So, this week, I’ve been amusing myself by making little bits and bobs, depending on what’s been on my mind. I meant to do one a day, since they’re really easy thing for me to do, but it didn’t quite work out that way. There were two I meant to make that I ended up leaving to tonight. So, here’s what I did this week:
Andrew Hickey was having problems with Adobe, to the point of considering ritual suicide. I suggested that he should leave a .pdf in the manner of the Punisher’s War Journal, as it appeared in Punisher 2099. The last page a terrible scrawl that reads something along the lines of “to you who find this, I charge you to finish my work”. No, I have no idea why that of all references entered my head. This lead to a some riffing where Andrew, Holly and myself played with the idea as if it were a sort of Sirens of Titan/Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy/Red Dwarf bit, with a .pdf stating “Adobe killed me” being found in the future and starting a war over it’s interpretation. I suggested that a time traveler would come back to find Andrew, his messiah, only to discover that he’s just some guy, and that Andrew would end up with a future freeloader. I think that would make an amusing basis for a future full-on comic, but for now, there’s just this:
Next, a Twitter discussion regarding Grant Morrison’s JLA led to a multi-party agreement that Zaurel was a great character. And So:
After that, I got lazy. I had intended to follow that on with caricatures of Messrs Gillen and Ewing, as a token of my appreciation for their Thought Bubble patronage (no sign of horrible side effects as of yet, hooray!). I have no excuse, other than the fact that I really wanted to play video games.
Since I’ve been lying low all day with a wee touch of a cold, I figured I should get on that backlog:
While I’ve been under a blanket feeling sorry for myself, I’ve been reading some comics. Mr Volume elected to gift me with all of Brandon Graham‘s King City. There was a point aaaaaaaages ago where he’d loaned me a bunch of comics, including James Stokoe‘s Orc Stain and some issues of Prophet, which Graham was involved in. Now, I’d been asking him about King City and he wasn’t sure it was something I’d like, but I guess he gave me these things to test the waters. I have to say, I thought that they were some spectacularly produced comics, but they didn’t quite click with me. I would have no hesitation to suggest someone try them, because they are just fantastically put together. I can see myself maybe dipping back into Orc Stain at another point, even just to admire the art. So, yeah, we were talking about this on that there Twitter, when Volume made a mistake, and didn’t @ me, and suddenly it was like there was a condemnation of King City in his timeline. He quickly corrected his position to assure Mr Graham that there was no slam intended, but merely a hesitation in a personal recommendation to a particular individual. I believe Mr Graham was cool about the misunderstanding.
So, anyways, as part of my assemblage of birthday gifts, Mr Volume gave me the entirety of King City in it’s single issue format, as I believe he now has the trade. Despite his reservations, I was still curious about the series. Curled up in bed, I began to read it today. I pretty much plowed through it. It’s absolutely brilliant. The mixture of it’s unusual pacing, weird concepts and humour kept me bouncing all the way through it. I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s not read it, but there was a moment in the last issue where the story shifted gears – no, that’s a lie, it was consistent with everything that had gone on before. What I’m trying to get at is that the story didn’t quite do the expected thing. Instead of building to a huge Hollywood final act, it continued to amble on exactly as it had for eleven previous issues. The climax was almost incidental. That easily made it all the more charming to me. Without further ado, I present my take on Joe and Earthling:
Right. That’s everything. Time for a cup of tea, methinks.
So, when I sat down to make Everyone’s Felt Like This Once I pulled together a selection of about thirty old Wake Up Screaming strips and evaluated their potential to be in such a collection. As can be seen in the finished product, the majority were four-panel gag comics that were largely self contained. What that meant was I had to pass on a load of favourites that were made in a much more free-form style. Often there were quite random panel arrangements, and I’m blaming Kyle Baker‘s Why I Hate Saturn for the fact that I sometimes put the dialogue outside the panel. It was a way to break up big conversations by having a close-up of the character speaking next to a huge chunk of dialogue that would have drowned a panel, or had to be chopped up over an excessive number of them.
The bigger issue was that many of the comics contained callbacks to traits that were established in older strips. In some cases, there were things taken as read from the original version of Wake Up Screaming, which featured character models from 2001. Those are half the size of the current ones, which I’ve used since 2003. Upon said evaluation, it became clear that certain aspects of the characters weren’t clear from the collected material. Rebus in particular has some of the most obvious omissions. Although he appeared in several strips, as it was he came across more weary than angry. There were no strips that depicted his violent side, which made up the bulk of the material about him. Ask the seven people who read the original comics about him and he’d be “the bitter one who wallops people with a claw hammer”. He seemed quite mellow going by the bits in the collection. The brunt of jokes by Grant and Brodie, rather than giving much worse than he ever got. Yeah, I was planning to add a character page, but that felt like cheating to cover the cracks. I had to make a whole new strip to show that side of his character.
There was also a knock-on effect from the selection which saw an entire character ejected from the cast. There had been a fourth male member of the cast, a former IT student called Ferris. A graduate now working as a programmer, Ferris was in full time employment, annoying Rebus. Though, sometimes he acted as Rebus ally, as his work ethic rubbed Grant and Brodie’s slacker ethos up the wrong way. The last batch of produced material from 2007 had him being evicted from the flat as I’d ran out of any ideas on what to do with his character, and decided that things would be more interesting if I brought in a new roommate who was much more antagonistic to Grant and Brodie. I never actually finished that storyline. And forgotten the replacement’s name…
Ferris was only slated to appear in one comic on my collection shortlist, and he wasn’t doing anything that showed how he interacted with the rest of the cast. He was just an additional face and it felt like an acceptable move to replace him with another member of the cast.
Compare and contrast this with the sample page here.
My other choices led to some jigging around of the material. At first glance of the old strips, it doesn’t take long to see that most of the girls were built from one character model, with the hairstyle being the biggest change. I reworked them to make it less obvious, which meant that there was some major alterations to the parts where they appeared, in addition to clearing up the mess of the various fonts I’d used in the past. Since that was the case, I made some decisions regarding some of the comics and elected to ditch Grant and Brodie from a few, replacing them with various combinations of the rest of the cast. Where character appropriate, of course.
I made one additional new strip to mix things up and try have as much of the cast interact with each other. Not sure I balanced it all out right, but I think it’s better for the changes made, rather than twenty-two pages of Grant and Brodie.
The last aspect that never made it into the book is probably the one that’ll seem the most oddest to someone not familiar with the older material. The college attended by the cast was usually referred to as The College of Doom. That wasn’t a euphemism. The college was meant to be an actual living nightmare, staffed by reanimated heads and be-robed undead monk type things.
The chief antagonist was known as Peter The Bastard, a wink to a gag in The Young Ones, as my elevator pitch for Wake Up Screaming was “it’s The Young Ones meets Daria“. There was even a sort of running gag where Grant and Brodie usually managed to kill Peter at the end of term. hoping that it might stick and mean they’d never have to deal with him again.
These omissions have put me in something of a bind. I’m still planning to work on Points On A Graph, the collection advertised in the back of Everyone’ Felt Like This Once, but there’s a notion in my head of doing a second Wake Up Screaming collection. That would necessitate all new material, as I don’t think anything in the archives would work in a similar collection. So, having established a tone free of demonic lecturers, do I continue on in that fashion, or revive the classic concepts? If I decide to put a fourth male cast member back in, do I revive the missing member or try the new concept?
It’s a quandary…
I completly forgot to mention, the Mindless Ones posted the complete write-up of our weekend at Thought Bubble. In addition to the episode of the Silence! podcast, there’s now the big text post, with some thoughts from me, amongst others.
I was a good boy, and I didn’t just copy and paste bits from my own write-up. Which, given the nature of my comics, would seem appropriate…
Check it all out, one time, won’t you?
Thought Bubble , Royal Armouries Hall/New Dock Hall, Leeds, 17-18th November 2012
Things got off to a less than ideal start when your humble author ballsed up his timing getting sorted out to leave that morning. I was up at half three in the morning to get myself and the house sorted, and thought I had more than enough time to get ready. It never occurred to me to book a taxi, like I did to catch a flight because, well, it’s a bus. Your brain just doesn’t arrange the same priority, I guess. So, there was poor Illogical Volume of the Mindless Ones, all on time at the bus station, getting a panicked phone call from me twenty minutes before departure, making my best, manful “you gotta go without me” speech. Oh, who am I kidding, I was whining pathetically, like a puppy with a sore paw. Just as I hung up the phone, my taxi coasted in. “Mate”, I said, “I need to get to the bus station by five”. He smirked and said it wasn’t a problem. He was not wrong. We flew down the motorway, getting off at the Cathedral Street exit, catching the light at Glebe Street with no problem. But then, he looks over his shoulder, carefully studying the lights along Cathedral Street, slowing as he approached the filter. Suddenly, he snapped ’round, gave it the boot and just when I thought he was going to run the red, the light changed. To my disbelief, he cruised all the way to North Hanover Street, passing three more green lights all the way.
“You owe me some clean underwear!” declared Mr Volume as I jumped out with two minutes to go. “Mate, mine aren’t fit for purpose” I informed him. With that, we settled in to our lengthy bus journey from Glasgow to Manchester. The high point of the journey was laughing our ass of at a shop in Preston called Meat 4 U. Never stops being funny. I think Mr Volume was amused by my choice of pancakes as travel sustenance. Don’t ask me why. It started as a tradition when I did overtime on weekends, and I couldn’t get my usual breakfast components. Any time I need to be up early, it just occurs to me.
Dammit, now I want pancakes.
Manchester, it turns out, is pretty well signposted. We found the station our train was leaving from no problem, and I was greeted with the happy sight of a Greggs to buy sausage rolls and Irn-Bru from. “Makes sense”, I commented. “Think of all the Glaswegian wallopers stoatin’ about after stag doos”. We had intended to get a later train, but there was one leaving for Leeds in two minutes, and since we made out last transportation by that margin, it made a kind of logic to make it two for two for two. As city slickers, we found the rural scenery on the train journey highly amusing. A mixture of longing for simpler times, while feeling terror at being without a decent internet connection.
Thus, we arrived in Leeds, sandwiched in a queue at the train station taxi rank, amidst a hen weekend and skinny bastards that smelled of marketing in an assortment of grey suits. Mr Volume took much pleasure in the inability of the shiny suits to work a taxi door, and closed it for them, like a proper man’s man. We had no such problems, and sped on to Thought Bubble. I fell into step behind Mr Volume and we walked into the New Dock Hall. There, at our assigned table, sat The Beast Must Die, Andre Whickey and Gary Lactus, with their wares spread out before them. I chucked a pile of Everyone’s Felt Like This Once into a convenient gap between Cindy & Biscuit Volume 3 and An Incomprehensible Condition, and the lads added me into the makeshift ledger that revealed that Cindy & Biscuit was leaving everyone in the dust. Mr Volume and I wandered around for a bit, but I had chosen to take my huge rucksack for the weekend, which turned out to have about three times more space than needed, and gave me an inconvenient turning radius for such a busy con. Taking a breather outside, we caught up with my fellow part-time Mindless, Hollistic Tendencies and Plok, who were evaluating the local coffee efforts and catching up with various friends. We decided to dump our stuff at the hotel and grab some food.
The hotel, it turned out, were having a bit of a problem getting rooms ready in time, as there was a bit of a run on. They gave us some free drinks by way of apology. I was in two minds about what to have, as we were crashing pretty hard, and booze makes me sleepy. Plus it was early afternoon. On the other hand, it was free, and bugger getting a coke. Much to my surprise, a wee glass of Baileys actually perked me up.
We dumped our bags at reception and skedaddled back to the table to sit a spell, and I tried to turn my hand at hocking my wares. Turns out I don’t exactly excel in that department. Based on a gag from the night before on that there Twitter between myself and Andrew, I started offering a 50% chance of the norovirus with every purchase if I thought someone wasn’t really interested. The bug is currently scything it’s way through my department where I ply my day job, and I spent Thursday and Friday bricking it that I was going to end up in a violent, exploding mess the whole weekend.
My first sale to a person I didn’t know in some fashion was actually achieved with this pitch. Yeah! I simply pointed out that if you got the bug, you could take the week off to recover and read comics!
The two most hilarious moments in my Saturday sales career were the person who bought every part of Cindy & Biscuit, then picked up my comic and dropped it like it was soaked in urine (after which, she brandished a copy of Andrew’s short story book under his nose in a “what am I supposed to do with this?” manner), and the young dude who picked up my book, read a bit and laughed in a manner that suggested it caught him off guard. Just this single, solitary startled laugh. I have no idea which page it was he was looking at. It’s a question that’s going to haunt me all my days.
At some point we were joined by Bobsy of the Mindless, who brought a mini-comic by his good self and Ken Quichey, which he thrust into passers by, looking for all the world like a suave reverse mugger. All to the amusement of his sister, who’s knowledge of Leeds was invaluable for us not getting lost on our way to the afterparty. For someone not steeped in comic book leanings, I think she found it, all in all, a pleasant experience, and not like the foul-smelling event for the socially maladjusted I personally felt New York Comic Con had been.
Also, you don’t tend to walk out of NYCC and see houseboats. Back to our discussions regarding the simple life/internet connection dilemma.
Things wrapped up that evening and the crazy Roller Girls who were acting as security chased everyone out of the room. We jumped into the nearby Pizza Express for some grub, then wandered off to a pub to chill for a bit, before hitting the aforementioned afterparty. Personally, I was fading fast, spending the last of my energy in a discussion with Plok and The Beast Must Die that ranged from the harrowing documentary The Bridge to why Good Will Hunting is so ripe for parody, to unbalanced creative partnerships. The Corn Exchange is quite a lovely building, but I think we all felt a bit odd hovering on the upper floor, watching the DJ’s excite the people below. With my energy steadily sapped, I decided, with much regret, to call it a night. Mr Volume and I made our way back to the hotel, only getting briefly diverted when I was convinced that we hadn’t walked over a bridge on our way to the Corn Exchange.
I apologise to Mr Volume for all the snoring.
The next morning, Mr Volume, Plok and I headed back in the direction of the hall, stopping only to decide that, yes, ice cream for breakfast would hit the spot. Well, I did. Plok was trying to kill a hangover, informing us that dairy would help, and mistakenly grabbed a fruit lolly. I just really wanted a Feast.
Kieron Gillen stopped to say hello on his way to his signing at his table, at which point I attempted to guilt him into buying a comic on the grounds that he rejected me for Commercial Suicide a dog’s age ago. He swore he would later. I’m sorry I ever doubted him. A man of his word. And lovely. He gave a quick interview to Gary and The Beast for Silence! after I left.
Gary Lactus decided it was time for a PRICE SLASH! Inbetween fits of yelling this like he’d gone mental, he made a load of signs declaring it, then vandalised one of his Mindless Ones posters to make it look like the beastie was suffering a massive poop. “PRICE DUMP!” it now read. He wrote PRICE SLASH on his stomach and proceeded to flash it to terrified passers by. Reports of his success are… Varied. With everyone else doing something similar, though more restrained, I elected to embark on the very silly practice of halving the price of my comic, but only if the customer was another ginger. It seemed to generate some curiosity, and I believe the others made a few sales on my behalf, but only after some quibbling about how ginger the customer was.
Before all that, the first thing I did on the Sunday was to swing by John Allison and snatch up a copy of That and Murder She Writes. It’s fair to say I was one of those who were sceptical when he made the switch to Bad Machinery, but the stuff he’s been doing has been consistently brilliant. I eagerly await the Oni Press versions next year. Even if I do still flick through my copies of Giant Days and Ghosts a little wistfully. I let him have a copy of Everyone’s Felt This Way Once as of this writing, he has not reported feelings of nausea or any vomiting, which I take to mean he hasn’t read it yet. Similarly, I finally caved and bought a copy of Marc Ellerby‘s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter Colour Special. I’ve seen it sitting in Plan B on the odd occasion I drop in, and found myself curious. I left Mr Ellerby with a book, and there’s thankfully been no threat of retaliation for afflicting him such. I had intended to swing by Kate Beaton and Mark Waid, possibly to inflict my comic efforts upon them, but traffic and timing just never allowed it.
Later, as I wandered around, nursing my funds, trying to strategically plan my purchasing, I got briefly talking to the owner of A Little Lost Shop. I was curious about her wares, as they were interestingly multilingual. I had assumed I was looking at Welsh, but was informed that some of the comics were Welsh, but what I had in my hand was, in fact, Russian. Suitably impressed, I picked up a few bits and bobs.
I indulged my curiosity at the stall for Chris Doherty’s comic, Video Nasties, where I think I decided that “what’s it about” is the most awful question you can ask someone, as it’s impossible to not sound a little condescending. Maybe it’s just me. I hope I’m just being paranoid. Issue one was sold out, but I didn’t want to leave empty handed, as well as the fact that of the wares he had on display, Video Nasties was the one I wanted to check out, so I nabbed the second one.
I was curious about some of the various comics by Sammy Borras, but by this point I could only spring for a curious wee beastie called Smoothie Wars, even though I knew it wasn’t going to quite scratch the itch I was feeling while looking at his work.
I felt like I short-changed everyone I never got to, and not sure I did everyone I did buy something from financial justice.
I was later informed that Al Ewing had swung by the Mindless table again, having already given them an extra-small mini-comic about Aquaman trying to change his image the day before, and said a few words for Silence! Upon this second visit, he’d picked up copy of my comic, along with some other bits and pieces from the core Mindless.
Sadly, myself and Mr Volume had to rush out of town much sooner than we would have liked to make the hike back to perfectly signposted Manchester, before we settled in to the slog back up to Glasgow. Still, at least we had Meat 4 U to look forward to. By sheer coincidence we ran into a friend of ours on her way back from London, and as we shared the bus back up, she too was inducted into the Cult of the Appreciators of M4U. Sadly, we missed The Home Of The Unique, which left us with so many questions.
I’d been up and down over the whole weekend, sometimes thrilled with the excitement of seeing people buy my stuff, and sometime less than enthused with my own efforts and the response they were getting. You don’t get the same emotions with checking your webstats obsessively. By the time we’d rolled back into Glasgow, and I’d caught the train, then humphed my ruck home, I just wanted to collapse. But then, I got caught up in Twitter on my way to bed, and found myself processing what had just happened. It was also at this point that I found out Mr Gillen had been good as his word, and, for better or worse, I took in the fact that my comic was in the hands of people.
I drifted off to sleep hoping they’d enjoy it, and regretting that I might not see the rest of the Mindless again for a year.
Still, can’t hibernate now. I’ve got comics to make.
Just dragged what remains of me through the door after the various legs of the cross country journey to Thought Bubble. I’m exhausted, but happy. I’ll do a full breakdown as soon as I’m more together, as I’m tired and emotional, and I want to thank everyone for everything! For those of you that couldn’t make it and have asked, I swear I will sort out the means to get you a copy. This place is in need of an online shop…
I hope everyone had a great weekend!
Bed now. Assuming I stop buzzing…
Well, they turned out quite nicely!
Much thanks to Brian Emling for his assistance in wrestling the images into a decent PDF form (because I was making a total mess of it) and to the nice people at the Glasgow Print +Design Centre, who did the actual printing.
Onward to Thought Bubble!
Hope to see you there!