiday conditions – a large house to stay in, decent internet and something to go visit every day.

Today we went to Mussenden Temple – incredible views, and a real sense that wow, people in the past had a lot of money to waste on follys.

The we hit the beach at Portrush – pretty much empty, I assume because it was later in the day and anyone with any sense had started heading home, some wading in the icy cold atlantic ocean (it’s what passes for warm here) and back to the loft totally exhausted.

Tomorrow I’m determined to look at my phone less and I’d really like to sit and see if I can hack away at one or two of the ideas I’ve written in my script ideas book (a red notebook that becomes the new home for any half baked story idea that I would normally tweet out, like a loon).

Anyway, good evening and we’ll chat tomorrow!

Chimpsky

I’m not exactly sure what the script said, but I think it said something along the lines of Chimpsky sits high atop the city. Not sure what Ken (Neimand) the writer was expecting me to do and I probably wasn’t entirely sure, but for the longest time I’ve been fascinated by the monkeys in Belfast Zoo and their high poles.

Belfast zoo is set on Cave Hill and has an incredible view over all of Belfast, and the monkeys (and there’s a LOT of different monkey enclosures) have various poles set out for climbing, resting and playing on.

I used to look at them up there, a single monkey on a pole and wonder what exactly they would be thinking. Seeing that view.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking. As it happened, at the time of cover the 5G towers were in the news (and we were still aways from pandemics and mask wearing, timing just sort of happened), and I figured Mega City 1 would probably have a lot of communication towers just sitting around – granted we’ve never seen them before (that I’m aware of) but Mega City 1 – like Dredd – is quite a malleable place, so it’s not weird to do it.

Anyway, my first Chimpsky cover (details here) looks like this (image below) and today I stumbled across a photo from 2005 I took of the Monkey in Belfast Zoo and … well.. the similairities are striking… I promise you, I’d entirely forgotten about the photo when I did the cover (I wish I’d remembered about it, I would have traced the figure…!)

Why Not!? Collection One!

Well, Thomas (age 13 now) has spent some time now crafting you a whole new issue of Why Not!? – collection one because, well, it’s 40 pages! You can download it here:

And don’t forget if you’re new to Thomas’ comics, he has a bunch more here, including Why Not!? Issue 1, 2 and the Xmas Special, and a Monkey Arms comic.

He has worked his little butt off and I hope you appreciate it! If you enjoy the comic you can donate to my paypal (and I’ll make sure he gets it!)

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SK Moore

Wow, what a cover. One thing you can’t fault SK Moore on is ambition. It’s been quite a run of covers for 2000ada over my chimpsky run, any one could be a best of the year, easily. Anyway, on with this week’s chimpsky!

Now, as a special bonus treat, it rarely happens (but it happened twice- once in this week’s chimpsky and in next week’s – where I pick up something in the script wrong. In this week’s I misinterpreted how angry our chum Chimpsky would became and so drew a full on raging monkey attack – but, Ken felt it was too much (and he was right) so it was swapped out in favour of a more restrained any-moment-now-i’m-about-to-do-something-awful panel.)

Since I hate to waste anything, here’s the unused panel…

BTW I’ve been posting these things hoping for some feedback in the comments, but have only just realised I’ve had comments off – so I’ve no idea if anyone has been reading them, I hope you have!

In a couple of weeks after the series has run I might start talking about where I think I failed in the story, where my frustrations with what I wanted to do and what I just couldn’t make my art do sit. STAY TUNED!