Leonardo’s Bicycle – The Movie

Well, okay, not so much a movie as a flick that illustrates something of where I’m at with the maestro and his controversial doodle. With two chapters to completion, I’m a little nervous about my telling of the convoluted story; whether it’s just too damn nerdy for y’average reader, never mind publisher. Time will tell, but gentle forays like this into the Ken Burns facility of iMovie help to confirm that it is a fascinating and truly bizarre story that needs to be out there. Enjoy…

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‘To End All Wars’ exhibition

There is still time to catch this wonderful exhibition of material from the critically acclaimed WW1 comic book anthology at the Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop, Machynlleth in Wales. Beautifully mounted by the owners of the shop, Diane and Geoff Bailey, it includes original art and enlarged prints of comics pages, along with their preceding thumbnails, plus highly informative annotations. Hopefully Geoff and Di’s hard work will be moving on to libraries in Gwynedd and elsewhere, but the whole so magnificently complements their unique and delightful bookshop, it is worth the trip to see them in their original placing.

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‘Depresso’ revisited

A couple of years since it was first published by Knockabout Comics, there has been renewed interest in this humorous comic book, graphic novel, whatever you want to call it about depression, breakdowns and the harrowing road to recovery. Maybe David Cameron’s impassioned plea to the Scots not to turn their back on England has raised a bit of a debate in restricted circles about ex-public schoolboys, their emotionally deprived childhoods and stumbling expressions of cod emotion as adults. Who knows, but it seemed as good a time as any to complement that debate with a little film about the book.

‘DEPRESSO or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Embrace Being Bonkers’

Knockabout Comics   2010  £12:99 or cheaper

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TEAW – roundup 1

Good to see The Lakes Comic Art Festival employing one of the images from TEAW (in fact, one of mine) in their final promotional poster. Jonathan Clode and myself, along with a couple of our contributors, will be there in Keswick on 18th October talking about the methods and pitfalls of editing comics (as against content managing, which seems to be what most editors do).

And good to hear that the wonderful little exhibition mounted by Diane and Geoff Bailey at their Pen’rallt gallery bookshop in Machynlleth, Wales, has attracted such interest and considerable sales. The Welsh launch at the beginning of August included a reading of The Black Chair, JC’s Hedd Wyn story, performed by actors, no less.

Finally, for those still wondering whether to part with hard-earned dosh for a copy of TEAW to the benefit of MSF, below is a short film featuring some of the brilliant artwork you could come to own.

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Nottingham Launch of TEAW

Ian Douglas, moi, Selina Lock, Pippa Hennessy, Jenny Linn-Cole and Kate Houghton – just six of the 53 TEAW contributors.

By all accounts, the local launch of To End All Wars was a roaring success. I was there, but swathed in a bag of nerves. 72 men, women and children stuffed themselves into the basement of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio to listen to Pippa Hennessy, Selina Lock and Ian Douglas talk about the source material and writing approach of their contributions. Generously sponsored by the city’s only independent bookshop and introduced by Five Leaves Bookshop owner, Ross Bradshaw, the event was MCed by myself, who gave a six minute masterful summary of 16 months hard graft and, after the writers, talked people through the illustration contributions of Kate Houghton and Jenny Linn-Cole, both present in the audience. Wrapping up with a run through the delight of working with Sarah Jones on my Die and Become story, I managed to weave in the astonishing story of my relationship, through my father, to Field Marshal Sir Douglas ‘Butcher’ Haig. Heavily illustrated with slides from the book, there was no time for a Q&A (which I now understand the audience were itching for) but folk were animated into buying all but three of the 40 copies made available by Soaring Penguin Press. The order of the final flourish was a mass signing by all six contributors. TEAW’s thanks go to all who worked so hard behind the scenes to make the event such an unprecedented success for a local launch, and to those who found the time and energy to start Tweeting about the event before we even left.

John Stuart Clark (aka Brick) introducing the evening’s entertainment at the launch.
© John Birdsall Photography

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To End All Wars – the book

Nineteen months and avalanches of commitment from contributors on and we are pleased to announce that the book of the anthology of WWI short graphic stories has landed from Latvia, where John Anderson of Soaring Penguin Press had it printed. Weighing in at a considerable 2.5 lbs, with stylish black edging, bookmark and high gloss pages, the first 200 pressed into eager hands will come with a enigmatic bookplate donated by Charlie Adlard that recognises our anthology’s brotherhood with Charlie’s excellent White Death.

Nothing else to say, really, except a humungous big thank you to all our contributors who sweated buckets for no reward (except self satisfaction) and put up with my co-editor, Jonathan Clode, and myself through all manner of disagreements (or not). Please rush out and buy everybody and anybody a copy, thereby adding to the £2,000 already raised for Médicins Sans Frontières even before release. Many many thanks.

‘Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire’ sung by Coope, Boyes & Simpson from their album In Flanders Fields. Permission granted.

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Mental Health Assistance Dogs

…which is a grand title for the relatively recent realisation that dogs understand us humans better than maybe we do ourselves, can be a great comfort at moments of high anxiety, and could play a critical role in somebody’s mental and emotional recovery journey.

How often have you felt off-colour or downright bombed out and suddenly found your best friend there with his or her head on your lap, eyes plainly saying, ‘It’s alright, boss, we can get through this together’?

For myself, bringing Border Collie, Suzi, into the pack has been a life-saver, not least because I have finally found the perfect walking companion to share the hours I spend on the hoof in internal dialogues.

So when Asylum magazine asked me to produce something comics-style related to mental well-being, I felt it was high time I paid tribute to my closest pal and constant companion.


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Top of the Toon Pops

It is not often a cartoonist gets to discover which pebble in the avalanche of ‘toons he or she inflicts on the world is the most popular with readers. Indeed, what does that even mean!? The funniest, most cutting, hardest hitting, best drawn… what? And exactly how might that be measured or ascertained, particularly if, as with my work, the ‘toon is randomly flung to the four corners through the auspices of the ngos I tend to work for?

The number-crunchers monitoring the website of Irish development education ngo, 80:20, were recently delighted to inform me that they had identified my Top Toon, or one of them at least. 80:20’s site is now the major source of educational investment by Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s overseas development wing, and attracts a huge amount of traffic from around the globe. Periodically they commission me to produce something suitably scathing about some iniquity in the world and bang the resulting gag up on their site, downloadable at no cost and with no copyright restrictions. ‘Customer Counselling’ must be at least five years old now, and I reproduce it here for no better reason than it is not what I would call one of my better cartoons.

Just shows how wrong creators can be about their work!

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Bring Back Calculus Cat NOW!!

My pal Hunt Emerson asked me to draw a little parody of his TV terrorist Calculus Cat. I went to my shelves to refresh my memory of exactly what his passive-aggressive anarchist hero got up to only to discover… whoever’s got my treasured and signed copy, I WANT IT BACK! Actually, keep it, because now we all have an opportunity to relaunch the feline guerrilla by helping Hunt and Knockabout Kickerstarter an expanded reprint of this long-deleted title of media mayhem. The extra pages are homages by some of your fave inkies, and there are all kinds of collectable goodies you’ll kick yourself for missing out on. So dig deep for one of the British Underground’s most endearing characters, and keep spewing out dem Skweeky Weets over your own puddy-tat. (God, I hate cats!)


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Back on the Bike

With the WWI anthology, To End All Wars, now stitched and in the hands of publishers Soaring Penguin, it is time to move on or rather return to the story I was locked into before being so thrillingly interrupted. Despite a lifetime working in cartoons and comics, I learned so much about the hybrid art of marrying words and pictures in those 15 months almost exclusively spent editing the work of others, I reread completed chapters of Leonardo’s Bicycle with some trepidation.

It remains an intriguing and unique story, I was delighted to discover, but it is intense and unlike anything I have yet to encounter in comic book form. Certainly there are panels that make me squirm, and will probably be redrawn, and sequences that presume too much about the background knowledge of younger readers. These will need unpicking, simplifying and expanding but, with less than a handful of chapters left to complete the book, it was a relief to find myself excited by the prospect of returning to the task.

Within days I had completed Chapter 10, which focuses on the Leonardo Industry as it pertains to his mythical bicycle, a couple of sample pages of which are displayed.

Also pulled off Vinci’s Museo Leonardiano Vinci site is this recent tourism image – it’s a ghastly Photoshop job, but they just can’t leave that bicycle alone!

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