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05th Oct 2014

24 Hour Comics Day 2014

So we had another 24 Hour Comics Day in Belfast this year. It was held this weekend at Farset Labs, a sort of community creative space in Sandy Row, organised by the indefatigable Glenn Davidson. Cheers Glenn! Here’s a couple of photos nicked from the Facebook event page of me and Ann Harrison setting up and showing off some of our recent work.

Me at 24 Hour Comics Day, Farset Labs, Belfast

Ann Harrison at 24 Hour Comics Day, Farset Labs, Belfast

PJ Holden entertained us all by narrating his comic, Barry the Space Prawn, as he drew it, and was the first participant to get his effort online. Follow this link, or click the image below, to read mine. The story (such as it is) is all over the place and some of the likenesses of family members, drawn from distant memory, are a bit wonky, but I’m pleased with the drawing.

A Personal Narrative

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03rd Sep 2014

Probably won’t be a page this week

Unless I can get it drawn and uploaded by the end of the day. I’m a bit knackered. On Friday I was part of the music group (guitar and vocals) at the wedding of our fantastic singing teacher Róisín Magee at Newry Cathedral. Most of it was reasonably straightforward, except Róisín and Conor left the church to the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” – one of my favourite songs, but fiddly to play, and took a lot of practice beforehand to get right. My fingertips are still tender. But we gave Róisín a great send-off, I’m proud and honoured  to have been involved, and we’ll have to call her Mrs McKenna when classes resume in a few weeks time. Here’s a photie of the happy couple nicked from Facebook.

Conor and Róisín cut the cake

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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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20th Aug 2014

No page today

Completely failed to get any work done on the comic yesterday. Other things to do. As consolation, how about me singing the old Big Star song “Thirteen”?

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30th Jul 2014

Summer holiday skip week

There’ll be no page this week. Don’t know if it’s the heat or the hay fever or what, but my brain is shut and this weeks installment is sitting in there refusing to come out. As some consolation, here’s the great illustrator Victor Ambrus’s rendition of Cú Chulainn from Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1963 retelling The Hound of Ulster. I’ve been indulging my passion from the illustrators of British children’s books of the 60s and 70s, artists like Ambrus, Margery Gill, and my first love among illustrators Charles Keeping, at the Today’s Inspiration Group on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook and like good drawing, have a browse – there are so many amazing illustrators to learn about.

The Hound of Ulster by Rosemary Sutcliff, cover illustration by Victor Ambrus

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04th Jun 2014

The Cattle Raid of Cooley – skip week, but new issue

There’ll be no update this week. It’s turning out to be something of a difficult week in a number of ways, and I’m afraid I haven’t been able to focus my mind on the comic.

However, assuming my head hasn’t completely imploded in the meantime, I will have a table at the MCM Belfast Comic Con at the King’s Hall Pavilions this weekend, and on sale for the first time will be The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 9 (cover art below).

The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 9

 

Look for me in the Comic Village section. The Con will also feature dealer stalls and video games and cosplayers and guests from Red Dwarf, Primeval and Game of Thrones and all that kind of thing. I was disappointed Hannah Spearritt didn’t stop by my table at the Dublin event, but she’s a guest again, and you never know.

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12th Mar 2014

The Comics Journal reviews The Cattle Raid of Cooley alongside About a Bull

Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal‘s webcomic specialist, has written a very nice review of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, alongside another webcomic adapting the same story, MK Reed’s About a Bull. I’ve often said that the Táin is big enough, gnarled enough and complicated enough to stand multiple interpretations, and Shaenon agrees, saying “In different hands, the same material can be a stark historical novel about bromantic battles between men or a sly tragicomedy about women asserting their power.” Her review is perceptive, and reassures me that a lot of what I’m trying to do is working.

You really should look at About a Bull, by the way. MK’s version is way funnier than mine, and the variety in the art – aside from MK’s own storybook style on the main story, flashbacks are drawn by different artists – is a nice interpretation given how patchwork and variable in style the original text is. She covers some of the same ground as I have, but in different ways, and she includes stories I haven’t. And as mine is (slowly) approaching a conclusion, hers is just getting started – four chapters in, they haven’t left Cruachan and Cú Chulainn has yet to make an appearance, so it’s set to run for a good while yet.

About a Bull: Ailill and Medb by MK Reed

About a Bull: Ailill and Maeve by MK Reed

About a Bull: Rucht and Friuch by Caroline Kelsey

About a Bull: Rucht and Friuch by Caroline Kelsey

About a Bull: Nes and Cathbad by Hilary Florido

About a Bull: Nes and Cathbad by Hilary Florido

About a Bull: Fergus and Nes by Hilary Florido

About a Bull: Fergus and Nes by Matt Wiegle

About a Bull: Macha by Farel Dalrymple

About a Bull: Macha by Farel Dalrymple

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01st Mar 2014

Going to MCM Comic Con in Dublin in April

MCM Ireland Comic ConNews! I’ll be at the MCM Ireland Comic Con at the RDS in Dublin on 12-13 April as an exhibitor. When I first enquired about a Comic Village table they’d sold out, but they had a cancellation and I must have been next on the list. So that’ll be cool.

There’ll be another MCM Comic Con in the King’s Hall in Belfast in June. Tables aren’t open for booking yet, but I hope I’ll be able to get one when they are. The 2D Comics Festival in Derry is apparently not happening this year, which is a shame, but hopefully these shows will go some way to filling the vacuum.

In other news, I’ll be appearing in Max and Ivan’s comedy show at the MAC in Belfast tonight! They needed some local singers for a musical segment, so eight of us from Róisín Magee’s singing classes at the Crescent Arts Centre have been drafted in. Looking forward to that.

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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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