Bloomsbury Festival 2015


917LfGLB6LL._SL1500_ Probably-Nothing-560x784 26251358 41PawPGBtIL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ 2010006411_F1Friday 23rd of this month brings together Katie Green, Maria Stoian, Matilda Tristram, Nicola Streeten and myself, the token male, at the Cartoon Museum, London, to discuss comics and their unique ability in ‘Illuminating the Dark Night of the Soul‘. For the witty title and intriguing subject credit goes to our panel leader and Geek Syndicate cornerstone, David Monteith, better known for his podcast meanderings around mainstream comics and trash culture with fellow GS-er, Barry Nugent. I imagine ‘Monts’ will be trying to tease out exactly why the comics form is so well adapted to the telling of intensely personal stories that dig deep into the human psyche – summint like that. If we’re all on form, it should be fascinating. Trauma counsellors will be on hand from 6:30 onwards.

bloomsbury_festival_websitegslogobanner1ncc-logo-2015-websiteheaderThe panel is part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival, which ranges across the arts and looks very exciting. It would be nice to tarry in ‘the smoke’ and take in some of the events, but I have to be back. Next day, Saturday 24th, is the third incarnation of the Nottingham Comic Con. I’ve missed the previous two but, this year, promised myself a day dodging the dodgy Cosplayers. I’ll probably just go as emotionally knackered comics creator of intensely personal stories that dig… you get the idea.


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Eisner Awards

eisner_awards_displayAs expected, To End All Wars failed to win either the Best Fact-Based Work or Best Anthology award at the Eisners, which takes nothing away from our delight and pride at being nominated. In each category, the winner was totally deserving. Although I’ve not read Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family (Best Reality-Based Work), the muted artwork looks wonderfully reminiscent of the comics I was raised on back in the Fifties and it was, after all, a New York Times best-seller (whereas ours was barely read in the States). In the Best Anthology Award, we were runner up to Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, which is a bit like any modern movie you’d care to name being trounced by Citizen Kane at the Oscars – no problem. Windsor McKay was and remains one of the giants in our discipline and a creator whose work I reread at least once every year, generally with my mouth agog.

But thanks to one of Joe Gordon’s pals, who attended the San Diego convention, we at least have this fabulous photo of our humble submission sat in the nominations cabinet. If that doesn’t spur JC, myself and all our other contributors to strive for a winner in forthcoming Eisners, nothing will.

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THESE SEVEN – unofficial launch

Left to right, Alison Moore, Megan Taylor,  Paula Rawsthorne, Shreya Sen Hadley, John Harvey, Suzi (Brick's dog), David Belbin (reading for Alan Sillitoe) and co-ordinator Sheelagh Gallagher. Missing, as usual, Brick.

Left to right, Alison Moore, Megan Taylor, Paula Rawsthorne, Shreya Sen Hadley, John Harvey, Suzi (Brick’s dog), David Belbin (reading for Alan Sillitoe RIP) and co-ordinator Sheelagh Gallagher. AWOL, as usual, Brick.










Playing to a packed house at Lowdham Book Festival last Saturday, contributors to the showcase of local authors known as These Seven had five minutes each to do whatever to promote both the anthology (published by Five Leaves) and Nottingham’s bid for UNESCO City of Literature. All except the token cartoonist read from their stories. Me, I used the time to make folk aware of the depth the city currently boasts in local practioners of the comics art form.

9781910170205The following wordsmiths have all dipped a pinkie in comics writing, largely as a result of three national and international, locally-spawned projects – UNICEF Children’s Rights Comics, To End All Wars graphic anthology and the Dawn of the Unread on-line anthology. They be Nicola Monaghan, Alison Moore, Michael Eaton, Andrew Mulletproof Graves, Aly Stoneman, James Walker, Pippa Hennessey, David Belbin, Panya Banjoko, Ian Douglas, Adrian Reynolds, and Andrew Jadowski.

As for auteurs (writer/artists), their ranks include D’Israeli, INJ Culbard, Phillippa Rice, Luke Pearson, Steve Larder, Mike Raben White, Matt Crowe, Jamie Hewlett, and Brick. Three of these have been Eisner nominees in recent years.

The official launch is at the Nottingham Council House on 17th July. Contact Sheelagh Gallagher if you want in.

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Max Zillion reprint cometh…

Brick.BugleCallRag51zyJmfnIkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_After the astounding success of his Kickstarter campaign to reprint Calculus Cat, my good friend Hunt Emerson is striding down the same road again to reprint his great Jazz Funnies featuring Max Zillion and Alto Ego. The campaign starts sometime around mid-July, with the reprint pencilled in for release in time for The Lakes, so keep peepers peeled.

As with Calculus Cat, this new edition will feature a gallery section filled with exciting homages by invited ‘toonists to perhaps America’s greatest gift to world culture, namely jazz. The catch-all title for the gallery of ‘Jazz Lounge’ certainly had me scratching my head, but encouraged by Hunt to stop thinking too deeply about it, I conjoured up something around my favourite Benny Goodman number, ‘Bugle Call Rag’, which just had to feature GI’s kickin’ up a storm in a motor-pool.

Watch this space for more details, but while you’re waiting, here’s Benny and the band with Gene Krupa on drums…

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University of Nottingham workshop

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Have just completed my first gig as the university’s School of English Honorary Assistant Professor of Comics. It went extremely well, I’m told, with my efforts garnering such embarrassing endorsements as “brilliant” and “wonderful.” The stories the students devised quite staggered me with their variety and precision, each one containing elements that could only be envisaged in comics form. They have now taken them away to complete in their own time and in their own way.

Bearing in mind several do not have the drawing skills to do their narrative full justice, it was exciting that they didn’t flinch from making a bold fist of their stick illustrations. By September we hope to have a small but perfectly formed on-line anthology of their work.

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Dawn of the Unread Hardcopy

This gallery contains 10 photos.

As the interactive digital comic experience, Dawn of the Unread, moves towards closure bearing accolades from such as the Guardian University Awards (it's a long story involving Trent University), it is good to hear that in a couple of months … Continue reading
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TEAW Eisner Award Nominations


Character sketches for the French platoon in Steve Martin's 'Allies of Reason' story for TEAW.

Character sketches for the French platoon in Steve Martin’s ‘Allies of Reason’ story for TEAW.

There is a telling irony that my most successful comics book to date, in terms of sales, is the one book that will not earn me a bent nickel. With all the contributor’s fees going to MSF for their battle against ebola (see earlier posts), all co-editor Jonathan Clode and myself have to show for 18 months hard graft on To End All Wars is a single copy of the finished anthology and a shedload of experience that reminds us to run a thousand miles from any invitation to repeat such an undertaking… unless it comes dangling a banker’s bonus before it. Now a sharp blow to the body has been inflicted by the announcement that our humble compendium has been nominated for not one but two Eisner Awards – Best Anthology and Best Reality-Based Work.

eisnerawards_logo_12Naturally we are delighted for all those amazing contributors who worked their pinkies to the bone on a project they clearly believed in and, we hope, found immense satisfaction in being a part of. We have already expressed our undying gratitude to one and all, and I would love to think we will walk away with one or t’other award on their behalf. If the judges knew the full story of the ethos behind the project and everybody’s struggle to bring TEAW to fruition, I would have no doubts about it, but I ain’t holding my breath. Sadly the world of professional comics does not embrace rank amateurs and relative beginners, which most of us were, but it is nice to know our combined efforts have been noticed.

If you enjoyed our efforts and are in any way connected with comics, you are eligible to vote in the Eisners at

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Alan Sillitoe Memorial Anthology

Moves are afoot to keep Nottingham’s celebrated author Alan Sillitoe in the public eye by publishing an anthology of writing by other esteemed local authors reflecting on the city, the man and the importance of his work. I never met Alan, but everything I’ve heard since becoming involved in this project points to him being immensely generous towards fledgling writers and utterly scurrilous with regard to the establishment, authority and the publishing industry. He was also a dogged smoker, only giving up in the final years of his life.

So when asked if I would contribute something to the anthology it seemed a no-brainer to pose Alan in a Nottingham bar (the most famous being The Trip to Jerusalem) toting for a light and surrounded by local characters. When it came to the design of the image, it also made some kind of sense to produce a kind of homage to Manet’s famous painting, though I stress the homage begins and ends with the dynamics of the design. For example, the deeper meaning of Manet’s bowl of oranges (apparently underlining that the woman behind the bar is a prostitute) is tempered by changing them to Bramley apples, first grown in Southwell, Nottinghamshire and named after the local butcher!

It is my understanding that this anthology and other proposed initiatives around Sillitoe’s Nottingham legacy is all part of a move to try and get a statue erected to him, which would be a nice fillip for those pursuing the city’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

(The other characters seen in the mirror behind Alan are, left to right, busker ‘the xylophone man’, writer and activist Ray Gosling, playwright Stephen Lowe, poet/musician Dave Turner, author DH Lawrence, independent publisher Ross Bradshaw, Forest manager Brian Clough, pub-trader ‘the cockles man’, poet Lord Byron and songwriter Wayne Evans.)

'The Bar at The Trip' by Brick

‘The Bar at The Trip’ by Brick

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Charlie Hebdo

imgres-4Having met them at French and Irish cartoon festivals, I knew two of the cartoonists assassinated in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, not well but enough to feel the pain. Any encounter with the French cartoonists was invariably a roller coaster of sharp wit and rollicking humour, but I had a particular affinity with them because of my passion for cycling (Le Tour) and rugby (Six Nations), neither of which the Scottish had made much of an impression on at that time, something my French colleagues persistently rubbed in… in the nicest possible way.

I followed the unfolding horror in real time, acutely aware that Cabu and Wolinski knew they were marked men and tempting fate with every issue of a paper that wore it’s origins in the revolt of May ’68 with uncompromising pride. Unlike British cartoonists, they talked about their public role as fools of court with a passion and commitment that maybe could only come from individuals whose nation had been through a real Revolution, in 1789, and Terror, four years later. Unlike Private Eye or Punch, Charlie Hebdo was vehemently left wing and totally unapologetic for being blatantly so. In part, it was also incredibly silly, thoroughly juvenile and hilariously irresponsible, with now tragic consequences.

imgres-3The assassination of political cartoonists is nothing new. Arab cartoonist Naji al-Ali, famous for including the ‘little man’ Handala in all his work, was shot in London in July 1987 and died five weeks later. Though he was probably rubbed out by Mossad, Naji was even-handed, equally vociferous at ripping into the Palestinian authorities as the Zionists. Kenya, Russia (then the USSR), Malaysia, Rwanda, Iran and many other less than democratic countries have sacrificed truth-sayers, and many many more wielders of the mighty pen in democratic states have and continue to receive death threats for their work. During the Second World War, Hitler effectively took out a contract on David Low, editorial cartoonist for the Evening Standard, and Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard will be living in fear for a lot longer than Salman Rushdie, if indeed he makes it to a natural death.

The response to events in Paris from cartoonists around the world has been strident but, as with most atrocities, variable in the extreme. It is difficult to know what to say about any outrage that everybody of sound mind unreservedly condemns. This was well illustrated by many of the post-9/11 cartoons that either drowned in their own sentimentality or said nothing beyond metaphorically laying a wreath. Martyn Turner of the Irish Times depicted the Twin Towers as a bar chart, comparing the thousands killed on American soil by terrorists with the much larger towers of the hundreds of thousands American Forces have killed on foreign soil, and received threats for pointing out that truth.

imgres-2Jan 08 15 Je Suis CharlieSome of the ‘toons that succeeded for me are illustrated. They fall into either the ‘fuck off’ gut response from the likes of Dave Brown of The Independent and Gado in Kenya, or ones that took analysis of the situation further, like Latuff’s in the Middle East Monitor. (In fact, during the so-called War on Terror, Arab cartoonists have often been far more perceptive and searing than those in the West, and Al Jazeera has been forthright in collecting and publishing them without editorialising.) The least successful have been either the ones that attempted to make fools of the terrorists, as with Steve Bell’s offering in The Guardian, or pulled out the ol’ sword v pen cliché to manipulate; a sure sign of cartoonist’s block.

6a0105369e6edf970b01bb07d5137e970d-800wiB6wFfiaIcAAIgpAWhen they are about to bury friends of yours, it is emotionally hard to believe the pen is mightier though, of course, the intellect understands that the ideas etched in ink are far more powerful and potentially fatal than the bullets lodged in blood.

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Lakes International Comic Arts Festival

Team TEAW at The Lakes – (back row) Dan Hill, Selina Lock, Brick, Stuart Richards, Robert Brown (front row) Kate Charlesworth, Jonathan Clode, Jessica Martin, Jenny Linn-Cole

Belgian creator Ivan Petrus at work on the streets of Kendal painting a WW1 British tank for auction on behalf of the festival.










Woodrow Phoenix presenting his and the world’s largest comic book.

Just back from my first visit to this snappily titled binge of most things comics-wise that aren’t big time corporate and oozing testosterone. Hugely enjoyable, and great to meet so many contributors to TEAW and bathe in the esteem the anthology has garnered among so many of those I truly respect. Scott McCloud’s talk was extremely entertaining, even educational, and several of the other gigs I gatecrashed were enlightening for a newcomer like myself. Our own TEAW gig on editing played to an unexpectedly packed house and went down well. It was recorded (for some reason) and is streamed on Resonance FM‘s Panel Borders series here.

But I guess the most enjoyable element, as always, was just chewing the cud with other creatives who largely spend their days locked in their own heads producing these weird things called comics. I was billeted with Ivan Petrus from Belgium (of The Neuport Gathering fame) and his pal from the Netherlands, Sytse Algera, who is a street copper seconded as an adviser to the government who writes cop comics for internal use (instructional material) and general consumption. Fascinating. Ivan and myself discovered a shared passion for Leonardo da Vinci, as well as WW1, and he spent Friday night pitching me the entire movie script of a wonderful Leonardo-inspired love fantasy he’s written that sadly will never be made due to the budget limitations on Flemish films.


Festival highlights for me were walking the streets of Kendal checking out the window displays complementing the festival, standing before the largest comic in the world and reading it as Woodrow Phoenix patiently turned the pages, and the hilarious cabaret turn laid on by the Knockabout ‘Fringe’ for Saturday night. What was the name of that fabulously anarchic stand-up?

Many thanks go to those who slaved behind the scenes of the festival, and to all the locals and professionals who were so welcoming. Long may it survive and develop.

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