Apothecary Supreme Page 28 and where I’m going with all this

January 22, 2017

Slowly getting there…


All's well that ends well?

All’s well that ends well?

This page essentially wraps up the main dilemma of the story (the ‘dragon’) and leaves me with what is basically a coda for the final three (or so) pages sorting out the loose ends between Burkhard and Greta.

It’s at least reassuring to be so close to the finishing line but I don’t want to launch into a full reflection on the comic/issue’s development just yet since I’m saving that for when it’s done-done. Instead I’d like to briefly ruminate on the future of my work and this comic.

The plan has always been to go back to self publishing and attending expos, however I want to be 100% I have something worth sharing to avoid repeating all the mistakes I made last time around all the way back in 2013. Areas I definitely want to put more consideration into this time are the final printed format, cover and stall. Presentation is an area I previously neglected to my own detriment, something three years in design/marketing day jobs has really hammered home.

More than anything though, tackling a convention stall again is a chance to really test people’s reaction to Apothecary Supreme. I feel that even recouping expenses may be overly optimistic after so long out of the game, but for me getting back into this is both a launch board and experiment to assess what my next course of action will be. I’ve likely mentioned before that this comic was intended as a bit of a test; on the one hand it’s a self contained fantasy/horror story, but could potentially be the basis for other episodic tales of weirdness depending on the response.

If I feel that people want more I will likely continue with other stories in this setting, targeting a faster production cycle and any other weaknesses that could be addressed. On the other hand, should I decide to abandon the story after this at least there is a complete narrative on its own, rather than another unfinished ‘to be continued’. Ultimately it will depend on my feelings once I’ve gotten it out there in printed format.

I did have the London MCM Comic Con in May penciled in as my deadline to wrap everything up and finalise a print run. Unfortunately, it seems I was overly naive in assuming booking a table would be as easy as it was in the past; demand is way up and I’m told all the tables were taken in the first hour of going live, making it about an hour too late in my case…

Aaaaanyhow, rather than be miserable about this I’m taking it as a sign I should adjust my objectives slightly and aim for a smaller expo first. MCM Manchester seems promising and I have a few allies in the area I may be able to summon, so watch this space for updates!

In the meantime, I need to stop wasting my free time in Overwatch and finish this mucky little yarn.




Ambition, Time and Motivation

May 20, 2015

Recently a fellow comic creator and friend demontales wrote about his frustrations in having abundant ideas in the medium but being unable to see them through.

Having suffered plenty of my own dead ends and prematurely concluded projects it got me thinking that it might be good to share how my own methods have evolved to accommodate limitations. It’s ironic that I’ve been meaning to write more often about my work but failing to find the time so this struck me as an ideal topic to jump in with.

Had I a time travelling Delorean I'd finish my comics, give them to my past self and then be forced to stop it from happening to prevent a time paradox.

Had I a time travelling Delorean I’d finish my comics, give them to my past self and then be forced to stop it from happening to prevent a time paradox.

To my mind there are two main overlapping areas that have changed in the last couple of years, ambition and time.

Time is has become a truly finite resource for me and it’s only looking back now that I realise what an obscene amount I had before, and how much of it was squandered chasing stars rather than following a road with a clearly mapped out beginning and end. Between taking on a demanding (occasionally rewarding) design job and entering a into a serious relationship the gaps in my schedule have contracted enormously.

This is where management of ambition comes in; first and foremost in the department of ideas. The thing is that everyone has ideas, some good, a lot bad and maybe a few that are truly brilliant. The trick is in getting them out of your head into the real world, preferably in a form which others can appreciate.

Ideas are not such a problem for me – not that I can objectively vouch for their quality – but my main failing since getting into comics is in overestimating my abilities and thinking that the best way to approach the medium is with everything planned out in one go and taking idea generation out of production entirely. For some folks this might work but I know now that it was a huge mistake.

With my last comic ‘Branch‘ I wrote out a complete script for an enormous complex story, and drew concepts for nearly every character before I even made the first page. None of this was necessarily bad, some of it indeed I’m still pleased with but the mistake was in assuming I would continue to be motivated over a lengthy production by the ideas I’d had then rather than the ideas that I was continuing to have and develop.

This is just me, I wouldn’t suggest it applies to everyone but what I’ve learned is that I’m only truly inspired to draw comics when I have lots of room for improvisation. It flies completely in the face of what I learned when I was educated in film – never shoot without a finished script on at least draft three – but I’m sure now that it’s only way I can really make it work and see something through.

I do still plan of course, but it’s with a great deal more restraint than a formerly had; looking to the humble successes of my short one-shots rather than my failed epics Apothcary Supreme is at present only backed by a single script for a 30 page opening story rather than an enormous tome charting an odyssey with complete back stories and conclusions. Sure, I have notes and ideas for further stories, but I deliberately left myself room this time to change them and inject new ideas without upsetting some grand arch narrative and feeling like I’ve wasted lots of time. Time which – as I pointed out – is considerably diminished.

Even what’s actually scripted has and likely will change before I’m done, I’m not entirely decided on my existing ending to the issue and honestly that’s what keeps my creative spark going; the feeling that almost anything can still happen should I have a good enough idea. It’s this approach which keeps the project truly alive for me, a true creative outlet rather than the outdated light stream from a fading star.

It’s an approach which also applies to my reasoning for going back to basics with the drawings and largely eschewing digital techniques from the process. Going pen to paper may be crude in some respects with more painful mistakes which are potentially difficult to correct but the immediacy appeals to me in a way which digital work increasingly fails to, feeling genuinely cathartic rather than a chore. People will nearly always favour colour, but black and white hatching simply feels like a truer representation of my creative drive than one filtered through a computer.

None of this is to say my problems are now solved and that there aren’t more struggles and mistakes ahead. I’m still fighting for time between everything life has to throw at me while Apothecary Supreme’s backlog buffer is getting progressively thinner.

Still I know this has definitely been a step in the right direction for me.

Back into the Action

August 1, 2013

Even if I can’t post pages as regularly as I’d like a few updates on what I’m up to and why I’m being delayed seem to be in order.


Following on from the shift into more actiony content last issue this trend continues and as such I’ve got a few more challenges ahead. I’m sure I’ve already said that generally athletic/physical stuff is an area of comics I don’t have too much experience in drawing; although given how many comics I read with an action lean you’d think I’d have osmotically absorbed a bit more of it…

Anyhow, Branch has always been something of a learning experience and rather than find a shortcut, like an idiot I’ve set myself a complicated setpiece for my next page.

Above is a rough draft of my main panel’s background, although  ‘background’ might be the wrong word given how a certain character will be interacting with it. There are two main challenges presented; the raised perspective – something which nearly always gives me trouble – and the poses themselves which will be done in a three stage montage in order to clearly represent the action taking place.

There’s potential for it to go very wrong but that said I don’t think I’ve drawn anything quite like this before so as en experiment it should at least be interesting, just please don’t crucify me when I end up with bobble-headed characters :P

Signing up for MCM again, AWOL updates and ACTION

March 8, 2013

Well, I’ve gone and done it now. I’ve signed up for London’s MCM Comic Con this May, so where the hell are all those new pages I was meant to have?

‘In progress’ is a frustrating label to tack on I know but it’s the best way I can describe it, they’re coming together but I’ve had to run through a veritable factory of brick walls to get there. Hard brick walls, covered with rusty nails and that delightful black paint you can’t seem to wash off. The name of this factory? Action.

Much harder than it looks it turns out...

Much harder than it looks it turns out…

To clarify I’ve had plenty of other stuff keeping me busy too – which all being well should appear online eventually – but for the most part there’s no avoiding the fact I have almost no experience in planning or drawing a proper action sequence in a comic. I’ve had bursts of violence and quick motion before but they’ve generally been ancillary to the scenes they’re in rather than the focus.

The last time I really had a crack at it was around six years ago with my first proper comic Cyberdog…

The hands, the faces, the wasted space in the layout... Can we just pit it away now and stop talking about it?

The anatomy, the faces, the wasted space in the layout… Can we just launch it into the sun and stop talking about it forever?

<Insert shudder>

Suffice to say I had a lot to learn back then and the whole endeavour left a foul taste in my mouth that likely put me off trying anything similar for a long time. Still here I am again, facing a similar set of problems; my drawing’s certainly improved and actually having a script this time has helped but learning to draw action from Scratch (pun intended) has proved a challenging process.

The early sketches for page four highlight some of my worst sins, I apologise in advance for their slightly spoilerific nature:p4actionpose1

Here we have the bare bones of Scratch someone delivering an elbow thrust. I roughed it out, looked at it and wondered what was wrong with the picture when the obvious struck me; there is no thrust. Indeed no motion at all, this isn’t a professional delivering a crushing neck strike it’s an exercise enthusiast having a gentle warm up. Argh.

I’d literally got so wrapped up in the anatomy I’d neglected to think about the pose and how I might make it exciting. Conveniently it was at this point my memory fired up – for once – and I recalled a good bit of advice from How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way about exaggerating poses to emphasise motion.

Armed with this reclaimed knowledge I tried again:

p4actionpose2Better; the subjects legs are actually pushing them into the strike this time, with a general lean in the direction of movement and the arm extending further out suggesting actual force is being applied. It remains far to stiff though, with the victim being altogether too upright for someone who’s just been struck in the chin full force, while knees should be bent much further in both cases if this is at the end of the motion.

Aiming to make third time the charm I created a digital mockup this time:

Branchissue2page4rough Much better. There’s a far stronger sense of engagement between characters here while Scratch’s the attacker’s front leg being bent further suggests a much longer run up and push into the strike. The victim’s head being knocked back further also emphasises the force of the impact more tangibly.

By exaggerating the key areas of the action – exertion and impact – the snapshot’s extreme qualities imply what preceded them – approach and attack – allowing the reader to fill the gaps without even realising it.  We immediately know that it’s the end of a quick and likely powerful movement by the positioning of the aggressor’s arms and legs, while the victim’s reeling off-balance makes it clear that a painful strike has been made.

Unlike films and games comics can only imply an action since the reader is in control of acquisition; everything that goes in between the panels comes down to the mental images inspired by the real ones. The issue here is a broader one really and interconnects with much of what I’m learning and practicing in the medium as a whole, elbow strikes may not be subtle but the methods used to create genuine excitement and credibility are.

I’m still struggling a lot though the next page and those following it are closer to the right track now at least; I’ve set myself a tall order getting a new issue ready for the end of May but if I take some of that fighting spirit onboard maybe I can make it work after all.




Getting back to Branch

January 19, 2013

branch2p3previewroughIt’s got to be said, trying to get back into Branch after months of hiatus is like trying to start a rundown car in the middle of winter; there’s more than a little stalling.

Not to say things aren’t taking shape, I’ve just had to reaquaint myself with the art, themes and characters again these past few days in order to rediscover my inspiration. Plenty of initial efforts ended up getting the slam dunk treatment in my waste paper basket but I think I’ve finally rehabilitated myself and got started on a continuation proper. More soon ;)