paddybrown.co.uk

Archive for the 'Comics' Category

15th Nov 2018

It’s been a while

I’ve just noticed I haven’t updated this site for more than a year. I’ve also been thinking about how the internet is becoming centralised on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, and it was better when people had their own sites, so I really out to put my money where my mouth is. So, here we are.

It’s been an eventful couple of years. I’ve moved house, and been promoted in my day job. My band has risen, fallen, and is in the process of rising again. I got a bit estranged from comics, and got pulled back in by my writer mate Mark McCann and the local 2000AD-based fanzine Sector 13, edited by Peter Duncan and Lawrence McKenna.

Comics

Sector 13 is created by a fantastic group of creative people, and operates with 2000AD‘s blessing so long as it doesn’t make a profit, and stays kind of tangential to what they do. So we have stories set in the worlds of 2000AD characters that don’t focus on those characters – judges who aren’t Dredd, that kind of thing – and “Future Shock”-style short strips that don’t bother anybody’s copyright. As well as your standard drawn and/or painted comics, there are also digitally-edited photo-strips featuring our legion of cosplayers and prop-makers.

My first strip was in issue 2, published in November 2017. Mark had written a strip called “Humane Options”, a time-travel crime-and-punishment short, and I think the artist who was orginally slated for it wasn’t able to do it for some reason, so Mark asked me if I would draw it. I did, and really enjoyed it.

Sector 13: Humane Options

Mark gave me another script, called “Zero Sum Brain”, for the next issue. But then we had a conversation in rather poor taste about the Dark Judges and the “safe space” movement in universities that made us both laugh, and inspired Mark to write “Terminal Apotheosis”, a story about some cadet judges getting catastrophic hold of the wrong end of the stick during “Necropolis”, when the Dark Judges took over Mega-City One. I drew that one for issue 3, which was published in May 2018.

Sector 13 issue 3: Terminal Apotheosis

Issue 4 is in preparation, and I’ve drawn “Zero Sum Brain” for that. It’s an alien world civil war brain transplant story, and I’m really pleased with it. I think it’ll see print late this year or early next.

Sector 13 issue 4: Zero Sum Brain

The other thing I’ve noticed in perusing my site is that I started re-serialising Ness, the prequel to The Cattle Raid of Cooley, in March last year, got seven pages in and stopped. That was about the time I moved house, and it evidently fell by the wayside as I had other stuff to do. I’ll have to get that restarted.

Music

The Proposition at the American Bar, July 18

My band, The Proposition, started out as the Proposition Blues Band a few years ago, but we changed the name as our repertoire became a bit more varied. The core of the band is myself on vocals and guitar and Anne Duffy on vocals. We had a stable line-up for a while – above is us playing the American Bar in July 2017 – but our drummer and bass player both decided to quit a few months ago. We’ve recruited a new drummer, Stephen Campbell, and a new bass player, Brian McCoy, and are rehearsing towards a private gig in December. Onwards and upwards.

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21st Sep 2015

Dancing About Architecture: How to Criticise Art #artcred

Inspired by the #artcred hashtag and the panel on it at the ComicCity Festival in Derry the weekend before last, I’ve written a piece on Irish Comic News on how to review comic art.

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31st Aug 2014

Review: Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

I don’t do many reviews, particularly of Irish comics. The Irish comics scene is a tiny cottage industry and everybody knows everybody; a lot of the work is amateurish and unoriginal but it’s hard to be too harsh in your criticism because you want to encourage people and don’t want to hurt their feelings. Fortunately we have Leeann Hamilton who isn’t scared of letting rip when she thinks it’s necessary.

Sometimes, though, the work is far from amateurish or unoriginal, but is hard to review just because it’s bloody hard to describe. Such a work is Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick. I received my copy of the book shortly after the Kickstarter funding campaign closed in September 2013. It’s now just a kick in the arse short of September 2014, and I’m having a go at last.

Anna first came to my attention with her webcomic Between Worlds, a fantasy in a sort-of early modern European setting, notable for its sprawling plot, its emotional intensity and its beautiful digitally-painted colour artwork. Koré, other than the covers, is in black and white, and even the colour covers are sheathed in a slipcover printed in black and white on tracing paper, through which only the bright eyes of the pictured character can be clearly seen. The front cover and its slipcover are at the top of this review; the back cover and its slipcover are below.

Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick - back cover

Eyes are important, women’s bodies are important, and mythic symbolism is important. Koré is an alternative name for the ancient Greek underworld goddess Persephone, and means “maiden” or “daughter”. The snakes suggest the gorgon Medusa, but their juxtaposition on the back cover with medical tubes reminds us that the snake is also a symbol of healing.

Why am I talking about symbols, and things being “important”, rather than telling you what the book’s about? Well, I’m attempting to do both, but it’s not easy. Koré is told almost entirely in images, no words other than the title and a series of titles applied to the characters, or perhaps the same character in different lives, at the end, and while there’s a sequence and a narrative I’m not sure it can really be considered as a story. Will Eisner coined the term “sequential art” many years ago, and that’s what this is. Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics defined comics as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the reader.The sequence of images in Koré certainly produces an aesthetic response, but it’s an impressionistic one that depends on the reader’s response to images, in symbolic as well as narrative terms.

Double page spread from Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

The impression it creates in me is a strong sense of womanhood, in particular the physicality of womanhood, and womanhood experienced as something assumed, or felt as imposed, not entirely willingly or happily. The figures are drawn androgynously, broad-shouldered, small-breasted and square-jawed, but the persistence of blood as well as vulval and uterine symbols and the anguish and fear of the character(s) is undeniable. The eyeballs in the blood are more difficult to interpret, except perhaps by reference to the goddess Koré as “The All Seeing”, or by how women are judged by how they look creating a paranoid feeling of being under constant observation and scrutiny, but that seems too rational an explanation to be entirely satisfying. I wonder how much of Koré‘s symbolism was determined rationally and how much was a series of subconscious decisions.

Fitzpatrick writes on her Kickstarter page aboutfinding a path through depression in comic form”, and while I’ve had my own struggles with depression I experienced it in male terms, Anna experienced it in female terms, so for me there’s a sense of recognition, but also a gulf in understanding. I’m a man, and I don’t have any sisters, and an awful lot of the experience of growing up female is lost on me, but growing up female seems to me to be the overarching theme of the book.

Koré is a book that demands your attention, requires interpretation, and gives the reader access to a mind not their own (whether or not that other mind is entirely comprehensible), which to me is the highest purpose of art of any sort, and makes Fitzpatrick perhaps the most interesting and challenging artist Irish comics have yet given us. Koré‘s impressionistic, symbolic approach makes an interesting contrast to the work of another challenging Irish artist, John Robbins, which is framed in a more masculine way by its unflinching concrete specificity. But that’s another review that may or may not actually get written.

Koré is available from Anna’s Etsy store, for US$16.50, which currently works out at UK£10.21, or €12.89, a snip for such a handsome 74-page graphic novel.

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27th Feb 2014

The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 8 now on sale!

The eighth issue of The Cattle Raid of Cooley (cover art below) is now available to buy from my Comicsy bookshop for £3.50. I’ve rejigged the way it calculates postage, so it should save you a bit of money if you’re buying multiple comics. I’ve also included options to buy all eight issues as a set, or all eight issues plus the prequel graphic novel Ness as a set, for a reduced price. I’m also gradually making digital download versions you can buy for £1.50 an issue, but they’re not all up yet. So if you appreciate what I’m doing here, I’d appreciate it if you’d support me by buying my books.

The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 8

 

Some people who have said nice things about my work:

  • “Great work” – David Lloyd
  • “I love your work. It’s so loose, and the red works so well” – Donna Barr
  • “If Lorenzo Mattotti did Irish mythology” – John Robbins
  • “An outstanding body of work” – Rabble.ie
  • “[The] drawing style is sketchily naturalistic … particularly excelling at the nature scenes … It also gives the story a sense of versimilitude, like everything is happening in the moment” – Gavin Burrows
  • “captures the time very well, both in his art and story, this is no polished recounting of history, but a tale full of earthy reality, full of the dirt of ancient lands and the blood of ancient races” – Richard Bruton, Forbidden Planet International
  • “[A] brilliant adaptation of the epic Irish legend Táin Bó Cúailnge … a violent, visceral and darkly comic tale and Brown’s interpretation doesn’t leave much to the imagination; the single-colour artwork, raw and frenetic, is reminiscent of Eddie Campbell’s work on From Hell and the story is well-crafted with an obvious passion for the subject matter” – Look Left
  • “wonderful translation of ancient Irish legends … exciting and amusing … beautifully rendered action … that proves why Patrick’s decision to retell these old stories in comic book form was such an excellent idea” – Rol Hirst
  • “In a hundred years, I reckon Paddy Brown will be remembered as one of Ireland’s finest cartoonists. His Cattle Raid of Cooley  calls to the reader to glide around the pages and take in the detail, but to go when he says … a pseudo-sensory experience” – Andy Luke
  • “It’s as if writer-artist Patrick Brown found a window looking into the past, and he decided to smash it climb on through. Here is a thoroughly modern form of Irish storytelling that makes the past very much the present” – Malachy Coney
  • “Finally a comic from Northern Ireland that can be read adywhere – Patrick Brown weaves a wonderful tapestry of rich characters, intertwining centuries-old legends with 21st-century artwork to die for. Wonderful!” – Davy Francis
  • “[Ness is] A wonderful period graphic novel … Primitive but gripping” – Rich Johnston

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01st Jan 2014

It’s 2014!

And as it turns out, this Wednesday is New Year’s Day. Whose idea was that? If Julius Caesar or Pope Gregory the whateverth who made the calendar had thought it through, they would have realised that meant me missing two weeks in a row of The Cattle Raid of Cooley. So, normal service will be resumed next week when I’m back at my day job and can remember what day of the week it is.

So, 2013, eh? What was all that about?

An interesting year in a number of ways. My house needed extensive renovation – one of those annoying things where you get someone in to deal with a minor problem, and they find a bigger problem underlying it, so you get someone in to deal with that and they find an even bigger problem underlying that, and so on until you practically have to rebuild the house from the foundations up. So that was a bit stressful, and it meant I spent probably half the year at my mum’s. Which explains why my posting schedule was a bit erratic, but I couldn’t tell you that at the time, because what kind of idiot advertises the fact that their house is unoccupied on the internet?

But I still managed to do some interesting things. For example:

  • In April I was invited to the Dundalk Book Festival, to appear on a panel about Irish comics with Tommie Kelly, Rob Curley, Hilary Lawler and Alan Nolan, and that was fun.
  • At the end of May/beginning of June I was a guest at the 2D Comics Festival in its new venue, the Millennium Dome Falcon Forum in Derry, which was superb as usual.
  • At the end of June the singing class I go to (Singing for Adults with Róisín Magee at the Crescent Arts Centre) held a cabaret concert which raised over £1000 for the MS Society, in which I sang the Temptations’ “My Girl”, duetted with Gary Fullerton on “Me and My Shadow”, and did backing vocals on other people’s solos. It was brilliant. We were stars.
  • In October, as part of the Belly Laughs Comedy Festival, I organised Comic Capers with Davy Francis and Chums, a retrospective of Davy’s 40 years as a cartoonist. Davy was brilliant, a natural raconteur, and we also had fantastic contributions from Ian Knox, political cartoonist of the Irish News, Alan Ryan of Faraday the Blob and The Beano, Ann Harrison of Bunsen Bunnies, Brian John Spencer, cartoonist from Northern Ireland political website Slugger O’Toole, live caricaturist Colm Campbell and documentary cartoonist Patrick Sanders. Not a huge turnout, and there were some organisational hitches, but everyone who came seemed to enjoy it.

Plans for 2014 include ploughing on with the Cattle Raid, which has started its penultimate chapter; keeping up the singing, and hopefully doing a few open mic nights; and getting the new Belfast Drawers’ Club, or whatever it turns out being called, to include political cartoonists, caricaturists, illustrators and storyboard artists as well as comics artists, up and running. No doubt there will be a few surprises along the way. Hopefully they’ll be nice ones.

So, in conclusion, a very happy new year to all my readers. See yez next Wednesday for the conclusion of Medb’s flashback.

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18th Oct 2013

The Irish Comics Shadow Hall of Fame

I’m a contributor over at Irish Comic News, and currently running is the third annual ICN Awards. This year, rather than do it entirely by public vote, the editorial team has put together an anonymous panel who have come up with the nominations, and put those nominations out for a public vote – and may the best creator win. The Cattle Raid of Cooley is nominated for Best Irish Digital or Web Comic, and you may or may not want to go and vote for it, but please do check out the other nominees as there’s a lot of talent out there, and it deserves recognition.

The only problem I have with the ICN awards is one I have with pretty much all comics awards in the internet age – recentism. There are two Hall of Fame awards, one for individuals and one for comics, and with the exception of Paddy Brennan, DC Thomson adventure strip artist from the 40s to the 70s (see below), they’re all for contemporary artists and publications. If a Hall of Fame is for anything, it’s for recognising the greats of the past. So if you’re going to vote in that category, I’d suggest you vote for Paddy Brennan.

But I’m also going to start what I hope will be a new tradition. Every year from now on, while the ICN Awards shine a light on what’s going on in contemporary Irish comics, I”ll induct five creators into my own Shadow Hall of Fame. Creators you may never have heard of, but who I think you should have. The decisions are entirely my own, so it doesn’t have the authority of a panel or a vote, but I think I know my stuff, so trust me. And this years inductees are:

1. Paddy Brennan.

“The White Witch”, The Topper, 1960s, art by Paddy Brennan

Dubliner Patrick “Paddy” Brennan (dates unknown) started drawing for small British publishers in the late 1940s. One of his characters, Marsman (1948), later appeared in Moore and O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He started working for Dundee comic giants DC Thomson in 1949, drawing adventure strips and literary adaptations for The Beano, The Dandy, The Topper, Bunty, Judy and others until at least the late 1970s, and his work was always robust and dynamic. The illustration above is from “The White Witch”, an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s She, from The Topper in the 60s. Long-running characters he created include The Beano’s “General Jumbo” and Judy’s “Sandra of the Secret Ballet”.

2. Marjorie Organ.

Marjorie Organ and her comic strip "Little Reggie and the Heavenly Twins", New York Evening Journal, 1902-05

Marjorie Organ and her comic strip “Little Reggie and the Heavenly Twins”, New York Evening Journal, 1902-05

The daughter of a wallpaper designer, Marjorie Organ (1886-1930) moved to New York with her family when she was a child. At the tender age of 16 she joined the art room of the New York Evening Journal, working alongside comic strip pioneers Richard Outcault, creator of “The Yellow Kid”, and Rudolph Dirks, creator of “The Katzenjammer Kids”. She drew her own strip, “Little Reggie and the Heavenly Twins” (1902-05), about a nervous chap mercilessly strung along by a pair of beautiful young socialites, said to be based on Organ herself and her pal Helen Walsh, who married Dirks. “The Wrangle Sisters” (1904-05) were another pair of fashionable girls-about-town, and other strips she drew had titles like “Strange What a Difference a Mere Man Makes!”, “Girls Will Be Girls”, “The Man Haters’ Club” and “Lady Bountiful”. Her career as a professional cartoonist ended in 1908 when she married painter Paul Henri, after which she effectively became his manager while continuing to paint and draw. She died of cancer in 1930, aged only 44.

3. Charles E. Kelly.

Cartoon from Dublin Opinion by Charles E. Kelly, date unknown

Cartoon from Dublin Opinion by Charles E. Kelly, date unknown

Charles Edward Kelly (1902-1981) is perhaps the most prolific and versatile cartoonist Ireland has ever produced. He started out as a teenage messenger boy in the Irish Civil Service, and in 1922, at the age of twenty he, fellow cartoonist Arthur Booth and writer Tom Collins founded Dublin Opinion, a humorous magazine that quickly became a top seller. After Booth’s death in 1926, he and Collins edited the magazine until it closed in the 1960s. An untrained artist, Kelly taught himself from the work of the leading cartoonists of the day, and drew cartoon after cartoon for the magazine in a bewildering variety of styles, also contributing cartoons and illustrations to The Capuchin Annual, exhibiting his watercolours, and climbing the greasy pole of the Civil Service, where he became Director of Broadcasting and Director of National Savings. He died in 1981. His son Frank Kelly is well-known for playing Father Jack in Father Ted.

4. William St. John Glenn.

"Ballyscunnion" from Dublin Opinon by William St. John Glenn, date unknown

“Ballyscunnion” from Dublin Opinon by William St. John Glenn, date unknown

William St. John Glenn (1904-1974) started contributing cartoons to the Belfast sports paper Ireland’s Saturday Night in his teens. In 1925 he created a comic strip for its parent paper, the Belfast Telegraph, called “Oscar”, that ran until 1936. Oscar was an ugly but witty little man, and his attempts to chat up girls gave Glenn the chance to draw fashionably dressed young women, which he particularly enjoyed. When Glenn married a glamorous young woman called Dorothea, so did Oscar, and from 1936 to 1939 Glenn drew a strip called “Dorothea” for the Daily Mail. Readers were so impressed by his attention to ladies’ fashion they assumed that “Glenn” (as he signed his work) must be female. Meanwhile, from 1938 until the ’60s, he drew a weekly scraperboard cartoon, “Ballyscunnion”, for the Irish humorous magazine Dublin Opinion, in which the exploits of the inhabitants of a fictitious Irish village commented obliquely on national and world politics. He worked for the UK Ministry of Information during the Second World War, and afterwards became head of the Daily Mail‘s cartoons department, where he drew the paper’s long-running funny animal strip “Teddy Tail” and a strip based on The Diary of Samuel Pepys. He retired in 1961, and was elected an Honorary Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy in 1968. He died in 1974, at the age of 70, after a series of operations to remove brain tumours.

5. David Wilson.

David Wilson self-caricature from an ad for shaving soap, date unknown.

David Wilson self-caricature from an ad for shaving soap, date unknown.

David Wilson (1873-1935) was born in Minterburn, County Tyrone, the son of a Presbyterian minister, and grew up in Belfast. After he left school he joined the Northern Bank, taking art classes in the evening, and sold his first cartoon to the Daily Chronicle in 1895. He contributed full-page caricatures to Alf S. Moore’s Belfast-based satirical magazines The Magpie and Nomad’s Weekly, around the turn of the 20th century, his bold brush style, influenced by German Art Nouveau illustration and Japanese prints, superb eye for a caricature and surreal political imagery setting him above his local rivals, and he was soon drawing cartoons for magazines in the UK like Punch, The Graphic and The Passing Show. He moved to London, where he set up the Sphinx Studio in 1908. He also painted theatre posters and, during the First World War, propaganda posters, and illustrated books. From the 1920s on he concentrated more on fine art painting. But he never recovered from his son Jimmy’s suicide in the early 1930s, and died himself in 1935.

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02nd Oct 2013

Why there’s no new comic this week

Comic Capers with Davy Francis and Chums

It’s still just about Wednesday, but I’m not going to make my deadline. I know my rate of production has slowed dramatically this year, but I don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. This week, though, there’s a good reason.

On Sunday, as part of Belfast’s Belly Laughs Comedy Festival, I’m involved in organising Comic Capers with Davy Francis and Chums, a celebration of comics and cartooning featuring one of Belfast’s not-sung-enough heroes, who sold his first cartoon 40 years ago this year (he was eleven, it was to the East Antrim Times, and he was paid 50p). Since then his loopy dip-pen line has graced titles as varied as the Belfast People’s Comic, “Screw the Bap and Head the Ball” in the Shankill Bulletin, Ximoc, Cicerman, Monster Fun, Oink!, Holy Cross, Seven Deadly Sins, Jim the Elephant, Sancho and Thunderbags. Last week he and I drew caricatures at a charity event, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him draw.

So, to get back to the point, a retrospective of Davy’s career will be the centrepiece of an afternoon event on Sunday 6 October, in the Black Box on Hill Street, from 2pm to 6pm. We’ll also be creating a giant improvised comic strip and holding a workshop for kids, and I’ll be speaking about some early comic strips from the Belfast Telegraph in the 1920s, and introducing you to a forgotten Belfast cartoonist. Other illustrious guests include cartoonists Ian Knox (Whizzer and Chips, Irish News, BBC NI’s Hearts and Minds), Alan Ryan (Faraday the Blob, The Beano), Ann Harrison (Bunsen Bunnies), Brian John Spencer (Slugger O’Toole, Huffington Post) and Patrick Sanders (SCEPTrE, Replay Theatre Company), and standup comics Peter E Davidson and Lorcan McGrane.

Promises to be a fantastic occasion and I hope to see lots of you there. But does mean I’ve had less mental energy to devote to other things, like this week’s Cattle Raid of Cooley.

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08th Dec 2012

Belfast Comics Fayre in the Haymarket Arcade tomorrow

Belfast Comics Fayre

Tomorrow, Sunday 9 December 2012, there’ll be a Comic Book and Collectors’ Fayre at Avalon Arts in the Haymarket Arcade at the top of Royal Avenue. Entrance is free, and it runs from 12 noon to 6.30. In attendance will be such luminaries as myself, Andy Luke (who made the above poster), and editor Eoin McAuley, writer Ciaran Marcantonio and artist Daryl Cox from the Dublin-based anthology Lightning Strike Presents, as well as hopefully a few surprise guests. Oh, and I’ll be launching issue 7 of The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Don’t, as the immortal Jim Megaw might say, you miss it.

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02nd Nov 2012

Vote for me!

The second annual Irish Comic News awards are upon us. I neglected to promote the nomination stage, but the nominations are in and you can now cast your votes.

Normally I rail against “hall of fame” awards, especially since they’re always given to people who are still active rather than someone with a whole career of achievement behind them. But The Cattle Raid of Cooley is nominated for the Hall of Fame (comic) award, so I won’t say any of that, or rant about the folly of nominating a book that isn’t even finished for such an award, and instead urge you to vote for it. My ego needs the stroking.

Other nominations I have some connection with: The Irish Comics Wiki, which I write for, is nominated for Best Irish Comic Related Blog/Website, and Lightning Strike Presents, for which I’ve done some lettering, is nominated for Best Irish Indy Comic. You may wish to vote for these, or you may wish to vote for other nominees. But I’d urge you to vote – the more votes, the more representative the results.

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29th Sep 2012

Recent things

A few things I probably ought to draw your attention to. A couple of weeks ago I appeared, being interviewed by Ciaran Flanagan, on the 2D Festival Podcast episode 11. We had a nice long chat about my work, the Ulster Cycle, improvisational comics,  Hergé and so on, which went on so long that the standard questions Ciaran asks all his guests had to be cut.

One question whose loss I think is a shame is my favourite individual comic ever, which is an issue of Stinz by Donna Barr. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Stinz is a series set in an alternative world reminiscent of the early 20th century, the principal point of difference from our world being that there’s a community of centaurs in rural Germany. Stinz Löwhard is one of these “half-horses”, as they’re known. There are stories of his youth, and stories when he’s a mature farmer and mayor of his community, and there are stories of him as a young man when he joined the army and went to war. “On A Pale Horse” is one of those. The war’s just started, and Stinz and his comrades, just out of basic training, none of them having fired a shot in anger, are on their way to the front, when the unit’s horses get sick and have to be put down. It makes me cry every time I read it – it’s the It’s a Wonderful Life of comics. And Donna has been putting her comics online, so you can read it for free at this link. Here’s a sample:

Stinz: On a Pale Horse

The other thing I’ve been doing lately is appearing at TitanCon, the science fiction, fantasy and in particular Game of Thrones convention at the Europa Hotel last Saturday. I and PJ Holden assisted with The Magnificent One Day Comic Book Factory, run by Andy Luke (who’s also done an interview with Ciaran on the 2D Cast), in which participants created a comic from scratch over the course of an hour, which was then printed up as a limited edition and and sold in aid of Action Cancer. It went really well I thought. Here’s the two pages I did for it. Bit of nonsense, made up as I went, but came out all right.

The Magnificent One Day Comics Factory page 1

The Magnificent One Day Comics Factory page 2

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