Northern Ireland Comics Creator Club (NIC3)

I’ve set up a google groups Called “NI Comics Creator Club” (or you can call it NIC3)

The aim of the group is to give people who want to make comics or support those making comics in Northern Ireland somewhere to share information or just support.

It’s for anyone at any level or any age who wants to make marks that can be called comics. Whether that’s self published using a photocopier and a stapler (and figuring out the best way to do that) or using a printer (finding somewhere cheap!) or trying to break into 2000ad/Marvel/DC/your publisher of choice.

I’ve always found the NI comics scene to be one of lots of little silos, people who don’t know each other working away and figuring things out for themselves, so this is one way to try and harmonise that. Ideally we build a group and eventually we start supporting each other at shows and doing whatever it takes to help everyone get better at doing a thing they love.

You can join up here: https://groups.google.com/g/ni-comics-creator-club

It’s going to be very informal at first, but when we have enough people on there I’ll try and make some sort of regular posting happen.

Dead bird sketch

I’ve deactivated my twitter account.

I loved twitter, signed up in December 2006, and would be considered a high usage person (or a “saddo”).

Twitter has given me extraordinary experiences that could have only come about because of twitter – most recently, the current gig literally came about because I had a gap and posted on twitter “I need work!”. More on that as I can talk about it.

It was twitter I leaned on when my son was going through periods of anxiety and things were tough, and got to chat to Count Arthur Strong (from the self titled tv show- and extraordinarily funny show) , who sent me some CDs of his radio show to cheer him up, and I sent some comics to him in exchange. (he’s a comic reader!)

I spent a day hanging out with Jonathan Ross, because he saw my tweets about Clip Studio and wanted to learn how to use it.

And I’ve had thousands of small interactions with people I consider heroes that have brightened my day and just generally made my life richer, and even more with people I never knew but who’ve since become friends – I only did a podcast because I asked on twitter if anyone was interested in doing a podcast with me… that was over a decade ago and we had some fun doing that.

Of course it’s not all been amazing. I’ve found myself at the sharp end of a couple of pile ons (I quickly learnt, if you’re gonna reply to a high profile twitter user about politics, do so while wearing a very strong flame retardant suit – and turn off replies, and make your profile private)

And my own use of twitter has frequently adopted doom scrolling as my morning, deeply unhealthy routine.

The rot, for me, really set in pre-Trump, when it was obvious that outrage was becoming the currency, in an attention based world the one furious man is king.

But as long as you steered clear of that world, and avoided using words that could be triggers you could still have a pretty decent time, but it was hard to ignore the fact that the floorboards were starting to rot and moving to a different room in the party was only going to be a short term solution.

Musk’s purchase of twitter is going to be transformational, he likes the stuff about twitter that I consider its flaws and while Jack Dorsey and twitter’s previous owners were also not without their problems, Musk ownership and direction he’s steering the ship in are not something I find myself able to ignore.

So in the spirit of the best way to deal with a narcissist is to not deal with them at all, I’ve deactivate my twitter account. It was coming anyway, this has just been the final nail for me. I’ve watched friends disengage more and more with the platform as the far right successfully hijack language and weaponise kindness and consideration.

So, I will always be available here (or via email pjholden at-symbol gmail.com ) or I’ll be sending out an irregular newsletter via https://www.tinyletter.com/pjholden and while I’m on mastodon (@pauljholden@mastodon.social) and hive (@pauljholden – no idea how to link to it, sorry!) and instagram (@pauljasonholden) it’s likely my taste for social media has soured.

On the plus side it’s given me more time to read books, but I do miss everyone… well, maybe not everyone

(btw if this turns up on twitter, it’ll be because even if I’ve deactivated my twitter account it *might* reactivate to publish this… we’ll see…)

Friday Fixup: Rebel Yell

A Twitter snippet, that might go away – who knows with twitter at the moment!
An image of the above tweet exchange with a link to the original (just in case!)

Jim Stafford (website here: https://www.jimstafford.co.uk ) said “I’d love any tips you could give me to pimp up page 2 (the yelling heads). Other pages for context.”

Firstly, let me say this is good stuff, man, what can I tell you – drawing transformers is insanely hard. Adding character to boxy shaped vehicular robots? DIFFICULT.

And I suspect I can’t tell you much, but I can say what I’d do.

Page 2

So here’s what I’d do.

There’s a couple of philosophical points I wanna get out of the way first, and these are no criticisms of you (or anyone else) but purely what I would and wouldn’t do.

I approach all my art work with rhythm in mind, and how quickly people get bored. People get bored looking at incredible art if it’s page after page after page after page. We’re so hard coded to boredom, I once saw a tv show where a sea cucumber was set up beside a machine that poked it at exact regular intervals, the first couple of times the sea cucumber visibly flinched, the fourth/fifth time it reacted less and by the seventh or eight time it did nothing. Why? It was BORED. SEA CUCUMBERS get bored. We get bored as a mechanism to conserve energy and we do it at a fundamental deep low level.

(This is why reading a 22 page comic is easy and looking at the art of one is actually hard – also why if you’re going to convention with artwork to show an editor, six pages is enough, they’ll be bored around seven no matter how amazing it is)

Anyway I say all this because I think the rhythm on this page is pretty simple -Every face is a shout. Every face is a close up (and often repeated faces). By varying the head angle we can do two things, one we break up the monotony a bit (same character but a different angle maybe?) but we can also very subtly cue the reader about the relative positions of each character. The page before clearly shows where they all are in relation to each other, and so, for example, Rotorstorm (in panel 4) is to the LEFT of the captain of the ship, so we have him look to his left on panel 3.

The robot dude (I’m sorry I don’t know all of their names!) on panel 5 & 7 is situated above the captain so if our camera can get a perfect shot of the captain’s head it would be looking up at that robodude. And any opportunity for a dramatic up shot is to be welcomed.

I think colour has something to say in this page too. As things get more intense that colour could be changing over the page. pushing to red or orange or similair?

Plus you can pull dramatic lighting even when you dont have the lights to do it, dramatic uplighting on panel 8 helps sell the idea that robotransformerbot is looking at a very important screen.

Panels 5 & 7 I’ve also varied the emotional response on this cylctronicmegarobotcardude – panel 5 seemed funnier if it was delivered dry – like raised eyebrow, then panel 7 a more dramatic shout. Just giving each face a slightly different emotional reaction will help a lot.

Panel 9 I’d push that shout even bigger. BIG pull in to a big reaction. Helping the reader on an emotional rollercoaster on the page rather than a kind of straight line emotional train.

And that’s it. I’ll end with mu usual caveat, this is what I’d do at this moment in time, it’s not right (or even wrong) it’s just my opinion, and I hope it has some value (even if that value is in ignoring it and saying – no – I’m sticking to my convictions!)

If you’d like to be featured here you can hit me up in email via pjholden gmail.com – stick an @ between pjholden and gmail.com and you’re golden!

Chimpsky’s Law Ep 6

Oh no! Chimpsky, locked in his own tower block surrounded by brain controlled cits that are all friends and all, now, absolutely set on killing our ape chum!

Here’s the first few pages in black and white from this week’s 2000AD!

And since I’ve been pretty lax in posting Chimpsky stuff over the past several weeks it’s been running, here’s some fun background extra inf… for the most part Ken just described these scenes of Chimspky in the different areas of his Megablock as outside or inside, so that gave me some free reign to just start designing areas of a block we’ve never really seen, so food areas, an alien garden, shopping precincts, all that stuff. It also allowed me to do a fun little King Kong moment…

You’ll notice on this preview, that I somehow forgot to draw legs for some of the characters in the top right, this was fixed before print, but oops!

Also, Makrill! The Ocean Sent “It Stinks” absoloutly inspired by my eldest who must’ve been 11 or so when he was told about scented candles and he asked if there was one that smelled like Mackrell – which he loved – no, son. No. (He’s now 18 and insists it would’ve been a good idea…)

Bingewatch: The Devil’s Hour

Amazon Prime.

The Devil’s Hour is a six part Amazon Prime drama about a woman haunted by something, a child who seems to be absoloutly emotionless and a mother who talks to herself. All while Peter Capaldi sits in a prison cell being enigmatic and coy.

Prima facia it’s your standard crime drama with some hints at supernatural, and feels like a british version of True Detective Series 1 – and from this point forward – here be spoilers (after the drawing)

Not a great likeness, but a 15 minute Peter Capaldi painting done in clip studio

Ok, slowly but surely over the episode, through flashbacks, flashforward and things that look like hallucinations it feels like maybe this is a show trying to make us feel the madness of a central character and Capaldi’s serial killer schtick is maybe someone playing with the main characters mind.

It’s a story about a man who lives his life over and over again, each time trying to save more and more people, sometimes by letting the air out of tyre he doesn’t have to rewatch them crash their car because of a tyre blowout as he’d done in another life. Sometimes it’s by catching and killing someone before the kill someone else.

And I’ll be honest, even up to the last few minutes of the last episode I was thinking “wow, how are they gonna turn this around in to a normal crime drama and “it turns out it was all a dream” – and they don’t.

I loved it. Thought it was great, hauntingly supernatural with a time travel twist (though as Nick over on twitter pointed out, he has more or less the exact same powers as Moira McTaggert in Jonathan Hickman’s X Men run – Nick is a writer and has a cracking collection of short stories here.)

Unusually in a show with a single show stopper premise, it was also prepared to expand that out and look at different ramifications that could have. In fact, despite Capaldi being our protaganist it’s almost entirely focused on Lucy Chambers whose emotionless son seems to be able to see these other lives.

Clever premise, not exactly as youd think, and a good show which sort of leaves on ah “what will they do if they get a second series…” and in a way that explains why Chambers is the way she is.

Anyway, five stars.

Where’s that Wally (on Social Media)

So, in the current arrgh!-what-are-we-all-gonna do panic, people have started to move on to a variety of other social media platforms, making a nest for if twitter just implodes (and honestly, I’m not convinced it wont).

So here’s other places you can find me, but in all honesty, I’m hitting a point where I too old and tired to try and burn up another platform, so I don’t expect these to be anything other than unused life rafts.

Let’s start with instagram (which I have used more than the others)

https://www.instagram.com/pauljasonholden (I’ve deleted and recreated this one once already, which is why I’ve had to go the full “Paul Jason”)

Mastodon Social/@pauljholden Signed up to that one in 2017. Never used it.

https://ello.co/pjholden Oh this one is still working! Actually it looks pretty good, artist focused. Unlikely I’ll ever use it. Man, just checked and my earliest notification from it looks like sometime in 2014…

And, lastly twitter:

https://www.twitter.com/pauljholden

https://www.twitter.com/pjhtips

I’m eschewing facebook entirely (at least I’m nothing but a lurker on there, no friends, don’t want any friends, just want to occasionally look at some lovely art by some artists I like)

Twitter has been an absolutely invaluable place for me to find work, and be offered work (current gig, in fact, came about precisely because of twitter) and so, as much as I’ve been tempted to I’m unlikely to delete the account, but I HAVE given up the blue tick of validation, which to be honest, weighed heavily on me for a number of reasons – even pre Musk. It always seemed silly I had a blue tick and a number of much better known writers/artists didn’t have one, and getting one seemed weirdly arbitrary. Post Musk I felt like a lot of the criticism I had of how Musk was handling the *new* blue tick of verification (which isn’t verified beyond, you know, you paying for it) was easy to interpret as me going “but my blue tick is special and so I don’t want anyone else to have one” – removing the tick has made me feel weirdly relieved about criticising what’s going on and lifted a slight weight of whether twitter was a job or not.

My threshold on facebook – that tipping point where I went – NO. NO more. Was when I was looking at some people who wanted to friend me and I was spending days, weeks, months agonising over whether to friend them and I realised it had become an unpaid job, helping facebook gather accurate information about it. It was the unpaid part that got my goat, so it went.

The thoughts of paying twitter to actually help it give me more focused advertising seemed bonkers.

Anyway, blue tick gone now. Faint feeling of relief.

Back to my first love of blogging, maybe. I started blogging before blogs existed. Hand coding entries on a static web page. WordPress is a bit easier. A bit.

(if you’ve got a tick and you want rid of it, the answer is change your username to something else and then change it back and boom! blue tick be gone!)

This week in TV: SAS Rogue Heroes

A rough sketch of "Jock" Lewes, David Sterling and Paddy Mayne.

I’ve pretty much binged all of SAS Rogue Heroes this week, based on the true story of the origins of the SAS. And look, honestly, I’m deeply conflicted, I’m not sure real characters should feature in gung ho whiz bang boys own adventure stories about WARS! (which this show clearly is, even as it also suggests that the characters were not unaffected by what was done by them) and a lot of the real people in real life were … not pleasant, and this arguably strips all the unpleasantness away and leaves very much movie style heroism.

BUT the whole show is a bag of fun. WWII by way of the James Gunn suicide squad, I suppose. Mixing the music of George Formby with Ace of Spades, and the action sequences are visceral fun.

Plus, it did make me pick up the book it was based on and start reading it, so I’m certainly not taking it as read that the people we see on screen are the people they were in real life (and certainly even the books say a lot of these guys were largely unknowable and by all accounts, frequently just awful human beings).

(The real characters in war stories is something Garth Ennis avoids, when he does include them it’s usually as side characters who if they speak usually do so with the actual words attributed to them in historical records)

Anyway, you should check it out if that’s your bag. And I suspect if you’re following me on twitter or blogs or my work at all, it probably is your bag…

Short and Curious By The Numbers

A couple of days ago I decided to finally collect a whole bunch of my little silly one / two page strips together into a single collection. Bundling some one page future shock style stories, the holiday strips and a couple of autobio comics (incl the one about my mum) and sticking it up in gumroad.com It’s called PJ Holden’s Short and Curious (a title I was very pleased to have come up with).

It’s priced at free or pay what you like (owing to my inexperience with gumroad I’d initially set the price as $2+). Anyway I have some numbers, firstly my plan wasn’t to make money (making money in comics is hard, and I’ve seen smart publishers lose money on comics, so no way would this comic hit any where near what I’d make if I were paid to do it)

But I was curious to see how much I’d make and how many people would download it.

First of all, lots of people paid way over the odds – thank you, you crazy fools! I think I averaged around $4 per sale (many were more generous than that!)

So there two sets of numbers – one is from twitter. How many people see a tweet and click a link.

So the initial tweet has these figures:

Impressions: 22,067
Engagements: 480
Detail expands: 135
New followers: 0
Profile visits: 24

I have a following of about 15k followers on twitter, and in order to get these numbers I had to push QTs of the original tweet every few hours for a day or two.

Slightly depressing. 22k impressions for 480 engagements is 2.1% rate!

So … is it not hitting the right people? I dunno. I could risk some promotion on twitter, and that be worth playing. When it comes to gumroad and the comic the figures look like this:

Twitter2033014.8%$135
Direct, email, IM44818.2%$28.17
pauljholden.gumroad.com6116.7%$5
bing.com200%$0
com.google.android.gm100%$0
forums.2000ad.com1100%$0
lm.facebook.com600%$0
m.facebook.com900%$0

I’ve been told by a few people that a 14.8% conversion from looking to buying is pretty damn impressive. So thats great! (and is even higher when people are emailed the link)

The country breakdown is pretty interesting too:

🇺🇸 United States353$8
🇬🇧 United Kingdom19225$123.17
🇫🇷 France21$3
🇮🇪 Ireland103$11
🇬🇷 Greece21$3
🇦🇺 Australia51$5
🇳🇿 New Zealand63$15
🇿🇦 South Africa11$0
🇩🇪 Germany41

Somehow the United States, where I’d assume the majority of people might have come from, only had 35 visitors and only 3 purchases – THE SAME NUMBER OF PURCHASES AS NEW ZEALAND. That’s peculiar – surely? (I mean not that they’re the same, but rather, that the US is so low…) I’m not sure whether that’s just because I have a lot less US followers than I realised or the comic wasn’t being seen during US awake hours

So I’ve made a grand total of $168 (I think that’s after fees) but by the time that gets to me, maybe £120? at any rate, that’s actually enough pocket change to print the thing up and drop it off to my local comic shops or other venues that MIGHT be able to sell it, and really, that’s the fun of self publishing, isn’t it?

Holiday comics day 7

Holibobs comics day 7 “The Tall Story”

This was a silly little idea that I had simply from the notion of a hard boiled detective describing some really long legs (you know the sort “she was the kind of dame whose legs had their own zip code” sort of nonsense) believe it nor, page 2, the punchline, didn’t occur until I was describing the story to my son, Thomas (even at age 14 a prolific maker of comics) and then I realised that oh my god, I could make that joke – it was all there! And he literally said “oh my god dad, you can’t do that joke  that’s terrible” (but he was laughing and aghast, the perfect reaction). My describing it as “and that’s how the dream ended” is a bit of a fib, it wasn’t a dream, obviously, just a silly idea – but that sort of justified all of it.

I definitely enjoy cartooning and feel liberated to do so when I’m the central character, almost like it’s a license to be silly – or at least be less precious. Once I’m writing another character I tend to clamp up and over think, but when it’s me its] just flows out (even when it’s super ridiculous).

over The course of the week doing these has been pretty valuable, I think, I went from “i dunno if I can write something bup it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit crap looking” to “actually I think I could write any stupid story I can think of and draw it quickly as a comic and it’ll look decent”. Certainly it’s not something I’d expect to send to 2000ad, but actually if it turned up in the right venue I’d not be offended by it (Laurence Campbell has suggested some of them wouldn’t have looked out of place in deadline)

I know I’m gonna lose momentum though, holidays coming to a close (three days at home) and then Iol be on holiday again in Paris, but I won’t have any opportunity to work then, though I might still bring my sketch pad and some pens in the off chance.

anyway, hope you liked them!