Department K

Well, like buses, you wait for one series you do in 2000ad to go down well enough with the fans for Tharg to ask you to do it as an ongoing, and then suddenly two come along at once.

Unfortunately, timing meant I’ve had to bow out of the continuing adventures of Dept K (I’m honestly gutted about it) as I’m in the middle of US book, as well as drawing the on going adventures of everyone’s favourite super smart simian, Noam Chimpsky.

Anyway this week’s 2000ad features the the second episode of Dept K I’ve drawn (fittingly we sort of wrap things up cleanly enough that Rory And Dan Cornwell can kick off a whole new slate of adventures next week!)

In the meantime, here’s some of the b&w art from this week’s episode …

Next week… watch out… Chimpsky’s IN SPACE!

The Studio

I’ve started obsessing over my studio shelf space.

Generally I’m a pretty lazy collector, I’ve books going way back to the dawn of my interests in comics (specifically copies of The Dark Knight Returns), books that I bought to read on holiday, and then I’ve started amassing hardbacks.

To give you some idea of the nonsense on my selves – I don’t have a first volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I bought the individual issues), my second volume is a paperback, as is the Black Dossier (which doesn’t seem to have a volume number, but comes – I believe – between 2 and 3, Volume 3 (Century) I think I had one issue of the miniseries, and then I picked up volume 5 as a hardback.

Wasn’t a problem before now, I’ve probably read them all digitally on comixology or just sort of missed them. But now, having replaced two bookshelves that were waist high with a single tall shelf, I’ve started putting things on that shelve and noticing the weird gaps.

Locke and Key Hardbacks volumes 1,2,3 and 5 no volume 4. NO VOLUME 4. Idiot.

The previous shelf was behind things so I never saw any of it, I’d allowed clutter to come front and centre, covering it, and I had a mobile artstation unit sitting in front (I figured I could move it, so what harm, it turns out A LOT OF HARM. A LOT)

Anyway anyway, have started going mad like a windows 95 computer defragging a particualrly egregious hard disk, moving books here there and over there.

My main problem is I want to stack things where I can put my hand on them, but equally, I really want the ones I love to be constantly at eye level – so I’ve set up an Alan Moore shelf (got your usual V for Vendetta, Captain Britain, Watchmen, Futureshocks, League etc). But, of course, I’ve got gaps in things like Swamp Thing (not only gaps but I literally haven’t read a lot of it!)

So, past the Moore stuff there’s a Frank Miller/David Muzzachelli collection (small but nice). I’m totally missing Electra Assassin though (yes, it’s Bill S. not David M.)

Suddenly I’m noticing gaps. About three years ago my wife and I agreed that we’d pretty much got all the things, and the last thing I needed was more books I wasn’t likely to read (and worse, I’d already spent a Christmas or two asking for books that, idiotically, I’d forgotten I already had) here’s one such exchange, almost word-for-word:

Annette “What do you want for christmas”
Me “Well, I’m largely ok, but I wouldn’t mind Alex Toth: Genius Illustrated
Annette “I think you have that.”
Me “Ho, no, I have the OTHER two books – but not that one”
Annette “No, I’m pretty sure I got that for you last year”
Me “No, I think I’d know if I had that book – it is flipping massive. I’d’ve spotted that on my shelves! HOHOHO!”
Annette “…” goes into my room … comes back out brandishing a large object
Annette “You mean this book?”
Me (sheepishly) “…yes…”

Anyway, crises averted on that occasion, but at least three other times I’ve asked for, and received, gifts that I already had. And so, self imposed book exile began. No more buying.

I bought and read digital, that was fine.

But now… but now… I can see my books again. It’s weird, it’s like suddenly you have your own library (I mean I don’t profess to have anywhere near the books of Sean Phillips who appears to have opened a branch of forbidden planet in his studio but it’s more than average)

That said, there’s plenty of books in there that I enjoyed reading but am unfussed about keeping. I nopped out of the Walking Dead (started reading it when I had young kids and found I just couldn’t put up with the constant peril) so I have volumes 1-5 and volume 8 (where the flip are 6 & 7??) I have various sandman, but I can borrow sandman from the library as digital files to read, so that’ll do. I have invincible volumes 1-3 & 6 (sigh) and suspect I might wanna buy that in massive compendium form. I have about four versions of Hellboy Seed of Destruction (as well as most of it digitally) so I should gut that a bit.

Anyway, it’s taken me decades, but I think this is finally becoming the studio I’ve always wanted…

Tech fly boss walk jam nitty gritty

*(Yes, I know, it should be “Tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty”, but then the title would make NO sense in context of the post)

Ok, here we go – this is a tech post, in which I report what my current tech setup looks like, dull as dishwater to most, but I lived and breathed tech stuff for years, so I LOVE IT!

Continue reading “Tech fly boss walk jam nitty gritty”

So farewell then, Captain Cookies

Thought you’d like some behind the scenes stuff on Captain Cookies. Readers, did I make mistakes? of course. Will I pointlessley try and correct them several months (actually a full year) after drawing the strip and a month after it saw print? sure, why not.

But first, here’s episode one in glorious monochrome-o-vision…

So let’s take page 1, which I think, has the worst story telling issues (and entirely my fault) basically I should have stuck with my thumbnails for the Dredd bike, suspect I just couldn’t hack the angle. (And the sound effects are misread as coming from Dredd’s bike canon, so I should’ve drawn the weapon on panel 1 to be obviously something else, and moved the “Blams” somewhere they couldn’t be misinterpreted) I sent these pages to Matt in April, so, Chimpsky fans, if you’re wondering, I drew the Christmas Chimpsky AFTER this one was finished, scheduling meant it worked out the other way round in print.

Since I sent it in April it’s logical to assume I was drawing it in March, about a year ago and just as the first lockdown started – so let’s chalk it all up to that – it was rough last year, father-in-law was seriously ill in hospital (almost a year in and out of hospital before covid hit, and then passed away not long after this) kids taken out of school and the whole covid thing (which is, obviously still on going).

I was struggling with drawing traditionally – my eyesight has been constantly a pain since it started going in my thirties (just as my pro career started- thanks karma) and it’s close up work that I struggle with, so believe it or not, I have to tilt the table now not because of the dangers of back pain but because it lets me keep the art the same distance from my eyes whether it’s the top of the page or the bottom. Drawing digitally takes that issue away since I can just move the digital page around as I like.

So this was me pencilling traditionally and moving to digital inks.

(Of course, all of the above reads as an excuse, it’s not – it’s simply background details that can have an impact)

I’ve largely given up on traditional and moved entirely to digital drawing (traditional drawing is a rubbish term, but there’s no better way of explaining it – analogue drawing? actual drawing? nothing makes sense at all)

More Chimpsky to come, readers, and he’s now off in his own little strip, so no more near misses with Dredd – you’ll be pleased to know… (and let’s face it, he may be superintelligent, but he’s been lucky Joe hasn’t just hit him with a heatseaker already…)


Superfocus. Superprocastination. Sometimes there’s things I’m so desperate to put off I will literally ink an entire comic to get out of doing it. i mean, I need to do both jobs, but drawing is just, fundamentally, the easier of all the jobs.

So I become hyper focused, yesterday I finished four pages of inks. Granted, one was mostly done the day before, two finished during the day/evening and the final one came in around 1am – so strictly speaking, I completed inks on two pages (or three if I’m being generous to myself).

But I wasn’t half aware it was because I was hyperfocused on it, to the point that anything taking me away from it was annoying and I could think beyond those pages. It’s not terribly healthy, is it?

Inking though, (and especially if the pencils are super tight) I’ll sit down, stick on something on netflix (or, actually, more likely at the moment Disney+) and just start inking.

I’ve pretty much thrown my lot in with digital drawing, my clip studio process is now hyper tight, I’ve reprogrammed all the basic function keys and when you’re in that zone…

Galadriel Lord of the Rings gif: Galadriel going power mad saying "All Shall Love Me and Despair!"

Galadriel turning bonkers mad is still one of my favourite, most used call-backs from the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

At some point I’ll have to write up my entire clip studio experience, it’s extraordinarily flexible.

Anyway, procastination, you’re now a party to it.

And if you’re here, why not share the worst kind of procastination you’ve done…?

(My wife preys on my weakness though, she knows I hate doing dishes, so she’ll suggest a chore she’s not keen on for me to do in exchange for doing the dishes. Walk to the shop to buy milk…? and you’ll do the dishes instead of me? Brilliant, you’re on…)

The Archive Project Volume 2

Prog 1544 to Prog 1630 July ’07 – April ’09 (the written label is a mess, and has the wrong progs, I’ll fix it…)

For the record, these volumes hold 27 progs which means this is averages about 14 progs per year.

This volume pretty much finishes up the 86ers, completed by Arthur Wyatt (originally written by Gordon Rennie). I think Gordon had felt he couldn’t do much more with the 86ers (he hadn’t entirely finished with the Rogue Trooper universe though and would turn his attention to the much more successful – and certainly much better drawn – Jaeger). Between the 86ers, futureshocks and odds and sods, I didn’t get another bite of a series until Al Ewing and I did Dead Signal in prog 1581 – set in two universes, one I greywashed the other drawn in more solid black and white (a trick I’d use to better effect in Numbercruncher with Si Spurrier). We had big, bonkers plans (well, Al did, I was content to go along for the spin) but sadly, this was another series that didn’t get the chance to go beyond one part.

My luck with series with 2000ad has always been pretty grim, there were strips I was originally talking to the writer to draw and didn’t (and then, sometimes would actually end up back on the art as another artist went off). And I’d generally figured my luck with getting a series was so awful even if someone proposed one I’d often tell them “this sounds cool, but honestly, you might be in a better position to pitch this without me first”. More than likely some parts bad luck some parts just a little paranoia on my part, but certainly in this period I felt like a reliable hand on the tiller, but not someone who could get a ship launched.

Of course, this has turned slightly, Chimpsky took off (though I put that down to the strength of the writing, anyone can draw a chimp) and Dept K – a fun little series Rory McCulloch and I came up with for the 2000AD regened progs went down so well, the editor has commissioned a series (sadly, I’m up to my eyeballs, so I couldn’t draw it – boo!)

So volume 2 done and I’m stuck a little as I’ve run out of the 2000ad “Thrill-Power Containment Units”. Need at least two more (maybe three?) to finish what I’ve started and room for the next few years.