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07th Jan 2015

The Old Year and the New

I’ve put off writing a review of 2014, because it has a great big memory well on 9 November when my mum died, and most of my other memories of the year have fallen into it. But there are some things worth remembering about it.

My sister-in-law Louise turned 40 in April. She is amazing and has been a rock over the last couple of months – I don’t know how I could have got through it all without her. She and my mum were very fond of each other, and mum’s death must have hit her as hard as it hit anybody, but she’s done everything in her power to keep everyone’s spirits up, and I will never forget that. I did her a caricature for her birthday:

Louise Brown 40th birthday caricature

My good friend Stephen McCartney also turned 40, a bit later in the year. He lives in London these days, but came back to organise a monstrous party with a band, and performed a couple of songs with it. We went for a walk along the beach at Helen’s Bay, something I hadn’t done for ages, and he complained that the music in the charts these days is all crap. “Of course it is,” I replied. “You’re 40.” Here’s a caricature I did of him for the occasion.

Stephen McCartney 40th birthday caricature

I found myself a little less engaged with comics last year, for whatever reason, but even so I did two MCM Comic Cons, in Dublin and Belfast, and both went very well. I also appeared on a comics panel at TitanCon, a fantasy and science fiction convention, with PJ Holden, Andy Luke and Rory McConville. I got interviewed about The Cattle Raid of Cooley for international Irish magazine The Wild Geese, and the Cattle Raid got reviewed, very favourably I thought, by The Comics Journal. I did a 24 hour comic, A Personal Narrative, at the 24 hour comics event organised by Glenn Davidson at Farset Labs in October.

And in November, right after mum’s funeral, I went to the Thought Bubble comics festival in Leeds. I’d already booked it but didn’t really feel up to going, but my family talked me into it, and I’m glad I did, because everybody was brilliant. Comics people are good people. Also, my entry in the 2000AD Future Shock art competition made the last eight. Click the thumbnail below to see the full pages.

Future Shock: Family Business

 

In terms of reading comics, my favourite comic of the year is Outcast, a demon-possession horror series written by Robert Kirkman, drawn by Paul Azaceta and coloured by Elizabeth Breitweiser, from Image. The story is very good, the line art is excellent, but it’s the colouring that really sells it to me, done with a limited palate with a lovely dry-brush overlay effect. Here’s a sample:

Outcast, by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser

In August my singing teacher, Róisín Magee as was, McKenna as is, got married in Newry Cathedral, and we, her class, were honoured to do the music. Fionnuala and Bill did a haunting version of Alison Krauss’s In the Palm of Your Hand that had me spellbound. I played guitar, and led the group on Here Comes the Sun as the happy couple left the church. In December we put on a cabaret show, Strictly Not the X-Mas Factor, that raised over £1,200 for Cause and the Thomas Devlin Fund.

And at the very end of the year, my dad got married. It was nice to end the year with a happy event. He and my mum had been separated for over 20 years but for various logistical reasons it had never been practical to get divorced, and he’d been with Rosie for ten, and we could all tell from very early on it was the real thing. They make each other happy. And you can’t take anything for granted, it’s not so very long since Rosie had a bleed on the brain and was touch and go for a while, so they were just right to solemnise their relationship as early as they could. It was a quiet affair at the City Hall, followed by lunch at a very nice restaurant. Rosie read a couple of verses from “Us Two”, from A. A. Milne’s Now We Are Six, my dad’s favourite book, which he said he’d been given a copy of on his sixth birthday, although he no longer had that copy. Until I found it the next day, inscribed from his auntie Lila, in a box of books I’d brought home from mum’s house.

Unfortunately, 2015 began with a sad thing. My mum’s cat Eccles needed a new home, and dad and Rosie took him in. He seemed to settle, but then got spooked by another cat staring him out through the window. A couple of days later a door got left open, and he snuck out unnoticed. Whether he was just exploring and got lost, or decided there was no territory for him here and went to look for another one, or was trying to find his way back to his real home, we’ll never know. My brother Simon found his body a couple of days ago. He’d been hit by a car. Poor old sod. He was 16, which is pretty old for a cat, and had lived with a lady who spoiled him, and got one of my Special Head Rubs every time I came to visit. He didn’t have a bad life, just a shame it had to end the way it did. Bye, old man.

Eccles

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12th Nov 2014

Paddie Brown (1945-2014)

Mum

My mum, Patricia Ann (Paddie) Brown, née Magill, died on Saturday. Sudden and unexpected, but peaceful. The funeral will be on Friday at 11am at Mountpottinger Methodist Church, Albertbridge Road, Belfast, where she devoted so much of her life, mostly in the interests of feeding people. She ran lunch clubs for local pensioners and fundraising breakfasts, she was part of the fellowship team that provided food and refreshments for all kinds of church functions, and recently she led the drive to replace the church kitchen.

She was a teacher for many years, mostly at Knocknagoney Primary School. She recounted with some pride how one of the younger kids said to her face that she didn’t want to go into her class in future years, because “you’re evil”. But every once in a while when we were out shopping or for lunch we’d run into one of her former pupils, who was always pleased to see her and grateful for her good influence on their lives. I can’t think of many teachers I’d say that about.

In recent years she had terrible pain from arthritis in her left knee. About six weeks ago she had a knee replacement operation, and as she healed and got the joint working her mood was so much lighter. She was in great form and laughed more easily, and her physio told her she now had 90% mobility. The exercises she was doing were very tiring, but she was a determined old bird and was going to get the best out of her new knee. It seems so unfair that she didn’t get to enjoy it, and the end of that grinding pain, for very long. On the other hand, maybe it’s better to go when you’re on the up.

She was an amazing grandma, who adored and was adored by her granddaughter Zoe, her grandson Sam, and her de facto granddaughter Chloe, none of whom ever wanted to go home when they were at her house. The many friends she’d made at church, at school, in the various streets she lived in, are as devastated at the news as her family.

I’m not going to try and express what she meant to me as a mother. It’s too primal, there are no words for that. She leaves an unimaginable gap. I was privileged to be able to grow beyond the child-parent relationship and get to know her as an adult, to enjoy her sense of humour and her unorthodox outlook on life. She could drive me nuts armed only with good intentions. But in times of crisis, she was still my mum, who could make it all better. You never quite grow out of that. Bye mum. I’ll miss you.

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05th Jun 2012

Skip week, and Colonel Gaddafi’s tent.

Just back from a five-day camping trip in Connemara with my brothers Simon and Alan, and Alan’s wife Louise and their kids Zoe and Sam. Alan and his family are experienced campers and have their own family-sized tent. Simon bought a tent on the internet, which he and I slept in, and which turned out to sleep six in three internal bedrooms, not counting the generous living area in the middle. It was quickly dubbed “Colonel Gaddafi’s tent”.

Fortunately it turned out to be robust enough for the Connemara weather, which was not as pleasant as had been hoped for. The one evening with nice weather also attracted more midges that I believed existed, with Simon, Louise and Zoe getting particularly badly eaten.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable trip despite the conditions, and worth missing 2D for. However, it has thoroughly tired me out, and it’s only just occurred to me, at nearly ten pm, that it’s Tuesday and the next instalment of the comic is due tomorrow morning. I also have to go to work. So, despite my best intentions, another skip week is on the cards. Apologies.

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26th Apr 2011

A Log’s Life

My brother Simon is a logistician for Irish international aid group GOAL in Sudan, and has previously worked with GOAL and other agencies in DRC, Pakistan, Uganda, Liberia, Chad, the Central African Republic and Haiti. He’s now got his own website, where he’s collected all his blog posts from CAR and Haiti and will soon start blogging about his current work. Well worth a read – stick it in your rss reader today!

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27th Jan 2010

The Cattle Raid of Cooley page 65

Is it still Wednesday? It is! Made it.

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Rome was, as expected, full of stuff to fascinate an ancient history geek like me, and Simon, who is generally much less interested in the subject than I am, seemed to enjoy it, or at least indulged me graciously while I wittered on about how the M. Agrippa credited in a great big inscription with building the very impressive Pantheon is the same Marcus Agrippa as portrayed in I, Claudius. Which he hasn’t seen. He’s now off to Haiti to join in the aid effort with Irish humanitarian agency GOAL, and you can donate to their Haiti appeal by following the link.

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21st Jan 2010

Off gallivanting again

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Rome on a long weekend with my brother, so chances are next week’s update schedule will be disrupted. There’s virtually no chance of being an installment of Under the Bed on Tuesday, as I’ll be in transit all day Tuesday, and a very slim possibility of an episode of The Cattle Raid of Cooley on Wednesday, although if I manage it it’ll be later in the day than usual. Your forbearance is much appreciated.

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08th Jan 2010

Some news

I’m going to be on the telly! On Tuesday I will be travelling to Glasgow with the League of Just Us, a team of Belfast-based comics folk, to appear on the BBC’s quiz show Eggheads! From left to right: PJ Holden (Judge Dredd, Battlefields); Me; Reggie Chamberlain King (the forthcoming Layer Zero: The Exile); Aidan Largey (Layer Zero: Choices, our reserve); Aimee Durkin (Stephen Downey’s model and girlfriend); and our intrepid leader and team captain Stephen Downey himself (artist of Cancertown, Slaughterman’s Creed and the team drawing; also a man who talks faster than the human mind can comfortably process). Wish us luck!

Then, on Sunday 17 January, I will be stallholding again, selling an ever-growing selection of Irish small press comics at the Black Books book fair, the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast. Andy and I have decided to call our stall, to tie in with the theme, The Black Panel. Unfortunately Andy will not be able to make it as he’ll be in London to hear Mark Thomas, so the role of glamourous assistant will have to be filled by someone else. More when confirmed.

And finally, someone who has too much time on their hands has rewritten The Big Lebowski in the style of William Shakespeare. As The Knave says of his rug, while playing ninepins:

It was of consequence, I should think; verily, it tied the room together, gather’d its qualities as the sweet lovers’ spring grass doth the morning dew or the rough scythe the first of autumn harvests. It sat between the four sides of the room, making substance of a square, respecting each wall in equal harmony, in geometer’s cap; a great reckoning in a little room. Verily, it transform’d the room from the space between four walls presented, to the harbour of a man’s monarchy.

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13th Dec 2009

Andy’s new column, and Deirdre’s webcomic

Andy Luke’s second column at Alltern8 is up, in which he recommends some (mostly) small press comics as Christmas presents – including my own Ness.  Another he recommends is One Word for Everything, a collection of strips from Deirdre Ruane’s webcomic Wasted Epiphanies, which came as a pleasant surprise to me as I didn’t know she was putting her comics online.  A lot odd observations on mundane things from ususual perspectives (like the example below), and a few recurring characters, like Tempin’ Bear, a polar bear who, since his ice floe melted, has had to seek alternative employment in various unsuitable office jobs, all done in a free-and-easy drawing style. Great stuff, stick it in your RSS reader today!

Wasted Epiphanies: Cellular Religions by Deirdre Ruane

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09th Dec 2009

Andy Luke’s column on our recent comic-selling adventures

My esteemed colleague Andy Luke, previously of Caption and London Underground Comics and my co-stallholder at Independents Day in Dublin and the Black Market in Belfast, is now blogging at Alltern8, and his first post is about those very experiences, and the DIY comics scene in general. Here’s Andy (left) with Belfast comics elder statesman Davy Francis at the Black Market last Sunday.

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01st Sep 2009

David Cousley – illustrator and painter

When I was growing up I was always pretty good at drawing, but my ego was always kept in check by the fact that my cousin, David Cousley, could draw rings round me.  He’s now taken the plunge and gone online at Flickr, where he has a selection of his paintings and illustrations.  Here’s a few samples:

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