Category Archives: Blog

Mayhem and Horror

‘An evening of chilling tales of horror’, it says here. Not sure about that, but the opening evening of Nottingham’s cinematic Mayhem Horror Festival mixes live storytelling from horror writers Marty Ross, Niki Valentine, Megan Taylor and Co., with screened footage from Tom Baker, Robert Powell and French Commander of Arts and Letters, Christopher Lee (now 90!).

Brick will be contributing a more sober reading – an adaptation from one of the chapters from his current graphic project, ‘Leonardo’s Bicycle’. On screen will be pages from the chapter, which will make little sense since they’ve had to be rearranged to fit the reading. The ‘toons will be fun though…

And if you’re wondering what Leonardo and a bicycle have to do with horror and mayhem, you’ll have to come along on Wednesday 31st October, 8:00pm, Broadway Cinema’s café-bar. Entry is free.

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Origins

Could this historical chiselling be the origin of the three-fingered hand popular with modern cartoonists!?

Erected in the 18th century, ‘guide stoops’ like this one on Gibbett Moor, Derbyshire, directed travellers across remote and treacherous moorlands where the closest thing to a ‘roade’ was a vague line in the heather. Typically square in section and originally standing around two metres tall, they bear the names and rough directions of the local market towns, in this case Bakewell and Sheffield. The recumbent stone used as a seat is a modern Companion Stone, one of a set of twelve designed by Derbyshire poets and artists to keep the old stone markers company. Like the guide stoops, the Companion Stones bear inscriptions to future destinations. They draw attention to the moors and the difficult terrain the visitor has yet to navigate.

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Frightening!

Stumbled on this piccy from the 1970’s. Living proof I started in this ‘tooning game from below the very bottom.

I’m wearing the acetylene goggles on the right and really was a scrap man, or rather ‘tatter’, and this is taken from the cab of our truck. The other geezer is my pal Richard, who went on to become a bit of a electronics genius for sound engineers.

This was progress. We both started out laying tarmac for a cowboy outfit run by an ex-public schoolboy that operated out of the corner of a scrapyard on Little Tennis Court Street, Nottingham, which was nothing like as grand as it sounds!

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‘Caption’ captured

Audience for Knockabout panel - small but perfectly formed for a steaming hot day when we would all rather have been at the beach. Second from left, Darryl Cunningham (Science Tales), front row right, Corinne Pearlman (Myriad Editions), and tucked behind man with projector, Selina & Jay of Girly Comic fame.

Brick’s first experience of a comics convention was pleasantly subdued, seemingly for independent comics creatives by independent comics creatives, and suitably nerdy. Opening panel session with Knockabout crew ranged across broader issues than just ‘underground comics’, including the benefits or otherwise of academia’s growing fascination with comics, importance of comics in libraries, and what Caption might do to include a ‘yoof’ element.

Feckless 'Knockabouters' - Brick, Tony Bennett (publisher), Krent Able & Hunt Emerson.

 

Two big thrills were meeting Krent Able (Stool Pigeon) and Al Davison (The Spiral Cage & Spiral Dreams).  Two big bummers – the drive down and drive back! Collected a copy of  The Girly Comic Book Two and the ‘tea bag comic’, which mysterious disappeared somewhere between Oxford and Nottingham. Didn’t get to meet many other folk. Too hot to chill, and had to get home for a panting dog…

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‘Caption’ convention

The annual small-press comics convention is under new management as long-term organisers Jay and Selina move on to other things, not least the production of the second  Girly Comic Book. (Thoroughly recommend the first, incidentally.) Already plugged in for Saturday is a panel session with Hunt Emerson and Tony Bennett of Knockabout Comics, who have a combined 64 years of experience in what used to be called ‘underground comix’. Knockabout just happens to be the publisher of Brick’s Depresso.

Diary dates = 18 – 19 August 2012.  Location = East Oxford Community Centre, Oxford. More details = Caption   Knockabout   Depresso

STOP PRESS: Now seems Brick, along with the great Krent Able, will be joining Hunt and Tony on the panel – a minnow amongst pike. On the other hand, Brick’s taller!

 

 

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Night Moves

The trail of head torches (front and back) passing Whatstandwell Station

Without fully understanding what I was getting into, I joined a mixed bag of restoration nerds and arty types on a night walk along the disused Cromford Canal that once ran 14.5 miles from Langley Mill (Notts) to the Arkwright Mills at Cromford (Derbys). I knew it was some kind of art gig in service of Charles Monkhouse’s Breath of Fresh Air Cargoes project, but wasn’t expecting to cover the distance at a gallop, or wear head torches front and back! That was in May, and within a week Charles had sent through the first fruits of the photographs he and David White had taken of our progress through the night. Seems they were lurking with highly sensitive time-lapse cameras at key points along the route. Whatever was going on was very well organised and looked equally promising.

Last week Charles sent through a concertina folded card, printed both sides, depicting the finished piece – a 34″ x 96″ ‘Japanese style screen’, which hopefully will be exhibited at the Arkwright Centre this summer (if summer ever comes).

While I like the piece and can’t wait to see it full size, there was something wonderfully simple and animated about the original photo that has been lost in the final panel now that the context has emerged. It all looks a little too Photoshopped. I understand why Charles has forced the background, but it doesn’t work for me, maybe because I experienced the beauty and thrill of the night, of not knowing whether this black shape or that was animal, vegetable or mineral. Nevertheless, the hard work and ingenuity invested in the project by Charles and his colleagues is to be applauded and encouraged.

For more details:  Charles Monkhouse   Night Stations   Contemporary Art of Walking

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Wit, Wisdom and Wanderings

Belatedly stumbled on some glowing 5-star reviews from across the big pond for my contributions to Jim Joyce’s superb compendium, The Bicycle Book. (Jim is the founder and editor of  The Bicycle Exchange, though he recently put that on hold to become a home-parent.) With a percentage of the profits going to three laudable American charities, Jim’s book contains offerings from 20 excellent writers (including Pulitzer Prize nominees and winners) and a handful of cartoonists. Brick doesn’t get a look in, but JSC is the only writer contributing from the UK.

Among the reviews was a curiosity from the Westerville Bicycle Club in Columbus, Ohio, that reads:-  The book ends with some inspirational tales of wandering on the bike. Ever think about riding round the Sahara Desert? John Stuart Clark and his wife have done it (‘Saharan Margins’). … Or, for the most vivid images I’ve had evoked by words in a long time, check out Clark’s ‘Desert Storm’, concerning a storm the author could not outrace.    Thank you for those kind words, Sharon Heinrich.

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ATGR Digital now available!

Not sure about other retailers, distributors, formats etc, but the Kindle edition is now available worldwide, file size 2545 KB. It is available in other formats (which I’m still trying to get my head round), but since you can download a Kindle reader for PC or Mac for free…

The new maps are a welcomed addition and make following my epic journey a lot easier, and there is talk of now producing an eBook and hardcopy up-date of  The Chalke Way, with the addition of a walking route. Just depends if I’m up for flogging down the 400+ miles! Despite their age, both books remain frighteningly relevant today…

After the Gold Rush at Amazon

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‘Toons @ Nottingham Contemporary

The surge of interest in comics and their mutation into the more palatable ‘graphic novel’ has resulted in some weird and wonderful associations in the minds of academics. Thus an unmissable exhibition at the Contemporary of James Gillray’s biting cartoons from the Napoleonic era is accompanied by talks and symposiums that, well… make up your own mind by checking out ‘Comic(s) Bodies’. Alan Moore and his burlesque better half, Melinda Gebbie, are always relevant and good value (and the tickets have long gone!), but ‘Bodies’ and other symposiums seem somewhat tangental to Gillray’s mission.
That said, ‘Bodies’ (12 – 5pm, May 25th, free but get tickets) could be fascinating, maybe more for the unadvertised creatives attending, who might just shake up the cosy Guardian caucus on the podium. The excellent Thom Ferrier will be present, as will Brick…

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Drawn from Distress to Recovery

It’s no secret that Brick has had his problems with the insanity of the world, but his breakdowns were more like breakthroughs, lightbulb moments that revealed just how crazy it’s all become and how ill-equipped he was to cope. In his darkest days, certain things gave him hope (some of which are fictionalised in Depresso), not least the stories of fellow sufferers who survived the nightmare of the psychiatric system in the UK.

To give something back, he is now co-editing a compilation book of graphic narratives designed to inspire. The invitation to contribute extends to anybody anywhere, regardless of artistic or literary credentials, so if you have an uplifting story to tell, hit El Bricko now. Deadline for expressions of interest is 31st July.

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