Oh, What a Horrific War!

Early sketches of some principal characters for the WWI short story, ‘The Iron Dice’

As every village, city and country affected by the so-called Great War gears up to remember the centenary next year, I find myself co-editing an indie compilation of comics stories, writing at least one of them and drawing the ten page opener. (Like I haven’t got enough to do!) In monitoring preparations in my home town of Nottingham, where the Sherwood Foresters are the local regiment and air ace Albert Ball the local hero, I find it amazing to discover so few folk have any idea why the world descended into armed conflict in August 1914. At best, “Some Duke got killed somewhere in Austria, yeh?” At worst, “It was the Germans what wanted to invade us.”

So I’m delighted that my opening short story imaginatively tackles the reasons Europe stumbled into war. It’s taken some doing, but I’ve unpicked the whys and wherefores, presenting them in the simplest possible terms, at the same time drawing parallels with today’s manoeuvrings around the Eurozone crisis. I put the principals in the dock and examine the miscalculations that lead to The Great Blunder of the first world war.

If any budding writer or ‘toonist has an overpowering urge to contribute to this collection of fact-based stories, drop us a line with two ideas (no longer than two paragraphs, please) – your fave rave and a back-up idea.

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Pomes Promoted

I’m no big poetry reader, but have two books to draw to your attention, two from totally different ends of the emotional spectrum. Born to Giggle is a chuckle-stuffed collection of hilarious verses from some of the best children’s poets on the block, including John Hegley, Jill Townsend and Brian Patten. Heavily illustrated by some of the best cartoonists in the gutter (moi included), it’s been produced to support Save the Children, so is an all-round winner to buy for your favourite brat.

Grime Kerbstone Psalms is a whole other ballgame, and actually does come out of the gutters once occupied by first-time published poet, Miggy Angel (to whom John Cooper Clarke wrote, ‘I like your style’). Miggy chronicles the world of ‘pavement tramps’ and ‘cobble-stone kids’, of fried brains and seeping abscesses, but never ceases to find hope and simmering creativity in that dark disenfranchised world. It’s heavy going, thoroughly rewarding and, I suspect, what poetry was invented for.

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Rock Against Racism Remembered

A fan of my work recently sent me this photo taken when they were moving house. It features a pen and ink picture of John and Bob I drew to promote Nottingham’s version of the Rock Against Racism gigs from way back. Called Rock and Reggae, the weekend binge of bands, performers, sound systems, stalls and participatory crafts ran for ten years, was sponsored by the now defunct Radio Trent and equally defunct city council, and lasted until the three who organised it (myself included) moved on to other things.

After a protracted lull, it was reinvented (without the political edge) by others, finally fizzling out after too many years, as irrelevances generally do. Ironically, the racism in this country today could do with being highlighted in an equally imaginative way, but it is good to know a younger generation appreciates the sentiments of my picture and has it on their wall.

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Another One Bites the Dust

Having watched with controlled panic as my poor ol’ G4 melted in front of my eyes, along with the Photoshop 4 that did everything I ever asked of a grossly over-priced bit of kit, I have now turned to my beautiful iMac for all my ‘tooning. That means I’m having to invest arm, leg and most of torso in new software that’s even more over-priced and grossly over-engineered for my needs. Undaunted, I downloaded a trial version of Photoshop but timed it really badly, over Christmas and the New Year, when even I wasn’t at the my desk. Durrr.

Have thus been working 15 hour days to get done what I needed to get done before the clock calls time on me (today). So what I really didn’t need to do was set myself the task of drawing St. Peter’s Square for the Vatican section of ‘Leonardo’s Bicycle’. Looks good though, yeh?

On something unrelated, was sad to hear that Keiji Nakazawa, creator of Barefoot Gen died somewhat unnoticed in December. Bought my copy in 1987, long before I knew what the word Manga meant.

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Emerson’s Dante

Busy time for Knockabout Comics right now, what with the launch of Krent’s Big Book of Mischief a couple of weeks ago (previous post) and now Hunt Emerson’s Inferno (as in Dante’s Inferno), re-envisaged with the help of Kevin Jackson, Hunt’s collaborator on the marvellous John Ruskin series How to be Rich etc. Kevin is a Virgil of a man whose towering intellect demands listeners engaged in conversation sit and brace themselves for pearls too weighty to catch and gather together standing up. Hunt is the sad, Dante-esque figure on Virgil’s left who learned this lesson too late in their relationship and is thus disfigured by the burden of wisdoms dropped on him over the years they’ve worked together. Not so long ago Mr. Emerson was a giant of a man!

Having seen sample pages of the work in progress, I have every reason to believe Inferno is Hunt’s masterpiece, but I’ve yet to see the finished opus. What’s certain is that, over the decades, he’s been steadily working his way towards taking on ‘the big one’, ticking off Coleridge (The Ancient Mariner, a personal favourite), DH Lawrence, Casanova and Ruskin (who I would never have understood without the comics). Hopefully some American, Italian or German university will buy the original artwork en masse and make Hunt a rich man, or at least rich enough to go get corrective surgery.

Knockabout’s cutting edge website has yet to catch up with the launch of Inferno but try here.

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Another Knockabouter

Spooky Krent at Gosh! signing. Who is this hombre!?


With the publication of his first compendium of rock’n’roll material from The Stool Pigeon, just wanted to welcome Krent Able to the Knockabout club. Sadly I missed the launch at Gosh! Looks like ’twas a riot, but if you want a taste of his stunning work, checkout his blog. Any year now, I’m sure he’ll update it!!

Knockabout posting for Krent’s Big Book of Mischief. A steal at £12!

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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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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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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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