Evil Star Graphic Novel Workings #5: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

…A woman who claims she can talk to ghosts, and a Peruvian academic! Yes, once Matt gets back from school it’s a big night in at big-brother figure Richard Cole’s flat in ‘The Shambles‘ in York. (Exactly the kind of street-level detail that makes this series of books sing.)

Evil Star Graphic Novel workings 5

Here, unexpected guests drop in and offer information on potential forthcoming adventure!

Evil Star Graphic Novel workings 5

The squashed-up grid page of reference-heavy work is supposed to be a news item on television. For the grey-line frame of the flamboyant fellow in the hat, I’m going to create an engraving style frame based on old paintings of Francisco Pizarro. At the top of that block, there’s a bit of straight-up photo-ref, it’s a photograph of my ol’ PS2 console’s disc tray and my non-drawin’ mitt, standing in for Mr. Fabian putting a DVD on for the rest of the characters in the scene to watch.

High Fantasy

Bill Eaton, the Gamesmaster (no not that kind silly), of our role-playing game group – referred to as ‘Geek Club‘ by all and sundry – has been slaving away over a hot Obsidian Portal ‘campaign wiki’ (will webby wonders never cease? I remember attempting to affect a similar thing a few years ago by trying to get the Wikipedia engine running on my web domain, to track all of the characters, locations and evidence in the Call of Cthulhu RPG ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep‘ campaign.) In the face of such community-spirited narrative-bolstering, I just had to do my thing and add a bit of art to the general flurry of activity.

Talak the male Tiefling Bard from Dungeons and Dragons

So this is me at Geek Club. I’m a member of a race called the Tieflings, and get your spare change out, because I’m a Bard. You’ve got to love a bard.

I came to paper-and-pencil, ‘table-top’ role-playing games as an adult. I’d spent much of my teenage years doing all kinds of reprehensible nerdy things, but never role-playing proper. Which is a shame, because it might have actually given me some much-needed social skills. But back to the present, Geek Club has played ‘WHFRP‘, Dark Heresy, Cyberpunk 2020, Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main and (probably my favourite) Call of Cthulhu. It’s now that we’re finally truly living up to our name and having a go at most Geeks’ proto-game of choice, one ‘Dungeons and Dragons‘.
Now, ‘D&D’ is big thing. It introduced roleplaying games to the world, and it was what most people cut their teeth on at an impressionable age.

Not me though, I never had anything to do with it.

So the more I look into it, the more I’m stunned at how much of a… Lifestyle choice it seems to be. It’s a true multi-media global franchise. With games, board-games, card games, miniature games, novels, merchandise, video games, apps, and even a feature film. And as I put up this coloured sketch, I realise everybody else on the interweb knows the same badly-kept-secret nerd handshake and has been drawing their and their friends’ characters too. Which is an interesting kind of collective – and yet personal – fantasy, now I come to think of it…

So here’s a link to Bill’s wiki, any embarrassment I might suffer in people reading the earnest character fluff I put up on there is over-ridden by just how very good Bill’s adventure log of our half-arsed fantasy doings is.
If you’re after another good Obsidian Portal site, have a look at the lovely Kieron Gillen and Quins from Shut Up and Sit Down‘s wiki for their WHFRP campaign, the magnificently-titled ‘Brash Young Fools‘.

Evil Star Workings #4: Matt Freeman’s Schooldays

After the supernatural hullabaloo of Raven’s Gate, main character Matt’s shadowy group of new benefactors – ‘The Nexus’ – arrange for him to attend a new, exclusive, private school. This being the world of Power of Five though, things are never plain sailing.

Evil Star Graphic Novel

After saving the world from ancient demons, Matt has to deal with trying to fit in and lippy kids wanting to bully him. Ahh, the joys the secondary school.

Evil Star Graphic Novel

I even had fun designing what the story picks out to be a tawdry, modern chandelier in the school’s canteen. Can you guess what generally happens to fragile-looking things made out of glass in comics..? Yep. That.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

Toply-talented art pal Felipe Sobreiro got in touch last month, he was casting about his little black book of artists and asking them if they wanted to do a pin-up for the Image Comics series he’s colouring. I did! The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is a body horror mini-series written by Justin Jordan and pencilled and inked by Tradd Moore.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

No it’s not a blonde version of me. It felt like it had been ages since I’d done some colour work so I wanted to colour the piece myself. I’ve been noodling about in the monochrome world of the Evil Star pencils for a long old time, so it was time to crowbar open the boarded-up doorway to Colour Theory in my brains again. I set about throwing down some incredibly over-saturated, positively lurid colours without further ado. Jaundiced yellow! Overbearing forest green! Putrid electric pink! This is living! Thank criminy that an alarm doesn’t sound in Photoshop when it doesn’t like the colour choices you’re making…

Here’s the inks as they hit the unforgiving flatbed of the scanner.

And finally some of the roughs and sketches I jotted down before embarking on the board for the pencils and inks.

Here’s a photo that Felipe sent through of the piece in print! It’s in Issue #2 of the series. If it’s not in your friendly local comic shop, you can buy it online from Image Comics here.

Evil Star Workings #3: At Home with Richard and Matt

After having the most strange of vivid, portentous dreams, it’s time to have some good hearty breakfast. Matt – the main character of The Power of Five – lives with his big brother figure / guardian Richard, one of my favourite characters in the series. Anthony Horowitz (who’s writing The New Sherlock Holmes books, chappy) wastes no adjectives in describing him as a lackadaisical, unkempt, crumpled, untidy twenty-something. His flat is a mess and there’s nothing anything in the cupboards to eat. Even if you’ve just experienced a coded visual flash-forward of the events that are going to happen in the book.

Evil Star Graphic Novel pencils

I did some pretty heavy photo-reffing of myself in relevant bits of clothing for the figures in this scene. I was trying my best to measure up to Dom‘s work on Raven’s Gate, and probably slightly self-conscious at drawing the book’s main characters for the first time…

Evil Star Graphic Novel pencils

Next: Why Matt looks like a mini-businessman in this scene…

Stripping for Friends

Here’s some pages from the birthday comic I gave to my pal and “heterosexual life friend” Rupert Morrison recently, since landmark birthdays deserve decent presents… Caution: In-jokes years in the making, personal histories and the fact I was half making this up as I went along conspire to make this mostly impenetrable to anybody but its original recepient.



Of course this is just a cheeky glimpse for everybody else, there’s a colour cover, an extra page and the dedication in the actual art object itself, but unfortunately you’re not the dude in question, so ya nae privileged enough tae see it, man!

Evil Star Workings #2: At Home with Gwenda and Brian

In Evil Star, a character who was more-or-less a cameo in Raven’s Gate reappears – Gwenda – the main character Matt’s aunt and foster-mum. Things aren’t going too well for her and her husband Brian though, and she ends up becoming somewhat twisted supporting character.

Evil Star Workings

Gwenda’s domestic situation’s gone downhill a bit…

Evil Star Workings

But she’s made a new friend… He might be ‘a bad-un’ though. Never mind how he comes around to visit. As always, I’m trying to sidestep the SPOILARZ in all the little reveals that you get to see when you read the book…


As I’ve alluded to before, whenever I’m out and about, I usually have a messenger bag slung across my back with a hardback, A4, usually Daler Rowney sketchbook in it. Depending on who I’m talking to, it’s either called ‘The Travelling Sketchbook’ or ‘The Pub Sketchbook’, since if I ever find myself out and about at a lose end without a comic script to thumbnail up, I’ll open it up and draw whoever’s around me – and if there’s no people about – then whatever’s around me.

It’s all down to a fellow called Ron Tiner, a veteran illustrator who I was lucky enough to be tutored by at the comic-drawing-college-for-cool-kids ‘Sequential Illustration‘ course at Swindon College, at that point the only course of its time in the country. Apart from being One Of Us, Ron’s also responsible for one of the best figure-drawing books around, ‘Figure Drawing Without a Model‘, and also its follow-up, ‘Drawing From Your Imagination‘.
One thing you might not know is that when Dave McKean was working on the art for the famous Arkham Asylum Graphic Novel, he used Ron as the visual model for the character of Amadeus Arkham, the founder of a sanatarium who ends up going insane himself.

Anyway, I owe Ron a lot for shoving me as hard as possible down the pathway to becoming a ‘professional’, and if everything he taught could be rudely boiled down to just one sentence, it would be, “Draw from Life.”
An artist uses – and trades on – their visual memory, and if there’s nothing in it apart from a few stylistic ticks, then you’re buggered. You won’t be drawing anything worthwhile or telling any good stories with that. Drawing human figures and faces is one of the hardest things you can do, not only to comprehend what you need to do yourself as the artist, but your work must also to pass the test of being viewed by other people – human beings – whose human empathy towards other humans needs to be triggered by your scribbles.

So yes, there you are sitting in the pub, waiting for some of your friends to turn up, you’re at a bit of a loose end, so it’s time to top up the visual memory. So off you go.

Since Facebook‘s still with us, I thought I’d try and use it as a force for good(hah!), scan these sketchbook pages and put them up with the people in them ‘tagged’ (as the young people of today say) to serve as an alternative to all the cameraphone shots.

The Facebook album with all the scans in to look at is right here.

Evil Star Workings #1

I said I’d lob up some workings from the Evil Star Graphic Novel, so here we go. The plan is to make a regular series out of these: all the interesting pencils, layouts, thumbnails and scribbles on the script that never see print.

Evil Star

Starting at the beginning, this is some detail from the pencils – well, I’m calling them pencils, most comicy people would probably call them ‘breakdowns’ – for lowly page two of the one hundred and seventy or so in the book. We open up the top of a tall mountain in the wilds of Peru, with an ‘Amauta’ wise man making predictions on the future for the story and the characters. I seemed to remember the scribbles being tighter than this, but don’t worry, they’ll get better as they go on.

Evil Star

You’ve got to love an old wise man. I had a look at some photos of elderly Peruvians and the place takes a toll on their skin – the ones who live in the mountains above the clouds (or so it looked) have nothing to keep the harsh sun or howling winds off them, so they end up with wrinkles on top of wrinkles on their faces. This old salt was drawn first by Dom Reardon in Raven’s Gate, thankfully in a deliberately mysterious way, so I could come in later and construct him fully, going by the ideas that he was old, had a poncho, a stick, and a hat with ear flaps. I must find out the proper name for those, since the book’s full of them…

More soon…