The Complete Phonogram

Cover to Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie‘s ‘The Complete Phonogram‘ from Image Comics.

Complete Phonogram Hardcover Collection

You may have been following this series over the years. Running to three volumes – the most-recent story arc ‘The Immaterial Girl’ was collected last year – and if you have been following, you’ll know that’s unique in its approach… This is one of the most realistic comics out there (no really, most comics deal in the fantastical to at least some degree) and is yet all about the real-world human condition in the 21st Century. (The inherent fantasy in it is all played out through revealing the perfectly believable character’s inner landscapes and their interplay with the outside world.) Phonogram’s big deal (and ‘Elevator Pitch’) is: ‘Music is Magic’. If music can make you change your haircut, your clothes, your identity, your friends, make you go to places you wouldn’t normally go and even make your body dance around involuntarily then it must be magic. The second layer to this big deal is then what happens when someone learns how to wield that magic, but I’ll leave you to read the comics to learn about that.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I was lucky enough to be one of the circle of comicy sorts to be asked to contribute a ‘B-Side’ – an extra strip – to the second story arc – ‘The Singles Club”s run – this, along with all the other B-sides and extras never before collected  (just like B-Sides on singles never made it to musicians’ albums, some of you may not be familiar with the concept of musical singles having flip-sides or extra running time to fill up these days, but just go with me here) will be back in print in April!

As the main story of ‘The Singles Club’ was locked around particular characters all experiencing the same night, my B-side is based around ‘Indie Dave’ – quite possibly my favourite character from the series – gatekeeper of esoteric indie, whose demeanour puts across the way that indie music is always young, youthful and always refuses to grow up, no matter how dishevelled or creaking the fans get in the end.

On Kieron’s lovely newsletter he recently shared a link to a great article written by someone who loves music, comics and Phonogram – Kieran Shiach – where you can see the impression the series made at work.

I know I’m getting in on mentioning this waaaay ahead of release, but that’s how the direct comic market works; it shouts about things about three months in advance and then readers have a chance to preorder or get excited just before the printing presses leap into action and a run of stories are put out into the world. If you’d like to welcome a copy of this into your home – and put it somewhere near your record collection – you can ask at your friendly local, independently-owned comic shop (mine are Gnash Comics and OMG Comics) for a copy on release, and make it even more easy for them by giving them this ordering code:
JAN170785

See Image Comic’s product page for the collection here.

I’ll go digging in my archives for for some supporting matter for this one to share closer to the release.

Yes I know going to such lengths gabbing about a book when I’ve only got one little strip in it is odd, but I flipping love Phonogram.

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in Print

Some photos of the very plush, oversize-hardcover of Bartkira: Nuclear Edition, now in print and available from your friendly local comic shop!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Here’s some of my art in amongst some amazing work from industry veterans and trail-blazing newcomers, the perennial AkiraRalph spread!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

So Bartkira‘s a whole thing, you know. Here’s an outstanding mural by Erik Veldmeijer and Frans Boukas at the Incubate festival in Holland. (Photo by William van der Voort.), some Mulhouse / Tetsuo cosplays, memorabilia and a Bart / Kaneda tattoo(!)

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

The title page with Bart / Kaneda and an interior spread with Milhouse / Tetsuo by project co-editor James Harvey:

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Warwick Johnson Cadwell draws frenetic city-wide cataclysms like it ain’t no thing:

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Due to the grey area/public domain spot the work exists in legally, all profits from the sale of the book go to charity; OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Miyagi Prefecture and Save the Children, as chosen by Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon. So you can know your pennies are going to a good place in return for you being able to put a slice of buzzing pop-culture madness on your bookshelf.

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition!

The Bartkira project (pop culture mash of the Akira manga redrawn with characters from ‘The Simpsons’, here’s the tag to check everything about it on the blog so far) just keeps getting better; there’s been gallery shows all over the world – including Tokyo – tons of press and Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s even looked it over, apparently. Now there’s going to be another print version (the first was an exhibition companion from Rotten Oak) out through a mainstream channel, which is cool:

Bartkira Nuclear Edition cover

Published by Floating World Comics and Nucleus, Bartkira: Nuclear Edition is a full-colour, hardback book with just some of the 6-volumes-worth of comic pages reproduced inside, including some of mine from the project! Like, ohh, this kind of thing:

Bartkira double page spread

There’s a startlingly involved blog entry on my pages from the book here. Also in the Nuclear edition are a whole gang was amazingly talented indivuals including Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Tom Neely and more. See the full list here.

The book will be out in comic shops worldwide on the 30th of March. Here’s the Previews listing for it. If you’d like a copy, please get in touch with your friendly local comic shop (preferably an independent one like Gnash Comics or OMG Comics near me) and let them know. It might speed things up if you give them its code – JAN161028 – but that’s not essential.

Bartkira Nuclear Edition, boyeee

As part of the launch there’s going to be an exhibition at the Nucleus gallery in Los Angeles that runs from the 9th-24th of April, with an opening shindig on the 9th from 7pm-10pm, if you’re in California!

So if you’ve not seen anything about Bartkira creep into your feeds yet, do seek it out, you can read it online for free, check the twitter hashtag or check the tumblr tag. It’s a truly amazing… Happening; it really makes you realise just how good a shape comics, illustration and the dizzy sense of genuine community are in these days. It’ll only get better too.

Contrivin’ a Cover for the Evil Star Graphic Novel: a History

Lend me your ears kiddies, and I’ll drop-kick yer mind back into the mists of time for a saga of artistic back-and-forth’ing! While I was drawing the Evil Star graphic novel, I was also on cover duty, which was a brilliant thing indeed. My artistic tag-team leader Dom Reardon (who’s got a cool graphic novel called ‘Underground’ out from Dark Horse in October) drew and painted the fantastic cover for the Raven’s Gate graphic novel we both worked on (see below), but this time around it was all on me. Which was cool, in fact. So while I was pencilling, I put some ideas together.

Since every series (The ‘Power of Five’ novels are a pentalogy) needs to have homogenous covers so the books sit well together, I riffed on Dom’s cover for Raven’s Gate, I came up with this… Homage:

Very First Evil Star graphic novel cover rough

With copious notes explaining myself! (Forgot to mention the colour scheme though. The idea being that each book had its own colour.) The constellation of stars in the sky is Cygnus, which features in the story. (And a lot of my early roughs.)
I’m not sure this quite hit the mark as the brief that came back was for something with a bit more action, based on a particular scene from the book; in this case the flight from the crooked police of the city of Cusco, complete with the main characters about to run off a cliff edge…

evil-star-cover-rough-2

After this there was a rethink at Walker Books and it was decided to go for something a bit more bold; something with just one character’s head, face, and even just their eye. I had a bit of noodle and came up with this lot to see if any of it stuck…

evil-star-GN-cover-roughs---wave-3 evil-star-GN-cover-roughs---wave-3-b evil-star-GN-cover-roughs---wave-3-c

The lines in this are supposed to be the Nazca lines, which also feature in the story.

Next: it was decided that the cover should be even more design-led; half the title, then some graphic element. David McDougall, the art-director at Walker knocked up these examples…

davids-first-evil-star-gn-cover-roughs

I’m not sure where the guy in the hoodie on the right-hand side came from, but I kinda like him. Next: it was decided to sort out the reprint of the Raven’s Gate cover first, and then go from there afterwards. Here’s the final thing:

RAVENS-gate-GN-CVR-rough

That’s a panel from somewhere in the middle of the graphic novel – pencilled by Dom and inked by me. Now we had the style set down, a change of colour and main character was in order. So I clipped these shots of Pedro from the interior pages of the book…

Pedro Headshots

And it turned out the sweet one wasn’t even from that lot, it was from the bottom of this page here:

es-inks-071

Who’da thunk? David put this together from that shot and some of the other interior artwork…

EVIL-star-GN-CVR-final-rough-1

I then took it and knocked off the rough edges:

EVIL-star-GN-CVR-final-rough-1-lees-version

Just the artwork on its own looked like this. The background and lightning bolt is from another frame in the same scene.

EVIL-star-GN-CVR-rough-lees-art-alone

Next, it was decided that we needed something that matched the scene from the first book – two characters in the same scene talking or working together. So I went through the interior pages I’d inked and picked out frames that had Matt and Pedro – our main characters – in. I then worked them up into little scenes that be easily laid-out by David into a design that worked with the rest of the cover…

ES-cover-element--142-B ES-cover-element-047 ES-cover-element-059 ES-cover-element-060 ES-cover-element-080 ES-cover-element-090 ES-cover-element-096 ES-cover-element-142-A ES-cover-element-p070 ES-cover-element-p078

 

ES-cover-element-2-p070

I’m quite proud of these, they might look a bit wonky occasionally, but that’s because they were once part of a layout of frames on a page.
Next, David took that last one above and worked it into a new composition:

EVIL-star-GN-CVR-final-rough-2

Once again I smoothed out the rough bits (including Pedro’s head looking like it had just been chopped at the neck. Ouch…)

Evil-Star-GN-Cover-final-Aug-13

I batted that over to David, who did the texture and the typography and we ended up with this:

evil star GN cover final

Which was the finished cover! There was much rejoicing.
However, there was just one last little cherry to go on top… Spot gloss varnish! The bibliophile/fanboy’s newest friend. I’ve drooled over seeing the book in print after all the work that went into it previously on this blog, but here’s some snaps of the spot varnish…
Here, it’s on the red bits, Pedro’s big head and the title.

evil-star-gn-spot-gloss-varnish-1

…And the blood-splatter type bits on the spine and back cover…

evil-star-gn-spot-gloss-varnish-2 evil-star-gn-spot-gloss-varnish-3…And on the Power of Five logo and some other bits on the spine.

And that about wraps it up. Thanks for reading all this stuff!

The Power of Five: ‘Evil Star’ graphic novel out now!

Some… Years in the making, the second volume of the Power of Five graphic novel series -’Evil Star’ – will be out… Wait for it… Right now!
This is the volume I drew entirely on my own – pencils and inks – and its the longest book I’ve had out on own yet; weighing in a a hefty 170 pages!
The story is a continuation of the the five-novel series written by Anthony Horowitz and adapted by Tony Lee. In the first novel, 14 year old Matt Freeman was fostered as part of a government scheme to a small village in Yorkshire where he slowly learnt that all wan’t quite what it seemed, and the local folklore of witches might not be quite so dead after all. A little bit like The Wicker Man, all the villagers are actually in on an occult plot to reopen the portal that’s sealed away an evil ‘Old One’, monster. In Evil Star, it turns out that there’s another gate holding back Old Ones in Peru, South America, and the organisation that helps Matt sends him there to investigate. And then there are adventures! Obviously!

Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
So after months of stapled script booklets, separate bits of paper with pencils on and inked artboard in piles, the finished product looks like this! (Note festive tablecloth also.)

You can buy the book from the publisher Walker Books themselves, Amazon UK or Amazon US, and a bunch of other places!
There’s a preview PDF of some lettered interior pages up on the Walker Books page, to read it, click here!

Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelThe story starts straight away as soon as you open the front cover – no title pages or publication information pages…Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel

Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelSo since we only had black and white to play with for interiors, I used a few storytelling tricks to help make the tale feel a bit richer. Here, the folk-art style border means the characters are in an Incan town.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelHere, the grey instead of white means the scene is taking place in a shared dream world.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelAnd the grey linework and mottled brushwork shading here means it’s a flashback.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelSo here’s the book sitting on top of all the pages of artwork on Bristol board that went into its creation.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
So here’s a spread with the original art next to it.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
And another.Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelSo since the series is being reprinted to fit in with the style of the prose novels a bit more, Evil Star and Raven’s Gate look pretty good next to each other, hm?Power of Five: Evil Star Graphic NovelPower of Five: Evil Star Graphic Novel
Looks pretty good together on the shelf too…
(Not that my work deserves such good neighbours, but you get the general idea…)

Raven’s Gate, Reprinted!

Some snaps of the lovely reprint of the Power of FiveRaven’s Gate Graphic Novel that Walker Books put out a while ago.

Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker BooksIt’s slightly bigger than the last edition, and the page stock is a bit weightier this time around so it’s slightly thicker, too. Nices!Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books The book opened up to reveal Richard Cole’s hellhound-gunning Peugeot 106 in all its glory. Also, some other things.Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books

Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books
I’m sure I mentioned at some point in the past that there were 170 pages to this sucker, didn’t I?
Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books

Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books

Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books

Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books
There’s some nice spot varnish on the front and back cover too. You don’t get that with an e-book, y’know.
Raven's Gate Graphic Novel second printing from Walker Books

I’m really pleased with this edition. The design was by David McDougall at Walker and features Walker’s graphic novel imprint’s branding, which the last edition missed out on because it was published before the imprint even existed! The other books in the series have different colours in their design so they look really good on a shelf too. You can get it from Amazon (UK), or Walker Books’ own webshop here.

Deluxe

Here’s a comic strip page I did for Deluxe Magazine, a magazine about record shops from The British Underground that’s going to – among other places – the South by Southwest Festival that’s going on right now in Austin, Texas.

Deluxe Magazine coverDeluxe Magazine #1Thanks to Deluxe for the photo, it's better than any of mine...

Here’s the strip from its image file, click through to read it at a comfortable size: Deluxe Magazine comic stripAs this was an opportunity to poke my head above a parapet with a view of a landscape I didn’t have that much of an excuse to be in – record retail and collecting – and then proceed to throw my opinions around, I wanted to make sure it was half worth reading, so I wrestled with some roughs:Deluxe #1 comic 1st roughsI ended up getting two comics-worth from the preliminary brain rummage, so cut the first one free and then threw this at the Editor as a statement of intent:Deluxe #1 comic strip dummyThe poor guy.

It was nice to wang on about something using comics as a medium though. The whole thing brings to mind the increasing troubles facing physical shops that sell physical objects. Bit like your local comic shop. If you have one left anywhere near you. I suppose comic shops have people going in every week for their fix of The Big Two‘s product; something that there isn’t really a parallel to in indie record emporiums. But then again digital comics are on the up, slicing more share away from the comic shop owner. Hmm. I remember thinking to myself a while back that if there was any true future in comics they would have to become a trash medium again. Even though mail order ‘long tail’ graphic novels and collections – and even Kickstarters for the same – are fantastic, if we really want to be anywhere approaching relevance we need to jump onto the digital platform bandwagon – even if we don’t know where it’s headed – and start pedalling like crazy, and hope the mainstream takes some notice of us again.
Mind you, I do like a nice physical object like a graphic novel or trade paperback to read, so I suppose I want it both ways really. Harrumph.

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.

Further-Delayed Gratification

After appearing in the first issue, there’s another set of ‘And Finally…’ news stories of the last three months illustrated as comics by me in the second issue of Delayed Gratification magazine, the quarterly almanac that’s an exponent of the ‘Slow News’ approach, the idea that journalism shouldn’t be so twitchy and focusing on filing in the next thirty seconds, but should instead digest events and then collate them.

Delayed Gratification Magazine Cover

Delayed Gratification Magazine spread

There’s a story about a Greek former soap actor turned politician bulldozing toll-road barriers, how some Milton-Keynes residents kept their library open, and how people power in Wisconsin meshed with technology equals lots of pizza, but not necessarily political reform.

Not only are copies available to buy from the Delayed Gratification website, you can subscribe there as well.