Untitled (Thursday, 24th April 2003)

I bottled it. Not sure exactly why, but I did. I started with some nice cartoony but dark sketchs (have a look at the SAS trooper in the picture post) page 1 was pretty much exactly as I wanted (given my limited drawing abilities) and page 2 seemed to pull together, page 3 was getting there. Then it occured to me, between the sketch and the last three panels of page 2 (although it may have happened at the start of page 2) I went from being very securely in a dark cartoony mode to doing the patented PJ Holden anally retentive realism. So quite an extreme. I’m having a rethink. I want to get the cartoony injected back in, it’s just a matter of letting myself trust my instincts.

Untitled (Wednesday, 23rd April 2003)

Found my original post:


Well, did something today. Started on page 3 (again) this is the third start at the bugger. I think it’s sorted in my head, unfortunately I’m still not at a “drawing place” but that’ll come. Have to nip into town and buy some ink.

Fred’s comic shop seems to have been burnt out, Dark Horizons opened in about 1988 by Fred Collier and John McCrea. At the time it was the first comic shop in Belfast. John’s career hadn’t started at that point and I remember standing in the small room that was Dark Horizons and describing pages for him to do samples for. I distinctly remember describing a page of WWIII from Crises to John for him to draw a single sample page. John went on to bigger things and when he began his comic career the shop more or less fell to Fred, I made some good friends in that shop, Ivor Lavery, who sadly passed away in 2001 was a good friend I made there. He used to come in and regale us of his sexual exploits. He was a good bloke (I spent a great summer in 1991 with Fred and Ivor in London) – and one of guys behind Ximoc, a small press comic which saw the debut of Davy Francis and Will Simpson. I worked in the shop for about a year or two (at least until I got myself a regular girlfriend 🙂 and what I couldn’t afford to buy I read.

Smells are an amazing tool for instant recall and in the street where the shop was there was this incredibly distinct tobacco smell (pipe tobacco) and even now, despite the shop having long since relocated to another area of town, when I’m in that street and catch a hint of that smell, it’s 1988 again and I’ve just seen John’s poster advertising Dark Horizons.

Before I started writing that I was kinda .. unemotional about it, but the memories are pretty strong. So much of my growing up is tied to that shop (much more than I’ve ever realised, I think).

Anyways, if anyone has an email address for fred, I’d appreciate if you’d let me know it.

Untitled (Wednesday, 23rd April 2003)

John Mcrea – Comic Book Artist

Ok, I’m doing this again, because what I’d started as a little blog entry turned into a memory which I’d like to keep.

Dark Horizons was my local comic shop. I went to call a couple of days again, but it was burnt out, not sure what happened, and I don’t particulary want to dwell on it, but I’m much more upset about it than I first thought.

I found Dark Horizons when they opened in about 1988. I’d stopped reading comics in about 1986 or thereabouts because of peer pressure (yeah, they couldn’t make me smoke/sniff glue/get into fights/drink cider in the park but they could make me stop reading comics – wtf?) and when I saw the ad my first thought was “If I went into a place that only sold comics, I wouldn’t be embarrssed about buying them”. Hey, I was 18. The poster was of four women (can’t remember who they were, but they were all female superheroes, but dressed in trendy street clothing, trendy for the time). They were sat around some boxes, and it was signed “John McCrea”.

I found Dark Horizons in Gt Victoria Street, up the stairs of a music shop (I think), in a tiny corridor/room thing, it was large enough to fit, maybe four people in it. That particular part of Gt Victoria Street has a lingering tobacco like smell, I’m not sure why, but even now, when I smell it I’m instantly drawn back to 1988.

I worked in DH for one day a week, for about a year, at least until I got a girlfriend and then became remarkably unavailable. I made some great friends in the place, Ivor Lavery (who, sadly passed away in 2001) who, with Fred, I spent 2 weeks hanging out in London in the summer of 1991. I watched John McCrea go from being a co-owner of a comic shop/talented amateur artist to being a pro-artist (I described pages from crisis so that he could do samples – he owes me his career! :P). I hung out with John and Fred and they pushed me to draw despite my innate lack of talent and absoloute laziness (which proves to me, that anyone can draw – you just need to the right people pushing).

Anyway, that’s it, I had more but blogger swallowed my first post.

Untitled (Tuesday, 22nd April 2003)

I’ve had most of a week off. What should have been a great chance to do some work was pissed against a wall (not literally, you understand). I’ve ideas bouncing around my head which are all computer related – and I’m looking forward to getting into work just so I can, hopefully, exorcise the things out (I think that’s the right spelling). I’ve been playing with internal computer networks, wrapping my head around 802.11b and wide area networks and the sorts of things you can do with them. There’s a group that’s starting up which is hoping to set up a wan over belfast, anyone with line of site (and you’re talking a dozen kilometre’s distances) can then join that network. Obstensibly to allow people to use it for internet connections, but there are lots of other things you could do with it. You could set up a wan based radio/tv station, not broadcasting to the wider internet but broadcasting to the wan only. You could set up a webcam to broadcast only to the wan and then anywhere you’re in view of it you could check your home/gf’s shower (come on, you know you would) or whatever. It’s really interesting stuff. This is all because I got in touch with my inner geek (who I thought I’d pretty much destroyed apart from the odd vestage here and there). So crap week for drawing. I really enjoyed being so productive. I’m pretty much creating displacement activities, anything so that I don’t have to face the drawing table – I’ve been cooking (with proper ingredients, not those jars with two sauces in ’em) which has been fun, but … a displacement activity. Anyways, back to work tomorrow – hopefully getting out of the house and away from the bleak void that is my drawing table will stir something (and not just gas).

Untitled (Sunday, 20th April 2003)

Forum Message Board

But I have a theory, and it’s this:

Small press (and by small press, I mean, those people who retain absoloute creative control, from creation through to production) will be the ones to survive when traditional print media dies. Look at what’s happening in the record industry. Small indie bands are the ones capable of selling vast quantities of material via the internet while making enough money to produce more work. The big publishers can’t cope with how the internet works – you download it for free? it can be copied, for nothing? people pay if they like after hearing it? good grief. Hence the frenzy to make downloading as much as sin as they’ve made it a crime (music downloads steal money from artists: no they don’t, they rob the giant music companies who have been robbing artists for years – that’s true).

Coming back to comics, eventually, there will be some format for reading comic material which will, in essence, do away with the need for production that we take for granted as a cost (this may or may not be hand held computers with hi-res screens, it could equally be huge print-on-demand units in bookshops or some other unforseen thing). At that point, the big companies will want to protect their huge investments in the machinary of publication, to the detriment of the artists that are tied in to them. The small press creators will thrive in this environment, no longer will printing costs be an inhibitor, instead you can have full colour/b&w or whatever at no additional cost. Your audience size will dramatically increase, not because there will be more people reading comics, but rather because – say 5% read small press, 5% of the worlds population is still much much larger than 5% of the people who visit your local comic shop. I have no problem if the only people who read my small press work are other small press creators (and, if I’m being honest, it’s been my experience that most comic readers [small press or otherwise] want to work in comics anyway, it’s just the small press readership/creatorship have much more eclectic tastes and have the chutzpah to get up and do something about it rather than bitching about things on the web).

Anyhue… to sum up:

10 minutes into the future, when things like production costs evaporate, any comic creator with any sense will become a “small press creator”. Because small press means control.

Just posted this in response to a poll on the forum. Thought I’d post it up here.