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<<August 2015>>
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Dan as Daenerys Targaryen, he is a fan of GoT
Lin says it is a wonderfully satisfying and emotional moment to introduce Dan Santat and I agree, he's the super best.

Dan came here in 2001, this Summer Conference is the first SCBWI conference he ever attended. He worried it was too expensive, but that worry was soon put to rest when his portfolio got noticed by editor Arthur Levine, and because of attending the conference,Dan got his first book contract.

In the many years of attending SCBWI events and conferences, Dan's noticed success stories of authors and illustrators, and some stories of people who are still finding there way. Dan says:

Your time will come, it's not a race to the top of the mountain, everyone finds their time. 

One way to ease your trek on the road to publication is to improve your taste: Do you know if you have good taste? Do you know if what you're writing is good? Dan reads us this Ira Glass quote:

Dan lists some of the stories and genres he likes, and thinks improving your work and taste is due to understanding why you like things, don't censor or bias yourself. Dan likes:

Batman and Akira comics. Movies and TV shows like Moneyball, Game of Thrones, Lost, and Breaking Bad. Podcasts like This American Life and Serial. From all of these he is learning story style and technique, observing different points of view. Immerse yourself in life and culture, take these references, says Dan, and come up with a unique spin on things.

You must do a critical review of your work. Dan reads us some 1 star and 5 star Goodreads reviews for Where the Wild Things Are (which has an overall rating of 4.2, by the way). Compare your opinions with others, there are crazy reviewers and there are good reviewers, the good reviews are useful pieces of critical information that can make your work better.

Study the fundamentals, but don't be rigid.

Learn by imitation, but don't become a clone. In art school, Dan copied Wyeth paintings in class because when you paint the strokes a master painter painted, your hands learn what your head doesn't quite understand yet. But be sure to make your art your own, Dan says, try to make work that is original to yourself once you begin to trust your inner instincts.

The exploration comes by doing: You have to make a lot of lousy paintings before you find one you want to put in your portfolio. Dan was working a full-time job when he decided he wanted to be published, so he started working from 10 pm to 3 am on his illustration work and after weeks and weeks of working like this and honing his craft, he'd made himself an illustration portfolio he could be proud of.

Form follows function. Dan shows us how good stories have things happening for a reason, you see it in everything from Back to the Future to his very own Beekle.

A few of Dan's final thoughts: Do what you love, and the work will find you. Don't think about the money, think about the craft, and working on your craft is the only way to improve. And don't give up!

Thanks, Danders!!!

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2. Patalosh and Exploring the Great Wall of China

Orion explores the Great Wall of China in Asia.

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3. More Characters For My Table AT SLC Comic Con

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4. Hollins Graduation

Four of my students graduated this year from the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration at Hollins University. I'm so proud of them! Here are Julie Coyle, Kelsey Findlay, Kassy Keppol and Shawn Walton:

And Kassy with her ever-present and helpful brood:

And Kelsey and Shawn in "Otis" - the busy elevator in the Visual Arts Building:
      But before they graduated, they had to complete their final assignment, which was to read their book dummies to the class. Because, after all, picture books are a kind of performance art and are not completely finished until they are being read aloud to an enraptured audience. In this case, it was an audience of exhausted classmates, who assumed the role of kindergartners. Here's Marilyn Mallue to the right and Lucy Rowe below.
      As you can imagine, the lack of sleep and deep sense of accomplishment led to things quickly deteriorating out of control. The audience played their part well, shouting out random facts and observations. We were all laughing so hard we were in tears.
      What was clear was that everybody had done a great job, and had a great time in the process of creating their books. It was also clear how close they'd all grown over the last six weeks of late nights, sometimes tears, and struggles. I was lucky indeed to have such a group of kind, funny, and caring students this year. I'll miss them all but wish them well as they continue to chase their dreams! (And some are coming back next year to pursue the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books!) Here's Julie, Shawn, Kelsey and Shawn:

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5. The LGBTQ Q&A

Joining me and legendary editor Emma Dryden, best-Selling author Ellen Hopkins, art director and debut YA author Laurent Linn, and agent Danielle Smith, about 30 writers and illustrators (including conference attendee and Sid Fleischman and Lambda Literary Award-winning author Bill Konigsberg!) gathered in a large circle to share our questions about and discuss our projects that include Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning characters and themes.

We started out in a circle

As always, it was a safe space with lots of shared encouragement and mutual support.

Some highlights:

"Write bravely because it's going to matter to somebody. ...We have kids who need these books. Still!"
- Ellen Hopkins

"There is a need and a want" for these books with LGBTQ characters and themes, in publishing houses, "and readers who need these books."
- Laurent Linn

"The biggest tool against generalization is characterization. ...We are all more than our gender identification... Gender is not enough. Sexuality is not enough. Go deeper..."
- Arthur A. Levine

on why Ellen's books are successful... "These books are dealing with how kids would really feel in these situations. But if it's not on the page, kids are going to think you're lying to them."

"The question is not what hasn't been done, but what haven't I done?"
- Bill Konigsberg

Both Arthur and Danielle spoke of how in today's publishing environment, having LGBTQ characters and themes are something they cite as a positive about a project, something that helps them in selling/publishing a project.

And spent time meeting and greeting each other

And we'll let Arthur have the final word for this post:

"There's never been a more receptive environment for publishing LGBTQ characters and issues."
- Arthur A. Levine

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6. From Chapter books to beyond......

Ok so schools our for summer, your child is bored, you suggest reading a good book. He puckers up his face and thinks of school starting .... so this is when you can get creative.  Here are some alternatives I can suggest to you that count as "reading"...

1. The Newspaper

The newspaper has many sections in it that might be appealing to you child.  There's world news, local news, ads, sports, entertainment, comics and the list goes on ....  sure to spark conversations too.

2. Magazines

Find out what your child is interested in and I am sure there is a magazine that covers that topic.  Magazines are colourful, educational, can include puzzles, quizzes, and a whole lot more. They are a perfect gift to give as a present as they come monthly right into your mailbox.  

3. Nonfiction books

Any summer events that you attend always have "reading" components to them ... from tickets, to booklets regarding the performance, to maps to guide you to your destination.  All these are considered reading and will be of great interest to your child.

4.  Poetry

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7. July 31-Currently

reading:  I read I AM PRINCESS X by Cherie Priest this past week.  I really enjoyed it!  The cover, being all pink and purple, makes it seem like it's going to be a light hearted story, it wasn't.  But it was just good.
watching: The Walking Dead. This winter Scott started watching this series and although I had watched the first season, I stopped partway through the second season. So while he was watching it I kind of got interested again.  Spent this past week watching it and am not ready for the season 5 marathon in August.
listening: Start Up was a very interesting podcast about a guy starting a media company.  His company produces the podcast I was listening to last week, Reply All. This one was quite fascinating.
writing: I got some new pens this week so I of course had to write with every single one!

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8. Daniel Radcliffe Joins the Cast of Upcoming FBI Thriller ‘Imperium’

Deadline reports that Daniel Radcliffe has been signed to play the lead role in a new FBI thriller, Imperium, from Atomic Features and Tycor International Film Company. According to Deadline:

“Radcliffe will star as a young FBI agent who goes undercover to find and stop white supremacists trying to make a dirty bomb. It’s based on the experiences of Michael German, an FBI undercover agent who spent years inside United States neo-Nazi and militia groups.”

The film, which is based on real events, is set to start filming in the fall. Imperium will be the feature film directorial debut of short film director, Daniel Ragussis. The script is co-written by Michael German and Ragussis. Imperium will be produced by Ty Walker, Dennis Lee and Simon Taufique.

With Imperium added to Radcliffe’s schedule, he is sure keeping busy. Later this year, Radcliffe can be seen in Fox’s Frankenstein retelling, Victor Frankenstein. In addition to that, Radcliffe is currently filming Swiss Army Man, an indie comedy with Paul Dano. In 2016, Radcliffe will make an appearance on television in an upcoming BBC2 TV film Game Changer as the co-founder of the Rockstar Games company Sam Houser.

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9. Structure

Question After I organize my plot, what comes after that? Thank you. Answer: After that, assuming you have reached the point where you feel excited about

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10. Peppa's Windy Fall Day (2015)

Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is a windy fall day. Peppa and her family are going to the park. "Let's put on our warm clothes," says Mummy Pig. When it is cold outside, Peppa and her family wear their hats, scarves, and coats. 

Premise/plot: An adaptation of an episode of the television show Peppa Pig. Peppa and her family go to the park on a windy fall day. They talk about the leaves on the tree, play ball, and jump in leaves.

My thoughts: I do love the show. I really do. I enjoy the book adaptations of the show. I adore Peppa, George, Mummy Pig, and Daddy Pig.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. GJ Book Club: Chapter 17: Portrait Drawing

On the GJ Book Club, we're looking at Chapter 17: "Portrait Drawing" in Harold Speed's 1917 classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

Now we arrive at a solid chapter that is full of Speed's best thoughts about how to approach a portrait. He's not only talking about drawing, but about painting, too. I'll paraphrase Speed's points in bold, followed by further comments and links to previous GJ posts that discuss the topic further.

1. An individual's personality affects the outward appearance of their face, both the overall form and the features.
This leads to a question I've often pondered when I'm riding the subway or looking at criminal's mugshots. Can you read a person's biography from their face alone? How much are our innermost lives written on our faces?

2. The real object of the portrait painter is to seize on these unique characteristics of the sitter, even if they are shy and self-conscious about those qualities.
Speed says, "Some close study of individual characteristics must be the aim of the artist." Recent studies of face recognition have shown that the way we remember faces is by cataloguing the ways they deviate from the norm. We keep a mental catalog of their unusual qualities.

Caricaturists know this (above by David Boudreau) and they're experts at emphasizing those deviations.

King George V by Joseph Solomon
3. Some people think that emphasizing the uniqueness of the sitter goes against the goal of capturing their ideal beauty, but if you don't focus on this, you'll lose the likeness.
In Speed's words: "Catching the likeness, as it is called, is simply seizing on the essential things that belong only to a particular individual and differentiate that individual from others, and expressing them in a forceful manner."

4. No two people look alike; even if the differences are slight, we can recognize someone after a long time or from far off.
We've all noticed this when we see someone we know in a crowd way off. We're also attuned to recognizing very slight differences in body posture and walk cycles, too, which is why a walk cycle is a central job of designing an animation character.

5. We record the memory of a face not as a collection of individual details, but as a gestalt, or an overall impression.
He says it's important not to dwell too much on any one feature, but to develop the whole subject as a general impression and get that right before honing into the details. You can see this in quick portrait sketches (above) or unfinished paintings by master portraitists.

6. Your eye has to be "fresh" to recognize these differences. If you've been looking at your picture for too long, you lose sight of the uniqueness of the subject. 
The best illustration of this is this video, which will blow your mind if you haven't seen it before. Look at the cross in the middle of the frame, as unaltered photos of celebrity faces flash by. They will appear to be distorted caricatures, but they're not. Your "fresh eye" is seeing them as distinct and unique variations.  

7. Look for great qualities in the old masters, and then seek those qualities as you observe living examples in nature.
Another point Speed makes is to get to know the person's biography first, at least the main qualities of his temperament that are likely to have influenced his or her face. Another way I think of this is, what is their central metaphor? What is the basic story they keep telling about themselves? Do they present themselves as a victim, a clever trickster, a lover, a thinker, or a rogue? Speed says, "The habitual cast of thought in any individual affects the shape and moulds the form of the features. So I would say, chat it up with the person, and if possible keep them talking throughout the sitting. If they're sitting there like a wooden statue, there's no way you'll capture their true likeness.

8. Get the exact proportions correct first. The metrics have to be right.
We saw this in an earlier post when I interviewed one of the artists for Madame Tussaud's.

Portrait by Boldini

9. Speed's criticism of the "striking" portrait. 
Speed says, "Probably the most popular point of view in portraiture at present is the one that can be described as a "striking presentment of the live person. This is the portrait that arrests the crowd in an exhibition. You cannot ignore it, vitality bursts from it, and everything seems sacrificed to this quality of striking lifelikeness. And some very wonderful modern portraits have been painted from this point of view." 

He then goes on to question this fashion. I'm not sure exactly who he had in mind, but it might be Boldini, who did many such striking portraits, and they're related to the bravura of Hals. I doubt that Speed is criticizing Sargent, but he might be.

9. Speed outlines two methods for developing the portrait:
a) Mass in the impression, then finish the eyes first and then finish the rest of the face, moving outward from the eyes. Some contemporary painters advise actually constructing the face outward from the eyes, a more radical version of what Speed is proposing—but this method, I believe, is prone to errors in construction.

b) Block in the overall impression and develop areas throughout the face all together, finishing up the eyes later in the process.

10. Speed's classifications of portrait styles:
a) The quiet and sober portraits of Holbein (above).
b) "Seeking in the face a symbol of the person within." He gives the example of G.F. Watts (below).

Watts portrait of Wm. Morris
c) "Treating the sitter as part of a symphony of form and color." Example, J. McNeill Whistler.

11. Speed cautions against capturing momentary expressions (or contemporary fashions).
He traces this to the ability of the camera to capture a smile. Speed says you wouldn't want to live with a person who is smiling all the time (creepy), so you wouldn't want to live with a portrait like that, either. What would Speed think of modern portraits, where the fashion nowadays is to show the subject grinning? A "fixed smile is terrible," Speed says.

No one can hold a smile very long. That's why someone needs to count down "3, 2, 1, Cheese!" when we take a smiling photo. (See my previous post on Smiling Presidents)

Feel free to offer your comments on any of the points mentioned above, or other points I may have missed.

The Practice and Science of Drawing is available in various formats:
1. Inexpensive softcover edition from Dover, (by far the majority of you are reading it in this format)
3. Free online Archive.org edition.
and The Windsor Magazine, Volume 25, "The Art of Mr. Harold Speed" by Austin Chester, page 335. (thanks, अर्जुन)
GJ Book Club on Pinterest (Thanks, Carolyn Kasper)
Original blog post Announcing the GJ Book Club

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12. The Final EVER Posting On The UK Comics Scene And The Way Ahead

As it stands, in 2015, there is no British comics industry.  That is a fact and if you argue the opposite you are either just trying to argue for the sake of it or you have absolutely no idea of what is going on.

I am going to cover part of the problem by using a previous posting -a lot (a very large number in fact) have started reading CBO in recent weeks so will probably have missed this.

And if you are one of those who want to comment negatively or start an arguement don't bother.  As always your comment will be deleted as spam.


Just WHY Is No Businessman or Existing Publishing House Getting Involved With UK Comics?

We know that there is no comic industry in the UK. 

 With the exception of Cinebook The 9th Art, which specialises in publishing Franco-Belgian comic albums in the English language.  Future generations of UK kids will grow up on these albums but not, sadly, UK originated comics.

 above Chris Weston's The Spider artwork

I have had a couple of conversations with companies this week but it was the same thing "We simply do not publish comics.  We couldn't compete with Marvel" oh, and (incredibly!!) "You ought to contact the guy does a website called Comic Bits Online, he's always banging on about British comics".....he seemed taken aback when I said "That's me"   but added "Well, there you go then"

There I go then -what?!

I think the last person who knew the UK comics industry for almost 45 years retired in...2000?  A year later I was told in a letter regarding IPC and Fleetway-Egmont "How the mighty have fallen!"

The idea that "only the Americans can do super heroes" is ludicrous.  There is still this stupidity that exists in the UK.  Back when we did have a comics industry I was told by top management and even senior editors that "We don't get super heroes.  We just don't do them because they are an American thing" -when I rolled off a list of characters I was told "Oh, those are action or masked adventurers!"  So WTF are super heroes.

Below: British Super Soldier Captain Hurricane

I mean, The Spider, Gadget Man and Gimmick Kid, The Phantom Viking, Kelly's Eye, Rubberman, Tri-man, Steel Claw (costumed for a brief period in the late 1960s), General Jumbo, Billy The Cat, The Leopard From Lime Street, The Iron Fish, Danger Man, The Black Sapper, Spring Heeled Jack (take your pick!), King Cobra, Nick Jolly -even Captain Hurricane, a World War 2 commando was a kind of "super-soldier" -especially after his "raging furies"!

The list goes on and on and that is just from the former "Big Two" -the Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke" and Fleetway/Amalgamated Press/IPC.

Last year (I think it was up-dated) I wrote this post so I'm adding more to it.  It will be my ultimate piece on the subject.


....until next time.


You see, I never lied -"Never say 'Never Again!'" and I think this article helps emphasise things and once I get to my final comments it will all make sense.  Honest.


The Improbability Of The British Super Hero-

“Hmm. Don’t you understand?  Think about it –we have no skyscrapers!  How can you have American style super heroes in England?”

Those were the words of a Marvel UK editor (Dave White) back in the 1980s as I sat across from him having travelled from Bristol to London at his suggestion to discuss new projects.  About a month later a very senior Marvel UK editor responded in the same words but adding “That is why UK comics have never had super heroes.”

Firstly, as I pointed out to Dave White, we are the UK. Britain. You think of characters for a comic as being English you are excluding Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Why?

My response to the senior editor is probably why things went a little “odd” work-wise.  My first response was “So, what exactly is Marvel UK publishing? And Power Comics (Odhams) before it? And…” I went on to rattle off a very, very long list of British super characters going back to the 1940s.  I think I ticked him off.  Really, he should have known better though, in one respect, he was right.

British comics never had super heroes.

Before you start thinking that I’m on new medications and answering “Yes” and “No” at the same time allow me to explain.

Tim (Kelly’s Eye) Kelly travelled the world and even in time and space at one point and was totally indestructible.  He was not a super hero.  Yes, he was what some called a "supernatural character" or "magic character" because of the mystic amulet.  And later on science fiction as he travelled in time.

Clem Macy, television news reporter had a costumed archer alter ego…The Black Archer.  He was not a super hero.

Cathy had amazing cat-like abilities and wore a costume.  She was not a super heroine.

William and Kathleen Grange were incredible acrobats and wore costumes as Billy the Cat and Katie The Cat.  They were not super heroes.


 Robots were big in the 1950s-1960s and Robot Archie was merely a remote controlled robot, from The Green Peril (The Jungle Robot) to travelling the world and, later on via tower-like device, travelling in time and space.  Yes, he foiled bank robberies and other criminal masterminds but he was not a super hero just a sci fi robot.

Likewise, the British secret weapon known as The Steel Commando was nothing more than that -though he answered only to Lance Corporal Ernie Bates' voice and seemed at times to make his own decisions -sometimes with very odd and funny consequences.

In fact, for my graphic novel featuring many old IPC and Fleetway costumed characters, The Looking Glass, I noted several times that the characters were not super heroes.  In the UK we tended to call them “costumed adventurers” or even “masked crime fighters” but not super heroes.

Some, of course, were…uh..”revived” for the Wildstorm Studios Albion mini series which had great art but, sadly, showed a lack of any real knowledge of the characters by the writers –which they admitted to.  In comics you get paying work you take it!

Below: Tri-Man. He wears a costume.  Has super powers.  Fights crime.  Obviously 'not' a super hero!

Characters such as Adam Eterno, the focal point in the Looking Glass story had no choice and were at times almost anti-heroes. 

Whereas The Spider had a choice of being a master crook and then changing sides (basically all ego driven), Eterno did not.  He was cursed to be taken by the mists of time from one period to another where he encountered Spanish Conquistadores, pirates, sorcerers and even modern day (well, 1970s) crooks.

Olaf (“Loopy”) Larsen a rather meek school teacher found the Viking helmet of one of his ancestors and, donning it (that’s putting it on his head) became a super strong, flying Viking hero…The Phantom Viking.  There are stories of The Phantom Viking rescuing ships and much more and not a skyscraper in sight.

The great exponents of British roof-top crime-busting were, first, Billy The Cat and later Katie The Cat.  Running across the rooftops and leaping the often not so great gaps between one row of terraced houses and another, the duo were the fictional ancestors of today’s urban free-style runners/jumpers –examples found here:


To most people who never get to see the rooves of terraced houses they assume they are all steep and sloping.  However, having on two occasions chased someone across terraced root-tops I can tell you there is plenty of room to move about (though at my age I now look back and get nauseous over that memory!).

Later, in the 1970s, William Farmer became the costumed crime-fighter known as The Leopard From Lime Street.  As one Fleetway boss told me (later confirmed by artist Mike Western) “Thomson had a schoolboy who fights crooks in a costume and if Billy the Cat was popular I was sure we could do better!”

Interestingly, in the Billy The Cat series he was later to be hunted as a vigilante by authorities who did not like what he was doing.  Likewise, The Leopard was also hunted down at one point.  In fact, a number of British comic crime-fighters found themselves not just ducking the crooks out for revenge but also the very side they were fighting for!

Towns, cities, villages, countryside, coastal locations –all featured in some very fun stories that endure in the memory to this day.  And not a bloody skyscraper in sight!

Now look at the UK again (or any country in Europe since this applies there, also -though Hexagon and Wanga comics are doing great work in France):  seaside resorts and coastal towns -in some of these areas larger "sea front tower blocks" have been built but even without those you have piers, amusement arcades/parks, sea forts, oil rigs out to sea -there is so much.

Towns and cities speak for themselves and Bristol has a mix of Medieval right through to ultra modern buildings and water fronts (our European colleagues in Germany did a lot of landscaping work for us between 1941-1944).  But there are underground caverns, cliffs, caves, old mine workings run many many miles from one end of the city to another and most are 'lost' or forgotten about.  And Pen Park Hole -wow.

Did I mention forestry and woodland?

And our ancient sites -everyone knows Stone Henge- but The Severn Sisters, Callanish, Avebury and even ancient woodland mazes -in Wales there are said to be ancient forests areas of which no one has probably ever seen.

Below:Callanish stones

There are the Green Man legends....

And then there are mountains and moors, ancient cave complexes and even underground lakes.

Just why would you need skyscrapers if you have all that -unless you lack imagination!

I used to love to watch the Narri Narro Festival in Germany where regional teams took part dressed as legends or myths from those areas.  In the UK there are the Green Children of Woolpit, Suffolk (12th Century)...

 And  there are many others to which we had the very well known ones.  King Arthur has been, perhaps, "over exposed" and we could say the same of Merlyn, but Merlyn is the British character intertwined in so many myths and legends that to ignore him would be rude!

When UK creators were recruited to save the ailing US comic companies such as DC in the 1980s (I was at those UK comic art conventions watching how desperate they were to recruit British talent –and in some cases introduced both parties to each other) the idea of outlawing super heroes and tracking them down so they could be arrested was a new concept....to Americans. 

In the UK we’d been doing that since the 1940s ( thanks to the creators who churned out material for publishers such as Gerald Swan)!

The mistake in the minds of publishers is that they equate costumed crime-fighters with skyscrapers and the United States.  Despite the long history of such characters in the UK going back to the Boys Papers of the 1900-1930s.

What it says, really, is “This is just a job.  I don’t care about comics history.”

The Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke (may they be forever cursed in the hallowed halls of British Comics Hell) have enough characters to produce good costumed-crime-fighter comics.  The same applied to IPC who appear to have now taken the stance (a letter to me from senior management dated 19th July, 2011) “We were once publishing comics but that was over 30 years ago and have no further interest in comics.” Of course, had a rich stable of characters.

I have no doubt at all that a good “super hero” comics could work in the UK but so few Independent Comics writers/publishers seem to be able to produce an obscenities free script that does not also include over the top violence and rape –the “Millar-Ennis-Morrison Legacy (MEML).”

But let’s mention, I really must, two shining examples of British “Super Heroes” by British creators that have excellent plotting, story and action without having to resort to the MEML.

The first is, naturally, Paul Grist’s Jack Staff.  Okay, he’s never accepted my offer to interview him in the last decade but I’ll not hold that against him!  When I first saw Jack Staff I thought “**** that anatomy is really off!”  I bought a copy.  I’m a comics bitch, I just can’t help it.

I read through issue 1 and do you know what? I..I..deep breath…I enjoyed it!  There it’s out now!  The anatomy did not put me off and, as the manager of Forbidden Planet (Bristol) said “It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference –it’s so enjoyable!” With references to old British TV comedy series and so much more each issue of Jack Staff was a must read. There was, I must point out here, a major flaw in each issue. There were not enough pages!

Jack Staff and cast

And while Grist takes a break from Jack Staff he came up with a new series –Mud-Man (which should not be confused with my German character Schlamm Mann –mud-man!).  Lovely stuff but, again, the major fault of not enough pages but maybe that is why this works: it is almost episodic like old British weekly strips…but with more pages…okay. Grist wins.

A boy with a remote control Army, Navy and Air Force stopping bad guys. General Jumbo 0'not' a super hero!

Then we have, and I have to say this on bended knees and in very humble tone…Nigel Dobbyn. When someone told me that he was drawing Billy The Cat I remember thinking to myself “I wonder whether his art style is any different than when he was drawing for Super Adventure Stories?”  (a 1980s comic zine).  I opened up the comic and a big thought balloon appeared above my head in which was written in bold Comic Sans “WOW!”

The style and colouring I had not seen outside of European comics (say Cyrus Tota’s work on Photonik).  After that I never missed an issue and I made a point of grabbing The Beano Annual as soon as it appeared in shops. But with this incredible talent working for them did Thomson take advantage?  No, they did something ensuring he would not work on new strips for them.  The story can be found here:


You want to see how good Dobbyn is?  Visit his website which has great art on show including Billy The Cat colour pages:


Dobbyn even re-introduced (with help from scripter Kev F. Sutherland, of course) General Jumbo but as The General.  In fact, you go over those issues and I can see why so many people were telling me that they only bought copies for Billy The Cat. I could drool on and wax lyrical for hours about Dobbyn’s style and colouring.

Now here is the real kicker.  Two talents such as Grist and Dobbyn whom any UK publisher (I know –“Who??”) should be fighting, spitting and kicking to get their hands on but are they?  Nope.  And while Grist publishes his books via Image Comics you have to wonder why Marvel or DC have not tried to get him on a title?  Could it be his style is just not understandable by people in US Comics such as Joe “I’ll sell that for a Dollar” Quesada or Dan “I’ve had another brilliant idea on how to destroy DC” Didio?  What of Dobbyn, then?

I know that if as a publisher I had the money I’d be employing both full time!!

I need to stop mentioning Dobbyn now as my knees hurt (a lot) and it’s hard typing from this position.

What both creators have shown is that there really do not have to be skyscrapers for a “super hero.”  There is enough car crime, drug crime…violent crime of most types going on in the UK and believe it or not none involve a single skyscraper.  Incredible, isn’t it?

Also, the UK is rich in legends, myths, fairy tales and much more that are just crying out to be included in storylines.  The reason the Americans and other comic readers world-wide like UK strips is because they are uniquely British.  In India, particularly in Southern India, The Steel Claw, Robot Archie, The Spider and many others are still very popular in reprint form over 35 years since they last appeared in print here.
Above: Black Tower specialises in two things when it comes to new characters -super heroes and the supernatural/horror.  Kotar & Sabuta by Ben R. Dilworth.

Of course, now that the Evil Empire (Disney) has extended its stranglehold on Marvel (Panini) UK nothing new from the UK is allowed –though why doesn’t Panini with all its international branches pull in some new characters/books of their own? 

Oh. Its cheaper to publish reprint material, isn’t it?  I can be so silly!

Black Tower Comics has published a wide range of comics and the costumed crime-fighters (or even non-costumed in the case of Krakos) are the most popular.

No one is challenging Disney since its policy seems to be "make all comics American" and no one is challenging DC.  It is NOT how you go into this.  I've seen babies clothed in Marvel/DC super hero clothing, Avengers shoe laces, lunch boxes, Pez dispensers, t-shirts, socks, action figures, toy cars sweets -basically on everything.  Do you think that kids look at something and say "I could not possibly look at that comic.  It may have super heroes and be colourful but, really, it isn't Marvel, is it?"

Do my great nephews care if it's Marvel or DC or some other super hero? No. It's super heroes and that is that.

So the market is there but where are the money-men, the backers needed to help revive the corpse that is British comics so that it can proudly boast an industry once more that takes advantage of talents such as Grist, Dobbyn and Jon Haward?   And rake in some of that money!

However improbable British super heroes might seem to sum I can tell you they are not.  There is a history going back 80 years and even longer if you include the Penny Dreadfuls of the Victorian era.

Here endeth the sermon.

Garen's Billy the Cat


This all led on to an article in response to remarks about how the French viewed the UK and its comics -in fact, I know I referred, as did those who noted this originally, to "the French" but, in fact, the attitude seems to be a Franco-Belgian one.

Anyway, this was titled....

“The French Laugh At The British At Angouleme –We’ve No Comics Industry!”
And So They Might 

And that is a quote, baby.  Not from one person but several including some comic professionals from the UK who will not repeat those words in public because “I just do not want the grief that follows saying that!

Oh, yes. On the old CBO I got the reaction to writing things like this but not just off the top of my head for controversy but fully backed up by facts and statistics.  I once suggested that all UK comic bloggers add a banner to their sites: “Let’s Revive The UK Comic Industry” and the reaction?

I was told I had “a Saviour complex” and a lot worse.  “Oh, so YOU are going to come and save us all?!!”  Really nasty things were written and not just on CBO but on comic blogs and forums.

Let me make this clear (because ALL the postings and responses were kept –a full file of all this is with a solicitor “in case”): I was being attacked because I suggested all of us in UK comics get together and try to rebuild the comic industry as best we could.

At that point I realised that the main problem was that we never really had an industry anyway –the comics business was so crooked that it used to be known to tax people as “the double cooked books with triple layer mud”.  Distributors were no better and often acted in collusion with publishers.

Once the fan-boy got into comics that was it.
But I was asked why I do not include the Small Press as the new comics industry?  Well, I believe that I have written before that it is but it does no real good. It is a dilettante comics industry.

Someone just Googled “Dilettante Comics” to see if they are collectibles.

Now I know people do tend to misconstrue my words even though I try to make them clear so hold on to your lederhosen.

I began drawing as a youngster.  In school I edited the school magazine Starkers The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth which was in…1971/72?  The title came from the Deputy Head, Mr. Wright –an ex-RAF man and one of the most popular teachers at Greenway Boys School.  I do know that there was/is a magazine by that name from London(?).  Never seen it and I did an internet search recently and cannot find reference to it.  I am positive that I did see it advertised in publications such as Fortean Times (in the old days).

Anyway, one of the school secretaries complained and it was stopped at printing and burned.  Also, the rather pompous religious Head Master disliked immensely that I called it a “zine” –it was NOT a magazine and I kept saying it was a “little magazine –a zine”.
I later did lots of other work with newsletters, magazines, printers and from the late 1970s on, the Small Press world of fanzines.  I have a big collection of Small Press publications –poetry, prose fiction/sci fi as well as fanzines and comics.  Unlike today, the 1980s saw people from all over the UK exchanging their zines and if anyone needed a strip to fill a page or so everyone chipped in.  This was in letter writing days –no internet and phone calls were too expensive.

Also, we all knew comics.  Whether UK weeklies or the US comics from Marvel, DC, Charlton or the rather obscure companies.  And, of course, we all had our Alan Class comics.  Strange to think how many of us were into horror movies and particularly some of the classic black and white movies.  Then again, we were working in a black and white medium.  I was very happy when I also discovered a great many zinesters were fans of Orson Welles because of his masterful use of angles, shadows and the B&W medium.

In other words we were a community without internet and only after the Westminster Comic Marts and other one day events became more popular in the 1980s did any of us meet up.  There is a term you don’t hear these days –“marts” that were, basically, a hall full of people selling comics and zines and creators meeting up.  Going to the Westminster Marts was fun but we must have looked odd: meeting in a corner or on a staircase feeling different types of paper we drew on.  Checking out each others pencils,  pens (one typo and a letter “i” there and I could put a whole new slant on things!), brushes, sniffing inks and pens –checking which were alcohol based or whatever because certain pens combined with certain papers or boards could be very messy. Most of all we talked.

Apart from one or two incidents involving certain people I was never once accused of throwing anyone out of a window or into the Thames.  There were no witnesses. Understand?  NO….WITNESSES.

Most of us were starting work in comics or already working in the medium.  We knew about our subject.  Everything except earning big money!
Mastering a photocopier not to mention paste-ups, removing ghost-lines and so on was not something you had a choice in.  It was what you had to learn if you were in comics.

In the mid-1990s computers started appearing and before you knew it everyone new who came along was thinking they were going to produce and get rich from a Teenage Mutant Turtles or Blade Runner rip off.  And the ‘new pros’ –well some were quite open about using tracing paper to draw their comics.  In the huge stack of news zines and papers I have there are some true horror stories about this.  Stick figures as “a genuine artistic comic medium”…..no, I really never did throw that man in the Thames though he deserved to be.

And it only got worse.  Once the wave of mostly untalented creators vanished they were replaced by those arty farty elitists who believed that only European comics –Bandes Dessinee matter and that everything else was puerile.  Those people had been around in the 1980s and we used to call them “bow-tie *******” (this is a family site).  Here is the problem, though. These people only considered Franco-Belgian BD (must NOT call them “comics”!) legitimate.  

Spain and Italy had comic industries and though Germany had a small industry that mainly reprinted Franco-Belgian and US comics Bastei Verlag at least had their books going to more than a dozen European countries.

Alan Clark and the late Denis Gifford –particularly Denis- were nastily mocked and their work looked at as “low interest” because, unless it was The Beano, The Dandy, The Eagle were any other publications or creators not in those comics of any worth? Denis had a life long love of comics which the alcohol and dope loving new creators didn’t like.  Despite the lies and rumours I can tell you that Denis did receive and read Small Press publications –including mine.
People who were “names” in the 1980s continued to hang on in though, and I find it funny, they become media comic luvvies but you go to a Small/Alternative Press event and mention their names and you get blank looks!  But, if as “media luvvies” they get to pay their rent, eat and enjoy life good luck to them. I have no problem with that.

Now while comic Expos –the new “Marts”-  are popping up all over the country it has to be said that, say, 90% have no interest in the Small Press and have never seen a SP comic –and if they have they probably grimaced the same way their mothers do when they find that “odd stain” on the bed sheets (ladies I ask you to submit your own comic slob image).

One comic geek –because TV programmes such as The Big Bang Theory have made comics “hip” and everyone wants to be known or called a comic geek.  Bless, they’ll tire of it after a while.  And everyone is a new comic collector spending money on the ‘cool’ comics that many do not read and a few think that because they were conned  into paying huge amounts for a comic featuring a character(s) from new movies –which they find out are NOT the movie characters- they think will make them rich one day….when every other one of the THOUSANDS of copies of that comic suddenly turn to dust!
Comics toys, cosplay (including those with no knowledge or interest in comics) and TV/Movie merchandise are their world. Honestly, real old style comic fans are driven away from events and their passion by hugely inflated prices of comics and event entry fees.

Then we have the SP/AP people.  Never heard of Stan Lee (other than “Is he that old guy –the character from The Big Bang Theory?”.  Never heard (NEVER) of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko.  John Romita snr (notJnr) or John or Sal Buscema?  Gene Colan? John Byrne?  No.  “Oh, they made a comic out of that Avengers film?” –it’s at this point that I usually fall to my knees (which hurts) and raise my fists to the heavens and scream out “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” and some ***** says “Mr Khnan from the TV comedy series? Why –is he okay?”

Honestly, I make a point of talking to these people and most, let’s face it, are at the oldest in their mid-30s so have never known UK comics other than the horrendous merchandise crap with toys attached.  Big names in UK comics –John Cooper? No.  Mike Western?  No.  Terry Hooper-Scharf?  “Didn’t he used to be held hostage somewhere?”  Yes. I have a beard so I’m mistaken for Terry Waite.  


Well, I suppose at least he kept the handcuffs and radiator.

But these people move in their own little circles.  I never realised that until I started name checking with people.  Some people in zines today do go to various events outside of cliques.  Our own Paul Ashley Brown –doyenne of the Bristol, London and he’s even known outside the UK.

I’m that man on the hill The Beatles sang about.  “Who are the Beatles? What man –Stan Lee?”  Do   not  try my patience...grrrrrrr.

And in 2014, as I already noted, I really found out how bad things were and, again, apologies for any repeating of facts but I do want them to sink in since his is, honestly, my last posting on the subject. After this all else would be nothing more than insipid vapour.

I'm Too Radical For The 'Kids'! -The BCZF

I would like to start by pointing out I am not ranting.  It seems that, if you have an opinion and try to get it across it is seen as “ranting”.  The “ranting” I do tends to be fairly tongue-in-cheek but I guess people don’t get it because there is no “smiley” after humour.
Believe me, if I ranted you would know it.
I need to also point out that I have attended and sold at zine and comic events for over thirty years.  I’m not some wide-eyed newcomer who expects to earn a fortune.  I know the business and in thirty years have been quite happy that I make back table costs and a small profit.
Neither do I expect to have people worshiping at my feet.  Particularly with the Small Press I like the fact that you are –or were- always taken as one of “the folk” who produce and sell zines.  It was very informal, swapping ideas, talking about all aspects of the Small Press.
I go into events never expecting to make money. I don’t think “I need to sell £15 worth to cover table cost, £x for travel and I’ll set the money I want to make today at £xx!”  That is not how it works.
What I did expect at the BCZF –at which I actually was the only comicker- was to have a good chat with creators and people attending the event.


My attending was to support a Small Press event in Bristol. Simon, one of the organisers is a very nice fellow and as helpful as you would really want a helpful person to be!  
It was not about making money –my books were being sold cheaper than a lot of Small Press books at the event and, basically, at cost. I was just going to get my money back on anything sold and no profit.
So, let me begin….
I arrived at the event location, the Station, at around 11:10hrs –the Station is a really nice place for an event and I’d hope that someone organising a comic mart might one day look at this place.  Okay, a few people seemed to be freaked out that they had to use unisex toilets.  I’m 57 years old and I’ve lived in Germany and travelled through Nederlands, France and Belgium. It takes more than that to phase me (and something was going on in one cubicle that we’ll not talk about). The Station is a lovely location.
So, met Simon who told me where my table was and that there was a name tag on it –so I looked and found!  “Hello. How’s it going?” I said to one zinester I had met previously.  “Yeah” he muttered as he turned away.  Okay, maybe had had a bad night.  The guy on the table next to me was setting up. “Hello –I’m Terry, how’s it going?” Response: “nngh. Okay.”   I began to think that I might need to drop the “how’s it going”.  So the other chap next to me turns up with his mate. I say “Hello” and nothing. In fact, I began to suspect both were deaf after another attempt to be friendly.
I then realised that my t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: “Jim Fixed It For Me To Meet Rolf Harris” might have been a bad idea. 

I’ll point out here that that last sentence was dark, satire. Of a kind.
So, I spotted someone who had friended me on Face Book and went to say hello. I got a grunt and a

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13. My tweets

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14. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More curled up girls dressed in white

Spotted The Magpies as a Kindle special. It's a Thomas & Mercer (AKA Amazon) book. There covers always seem perfectly adequeate, but nothing more than that.

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15. Toilet paradigms and the sanitation crisis in India

Sanitation has evinced considerable interest from policy-makers, lawmakers, researchers and even politicians in recent years. Its transformation from a social taboo into a topic of general conversation is evident from the fact that one of the central themes of a recent mainstream Bollywood production (Piku, 2015) was the inability of the protagonist’s father to relieve himself.

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16. All Time Highest CBO Views By Country

All time CBO hits are interesting!

United States
United Kingdom

Even if you are in a country that does not appear on this list -it's merely the highest number of views as it does not include many other countries CBO gets daily views from -including our Two Friends in Antarctica- I still write THANK YOU.

Apart from the UK, for obvious reasons, most of these countries I'm gladly work for in comics!

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17. GROW by Marijke Buurlage


Submitted by Marijke Buurlage for the Illustration Friday topic GROW.

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18. Ten Playful Penguins

Board Book: Ten Playful Penguins. Emily Ford. Illustrated by Russell Julian. 2015. [October] Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ten playful penguins, living in the zoo. They've had their lunch, and now they're off to find something to do.

Premise/plot: The penguins "disappear" one by one as they find "something" to do. The "something" almost always involves meeting and playing with another zoo animal. The book counts backward from ten to one with plenty of rhyme, of course.

My thoughts: Do I have an opinion? I'm not sure I do. It is what it is. A simple counting--or counting backward--concept book for young children starring penguins, monkeys, hippos, bears, pandas, parrots, elephants, etc. If your little one loves animals or zoo animals--especially penguins--this one is a cute and satisfactory enough read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Rivers in distress

A river is a natural, living, organic whole, a hydrological and ecological system. It flows; that is its defining characteristic. As it flows, it performs many functions. It supports aquatic life and vegetation; provides drinking water to human beings, their livestock and wildlife; influences the micro-climate; recharges groundwater; dilutes pollutants and purifies itself; sustains a wide range of livelihoods; transports silt and enriches the soil; maintains the estuary in a good state; provides the necessary freshwater to the sea to keep its salinity at the right level; prevents the incursion of salinity from the sea; provides nutrients to marine life; and so on. It is also an integral part of human settlements, their lives, landscape, society, culture, history, and religion.

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20. SCENES FROM LIFE - A SHORT PLAYETTE. At the coffee shop

SCENE: Coffee shop
AT RISE: Two friends discuss a theatre performance they have just seen
(perusing menu)
Decisions…decisions… I just started seeing a dietician but I absolutely adore their chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake… One more time couldn’t hurt.
Given that it’s past eight o’clock and the worst time for weight gain, I, on the other hand, will stick to my usual expresso
You’re so holy-holy, perfect, human being
Jealousy is futile. It’s my genes. Everyone in my family is thin, going back generations
You do realize I could eat whatever I wanted without guilt but I don’t, because I respect my body
Hey! Me too! My body tells me regularly, “feed me chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake’ and I’ll make you feel real good!”
Anywaaay…So what did you think of the show?
Well…it had its moments
You didn’t like it, I take it?
I never said that
What are you saying?
It had its moments

Which means?
Kind of dragged in parts
I dunno. Made me laugh – a lot
That’s ‘cause you’re easily amused
Is it necessary to insult me, just because you consider yourself (makes quotation marks with her fingers) “a playwright”?
It’s the words and how they’re put together that interest me
Seemed like one great show, overall, in my eyes
You didn’t find that the first act seemed to never end?
I go to the theatre to be entertained. Period. I don’t agonize over whether the first act is better than the second because really, I don’t care! If the actors can provide a couple of hours of escapism, then they’ve done their job
We obviously view the entertainment through different eyes. I’m interested in the flow of the dialogue…the inter-action of the performers…things of interest to a person who writes plays -
- remind me how many of your plays have been produced –
So? What does that have to do with anything? It’s not for lack of trying. Have you any idea how many playwrights are out there all over the planet, hoping that someone will share them with the world? Gazillions I can tell you – including me! I mean, well known one’s, too! One day – one sweet day – someone, somewhere will read one of my plays and say, “this is the winner we’ve been waiting for!” One day, you and I, will sit here as we do after a night at the theatre, and discuss the merits of one of my plays. You’ll tell me how witty the dialogue was and how it made you laugh and how lucky that our friendship has maintained over the years…
So, are we ordering or what?
I’m thinking here perhaps it is too late for something heavy like the chocolate-chocolate-and-more-chocolate molten lava cake
Good idea - think healthy
(waitress approaches to take order)
 (cont’d.)We’ll have two expresso coffees, please…
…hang on…
I thought you decided against the cake
The cake is on the heavy side but a small butter pecan muffin wouldn’t even register on the scale.  Now about the play…the acting was adequate but then they didn't have much to work with...

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21. Illustrator Challenge #11

Draw an object using a soft light source from above and and an angle.

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22. The Agents' Panel Gets Underway!

Lin Oliver moderates the agents' panel, with (from left), Jodi Reamer of Writers House, Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary, Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary, Brenda Bowen of Greenburger Associates and Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.

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23. New Illustrations for a book~!

I found the book I illustrated for Scholastic /Arthur A. Levine Books on Amazon~! I am so HAPPY I can finally share the cover with you~! I also did the interior spot pieces that will kick off each chapter!

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24. Creating Classroom Environments: Making Space for Partnerships

Our blog series kicks off with a post on creating space in your classroom to get writing partnerships up and running right away.

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25. Overfishing: a bigger problem than we think

Many of us probably tend to take fish for granted, as it's a fairly sustainable resource—at least, that's what we'd like believe. It's difficult to imagine that we could even come close to depleting what seems to be limitless; after all, the earth is mostly covered in water. But as Ray and Ulrike Hilborn discuss in an excerpt from their book, Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, there is reason for concern in our flippancy towards our complex ecosystem.

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