A Month of Batman

On the run up to the New Year, I was thinking about some of the things that worked and didn’t work for me in the past. I’d spent over a year drawing WWII books, which was great fun, well paid, and I’m enormously grateful for the opportunity, but it did push me into obscurity a little and I need to make sure I’m visible both to the reading public and to editors.

So, I thought, I should try and think of big two books I could work on and do good work on. And then, from that, I should try and get some art of those characters in to my portfolio and online. And, to give me a bit of focus, I should take one big two property every month and just try and focus some fan art, some samples, and maybe even send to an editor or two.

January is Batman.

When I think Batman I think “nope, not for you Paul, that’s for artists that are better” and that’s pretty much my thought process when I think of literally any big two property. But that’s pretty defeatist. It’s also nonsense. Digging deeper in to it, I think there’s a slew of Batman adventures I could kill on – including, but not limited to, a Batman horror series (monsters? are you kidding? I’d be a perfect fit). Noir (heavy shadows? Yes please!) Comedy (come on, this is easy) and er… well, if I’m not a perfect fit on Batman, I dunno who is*

Anyway, that’s the thing. I’ll spend this month between paying work, and other projects trying to find things Batman related to draw – that may include mock covers, some sample art or just generally sketching.

This could all fizzle out by tomorrow, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and this is it.

*Ok, the truth is given the right project I think I could do a specatuclar Batman, but equally, I could be bobbins – but you get nowhere thinking you’ll fail, right?

Folklore Thursday: Threshold

Crank up the manifest, hoist the gibbert, weigh up the anchorage. We’re back!

Having tried to push myself to do a little bit of writing over Christmas (you can see the results at my blog pauljholden.com) I thought I’d approach this first Folklore Thursday of the new year with an eye to creating some sort of story (and I mean more than just the surface thing). I started laying out the pencils to the tweet and found that, well, all I was really doing was illustrating John’s words. Not actually adding anything of significance. So I thought I’d add a character – that at least gave me a little agency.

Having adding something like a protaganist, I figured the easiest thing to do with those words was make him get younger – so he’s stepping back in time, but ONLY in his own lifetime. Then I thought – I don’t think that’s what John meant, but I liked the fact there was room to decide that’s what it could be. So then I added a little impetus to our character, maybe he’s finding this place and wants to travel back in time but he’s been tricked.

That decided, I started seeing what I needed to add to the art to sell that little narrative. I added a loved one in panel one (thus fulfilling something I’ve always wanted to do which is to draw a doomed romance comic) and then panel two I was going to have him drop a note detailing the cancer diagnosis of his wife. But then I wondered if I couldn’t add a second narrators voice, a conversation he was having. (or had had). Which would help explain what was going on for him. Layering and layering the story telling. I’m hoping it worked.

Also, that last bit of captioned dialogue is partly the response in the conversation he’s having with some unnamed person but also partly me having a little fun and saying to John [Reppion] har har, I tricked you – you thought this was going one way and it went another 🙂

I’m not sure what John makes of it yet. Could be he hates it (hope not!) but we’ll see.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(And bonus, the b&w version…)

2019 A Year in Comics

Ok, let’s try and figure out what the hell I did last year. Things can be broadly divided into things I got paid to do, but I can’t talk about and things I got paid to do ages ago and are now out. (And I’m sure I’ll miss loads, but as best as I can remember, here we go…)

January

I was probably drawing stringbags. No… wait… I think I was flagging a bit and accidentally went off and did some cool VR/3d Work that ate up a bit of time. Trying to produce 20 pages of comics per month plus that was nuts.

The problem with committing to a long long graphic novel is it’s several months of knowing you’ll have money (hurrah!) but also several months of not having anything out on the shelves.

February

The VR stuff took up a big chunk of the month, still finishing stringbags though. (the book was divided into three chunks and right here, I think I was in the middle of part 2)

We launched the VR experience I helped build. That was fun.

And that led me to start exploring starting a business around VR stuff. But… things soon went off the rails.

March

Stringbags, Stringbags, Stringbags…

April

FLINCH! The TV show I storyboarded for came out on netflix (it’s stupid, and bonkers but it can be very funny) and I went and saw a screening in the cinema. Most of that work was done a couple of years ago (but hey, I got a screen credit!)


(also still drawing stringbags)

May

2000AD Prog 2131, Noam Chimpsky – I did the cover too. Cool. Bringing my 2000Ad cover total up to a gob smacking … 4.

Thomas, my 11 year old son, decided to write and draw his own comic – and amazingly he did just that – he’s done three issues of Why Not!? (a fun anthology comic, bursting with ideas) and a whole issue of Monkey Arms (one of the main characters from why not!?) mostly drawn over the summer school down time. Like an idiot though I offered to help, assuming his interest would flag or he’d burn out. Neither thing happened. So I ended up lettering and inking and printing his comics. You can download them here.

So, comics, the biggest thing, I think, is I FINALLY FINISHED the 174(176? it’s a LOT) page graphic novel that had been eating up most of my drawing time over most of the year.

That’s coming out in May, please please please go and order it and buy it and read it and leave me nice reviews.

I think around here my Father-in-law went in to hospital, and bar a six week period where he was returned home to recover (he didn’t) he’s been in hospital since. At time of writing we’re doing hospital visits every day. This has taken a lot of thinking/processing time and it’s occasionally a wonder anything creative is happening at all.

June

Started thinking about what’s next, after Stringbags (still drawing it at this point). Decided I’d like to do a kickstarter starblazer style book (digest sized, 64 pages, b&w) I’m coming back to this – I had to let it slide for various reasons, but I’m definitely coming back to it.

My brother John went into hospital, and came out paralysed from his waist down. Up until this time he’d no back problems to speak of (or at least none I was aware of) and suddenly, his life is radically altered. For the next couple of months we ended up dealing with this and my father-in-law – visiting two hospitals, sometimes on the same day. I think at my peak I ended up visiting two hospitals twice each.

July

I had some downtime and so I cast around for something to occupy me that wouldn’t be too strenous. And I find twitter comics. Just taking someone’s tweet and adapting it into a comic. That was so much fun that I partnered with John Reppion to produce comics every thursday as part of folklore Thursday. Partly this was just about making sure people know I exist (get some free comics on twitter, hope they get seen) and partly it was an exercise in writing – basically every tweet I’m adapting into a comic, and even though I’m drawing it I have to write it as an adaptation of a tweet.

Anyway. Still drawing Stringbags. And from this month on, folklore Thursday a one page strip every single Thursday. Yikes.

August

Finally! Savage Dragon came out – the issue I drew a short (6 page strip for). I drew this… maybe over a year ago? But it finally came out. Hurrah for being on a shelf!

And .. what’s this… I’m nearly finished Stringbags? Holy moley gaucamole! Hurrah for finally finishing this. Time to do something else!

(I mean I loved doing it, but you really do go through a whole “EXCITED! excited! working! getting.. near… end… oh god.. please let this be over” thing when you’re doing any work, but especially something this long)

Sept

Got me a three part Dredd for the Judge Dredd Megazine! Whoo hoo! Unfortunately it was paired with those words no artists ever wants to hear “just finish it in when you’re ready” NOOOOOO! That’s a passion killer! Firstly what usually happens is it starts to take forever – I CAN do 25 pages per month (god, I’ve done 49 pages in some months) but megazine dredd dips to 12 pages per month as is, without having a big open deadline. But the real problem is… well, basically I’m only paid for finished work. So the longer the work takes the less money I make. Oh well, I’m getting my dream gig of drawing Dredd so churlish to complain in any way.

You’ll see this strip in the new year.

Oct

Took on a day job! Well, sort of. Hub Games needed an in house artist and asked me if I was available for month of so. Like a idiot I thought – “HAH! Those fools won’t know I’ll do this during the day and go home and draw my comics! I’ll be RICH!”

Reader. That is NOT what happened. I worked full time hours every day, and was knackered. Not only that, but some days I was dropping wife to work and picking her up and looking after kids, and so was just shattered and barely able to function. Dredd got put on hold (which is what happens when you’re told “when you’re ready”) and I got no comics drawn.

Well, except for this very silly frankendredd story.

Nov

Finishing off the three part dredd. Did a fun little story board for tv (can’t talk about it) and started a five parter for 2000AD! Hurrah. Again “When it’s ready” (MURDEROUS!) Decided to pitch a cover for the dredd I’m drawing – it’ll be the cover for the third and final part. Classic Dredd type stuff. Bringing my cover count now to FIVE!

Dec

And here we are… Been drawing the new Dredd, thought why not pitch a cover and I did and I got it accepted and I really like it and now my 2000AD/Megazine cover count is SIX! (turns out I can just ask and sometimes they’ll say yes!)

Finished drawing part one, pencilled part two, took a break over xmas, went a bit bonkers and drew a Dredd script I’d written some time ago. Took it out of a drawer, blew the dust off it and just went “Sod it, PJ, you’re never submitting this, you might as well draw it yourself…” and I did. And I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much.

Flushed with that success (of sorts) I then wrote and drew and coloured a silly one page fan strip of The Mandalorian. Which went down really well with fans of the Mandalorian. So pleased with that.

Sometimes you’ve got to just DO and never mind sitting back and worrying about how people will respond to the thing. And that’s a lesson I need to take with me into 2020. Just DO.

Scripting the Chryslids

The story of the Chryslids goes back something like 10 years. I know, I know. I’ve a few story ideas that never got beyond a seed – it always felt like I could lay my hand on a dozen smarter writers than I could ever hope to be, so it felt pointless trying.

Last year though, I decided it was time to script some things. So I wrote it (and a few others) up into full scripts.

I fancied this was a good shoe-in for actually being worth pitching to Matt Smith (2000AD editor / Tharg’s represenatative on planet Earth.

So I sent it to a few pals, writers/editors/etc.

But I’m always wary that, well, honestly, I’m a decent comic artist role playing being a writer. So I got some good feedback (Rob William’s, in particular was very helpful – Cheers Rob!) and then… well, this last year really got away from me, in a way I wasn’t expecting it to.

So the story sat and sat and sat.

I drew a couple of Dredds back-to-back (for the Megazine, next year – with Arthur Wyatt, and for 2000AD also next year with Kenneth Neimand) and Christmas was coming and I decided to down tools over the holiday, but it’s hard to stop that motor running, then I remembered the script…

Originally it was called Midwhich Cuckoo Block – which is too on the nose for a title, but explains the premise really well, I thought “what if midwhich cuckoo’s but in dredd’s world” and went from there. It was also an excuse (and I will make no bones about this) to draw a bunch of characters I’d never ever get the chance to draw, I’m not gonna be the go-to guy for a Judge Death strip, sadly. (Well, maybe) so I tried to figure a way to include big name bad guys in there.

In hindsight there’s some obvious plot holes, and I didn’t get the facetime with any of the bad guys I originally wanted – but, I think, the pacing of it is so fast and the ending (which I really like – though it divided the readers I sent it to) feels weighty to me. Felt like something, so I was content to ignore them (I mean, the obvious one to me is: does no-one account for how many bullets dredd fires?)

Anyway, here’s the script (below), and the art is here and you can compare them and see just how much artist-me got fed up with writer-me writing rubbish. Hopefully I’m a good enough artist that even in this sketchy unfinished form the storytelling works and I could paper over the worst bits of my kack-handed scripting.

Dredd Chrysalids page 6

And there we have it. I’m gonna blog an almost redundant post after this one, that just puts all six pages together (including corrections I’ve done along the way – mostly minor things, but they all count). In the end, I’m fairly happy with it. Esp that last panel, it feels right to me. I might be wrong, but you know, whatcha gonna do?

I’d sent the script to a number of writer friends, back when I’d harboured ideas of pitching it to Tharg, and I got two responses about that end: dredd shouldn’t lose, this feels like dredd losing and the other (from a dredd writer) I like that dredd loses.

In the end, my gut tells me the ending with Dredd forgetting is the one that works.

I’ll post the script in a few days so you can see how much I varied it after the fact.

“But, PJ, Why DIDN’T you submit it to Tharg?”

Well, reader, I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel I had the chops neccessary to get a Dredd script accepted – even if it was brilliant (which I might not be, I dunno…) it felt like I needed to write a bunch of stories – of any sort – before I could expect to waste Matt’s time with a read of my script. Esp since I’m only playing at being a writer, I may never write again (though, maybe — I’ve two other Dredd story ideas that, like this one, have sat in the back of my brain for a long time, that maybe could do with a spit and a polish and some pencils… maybe NEXT christmas… we’ll see…)

Anyway, hope you liked it, please let me know – I’m not being paid for this, so the only positive I get is feedback…!

Now, on to the pencils and greywash…

Dredd Chrysalids page 5

Ok, took a detour, but back to it (can we get this finished before xmas? who knows… maybe last page will be drawn while downing mince pies and baileys…)

Ok, this page slightly disappointed I didn’t get more Judge Death in there – the dredd/death confrontation should be a bigger moment, but really feeling the limits of the 6 page format – still, one page to wrap this all together neatly… can I do it? we’ll see…

Let me know what you think – I’ve been pleasently surprised, there’s definately stuff where I’ve been rewriting it while drawing it, and it could be my mistake in the past to try and keep writing and drawing apart, and they (for me at least) are really rather tightly intwined.

Anyhue, here’s pencils and greywash …

The Mandalorian

Look, I’m a sucker for a monster-of-the-week story, or Lone hero wanders the earth, misunderstood and having adventures along the way. So, if I *had* seen the mandalorian it would probably be my favourite Star Wars thing. So much so, it may be the only time I’ve ever done a fan star wars strip… And here it is…

This came together VERY quickly.

While doing the Dredd strip I got it in my head I’d love – LOVE – to draw a Mandelorian comic (and especially in an official capacity) and I even posted this on twitter:

(the thing with drawing that Dredd, is I really want to write and draw a Mandalorian strip, but man does not feed his family by writing and drawing fan strips…)

4:25pm

So you know, I wanted to draw some sort of strip, and I was willing myself not to, but I thought if I could think of a one page Mando strip, that would be fun to do then … you know… I might just do it.. and lo, not 5 minutes later on twitter:

(I DID just think of a one page mandalorian story mind you…)

4:56pm

And it was this story pretty much exactly as you see it. (Though I was gonna cut to Mando being tossed and turned every time he speaks in panels 1-3 but in the end there wasn’t the room and I felt it worked without doing that).

Told my son about it (he’s 11 and loves baby yoda – seen it on the meme-a-verse) and he loved it which sealed the deal, I was gonna do it. But when, then I thought it’d be fun to run a poll on it on twitter, so I set a two hour poll and pushed it a few times, the results came in at 7ish (the time on the tweet is when I asked the question)


Mind you, I’d already pencilled the Mandalorian strip, in true Adrian Veidt fashion I’d literally finished it 26 minutes before the polls closed (wrote and drew the story exactly as I saw it). All that remained was inking, lettering and greywashing and here we are. Hope you like it!