I'm flying out to New York tomorrow morning and hope to land in time to take part in the VERTIGO: The New #1s panel (4:00 PM - 5:00 PM | Room 1A21) along with legends like Shelly Bond, Tom King, Lauren Beukes, Holly Black, Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke.
If I look a little jetlagged and frazzled that's because I absolutely will be.
Speaking of which the new Vertigo 12 New #1s promo poster came in and looks a bit like this:
As for NYCC, I'll be hanging out at DC for most of the convention, availing myself of their generous buffet, and occasionally doing PR interviews. I'll also be walking the floor (marching my way through a food coma) during the day and tearing up dance floors at various comics parties until 4/5am every night.
As ever if you're looking for me, the best way to contact me is by email or @ me on Twitter.
If you were at the San Diego ComiCon Vertigo panel this evening (PST) or reading pretty much any comic news site on the Internet since then, you'll have heard that Vertigo just announced twelve new ongoing series.
And I'm writing one of them.
Red Thorn is a new creator-owned book put together by probably the best new comic artist in the western world, Meghan Hetrick, and me, your humble author. Colours (or colors as Vertigo demands I call them!) and letters are provided by two gentlemen and stone-cold industry legends, Steve Ollif and Todd Klein. Vertigo Godfathers Mike Carey and Peter Gross have guided us through the flaming conception of our new comic, masterfully guided by the best editor in the world, Rowena Yow, and (talking about legends) Vertigo EIC Shelly Bond. The cover above was painted by your new favourite cover artist Choong Yong. Remember the name as I have no doubt that in a few years you'll be buying a hardcover collection of his incredible work.
Red Thorn is a dark fantasy set on the rain-glistening streets of modern-day Glasgow. When forging the scripts I've poured in everything I know about the city, drawn on strands of my personal and family history and shaken it all up until it catches fire. I've spent the last couple of years scouting locations around Glasgow and studying the unique weirdness, mythology and history of Scotland, and I honestly think you'll love what we've made.
And trust me - just wait until you see the art.
Your eyes might actually melt.
While I can't share any of that with you, I want to show you this photo. It's the moment I first realised this was actually happening.
That's my script for issue one of Red Thorn (written in Glasgow and London) lying on Meghan's drawing desk in Atlanta, Georgia moments before she started work!
Our opening arc is called Glasgow Kiss and the first chapter goes on sale in the middle of November.
I'll be at Thought Bubble pimping it up, and there's even murmurs of signings around the country to celebrate the launch. (Get in touch if you're a comic shop or convention and fancy getting in on that action - contact tab at the top of this page!)
I'll leave you with a snippet from a quick chat I had with Fanboy Rampage revolutionary Graeme McMillan at the Hollywood Reporter about the series:
My goal is for the sheer Glasgow-ness of Red Thorn to overwhelm our readers, regardless of where they live in the world, leaving them all speaking with a broad Glaswegian accent.
The tumbleweed rolled through town like a simile on a quiet day, picking up dust and lost opportunities as it went. The writer hid in his cave, relishing the dark and the silence and the nearby fridge. He knew the bell would soon ring. It had to. He typed faster, harder hoping that the noise of his writing would drown out the copper clang when it came. But it did not.
'Write a blog post!' the town crier called as he shook out the alarum. 'Blog post, ahoy!'
The writer peered out of his window, squinting at the brightness of the day outside.
'I'm on a deadline,' he mumbled.
The bellman nodded as he came nearer to the writer's porthole.
'Ye always are.'
I'm back in the UK now - but last week I was in Turkey, co-writing a thing with the costume designer from Time Cop. It's true what they say: writing is hell.
It's been a wee bit quiet here on the blog as I've been working hard on a couple of huge projects that'll be announced soon... And when that happens you'll soon be sick of me talking about them here, on Twitter and everywhere else. I'll apologise now for that, so I don't have to when I'm in full-on Promo Mode.
In saying that it was unforgivablyremiss of me to fail to write a blog post about my first ever published US work a few weeks ago: Night of the Black Stant in the K issue of Vertigo's CMYK.
Vertigo anthologies are part of my comics DNA and to appear in one was a dream come true. Art by the incredible Will Morris, lettering by the legendary Todd Klein and edited by the Coolest Guy in Comics™ Greg Lockard.
It's definitely still available in shops because I saw it in one yesterday.
One review described it as a feminist parable but I can't find it right now, so here's one from Kirkus by someone who thought our story was the best. And another from Newsarama, from someone who only figured it was top two. Meanwhile CBR thought "The revelation of the true nature of the Black Stant is an excellent surprise in the tradition of classic science fiction. However, the story tries too hard for moral clarity," which I'll take on the chin.
Also out since my last post - a quick Dredd prose story in Megazine 354, which Richard at the FP Blog described as "two excellent pages of just how unlucky a bank-robber can be in MC-1".
I love that the Megazine has articles, interviews, and other text pieces in it. But I’ll admit, I’m always a little apprehensive when I come across a Dredd prose story. Don’t ask me why, I’ve never read one I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. That said, Too Hottie To Handle is probably my favorite Dredd prose I’ve read.
Baillie’s story is tight, with not one extraneous word. But at the same time, it’s incredibly robust and descriptive. It’s interesting seeing a prose story using the same type of economic sensibility that your average 2000 AD strip is so commonly known for.
Just a quick update about things happening last night, tomorrow and next week:
I've had a few emails today from people along the lines of:
'So, I was listening to Front Row on Radio 4 last night and I'm sure I heard someone say something about 2000AD writer David Baillie doing a new satirical comic. Is that you?'
First up - that someone was the awesome journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, who just happened to have come across a project I've contributed to called CROSS. I'm not the driving force behind it - that would be the publishers, Conor and Lizzie Boyle of Disconnected Press - I'm just one of the writers.
You can read all about it here - it's a fabulous package, with some really interesting creators. There's a Kickstarter which looks like it might not make it, but the comic will go ahead regardless and it'll be available at Thought Bubble next weekend. (Although if you want to give the crowdfunding project a final push, I'm sure Disconnected will appreciate it - as will the other backers, who include such luminaries as Rory Bremner and Roger Langridge!)
My contribution is a furious establishment-bashing 8-page story called The Archaeology Inspector, which is drawn by the ever-incredible Ben Wilsher. Here's a peek at an unlettered page:
And yeah, that's Canary Wharf (again!)
If I can find the time next month I'll talk about the last political story I did at 2000AD, After The Vengeance, also featuring my most local landmark - and how this scene came about:
Tomorrow I'll be at CECAF in Crouch End with my partner-in-crime Dan Lester.
Details here and a preview of attending creators at Broken Frontier here.
And next Saturday (the 15th) I'll be taking part in the S.M.A.S.H. Symposium, which is being held at The Barbican in conjunction with the Comica Festival.
And if I don't see you at one or the other I won't see you at all.
Many, many, many* years ago I wrote a monthly column for the Judge Dredd Megazine. I don't have it to hand but I remember one in which I recommended ditching New Years as the time to begin life resolutions, as chances are you'll just be distracted by everyone else's blathering and failures. Instead, my younger, more boisterous and confident self wrote, why not use your birthday as a far better occasion upon which to take stock of what you've done in the last year and figure out what you need to fix for next.
And then last week this took me by surprise**:
So I thought now might be a good time to update the blog with all the stuff that I really should have updated it with throughout the year.
Don't worry, I won't do it all in one go. For one thing I have to pack for New York ComiCon and, if previous packing projects are anything to go by it's going to take nine times as long as I think it will...
Speaking of Comic conventions and festivals - if you're currently in The Lakes / Kendal area make sure and check out the Windows Art Trail they're hosting up there. My mate Sean Azzopardi has done a fab original piece in a cool bakery and I drew this for a local estate agents:
(Photo courtesy of that project's co-ordinator, the marvellous Sandra Woods.)
Other comicsy things I've done recently include a bit of talking in front of people.
Thanks to the fab Maura McHugh I attended my first World Con last month.
I've wanted to go to an annual World Science Fiction Convention since I was a teenager, when, while reading the first ever Nebula Awards Anthology I decided I wanted to be a science fiction author. Of course the book was thirty years old and what I really wanted to be was a 60s science fiction author. (A revelation that led to me wasting more than a few good writing years trying to invent a time machine. A story for another blog post.)
Maura even managed to smuggle me onto a couple of panels. I ended up babbling for quite some time on the subjects of networking in comics, and which 21st century comics might be remembered in 50 years time. (And if you're gutted you missed it, a good summary of that second panel is up at tor.com!)
The second talking thing I did was back in July when I took part in a keynote roundtable chat at the International Comics and Graphic Novels Conference, organised by the world's biggest Misty fan - Ms. Julia Round. It was great fun, even if I did feel massively outclassed by the two Mikes, Carey and Perkins - both of whom were as gentlemanly, entertaining and informative as their successful comics careers would suggest they are.
It was great fun and also an absolute honour to be talking at such a well-respected academic conference dedicated to my medium, taking place at The British Library.
Yeah - The British Library!
(photo courtesy of Julia Round)
Anyway - that's probably enough from me. What have you been up to?
Hm. Oh, really? Well I hope they manage to sew that back on.
If you're at New York next week I might see you there, although I don't think I'm doing any panels. (I was supposed to be announcing a new project there, but it was going to require an insane rush for the team to have it ready for the con so instead I'm going to be a man of leisure***.)
If I can queue up another blog post next week you might see me here again, otherwise I'll be babbling on Twitter about my time in the large Malus domestica.
* It wasn't actually that many. I'm not going to check. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't that many.
** It didn't really. I might live in a bit of a bubble, but I honestly know when my birthday is. Usually. Also - it totally fills my heart with joy when Tom Spurgeon at The (awesome) Comics Report wishes me a happy birthday. Or at least it takes the edge off my increasingly impending doom.
*** This is code for: If you do see me in New York I'll probably be in a pub.
The Writer's Blog Tour is a quick quartet of questions doing the rounds on the internet. I only discovered it when my friend, and master scribe, John Hunter took part last month. Last week the renowned gentleman and scholar Mike Carey nominated me.
(Mike's responses to the famous four questions can be found over at his blog.)
So, without further ado -
What am I working on?
For the last couple of months I've been working pretty much exclusively on a new ongoing comics series. Unfortunately it hasn't been announced yet, so it's currently a bit Top Secret. (I know everyone is sick to the molars of folk talking about secret projects that they can't talk about, and somehow end up talking about them more than they would if there was no secret to keep mentioning. So I'll try not to do that.)
I haven't written an ongoing series before, and the process has been fascinating. I'm working with a team who really know what they're doing, which has obviously been a great help, and even though it's only been a few weeks, I've already learned a huge amount from them.
I'm writing with a particular, very talented, artist in mind which is different to my usual 2000AD work, where I often find out who drew my script when the comic itself falls through my letterbox. (Not that I'm complaining – it's been a very pleasant surprise each and every time! It's just that this is a new part of the job that I'm really enjoying getting my teeth into.)
It's also been great fun putting together the plots for the first year of the series, knowing that when the time comes to actually write those stories the characters will likely be trying to pull the narrative in different directions, and that a hundred happy accidents will carry me into territories I couldn't have imagined.
I wondered if the transition from writing (mostly) four-page stories to suddenly having twenty pages every month, 240 a year, would be traumatic, but a story is a story no matter the length and they all need beginnings, middles and ends. I'm still finding that I have to be economical with my page real estate, and find clever ways of fitting in everything I want.
I'm working on a few shorter comics pieces too, one for the publisher of the new series, and a couple for 2000AD, but the deadlines on those are more relaxed so I've been leisurely adding to their note files, using them like a pressure valve system for when the big job threatens to give me a panic attack.
I'm working on a film script with my writing partner Dan Lester. We've written two already – one of which was shortlisted for the Red Planet new writing prize last year (or was it the year before?) - and we're currently assembling notes towards the first draft of the third script.
Last year Amazon commissioned me to write a novel for their Kindle Worlds program, and I've been toying with ideas for a second book. I have no publisher, editor or deadline though so at the moment that project just sees a thousand words every now and again when inspiration strikes. (Which, I suspect, is no way to write a book.)
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I have no idea!
I suppose every writer's work differs from the rest of their clan just by virtue of being written in their own voice, and drawing upon their unique life experiences. I presume I'm the same.
I noticed early on that I enjoy a project a lot more when I throw something personal or peculiar to me into the pot. Even seemingly trivial things like introducing a Scottish character into a time travel tale (Boilwash McGinty in A Guide for Prisoners arriving from 2148) can be enough to make it feel like a 'me' story. (And if I find myself writing something that doesn't feel like a 'me' story, my enthusiasm can wane.)
Before writing became my job I was an engineer, then a computer programmer, I worked in markets (like The Barras and Ingliston) and markets (as in financial markets). I'm rubbish at team sports, but I used to be okay at boxing and fencing. I love sweetcorn and hate egg. It might not sound like much of a biography, but that combination alone is enough for a half dozen stories that no one else could write.
Why do I write what I do?
I want to recreate the excitement I experience myself when I read a really good story. That's been my motivation since I was four and I used to fill dozens of red Silvine jotters with my own stories about Luke Skywalker, Batman and The Incredible Hulk. I don't think much has changed since then.
Seeing the work in print is always very cool, cashing the cheque is great, but I don't feel like a job is done until I know how a story's been received. (For better or worse.)
So I write things that I'd want to read. I like a good sci-fi idea, especially something really thought provoking, or that provides a sudden insight into something seemingly mundane. (I'm thinking of stuff like Spike Jonez' film Her last year or pretty much any of Ted Chiang's short stories.) Neuromancer was the book that got me back into reading when I was a moody teenager, and I love anything a bit cyberpunky.
I'm also a big fan of dark fantasy (it's probably horror, but that's not how I'd usually describe it) like the sort of stuff that Joe Hill, Mike Carey, Clive Barker and China Mieville write.
How does my writing process work?
I usually write in two phases.
First comes the messy chaotic part, where a hundred ideas sit on the page, contradicting each other, being rowdy and causing trouble. During this stage I'm probably anxious that the story's going to remain a mess, that it'll never work, make sense or sell. It's usually the most creative point, I think, when the silliest ideas spring up and are entertained for longer than they maybe should have been. It's not always fun, but it is usually exciting, if that makes sense. This part is fuelled by coffee, daydreaming and staring at walls, and results in many notebooks and Evernote folders being filled. It also demands a recovery period, mostly comprising of a yoga class, a sweaty run, some reading in the sun (when the seasons allow) or a glorious half hour in a quiet steam room.
Next comes the part of the process when I have to edit the nonsense down, impose some structure and have it all make narrative sense. This is nerve-racking for a different reason, as I'm terrified that I'm going to cut something that is, without my knowing it, actually an essential element of what makes the story work. It's also very satisfying as my fears about never being able to write anything ever again begin to evaporate and I slowly become more confident about showing this new thing to something else.
I have a hundred or so stories that made it to the end of phase one but never benefited from the tidying operation of phase two. I keep them in a folder on my computer (well, on The Cloud now, but you know what I mean) called The Lobby. This was supposed to be where I keep all my active projects, but every now and again I realise it's become a resting place for stuff I haven't Second Phased yet. But ideas are resurrected from there all the time, so it's actually not a bad thing to have lying around.
The film scripts I've been writing with Dan Lester have their own process. We usually spend a few months, maybe a year, making a lot of notes. Then we take the notebooks to Turkey, where we sit by the pool drinking cold beer and forming them into a hand-written script. Then we come home and, in the gloom of the United Kingdom, simultaneously rewrite and type up what becomes our second draft. Phase three of this process is where we sell the script to a friendly Hollywood mogul for a million dollars, but unfortunately we haven't cracked that bit of it yet.
I'd like to pass the baton to three writers who are interesting for totally different reasons.
As well as writing and drawing for 2000AD, and writing for Marvel and Vertigo, montynero created the brilliant, and vastly successful, six-part comic series Death Sentence. His blog is a great read and can be found at montycomics.blogspot.co.uk.
Aiden Courtney is a writer and artist, probably best known for the brilliant Irish language comic Rírá, and his blog is over at www.aidancourtney.blogspot.com/
The third writer is Rob Williams, who has written everything from Indiana Jones to Ghost Rider. He was responsible for two of my favourite modern day Dredd stories (Meat and Outlaw) and has a new miniseries out from Vertigo called The Royals. His blog lives at www.robwilliamscomics.co.uk.
I've been doing stand-up comedy for the last couple of years, and one of the first things I learned was something that you probably already know - the rule of three. Basically, if you have something to say, it makes sense to deliver it in three bits.
Okay - bit one - I wrote a book.
Last year Amazon approached me about coming up with something for their new Kindle Worlds venture. They were looking for an e-book set in the recently relaunched Valiant comics' universe. I was already reading, and loving, Bloodshot and X-O Manowar and I'd been mumbling something about writing a novel for ages and so I jumped at the chance. Fast-forward a few months and Bloodshot: Portal 666 has just gone on sale.
You can read a sample chapter or buy it here for your Kindle or Kindle-enabled device. (Actually at the moment you can only buy it if you're in the US, but Amazon are working on rolling the Kindle Worlds platform out to all other lands soon.)
I had an incredible time writing Portal 666 and I'm really proud of the final work. Bloodshot's a fascinating character and it was enormous fun writing someone whose defining characteristic is that he's thoroughly relentless. I wrote a piece about the whole process for BleedingCool.com and I'll talk some more about it here as soon as I get the chance.
Bittwo: Tomorrow is your last chance to pick up this month's Judge Dredd Megazine (before next month's issue goes on sale). It's packed full of great stuff, including a cracking Dredd tale by Rob Williams and Scalped's RM Guera, the penultimate episode of Rob and D'Israeli's Ordinary and Mike Carroll and Steve Yeowell's Demarco P. I. It also features Magical Matt Badham's interrogation of yours truly. If that sounds like your cup of tea then it's Megazine #344 you're after and the cover looks something like this:
Unless you're a narcissist it's a rare thing to read an interview with yourself that doesn't make you wince every couple of sentences, but Matt's really managed it. (Either that or I'm a narcissist.) Someone remarked last week that the interview made me sound unexpectedly grown-up - which probably means I owe Matt a pint. And now to undo all that hard work I should admit that my favourite bit is the paragraph where I talk about my dislike of violent resolutions in stories, which hangs above a blow-up of a cyborg monkey punching a robot pirate in the face. (For the record, that wasn't a resolution - it was a scene from the middle of a chapter.)
Bitthree: My blog posts receive about ten times as many visitors when I also post a 2000AD script. This situation doesn't appear to be broke so I won't attempt to fix it - and here is the script to a Future Shock I wrote last year called Time is the Only Enemy. This one was drawn by the uber-talented Graeme Neil Reid (who write a cracking blog post about his work here) and recently described by the Megazine's Matt Badham as 'one of [his] favourite Shocks ever'. It featured a comics-writing protagonist called David Baillie (oh no - I AM a narcissist!) leading to a confusing entry on the 2000AD wiki which seems to suggest that I was killed during an alien invasion.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
Before I go (which probably makes this bit four) I have a couple of reading recommendations (you know - for after you've read Bloodshot: Portal 666, right?)
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey -
This was recently raved about by none other than Joss Whedon so it probably doesn't need my help to promote it, but it's honestly brilliant. Go get!
The Giant Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins -
This gorgeous book bucked the trend of me hating everyone's else's favourite new graphic novel of the year. I finished it the other day when I should have been working - which either tells you how absorbing a read it is or betrays how work-shy I'm getting in my old age.
I've Spring-cleaned the website a little. (Don't worry if you haven't noticed - it's my website, not yours. I rarely spot when people get new haircuts, careers, children etc. so honestly, please don't sweat it.)
To be honest, the last colour scheme was beginning to give me a headache. It got to the stage that whenever anybody asked for my business card (which obviously happens very rarely due to the hermitic nature of being a comics writer) I always felt the need to deliver it alongside an apology for my website being both out-of-date and a horrible shade of green. I'm much happier now that it's more current and not the colour of a nasty sinus infection. Anyway, I thought while I was here I might as well write a short blog.
My most popular blog posts have all featured 2000AD scripts so I'll do that again.
Here is the script for a Future Shock I wrote that saw the light of day last year in Prog 1788. And for those of you interested in how these things work, here is the original pitch I sent to Tharg (the alien editor of 2000AD). It was drawn by the very talented Nick Dyer and looked something like this:
I have to run as I'm super-busy due to having a novel coming out tomorrow (Portal 666, if you're interested - although I'm not sure whether you can buy it outside of the US at the moment...) which (if I can carve out some free time) I'll blog about here later in the week.
This week 2000AD Prog 1827 lands in newsagents and comics shops all over the world. Among the riches on offer (such as brilliant episodes of Judge Dredd, Dandridge, Stickleback and Zombo) is the first part of a story called The Ghostship Mathematica which features incredible art by the brilliant Inaki Miranda and a story written by me.
Doesn't it look great?
Anyway, the Mighty Tharg himself his given me permission to post some scripts on here and I thought I'd begin with this one.
Right - the following paragraph details the technical process of how I ended up with the final script. I'm including it because people ask me quite a lot about the nuts and bolts of things like formatting, and this gives me somewhere I can point them. If this isn't your cup of tea, please gleefully skip right to the end, where there's a link to the PDF of the full script.
Okay - the process bit... For a 2000AD story, I usually go from the one-page pitch to a transitional document in which I've broken down action and images into bullet points. Each bullet point is a panel but I'll also include important snippets of dialogue or captions. Most of the time I know where the page breaks are quite early on, but if not then it becomes clear at this point. I also look to see if I can juggle panels at this stage to make the story flow better. I used to use Microsoft Word to format this document into a more pleasing-to-the-eye script, using a set of Macros I'd written for the job. (I had a confusingly large collection of these macros and occasionally a comic would temporarily dress up in BBC Radio script format because I'd pressed the wrong button. This was doubly frustrating as the BBC Radio play I'd written those macros for was never produced.) When I switched to using the (brilliant) open source suite Open Office I couldn't be bothered re-writing the macros. By then I'd done a bit of TV work and invested in script formatting software called Final Draft. So instead of macros I used a Windows program called Auto Hotkey (which is really useful for a ton of stuff) to write a routine which copies the panel bulletpoints from Open Office and pastes them into the script program as their correct elements (character name, dialogue, etc.)
Which might sound needlessly complicated, but actually saves me a huge amount of time messing about with tabs, caps and all that.
I'm absolutely delighted with how the comic came out. When you read the script you'll appreciate just how inventive Inaki and Eva have been, especially when it comes to the crazy collection of aliens in the bar! I haven't seen the art for episode two yet. I honestly can't wait!
Hi David, Thanks for posting this. I've been working on my first Future Shock submission and your advice about using bullet points to write panel actions/snippets of dialogue has definitely helped me form the basis of the script. Thanks, Jamie
This morning my window is caked in ice and my desk is covered in notes for stories and sketched redesigns for my website. The stories are unfinished and (you might have noticed) this website remains unredesigned.
If anyone wondered what my todo list looks like - it's just a pile of stuff on my desk.
Someone was musing at a recent comic convention about how much pressure there is on a writer the first time he or she writes Judge Dredd. I was nodding in agreement when it occurred to me that I wrote my first Dredd scene a few weeks ago and completely forgot to acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.
This is what happens when the rent is due.
So I thought I'd celebrate - weeks after the fact - by drawing the Judge taking a stroll in his city.
I've also written a new 3hriller for 2000AD. It's called The Ghostship Mathematica and I think it starts in two weeks time - Prog 1824. (Although I might be out by three Progs, as I know that fellow Scot Gordon Rennie also has a three-parter scheduled - I'll let you know nearer the time.)
I've cleared it with Tharg the Mighty and I'll be posting the script for the first episode here. I might also post a couple of last year's Future Shock pitches/scripts if anyone's interested in seeing them?
DEFINITELY interested in seeing them, sir. And congratulations!
That's right - the Mayans were wrong and we made it to 2013!
And I can't believe how close it is to the 2013 of my childhood dreams. Flying cars, hoverboards and robots that are happy to sit and discuss existential philosophy with you while you play chess with them in the park. Wait no... I meant I can't believe how close it is to the 2013 of my paranoid teenage dreams - a rampant conservative government, demonising the poor and disabled - while somehow managing to turn a profit on them at the same time, widespread economic misery and vapid reality television on every channel.
I think I pitched the synopsis for last year as a Future Shock to 2000AD when I was fifteen.
Anyway - I hope you have a fantastic 2013 and that you get everything you could possibly hope for, as long as it's legal wherever you live and doesn't impede anyone else's pursuit of happiness.
My plan for 2013 is to keep writing and drawing and maybe start blogging again. I've been waiting until I redesign my website - but every time I get close to doing that I think of something else I want to include and push the whole thing back another month for 'research'.
Well first off: Happy new Year! I trust 2012 has treated you with the respect you deserve. So far, at least.
I thought I'd start the year by writing a process blog post on the very last illustration I produced in 2011. (A year we've already forgotten.) I've tried to keep it kind of brief - I occasionally lecture on this sort of stuff and so I started to slip into that mode a bit and had to reign myself in. Next time I do one of these I'll try and snatch more informative mid-process screengrabs (most of those below were taken at the end).
The Movie Dredd Xmas Drawing
Pete Wells, who runs the fabulous 2000AD Uncovered blog, emailed and asked me if I fancied contributing to the 'pros' section of the 2000AD Advent Calendar. I told him I'd love to - in fact it'd be an honour - and then put some thought into what I would draw. I'm ashamed to admit I had a bit of artist's block...
Then Pete told me who else was going to be in the 'pro' section of the calendar.
Other than me, it was more or less every genius artist currently working on the comic.
So now that the pressure was off - I couldn't hope to compete with whatever they came up with! - my stupid block cleared and I decided I'd take a stab at drawing Judge Dredd as he's due to appear in the new movie Dredd.
If you do a Google images search for "new movie dredd" you'll see the six or seven photos I had to work from.
I put them all up on screen and tried to piece together the movie uniform. This was actually loads of fun and reminded me of doing exactly the same thing with old comics and superhero costumes when I was about five.
I settled on the first pose I came up with, because it felt a bit like something either Mike McMahon or Jamie Hewlett would draw - the relaxed arm and nonchalant kick.
You'll see that I shifted his left leg a bit to bring his centre of balance back. I thought I was making the figure more dynamic but in retrospect I think it was a mistake - it was more interesting and anarchic as it was. Alas.
I inked the drawing using a combination of fineline and brush pens, leaving the spot black areas to be filled later on the computer. I usually do this as it's faster but it also means I can change my mind later on and maybe hatch or something instead.
Then I scanned and plopped it in Photoshop. After a few minutes of clean up (nothing too drastic) I laid down flat colours on a new layer beneath the inks. These colours can be anything you like and don't need to be anywhere near where you finally want to end up. Manga Studio has an automated - randomised colour - flatting process, but I haven't had a chance to explore that yet.
At this point I usually duplicate the flats layer, hide it (keeping it as a sort of 'save point') and start applying some shadows and gradients. I decided, because the figure doesn't actually take up a lot of the composition, that might make it too fussy - so I skipped that and went straight to some cell shading.
(Here I just created a new 'multiply' layer and, using the brush tool, painted some contour and drop shadows in a muted green-grey colour. I deliberately avoided being too neat with this.)
The side shadows on the 2, 0, 1 and 1 didn't work for me and I didn't want to go any darker, so I added benday dots.
(If you don't know how to do this play with the options under Filter->Pixelate->Colourhalftone) I liked the dots so much I used them in the background too.
Then I changed my mind and used a Photoshop-generated cloud pattern and some transparency sweeps to make a new one that balanced the drawing better.
I also ditched my hand lettering, as it was slightly too sloppy. It would have been okay for dialogue but I should have been more careful with it at this scale. The font I used instead was courtesy of the excellent comicraft - picked up in their annual New Year's Day sale a few years ago.
In a few months' time I'm probably going to discover that this is nothing like what the movie uniform actually looks like. But, just like 2011, everyone will have forgotten by then.
Hmmm... I already think I should have made the body armour bulkier.
Anyway... I hope that was either interesting or useful.
Even though we're slowly slipping into winter's grasp, the sun still shines...
Last week saw my debut in Mega City One... That's right, Tharg let me loose on the Judge Dredd universe!
(Megazine 317 - cover by legend Mark Harrison)
The Unfortunate Case of High Altitude Albert features art by the fiendishly talented Joel Carpenter and lettering by master craftsman Simon Bowland. It's part of a brilliant lineup in this month's Judge Dredd Megazine (that's right - available all month from good newsagents and comic shoppes the world o'er) including part 2 of a cracking Judge Dredd tale by Michael Carroll and John Higgins, Pat Mills and Clint Langley's creator-owned American Reaper and the next sizzling chapter of the adventures of Cursed Earth Coburn by fellow-Scot Gordon Rennie and Dredd-creator Carlos Ezquerra. There's also a brilliant piece on Henry Flint's new artbook Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint by my mate Matt Badham and a revealing Interrogation of Jim McCarthy by PR Droid Mike Molcher!
Speaking of Judge Dredd - gad-about-town Ade Brown asked me to contribute to the Halloween art auction for his Just 1 Page charity and I came up with this:
That's an A4 rendering of an Undead Dredd, in sepia and red ink. Ade will be at Thought Bubble this weekend, looking for dosh - so if you fancy having this hanging on your wall please feel free to approach him with hard cash. (All money raised goes to Macmillan Cancer Support.)
This brings back fond memories... Valeria Ferrari (the co-ordinator and guru on The Casita Variations project we worked on in Paris with Danny Goodbrey) has plopped a video of the installation up on YouTube:
This week I'm mostly reading One on One by Craig Brown and Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut - both highly recommended. But I'll leave you with some quotes from my favourite itinerant mathematician, Paul Erdos - they're all great.
(His biography, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, is a must-read!)
Last week was a sad one as the London comics community said goodbye to Dangerous Dan Lester who's off to South Korea for a while. ('Laying low until the heat dies down' apparently... Whatever that means.)
The page below represents the only tangible evidence of our last beer-sodden co-writing session. (The good bits are censored but I quite like the Judge Viking guy I drew.)
Anyway we all got together and made him a farewell card which was presented to him at Self Made Hero's fabulous launch party for David B's new book, Black Paths.
He's drawing a diary comic of his experiences, which will no doubt appear on a blog, webpage or lamp post near you soon.
It was a busy week for comic parties, launches, lunches and farewells and I have just about recovered in time to prepare to leave The Cave and be social again - this time it's the BBC Writers' Festival in Leeds.
There's a great line up (including Jimmy McGovern, Hugo Blick, Toby Whitehouse and Alice Nutter) and I'm really looking forward to it. I have to get up at The Crack of Doom tomorrow for the trek north and running out of business cards means I had to schedule a mad dash from train station to printers to hotel before it all kicks off... So check back in a few days for embarrassing tales of how I made an arse of myself due to sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
I was reminded a couple of weeks ago that 2000AD fans are a breed apart and probably the friendliest, coolest and most handsome people in the world.
It was barely a minutes past 10am and I'd just shown up at the recent London Comic-Con KAPOW! to set up my table and display my wares. This is something I hadn't done for a few years and for a few moments I honestly couldn't remember why I ever did. Creating comics is very different to selling them and while I'm not usually shy, neither am I a natural salesman. Anyway - I texted my co-exhibitor Dan Lester and asked him to bring wine as this was going to be a long day. He replied and said he was still bed. It was now four minutes past ten and already things were looking bad.
And then something wonderful happened. A troupe of 2000AD fans showed up, said hello, asked for sketches and bought my stuff. Suddenly the world seemed like a brighter place and I was lifted out of my, frankly inexcusable, pit of self-pity.
Then Dan showed up with Chinese lychee wine and it got even better.
KAPOW! itself was brilliant. It was constantly busy, but the organisers kept the crazy queues for signatures and screenings well away from the main floor. The crowd consisted of fans young and old, male and female and there was a heartening number of families wandering around taking it all in.
(Quick aside - if anyone has a scan of any of the thousands of sketches I did on the day, drop me a line at webhello at davidbaillie dot net and I'll put them on the blog. I remember being quite proud of the Mean Machine and Strontium Dog ones...)
Photo of me and The Lester taken at KAPOW!
by and (c) Ms. Isla Rae Shortland.
(Also hello to Kev if you're reading this!)
KAPOW! came in for a bit of stick on the Internet, mainly because the pre-publicity and guestlist were quite superhero-centric (and so mostly male) but that wasn't at all reflected in the attendance on the day.
I think some of this was simply down to the figurehead for the convention, Mark Millar (if you don't know his name you'll definitely have heard of the films based on his comics - Kick-Ass and Wanted) raising some hackles with his enthusiastic self-promotion. This brand of hucksterism has a long tradition in comics, stretching back to the legendary Stan Lee himself - but does upset other creators who believe humility to be a virtue.
I don't know Mark but I did once spend an evening with him. (This isn't is kiss-and-tell, I promise!) It was at a meeting of the now-infamous SCCAM club in Glasgow in, I think, 1996. I was still at university and Mark was writing various strips for 2000AD and Aztek for DC with his then-writing partner Grant Morrison.
I wasn't yet twenty and a wee bit starstruck at suddenly being surrounded by names I knew from my own comic collection. (This despite a sternly painted notice above the stairs descending to the SCCAM basement bar announcing 'No fanboys!') Knowing no one, I stumbled up to the bar and counted out the change in my pocket to see if I could afford a pint. Mark, who happened to be standing next to me at the time, saw this and offered to buy me a drink. I declined, but spotting that I was both skint and a newbie, he got me one anyway. Then he took me under his wing, introduced me to other creators and sat with me for a few hours sharing anecdotes and advice about breaking into comics.
Now before I tell you what happened next I have to show you something. This is a scan from the inside cover of 2000AD Prog 849.
Now, if you look at that bit I've highlighted, you can see that Mark suggests that Peter Milligan is merely a pseudonym he uses. I didn't know at the time that he was joking. And Peter Milligan (who is a real person and not in any way a penname for Mark Millar) just happened to have written my favourite comic of all time - Hewligan's Haircut. As I sat down to drink the beer he'd bought me, I started gushing about Hewligan's Haircut and how I couldn't believe that I'd met the writer. (No fanboys, remember.) Not once did he flinch or correct me, knowing how embarrassed I'd be.
Whenever he talked about things he was working on (he was writing the Superman story Red Son at the time) I would say 'But is it going to be as good as Hewligan's Haircut?' When he asked what sort of comics I wanted to one day create I said, 'Something that makes people feel the way I do when I read Hewligan's Haircut.'
And when the evening was over, he wished me luck. And I thanked him again for writing Hewligan's Haircut.
The moral of the story? Even if you don't like people who take every opportunity to talk themselves up... I reckon Mark Millar is definitely a nice guy.
I was reminded of this story when I saw the photo below, which was taken on that very night. It was scanned from the SCCAM newsletter scanned by artist supreme - and one of those names I knew from my comics collection - Alex Ronald. He talks about his own memories of the club on his blog.
That's me with the 'I'm a star!' thought balloon attached to my head. (Yes, I had hair - loads of it! So much I had to tie it back in a ponytail.) Just north east of me is Martin Connaghan (writer of the new Burke and Hare GN), beside me Lorna Miller, over her left shoulder Dave Gordon, in the middle of the front row is Tommy Sommerville who ran SCCAM, peeking over his left shoulder is Frank Quitely, next along is Grant Morrison and he's pointing at Mark Millar.
(You can maybe see why I told the story about how humble and generous he was with his time before I showed the photo.)