Tuesday 31 March 2009

The Dead

Here's my latest HUZZAH page. This is a new beginning in the story, after Ian Culbard blew up Voldar it gave us the opportunity to start a new thread (he was only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!). Mindful that most of my HUZZAHs have been about piling on tons of exposition to keep the thing making sense, I enjoyed doing something willfully oblique (even I don't know who these people are or what they're talking about). It'll be up to the HUZZAHs that follow this to make sense of it.

Still trying to get to grips with Manga Studio, but I'm having fun along the way and I'm enjoying what it's doing to my comic drawing.

In these two panels without the colour you can see the Manga Studio inks clearer. These are done with the brush setting in the pen tool. I have it set to a large nib and make the big marks first. Anything that gets obliterated as I slodge about with the black can be picked out with white afterwards. 

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Lost Count

A Voldarian comes to Count Khadari's rescue

I haven't quite lost count of how many HUZZAHs I've done, but I find it hard to resist when the opportunity arrives. It has to fit in between work and fortunately yesterday I was waiting for approval on some illustrations and so had the chance. 

For anyone who's following the story (God bless you!) it seems like we're approaching the end to many of the storylines that we set out with on Voldar. The first chapter established a prison planet, Voldar, with no visible prisoners, a Galaxy ruled by a mysterious Glass Tsar, a terrible infant monster kept in the prison and crashed ship containing a warrior, Zhadira, and a thief, Pample. 

We got our first glimpse of the space witch (AKA The Hexen Definitive) in chapter one and in chapter two we saw the witch possess a rebellious sightseer, Durante and direct her to Voldar.

Chapter 3 introduces the Baron, an ancient space knight on an ancient quest. His quest we discover is to find the true heir to the Glass Tsar's empire. The infant was hidden in the stomach of a monster called Xog by a secret sect know as the Sisters. The child is preserved inside a remote womb, this device instantly transports the Baron to Voldar.

So what's happening on Voldar? Zhadira is there to rescue her father, Count Khadari (who is imprisoned there) Durante is being guided by the Hexen Definitive to search for the baby she thought dead (she is the mother of the true heir to the Glass Tsar's empire) and below the surface a monstrous heir has been created. 

Into this comes the Baron with the true heir under his arm.

Which brings us up to date - the Baron, in the clutches of the monstrous heir, drops the true heir into its mouth. The two become one Gestalt heir and its evil noise rips the surface of the planet apart. 

And here's where the true nature of the Prison planet is revealed - Voldar is an entire planet imprisoned beneath a vast crust and a network of restraining bolts. As the bolts lose their hold and the surface breaks apart it releases the real prisoners...

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Manga Studio inks

These are two examples of the cover inks for a series of kids' books I'm illustrating. They were done in Manga Studio which has freed up my line and sped up my work rate. Comic drawing is not the best way to make a fortune, so it's necessary to find a way of turning out pages at a reasonable pace. I'm hoping this software will speed up my strip work allowing me to take on more strips.

Monday 23 March 2009

Roy of the Rovers Monthly issue 6

I've been pleasantly surprised by the level of interest in my Roy of the Rovers post, so I'm posting a whole episode and cover - Issue 6 from February 1994. Comic art's all well and good, but comics aren't really comics if you can't read them. Comic art always suggests that the artwork has a life independent of the script - I'm not so sure, I like to see the words and pictures hand in hand. So here is an unabridged episode from Roy of the Rovers monthly, warts and all. And that last page is one major wart *cringe* I can't believe I'm putting it on this blog. Still the fact I'm posting it is proof that story is what matters to me.

And this cover is another example of strange football action - here we see disgruntled teen football star kicking a coke can down the street, sulking. The homeless guy in the funny hat was originally hidden by the free stickers that came with this issue. What a jolly surprise the kids got when the pulled off the free gift!

Thursday 19 March 2009

Roy of the Rovers Monthly

Roy scores in the European Cup Final!

Back in 1993 I landed the job as artist on the relaunch of British comic icon Roy of the Rovers. Fleetway had given Stuart Green, the editor and writer, a green light to reinvent the strip and he asked me to provide the artwork. Previously Stuart and I had worked together on the ill-fated Glory Glory for Tundra UK and after its demise both of us had been kicking our heels wondering what to do next.

Cover to the sample issue 1 - the main image is by me, the smaller images are by Sean Longcroft and Warren Pleece.

Glory Glory was a fortnightly football anthology comic intended for the newstands. It combined gritty realism, surreal comedy and stylish football action. It was the brainchild of Stuart and Frank Plowright.

Stuart's plan was to bring the same sensibilities to Roy of the Rovers. His ideas were brilliant but ruthless. The original title had been cancelled in March 1993 and the story of Roy Race ended with Roy crashing his private helicopter, readers were left not knowing if he was alive or dead. In September of the same year our Monthly comic started up and Roy awoke from a coma to find that his comic strip world had gone and reality had moved in. The first shock was discovering that he had lost his famous left foot, amputated after the crash.

A very different iconic image of Roy Race, not your standard front cover image for a football comic. caused a bit of a stir with criticism from some disabled groups and a TV show even linking the image to a history of comics portraying people in wheel chairs as failures or evil vengeful monsters. We were simply trying to show Roy's true innate heroism in the way he overcomes the 'worst thing that could have happened'.

The second shock was to discover that the new Roy of the Rovers was 'Delroy' of the Rovers, a ragamuffin who plays for Nigeria.

"Delroy of the Rovers" ran the headline in the tabloid newspapers at the time.
The comic strip was very committed to the Kick Racism Out of Football Campaign and I designed posters for the campaign featuring Delroy and Rocky. The strip itself never shied away from dealing with issues of racism in the game

Third shock was to discover that his son, Rocky, has turned into a cocky little brat (this shock happens to most parents of course). Rocky is also in the Melchester team now, but it turns out he's not exactly a chip off the old block. He doesn't seem to be anywhere near as good as his dad was, he's grumpy, opinionated, self centred and ends up in fights, walking out of the club and even taking ecstasy. A whole new meaning to Racey's rocket.

As you can see from these pages, which show Rocky wondering around Melchester Rec in solipsistic mode, the story telling is often concerned as much with a face in the a Melchester Rovers' crowd or 'off the field' affairs as it is with the action on the pitch (a relegation battle of course!).

Rocky's attempts to escape football prove fruitless as he finds himself watching a kids game and standing next to a life long Rovers' fan
Contrasting the northern skies ("through the wind and the rain") with the shared warmth of the football crowd and the sunshine of cup success and the open top bus.
The top image shows the end of 'Grandad' Roy's career with a knee injury. (see below)

Much of what we did was disregarded by later revamps of the strip. Stuart wanted to be able to write about the history of Roy, but it was so ridiculous it undermined the whole sense of realism he was aiming for (for example Roy had been playing in the top flight for 40 years!). Some retconning was required. Roy's career was split in two and the early years were attributed to Roy's father. So we had a Roy Race dynasty.

Three generations of Race - Grandfather, Father and son. This was a cover image featuring a cigarette card, bubble gum card and Panini sticker for each generation.
I tried to give each one an 'era' face - a fifties face a seventies face and a nineties face

Grandad Roy - a reinterpretation of the Joe Colquhoun era, again I'm most proud of how fifties he looks - footballers don't look like this anymore. I don't just mean the kit I mean the man himself.

Amusing bit of retcon here - Thanks to Roy Race England qualify for the 1978 World Cup

Flashbacks were a regular storytelling device in the monthly and I relished switching between eras often using different materials to depict a different time. This oil pastel and pencil stuff was for the dark theaters inside the old man's head - the only place for replaying games from a time before TV.

'Grandad' Roy in action as remembered by the ol' fella in the park

I went a bit over the top with some of seventies flashback scenes. Hand painting seventies designs as panel borders with gouache was never a good idea. And there's some dodgy drawing going on here...

An early experiment with flashbacks from issue 1

Another twist was having Melchester Rovers playing real teams with real players (albeit with the names changed). Here's Rocky battling with Bryan Figgs (okay, I made that one up! You get the idea).

Another cover image

The strip also ran simultaneously in Shoot magazine as a two page spread every week (Shoot was selling 120,000 a week in those days, hard to believe now). I took on the drawing duties there and the monthly strip alternated between artists. After a couple of years Fleetway had had enough of our antics and pulled the plug.

A strip from Shoot - this is a reserve game with Rocky's arch rival, Johnny Dexter encouraging Rocky's eventual replacement to impress

Another Shoot strip - this one features real Liverpool players. (Colours by Geraint Ford)

I never had any intention or ambition to draw football comics, but I'm glad I did it. Prior to Glory Glory I had been producing the psychedelic small press comic SLANG* with Sean Longcroft. Essentially I went from doing this:

Psychederek goes down to sign on

To this:

The Melchester defence is unhinged by Keegan's Newcastle

I'm quite proud of what Stuart and I did with Roy of the Rovers**, there's been nothing quite like it before or since, although it may have been more appreciated if it had been football comics in general rather than one of the great icons of British comics that we were so gleefully deconstructing.

*I'll put together another monster blog about SLANG comic at some point...

**Other artists who worked on the strip included Sean Longcroft, Gerraint Ford, Gary Marshall and David Jukes.

Tuesday 17 March 2009


Finished my latest HUZZAH this morning, here's a panel from it. Inked in Manga Studio. Like many comic artists I'm never content with my inks so I was eager to try out this software. Gave me the opportunity to try some wild brushwork on this strip which suits the action sequences. looking forward to using it on Dinlos in the coming weeks as it should speed up the pages and stop me fiddling endlessly in photoshop. Watch this space.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Robots, witches and babies

Two more Huzzah pages done since I returned from holiday - this orange page was done whilst still suffering nausea from a stomach bug, which I think helped the look of the page. The idea was to do something tormented and over powering as the grief-stricken Hexen Definitive* realises her baby that she thought was dead is in fact alive and has been hidden from her all this time. 

With all that emotion in mind I left the page looking rough as hell to give it that cry-your-heart-out look. Feeling nauseous helped me realise how such news would knock her world spinning into the void. I guess the spiral staircase is a classic surrealistic device for achieving a sense of vertigo and disorientation, and the fellow with crescent-shaped head also seems to belong in some surreal nightmare/nursery rhyme. I'd love to say that I planned all this, but the truth is I just spent a few feverish hours scrawling away in photoshop and ended up with the whole thing virtually finished.

By contrast this second page shows a clearer head. I've simplified the colour again - I like to use colour for atmosphere and emotional impact rather than use it for 'realistic' description or decorative effect. At least that's how I feel at the moment. Here the whole thing's meant to look subterranean and unnatural. I ended up with a kind of formaldehyde-tank-in-the-night-museum look. 

This page was also a case of going back and reintroducing ideas from the very beginning of the story. The infant first mentioned on Page 2 is revealed. It appears that the Glass Tsar has two heirs - a natural heir and a very unnatural heir that lurks in a pit deep below the surface of Voldar.

I knew I was going to do a reveal of the infant on this page and went through numerous monstrous variations on the Glamis Castle Monster theme. In the end I decided it would be scariest if the creature that lurks in the dark, eating people, actually looked like a... baby.

*At least that's what I'm calling her. Name borrowed from Mark E Smith.
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