Folklore Thursday: Cat

“John, look, I think we need to get engagement on twitter up. The internet loves cats, so whatever the NEXT folklore tale is about — I’m drawing cats”

And thus, John sent me this:

Cat Sí are Celtic fairies in cat form. An old tale tells of a man walking at night hearing a voice say “Tell Tom Tildrum Tim Toldrum is dead”. Returning home, he repeats this to his wife, whereupon their own cat exclaims “Then I am king of the cats!” and flees. #FolkloreThursday

I’ll be honest, no matter what John sent, I was drawing cats. I’ve got to find ways to amuse myself.

Anyway, Not only was I thinking cats, I was thinkig Aubrey Beardsley

And here we are. Usually ideas like this are about making sure I’m trying new things, if I can constrain myself in some way (esp if it’s a thing I never normally do) the thinking goes (well mine does) this might spur me into new stuff.

Beardsley, though, frustratingly, doesn’t seem to have drawn many cats. (No great surprise, he was a startlingly young 25 when he died) and so I was stuck with how to draw a Beardsley cat. Panel one cat was drawn on the basis that he tended to draw very wide bottomed figures, art noveauesque shapes. So I cobbled a silhouette around that. The spikes I added much later when the whole page was finished, partly because Beardsley did sometimes add fringes on to black areas, and partly because I wanted it to have some sort of air of the supernatural or – mostly – to differentiate it from the cat on the last panel. As it happens, the spikes I added made it look like Mog from Meg and Mog and that amused me, so in it stayed.

Panel 2, it’s Beardsley himself. A young man, never married so this is, clearly a fictionalised version of him. Beardsley’s work seems to have large black shapes (often fringed with white dots or black) and large clear white space. So it’s trying to figure out how to balance that all. Very pleased with the lettering balloon – done in Clip Studio, which is not a brilliant tool for lettering, but this was an easy effect to make (black on white balloon, white text, then the entire layer is given a black outline)

Panel 3, Beardsley and wife – just made her up. The picture behind them is “self portrait in bed” by Bearsley

Panel 4, finally our cat walks out – this is a Beardsley cat – taken from Pierrot and cat, from St. Paul’s – I’ve had to add a couple of legs as the original is behind another figure.

And the decorative around the frame element was important, but I felt I needed to get the thick black border for the full on Beardsley effect.

Hope you like it! One more to go before we call this year done, the next will be the last for the year, and it’ll be very wintery…

Folklore Thursday: Rübezahl

Look, I’ll address this head-on. Yes, that’s Alan Moore, Leah Moore and John Reppion. I wasn’t asked to do that (John never asks for me to do anything, it’s all me) but reading the tweet, laying the panels out and thinking “I need a weather giant, a wise woman and a wizard-like Monk” and it suddenly occurred to me that it would be both perfect and funny.

I started colouring it with the sky with a view to full colour, but I’m a bit up against it here at the moment and then I thought I’d use the same blue for the giants – as I wanted them to feel ephemeral rather than big solid giant then realised I didn’t really need any colour (phew, that saved some time).

Sometimes I wish I had more time to attack these things, but you don’t always get what you wish for. 

Folklore Thursday: Vrillon

This was a lot of fun.

I’ve been itching to do a scifi-ish tale with one of the folklore stories since we started (I am, at heart, a 2000AD artist, scifi is the norm for me) I honestly didn’t think we’d ever get to do one, but this presented a neat little departure. And I hope the twist in the tale end of it comes through (because I always need to explain the jokes: it was a hoax! AN ALIEN HOAX!)

I thought drab dreary 1970s england colours set against bright colourful alien life would be a fun contrast. On first pass of the thumbs I drew for it I thought I couldn’t draw an alien, because… well, the alien is never seen, but then I figured that would give me the freedom to do what I wanted – it’s an alien in the imagination, so he’s superimposed on a static TV background (I created a layer in clip studio, filled it with black, generated some perlin noise that was nice and big, then smeared some of it, then converted it to lineart – that gave me the static I wanted.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy it!

Folklore Thursday: Whispers

The below was published in our Patreon (which you can subscribe to and get the comic as soon as I draw it, which is usually a day or two early!)

“Does this work” has become something of a mantra between John and I, he’ll send me something and a “does this work” (and it always does) and sometimes I’ll try something different and email it to John with a “Does this work”

So, anyway – does this work?

Bar a couple of bits all the ghosts are photos of me, my wife and my kids. (The couple at the door is from our wedding photo).

I’ll admit this may be gimmicy, but it’s one of the pleasures of this format is trying something once and moving on to something else.

I think if I could, I’d do something better with the fairies, the playground stuff (overlaying a photo of something…?) and the circus poster – dig in and find something that’s a real circus clown poster (and out of copyright).

Anyway, on to the next one!

22,000 panels that always work

Yes, it’s a four blog post kind of day.

I love twitter, but stuff gets buried, and it’s harder to do long form thinking on it.

Anyway, was thinking today (after stumbling across this procedurally generated maps of cities for dungeons and dragons) that it would be cool to do something similiar for comics. Something that could give you a whole bunch of panel layouts generated from a bare minimum of input. You put in the number of panels and it gives you a dozen layouts. You could select one panel and make it an exterior, or another and make it inset, and click you’d get another dozen layouts all keeping that in mind.

I’ve always been fascinated by the grammar of panel layouts. Let’s take the simplest count of panels: 2.

Here’s a bunch of options:

And that’s before you get into bleeding images off the page, circular panels, batman shaped panels or what’s even in the panels.

And some of these I think work better as first pages, and some work better as last pages (notably, the second panel being smaller, or inset below the midline of the page feels like a full stop on a page).

Three panel layouts explode your options, and it just gets wilder and wilder.

And I like nice readable panel layouts, so there’s some rules I’m a real stickler for, I love stacked panels, but stacking order is important:

Stacking on the right of a large panel is perfectly readable, stacking on the right can be illegible (though clever tricks with lettering/art can make it more readable, but really do yourself a favour and don’t do it!)

And here, dear reader is some examples of five panel layouts:

I keep meaning to (though never seem to have the time to) go through some of the great works (Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, er.. probably others) and draw out their panel layouts. I find them fascinating.

(Of course, Hass, of “Strip Panel Naked” has gone in to depth about panel grid layouts and I recommend you go and join his patreon/watch his youtube!)

8 Hour Comic Day

Is that a thing? Not sure if that’s a thing. Anyway. Saturday, Andy Luke (long time Norn Iron comic book chum) ran – with Farset labs – an 8hour comic day. Thomas loves things like this, so we went, he’s been busy writing and drawing a Why Not!? Halloween special, and I thought I should do something too.

Before that though, I took the kids to get their hair cut, and spent an hour in the hairdressers with nothing to do, luckily had the ipad, so I ended up doing a colour drawing that inspired the 8 page strip below. (After Tom suggested a title so simple and ingenious it was hard to ignore…)

Hopefully it’s readable (though it is badly drawn, I think you can see me fighting with myself later on where I’m going “it. doesn’t. have. to. be. good. just. draw. NO! MUST. REDRAW.” – not that I could have made it amazing, but it’s still hard to just sketch and show people something rubbish without burying it in caveats, so caveat: this is just me goofing off)

Folklore Thursday: Chronos

Chronos was the Ancient Greek word for time, Cronos their sickle carrying God of Agriculture. Romans related Cronos to their own Saturn, and made him an old man. His sickle became a scythe, and Cronos became Old Father Time who, in turn, became The Grim Reaper. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion

As befitting a strip about time, my time has not been my own the past few weeks, so the resulting strip isn’t quite what I wanted, but it’s good enough for government work (as they say)

One thing I like doing is a little bit of research, and panel one, the first sentence was an opportunity to ask yourself some questions – like “wait, what DOES and ancient greek time keeping device look like”. So I googled it and got this odd looking sundial. Now I have a new friend on twitter, Dr Rena, an archeologist and expert in this time period and she pointed out that this isn’t wrong, BUT more common would’ve been a water timer – but I’d already drawn the damn thing, and that at least looked like a thing I’d recognise as a time keeping device, whereas the water timer just looked like two pots.

I wanted, in the strip, to get across how simple and obvious the transition from Cronos, to Saturn to Old Father Time and then the Grim Reaper. I think I did that, but it’s clumsy and not at all subtle, but I am pretty happy with how that last grim reaper panel turned out.

I’m always making decisions about the rhythm of the strip, and these one pagers are interesting exercises in that. The tweet informs the panel layouts, but the panel layouts also inform how I’ll handle the tweet’s breakdown – in a neat little feedback loop.

I’ve always been interested in panel layouts, I used to keep a notebook that had a bunch of interesting panel arrangements, I’ve always preferred simple, straightforward reading experiences, but even with that limit (a zig zag panel layout) there’s a billion ways to slice it. But some panel layouts work great at the start of a book and some work better at the end. Middle is more open, unless there’s a scene transition in there.

It’s a fascinating exercise to open up a favourite book and just draw out the panel layouts. (For a certain level of fascinating, that is…)

Anyway, that’s your lot. Tempus fugit!