2004 Q&A

Some context, in 2004 a young fella called Tim asked if he could interview me for something (I forget what it was for, I stumbled across this old email while scouring my archive of emails which I thought had all been deleted)

I’d just got married, my mum had died shortly after. I was working for 2000ad while working a part time day job in computers. The warhammer gig mentioned here was bought and paid for but warhammer went under just after they paid me, so it never saw print, sadly. I’ve added annotations in square brackets.

Tim

ok so last time we went over what you are doing now, so i’ve got a few
questions about how you got into art in the first place…
Oh and My sincerest congradulations on getting married…:)

Cheers.

1.  What got you into art in the first place, and more to the point
comics?

I’ve always drawn and I’ve always enjoyed drawing – even before I’d
seen a comic. Started reading comics when I was about 8ish, prior to
this I was in a remedial reading class in school as I just wasn’t
interested in reading. We used to holiday in this caravan site (very
small, isolated place with bloody awful weather) so there was very
little to do – mum used to buy comics for us to keep us entertained.
2000AD/Warlord/Battle Action, etc. I started reading cus I had nothing
else to do and was pretty much hooked. I read anything I could get,
one year we found (my cousins and I) a bunch of Avengers comics in a
bin (Adam Warlok, Thanos, all that stuff) and that was me hooked on
superhero comics. Wasn’t long before I started making my own comics
(using carbon paper to reproduce and make multiple copies). Stopped
reading comics at secondary school (around the age of about 15) cus of
peer pressure (also stopped drawing after failing my ‘o’ level in art
at about 16) but started again at about 18 cus I’d seen a single page
of the Dark Knight Returns (this was around ’88) and that got me
hooked again – plus a local comic shop had opened and that got me
started both reading and drawing (John McCrea was co-owner of the
shop, this was long before he’d done any pro-work) – incidentally
thats the same shop Garth Ennis used to shop in (again, before he was
famous) – and where his long-standing working relationship with John
started. [Garth and I started working together around 2009 doing war comics for the most part, and that working relationship continues along!]

2.  Have you worked on anything not of the 2000A.D. series lately?

Currently drawing something for Warhammer
(http://www.pauljholden.com/warhammer) and working up a proposal for a
series for 2000AD, also working on a proposal for a series for Image
comics (Image don’t pay a page rate so not sure if I’ll actually be
able to afford to do it) [The image series became “Fearless” with Mark Sable]

Any print type things or work on other books?

3.  Have you lived in Belfast all your life?  (I do plan to get to
Ireland one day… I hear it’s beautiful with lots of beer!  🙂 )

Yup, around the 12th of July I start getting itchy feet because you
start to see the worst in people, but a nice holiday usually sorts
that out – my wife will tell you I’m a real Belfast lad – I love the
place.

4.  Do you come to the states anymore?

Only been to the states once in 1993 [actually went to canada, and drove down to the border, crossed it into the states to go to a big retail mall and left again… ] plan to go to a San Diego comic convention at some point. I love the idea of America but find it’s currently president to be … less than palatable. [went to the states in 2006 and been a fair few times since, and boy, didn’t Trump make George Bush slightly more palatable…]

5.  Are you able to do most of your corrispondance over the internet?

About 90% of it, I email artwork back and forth to editors and writers
(and some final artwork is also delivered over the internet) helps
keep the thing alive in the editor and writers minds. [was 2004 really the early days of the internet? I suppose it had really just started finding it’s feet]

6.  Is there anything that you like to do before starting a long
project?  (i.e. warm up excercises, doodling, quick sketches?)

I find myself doodling as a way to stop myself working – if I really
need to draw a page I just start – the doodling and warm up is just a
way for me to put off the hard work. (I will try and draw the bits I’m
more comfortable with to begin with)

7.  Do you ever wish you would have gotten into another career?

I wish comics could be a career – I’m not convinced I can make it –
maybe I’d’ve had a much brighter outlook in the early 90s but at the
moment I can only see two types of artists surviving/thriving in
comics: the really amazingly good and the really amazingly fast –
anyone in between is gonna find it tough. [Still think this is true, fast or good are where you can make money, anything in between is bloody hard going]

8.  Do you find working for others taxing?  (I mean as far as comics
go, I know its taxing doing comp. work for others)

Yes and no. The work I’m doing for warhammer at the moment is based on
an idea I’d had for doing Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai as a comic
and I was gonna write and draw it myself but it’s easy to procastinate
and never finish something like that – whereas cus I pitched the idea
to warhammer they assigned a writer and are gonna pay me to draw it
it’s actually nearly finished (and I’m quiet proud of bits of it). [written by James Peaty, never saw print, sadly as warhammer folded]

9.  Did you ever learn to do color for yourself, or does someone do it
for you?

Any coloured work is done by other people, I’m greywashing (painting
with just greys) at the moment and I’d like to maybe paint something
at some point. I do draw for a colourist – making sure there’s enough
there for them to do something interesting with the page.

10. Have you ever thought about branching out into other medium?  (3D,
or perhaps sculpture? Games or animation?)

I’d like to get away from computers and do more stuff by hand – I’ve
been toying with doing some sculpting but it’d be more for my own
enjoyment than anything else. [eventually played with building a massive VR landscape that NI took to the annual SxSW festival – that was fun, but unlikely to do it ever again]

11. Did you see Judge Dredd the movie [the Stallone one]?  Bring up any bad taste?
(Personally I own the movie and thought it was hilarious, in an action
packed way)

Saw it twice at the cinema (was working in Milton Keynes at the time
for the Open University designing interactive multimedia CD type
things – I was on a job placement for my degree  in computers, which I
dropped out of in the final year cus I thought I was gonna be a rich
comic artist …) I was homesick and had just started dating my
then-girlfriend, now-wife. The first 10 minutes are just spectacular,
and Stallone looks the part but ‘I AM ….. TH’L’W’ just sounds awful
and it’s a question of watching it through fingers from then on.

12. On a more pesonal note, are you a fan of movies?  (I find I work a
lot better when I’ve got some cheesy horror film or something in the
background.)

I love movies, the quirkier the better. I Bought a DV camera a couple
of years ago with the intention of making a small movie, and I still
have that intention… it just may never happen 🙂 [readers: it never happened]

13. Have you lived in Ireland all your life?

Yup.

14. Does the website get you many hits or e-mails?

I’ve no idea – it gets more hits than I expect. I did it, originally,
as a way to let people I know know what I’m up to as I’m bloody awful
at emailing people, but there’s a lot more ‘strangers’ read the
website than I ever expected. [Websites and blogs used to be a big deal kids!]

15. Who would you reckomend I go see about getting into comics?

My generic advice is to draw and draw and draw. Do lots of small press
work (Digital Webbing presents would probably be a good avenue) [does this still exist? maybe] . Get
to know some writers and work with as many different ones as you can –
you never know which of them will be in a spot to push your artwork in
front of an editor. The go to conventions and show editors and other
artists your stuff looking for advice. [still solid advice, when cons are on again]

16. Do you keep a clean or messy workplace.(I have noted that many
artists keep and extremly messy workplace)

I find it easier to start work if my workplace is very clean, but
after working for a few hours my workplace is incredibly messy, so now
I have a little ritual of cleaning up before I start a brand new page
(which means if I’m not in the mood to draw I clean up and then start
anyways – it’s a good way to overcome the initial fear of the blank
page)

17. Do you ever come to comic conventions here in the states?

Haven’t done so but fully intend to get to a San Diego convention at some point. [Nope, never intend to go to San Diego, New York comic con started in 2006 went to that and some others, san diego looks like it would be horrible!]

18. Play video games?

I love video games, but never play them for more than 2 minutes at a
time as I’m rubbish. But I’m always amazed at the quality of the
graphics. [still amazed at the graphics even now]

19. Have any pet peeves?

George Bush, Hypocracy, National ID Cards, The General Public,
Politicians, my own laziness, Tony Blair (who, on paper, is as far
away from Bush’s politics as it’s possible to go, but in practice is
his bestest mate) and er.. there’s probably more. [sigh politics]

20. Do you ink?

Yup. use black indian ink and a brush (can never remember the
name/make of it, but it’s thin and longer than most brushes).

21. Do you draw in straight pencil or do you use a blueine lead first?

2H or 4H pencil, using a .5 mechanical pencil – sometimes I pencil
very losely (one of the benifits of inking yourself) and often I’ll
ink while pencilling (for example, I might ink a foreground figure
before I’ve pencilled anything in the background ) [as my eyesight has got worse my preference is now for HB pencils, or digital]

22. Do you make your own sheets for the pages, or you do buy from
blueline or someplace like it?

I buy 220 gsm A3 size paper pads 25 pages for about £7 sterling. [actually about £10 nowdays] And
then rule it myself. They don’t stand up to a great deal of erasing
and it took an awful long time for me to get good enough at inking to
ink on them as they’re not smooth pressed, but they’re my favourite
type of paper for pencilling on and I’ve used them for (off and on)
about 15 years.

23. Do you do your own background art?

Yup. Everything on the page is drawn by me – unless it’s coloured. 

I just wanted you to know that i haven’t been to the comic store in a
long while either, but plan to get back there soon, that is in part
why perhaps i haven’t seen anything new?  Sorry about that, I’ll pick
up what I can, and at the least I’m sure that my brother-in-law has
all the newest.  He’s a bit of a Dredd Freak…

heh. I don’t have that much stuff out there – and what I do is UK
based. Maybe in the next few years you’ll see me all over the place
(but I wouldn’t hold your breath). [I\ve drawn a fair few things since then, it’s true…]

24. Have you ever thought about maybe starting your own company?

Er… for comics I am my own company, as all comic work is freelance
(even if you have an exclusive contract you’re still a freelance
worker). I could branch out into illustration of
magazines/advertising/etc, but I love drawing comics and I make enough
money part time that I can be choosy about what I draw.

I’ll add a question:

‘Do you watch/listen to anything while you work?’

I listen to the radio, although now I’ve got a mac I’ve started
listening to CDs again as I can get three days of music witout having
to change the CD (using iTunes). Since I’ve had broadband for years, I
use it to listen to the radio (bbc radio 1 – chris moyles show, and
bbc radio 2 – jonathan ross show) and sometimes Air America (although
it gets old kinda fast). Occasionally I’ll throw a DVD on a listen to
the commentary but I can’t watch ’em as it gets too distracting. [as I’ve aged my radio station has now shifted to radio 4, I can’t even imagine listening to radio 1 at all now. Radio 4 and spotify]

And that’s it, funny what changes and what remains the same, innit. Far more of my work is digital now, though I used a computer way back then, it wasn’t absolutely an essential part of the process like it is now. And you know, since then, I’m now at home in the middle of a pandemic with a 16 year old son and a 12 year old, things must have been so much quieter back then…

Stay On Target!

If you’re not familiar with “The Pomodoro Technique” it’s a super simple technique for focusing on tasks. The name “Pomodoro” comes from the italian for tomato, and is based on a rather cutsey tomato shaped timer the creator of the technique used. The idea is simple, and it’s this:

You set aside 25 minutes to do a single task. At the end of it, you take a five minute break. Do it again, and repeat until you’ve done 4 sets in a row, then instead of a five minute break you take a 25 minute break.

I find, for the sort of work I do (ie drawing comics) it’s a brilliant way to break log jams. Where I often focus on getting a page done, it’s very much a-can’t-see-the-woods-for-the-trees problem. Focusing on a timer that I draw to, rather than obsessing about whether can draw or not .

I’ve also been playing (for decades really) with a way of figuring out how much time I’ve been spending on pages. So here’s the latest iteration, the target below is pretty simple and represents a single page (you can write the page number in the centre). The first set of segments out from the page, the first inner ring – represents pencils, inks, colours and lettering (or, if you’re me, two segments represent pencils and two inks).

The larger outer ring, divided into chunks of four represents individual pomodoros, in sets of four – I’ve been aiming to do around 16 pomodoros per day – so in total the outer circle represents two days worth of work.

The plan, the guarantee, the thinking, is that instead of worrying about how long a page takes, all I’ve got to do is fill those outer rings as I do pomodoros and boom the page does itself (I mean you’ve still got to draw it, but it makes it – for me – much more manageable)

In this example, page 15 is fully pencilled and I know it took me about 3.5 hours.

So I’ve created a weekly sheet (let’s see how long I keep this up…) that contains a day breakdown of pomodoros as I do them along with 12 pages I could finish in the week (I mean 12 is ridiculous, the reality is, I’ll be happy to get six pages finished in a week, so if you’d like to use this, just remember the extra targets are just there for symmetry and balance on the page rather than actual work you should do)

If you want to use this yourself, it’s scaled at A5 so you can cut it out and stuck it in a diary or just use it on its own (or don’t use it at all!)

Download here:

2020 Vision

Sigh. Does anyone want to look back over what they did last year.

I suppose the one significant thing we’ve got to take from it all is that we need to be kinder to ourselves and to others. I fail at both, often. Not through want of trying, but rather the unthinking idiocy of just being human. Cruelty can often be the undercurrent of humour, and I’m probably guiltier of most for going for the joke without giving a thought to the cruelty (and I’m sorry to everyone who suffered one of the tiny little barbs of me making a joke because it seemed funny for half a second).

Anyway, mea culpa out of the way, how was your year? (I realise, 2020 being what it is, sitting writing this on the 29th of December is asking for another Black Swan to leap in and disembowel us all, but here we are)

For me, it started with a decent resolve to make notes on everything – keeping weekly posts on what I’ve done and what I’d intended to do, partly this was just a way to fill the blog and keep a connection to the wider world (a thing easily lost when you’re at your drawing table, head down and working away) and partly it was a good self motivator – yes, work is happening, and look, you even took some breaks and did some creator owned stuff.

Of course, I hadn’t planned on a world wide pandemic, which buggered that right up.

I’ve kept working throughout it, jobs were lost, of course, and productivity took a nose dive as kids had to be homeschooled or my wife ended up working from home, and I had to abandon a slew of things that there just wasn’t time for or required publishers who were no longer looking at projects.

Minor miracle we’ve come through it all, I suppose.

I’m glad I kept some of those productivity notes now though, as I look at a productivity reboot for 2021. I realise new years are entirely arbitrary points in time (time, of course, being an illusion, lunchtime doubly so*) but I’ve always loved them. Suddenly, some mental cobwebs are blown away, and, rightly or wrongly, I reset and think “Well, who cares if you blew it last year, this year… this year could be different”. It’s a placebo date. For many it’ll make no difference, and for a tiny few (me included) it actually does make a difference.

Of course, whatever I decide about 2021 the year itself may have other plans. We’re nowhere near at the backend of the pandemic, certainly here, in the UK, we’re still dealing with it (either we’re at the peak of a second wave, or closing in on the beginning of a much much worse third wave) we’ve got brexit to look forward to (everything until now has been a buffer against whatever the worse brexit has to offer us) and, brexit, panedemic out of the way, what will the government do to pay off the enormous amount of debt it’s had to rack up during the pandemic (and being a tory government that usually means massive cuts to services).

But sod it, those are things I have almost no control over, so there’s little point worrying about them.

Traditionally, I look over whatever my resolutions for 2020 were and see how I’ve done – but, frankly, getting the other side has been an impressive job. (Also, I don’t appear to have made any resolutions last year beyond “DO THINGS” so, even getting out of bed counts)

Next year?

Get more organised. Stay organised. Try not to work all the time (or, rather try to limit work + worrying about work to 5 days out of seven). Keep on top of the boring tax stuff and invoices.

Not sure what work has lined up for me next year. Doing some Chimpsky, there MIGHT be a long project in there (originally scheduled starting in November, so we’ll see if it comes off) and, you know, just try to get through 2021 in one piece.

Twenty Years, Creep

This coming year marks the 20th anniversary of my first 2000AD Published work.

tl;dr Just that. This year, twenty years drawing Judge Dredd, and hopefully I’ll get to do more… now read on…

2000AD Prog 1233 – cover by Andy Clarke, my 2000ad Debut Issue dated March 2001

I’ve told the story many times, but to recap, following 2000AD’s purchase by Rebellion, Rebellion decided to have the first 2000AD Convention DreddCon:1 in November 2000 –

Flyer from the first Dredd Con with Artwork by Jock, a barely minted droid at that stage, but already doing some definitive work.

Having previously wheedled my way in to the online 2000ad fan community, via the fanzine “Class of ’79” (itself a product of the imagination of sadly missed WR Logan aka Stewart Perkins) and drawn a few strips for it, I’d also become friendly with Gordon Rennie – who was writing Dredd at the time – from doing some small press work for the fanzine “Violent” (created by Mike Sivier) It was clear I needed to go to the new convention.

The Class of ’79 Stand at the comic convention Comics ’99. That’s me in the foreground, ignoring everyone and just drawing – story of my life, really.

I was pretty active on alt.comics.2000ad – a newsgroup (newsgroups were message board type things that had elements of social media to them – ask your parents)

And had set up a nascent web cam type operation to draw live from my drawing board (twitching before there was a twitch) And thanks to the wonders of the internet, here that is:

There’s a reason I’m telling you this and it’ll be clear shortly…

The year 2000 was a seminal year for a multitude of reasons, I’d applied for a new job that I’d started on the 1st of that year, working for a charity as their IT manager, but, importantly, it was a part time job and I’d intended to spend the remaining time drawing more and – as a kid growing up reading 2000ad – the year itself, obviously, meant something.

Plus, and this might have been the clincher, 2000 was the year I turned 30.

So I went off to DreddCon, with a pile of comic pages (having advised people over the years you only need a few pages, I decided I’d try a slightly different, idiotic, tact and bought a whole load of work with me, the hope being I’d show it to then editor Andy Diggle and he’d relent under the pressure of my resolve and volume of my pages)

As it turns out, Andy was one of the people who’d watched the webcam (see, told you it would be relevant!) and said he thought (as he surface skimmed the art on the top of the massive pile of comics pages I’d bought) that my art had improved, so yes, he’d give me some work. I was a little anxious because he wasn’t really looking at the mountains of artwork I’d bought for him to look at.

This super lo-res photo is from a photo taken on the day Andy Diggle said he’d give me work. My cheeks hurt from smiling. I was 30.

In one of those happier coincidences, my girlfriend (who’d become my wife a few years later) was with me, so it was a glorious glorious con – best of my life, probably. (She remains not-a-con goer though)

I phoned Gordon immiediatly, and Gordon, to which I’ll always be in his debt, said he’d just sent in a Dredd and he’d ask for me to draw it.

And lo, I ended up debuting in Prog 1233 in March 2001 in Judge Dredd.

Some mad person has done the leg work of checking all of the contributors to Judge Dredd and the number of appearances (in the Megazine and 2000AD) and in the twenty years since, of the 146 artists to have worked on Dredd, in terms of number of appearances, I come in at number 9. Something which even now I’m slightly baffled by – how did that happen? In my head I’m still trying to break in to comics in general and 2000ad specifically. This past couple of years I’ve gotten more comfortable with how I handle Dredd himself, even as I’m still casting around trying to figure out how to draw his entire mad world.

The top Dredd artists twenty by Appearance

That first Dredd strip, I redrew it maybe three/four times, a curse that has followed me around on almost every job – the most recent Dredd I abandoned pages and redrew them with just as insecurity.

How it started…
How it’s going
And here she is in B&W

Anyway, twenty years. Kind of remarkable to do anything for 20 years really – I think my life working in IT lasted from the age of 14 to 37, in comics 30 to 50 (seven year overlap). Maybe, as the comics time frame takes over the IT time frame I’ll stop thinking of myself as an IT nerd who draws comics and instead ease into old age thinking of myself as a comic artist first and foremost.

This next year, in the bag already for 2000AD is more Judge Dredd, a solo Chimpsky series and more Dept K – if I end up spending the next twenty years working for 2000AD, well, it’s a life well lived as far as I’m concerned.

There’s no central committee to say “Here you go, twenty years of service, well done” so I make no apologies fort the self-congratulatory nature of this blog post, almost everything I’ve ever done in comics has been a way to connect to an 11 year old me, sitting in my room drawing Judge Dredd and trying to escape the real world, so well done you – you did it. I love drawing Dredd, I always have, I always will, and now I’ve finally gotten good at it, I’d like to do more.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped me get here – WR Logan, Gordon Rennie, Andy Diggle, Mike Sivier, Christian Dunn (former Warhammer editor) and, of course, Matt Smith – Thargs current incarnation who’s been there as long as I have, as well as the pals I’ve made along the way, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Arthur Wyatt, Al Ewing, and many, many more. And, finally, of course, special thanks to the readers who’ve put up with me as my art style has evolved over the years, there will always be ups and downs in quality, sometimes because you learn and try things out, sometimes it’s because drawing is bloody hard and life is hard and everything is HARD. But it’s never, NEVER because I don’t love the job.

Christmas Films List

I asked yesterday on twitter for a some films I can watch during decemember as a kind of Christmas run down – specifically looking for films that are seasonal (but not xmassy) and then xmassy films. So you start the month with something set at winter (or in the snow, like, for example The Thing) and you end on something that is a perfect xmas movie (like It’s a Wonderful Life)

So here’s the suggestions (copied and pasted from innumerable twitter replies, so forgive any duplication/missing suggestions), and in no particular order:

  • Billy Wilder comedy Stalag 17 is actually a Christmas film.
  • The Junky’s Christmas on Christmas Eve 
  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  • Die Hard
  • Gremlins
  • Christmas In Connecticut. Dec 14.
  • Holiday Affair. Dec 19.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Dec 23.
  • DIE HARD
  • LETHAL WEAPON
  • KISS KISS BANG BANG
  • THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT
  • GREMLINS
  • A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
  • BATMAN RETURNS
  • ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
  • TRUE ROMANCE
  • IN BRUGES
  • LA CONFIDENTIAL
  • WHERE EAGLES DARE
  • CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE
  • TV episodes: MILLENNIUM – Midnight Of The Century
  • THE X-FILES – How The Ghosts Stole Christmas
  • THE WEST WING – In Excelsis Deo, Noël
  • BTAS – Christmas With The Joker, Holiday Knights, Heart Of Ice
  • JUSTICE LEAGUE – Comfort And Joy
  • TALES FROM THE CRYPT – And All Through The House
  • Scrooged
  • Rare Exports
  • Family Stone
  • Noelle
  • The Night Before
  • Jingle All The Way
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas is a TV special, not a movie, but it’s required viewing, and is best in mid-December.
  • Von Ryan’s Express.
  • Bad Santa
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Christmas Day, after dinner.
  • Black Christmas 1974
  • Krampus 2015
  • Better Watch Out 2016
  • Elf,
  • Muppets Xmas Carol,
  • Nightmare Before Christmas,
  • Ghostbusters II.
  • “Trading Places”. Christmas Eve
  • ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake = New Year’s Eve
  • cliffhanger
  • home alone
  • The Office Party,
  • Lethal Weapon,
  • Hateful Eight
  • Arthur Christmas.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Iron Man 3 Spider-Man: Miles Morales (begins on Christmas) Elf
  • Tokyo Godfathers
  • Brazil
  • The remake of Miracle on 34th Street is a fave
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Rocky IV
  • Caste Away
  • Coming to America
  • The Ref
  • Hogfather
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night II
  • Santa Slays
  • The Bishop’s Wife
  • THE DEAD ZONE

Anyway, trying to work my way through them, started on the Dead Zone, which is about the least xmassy (probably more an oct/november film)

WordPress and Comics

I’ve been using wordpress for … well, as long as there’s been a wordpress. At various times, I’ve attempted to make it work for me to do comics online, and I’ve never really managed it. This time though, it was time to give it the old college try.

Over at channelhex.com – the generic website I set up for doing comics stuff with people, which has been underutilised for some time, I’ve made it the new home of the webcomic Monster Macs by me and John Reppion. Monster Macs will be on patreon, and twitter, but over at channelhex.com it’ll be displayed as a simple webcomic. At some point I’ll look into adopting it to fit the webtoons format, but that’s a fair bit more work, I think.

One of the problems with WordPress is that I like NICE BIG CHUNKY IMAGES – get me to the source of an image as quick as possible, this especially useful on webcomics, but wordpress just absolutely refuses to do so – for reasons best known to itself.

With wordpress though, there’s usually a plugin – and because this website is hosted at Stratgem.host (highly recommended, and fairly cheap) rather than wordpress.com it’s a fairly simple matter to install one (wordpress.com wants you to pay extra for adding plugins)

So I added two plugins, firstly: simple lightbox. This makes any linked artwork display on screen in a maximum resolution on a layer on top, a nice classy way to view art. (And adds navigation when you need it)

Secondly I added the plugin Manga+Press for WordPress. This simple plugin lets you create a comic that you can update and it will archive it for you.

A neat solution, but it still wasn’t displaying the strip large enough and for that, I’m afraid, I had to dig deep deep into the archives of my brain for how wordpress worked.

(And you can nope out of this now – unless it’s relevant to you!)

Essentially manga+press gets you to create new pages in wordpress for the current comic, and it uses two template documents stored deep in the bowels of the plugin directory in order to display that. AND you need to edit these files if you want the thumbnailed image to have a clickable link to the larger image.

The first file you edit is wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/single-comic.php – this php page simply the comic one page at a time along with a bit of navigation, but I wanted a link to larger image.

Normally this very simple file contains not-much and so I simply added a bit of code to do what I wanted…

<?php
/**
 * MangaPress
 *
 * @package Manga_Press
 * @subpackage Manga_Press_Templates\Single_Comic
 * @version $Id$
 * @author Jess Green <jgreen@psy-dreamer.com>
 */
?>
<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

<div class="mangapress-media-img">
    
 <?php  
    // Grab the url for the full sized image... / PJH Added
     $img_atts = wp_get_attachment_image_src(get_post_thumbnail_id(), 'full'); ?>

    <a href="<?php echo $img_atts[0]; ?>">
    <?php echo wp_get_attachment_image( get_post_thumbnail_id(), $thumbnail_size, false );?>
    </a>
</div>

<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

All my little addition does is grabs the url of the full file for the post and creates a link to that.

This is sufficient to give each archived comic page a link to the full image. But, weirdly, not the current page which, oddly, has a slightly different template and as a little harder to figure out (because it’s been years since I’ve dabbled in html, php or wordpress)

You also need to edit the file in the wordpress/wp-content/plugins/mangapress/templates/content/latest-comic.php

And changed it to

<h2 class="mangapress-comic-title">
    <?php the_title(); ?>
</h2>

<div class="mangapress-media-img">
      <a href="<?php  the_post_thumbnail_url(get_the_ID());?>">
          <?php the_post_thumbnail(get_the_ID(), $thumbnail_size);?>
      </a>
</div>
<?php mangapress_comic_navigation(); ?>

<div class="mangapres-entry-content">
  
    <?php the_content(); ?>
 
</div>

And that’s it – not a lot changed (but by crikey it was hard to hunt down exactly what I needed in wordpress tags to get it to do what I wanted, and I’m not convinced there isn’t a better way)

Anyway, that might be of use to some!

All the things

Next week finally sees the Battle Special from 2000ad/Rebellion released, including the 8 page destroyer strip I drew written by Rob Williams. Here’s what it looks like! (Lettering here by Simon Bowland)

Plus it’s filled with even more gorgeous stuff.

Also coming shortly, True War Stories, the anthology on kickstarter which I have a 14 page strip in. Here’s some pages of that, coloured by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Alex DeCampi

Also soon … Grimmfest – an online horror movie festival that comes with a free comic if you buy a ticket.

And lastly, and I’m super excited about this – I make my DC comics debut in DC’s the Doomed and the Damned… can’t show any art, can’t even tell you what I’m drawing (nor who with, though a bit of google searching might shake that out of the internet) but I can show you this fab cover by Kyle Holtz.

I dunno if there’ll be more DC work in my future, if this ends up being it for me, look, you can see it when it comes, but I’ll have hit everything you’d want in a bucketlist of DC comics… TTFN!

PJ’s Live Sketch Show is Coming Back!

Hey! Hope you’ve had a decent old summer, and now it’s coming to an end, it’s time to start Season 2 of PJ’s live Sketch Show. If you’ve never seen it, it’s just me drawing sketches for an hour. I try and get a list of commissioned sketches up front (and it’s fairly cheap: £30 for an A5 pencil sketch) and get through about 5 or 6 on the day.

The show starts again on SUNDAY 30th of August at 8pm. This is a live show, but kid friendly, so if you’ve kids who wanna watch a comic artist draw bring ’em along!

You’ll be able to watch the show on twitter, facebook or youtube.

I did about five of these before July, and you can watch them on my youtube feed, had an enormous amount of fun and people got inexpensive sketches!

If you’d like to get a sketch, simply email me pjholden@gmail.com subject line “Live Sketch” and I’ll add you to the list. Right now that list is empty (and I’ll happily take payment after the sketch is done)

I’ve a faq here where you can find some frequently asked questions…

Go walking… that’s what to do…

Very old NI specific advert telling you to … go walking

I’ve been getting up early and going for long walks, about two/three times a week. The terrible truth is if I don’t do this, my step count (which is about the only way I have to measure activity) hits around 1.4k steps per day otherwise. In fact, yesterday, according to my phone, I walked a staggering 240 steps all day. Christ alive. And most of those could’ve been me accidentally nudging the table and it miscalculating a step.

When I go walking, I take the same route every time (when I worked in an office, I’d walk exactly the same route – I spend most of it in my own head so it’s not like the scenery matters much)

The walk is about 3.5 miles and takes just over an hour and I tend to hit around 9.5k steps.

I’ve been figuring out the best way to keep myself entertained over the walk, initially I was listening to music (And Spotify is great on that front) I’ve listened to some audiobooks (I dunno what it is though, I find audio books hard going) I’ve even read – holding my kindle in front of me and walking and reading and making sure my old “don’t walk into a telephone pole” radar still works (when I was in my teens, I was notorious in my family for reading and walking into things on the street while I read)

This morning I started mulling over story ideas. Again.

Anyway, that’s it, that’s the post. Look, I realise it’s dull, but it’s all I’ve got going on at the moment (well, that and a top secret job I can’t talk about, but if you’ve been someone whose followed me for a while, you’ll probably be as excited as I am – though it’s short, but it’s fun!)

Mac Woe-SX

Ah man, I love my mac. But, my mac has decided it no longer loves me. It’s doing some weird weird stuff.

So this blog post is an aid memoir, so if I need to come back and figure out what I was doing/when then this will have it.

I’m running a mac mini 2018, 8Gb RAM, 256 GB SSD hard drive. Connected to a Cintiq 27″ and a USB-C 1Tb external hardrive (formatted as exFat)

I tend to upgrade to every version of OS X as it hits, every version of Clip Studio and I upgrade the cintiq with caution (primarily since the cintiq updates are rarely useful to me, and they can bring new problems).

Anyway, the most recent update of OS X bought some new horrifying problems. My mac would crash frequently (I’d get a few hours use) something in the system would start rebooting the dock, when the doc rebooted I’d often have multiple icons of the same active app open (10-15 copies of mail, each with a little dot to indicate they’re running). It would no longer have access to passwords (I’d get asked to log into google mail, etc).

And Clip Studio would crash.

The computer has had my buddy Ron (from Mac-Sys) do a hardware check, and it’s passing all hardware checks. So it looks like software.

I’ve rolled backed to the previous version of the cintiq driver (6.3.39-1) and using os x 10.15.6 the problem has persisted (oh yes, problem happens whether I’m logged into icloud, or – as I have done with my mac – if I’ve wiped it out and done an entirely clean install)

So today, Monday 3 August, 13:45 I’m currently downloading the previous version of OS X that I know worked – 10.15.5 (from here)

Anyway, will let you know how I get on (as if you’re interested!)

UPDATE 14:45

turns out justdownloading the older version of mac os x isn’t enough. Not sure how to proceed with a reversion to the previous one (a simple install stops because, well the hard drive I want it on is in use with the version of t he os currently running. Suspect I need to clean boot it somehow). Plan right now is to disable the cintq altogether and use the ipad as the main drawing tool.

UPDATE Sat 15 AUG 2020

So, I managed to roll back to 10.15.5 and boy things sure do look at lot more stable now. So, it’s an OS problem. There’s been a subsequent upgrade (10.15.6 was supposed to be the last mac os x 10.15 upgrade, before the new version of Mac OS X) so clearly I wasn’t the only one having problems. But they’ve lost me, I won’t be touching another mac os x until the newest Mac OS X version (‘Big Sur’ – because they’ve not lost me THAT much)