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!

Folklore Thursday: Locker

Oh man, we messed up.

Well, we didn’t really, we work from a list in advance of what the next Folklore Thursday is gonna be. The list is pretty far in advance, and, apparently, this week, changed. So instead of whatever-this-weeks-topic was it became insects. BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST WEEK I WAS ACTUALLY AHEAD! so, poop. Instead you’re getting too Folklore strips. Locker, was my new fav.

Davy Jones’ Locker. The deep-sea Hell of the drowned, according to pirate-lore and later nautical-lore. Davy Jones a diabolical figure, sometimes said to be glimpsed among the rigging during a storm. More often than not though, the sea-devil simply waits below.

John Reppion via Twitter

I love stuff like this, instantly I could see it all – deep-sear Hell of the drowned. Class! Trying to get something of a narrative in there – the sailer with the red scarf, drowned in the waters. And shifting to a symbolic skull in the water, was fun in the last panel.

I enjoy drawing gruesome faces, so that much is fun for me.

Uniform

I cobbled my version of dredd together over 15 or so years of lifting and removing the bits of his uniform I liked and didn’t like.

The Stallone movie (*spit*) added a couple of things to my Dredd armour – notably a neat tidy collar and tiny little judicial badges (which I only give to fairly senior judges) and a lip or rim around the red part of the helmet…(and my Dredd helmet probably owes more to Steve Dillon than anyone)

(er.. collar badge missing in this picture).

I’m still working on how my eagle looks, but, for the most part it works like this…


Made up of two parts, the lower/inner part acts as the support for the arm, and the eagle – and then the eagle pivots/rests on top of it. Frequently colourists will colour both the same, but my preference is for the inner part to be a dark blue (darker than the uniform even)

I’m still playing with the gloves, but I tend to favour this style (Jock’s design is so strong that even for the brief window he drew Dredd some of his improvements to Dredd’s uniform rippled down through the years)

I imagine they’re velcro fastners. I’ve no idea what the hell they’d keep in those glove pockets -I mean two per glove is a silly size – maybe some bullets?

Belt pouches are fairly classic standard, button with a central ribbing…


Which I think are largely McMahon design.

I don’t think there’s much remarkable about my elbow or knee pads or boots – it’s all big chunky shapes, that look like they’ve been battered about – that’s my preference.

On last thing, and the reason for the blog post… I think – though I may be wrong – I just invented a new way to do one part of the uniform that.. well.. I’ve never been happy about.

The respirator – I’ve seen this done where the badge slides down and covers the mouth and where the entire bulged part where the badge is attached comes down. Which seems marginally more likely (while explaining why it has that bulge)

My new innovation… ta da! is to add pop out fins – now these pop out either side of the respirator when activated, and form a vacum seal around the face (and in fact, possibly they inflate a little – and may – if animated – look like they’re breathing with you).

It looks like this:

(NOT ACTUALLY Judge Dredd… this is another Judge)

I doubt anyone else will ever steal them from me, but even so, I’m happy knowing I adding something totally new to Dredd.

Folklore Thursday: Boudicca

Oh man, let’s start with the Tweet. I admit, on first read of this, I got very excited, I knew EXACTLY what I was gonna do. Which sounds great, but it’s inevitably crushingly disappointing as your abilities fail to meet your ambitions (and even worse when the failing is one of laziness more than anything)

60AD. Britain 18 years into a Roman occupation lasting nearly 400. Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni – widowed, whipped, her daughters dishonoured – fought back. 70,000 fell before her. A layer of ash in London’s soil still marks the day she burned it to the ground. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion

Straight off the bat, I knew we’d see Britain (grabbed here from an internet search of Roman Britain, just used as a placeholder graphic for inking over), then a single strong image of Boudicca killing thousands of romans (ambition) because of the nature of these things you don’t get too bogged down in realism, it’ll slow you down (if she was in the midst of the murderous revenge rampage, you’d probably not even see her at any angle, buried as she would be by roman bodies). So her leaping over a bunch of shields to get to the next tranche. Ideally I’d’ve drawn literally thousands, but (abilities) couldn’t (lazy) do (time) it.

Sent John pencils cus I actually thought this would be a winner of a strip and I wanted that early Dopamine hit of the writer seeing it and going “Awesome”

Pencils

The last panel would be a transition from the battle to modern day london, I thought that would be suitably poetic. The caption in the pencils was, though, destroying the transition – so I ended up moving it for colour.

Boudicca I drew as an older woman out for horrific revenge, coated in Blue Woad, unfettered by clothing (apart from some trousers – I mean my thinking was she would start fully clothed and shed it as the battle continues over days, untroubled by modesty)

Strongly muscular, and I tied the hair into a single braid – there is a historical description of Boedicca by Dio (not Ronnie James)

“In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire …” 

Dio, Roman History (LXII.1-2)

I’m willing to bet money he never set eyes on her (I mean, given she is reckoned to have died around 60/61AD and he wasn’t born until c155Ad, it’s a safe bet).

That said, the way these things work (and the way they HAVE to work to make them viable) is John sends me a tweet (which is always smart, well researched and based on extant folklore myths or legends) and I use that as a basis for an inspiration that I do WITHOUT RECOURSE TO RESEARCH. I literally don’t have time to do that. Plus, it’s more fun.

Now, having read the description, I’d’ve probably kept the single mohawk braid, but made it a lot longer (down to her hips) and definitely given her a gold torc around her neck. But, that aside, it’s been interesting watching the reaction to the strip (there’s been some negative reaction which seems to come from certain people who reckon I’ve drawn her as a strong feminist and “ugly” – though they don’t seem to give two hoots about the diabolical liberties I’ve taken with the roman uniforms, so I’m choosing to ignore them)

Anyway, here’s the final, hope you like it!

And, finally, John wrote a really interesting article on Boedicca and it’s worth a read here.

Folklore Thursday: Labyrinth

Ok, I admit, this one got shorter shrift than some of the others. Totally on me, John gave me plenty of time (and a great bit of inspiration)

The labyrinth is an ancient symbol. Painted and carved across the world for millennia. Compared to the course of the stars, ripples upon water, the ridges on our fingertips. Perfecting and mastering the labyrinth may be one of humanity’s oldest magical acts. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion

Time was short, on first read, I knew I wanted to play with a spiral shape – setting the panels in such a way that you’d have to read it in a spiral. I *think* it works, but not 100% sure. And then the final panel – totally on me – I thought it would be a funny undercutting of the building seriousness of the strip (and the dialogue here is mine rather than John’s).

Now, my original plan was to have John walk through a labyrinth as he talked you through of all these things and ending with him facing something? Unsure what.

But I didn’t have the time, so, instead, it was large images. Which meant grabbing stuff from wikipedia. It looked like this:

Images from wikipedia

I did toy with expanding the images out to make our first photo comic, but figured I should put some effort in.

Next week’s will be better.

(Oh, and have you ever tried to reset a pokemon trainer club password? INSANE)

Folklore Thursday: Lindwurm

Klagenfurt, Austria is home to a nine tonne statue of a Lindwurm, erected in 1590. Folklore tells of the beast plaguing the surrounding swamp, until it was eventually slain by a band of brave knights. Its skull was found in 1335, and is still on display today. #FolkloreThursday

John Reppion via Twitter

Well, this one came down to the wire. And, as a result, it’s the first one that’s been drawn digitally. Let’s talk you through it.

When I first read the tweet, I thought it would be fun to build up to the big dragon picture, have lots of Knights huffing and puffing and running towards it, lots of panels – a twenty panel page.

Then, I forgot about it and realised I needed to draw this just a few hours before midnight and so that all went out the window.

Luckily other options presented themselves. I took the text, chopped it up and popped it on a digital page – lettering before art. That gave me the structure and some notion of how I’d draw it. So I blarped out this super fast sketch that is, I suspect, utterly meaningless to anyone else…

Hit the drawing board to pencil it traditionally (still a more enjoyable experience than digital pencils) and … I think you can see the shape of those god awful scribbles above coalesced into what I had in mind (on panel 2 I dropped the idea of seeing lots of nights, because, frankly, I didn’t have time)

Notably Panel 1 the map I knew I’d basically find the location on google maps and redraw it, so that was blank, and the last panel, since it’s a real thing, I wanted to get the skull right – though I couldn’t find a decent picture of it, so figured it’d be alright on the night (which er… was the same night, I just mean it’d come together in the inking)

I wanted the inking to be be… richer? More line-y than previous pages. Wasn’t even sure I knew what I meant, but I wanted a different texture for the inks of the dragon. Woodcut.

Of course, I failed.

I’ll show the whole inks here, but notably, I inked panel 1 then coloured it, before moving on to the rest of the inks – I decided to keep panel 2 and 3 as a flashback / b&w but it didn’t want it to just look like I was being lazy – so – AHAH! a red spot colour would work really well.

Googled up some “medievil knights austria” to get some notion of the weaponry that would be suitable (though I wanted pikes) and here we are:

And, finally, the coloured art without lettering (for completeness sake)

Oh, John has written a fair amount of follow up on the origins of the Lindwurm in twitter (and if you’re curious, the skull they found was of a Wooly rhino). So go here to read all about the monster…

Folklore Thursday: Mushroom

Blame me for the titles. John writes a tweet, I supply a title, it was ever thus (in er.. the five weeks we’ve been doing this).

Fairy Rings are circles of mushrooms often seen in fields and woodlands across Europe. They mark the meeting, and dancing, places of the Fae. If a human steps into one, they may glimpse the Little People. But bewitchment, ill fortune, and even death may follow. #folklorethursday

John Reppion via Twitter

I’ll be honest, I consider this one a failure on my part. (It’s neither modesty, nor fishing for praise, just honest assessment). I wanted it to work so badly. I’ve done some nice watercolour stuff in the past, but never a full strip. I thought if I can quickly pencil it and then water colour over it, it should be nice.

It wasn’t. It was.. at best.. a good start.

Compounding this, sadly, was the fairly barely adequate nature of my scanner. It’s important to know and understand the limits of the tools you use, and my faithful Brother DCP6690 has served me well for over a decade, scanning pencils and inks at A3 size, and printing pencils as bluelines on heavy bristol board (sometimes it spews that out and just refuses to play ball, but that’s ok – it owes me nothing). Unfortunately it’s bloody awful for colour. Scanning colour is a serious art in itself. Even if your scanner scans a true and accurate reflection of the art (which is unlikely as the scanner’s light casts a sickly blue light, which is why blue line printing can be easily dismissed by the scanner – it’s practically invisible in the bluewhite light. ) then you’re faced with whether your computer monitor is set up in a way that can accurately show you those colours on screen. Plus the art software (in this case clip studio) may decide to preview it for print and give it a slightly different hue. It’s all a nightmare.

Part of the remit though, is to do these things quickly, so I don’t really have the luxury of going back and reworking (though in this case, I DID) or fiddling with colours when scanned and I wrestled with it, and I thought – better to put out a heroic failure, than to cowardly revert to type and do it again in b&w with digital colours (also I was too lazy)

And one thing I learned while acting is… nobody knows about mistakes until you tell them. So ignore everything I’ve said here and assume this strip is exactly what I meant it to be.

(No pencils on this one, as it was pencilled and coloured in one go)

Mum

I wrote and drew this comic strip in October last year. It tumbled out of me too quickly. It deals with losing a parent, and it seems to have moved a number of people who read it when it was on twitter (and my blog previously, though my blog has since been wiped and reset)

And so, here it is, I hope you like it.

Folklore Thursday: Mandrake

You know the drill by now…

John’s original tweet:

The roots of the Mandragora genus of plants are known as Mandrakes. Once prized as magical ingredients they are hallucinogenic, and highly toxic. It was once believed that when uprooted, the Mandrake would scream. Its terrible cry striking dead any who heard it. #folklorethursday

https://twitter.com/johnreppion/status/1159376208292982784

I vaguely remembered seeing a diagram of the Mandrake plant that was, it turned out, from wikipedia. I thought that’d be a fun opening panel. It would feel different from whatever I drew following it.

Panel one I was toying with drawing someone who would prize a magical ingredient, I kept leaning towards a wizard – but everything looked a little goofy (my knowledge bank in my head kept suggesting wizard cliches, and anything that wasn’t a cliche was too hard to “read” as wizard). Then I thought … oh, a druid! quick google of a druid and, you know, bland but workable. Then I remembered a deep buried memory from childhood… GETAFIX!

Hopefully this fun non-authorised use of the old Asterix Druid is ok (is this considered fair use?) if not, it may be an internet only version, and at some point I’ll have to edit him out – boo!

One of the jobs as cartoonist on this strip is to link the words together with some sort of narrative, and sometimes the narrative requires only a single image, but here, moving from prized… to hallucinogenic… to toxic required a number of steps (this is why I get paid the big bucks). I’m always trying to shorten the those steps but this time it was pretty much impossible. I had to get the druid to collect, cook and then sample the mandrake (taking us from ‘prized’ to ‘hallucinogenic’ -dropping the cooking /tasting would’ve let it a little confusing about why he was suddenly hallucinating) then another step to toxic. The line art, on its own was gonna struggle a little to show toxic -I thought one open eye then one winking closed would give a sense of a transition from toxic to death – plus a little skull and crossbones, but colour was gonna be the real way to sell it. A sickly green on the face (if I didn’t have colour I’d probably do it as two panels, or leave it was one – not just as clear a pay off)

And the final mandrake gets short shrift here, I kept thinking of Kate Bush’s Experiment IV (a sound that can kill) and following the shriek around as it kills people, but, ultimately, I’ve one page to play with so I’ve got to pick and choose my moments. I liked the goofy mouth of the mandrake and figured with the captions, it’d be enough.

And that’s your lot! Until next week…