New York

Heading off to the New York comic con in October.

I’ve done the NYCC a few times before, but this is the first time in several years and so, I’ve been trying to get meetings set up and see if I can chat to various publishers, drop portfolios, etc.

I’m not expecting to come away with firm work commitments, but I am hoping I can chat to all the publishers that I think I would sit comfortably with and send them ongoing packets of work.

I’ll be working on this book I’m doing right for about six more months, but after that … nothing. So I’m trying to figure out how to land work before I need it, so when I need it it’s waiting on me. Up until now I’ve been able to secure work just through word of mouth and luck, but it’s easy for publishers to forget you exist – because every year there are new artists out there, and older ones looking for more work.

So that’s it. I’ll probably organise a signing at the 2000AD booth, and I’ll be certainly dropping by the Dark Horse booth (having just finished World of Tanks with them) and I’ll be dropping portfolios at various booths (it’s always a gamble, but DC, Marvel, Aftershock, and more are all open to portfolio drops).

If you’re in New York I’ll still be hanging out on twitter, and probably organising my day around it, if you like my work and want to commission a sketch for New York we can organise a pick up somewhere, I’m sure…


Friday Fixup:As-For-Stuff

Is… is As-for your name? PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

I’ve banged on before about the importance of real names for comic creators, so I will say nothing.

Ok, As-for sent me a double page spread, and then a follow up double page spread. Here’s both.


So I’m going to talk about these for a bit.

The first double page spread here is interesting, As-for told me it’s deliberately disorientating, and it is. But I’m not sure what it’s trying for. It feels like the opening sequence of Watchmen, where Dave Gibbon’s drills down into the Smiley faced badge from a height, it disorientated, but it also let you know where you where. It was easy to read. A different angle to look at stuff. I think there’s a few problems here we need to think about – how am I supposed to read this? Is it a linear narrative? is it a non linear collection of vignettes? (What Scott McCloud would call Aspect-to-Aspect or Non-Sequiturs). The first column of panels feels like we should be reading that as one tall read, but that throws you off where to go next.

I have one talent; my reading comprehension is pretty low, so things like this confuse me.

The advice I’ve given for years about story telling is pretty rock solid, I think: ask someone you know/trust (ideally a partner, someone who is on hand most of the time) what they think is going on in a page. Don’t ask them if it’s any good (if they love you of course they’ll say yes). Ask them to explain the narrative, this is entirely non-judgemental, don’t help of prod them just let them look at it without dialogue and see what they’re seeing. It helps if they don’t usually read comics either, then they won’t try and read it properly.

I’d really recommend you do that, that would show exactly where you’re doing wrong here.

So my primary thing on the first page was just trying to help the storytelling (I actually like the art, it’s crisp, and clean and fun, it’s obviously a little round spy cam looking around a space ship, though I’m unsure what the closing lens has to do with it, this version cleans up the reading order…


Ok, on to this second double page spread, and I really like a lot of the art here, lots of great small figures, fun to look at, but … I really can’t make head nor tail of what’s supposed to be happening. My guess is young dude walking along, gets in to fight, but I’m not entirely sure how the top sequence is supposed to be read? I think you’ve some really solid ambitions in storytelling but they’re not quiet within grasp yet – I can see some Frank Quitely sensibilities in the work, but Frank (aka Vincent) knows how much information we need to see to helps us get from one panel to the next, no matter where they are. You also really need to include some backgrounds, I LOVE – LOVE the use of white space, esp where some of the characters are leaning on things that we don’t see, BUT – we need to see some of these things somewhere. Are we behind a warehouse? In space? In the crushing void of the neverwhere? You really want to establish your backgrounds fairly frequently, at an absolute minimum once per page is a good rule (and even then that’s for a solid background with lots of information about where / when we are) after that you need to drop little hints about the background (fight in a library? have some books flinging about behind our protagonists, fight at a dockyard? some gulls flying away as our bad guy punches the good guy)


In the images above I’ve tried to reconcile how I think the page should be read vs how it’s being read. The path in green is the order I think As-for is thinking the story will be read, in the path in red is how I think a typical reader will see that page. The edited image I’ve tried putting the panels back in the order I think you’d read them.

Story telling is key here (I’m in two minds though, I really like As-for’s clean art style, but I think it’s a little too far and they’ve got to figure out how much information is too little information… as a storytelling your job is conveying information about the story, too much and it’s a waste and can slow a reader down but too little and it’s hard to know exactly what you’re looking at)

Hope that’s interesting or helpful!


Friday Fixup: Floating Rock Comics

Sorry, no idea of your name – your twitter alias is @floatrockcomics I know that much! (I think I’ve said before about putting your real name in as your twitter alias, so people can see you’re a real person and associate your name with your work, but I’ll not labour the point here!)


So, if you’ve been here before, you’ll know the drill, send me a page of unlettered inks and I’ll see if I can add some extra value in the storytelling.

Here’s a page, original to the left, my edits to the right, notes to follow!

I think this is a pretty nice page, but it suffers a little from what I think of as “the void”. There’s a lot of The Void in this. The Void is that location that really doesn’t have much of a background. Now, there IS background here, but it’s not deep enough – it doesn’t sell the location (it sells the stage we’re on, but not the bigger picture) so lots of the edits here are about dealing with that.

Panel 1: Largely left as is, just added some shadows behind the crowd this just pushes the readers focus more towards the middle of the panel where our main guys are. This feels like it should be bigger panel, mind you, the whole page has the feel of The Middle page in a bigger story, and that has its own physical shape, there are panel arrangements there that work that don’t work so well at the start or the end. If this is the scene setter panel, you might what to make it bigger, wider, pull the camera out a bit and get bits of the village in, for example. As is, I left it.

Panel 2:

The Void! We’re in the middle of a village, but where is the village? floating in n-space? Inside a giant castle? In a VR Landscape? I’ve put them surrounded by Mountains. Just that little bit extra, doesn’t require too much, but now we know the white void above their heads is sky. Also: How tall are these guys? It feels like the crowd are shorter – but maybe they’re not? So I dropped the foreground dudes entirely into silhouette and just gave them a little more height so they’re all about the same height.

Panel 3: Dropped the panel backgrounds. This takes the need to do a background entirely out of it, and pushes that cool foreground shouty vampire dude.

Panel 4: Not entirely clear if they’re suddenly floating or why they’re massively taller than everyone else, so I increased the height of the background silhouettes and added a little bit of mountain background, so the bg doesn’t feel empty.

Panel 5: Good shot, needs a tiny bit of background (feels like we’re looking up here so no need to show the crowd, we can get away with clouds and the tips of the mountains)

Panel 6: Moved everyone up a smidgen so they’re not literally resting their chin on the panel border (I counted three that are just hitting that bottom border) it’s a small thing, but these small things add up.

Panel 7: Just added some mountains and clouds, this helps add depth to the panel (which feels a little like a stage set, with no background behind it)

Panel 8: A reverse silhouette, gives the panel a bit of weight without being too distracting.

As ever with these things, YMMV, it’s a pretty nice page, and while it feels initially like there’s backgrounds it feels like it’s foreground+middleground but no actual background, no third plane which gives it that floating in the void feel. But take from this what you will, I will bear no malice if you think it’s all nonsense.

Friday Fixup: PXD

Ok, art on this friday fixup is by a chap whose name is PXD (or Pete).

My general (unasked for) advice on names is this: use your real name, because whatever funny name you come up with now – before you’ve a published history WILL become your name.

My real name is Paul Holden. For publishing purposes (and because I was working with a guy called Paul Holmes who couldn’t quite grasp there were two Paul’s in the store I worked in) I started using my middle initial “J” (for Jason) for publishing, this was fine, real world, home: Paul. Online, publishing: PJ (actually my first published work is under Paul J Holden, PJ Holden scans better)

But then those world’s meet and suddenly every day you’re going “Yeah, PJ is fine. Or Paul, or Jason, or Peej. Honestly, I don’t mind”.

Frank Quitely’s name started as a joke, but of course, that’s how Vincent is no known.

These choices you make when you’re first starting out end up sticking with you for a long, long time.

(I say this because I had to check around to see what Pete’s surname was, but he seems to go by PXD too, so sorry Pete – hope I’ve credited you correctly!)

Ok, on to the art!

Pete’s page to the left, my edit to the right.

I’m not gonna talk about the lettering, but I will link to these, please go read ’em!

Ok, on to notes.

Panel 1:

Let’s stop being so shy, good big close up of our car, frames the house nicely and makes the entire thing a little more ominous. You’re always trying to fool the eye into thinking a 2d flat rectangle is a window into a 3d world, so anything that can add depth really helps that – close things look big BUT the reverse is also true : big things look close – so make something big and something small and it really gives us depth. And really push it – push it so far it breaks, then pull it back so it’s not broken but still a big contrast.

Panel 2: How wide is that door? That’s a wide door! I moved the door in a bit, added a little shadow behind the back of the door (helps frame it up a bit more) and added a little bit of texture to the unadorned wall.

Panel 3

I tried and tried to make this panel work as a straight on but it always felt odd, and the reason is she’s talking to the dude at the door, she’s facing the dude at the door, and suddenly we’re staring straight at her, from his pov – but it didn’t feel right at all, felt like we should still be observing this as a third person – so just came in nice and close to her face and repencilled her. I appreciate this is an older lady, but I think you’ve got a lot of lines on her face which are really unnecessary (I’m often guilty of this) Here’s your drawing of her face cleaned up, still older but prettier, I think. I also shrank her eyes – now you can argue this is a taste thing, but I think on your characters I’m seeing lots of eyes that are just a smidgen too large. For years and years I struggled with drawing eyes – how can you draw everything you want in an eye in the tiny space of where the eye is? IMPOSSIBLE. Couldn’t figure out how artists like Adam Hughes could draw these incredibly beautiful eyes (still can’t, if I’m honest) while I kept drawing eyes that insisted every eyelash, every wrinkle, every light red vein in an eyeball is seen. Draw less, I think is the answer. Make the lines you do draw do more.



Panel 4:

Mild perspective inside rooms are my kryptonite, I really struggle with them. (So did Mignola til that clever bastard figured out you don’t need to do it).

So what I did was a constructed a very simple version of the room in sketchup – took literally 2 minutes, dropped some figures rotated the camera until I got it more or less as it should be and then edited it based on that. I think the real problem is when you’re doing this kind of indoor perspective shot is you want to make it easy so the vanishing points end up very close together, and overlap (where the object in front hides part of the object behind) is a real pain (cus you’ve still got to figure out where the stuff is and then you don’t even draw it – it’s a blorping nightmare) so let us resolve this together – let us from now on map a very simple room (this sketchup room? two walls, a floor, no ceiling and a a simple bed that I duplicated) in sketchup and use that as the basis (you can print out a sketchup model and use that to trace over, you can export-import the 3d into clip studio to digitally trace over or you could just build the model and play with it so you get a sense of what a box room perspective looks like and then just draw it)

Pete linked me a second page, which I’ll not have time to add notes to except this: draw backgrounds! By forcing a black panel border you’ve taken away the ability to leave a panel borderless (and borderless panels also mean you can get away without background!) so you’re sort of going to have to give every panel a background (oops!) Not to worry, 90% of backgrounds are really shorthand reminders to the reader of where the location is – set in a library? then a wall of books will do. Set in a garden? a nice bit of frilly linework that looks enough like a hedge to pass will do. Cheat. I’m saying cheat. But don’t skip it.


Anyway, apologies PXD I feel like I’ve been unduly harsh,  of course, all of this is subjective and the advice skews heavily to my taste in things, so you are free of course, to tell me to stick it up my blorp.


Friday Fixup: Vince Underwood

Friday Fixup is where I take a page of some willing volunteer’s work and see if I can add some extra oomph to the story telling.

First page this week is by Vince Underwood

As ever, his version on the left, my edits to the right, annotations follow…

Let’s begin!

Panel 1:space! The final frontier. The edits: more drama! Just because we’re in space doesn’t mean we can’t have dramatic lighting around a figure (check out anything at all inked by Kevin Nowlan, the master at two source lighting). This little pure white figure against a pure white background felt a little dull, so some nice shadows inside him. Now, in panel 3 we meet some sort of villain, but where’s he come from? He just sort of appears – so I added a little flying figure of him in Panel 1 (it’s not much but it stops that can from just sort of showing up – it’s a reverse checkov’s gun problem we have – if the dude shows up as a massive threat on panel three, we’d better see him earlier than that!)

Panel 2: Couldn’t tell if we were looking at a sun or a planet, so I added some shadow shapes to help sell the planet, adding some central shadows around the flying good guy (Which really focuses you on his mouth and that scream) and added some more pew! pew! pew! (the original has two laser beams, but they’re white and on top of a white planet so it’s all a bit lost, now the planet is in shadow, added some jagged effect lines so it’s not just pure straight laser fire – visual interest! and lots more pew! pew! pew!)

(I make s/fx noises when I draw. I’ve learned to accept that about myself. Pew!)

Panel 3 – OOF! Here we want that impact point to be seen more, by adding shadow around the body of the hero that sort of guides the reader towards the chin/knee interface and adding a little white halo around the back of the villains leg, and more laser beam (pew! pew!) the panel has crunch and movement and focus.

Panel 4-6 Ok, I get what you’re doing here, a classic build up and then explosive punch! but I don’t think it’s working. Firstly the splatters of blood are too blobby and distracting, they’re not helping do anything but obstruct – this is a complex sequence so you want to simplify as much as possible. Plus, I think you’ve got Panel 4: PUNCH! Panel 5: Angry Panel 6: Angry and I think you really want Panel 4: punch! panel 5: PUNCH HARDER! panel 6: PUNCH EVEN HARDER, Panel 7: PUNCH THE HARDEST THERE IS. It’s sort of the rule of threes (I’ve gone for panels 5-6 as closer up views on the villains fist punching with blood, in case the drawing isn’t clear). Build and build and build and defuse. You have build, defuse, defuse, build, defuse.

Panel 7 (centre big punch). Ok, the centre visual effect here is cool but pointless, hard truth – it’s making me, the reader, look at the central effect and think “WHy am I staring at this dudes arm” – I’m completely missing the punch in the face that’s going on – I’m a dog that can only see on shiny thing at a time, and that shiny thing is SO shiny. So I moved the shiney to where the punch is. I did mine crudely you could do it with cooler v/fx, but the point is: the point of impact is the point. Not the dudes arm.

Panel 8-9-10 Again removed the blood splatter, so much clearer (I didn’t do it, but I’d be inclined to flip the horizontal on panel 8, as he’s arming his right hand and punching with his left, which looks a bit silly, but would work if it’s his right hand). Panel 10 I made it another punch, one with more gusto (I admit, my drawing of it is hard to make out) the point is: this is our heroes redemption moment, he gets his punch in, he’s going to win…

Panel 11: BUT WAIT! NO! Bad guy grabs him. I think you need a beat of the villain grabbing him before they start entering what I assume is limbo – I’m guessing the villain is vanishing them both away? I added a background to panel 11 (it’s the planet behind them, maybe I’d add some of the space ships too)

Panel 12-13-14-15 largely unchanged (I did add some white little lightning bolts to tie it to the visual effect on panel 7)

And finally, the background – let’s call it panel 16 I put some space ships in, because, frankly, they just seem to vanish around panel 3 where’d they go? Hopefully a reader won’t notice this stuff they’ll be so engrossed in the story, but there will be something nagging them in the back of their head, some sort of flaw they can’t quite see, and it’ll never occur to them that the spaceships just left, without a by-your-leave.

Anyway, hope that’s interesting/informative/something. YMMV on all of this stuff.

Friday Fixup: RL Rudge

Rich sent me this page (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Rich!) a fine cyberpunk type one pager.

As ever, Rich’s page first, followed by my edits followed by notes on why I did what I did…

Hey ho! Let’s go!

Panel 1: I think if you’re going to rely on perspective you need to lean hard in to it, get out the ruler, draw the guidelines. Then start measuring making sure you’ve got straight lines where you need them. I cheat (and goodness if you can cheat ALWAYS cheat) by using Clip Studio Paint’s perspective guidelines. I usually would use them to refine a pencil sketch, then I’d free hand the lines in. You’ve also got to be aware of scale – if the building is large what kind of tiny details can you see? What gives it a sense of scale? Usually it’s the number and size of windows – we all have a general notion of how big a window is so if the window looks small then boom it’s further away.

The van is suffering a bit from a flat tyre here too (I’m guessing that’s more accident than design) and we have one character walking out of it. So, I pushed us closer to the woman walking out of the van, van and her now dark heavy foreground, gives us more a sense of who’s important in this scene – on the original the building was important, in the redraw the woman looking at the building is important. Of course, check your script (which I don’t have) it may well be this shouldn’t be that type of scene – this panel is now the exorcist movie poster.

Panel two, pulled out from the van, stayed with her, dropped the panel border up top. Felt all a little close. Also It takes seconds to google “door of white transit van” give that a go! Google everything real world, you may not use it but it can suggest new shapes so everything stops looking like a persons memory of a thing.

Panel three – in the original it’s a little confusing to me, suddenly the girl we’re looking at is in the middle and beside the other guys? I think – but can’t swear, this is supposed to be a chat between them were we erase the boundaries of time and space which is cool and a comic book trope, I think though, if you’re GOING to do that then bite the bullet and do it …


Floating heads are fine!

Though if you are going to do that then the very next panel BETTER HAVE A BACKGROUND! failure to do so will make the reader think they’ve entered some sort of limbo dimension where backgrounds don’t exist.

Now, what I did on this panel is I just pulled us in closer to the action (I cheated by reusing the art on panel two – which is fine for what I’m doing here, but try and avoid reproducing art in this way as it gets a bit dull and samey – it’s fine to do use a copy as a pencil if the inks then add some subtle changes. There’s room for dialogue and it’s clear where everyone is in relation to each other (I’m big on the geography of a scene, reader should never be confused about where they are UNLESS YOU WANT THEM TO BE…).

Panel Four

Hey, I’ve done backgrounds everywhere, so we can drop them out for this panel, that’s cool. It’s nice and clean and keeps our focus on our tin-chinned chum.

And that’s it. YMMV, I hope this is interesting!

Friday Fixup: Stephen Ward

It’s friday fixup, this slice of sci-fi silliness is from Stephen Ward who has a whole strip for you to read here.

I took his first page to see if I could pep it up with the story telling, His page then my edits, then notes to follow!

So let’s talk SCALE!!!

You have the vast, endless expanse of space (“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” the great Douglas Adams) and yet panel one feels super cramped. It’s also got the main characters flying against the direction of the reader (reader is, of course, moving left to right – anything that is on the page attempting to move right to left is gonna feel either very jarring or like it’s not moving at all – a still moment). So panel 1 I pulled the camera right out – since we have two characters the dialogue – in the context of the rest of the page – is actually pretty clear which character is speaking so we don’t need to show them just yet.

I’ve also ramped up the threat – and I think it makes the first line funnier – “he’s gaining” is vaguely worrying when the other guy has a ship the same size as you, but it’s very worrying when his shape is so vast that it’s really gonna pulverise you (plus he’s so close it’s very much an understatement)

Second panel: It’s always a pain to have the first person speaking on the right – it’s not ideal, but sometimes you have no choice (I always blame the writer)  making the second person to speak (on the left) lower down in the panel, and giving the letterer plenty of room to work on in the middle is about the best compromise you can make (ideally you don’t get in the situation, but here we are!)

I’ve added some background, both of the interior of the spaceship – needn’t be too much, just some lines to help us know where we are, and windows to the exterior with stars flashing by – it all helps give us a sense of movement. You could also maybe give the panel a dutch angle which would help give a sense of a spaceship jigging left and right to avoid being shot at and would elevate the character higher on the right so it helps the letterer even further.

I’ve also changed the body language, I think the joke works a little better if the character is one minute deeply lamenting the mistake, then the next sort of “but it was delicious”.  Panel 2 made me go back and change panel 1 a little, I took the reference to the pineapple and decide to give the big spaceship in panel one more of a pineapple look to it – helping to reinforce the silly (the big teeth on it are supposed to be a big docking bay with an crunchy open/close gate thing)

Panel three: BACKGROUND! doesn’t need much, just some moving stars and planets and some odds and ends round the ship, stuff to add personality (I added here a tree car smelly thing – you want to add tchotchkes around and about, things that show the world is wider than the blank walls of the ship)

Panel four:

Show don’t tell! Pulled the panel out, dialogue from inside the ship showing intent, the giant wall of asteroids, bullets flying past – we see a plan, the threat and the possible solution. All better than another shot of our heroes inside the ship which conveys little information that “let’s do this”

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got – ymmv, pick from this what you think works and what doesn’t.