I tend to make new year’s resolutions every year, they don’t hold for long, but I like to do them. The last couple of years, unsurprisingly, my resolutions have largely been of the form “just do something”
Also, there’s a tiny part of me feels resolutions are a young man’s game – when you’ve yet to be beaten down by the world with it’s harsh reality and your inability to meld it to the shape you really want. BUT… but… I still like the discipline.
Last year, I noted:
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.
How’d I do? as expected I stayed organised for a few weeks of every month, I spectacularly failed to try not to work all the time – ultimately I’ve ended up working more this year than any years previously (normally I’ll find myself with gaps between projects, this year I’ve found myself with projects piling on other projects)
Keep on top of boring tax stuff and invoices? er… invoices, check (uhm except for two invoices I’ve just realised I should have done mid Dec). Boring tax stuff? Nope. All last minute as usual. Try better next year Paul, for God’s sake.
So, this year:
Keep better notes on work done – I wanna make sure I know how much work Ive done at the end of a year – I’ve been trying to do that, and been reasonable happy with the results, but it’s a slog. I suspect a good system might be at the start of every month to put a post it note on my cintiq, tick off page after page and then stick it in a book when it’s done. We’ll see.
I’d like to get some more work at DC – not entirely sure how to turn that into a resolution though, I mean I’ve no control over whether they give me work, but I can control how often I badger them with updates/looking for work emails. So I should probably do that. I think I’ve a gained a bunch of good will at DC stepping up doing Soul Plumber and helping it stay on track.
More Chimpsky – that’s just a question of me badgering Ken Neimand and hoping 2000Ad have a window. That’s a pretty nice place to be.
Write some more– I wrote a couple of shorts, both had great feedback/reactions, and I’d like to do more. I’ve a bunch of half written horror shorts for pitching to 2000ad and I need to polish one of those up (having had one already accepted, I’m hoping that’s not just a fluke/a mercy commission). Maybe when I’ve put Lion and the Eagle and Soul Plumber both to bed.
Creator Owned work! I’d like to do something Creator owned at Image. I mean, it’d be from a standing start if it were to happen, but even getting a pitch seriously considered at Image would be good this year (and this is not me writing/drawing something, purely art).
Avoid COVID – man alive, I’m doing my best. Triple jabbed (and I’ll take a fourth, fifth and sixth if they’re offering) I do not want covid. At this point it’s the fear of Long Covid and what it can do, I’ve seen how other’s have been impacted by it and that is something I just don’t want.
AND… you know… that might be enough. Come back next year and we’ll see how far any of those things have progressed.
Have a great New Year’s Eve and an even better New Year!
As I write this, it’s my birthday. One of those non-numbers, the important ones are everything up until 18, then 21, then 25, then 30 then you’re counting in 10s – 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and then 85, 90, 91, 92, and up it goes year on year until you’re dead. Happening as it does in the nothing-time between Christmas and New Year.
Anyway, I’m 52 this year. New 52, if you’re a DC Comics reader that’ll mean something, if you’re not it won’t. It’s a non-year. Only thing of significence I can say is I think I started blogging around ’99, aged 29, and broke in to comics about 2001, so this has been the the 20th year as a professional, but I left my day job in about 2008 – so have spent far more of my adult life as a working comic professional than not – but it’s weird, your brain sort of locks in things you know about yourself as “facts” when you’re in your twenties, so in my head I’m still Paul-wants-to-draw-comics (I’m also still a 32” waste, and fit enough to run everywhere a normal person would walk – sadly none of those things are true any more). Some deep part of me hasn’t fully accepted that this is my day job now and that no-one will take it away from me (though they might just refuse to give me more work…)
This past year though, has been pretty good to me, I started off not sure how it was gonna go, I think I’d started the drawing of the Lion and the Eagle, but I’d also got some 2000ad work out of the way, having done two covers that came out last year (doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve only really drawn about 6 covers for 2000ad in my career…!)
Chimpsky and Dept K came out, two series co-created by me – and ran concurrently in 2000ad for a while (this is beginning to be the story of my life, work I do running at the same time and effectively competing with itself, if you think it’s bad now, wait til the new year – oh boy!)
Now Dept K and Chimpsky are both Dreddworld tales, but it’s still cool to have actually made something that hopefully will have long term legs in 2000ad. Next stop I’d like something wholly new, but that’s a hard task to master.
Most of the year’s has been spent drawing Lion and the Eagle, and, 120 pages in I’ve still 40 pages to go. But I’ve also found something at DC – wasn’t the plan at all, and my fortune comes from my good friend John McCrea’s misfortune, so it’s tough to enjoy the opportunity knowing it’s born out of that, but John got hit by long covid – he’s fine, but one of the major effects of long covid seems to be a sort of brain fog that can make working/thinking hard – and contrary to rumours, drawing comics DOES require a certain amount of brain power. John was still able to ink, but had found pencilling slower going, so asked me to help, slowly this has gone from a couple of pages of pencils to peniclling and inking most of the book – again wasn’t the plan (John is getting better and back to work though). In the plus column, it’s meant this year I’ve had Soul Plumber in print, and hopefully it’ll be collected next year. It’s a fun book. It’s also helped me show DC that I’m a man with a pencil and an ability to both do the job and do it in a timely manner, something I’m hoping will lead to more opportunities down the line.
Other things of real note: I finally wrote and sent a script to 2000ad, one quick rewrite later it was commissioned and I drew it. (It’s a short four page horror tale) I’d also worked up about half a dozen other ideas to varying levels of fit-and-finish. I’d like to do more writing, but honestly, the past three months has been the busiest of my life for drawing. I also wrote a fun little one page horror script that may lead to something fun eventually, we’ll see.
I wish I could put a number on how many pages I’ve drawn this year, I THINK it’s in the 200-300 realm. I know next year there should be about 240 pages of my work in print, albeit I still have to draw about 80 of them (and I’ve drawn about 100 of them in the past three months) I feel like it’s safe to say I’ve drawn 200+ pages of comics this past year. A good haul, I’ve never had a year with as much work. I’m hoping I can keep the pace, and find projects rather than have projects stumble on me.
On a personal note, I’ve let the blog slide, I have a patreon, I’ve also let slide a bit – I’ve used it to post stuff I’m currently doing, since so much of it has to be kept generally hidden until launch, so patreon is a good way to just … talk about it.
I still would like to get blogging back on track and twitter – well, every year I feel like this I suppose – but twitter feels like it’s evolving beyond being something I enjoy, but I’ve said that before and stayed with it. Anyway, last dregs of birthday gone now. New Year’s Eve coming up, and I’ve said it before, it’s easily my favourite time of the year. New beginnings, things you’ve done wrong you can get right, new habits can form, you can believe you can change (even if you can’t actually change).
Media Release — DC HORROR PRESENTS: SOUL PLUMBER ramps up the stakes, and starts to assemble a new horror… and a human body. Blorp, a strange creature with an unsettling affinity for the human race has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, and to try and blend in is putting together a human body for itself. This invader from beyond the veil has one mission…but what is it? And how can Edgar and Elk put a stop to it?
The grimy, gross body horror and humor of SOUL PLUMBER has hit a chord with its audience of comic book fans who grew up on PREACHER and THE INVISIBLES:
“A wild action-horror hybrid with an unhinged premise and even crazier characters.” – CBR
“It seems a little strange to call a horror comic rooted in religion and populated by uncomfortable characters with art and colors that make one feel like they need to wash their hands after reading them a masterpiece… but that’s what Soul Plumber is.” –Comicbook.com
“Soul Plumber #1 is a grimy, hilarious, and deceptively smart opening to this blasphemous mini-series.” – Monkeys Fighting Robots
Now, in Issue #3, on sale December 7th, artist PJ Holden (JUDGE DREDD) steps up with John McCrea to draw the scuzzy, scummy world of SOUL PLUMBER. DC is excited to preview inks from the upcoming issue:
AfterShock Comics have announced “The Lion and the Eagle,” a prestige format miniseries by writer Garth Ennis, artist P.J. Holden, colorist Matt Milla, and letterer Rob Steen. Set during World War II, the book will tell the story of the Chindits, a British special forces unit that were active in Burma during the Japanese occupation in 1944. It follows Colonel Keith Crosby and Doctor Alistair Whitamore, two veterans of the British retreat in 1942, who are eager to reclaim the colony. “But neither the jungle nor the foe have gotten any less savage, and when the shooting starts and the Japanese descend on the smaller British force in their midst, every man will be tested to his limit.”
Ennis said, “The conflict between the British and Japanese in Burma is almost lost to history now; indeed, the British soldiers who fought there came to refer to themselves as The Forgotten Army. That’s partly what drew me to their story, a chance to keep alive the memories of the men who faced Imperial Japan. There’s also the political aspect, as the two warring nations find themselves fighting for possession of Burma and India, two countries who by and large would have preferred to have neither of these foreign powers on their soil.”
P.J. Holden, who has collaborated with Ennis on other war comics like “World of Tanks,” said, “as ever with Garth, as long as I’m sticking to the script it’s a joyful experience, it’s only when I veer off it that I land in trouble. The team at AfterShock have just let me get on with it. My job has been making sure I tell Garth’s story to the best of my ability, and they’ve allowed that. It’s been a long process bringing this one out, any book of this length will be, but I think it’s really stretched what I’m capable of doing and I think it’s the best thing Garth and I have done together.”
“The Lion and the Eagle” #1 will be released online and in comics stores on February 16, 2022, and will retail at $7.99 for 48 pages. The (currently unreleased) main cover will feature art by Tim Bradstreet, while the incentive cover (pictured) was provided by Keith Burns. For more from the creative team, check out the official Q&A after the preview below:
This is a relatively unknown part of the war, can you talk a bit on what the book is about, why this story resonated with you and why you want to tell it?
GARTH ENNIS: “The conflict between the British and Japanese in Burma is almost lost to history now; indeed, the British soldiers who fought there came to refer to themselves as The Forgotten Army. That’s partly what drew me to their story, a chance to keep alive the memories of the men who faced Imperial Japan. There’s also the political aspect, as the two warring nations find themselves fighting for possession of Burma and India, two countries who by and large would have preferred to have neither of these foreign powers on their soil.
Finally there’s the sheer intensity and savagery of the combat. The British made what seemed like a bold strategic play in airlifting a massive force of highly trained men behind enemy lines; unfortunately they failed to reckon with either the tenacity of the Japanese or the sheer lethality of the jungle itself. The war in the Far East was famously lacking in humanity, with none of the occasional civility that leavened the slaughter of the Anglo-American-German conflict. The Japanese neither gave nor asked for quarter, and the British force soon found themselves in an unusually vicious struggle to the death.”
Can you talk about working with Garth and the team at AfterShock?
PJ HOLDEN: “Well, as ever with Garth, as long as I’m sticking to the script it’s a joyful experience, it’s only when I veer off it that I land in trouble. The team at AfterShock have just let me get on with it. My job has been making sure I tell Garth’s story to the best of my ability, and they’ve allowed that.
It’s been a long process bringing this one out, any book of this length will be, but I think it’s really stretched what I’m capable of doing and I think it’s the best thing Garth and I have done together.
Can you talk about the relationship between the two leads and how that friendship will be tried/tested during the plot?
GARTH ENNIS: “Keith Crosby is an English officer of great ability and experience, albeit a tad young to command the large force he’s been given. Alistair Whitamore is his Chief Medical Officer, a very decent man but not a natural soldier by any means. As Keith says, on paper the two shouldn’t really be friends at all, but they share a certain sense of humor and they’re united by a grim experience during the retreat through Burma a couple of years before – when Keith helped Alistair survive in quite hellish circumstances. This is what’s now going to cause them problems, however, as both officers are determined that the men under their command won’t suffer as others have – but with very different priorities (military command vs. medical care), the two soon find themselves in serious conflict. When things get truly desperate, Alistair starts to find the choices he has to make simply unbearable.”
Can you talk about your approach to the artwork?
PJ HOLDEN: “Well, Garth and I have worked together a few times now (actually, I think this will be 10 years of various war stories in a variety of settings), so I have a system. Largely it’s heads down and do the homework, research the period, find 3D models of things and get the costumes right, then characters – characters are really important and much trickier when you’re working in a war story. Primarily because, well, you might have a cast of thousands but the upshot is that the characters you expect to spend a lot of time with are dressed nearly identical, often have similar body types and need to be identifiable up close (which is relatively easy) but also at a distance – again, much harder. It’s a tightrope. My normal art style leans a little cartoonier than most and so my characters, even when drawn realistically tend to be a little warmer and more open (I think) than anything too hard edged, and it means I get to push their characteristics a little further. But again, all caveated by the fact you’re drawing real situations, real people (in some cases) and real things.”
How has it been so far working with artist PJ Holden?
GARTH ENNIS: “Working with PJ was a terrific experience, as usual. This is our fifth or sixth war story together, and his storytelling, sense of character and ability to capture action are all as finely tuned as ever.”
PJ HOLDEN: “This book is a long one, too, so I’ve been trying to do it in bitesize chunks. Penciling 15-20 pages then inking those 15-20 pages, 40 pages per chapter is a heck of a long book. Plus I’ve gone entirely digitally with this book, so the pencils are actually digital pencils and the inks digital inks. But I come, like Garth, from a background of British war comics, printed on newspaper and with a gritty texture, which I try and keep in mind. Even when digital inks allow me to be needle sharp, I still want that rough edge.”
Do you have a favorite page/panel and if so, why?
PJ HOLDEN: “This is tough, because, well, picking any favorite is always a hard choice. I think there’re some spreads in the book that are pretty impressive – even if I say so myself – I think I’ve been able to do both scale (hundreds of planes, thousands of soldiers, miles of jungle) and personal, close up faces, tight, important character work and, importantly, carry them off. So I’m pretty proud of everything in the book, easily some of my best work to date, I think.”
Saw this tweet on twitter and so I tweeted out some thoughts, added them here cus it’s really more of a blog post anyway.
Here’s my advice on writing: Future shocks are stories with a sting in the tail, but that’s not the limit. Look for a twist every single page – more if you can. Change your scene, make time jump, do something interesting, the comic four pager has a very specific grammar, and you’ve got to use that.
Grab the reader as quick as you can, jump in to the action, then start revealing elements, and on each reveal say something about the story, make the reader rethink it.
The twists can be big or small. Keep the reader thinking they’ve worked it out then BLAM hit them with another twist until the final when, they suddenly realise they’ve been staring at the answer the whole time.
I did a “create comics workshop” and we’d play with writing futureshocks, talking through twists, taking a basic concept and playing with it, turning it around and figuring out what goes where. Future shocks tend to be plot driven, but you should tie it with something that means something emotionally.
If you have a story already written start thinking about how you can ramp it up – both by adding more twisty complexity to it and by making it much more emotional. What is the theme of the story? figure that out and reinforce it (the theme might be “families can be suffocating” or “you’ve got nothing without your health” (I mean it can be literally anything, so don’t limit yourself to these trite ones I’ve written).
Another thing I love is trying to fit as much story in to those four pages as possible. Cross vast distances, bring the reader through decades. Or slow it down, four pages that tell a story of 11 seconds.
The great thing about the short story format is you can deliver an entire world, so do so!
What I’m saying is they should be fun. Have fun. Then write your synopsis, a good synopsis will be your lodestone guiding you through lots of rewrites, making sure you’ve not padded the story or lost your way. You’ll be amazed to, after writing the story and writing the synopsis how much of the script isn’t germane to the story and that’s an opportunity to go in, excise those bits and add extra stuff that really emphasis the emotionally stuff.
Now, my advice on drawing…
Make the story understandable and readable without dialogue.
Show your finished art to someone who doesn’t read comics and ask them to explain to you what’s happening – if they can do that then you’ve done a good job. If they can’t then there’s something you need to fix. If they go “where did that guy come from” that’s a problem. If they say “are they indoors” you’ve done it wrong – if they can’t tell where / when the story is happening you need to fix these things AND storytelling is MORE (SO MUCH MORE) important than whether your art “looks nice” – I’ve seen amazing art that can’t tell a story for toffee and incredible storytelling that actually when you dig in to it is pretty crude looking.
As someone with a passing interest in this stuff, I have considered this question. What I’m suggesting isn’t – by any means definitive – but it’s an explanation of why I draw things the way I draw them, but first, let me talk more generally about my approach to Dredd.
I would rather draw something that explains the story and gives an emotional punch more than something that is the actual science of the world. As, I think Russell T Davis said of the Sonic Screwdriver (and I’m both paraphrasing and unsure if he’s the right writer) nobody wants to watch a Doctor Who episode where he spends much of it figuring out how to unlock dozens of doors, so the sonic screwdriver just magically does it.
So let’s start with that stupid/amazing/vision-obscuring/visionary helmet. Designed by Carlos Ezquerra to look like an executioner’s hood, and refined and refined over the years by list of the giants of British Comics, including Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Brendan McCarthy, and you know, nearly every UK british artist has had a go.
What’s striking about Dredd’s helmet is just how malleable it is, how open to interpretation and how iconic each artist can make it. Here’s a fun link, Steve Green takes a bunch of Dreddworld helmet designs and renders them in 3d, including Brendan McCarthy outrageously flared helmet, which on first glance I’d’ve said you could never make in 3d, but it works really well.
Personally my helmet design probably comes mostly from Steve Dillon, but also – and hold on to your Dredd-hats – partly from the Stallone Dredd movie.
From Dillon the general Dredd shape, from Stallone movie various frills, but also an opening mechanisim at the back, as well as a little extra padding at the back of the neck…
Elements, I’ve always presumed that came from practicalities of wearing the damn thing.
I’ve banged on about my approach to Dredd’s uniform already, so if you’re interested, that is here.
Now, as to the science, I tend to think of Dredd’s helmet as delivering information directly to Dredd’s eyes/ears, essentially super-vision, a Heads up display – possibly fed from tiny cameras around the head (If you’ve ever used an oculus rift in its camera mode, you’ll see how cool that can look), literal eyes in the back of his head. Linked to his gun too, so it would be fairly possible for him to turn his head fractionally, but have accurate vision 180deg behind him and to fire at a target without missing.
I’d also imagine that helmet would reduce/increase the information feed to Dredd depending on what’s happening. Dredd on a bike gets a HUD that’s different to Dredd on the street. Dredd with gun out, will get information about targets that he can acquire and suggesions for ammo type. Once the gun is ‘hot’ it’ll switch to a simpler mode.
Vision augmented, and the same will be true of his auditory input. (And this may even have some sort of neural link directly to him (this, by the way, almost all falls under the heading of “fan wank” – ie, 90% of readers won’t care, but some – SOME LIKE ME – get really excited about shit like this)
NOW! On to the gun…
Here’s how I see it: Dredd’s gun is essentially a super sophisticated 3d printer. It holds multiple ingredients for building multiple types of bullet.
The device is primed (usually through spoken command, though it will default to smartly identifying the type of bullet) theory: maybe cadets are trained to shout out the bullet type so other Judges can have a better situational awareness. Dredd shouts “Armour piercing”? everyone else goes with Armour Piercing.
(Again, this is very much fan wank – the real reason Dredd shouts out the bullet type is so the reader knows what Dredd has fired…)
Why the shells? Well, the real reason is: they look cool. The in-my-head reason is that some of the raw material (but not all) is held in cartridges, and so they eject after they’re spent.
The question I have is, is it like my colour printer : where if you don’t have yellow ink you can’t (for some reason) print black and white. If you lack ingredient X can you still use bullet Y that doesn’t use it, or is the gun out of ammo?
I suspect some ingredients are common to all bullet types (projectile types? is bullet the right word?)
But that’s it. Now you can just ignore all of this, because, let’s face it, it’s just my fanciful head canon, that I’m just as liable to ignore myself if there’s a more interesting way to draw it.
The one thing I can’t explain, is why the Judge Eagle would sometimes flip on to the wrong shoulder…
UPDATE: I’ve turned on comments if you want to pop your own “How does the science of Dredd work” theory in here…
And here we go, the last episode of Chimpsky! (for the time being!)
For fans of inside baseball, page 1 panel 2 had me switch the angle around.
And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed it. Ken has a few ideas in mind for where to go to next, and personally I hope we get to see far more of our super smart simian pal, but it’s really up to the readers – and Tharg – TELL THARG IF YOU LIKED IT! (I mean, you could tell him if you don’t, too, I suppose – but what kind of horrid rotter would do that?)
well, it’s our last night in the Loft (in Ballyliny) tomorrow we head off to my mother-in-laws house to avoid the last of the 12th of July celebrations, coming as they are the day after England’s defeat at the Euros.
It’s the location used by Game of Thrones for part of the Iron Islands. Small and winding road takes you down to the port, and it’s tiny, but very pretty – and just choca-blocked with cars. Go early if you ever fancy, though, truth to tell, unless you’re taking a boat out (£15 per person) it’s unlikely you’ll find much to do so the turnover in parking is pretty rapid, usually someone leaving.
After that we headed to Ballycastle to dip in the sea, but, turns out the weather… well winter was coming (or at least some horrible dark clouds). That’s Northern Ireland for you.
After that, home, popped to Bushmills for a Chinese. We don’t really get chinese food any more, once I went gluten free it was impossible to get chinese food that definitely didn’t contain gluten. So everyone got that and I ended up with a good fellas frozen gluten free pizza. Yes, it’s an unfair world.
Then we watched the football. I’ve never been in to football, you’ve probably guessed. It honestly does nothing for me – not watching it, not playing it. But my wife likes it (sometimes) and the kids (occasionally) enjoy it, so we all sat down to watch the match. And let’s move on from that.
On another front, once again I thought I’d give video games a go! I have apple arcade, so I’ve played a couple of rounds of solitaire. It’s good when it’s easy, first hard game and I’ve lost all interest in playing solitaire.
Drawing is about the only thing I’ve ever been able to turn my attention to and keep it focused on that, but that’s got harder and harder as the years go by. Sometimes that’s my own internal brainfarts moving me hither and yon and sometimes it’s just run of the mill family stuff.
Anyway, have got about half way through a book – John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes, which, I admit, is only about 236 pages. BUT I TAKE THE WIN WHERE I CAN.
And have done zero writing – aside from these blog posts.